At Pro Tour Chicago 1999, the deck considered by most to be the most revolutionary was Cocoa Pebbles, an Enduring Renewal-based deck using Necropotence as a card drawing engine. Tony Dobson, Warren Marsh and John Ormerod all enjoyed tremendous success with the deck, which catapulted the English into the Pro Tour spotlight, while across the room, Japan's best players were struggling.
The Japanese had brought with them a control deck using a two card engine, Donate and Illusions of Grandeur as its kill method, and while the deck didn't fare well, when Michelle Bush started searching for a deck for Grand Prix Seattle, she realized that the Illusions/Donate combo required one fewer card and one fewer color, and offered the added bonuses of countermagic and strong search cards. Trix was born, and Extended hasn't been the same since.
Mike Krzywicki posted a deck listing of a new Illusions-Donate deck based around mana-economizing artifacts and the Intuition/Accumulated Knowledge card drawing engine on the Sideboard just before World Championships, calling it 'the best deck in extended'. Initially, the deck was met with a degree of skepticism, with many players sighting the use of Helm of Awakening and a lack of countermagic as their reasons for doubting, but a number of players began working on the deck, tightening it enough for play at World Championships.
Now, with New Orleans upon us, Illusions-Donate has once again emerged as one of the dominant archetypes of the Extended format. With many of the decklists being used here containing Volcanic Island, Shivan Reef, Fire/Ice and either Pyroblast or Ruination in the sideboard, the deck has solved many of the problems its mono-blue ancestors faced, now able to kill Meddling Mage, deal a few extra points of damage in the face of opposing life gain and the like. This deck is considered by many to be the finest first game deck in the format right now, and with its conversion sideboard bringing in Morphling and countermagic for Illusions and Donate in the face of excessive amounts of enchantment kill, it keeps opponents off balance, usually until it's too late regain their footing.
The base idea behind this deck is to combine the resolution of Illusions of Grandeur and Donate, the end result being the gaining of twenty life before Illusion gets donated to the player's opponent, where it eventually becomes too costly to maintain and is sacrificed, dealing twenty point of damage and more often than not ending the game.
The reason the deck is able to do this so successfully comes down to an incredible search engine and card advantage. Using cards like Merchant Scroll, Brainstorm and Intuition to find missing pieces of the puzzle, the deck will often have both Illusions and Donate by turn five, but will often use that search to exploit the massive card drawing potential of Intuitioning for three Accumulated Knowledges, casting one of them for three cards before finding the fourth for a total of seven cards. The result is often the drawing of more search cards and countermagic, and when the mana efficiency of Sapphire Medallion is thrown into the mix, it becomes next to impossible to stop.
The new sideboard may be what's put the deck over the top in New Orleans. Not only does the red help the deck combat counter-laden decks and stop annoying creatures like Meddling Mage, but its also taking a much more aggressive attitude, either removing the combo for Morphlings and more card advantage or bringing in Ruination, a card that has been called 'Armageddon you' against the many decks in the format that ignore the potential to use basic lands.
So, with Illusions Donate now having effective methods for combating sideboard enchantment kill, Meddling Mage, countermagic and most of its other previous weaknesses, it appears this may be the favorite to take the whole tournament with such Pro Tour luminaries as Ben Klauser, Patrick Mello, Brian Kibler and the man himself, Kai Budde running the deck. Keep an eye on Saturday's standings and Sunday's top 8 to see if the prophecies come to fruition.
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