Done for the Day
21, May, 24

MTG Extra Decks Are Well Truly and Dead… For Now

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Recently, there has been a great deal of buzz around extra decks in MTG. This follows two extra deck mechanics being completely banned outright in competitive formats. Despite offering some wacky fun, Attractions and Stickers are no longer playable outside of Commander.

For better or worse, the recent 56-card ban wave hasn’t just cleaned up high-level competitive play. Instead, multiple major dominos appear to have been tumbling down once Wizards gave these mechanics a little push. Not only do black-bordered Un-Sets appear to be a thing of the past, but extra decks may be dead too.

Extra Decks Cause Extra Problems

_____ Goblin

Throughout the almost 31 years that MTG has been around, Wizards of the Coast has only created a handful of extra deck mechanics. These deeply controversial mechanics are Attractions, Contraptions, Planechase, and Stickers. Currently, none of these extra deck mechanics can be played in competitive MTG formats and Contraptions aren’t legal anywhere.

On top of the quartet of true extra deck mechanics, Wizards has also created many mechanics revolving around the sideboard. Between Companions, Dungeons, Learn, and Wish, there are a fair few of these mechanics, although none are that prevalent. In any case, while these mechanics do use your sideboard, you should be bringing a sideboard to most games anyway.

Unfortunately, the same is not true for MTG’s other extra deck mechanics, which is the crux of the issue. Not only is bringing an extra deck an increase in logistical complexity, but it’s also practically required. After Unfinity launched, this was quickly discovered by Legacy players, as bringing a Sticker deck became a strangely important bluff.

By bringing your own Sticker deck, even if you weren’t playing any, you could potentially dupe your opponent into misplays. Alongside mind games, any Legacy player using copy effects like Phyrexian Metamorph was practically required to bring Stickers. Without this extra deck, if you copied _____ Goblin you wouldn’t be getting the full effect.

Considering a Sticker deck was practically required for Legacy play, it’s safe to say this extra deck mechanic wasn’t ideal. As if extra decks weren’t problematic already, they also caused huge issues for Limited play. Thanks to these factors combined, it’s no wonder that extra decks earned the highest possible score on the Storm Scale.

As if the Storm Scale wasn’t emphatic enough, MTG’s Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater, has spoken out against these mechanics once again.

The Exile of Extra Decks

Ruby Collector

Following Attractions and Stickers being banned in competitive formats, many MTG players have been wondering about the future of extra decks. Hoping for some answers, Tumblr user Pallidpunkprincess took their question directly to MTG’s Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater. Asking “Do you think there will ever be an extra deck mechanic targeted at competitive constructed?” it’s clear players have little hope.

Unfortunately for anyone still holding out hope, Mark Rosewater confirmed that extra decks are pretty much dead in the water. Stating it’s “unlikely” a new competitive-oriented extra deck will be made “anytime in the near future,” the fate of extra decks is sealed. Considering all the problems they cause, this may well be for the better.

As much as they can cause problems, extra deck mechanics do have a lot of potential in MTG. Proving this point, Alchemy, on MTG Arena, has made prolific use of extra deck-esque mechanics. While not exactly player-made extra decks, Conjure, Specialize, and Spellbook could all be emulated on paper with extra decks.

Admittedly, while this is a very interesting design space, as Ruby Collector demonstrates, it is somewhat very wacky. Just take Oracle of the Alpha for an example of that. On Arena, this card is a fun, novel, and surprisingly potent value engine that provides a nostalgia hit. Should it be printed on paper, however, this card would cause frightening amounts of bankruptcy.

Thankfully, while Oracle of the Alpha is an extreme example, many Conjure cards are rather tame. Unfortunately, this mechanic still has its problems, even more so than the usual baggage of extra decks. Due to limitless bouncing and copy effects, Conjure isn’t viable on paper, as much as I might want it to be.

There’s Still Some Hope

Ketria

Considering the problems they cause for competitive play, it’s probably for the better that extra decks are pretty much dead. As fun as they can be, it’s difficult to say they’d ever be worth the faff and added logistical complexity. Thankfully, the sideboard remains an option that Wizards can tap into, so outside-the-game effects can stick around.

While extra decks may not work in competitive formats, casually, these decks can thrive. In Commander, Attractions, Planechase, and Stickers are still all legal mechanics that players can include in their decks. Technically, the same problems related to copy effects still exist, but in a casual setting, they’re less problematic and frustrating.

Ultimately, it seems Commander may be the saving grace for extra decks in MTG going forward. Should Wizards have a great idea for one, there’s little reason why it couldn’t be in a preconstructed deck or product. Hopefully, this means the recent banning won’t massively stifle innovation going forward. Whether or not that happens, however, remains to be seen.

Read More: Modern Horizons 3 Could Derail Magic. Again.

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