Here in lies a report from the first post-M14-release Standard event entered by Carrie Oliver regarding SCG Richmond Open on July 21st.
“It was horrible. There was Jund everywhere, as far as the eye could see. Mirrors were not uncommon and that was a truly frightful thing to behold. Where Garruk once slayed Garruk, now they were locked in eternal conflict. It took a brave man to not be driven mad by the sight of it.”
I thought about doing the whole article in this style but it was just going to be a bit too much for me, especially when I have to try to get in specifics. I mean how precisely am I meant to talk about Rakdos's Return while sounding like I've been in battle. It kind of ruins the atmosphere.
Anyway, there truly was a lot of Jund. Unsurprising, I suppose, as it is a safe choice in an unknown meta. The deck got Scavenging Ooze from M14 which is just a sweet card. Clearly it provides excellent maindeckable graveyard hate for Reanimator and Aristocrats decks, but it also provides a nice source of life gain attached to a hefty blocker in the aggro matches. It's just a great card for the deck and really pushes Jund into the classic “safe” deck category that I love to hate.
The Jund mirror, though, is still a depressing beast. While I was not playing Jund myself, I observed enough to know that, “he who casts Rakdos's Return first will likely win.” If you strip your opponent's hand first then, well, you don't need me to spell it out. I believe many decks are running 2 in their starting 60 and if Jund remains popular this might rise to 3.
Speaking of the mirror, I think this is the place I saw the new legend/planeswalker rules have the most impact. Watching two Garruks bash heads is entertaining, but may make Dreadbore a more essential component in Jund's makeup.
With the Invitational coming up next weekend, I am certainly expecting the Jund-heavy theme to continue. So the question is how do you beat Jund in Standard?
Traditionally Jund hates quick aggro decks that put down too many threats quickly for it to deal with. So, something like Naya Blitz might have been a good choice. However, with 4 copies of Bonfire of the Damned providing a cheap, early defense to that it no longer seems as strong an option. Jund also dislikes combo, but there isn't a strong combo deck in Standard right now.
“Unafraid of the dense Jund environment I bravely entered the fray with many Humans at my side. Alas, while we slayed as many as we lost, victory was not within our grasp today.”
There were a good many people trying out variants of BW Humans. I was among them. It's very annoying when you brew a deck only to have about a million people suggest different versions of it during the week. I mean, I know it wasn't that hard to spot, but did everyone have to talk about it? Regardless, I wanted to try out the deck in a competitive environment as testing indicated that it had a reasonable chance.
This is the list I ran:
I ended up going 3-3 beating Jund, BUG Control, and Esper Control and losing to Jund, Junk Aristocrats, and Junk Reanimator.
My feelings on the deck from the weekend were that it was too much in the middle of two game plans. It wasn't super aggressive, so an opponent had time to deal with your early plays, and it lacks the long-term value of The Aristocrats. Once the deck stumbled it couldn't pick itself back up. I don't like this spot.
I really like Xathrid Necromancer, but he is strongest when many things die at once. This would be the case in a meta full of sweepers, and while Jund has Bonfire they also have a whole bunch of spot removal so they can take the Necromancer out first and then clear the board away. If the deck was more aggressive, they might not have luxury of time to pick off the Necromancer before needing to use their mass removal.
I've kind of been toying with the idea of Junk Humans in my head which just uses Necromancer as an insurance policy rather than a value card. However, I generally dislike Naya Blitz as the mana is too unstable and that will be the same here.
The alternative route for Xathrid Necromancer to take is to gain a bit more reach. Mostly, I am thinking of going into red for access to Falkenrath Aristocrat. Several games I was drawing off the top thinking, what precisely am I hoping for here? Falkenrath is an excellent topdeck, provides a nice curve topper, and another sacrifice outlet. A deck doing just this made Top 32 this weekend though I wouldn't bother with the Archangel of Thune personally:
Aristrocrats by Jeremy Sunell
Interestingly, the event was in fact won by a BW Humans list. The notable difference from my list is that Skirsdag High Priest has been removed, which I approve of. He was a big component of the more value side of the plan, but is quickly picked off. I didn't make a Demon all day. Instead the deck runs Lingering Souls which I sorely missed. Maybe this provides just enough recovery for the deck that I felt was missing in several of my games for it to be successful. Interestingly though, it was the only BW Humans list in the Top 32, and it didn't include anything special, so maybe it just ran good. We shall see...
I was pleased to see the winning deck play Blood Artist, as this card is just amazing. Many of the suggested lists online were not running this little 0/1 but they are wrong. He keeps you in so many games.
“And yet the horrors of Jund where nothing to the Geists that attacked us in the night, the ones that we couldn't strike back at, that seemed to grow in strength and skill with every passing hour, those were a truly horrendous sight to behold.”
Well, I still hate Hexproof. A point in Jund's defense is that they are boarding so much hate for this deck (Tributes, Barter in Blood), plus maindeck answers like Liliana of the Veil and Bonfire of the Damned, that Hexproof did not have a great day.
However, Hexproof's day was filled with bright, glorious sunshine compared to Aristocrats. There was only one list (BWR) in the Top 32 which was more a Humans-build. Despite there being a large number of Junk versions, none made the final standings. This is sad but probably not unexpected. Scavenging Ooze is pretty good against the deck while it hasn't gained anything exciting and new to play itself. I hope a new version will develop as the format solidifies because I love this deck, but right now it's looking pretty weak.
Those were all my thoughts from the Open. For comparison I looked at the Top 32 deck lists from the SCG Classic event that happened this weekend in Lansing, MI. While we can't gain any sense of the true meta from this it does allow a comparison of top-performing decks. Interestingly, this Top 32 was far less Jund dominated, by quite a bit. I wonder if this is because less people took Jund or if it just wasn't as successful? The bigger the event the more people will take a deck viewed as safe, and Jund really is the definition of safe. However, at smaller events people tend to take what they want or more speculative decks.
The event itself was won by GW midrange. I like this deck since it has some nice cards for the Jund matchup. Voice of Resurgence and Thragtusk are going to survive a Bonfire, and Advent of the Wurm can be cast post-Bonfire for a surprise beat down while they are tapped out. I also like the use of Garruk as some superb card advantage and you also get to make use of Scavenging Ooze, but in a more aggressive shell. I'm not sure how I feel about Archangel of Thune over Restoration Angel, though. There is no life gain in the deck except the Angel itself and Scavenging Ooze's ability. However, it won so I shouldn't really judge. Here is the list:
G/W Midrange by James Newman
I have the Invitational next week so I'm going to be wracking my brains to decide what to play. If you have a Standard event soon, just make sure you have a plan against Jund. I will see you next week, assuming the jet lag doesn't kill me.