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Feature Article – Jund or GWb (English)

English Translation by Emily Porcher

Hello everyone. I am writing this article while in flight returning to Japan from the United States. When I thought that I would at last be able to return home after Hurricane Sandy, I ended up boarding a U.S. flight for the second time in about three days to reach Chicago. My plans were to continue battling on to Charleston, and next fly from Japan to Taiwan.

As you can see, it was an outrageously busy schedule.

I think perhaps this will be my last U.S. flight this year, and if that’s the case it seems that staying there for two more weeks was fine. Anyway, I have the feeling that before I know it I’ll already be in Narita Airport with my suitcase stuffed with clothes and disorganized cards.

Of course I also haven’t had enough time to think about decks, so by process of elimination I thought I’d play Jund. However, Martin Juza introduced me to another good deck—white/green beatdown deck splashing black.

The prototype for this deck was played by Lukas Blohon at the previous week’s Grand Prix, and from there the two of us altered the sideboard slightly.

The truth is, Martin and I were both awfully jet-lagged, and there really wasn’t room for change.

[deck]Main Deck:
4 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
4 Noble Hierarch
3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
2 Gaddock Teeg
2 Qasali Pridemage
2 Aven Mindcensor
4 Loxodon Smiter
4 Wilt-Leaf Liege
2 Baneslayer Angel
4 Path to Exile
2 Dismember
4 Lingering Souls
4 Razorverge Thicket
4 Verdant Catacombs
3 Marsh Flats
3 Gavony Township
2 Forest
1 Plains
1 Swamp
1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers
1 Temple Garden
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Godless Shrine
1 Stirring Wildwood
Sideboard:
3 Creeping Corrosion
3 Rule of Law
2 Stony Silence
2 Spellskite
2 Rest in Peace
1 Baneslayer Angel
1 Dismember
1 Ethersworn Canonist[/deck]

Day One my record was four wins and two losses, and Day Two was the same. The result was that I made Top 64. I was thrilled with this outcome given that I had barely taken any time to practice.

The breakdown of my wins and losses against specific archetypes is as follows:

vs. Birthing Pod 3-0
vs. Affinity 1-0
vs. Jund 1-0
vs. Blue/Green/Red 1-0
vs. Mono-Blue Faeries 1-0
vs. Blue/White 1-0
vs. Infect 0-2
vs. Storm 0-1
vs. Soul Sisters 0-1

There was little I could have done to avoid my losses to Infect and Storm, but my game versus Soul Sisters was a bit of a waste. You might think that because I was playing a creature deck, the matchup would be unfavorable, but the truth is that it really wasn’t that much of a problem because having [card]Gavony Township[/card] meant that eventually my creatures’ size could turn the game around.

It became the battle of an absurdly large [card]Ajani’s Pridemate[/card] powered up by two [card]Soul Warden[/card]s, versus my [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card] and quite a few exalted triggers. However, the turn I played a blocker over [card]Spellskite[/card], he ended up drawing removal.

If I went to a Modern tournament again, I would follow Kibler’s lead and change [card]Avacyn’s Pilgrim[/card] to [card]Birds of Paradise[/card]. I think I might also cut back on fetchlands a little, perhaps swapping out two. But, if it seems like I have a surplus of green mana, it would be great to throw in the fourth copy of [card]Gavony Township[/card].

There’s almost never a time when [card]Avacyn’s Pilgrim[/card] attacks without a pump from Township, and while that’s the case, you’re better off with a flying creature that can stop your opponents’ flyers. As for the fetchlands, this is a deck without very severe color restrictions and it would be good not to fuel your opponent’s [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card]. Adding the final Township almost goes without saying. I really haven’t liked playing decks loaded with mana creatures in the past, but as long as I have this card I feel differently.

Additionally, I’d like to put [card]Darkblast[/card] in the sideboard. I also mention this in my discussion of specific matchups, but [card]Darkblast[/card] is bad news for Infect and Affinity. I wanted a card that could win the game one its own. In the morning on Day One, I thought that [card]Spellskite[/card] would fulfill this role, but everyone was playing [card]Dismember[/card]. Moreover, I felt the number I played was not enough, but I was racking my brains over what to cut for it.

So, I would change very little about the main deck, but as you can see, because there are a few fairly bad matchups that are combated directly by the adjustments I would like to make, there are six cards I would substitute in without exception. However, no matter what I try, fifteen cards is not enough—I have to sacrifice something. If I had to change it up, maybe I would pick [card]Dismember[/card] and [card]Ethersworn Canonist[/card], the slots I adjusted last.

Versus Jund

Jund is this format’s king. In the past, Jund was a typical midrange deck—its cards were individually powerful, but they were slow. Now, however, it is a fast beatdown deck and starts off explosively. To top it off, it has all the strong points of a so-called midrange deck, including access to discard spells to gain resistance to control and combo decks. But that’s not to say it has no weaknesses.

In game one, its matchup is not very good versus graveyard combo decks, and because (with the exception of [card]Dark Confidant[/card]) its cards are mostly one-for-ones, it has trouble dealing with multiple cards. [card]Abrupt Decay[/card]’s secondary clause makes the deck weaker to cards that cost 4 and up.

This deck takes advantage of these points.

[card]Lingering Souls[/card] plays excellent offense and defense here; and cards that are out of range of [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] and [card]Lightning Bolt[/card], like [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card] and [card]Wilt-Leaf Liege[/card], are extremely difficult for Jund to deal with.

Additionally, the Liege completely contains [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card]. Together with [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card], you have eight cards which always cause the Jund player to hesitate to use Liliana’s +1 ability for fear you have one in your hand. In their place, I might side Liliana out for games two and three. And causing Jund to do just that is in itself an advantage for you. One of the sources of Jund’s power is Liliana of the Veil’s hand and battlefield disruption. If there’s no pressure from Liliana, you can shift your plan—play lands without hesitation and slower spells and abilities like [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card] and [card]Gavony Township[/card].

In general, this matchup is extremely good for Green/White. This is especially true because of another factor I took advantage of during the Grand Prix. Maybe you’ve been losing repeatedly to an early [card]Dark Confidant[/card] and the board development that follows from its endless supply of cards, or several [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]s and a barrage of removal.

In order to prevent this pattern after sideboarding, I add additional removal, [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card], and [card]Rest in Peace[/card]. There is the problem of only being able to use half of your [card]Lingering Souls[/card], but the advantage of impairing your opponent’s [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] and [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] is more important.

Side Out

[draft]2 Gaddock Teeg
2 Aven Mindcensor[/draft]

Side In

[draft]1 Baneslayer Angel
1 Dismember
2 Rest in Peace[/draft]

Versus Birthing Pod

This deck resembles Green/White closely, with its mana accelerating creatures and similar card distribution cost-wise. It’s easy to imagine that if they don’t manage to pull off their characteristic combo, it becomes an advantageous matchup for you.

Beyond Green/White’s naturally large creatures, the number of [card]Gavony Township[/card]s each side has also becomes a deciding factor. In short, when it’s not a size battle, how you obstruct your opponent’s combo becomes the focus of the match up. Put more concretely, there are the following two points:

• Can you remove the combo cards, generally [card]Kiki-Jiki Mirror Breaker[/card], at instant speed?
• How can you invalidate [card]Birthing Pod[/card] and [card]Chord of Calling[/card]?

There’s not much to say about the first point. It’s good to always set your sights on the combo pieces rather than wasting removal spells. As far as the second point is concerned, there is a certain element of luck involved. This is because it depends on whether you draw one of the four hate cards packed into the main deck, and whether you can keep a hand with them present.

As for why I’ve put it this way, here’s a sample hand:

It’s game one and you’re on the play. You know nothing about your opponent’s deck. Do you think you can keep this hand?

[draft]Noble Hierarch
Gaddock Teeg
Aven Mindcensor
Forest
Verdant Catacombs
Marsh Flats
Razorverge Thicket[/draft]

Versus Birthing Pod, this is the ideal hand. However, if your opponent is Jund, Affinity, or Infect you’re probably more or less instantly dead.

Putting this extreme example aside, when you draw a hand that’s borderline keepable, it’s often the case that the seventh card is one of these two. If you’re using this deck, I think setting up conditions in advance regarding whether you keep or mulligan a hand is effective.

Keeping this hand means you will succeed at suppressing your opponent’s combo. However, the game doesn’t end there. In fact, it’s just beginning. Naturally, your opponent will probably remove your hate creatures and aim at your life total more directly. It continues on until you bring your opponent to zero and conclude the game at last.

Several turns pass until you summon [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card] and shave away at their life. If you are able to stop them with [card]Gaddock Teeg[/card], perhaps you cast [card]Wilt-Leaf Liege[/card] to seal the deal. But you have to be careful and remember that you’re both fighting with creature decks.

After sideboarding, you bring in more key hate creatures and cards to disrupt [card]Birthing Pod[/card], which become the main part of your game plan. You side in two copies of [card]Spellskite[/card] and one [card]Dismember[/card], as well as either one [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card] and one [card]Stony Silence[/card] or two copies of the enchantment. Both of these cards are game breakers. I think there’s value in putting in one card that is a countermeasure that only affects Birthing Pod. But the question of whether to put in the second copy is complicated.

When siding out cards, first out is [card]Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/card]. Because there are many things that become obstacles when casting removal in this matchup, you should absolutely board her out. I think next is [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card]. In a game where creatures are lined up for a face off, size is less of a merit. There are other defensive creatures, and as an attacker it’s a little underwhelming as well.

Side Out

[draft]3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
2 Loxodon Smiter[/draft]

Side In

[draft]2 Spellskite
1 Stony Silence
1 Dismember
1 Baneslayer Angel[/draft]

Versus Affinity

Should we call it Affinity, or Robots? The old Affinity deck was built based on the idea of unloading [card]Frogmite[/card] and [card]Myr Enforcer[/card] so quickly that even a slower start added an overwhelming presence to the battlefield by turn two. Certainly today’s version of this type of deck is based on something slightly different. After dealing 10 damage with the old and elegant [card]Arcbound Ravager[/card] or [card]Cranial Plating[/card], today’s deck still shifts towards unblockable creature options like [card]Etched Champion[/card] to do the next 10. However, the main point is different.

The card that epitomizes this difference is [card]Steel Overseer[/card]. Today’s Affinity deck lines up a bunch of smaller creatures and makes them stronger somehow, using [card]Steel Overseer[/card], [card]Signal Pest[/card], or [card]Master of Etherium[/card].

As with some decks, I think that unfortunately there’s no way to bring Green/White’s chances up to 50/50 when taking on modern Affinity pre-sideboard. Nonetheless, these are the points I think Green/White can take advantage of in game one:

If you can, focus on your opponent’s key creatures or [card]Cranial Plating[/card], and remove them completely until all that your opponent has left is a sad and powerless horde of 1/1s. If you can’t do this, your opponent won’t even give you the time to activate [card]Gavony Township[/card] every turn.

You want to kill most of their threats as soon as you see them. You don’t want to give them a single turn. However, I think the call I’m confounded by is [card]Arcbound Ravager[/card]. If you are able to remove this card , you often actually don’t want to. Ideally, I would recommend that you let them grow Ravager, and when they go to move +1/+1 counters instead remove their target. When they don’t move them, killing it is an option, but when you do so they can get a large creature.

For sideboarding versus Affinity, I’ve settled on the following plan. I remove the unhelpful hate creatures, add a one-sided wrath effect, and [card]Stony Silence[/card] which shuts down most of their cards. Additionally, I put in some spot removal. It’s clear that [card]Spellskite[/card] goes poorly with [card]Stony Silence[/card] and [card]Creeping Corrosion[/card], but it can stop [card]Etched Champion[/card] in addition to pinning down [card]Arcbound Ravager[/card]. Thus, I think it’s a good idea to put it in.

If you pull [card]Stony Silence[/card] you can block repeatedly, and it isn’t really an issue if by destroying your opponent’s board you lose one card. Because your matchup dramatically improves against most decks in this environment after sideboarding, against the majority of opponents your chances will be above 50/50 from game two on.

Side Out

[draft]3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
2 Gaddock Teeg
2 Aven Mindcensor
3 Loxodon Smiter[/draft]

Side In

[draft]3 Creeping Corrosion
2 Spellskite
2 Stony Silence
1 Darkblast
1 Dismember
1 Baneslayer Angel[/draft]

Versus Blue/White

This is a deck I didn’t know much about before seeing it in action at the Grand Prix, but I think my feeling is that this is quite a good match up for Green/White. Blue/White is weak with respect to creatures 4/4 or larger, and Green/White can play a 4/4 that is uncounterable by [card]Spell Snare[/card] as early as turn two. Moreover, because they have access to few Wrath effects pre-sideboard, you can continue to develop your board with a sense of security.

Green/White’s creatures are naturally larger, so combat is not a concern. Nevertheless, if it becomes the case that your creatures are staring each other down, you still have [card]Gavony Township[/card] as a special move. I think the only thing you really need to be careful of is a [card]Cryptic Command[/card] recast with [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]. Perhaps after sideboarding adding one or two copies of [card]Rest in Peace[/card] might be a good idea.

Side Out

[draft]2 Aven Mindcensor[/draft]

Side In

[draft]1 Baneslayer Angel
1 Dismember[/draft]

Versus Blue/Green/Red

As with Blue/White, this was an easier matchup than I had thought. Your opponent’s deck is faster when it operates at its best, but [card]Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/card]’s power grows because it lets you keep the pace.

Also in contrast with [card]Path to Exile[/card] their basic removal, [card]Lightning Bolt[/card], is not terribly useful against Green/White. Removing a [card]Delver of Secrets[/card] that flips immediately or an early [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] with [card]Path to Exile[/card] seems excessive, but I’m saying this because it has rarely worked for me in the few times I’ve done it under these circumstances.

The same can be said about the postboard games, but because they have eight cards that interact with the graveyard between [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] and [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card], I add at least one [card]Rest in Peace[/card]; it may be good to consider the question of whether to add another. Additionally, I would say that [card]Gaddock Teeg[/card] is unnecessary because they don’t have [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] postboard leaving just 2-3 copies of [card]Cryptic Command[/card] for him to prevent. Instead, you may need to be extremely careful of the appearance of [card]Vedalken Shackles[/card]. You may not see it in great numbers because it’s not very effective against Affinity at the top of the metagame, but Shackles is a real problem for Green/White. If you do see it, it would even be good to consider adding [card]Stony Silence[/card].

Side Out

[draft]1 Aven Mindcensor
2 Gaddock Teeg[/draft]

Side In

[draft]1 Rest in Peace
1 Baneslayer Angel
1 Dismember[/draft]

Versus Infect

Well, if you take a look at my win-loss record from the event you’ll see that from here on I’m discussing matchups that are clearly unfavorable, but honestly I don’t feel like this one is winnable. Their deck concept is to use one or two mana guys to win the game by double pumping their creatures with [card]Giant Growth[/card] effects, and it must be said that it has its best matchup versus your slightly slow beatdown plan.

At any rate, the only thing that your deck can do is use its six removal spells when your opponent tries to pump their creatures. You will consistently lose in the race to develop your board, and having said that, your blockers are insignificant because they can be evaded by [card]Rancor[/card] and [card]Apostle’s Blessing[/card].

If you wan to win versus Infect, it’s necessary to use a sideboard like Kibler’s which was nearly devoted to this matchup. I would probably just throw in [card]Spellskite[/card], which leaves a lot to be desired compared to [card]Dismember[/card]. As for [card]Darkblast[/card], at the Grand Prix my Infect opponent mentioned it. It was the first time I had thought of the card, but it seems very good since almost all of the Infect deck’s creatures are 1/1s. If I could make one more space in the sideboard, I might substitute out the anti-Affinity [card]Creeping Corrosion[/card] for [card]Darkblast[/card], and if I really wanted to beat Infect there’s room to consider adding another for a total of three copies.

Side Out

[draft]2 Gaddock Teeg
2 Baneslayer Angel[/draft]

Side In

[draft]2 Spellskite
1 Dismember
1 Darkblast[/draft]

Versus Storm

This is also a deck you don’t want to meet if you can avoid it, and you might even call it the absolute worst matchup. Perhaps I would gauge this deck’s chances versus Storm to be around 2:8 in game one. I don’t think that it’s necessary to spend a particularly large amount of time discussing games lost to Storm. Once they’ve comboed off, you’ve lost.

I think I’ll discuss cases where this does not happen and Green/White narrowly manages to get in a winning position. In game one, this is determined largely by whether your hate creatures, primarily [card]Thalia, Guardian of Thraben[/card], make it onto the battlefield. [card]Aven Mindcensor[/card] is practically meaningless if you don’t manage to get it out on turn two via mana acceleration. Additionally, you can’t really rely on [card]Gaddock Teeg[/card] as it’s easy for their deck to play out in such a way where they start their combo with [card]Grapeshot[/card], and then later flash it back for around twenty points of damage. Thalia is this matchup’s silver bullet: she is particularly good because she slows down all of their spells.

After sideboarding, things improve somewhat. Most of the time playing [card]Rule of Law[/card] alone is enough to end the game, and [card]Rest in Peace[/card] allows you to relax without the worry of [card]Past in Flames[/card] for the time being. However, you can’t rely entirely on these things. Your opponent should be siding in their own countermeasure cards. Use discretion, while still ending the game as quickly as possible.

Side Out

[draft]4 Path to Exile
2 Wilt-Leaf Liege
1 Lingering Souls[/draft]

Side In

[draft]3 Rule of Law
1 Dismember
1 Baneslayer Angel
2 Rest in Peace[/draft]

Versus Tron

If the game ends easily, your opponent is the only one holding answers. I feel like this might be that kind of matchup. They can reset using [card]Oblivion Stone[/card], and it’s difficult to break through [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]. Additionally, you have almost no land disruption elements, and they have [card]Pyroclasm[/card] for your hate creatures…

When they go first, you could describe the situation as almost hopeless. If they assemble the Urzatron, it’s over. The game depends solely on whether you can somehow beat down without this happening. I think it’s necessary to prepare yourself for the fact that you can’t hold back your cards for fear of mass removal.

Things don’t change very much after sideboarding. [card]Stony Silence[/card] has a dramatic effect, but they will probably anticipate this and put in [card]Nature’s Claim[/card]. It’s really only a stopgap solution, but I add [card]Spellskite[/card] as a lightning rod. You also don’t want to draw multiple copies of [card]Lingering Souls[/card].

Side Out

[draft]2 Dismember
2 Lingering Souls[/draft]

Side In

[draft]2 Stony Silence
2 Spellskite[/draft]

I think that approximates the decks in the format. Until my next article, thank you for reading.

Shuhei Nakamura

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