Last weekend at GP Toronto I put up a solid Top 64 finish. I was pretty satisfied with the result, given my lack of testing and hatred for Modern. I felt like I needed to go, because I don’t have as many Pro points as I would like to, and it was a cool three hours of flight time to get there.
Once again I put my faith in the hands of Reid Duke and his deckbuilding ability, and again I was not disappointed. He came up with a Zoo-ish list that was basically just Jund with Geist of Saint Traft, and none of the cards that are bad in the mirror. He was inspired to build the deck after noticing that the metagame was soft to Geist, and my matches throughout the weekend proved him right.
Some games you just play Geist and burn every defending creature, and Geist attacks six times in a game to get the win. It was laughable how many times I would play Geist on turn two to be met only with a grimace. On my attack they'd think for a while, before casting Abrupt Decay on my Angel token. The Geist is merciless.
In the days leading up to the GP, I was pretty fond of Reid’s creation. A deck like this is right up my alley. It’s aggressive, and it has Bloodbraid Elf and Tribal Flames—two cards I've seen a lot of success with.
I was staying with Huey who was pretty set on Jund, and it was hard to convince him not to play it. I felt like none of us would have a stellar finish with just a stock Jund list, whereas if you play something that people won’t expect with an edge in the Jund matchup, assuming you’re right, it would be easy to do really well. Decision time came on Friday, and Huey agreed to play a GP Trial to try for three byes and to test the deck. He played this list:
He ended up winning the GPT 5-0; 10-0. As skeptical as he was about the deck, he played it one time and did not lose a single game over five rounds. This is more or less the final list we all ran in the GP—the only adjustments were -1 Relic of Progenitus +1 Nihil Spellbomb so we didn’t have to worry about hosing our own graveyard stuff like Tarmogoyf, Deathrite Shaman, and Lingering Souls.
And we also changed 1 Ancient Grudge into 1 Meddling Mage. Reid basically had it right on the first try, the only changes we made from the list he was using on Magic Online was to cut Treetop Village—a move he still regrets.
Huey and I hated Treetop Village for a ton of reasons, though. Coming into play tapped is awful—if it keeps you from playing a turn one Deathrite Shaman or a turn three Geist of Saint Traft, it’s basically the worst card in the world.
I also dislike that Treetop Village only makes green mana and does not contribute to Tribal Flames. To get all the other colors, you need to now fetch lands like Godless Shrine and Steam Vents, and even though you have all five colors in three lands, you cannot Tribal Flames for 5 damage, and you can't activate Treetop Village, very awkward. The final reason I hated Treetop Village, is that it's effectively a double-green cost spell in a deck that would like blue and white mana for Geist of Saint Traft, red and green mana for Bloodbraid Elf, and black mana for Lingering Souls, Deathrite Shaman, and Tribal Flames. Trying to hit all your mana requirements while staying on curve can be a bit of a challenge, and Treetop Village is no help at all.
The other major change to the deck was Noble Hierarch. I didn’t like the look of the original list, because the only cards that affected the game before turn three were Deathrite Shaman and Tarmogoyf. Don’t get me wrong—I know the deck has Lightning Bolt and other early burn spells, and those are more than sufficient as early plays against Jund or other creature matchups, but I really disliked that against combo or UW control that if you didn’t have Deathrite Shaman, you basically just don’t get to play a spell.
Sometimes you even don’t want to cast Tarmogoyf on the second turn and expose it to an opponent’s Lightning Bolt. Adding Noble Hierarch seemed so natural to me. First, it was a multicolored source of mana that provided fixing without having to inflict damage on yourself, that alone was very appealing to me.
I also liked how well it works with Geist of Saint Traft. Not only did it allow you to play a turn 2 Geist of Saint Traft (which is the main reason we wanted to play the deck—basically no deck in the format can beat it outside of Tron with Pyroclasm), but also it meant that we could be resilient to Liliana, the most common solution to Geist, while the exalted helped the it attack past most things.
The deck had tons of cheap removal and expensive threats—Lingering Souls, Geist of Saint Traft, and Bloodbraid Elf. So I liked having a little of mana acceleration beyond just Deathrite Shaman. I was fully convinced of the Noble Hierarchs power after I watched the first two rounds of Huey's GP trial, where he drew it every game and it was stellar each time. Before the event I wanted to play four, but was convinced not to, because it was pretty poor to draw in multiples.
The deck only runs two copies of Path to Exile, because it’s just way too bad in this format right now. Against Jund, you really hate being put to the decision whether to cast it on Dark Confidant or let it live and allow them to draw a card. You're always wrong no matter what you do, because in deckbuilding you put a bunch of Path to Exiles in your deck. If you allow it to live, they can bury you under card advantage, and if you kill it they can ramp right into Bloodbraid, or you can color-fix them into a turn four Lingering Souls with flashback.
Jund decks with white in them do not even consider playing Path to Exile because it is so weak, but for our deck the mana is too difficult to support a removal spell like Terminate or Abrupt Decay. A small number of Path to Exile, however, is really good against most of the field—though too few does make you weaker against the combo Birthing Pod decks, Wurmcoil Engine, and Splinter Twin.
2 Shatterstorm: These are here for Affinity, specifically Cranial Plating and Etched Champion. It's good with the mana acceleration and a very potent sideboard card. I played against Affinity zero times and it wasn’t a major part of the field, with the benefit of hindsight, I wouldn't have played this card.
2 Stony Silence: Primarily for Affinity, this also gives you good game against RG Tron and Eggs decks. There was much more Tron than we expected, and although I only played against Tron in the tournament once and won (because I drew Stony Silence), if I could go back and do it all again I would have played four copies, in place of the Shatterstorms.
1 Ancient Grudge: Very good, and a different, broader sideboard card for Affinity. This card is very useful against stuff like Spellskite and a resolved Wurmcoil Engine. I also like it against Jund decks, when you know they are sideboarding in Batterskull. Batterskull can be problematic, since the only real way to remove it is Tribal Flames and Path to Exile, which just won't cut it in longer games.
2 Rule of Law: Only in the sideboard for Storm, but this card is so effective in an otherwise unwinnable matchup that it feels excusable. This card is very good with the 1-mana acceleration creatures, and even paradoxically good with Bloodbraid Elf—being able to use Bloodbraid Elf to try to "search" for combo hate in weaker hands is very relevant, and a nice way to get free wins in games you would have otherwise lost. Allowing yourself to get lucky is a huge, underrated aspect of Magic.
1 Grafdigger’s Cage: This is here for random graveyard matchups, Storm, and is strong against Birthing Pod. I never touched this card in my entire tournament, but I saw a good amount of Birthing Pod at the top tables. Considering that this was a bad matchup for us, I wish I had played a second one of these. Probably over the Nihil Spellbomb.
2 Gaddock Teeg: I liked Teeg in this deck—when you sideboard against combo, you want to take out Lingering Souls because it’s such a weak threat, so you want to add combo disruption while keeping a good clock, which Teeg does quite well. He shuts off Scapeshift, Past in Flames, Empty the Warrens, as well as being a very strong sideboard card against UW Control, since it can lock out Cryptic Commands and Supreme Verdicts.
2 Meddling Mage: Mage is just a versatile sideboard option. It helps defend against Pyroclasm and Wurmcoil Engine. In combination with a Rule of Law you can name Echoing Truth and actually never lose, or with a Gaddock Teeg you can name Lightning Bolt against Scapeshift, and similarly try to lock them out.
Strangely, I liked this card the most as defense against Restoration Angel—when UW control leaves up 4 mana, this means they either have Cryptic Command or Restoration Angel, so playing Meddling Mage puts them to a decision. If they play Angel main phase, it is now exposed to Tribal Flames and will not be a surprise that kills your Geist of Saint Traft.
2 Slaughter Games are primarily for Scapeshift, but also will be sideboarded in against tons of random combo decks.
This deck was pretty good for me, and even though I hit some bad luck at the GP, it’s still a fun deck that has game against Jund—what more could you ask for?
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