Tuesday 29 January 2013
It was pretty clear while reviewing Gatecrash that extort would be a good thing to have on a card but no reason to be playing an overly weak or cross purpose card simply to get the effect. Should any of the few more interesting extort cards turn out to be playable it will be useful to know how to take advantage of the extort bonus. Realistically these cards are Thrull Parasite, Blind Obedience and at a push Crypt Ghast however I have included a few less powerful and useful extort cards in the deck so as to ensure I would have access to extort as often as possible. This makes the deck weaker in terms of average card power but then offsets this a little with increased deck synergy. Although the aim is not to be forging a new top tier cube archetype we cannot abandon the notion of trying to win with the deck, if you just get utterly smashed every time you wont get a chance to try the new effects.
Extort is not really anything more than a handy little mana sink. The effect for the mana is going to be costing you too much tempo in the early game to be of much value. As the game goes on a little it scales up quite well as their life total drops and you have spare mana. Extort provides both a bit of reach and a bit of life gain which allow you to alter your deck design a little. With extra lifegain reliably to hand you can afford more things like Thoughtseize and Dark Confidant. With the extra reach you can play fewer removal spells and / or evasion creatures. These are both subtle effects but in a deck packing five extort outlets it adds up a bit. While there are no real abuses or going off style combos for extort that I can think of there are plenty of good ways of building decks to make the most out of it. As it is an added mana cost on to spells it is worth playing ramp and playing cheap spells so as to be able to start sensibly extorting as early as possible. Extort also adds a flat amount of minor value to every spell in your deck which means it is relatively more of a power boost to cheaper low powered cards. A late game Chrome Mox is fairly dead but with a pile of extort effects in play it is suddenly a Lightning Helix to the face. Another way to add synergy to extort is with cards that give you further casting triggers for extort. Cards with flashback or simply ones that just draw more cards are both ideal however more subtle cards like Kor Skyfisher and Gravecrawler also have a similar effect.
Overall then I was aiming to build a very cheap deck that was fairly unafraid of playing cards that cost life or were situationally weak or dead. In addition to this I wanted to ensure I was continually casting spells with a healthy supply of mana as reasonably possible. To make the reach aspect of extort useful I wanted to be able to apply early pressure to get their life total as low as possible before they start to stabilize on the board. Here is the list I found myself playing:
Mother of Runes
Path to Exile
Syndic of Tithes
Caves of Koilos
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Moxes seemed like an ideal way to increase the spell count and ramp the mana early and so I greedily played Chrome and Diamond. Land Tax seemed like a good compliment in a deck wanting to have a relatively low land count to draw a high concentration of spells but also to have a decent supply of mana. It also ticks the box for being cheap. The rest of the deck was basically just things to make it reliably able to apply early pressure and staple good black and white cards to keep it competitive.
Overall the outlook is bleak for extort. While it is a lovely little bolt on bonus to have on a card it does not seem to be on either enough good cards or any real power spells or even cards that work really well with it. We already knew that the mechanic was not going to be able to support an archetype which this decks performance fully supports. The odd deck might have the odd extort card in it but it will usually be something like a sideboard card using its non extort effect against something specific. As such there will be very little call to consider how to make best use of the extort, at best it could could sway some very marginal calls between similar cards such as the one mana targetted discard spells. It is kind of like spending a lot of effort trying to abuse the protection from blue on Goblin Piledriver. Let us at least hope the evolve.dec goes a little better and that evolve will be a little more significant in cube.