Patriot Games

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Flying in the face of extended

I feel a bit of history is needed here to tell the tale of this deck choice.  I started playing Magic back in 1993 when members of my RPG group introduced me to the game.  Things were very different back then, with cards such as Balance being legal in standard, which are now restricted in vintage!

During this time I started to play a deck that I named "the Wright Brothers".  It was basically just a blue-red counter/burn deck that only played flying creatures, allowing me to then abuse Earthquake as a creature sweeper that only hit my opponent's side of the table.

Seeing as Extended is one of the formats we are playing as part of the FNM Relaxed, I thought I should revisit this deck & have a go at reconstructing it with a more recent card base.  I came up with a pretty simple RU flyers decklist, with the option to either use the classic earthquake scenario, or try out the new version of Magmaquake from M13.

Unfortunately, I then made the terrible mistake of showing this list to Robert (my son).  This may not have been his [Dad's] best plan, as he has now hijacked the article (yes folks, this is him, being pretentious, writing in the third person right now ;D), & prior to doing this, tore the list apart, giving far too many detailed reasons as to why it was bad.  The main reason was that it potentially resulted in not playing any spells before turn 5!  Typically speaking this is a poor strategy in almost any game.

After a lot of discussion, featuring much garden-pacing, ant-dodging & chicken watching, we came to a compromise, taking the "Wright Brothers" concept in a three-colour direction, being redubbed as the USAF (United States Air Force) from its red, white & blue approach to things with wings.

Here's the deck-list:

Designed by Rob Tinsley,
Piloted by Richard Tinsley,

24 Lands:

3 x Arid Mesa
2 x Clifftop Retreat
2 x Glacial Fortress
4 x Island
1 x Moorland Haunt
1 x Mountain
3 x Plains
3 x Scalding Tarn
3 x Seachrome Coast
2 x Sulphur Falls

19 Creatures:

4 x Squadron Hawk
3 x Dungeon Geists
1 x Conundrum Sphinx
3 x Emeria Angel
1 x Restoration Angel
3 x Baneslayer Angel
1 x Spellbound Dragon
2 x Consecrated Sphinx
1 x Sphinx of Uthuun

17 Other Spells:

2 x Lightning Bolt
3 x Path to Exile
3 x Mana Leak
2 x Sphere of the Suns
3 x Favoured Winds
2 x Ajani Vengeant
2 x Earthquake

15 Card Sideboard:

2 x Spell Pierce
2 x Combust
2 x Celestial Purge
2 x Into the Roil
1 x Elspeth, Knight-Errant
2 x Gideon Jura
2 x Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
2 x Earthquake

Deck Breakdown:
On the face of it, it's still a pretty simple RU flyers deck, which has exchanged most of its R for W.  It still has the ability to play as a counter/burn deck, for the first couple of turns at least, before switching into an army of big, stompy angels, dragons & sphinxes.

For the creature base, we start the curve with the fan-favourite Squadron Hawks, who sit around being squishy chump blockers as you try to play more lands to make it to the bigger threats.  They're a great 2-drop, because they help thin the deck (to thin a deck is to remove the underwhelming cards which you wouldn't want to draw later in the game), & can get in for a couple of cheeky points of damage if they aren't needed for the blocking.  They also help against discard strategies, by giving you cheap, easy cards that you don't really need when your opponent tries to make you ditch your better bits.

At 4-mana we have a heap of mid-range options in the forms of Dungeon Geists & Conundrum Sphinx in blue, & the Emeria & Restoration Angels in white.  Dungeon Geists are fantastic for stopping opponents from getting aggressive with their own 3/4-mana creatures on the appropriate turns, & thanks to the Restoration Angel's ETB (enter the battlefield) effect, can then be reused later to deal with bigger & scarier things like Titans.  It should be noted that if the Geists are made to leave & re-enter, the first creature they are tapping out will then be able to untap as usual at the beginning of the next turn (a useful fact for those who like to learn new rules tips).

Emeria Angel is easily my [Rob here] favourite card in the deck.  It's a flyer who makes more flyers, in a deck that is all about flyers. It interacts really well with the Arid Mesas & Scalding Tarns in the land section to make EVEN MORE FLYING DUDES!!!  & yeah, sure, they're just more squishy 1/1 guys, but put a favourable wind or two behind you, & they turn into a small army of feathery aggro.  As Bolas says, the best minions are those with minions of their own.  Also, if you can find them, the full-art Zendikar Game-Day promo version looks beautiful.

The Conundrum Sphinx remains in the deck despite many protests from myself simply because "it's a fun card". I'll admit, a 4-mana 4/4 flyer is pretty sweet, but it was so much sweeter when you could set up the free cards with Ponder or Preordain so that you actually drew them, instead of just naming something & blindly praying for it.  Ponder & Preordain are both BANNED in Extended.  Dad & I disagree over whether this is a good thing (I'm a fan of having a consistent deck. I'm also a fan of cards that say "Draw a Card").

In the 5-mana cost position there are Baneslayer Angels. There's a dragon too. The dragon lets you cycle through your deck, finding more bombs and dropping spare land.  But who cares about that.  The Baneslayer Angel is where it's at.  We just love this card.  It does all the good things that angels should do.  I opened one of these in my first M10 fat pack.  It was in every white deck I built until it left standard.  I got given them as birthday presents.  That's how awesome they are/were.

At the top end (6-7 mana), there are some sphinxes that draw more cards (told you I was a fan).

Spell wise, it's all pretty self explanatory.  Lightning Bolt & Path to Exile kill stuff.  Mana Leak tries to counter spells we don't want you to play.  Sphere of the Suns allows the deck to be a little faster in reaching the bigger angels & sphinxes.  Earthquake blows up large chunks of the world.  Ajani messes up lands, or shoots more annoying creatures if they've managed to survive.  Favoured Winds felt like the perfect fit for a deck that was all about making guys with wings which could slap you in the face.

The sideboard starts like a normal sideboard, possessing answers to certain decks/cards. Combust is a solid example, as it was designed as a card to kill Baneslayer Angels with.  There's a couple more earthquakes for the games where Dad really needs to positively kill every ground-based [insert speech from Jackie Brown here].  If you didn't get that reference, go watch Jackie Brown.  After this point, the sideboard devolves into a legion of planeswalkers, so that the deck can morph into "Super-Friends", a planeswalker based control deck, which is what I actually wanted to build... I wasn't allowed to, as it was considered a bit more competitive than he was aiming for -_-

It's a shame - it was a really cool deck, but cards like Snapcaster Mage break it a little too much for a casual environment.  If you ever meet Magic Steve, ask him about it, 'cause he was the guy who showed me it/beat me into the ground with it to begin with.

The land set for this deck is pretty greedy. 3 colours are risky, with a chance of back-firing, but the Arid Mesas & Scalding Tarns should fix most issues.  The Moorland Haunt was an extra bonus so that even when the flyers die, the deck can still make another one.

Well thanks Rob for the deck/article hijack there.  It should be noted that the Wright Brothers was one of the decks that Rob first learnt to play Magic around.  Well that is it for this week - I look forward to seeing you all this Friday - don't forget that everyone who attends this Friday will get a promo Staff of Nin from M13.

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