Well, hey there. You’re looking handsome today. Was the Easter Bunny as good to you as he was to me? Star City Games brought the open series back to Orlando and gave me an opportunity to defend my trophy as the current reigning Standard champion. I spent most of my week prior to this tournament trying to find a way to break open the format, where the obvious kings of Standard were Junk Reanimator and Naya Blitz. However, like every tournament before, I simply ran short on time before finding the list I would feel comfortable playing. When this happened I went to my Plan B: Jund. And I despise Jund in literally every format. The only time I have played Jund was at Pro Tour Montreal, where it performed admirably but I couldn’t dig myself out after starting the tournament in a big hole. It’s not that I think Jund is a bad deck; it’s just simply not my style. But sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone and go with what’s smart.
Make me a Believer
I’ve been doing my research. Knowing that my Plan B needed to give me a chance to win, I turned to the king of Jund. Reid Duke had recently played the archetype to a 4-0 record in the MOCS Championship. Because I’m just getting back into Standard, I decided to copy/paste his decklist and make some minor adjustments to improve the deck’s “bad” matchup against Junk Reanimator. This is what I ended up playing:
Standard Jund by John Cuvelier
The most glaringly obvious things different about my list are as follows:
2 Thundermaw Hellkite: This is the must-have inclusion I made to the deck. You really need him to put a clock on Junk Reanimator. In addition, Lingering Souls is starting to become popular in Standard again, which just gives him more value.
3 Thragtusk: No, that’s not a joke. I’m not going to play a deck with that many five-drops without a heck of a lot more acceleration. Since I wanted to fit in Thundermaw Hellkite, the only logical conclusion was to cut down a Thragtusk.
4 Bonfire of the Damned: That’s a lot of Bonfire. But the card is actually quite important in the metagame, with almost every deck playing either mana dorks or being hyper-aggressive.
Early Bird Gets the Worm?
The morning of the event I am up bright and early. How early? How does 4 a.m. sound to you? Why does one choose to awake at such a godforsaken hour? My girlfriend was working for Star City and needed to arrive at 7 a.m. I live two hours away from Orlando. You can see how that makes more sense, even if it is super early.
We arrive at the tournament hall at exactly 7 a.m. and I begin to gather up my cards to build my Jund deck. I watch as my friends slowly trickle in the room as the hours pass. The anticipation builds as I talk with Glenn Jones, Brad Nelson, and Cedric Phillips about the event. They were all pretty disappointed I was on Jund and expected something better. I told them I had something in mind for Sunday assuming I didn’t do well that day. Seats are posted shortly thereafter, and it’s time to battle!
Round 1 — RWB Good Stuff (Lee McIntire): His deck was full of good cards including Boros Reckoner, Bonfire of the Damned, Lingering Souls, and Thundermaw Hellkite. He makes it a close match by topdecking running Thundermaws to kill me in Game 2. (Win 2-1, Overall 1-0)
Round 2 — BUG Aggro (Enrique Arqueros): Another rogue deck this round, which included Strangleroot Geist, Young Wolf, Dreg Mangler, Duskmantle Seer, and Rancor. He mulligans to five in Game 1 and didn’t have much of a chance. Game 2 was much closer, but I had two Thragtusks and that’s usually all that’s required to beat aggro. (Win 2-0, Overall 2-0)
Round 3 — Junk Reanimator (James Campos): This is Jund’s supposed worst matchup, and the reason I dedicate maindeck slots to beating it. The hate pays off as I win Game 1 on the back of Ground Seal. I have mana issues in Game 2 and his Acidic Slimes finish me off. He has multiple Thragtusks in Game 3, but I am able to take control with Olivia Voldaren. (Win 2-1, Overall 3-0)
Round 4 — Naya Midrange (Jared Tomlinson): Jared was a nice guy and we chatted briefly before the match. He had a slower draw and I punished him for it in Game 1. He draws multiple Thundermaws in Game 2 but I have multiple kill spells; eventually I take with Thragtusk and win shortly thereafter with Bonfire of the Damned. (Win 2-0, Overall 4-0)
Round 5 — Junk Reanimator (Michael Segal): He finds everything but an Unburial Rites in Game 1, and I’m able to finish him off before he does. Game 2 goes on for a very long time and he gets up to 68 life before I fall. There was video coverage for Game 3. (Win 2-1, Overall 5-0)
Round 6 — Esper (Jonathan Marsh): I battle my way through two Sphinx’s Revelations to secure Game 1, but Game 2 is very long and grindy. His double-Duress start knocks out two planeswalkers from my hand, and I eventually run out of gas and fall victim to his Nephalia Drownyards. Game 3 is extremely close as the clock ticks down. I stick an early Ground Seal that ends up winning me the game about 15 turns later. When we are in topdeck wars toward the end, I draw Thundermaw Hellkite while he draws Snapcaster Mage. Unable to target his graveyard, the dragon finished him off. (Win 2-1, Overall 6-0)
Round 7 — RWB Good Stuff (Brian Hardie): This version was more of a midrange deck with a reanimator package built in. Neither game was particularly exciting and I win fairly easy to move into the Top 8. (Win 2-0, Overall 7-0)
Rounds 8 and 9: Intentional Draw (Overall 7-0-2)
Quarterfinals — Junk Reanimator (Anthony Pitman): SCG video coverage.
Semifinals — Jund Aggro (Samuel Williams): SGC text coverage.
Live and Learn
So … close. I was within a single card of winning Game 1 and was within one land drop of winning Game 2, drawing my fifth land one turn too late. (I mulliganed to six in both games.) After playing the deck for 10 rounds, there were things I noticed that I wanted to adjust. Here’s my updated list and some reasoning behind the changes:
Standard Jund 2.0 by John Cuvelier
Vampire Nighthawk: Liliana of the Veil is really only useful for one matchup now. Replacing her with Vampire Nighthawk gives you more action against aggressive decks and is a hard card to race in conjunction with Kessig Wolf Run. I’m not saying Liliana is bad, just that Nighthawk is better in the current metagame across a wider spectrum.
Rakdos Keyrune: This is much harder to kill than an Arbor Elf and does a much better job of holding the fort.
Murder: I upgraded to a second Murder over Dreadbore. Every time I drew Murder, it saved face; and with the lack of planeswalkers in Standard, the switch is acceptable. Instant removal is definitely where you want to be.
Acidic Slime: It really is a great time to boast a full set of these guys. Depriving midrange decks of mana is the goal to beating them, and as the popularity of Assemble the Legion increases, we want as many Slimes as possible.
Liliana of the Veil: As I said earlier, Liliana just isn’t as good as she used to be in Standard. The aggressive decks are too fast, the midrange decks have Loxodon Smiter, and there are reanimator strategies running rampant. It does shine amazingly against Esper Control, which is why I still dedicate some sideboard slots.
Rakdos Charm: A not-so-predictable answer to the graveyard that also destroys Witchbane Orb.
Eye on the Invitational
I don’t have many more events on the horizon that require me to make significant travels. The last one in the foreseeable future is the SCG Invitational in Atlanta, I will be hope to make my first Invitational Top 8. I’ll be teaming up with Pat Cox, Orrin Beasley, and Reid Duke to solidify a Legacy and Standard list for this weekend. I’m really not sure what I’ll be playing, but no doubt there will be some Jundstice served.
@JCuvelier on Twitter
Gosu. On MTGO
Trackback from your site.