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Extended Besieged!

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The letter W!e've limited most of our Mirrodin Besieged discussions up to this point to Standard ... but there is a PTQ season going on!

So this week we are going to look at how the new set has impacted Extended, the present PTQ season format.

Sword of Feast and Famine

The most impressive card for Extended so far—and maybe the most impressive card from Mirrodin Besieged over all—is Sword of Feast and Famine. Before we get into specific decks, I thought it might be interesting to think about just how good Sword of Feast and Famine is.


Last week on Twitter there was some discussion around Sword of Feast and Famine versus Sword of Body and Mind. Personally, I don't think there is much debate here. What does Sword of Body and Mind do? It makes a Wolf token and flips over ten of your opponent's cards. I think Conrad Kolos was the first person to look at it this way, but... what should that cost?

Personally, I think that Millstone-Wolf should cost about two mana. Maybe three. But no one would play it for three mana. Is flipping over ten cards good? It can be, and there are situations, like when you have a Fauna Shaman or a Survival of the Fittest, where drawing multiples can be degenerate. But in general? Just flipping over ten cards isn't much to write home about. Case in point: many players were skeptical about playing Broken Ambitions, because if you won the clash, you might be improving the opponent's draw.

Now how would you cost the ability on Sword of Feast and Famine? How much should forcing your opponent to discard a card—but untapping all of your lands as well—cost? Turnabout broke Extended at four mana, so I'm guessing some amount of mana greater than four!

Here is a different way of looking at Sword of Feast and Famine that Steve Sadin and I came up with last week: What is a turn? Brian Weissman used to say a turn could mostly be boiled down to 1) drawing a card, and 2) playing a land. You can also attack... but it's mostly mana and cards.

And that's what Sword of Feast and Famine does ya for.

By forcing the opponent to discard a card, Sword of Feast and Famine kind of takes away half a turn. And while you don't get a land drop, the "untap all your lands" ability on the new Sword is very reminiscent of the other half.

Back in 1997, we used to have a saying "Everything is a Time Walk," and attributed that to anything from a Man-o'-War to a Memory Lapse. Well, Sword of Feast and Famine seems quite Time Walk-ish to me.

While, as an artifact, Sword of Feast and Famine can go into a good number of different decks, there are two main styles that seem perfect for it: White-Blue and Faeries.


This deck, played to the win by __SipItHolla, is very reminiscent of the Standard CawBlade that so dominated Pro Tour Paris.


Again, we see a Stoneforge Mystic package to find just two pieces of equipment; again we see a very successful finish. Extended's White-Blue deck is much improved on the creature front. Instead of Squadron Hawks, we have Kitchen Finks... and in terms of one toughness flyers, __SipItHolla had Vendilion Clique to mess with combo decks.

A similar build with an additional Jace, the Mind Sculptor and a slightly different mana base (in exchange for some board control) was played to a Top 4 finish by _ShipItHolla.

_ShipItHolla's Blue-Black Faeries
Extended – PTQ for Pro Tour Nagoya on Magic Online


An even more transformational inclusion was made by Masayasu Tanahashi in a Pro Tour Qualifier at Magic Weekend Paris:

Masayasu Tanahashi's Blue-Black Faeries
Extended – PTQ for Pro Tour Nagoya in Paris, France


You can tell how important Tanahashi's change was because so many other Faeries decks have taken up the banner since Masayasu's 2nd place in Paris.

Sword of Feast and Famine, here, is taking the place vacated by Umezawa's Jitte. The Sword only costs one more mana than Jitte did, and is arguably more synergistic in Faeries. You see, Faeries is a deck that is mostly interested in playing spells on the opponent's turn: Mistbind Clique during the upkeep, Spellstutter Sprite in response to a threat, or Vendilion Clique at the end of turn (or whenever seems the best opportunity).


Though Faeries certainly has some spells it has to play on its own turn, after you've got the second-turn Bitterblossom down, those cards are mostly limited to one-mana Thoughtseize or Inquisition of Kozilek.

... So what's the deal with Sword of Feast and Famine in this deck?

Yes, you have to invest three on your own turn (once), and then any time you want to equip your creatures, you have to invest two mana on your own turn. However, untapping all your lands is frankly awesome for a deck that wants to play mostly on the opponent's turn! And though Faeries doesn't play a whole heck of a lot of creatures, Bitterblossom gives you a never-ending stream of potential swordsmen. Making them Protection from Black and Protection from Green is just fantastic in this format.

Do you know what is a total disaster (at least for the opponent)? This:


Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas

Paul Schieffer's Steel Artifact
Extended – PTQ for Pro Tour Nagoya in Mobile, Alabama


Another existing deck that has benefited from new options in Mirrodin Besieged is Steel Artifact.


Signal Pest fits right into this deck, which was already focused on playing multiple artifact creatures and attacking in a gang with big ups from Master of Etherium and Tempered Steel. Not only does Signal Pest also get the same bonuses, but shares the love—or in this case the hateful, hateful, violence—with its fellow attackers.


But what really classes up the joint is Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas.


Tezzeret gives Steel Artifact yet another big threat; but unlike Master of Etherium and Tempered Steel, a way to win that does not require the red zone. Tezzeret's "Impulse"-like ability has a very high batting average in this deck (Schieffer's Steel Artifact is greater than 50% artifacts), and while all three abilities shine in Steel Artifact, the speed and savagery of his ultimate are unprecedented.


Flayer Husk

Speaking of Signal Pest, I was delighted to see another Signal Pest deck... this time in a PTQ winner!

Evan Coffey's Kuldotha Red
Extended – PTQ for Pro Tour Nagoya in Mobile, Alabama


Coffey waded through a sea of Faeries, Jund, and Scapeshift to take home Mobile's Blue Envelope with what looks like a Standard deck!

This is a Kuldotha Red swarm deck, using Signal Pest and Contested War Zone to deal a ton of damage very quickly. With an optimal draw, Coffey can actually win on turn two:

Turn One:

  1. Mountain, Signal Pest, Memnite
  2. Mox Opal, Sacrifice Mox Opal to Kuldotha Rebirth
  3. Mox Opal, Sacrifice Mox Opal to Kuldotha Rebirth
  4. End with Mountain, Signal Pest, Memnite, and six 1/1 Goblins

Turn Two:

  1. Topdeck and play Contested War Zone.
  2. Attack with everything....
  3. Signal Pest (0), Memnite (2), six Goblins (12)
  4. Activate Contested War Zone...
  5. Signal Pest (1), Memnite (3), six Goblins) (18)
  6. Yer dead.

So what's not Standard about this deck?

Magma Spray only, and that in the sideboard?

It's pretty exciting to see a deck in this position perform as well as it did.


So what about Flayer Husk? In this deck, Flayer Husk is just another Memnite, albeit one that costs a mana instead of no mana; however if you get into a trade situation with the living weapon, you can at least move the Flayer Husk around to pick up a point.

Hero of Bladehold

On the subject of little guys and Battle Cry, reiderrabbit added the showcase battle cry threat to a Bant Aggro deck.


The addition of battle cry makes for an interesting tension. On the one hand, you have a strategy traditionally based on creatures attacking alone. Noble Hierarch and Qasali Pridemage showcase the Bant signature mechanic early, then Finest Hour, the ultimate in exalted, tops things off as a finisher.


But with Hero of Bladehold, you have a creature that not only doesn't attack alone, but never attacks alone!

... Except when it does.

You can attack with Hero of Bladehold, put exalted (and even Finest Hour's other triggered ability) on the stack, get in for bonus damage, line up the little Soldiers, get exalted, give away battle cry, and basically break more rules than Ric Flair in the 80s.

Cute.

And like Hit-Girl from Kick-Ass, cute and deadly.

Say all you did was accelerate into Hero of Bladehold with Noble Hierarch, then cast a fourth-turn Finest Hour and attacked solo with the Hero. This is what would happen:

  1. Hero of Bladehold attacks.
  2. Stack two exalted triggers, Finest Hour's other trigger, battle cry, and Hero of Bladehold's token trigger.
  3. Hero of Bladehold makes two little guys, which then get battle cry bonuses (2 and 2).
  4. Hero of Bladehold untaps thanks to Finest Hour, with an additional combat phase on deck.
  5. Hero of Bladehold gets two exalted bonuses.
  6. You are now attacking with Hero of Bladehold (5), and two Soldiers (4)—9 damage.
  7. Unbelievably (remember, we are the captain of the Four Horsemen here), you get another attack! Hero of Bladehold goes in again, this time starting at 5 power. (The two tokens are still tapped, and don't have haste anyway, so they stay home.)
  8. Stack two exalted triggers, battle cry, and Hero of Bladehold's token trigger.
  9. Hero of Bladehold makes two more little guys, who get battle cry bonuses (2 and 2).
  10. Hero of Bladehold goes from 5 to 7 power thanks to exalted.
  11. You are now attacking with Hero of Bladehold (7) and two Soldier tokens (4), for 11 total. With your initial 9, that's lethal!

It's pretty unlikely you get in, like this, in this kind of a situation, but it is certainly ticklish to know that exalted and battle cry can hold hands and break the rules together!

In addition to Hero of Bladehold reiderrabbit played another new card, Mirran Crusader. A double strike creature is obviously absurd with exalted and Elspeth, Knight-Errant. One trip "to the air" can send Mirran Crusader over for 12+ damage with the help of a Noble Hierarch and the best of the white planeswalkers.

Here's another look:

Mirran Crusader


Azulah finished just out of the Top 8 of the recent Magic Online PTQ. I just wanted to highlight the same potential combinations in Naya.


For a moment I got super excited about Stoneforge Mystic in this deck, which can set up Behemoth Sledge. Unfortunately, that particular equipment is a non-bo with Mirran Crusader's protection from green ability. That's not to say that there aren't savage possibilities in this deck, just that we won't soon see a marriage between these two three-drops.


As we can see, Mirrodin Besieged has a ton to contribute to the PTQ player. Even the most established, linear deck in the format can benefit from its premier Equipment, and pretty much everyone from Naya to Steel Artifact can get a boost. Standard decks are graduating and claiming Blue Envelopes... and they are probably just the beginning.

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