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Silvestri Says – 30 Lands and Determining your Battlefield

 

I suspect that a large number of upcoming articles will be about Rise of the Eldrazi as each new spoiler is revealed, as there’s little going on until the Standard PTQ season begins. There are a smattering of 1-5k events going on across the U.S. and Grand Prix: Houston, but little else in the way of major events and nearly all of those are being taken down by Jund. Heck, even the events not won by Jund are certainly dominated by it, with every top eight consisting of four of more copies of the deck. So this might be my last article on current Standard until that happens in a couple of weeks.

Despite my current dislike for Standard, I finally found a deck I really enjoyed playing and wasn’t just awful against the field. My deck choice: 30 Lands

Your strategy is simplistic and harkens back to the good old days of having more mana and more cards than your opponent. You spend your early turns ramping up and drawing through your deck, then bringing down the hammer with turn five Martial Coup, Mind Springs for your entire hand or more and clearing the board and casting Jace on the same turn. One of the big selling points this deck has against midrange and control decks is the ability to quickly force out a Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Oracle of Mul Daya which, if they don’t deal with ASAP, allows you to just blow through your deck with amazing speed.

How it stacks up to UW

A good way to think of the deck in traditional terms is to compare it to the tap-out WU Control, but instead of all that extra removal to keep your gooey innards intact, you just focus on the ramp and drawing portions. Of course when you run 30 mana sources and 7 accelerants, you tend to need to balance your priorities and make sure you never land clump yourself to death. While you’re throwing caution to the wind in this deck, very few decks can punish this type of insolence that you would dare play a different strategy from grindy creature vs. creature bull****. If there was one thing Jund was good at, it was removing heavy counter and balls to the wall aggro strategies that didn’t involve copious amounts of burn from the metagame.

Thanks to this awful metagame you have a lot of time to freely roam the grassy meadows and outland and outdraw the opponent six ways to Sunday. It honestly feels like you are playing a deck from a different time and format in this slow moving grind that is Standard. It shouldn’t be a shock that the first name many people had for the deck was Turboland or 30 Land in reference to those classic decks. To summarize: You’re doing a ton of powerful things while the opponent sits around and plays his efficient cards and that’s very good in a slower format like this.

In terms of card choices, most of them seem rather obvious: ramp cards ramp, draw cards draw, so I’ll focus on the two aspects I usually get questioned about. There are only three Jace, the Mind Sculptor in the deck because Mind Spring is just a million times better in a deck that frequently has six or more mana by turn four. Untapping and drawing an entirely new hand is pretty nice. If I could figure out another card to cut for the fourth Jace, I would consider it, but the weakest card in the deck is Treasure Hunt and that fits too nicely on the curve to dump into the ocean.

The other question frequently asked is why I use Mind Spring, Martial Coup and Iona as my huge spells to end the game. Mind Spring is simple: it defeats Blightning, is good while I have less than a billion mana and generally leads to game wins in the late-game as much as any other spell I could cast. Martial Coup is Day 5-8 in the deck with a bonus, so that should be self-explanatory in a deck with no other removal options. Iona is the oddest choice, sometimes she’s a worthless draw and other times she remains uncastable for longer than I would like because I have to clear the board first. However, for locking up a game once you get ahead, few cards in the history of the game are as useful as she is. One other option I’ve tinkered around with is Rite of Replication, which can serve to be a useful blocker early by copying the opponent’s best guy and late can usually end the game if it resolves on anything. Yes, even a Stirring Wildwood. If I ran 61 cards* or wanted one more win condition with some secondary use, I would run it.

*This is one of the few decks where I could justify 61 cards. You draw so many cards in an average game and have such a huge number of keepable hands due to half the deck being mana, so maybe you can add a card and it won’t feel detrimental.

Match-wise this deck absolutely rolls WU Control; you can match them giant spell for giant spell, while having 8x Manlands and the ability to ramp faster. If they run enough counters and target your Jaces and giant spells, they can make it a real game, but otherwise you’ll just end them with a huge Mind Spring or Wildwood and Colonnade beats. Yes, Spreading Seas, Path to Exile and Tectonic Edge can limit the effectiveness of them, but the fact that you have eight and so many ways to filter through your deck to get them into play can negate these efforts from WU without much trouble.

As for the boogeyman of Jund, I won’t lie and say you have some absurdly good match. There’s nothing you can slam down early that just spells game over for the opponent and the deck runs enough burn that allowing it to hang around can lose you games where you feel miles ahead in non-life resources. What I can tell you is that game one is reasonable under most circumstances and slightly unfavorable if they have a turn two Putrid Leech. You can group Jund starting hands into three groups for pre-board games.

A: Turn two Putrid Leech

This is difficult to beat, since they can apply the bare minimum of additional pressure while forcing you to deal with Putrid Leech early. Against most decks this really isn’t that big of a deal if you take 8-12 early, but against Jund there’s a special form of hell reserved for you. Oftentimes you can Day early and deal with it while developing; then you get hit for three by Bloodbraid Elf who puts a pal on the field and you are likely have to Day or Coup again immediately and then be forced to deal with Siege-Gang Commander or risk being knocked into Bolt / Blightning = Death range. Obviously this doesn’t happen all the time, but the number of times where you have to sweep on consecutive turns is quite frustrating.

All that said, if you’re on the play, your good starts demolish theirs. Bouncing a turn two Putrid Leech with a turn three Jace, the Mind Sculptor is a really good feeling and even if they Blightning you right back you’ll still be on track in life and mana for the early stages of the game. Beating a turn two Putrid Leech often comes down to minimizing the damage the Leech deals to less than 10. You can safely absorb two Leech swings, but after that point you have to be very careful since dropping to six and losing to double burn spells or a Siege-Gang Commander you can’t immediately Wrath will be many of your late-game losses.

Turn two Putrid Leech demands that it be blown up by Day (Or Purged / Bant Charmed post-board) after two swings. If for whatever reason you kept some craptastic hand that couldn’t do this, lands player would typically be too low on life to attempt anything offensive and just get rolled unless a giant Coup wasn’t just Pulsed out.

B: Turn three creature, turn four relevant play like Bloodbraid Elf or Garruk

This is the typical Jund hand and one you can usually trump.

C: Slow with too many late-drops, too much removal or the double Blightning with no threats hand

Obviously you crush this hand as their removal has few targets until you start winning the game. All the removal they draw is basically worthless and Lightning Bolt and Blightning are irrelevant until the late-game. Even the dread double Blightning hand where your hand gets trashed can be averted by Brainstorming once with Jace or holding back / resolving a Mind Spring. You only have a few cards you truly care about keeping in your hand once you reach the magical seven mana mark, and as long as you don’t lose them by going to two cards or less in hand or keep them safe on the top of your deck, you’ll be fine.

Sideboarding at the moment looks like:
On the play:
+4 Bant Charm / Celestial Purge, +4 Spreading Seas
-3 Oracle of Mul Daya, -2 Treasure Hunt, -2 Halimar Depths, -1 Day of Judgment

On the draw:
+4 Bant Charm / Celestial Purge, +4 Spreading Seas
-3 Oracle of Mul Daya, -2 Treasure Hunt, -2 Halimar Depths, -1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor (possibly more)

Treasure Hunt gets a lot weaker in post-board play since Jace gets weaker half the time and Halimar Depths is the weakest land in the deck. Since you bring in Spreading Seas, you also have access to more early-game cantrip power and just don’t need Hunt that much. As for boarding in general, I’m not 100% on it and it also depends if they run Siege-Gang Commander in large numbers. If everyone in my area wasn’t playing 3-4 SGC in their Jund decks, I would be a lot keener on cutting back on Day of Judgment and relying more heavily on spot removal and Wall of Denial.

Post-board is odd since often times the Jund player has no idea what to bring in, so his choices can range from making the match very favorable for you to slightly worse. Your plan is very simple though, you bring in a number of ways to deal with Putrid Leech and the Spreading Seas. On the play these act like Time Walks and on the draw you usually wait and use them fairly to take out Manlands or in conjunction with Tectonic Edges to cut a color. In the absolute worst-case, use them to keep the Jund player off RR so Siege-Gang Commander is less of an issue for you post-Wrath. If they bring in Jund Charm (yes, some do just for the Coup tokens), I know my odds of winning are going through the roof.

As for Jund’s choices, Goblin Ruinblaster was sometimes incredibly strong because it would knock me off Martial Coup mana for a turn, but the rest of the time it sucked. Turns out blowing up one land in a deck with thirty of them and the ability to dig for more is a rather loose play. The best part is that many players instinctively remove Lightning Bolt against you which reduces the odds of losing to double burn spell in the late-game. To be fair, I actually understand this decision since unless Lightning Bolt is killing you, the only other thing it can accomplish is to kill a Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Great Sable Stag dies to Day and Coup like everything else, but can sometimes make life miserable if you run low on cards later as Colonnade, Wall of Denial, Bant Charm and Jace do nothing to it.

The ability to hit four mana on turn three or six mana on turn four were the game breaking points. On the play, a turn three Jace for the Lands player was just a head meets table moment and large Mind Springs are often enough to put the game out of reach unless you draw the pooh-pooh platter.

Mono-Red: Game one is miserable, games two and three are a lot better. Take the Jund problem where you have to deal with dying to 8 burn spells in the late-game. Expand this to twenty or more and you grasp why this is such a miserable match. Post-board is super awesome fun time though, not only do you get Kor Firewalker, but you get a better Kor Firewalker in Wall of Denial. Wall of Denial is one of those sweet cards that isn’t seeing much play now, but is actually the bees knees in some matches. Against the Red deck, they can’t kill Wall no matter how many Deathmark and Doom Blade they run and effectively blank burn spells like Hell’s Thunder and Ball Lightning instead of merely taking them down a notch. Sure late into the game they’ll get enough mana to play multiples in a turn, but by then you’ll of gotten way ahead and should have an answer to that.

Before I went back to Wall of Denial I was running a combo of Firewalkers and Perimeter Captain. While good, you’ll save more life in the long run by just playing the Walls and Firewalkers instead of purely trying to overload the opponent with life-gain. And besides, you’d rather run Sylvan Bounty at some point than more guys that die to the Black sideboard options.

Midrange in general is odd, because usually nobody has the slightest idea of what you’re doing and most of these decks are soft to Martial Coup. Usually not the first one, that’s just to clear the board and trade with the next guy they play. However #2 and #3 usually do the job of ending decks like Mythic and Naya unless they’ve drawn a very high density of threats. I can’t give much information since I’ve only played a handful of games against either of these strategies. What can I say? I rather focus on the three most played decks in this neck of the woods.

Random decks can be an issue if they have a comboish element to them. There’s no way in hell you’ll ever beat crap like Runeflare Trap or Dredge, you just don’t have any relevant ways to interact with them. The best you can hope for is that they play like complete donks and you get lucky with the extra time they give you by playing around cards you don’t have. Against decks that are just glorified bad Aggro or bad Midrange, you’ll smash them into tiny pieces by just playing huge spells.

This isn’t the best deck in Standard, Jund holds that honor, but it has a legitimate strategy and doesn’t automatically fold to anything that commonly sees play. Being soft to Putrid Leech is unfortunate, but this build is hardly finalized; the next step is to see if we can get some ways to deal with that in there without ruining the ramp nature of the deck. For now though, we’ll move onto a non-Standard topic.

Here’s a quick snippet of one of the articles I’ve been working on in my spare time about determining the battlefield. One of the funniest things I see during tournaments are people trying to fight against decks post-board using an angle the opponent isn’t even thinking about. It’s funny because both players have a clear plan for the match, but one is fighting on the wrong battlefield and significantly damaging his chances for victory before the game even begins. Two recent and notable examples can be found in the post-board Dark Depths Thopter match in Extended and the misevaluation of key cards in Merfolk.

In the Dark Depths match, instead of trying to combat what the engines in the deck were, people were completely focused on hosing each combo in the deck. While stopping the 20/20 wasn’t particularly difficult for any deck, trying to board against Thopter Sword frequently meant bringing in cards that were borderline unplayable against every other aspect of the deck to deal with it. Unfortunately there was no Necropotence for people to latch onto and go, ‘There. That’s why I’m losing!’ so people kept trying to counter the Donate. While Dark Confidant and all the cards that said, ‘Draw 3’ on them were doing the legwork in the deck, people were still trying to figure out the optimal way to beat a plan Dark Depths player no longer leaned on post-board. I’m guilty of this myself; I was too focused on getting blown out by 20/20 monstrosities at first to really focus on what I was losing too. After realizing that many of my Dark Depths opponents were never running out of gas, I finally got on board with making my decks slightly less of a dog to the top deck.

Nowadays it’s only more obvious to players that they were fighting on a battlefield that was completely irrelevant. The reason DDT seemed so unbeatable was because they took a deck that probably only even or a little soft to the deck and then threw any edges they had into the lake and diluted the deck with cards that weren’t doing all that much. It helped that the secondary function of many anti-Larit Mage cards took care of Confidant as well, but otherwise we weren’t doing enough to deal with the core of the deck. Now that Jace, the Mind Sculptor has been adapted this is even more difficult since it can not only replace both combos as a win condition, but act as an additional draw engine to the deck. For many this is a wake-up call that came too late, but it serves as a good lesson for the future. Don’t wait and try to counter the Donate.

In Legacy, a common joke we sling around in #TMD is how Merfolk only has one real card in it and yet people can’t even identify it. In any number of sideboard options we’ve discussed for blue decks a common thread was the obsession of bringing in more 1 for 1 removal and the concept of running them out of valid threats or just dealing with them all at once. I’m left amazed when they blatantly ignore the entity known as Aether Vial and then complain when they lose to it on turn one. The card is Sol Ring with a bunch of anti-Countermagic bonuses attached. How hard is it to understand that if you just blow the stupid thing up, the deck has a slow clock, can really only play one spell a turn and turns back on any crappy cards you didn’t have room to board out? It doesn’t take a heck of a lot to race a Merfolk deck if you eliminate the way it has to cheat costs since it can only play a Lord a turn and even those are just smaller and generally irrelevant against you until they hit a critical mass. Killing Aether Vial doesn’t stop the entire deck, but it weakens it to a degree that should make it comical for slower decks to deal with unless you brought back BBS for the format.

That’s it for the snippet and I’m not sure what I’ll be writing about way or another for the next month. I don’t plan on talking about Standard not involving Rise of the Eldrazi unless something notable happens, so I’ll see you in a few weeks with something non-Jund.

Josh Silvestri
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom

p.s. If you have a tournament report and want to share, join my new facebook group for tournament reports: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=171074764728

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