Friday, December 25, 2009

Jund aggro-control, RDW, and 'Shroud Control'

The following post contains a discussion of the decks I'm working with in current competitive M:TG standard format. For the vast majority of readers it will consequently be of no interest, so if you are among them, don't waste your time. Maybe I should publish these niche posts at a different blogging location, but that would mean at minimum several weeks without a readership to speak of. It's taken time to earn the attention of those eyeballs, and I'll be damned if I'm going to squander rather than utilize my modest reach! Just forgo this post and forgive its author if you're not a fellow (or former?) planeswalker*.

For those still with me, I'm soliciting thoughts, critiques, and suggestions regarding the three deck types I'm currently tinkering with. I implore you to share them.

My top tourney deck is jund aggro, although I classify it as aggro-control because relative to the jund of the global meta, it puts heavy emphasis on the latter.

Jund Aggro-Control

Creatures (17)

4x Bloodbraid Elf
4x Sprouting Thrinax
4x River Boa
3x Broodmate Dragon
2x Garruk Wildspeaker

Spells (18)

4x Blightning
4x Jund Charm
4x Maelstrom Pulse
3x Bituminous Blast
3x Terminate

Land (25)

4x Rootbound Crag
4x Dragonskull Summit
4x Savage Lands
4x Verdant Catacombs
3x Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
2x Forest
2x Swamp
2x Mountain

Side

3x Duress
3x Goblin Ruinblaster
3x Goblin Outlander
2x Lightning Bolt
2x Pyroclasm
1x Bituminous Blast
1x Terminate

River Boa is obviously less aggressive than Putrid Leech, the jund standard. I like boa better for a few reasons: 1) It's an more assured second turn drop than leech is. Jund's mana base is a wreck, as jund players who've played Spread 'Em have inevitably find out firsthand. Mountain, Rootbound Crag, and Oran-Rief to open doesn't feel as bad with boa as it does with leech. 2) Even late game, boa's valuable as a chump. Paths, terminates, and O-rings are the only ways it goes. The key to cascading is ensuring that whatever pocket the ball lands in, you're better off. leech is better than a rampant growth, but thrinax always feels better than leech. With boa, by contrast, I'm often more pleased than I would've been with thrinax. 3) I started out using leech, but became perpetually frustrated by removal on the stack after I pumped, especially in the mirror match. Take two and lose my 2-drop for a bolt? Awful.

States are still packed with leeches, while some are foregoing the 2-drop creature entirely, in favor of siege gang, so this contrarian is yet to be vindicated. The latter is usually accompanied by mana acceleration via rampant growth. That version of jund has the upperhand in mirror, but it's extremely vulnerable to RDW (see below), which is why I'm not keen on it.

An even more significant variation on my part is in electing to include charm maindeck at the expense of bolt, which I relegate to side in a diminished capacity. To play red and not use bolt is almost sacreligious, but so long as I have the mana for it, I'm almost always happier to see charm than I am to see bolt. Part of this is due to my local meta. Tokens (Conqueror's Pledge, Emeria Angel, Siege-Gang Commander) have an enormous presence, and jund charm is a crucial answer to them. In response to your dropping eldrazi, I'll jund charm. Eldrazi has a one turn clock and you're tapped out. Pwned! Cascading into a charm instead of a bolt also often means a +2/+2 pump on one of my creatures instead of throwing (away) 3 damage at his face.

Duress is a recent addition to the board for Mind Sludge, which wrecked me three games (first round) in a recent tournament. I got hit with it each game on his turn 5 (he won the roll, and also game 1 and 3)--twice my turn 4--for my entire hand. Jund wins on 2-for-1s and card advantage. Five for one in his favor is not how that is accomplished.

Outlander is for Green/White beast decks that are currently king in my meta. Yes, they are even getting the better of jund most of the time. I've not seen this deck with much of a presence yet in states, but I imagine that it's only a matter of time. It uses Noble Hierarch and Lotus Cobra for acceleration into Emeria, Knight of the Reliquary, Baneslayer, and Dauntless Escort (a stupidly overpowered card), as well as Thornling after game 1. Since it's only removal is path, slapping a jund charm on outlander presents a serious threat.

Pyroclasm is extra ammo for the token decks. It was tough to drop Great Sable Stag, but vampires look to be dead, and almost all the jund in my meta has dropped leech and most have added siege gang, so stag's gone from being game-changing to simply being good in the mirror match.

After the Zendikar pre-release, I got the bug. I'd been clean for six years, but a few old friends convinced me to go. A few weeks and one weekend of extensive Magic playing with several old friends back from all over the country later and 4x of the full common and uncommon library of each of the five current sets was on its way. I've still only played jund in tournaments, but the meta is so saturated with jund hate that I'm going to be mixing it up soon.

Red Deck Wins

Creatures (20)

4x Raging Goblin
4x Plated Geopede
4x Ball Lightning
4x Hellspark Elemental
4x Hell's Thunder

Spells (16)

4x Lightning Bolt
4x Burst Lightning
4x Quenchable Fire
4x Earthquake

Land (24)

12x Mountain
4x Teetering Peaks
4x Scalding Tarn
4x Arid Mesa

Side

4x Swerve
3x Unstable Footing
3x Dragon's Claw
3x Volanic Fallout
2x Banefire

I built this thing independent of any knowledge of it existing as a top-tier deck. One of the two differences I opted for is the use of raging goblin instead of the more favored Goblin Guide. I play the dek in a very disciplined manner--direct damage is to be reserved for players, not creatures, except for in the most exceptional circumstances. Creature drops first. Ball lightning before Hell's Thunder and geopede before hellspark because of unearth in the face of blightning. The staying creatures, especially the 1-drop goblin (whether raging or guide) becomes a chump blocker after two or three turns. I'm not sold on giving a 1 or 2 card advantage for a couple extra points of damage. I'm potent enough mid-game to still threaten if his life total is in the single-digits.

The other variance with the standard RDW is in using quenchable fire instead of elemental appeal. Wizards is currently giving blue the middle finger. It is the color with the least presence in the current environment, to such an extent that I'm comfortable running quenchable fire maindeck. Elemental appeal doesn't drop until turn 4, at which point it's an easy target for removal. Plus, I want to be throwing direct damage rather than creatures from turn 4 onward (it's not unusual to win on turn 6 or 7). In friendly games, I get jund 2-to-1 pre-board, but I haven't had much exposure with it against other decks.

Unstable footing and banefire are both for mill. Although I've not play-tested against it yet, on paper it's a tough match for me. If those aren't enough, I'll find room for Lich's Mirror.

Swerves are for spread 'em. I can't wait for the first time I get to throw that down in tournament play!

Dragon's claw is for mirror.

The third of my ongoing projects is by far my favorite. It's an AE original (it's nonexistence in competitive play should probably be taken as an indication that it is not a top-tier deck, but nothing is until someone introduces it, right?) with a cute name. What's not to like? As a Type I player (now "vintage"), my home has always been mono-blue control. Ever since coming upon the Wall of Air/Prodigal Sorcerer 'combo' back in the halcyon days of Fourth Edition's reign (I've since grown to Power Ten/Morphling, but we all have to start somewhere), my heart has yearned for islands. Unfortunately, mono-blue simply is not a viable option in the current standard environment because of the pitiable state of counterspells.

Shroud Control

Creatures (11)

4x Deft Duelist
4x Wall of Denial
3x Sphinx of Jwar Isle

Spells (24)

4x Flashfreeze
4x Oblivion Ring
3x Path to Exile
3x Negate
3x Hindering Light
3x Mind Control
2x Day of Judgment
2x Mind Spring

Land (25)

8x Island
5x Plains
4x Fieldmist Borderpost
4x Sejiri Refuge
4x Glacial Fortress

Side

3x Quest for Ancient Secrets
3x Celestial Purge
3x Baneslayer Angel
2x Luminarch Ascension
2x Devout Lightcaster
1x Negate
1x Day of Judgment

Because it renders terminate and bit blast dead cards while severely lessening the utility of pulse and bolt, this gets jund 2-to-1 in game 1. Deft duelist rapes bloodbraid, and wall of denial throws jund into slow motion. Hindering light is an amazing answer to blightning, turning a 1 card disadvantage plus 3 damage into a 1 card advantage without any loss of life. It also works to protect O-ring and mind control against the pulses jund is waiting for a target to throw at (flashfreeze and negate both work as well, without card advantage but with greater general utility). Sphinx can't be killed by anything in the entire deck save for a broodmate together with its, uh, broodmate.

Flashfreeze is dead against vamps and white weenie, neither of which have much of a presence in my meta (and deft duelist is amazing against both of them). But it's utility is huge against 80% or so of what's being run out there. It's a risk I'm comfortable taking.

Why baneslayer in board? To catch jund with its pants down game 2. Let him side out all his removal only to find I've brought a more potent (but removable) creature to pinch-hit for sphinx. Additionally, it's helpful against the green/white token matchup, which will be a tough one for me.

The quests are for mill. My kill is slow, but they allow it to still beat the mill clock, and at 1 cost, I have the counterspells to protect it even on the turn it is dropped (which is not turn 1 unless I happen to have two in hand).

* Using jargon associated with a nerdy activity in a public, generalist setting definitely marks one as a nerd, I know.

13 comments:

Alleged Wisdom said...

I wouldn't run Oran-Rief in that Jund deck. It doesn't really do much for you. Replacing those with basic forests will speed up the deck, especially given that you are running four crags.

In RDW, how are you planning on casting Swerve without any blue mana? I don't think they let you change out basic lands unless you have them in your sideboard.

You may want to experiment with Gargoyle Castle in RDW. It won't hurt your mana base and will give you a late-game option.

OneSTDV said...

Well good thing you're not perpetuating the HBD-nerd stereotype.

Anonymous said...

Do you read "Top Decks" by Mike Flores? That would cover most of the obvious suggestions.

BTW, Goblin Guide is great. And Luminarch Ascension is a maindeck card.

Audacious Epigone said...

Alleged,

I'm probably going to cut it down to 2x Oran-Rief for an extra forest, though I think it does a lot--river boa, bloodbraid, thrinax (+ tokens), garruk, and broodmate. It helps my entire creature base. That's really helpful against mirror especially.

Swerve is for decks that run spreading seas and convincing mirage to shut down the mana base. At 8 plus cascading, it almost keeps up with my ability to produce red. After the first spreading seas (or convincing mirage if it's the first shot in game 2, since the tendency seems to be to make my entire land base into islands), it offers crucial protection to my subsequent base.

Re: Gargoyle castle, I'm hesitant for a couple of reasons. 1) Spred 'em. It's that much tougher to get anything going. 2) The ability takes 5 other mana to pull off. With sac lands, I'm looking at about card 14, or turn 8 before it's viable. Is that worth making ball lightning more difficult to play? Since I'm not running elemental appeal though, it's a better idea for my RDW than it is for the standard version. I'll play with it.

OneSTDV,

Hah. I play soccer, football, basketball, and footy, too, so I'm not pervious to the charge of being an unqualified nerd!

Anon,

I keep up with the guys at tcgplayer, since they always focus on Standard. At least for now, Extended exhausts me--I've missed too many sets to get back into it without a lot of research.

What to drop for ascension? It's dead for RDW and boros bushwhacker, and close to impotent for green/white token, vamps, and white eldrazi variants. Great against the mirror, pretty solid against spread 'em and fog/mill, decent against jund. The problem re: the latter, though, is that I'm running 11x shroud creatures. A game 1 ascension gives their pulses a target that wouldn't otherwise exist. I like it more on game 2, once their removal is out.

Audacious Epigone said...

Anon,

I think I was wrong on ascension. I was knocked out of top 8 in the final round by RDW last night.

First game he got by the skin of his teeth--he had 1 card in hand and a goblin guide on the board. I had a wall of denial and sphinx of jwar isle on the board. He was at 8 and I was at 5 with a cancel and path to exile in hand. He top decks a mountain (land #6) and proceeds to maindeck banefire me for 5 (his only MD banefire!). Even more disgusting, my next card was sejiri refuge. That was turn 11.

Second game, we went into turn 18 before he finally massively hit me with another banefire. If RDW is taking that long for the kill, ascension is not a dead card.

And ascension absolutely rocks naya tokens and naya cascade (two decks I faced and won last night), which are both becoming big. It's also solid against runeflare trap and mill. In opening hand, it's even decent against jund. So I've just dropped 4x Deft Duelist and 1x Sphinx of Jwar Isle for 1x more Path to Exile (bringing my total to 4x) and 4x Luminarch Ascension. This clears up much needed space in my side for 4x celestial purge. RDW and Jund are my two toughest matches, and celestial purge will do wonders for the most troublesome crap they throw at me (Hellspark Elemental and Hell's Thunder in RDW; Sprouting Thrinax in jund). We'll see.

Audacious Epigone said...

Before my most recent tournament, I'd dropped mind control into side and celestial purge out of it. I know have room for both in side.

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear that you're liking Luminarch Ascension. It just seemed like a no-brainer for your super-defensive deck. The only problem is that multiple copies are worthless, so I would have suggested one or two at most. But it's essentially a clock - and one that is generally hard to eliminate or tempting to ignore. It's the balanced version of Bitterblossom, IMO.

Anonymous said...

WRT Mind Control, I am extremely skeptical of its value - it compares unfavorably in every way to Sower of Tempation, and I like crappy substitutes for exit cards about as much as I like sloppy seconds. Hell, even the utterly ancient and never-used Control Magic is strictly better than that slim coaster. Better to tap out for your own game-changer than to expect your opponent to provide you with one.

Audacious Epigone said...

Anon,

I've made ascension my only kill condition pre-board, so running four is a necessity.

Re: mind control main board, no question. (Unfortunately, Lorwyn's out of the format!) I took it out after the first tournament and moved it to board. Dead against rdw, bad against jund and a lot of other stuff. But it's huge against the monster of Grixis control that now seems to have supplanted jund as the top deck (Louis Scott Vargas won a big tourney in LA with it recently) in the format. I've won two matches now via decking. I would've run out of juice with mind control. It's also solid against beast bant, naya, and tokens.

I was knocked out of top 3 by vampires in the final round at fnm tonight. Vamps are a really bad match up. Both the malakirs just wreck me. I'm making space in the board for a couple martial coups. Day of judgment gave me game 2, but it was duressed away game 3.

Anonymous said...

Have you tried scepter of dominance?

Audacious Epigone said...

Anon,

No, though I've considered it. But it doesn't get around the pro-white problem, which is the biggest one I'm currently facing.

A few things I've considered:

- Into the roil. But I literally need an answer to everything they have, and if I draw into land, it drops me back half a card or so. However, it does have the added benefit of protecting an ascension in a crunch.

- Martial coup. Pretty expensive and also susceptible to duress.

- Essence scatter. I'm going to run 4x mainboard in tomorrow's tournament. We'll see how that goes.

Anonymous said...

AE, perhaps you should make this a sidebar on your blog? I'd love to discuss the latest tech, but I understand that it's not the main thrust of the blog.

I know you want to talk Worldwake. Are you planning to attend a prerelease?

Anonymous said...

Swerve in the sideboard just for spreading seas decks? haha thats great, but really that 4 of spot in your sideboard could be something better than that. RDW I don't think really needs this in it's sideboard. Maybe try something like act of treason, or pyroclasm...and cut the raging goblin and throw in goblin guide! Raging goblin is the biggest noob card ever and probably the worst topdeck in the game.