Readers have been asking me for updates on the deck I played at Pro Tour Aether Revolt and a sideboard guide, so here it is. For reference, this is the list:
Jund Energy Aggro
Mardu Vehicles dominated the PT, so expect a lot of it over the coming days and weeks. G/B seems to be the only deck capable of having a good matchup against it, so that’s going to be your second biggest enemy. I would expect very few control decks because they get crushed by Mardu, but who knows how things will actually shake out. I moved all of my anti-control cards to the sideboard to make room for the Fatal Pushes that are absolutely necessary right now. Tireless Tracker is one of the best creatures in Standard, but now you just don’t have time for cracking Clues. Verdurous Gearhulk and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship are the best ways to go over the top of opposing Fatal Pushes and Aethersphere Harvesters. Speaking of Harvester, I think that card is criminally underplayed right now. It doesn’t die to Fatal Push or Grasp of Darkness, it blocks Heart of Kiran, and it’s one of the few cards that can help you stabilize on the draw even against a great opening. I could’t really find room for more than one because it only attacks for 3, but it’s possible that there should be more if everyone is on Mardu Vehicles.
Here is what I would register if I had to play a tournament with the deck tomorrow:
Jund Energy Aggro, Updated
Tips and Tricks
- When you have less than 2 energy, Greenbelt Rampager will bounce back to your hand and turn on revolt so you can Fatal Push their Felidar Guardian or Mindwrack Demon. You can also crew a Vehicle with the bounce trigger on the stack, replay it, and have it ready to block or crew again.
- If you want to play Blossoming Defense, then 1 is always a good number because once your opponent sees it, they’re usually going to play around it as if you had 4 for the rest of the match. It’s great against Jeskai, but it’s really important to have a high creature count and I couldn’t justify cutting a removal spell for it. No one says you can’t spice things up a little bit, though.
- The format is so fast now that Unlicensed Disintegration sometimes feels too slow, but you can’t afford to have too many conditional removal spells. Sometimes you just need to kill a Gearhulk or deal the last 3 points of damage.
- Disallow can Stifle a planeswalker ultimate, so keep in mind that Chandra on 7 doesn’t necessarily mean game over.
- You can crew Heart of Kiran with loyalty counters and it’s almost always correct to do so. That also means you can both attack and block without actually having another creature in play.
- Skysovereign, Consul Flagship dodges pretty much every removal spell except for Unlicensed Disintegration and it also attacks through Ishkanah, so it’s one of the best ways to go over the top in this format.
- I don’t include Winding Constrictor because you don’t have as many cards to “combo” it with as the other G/B decks do, and you are more interested in all of your cards working on their own. I’m not saying it’s bad or that what this deck does is better, just that it’s doing something else.
- If control becomes popular, then you can experiment with Fevered Visions and 1 Island in the sideboard.
- In some cases it’s correct to not play your third land if you absolutely need to draw an untapped Blooming Marsh for Fatal Push or Unlicensed Disintegration.
- 1 Natural State can be better than 1 Release the Gremlins if you are looking for more cheap cards to make sure you can double-spell on turn 2 or 3. I wouldn’t bother with Appetite for the Unnatural because 3 mana is way too much and Natural Obsolescence is mostly used for getting rid of Scrapheap Scrounger, which isn’t what you are concerned about.
- I’d expect people to replace Shocks with Fatal Push, so play accordingly. Their Fatal Pushes are going to be better than yours because you have no actual 1-drops and they will almost always net 1 mana on the exchange. Sometimes it’s better to lead with Scrapheap Scrounger or to attack with your creature for less damage instead of crewing the Heart.
This matchup is all about board presence and tempo. Your (and their) most important cards are Fatal Push and Shock because they usually trade for a 2-mana card and let you get ahead on board. Because tempo is so important and every single person will have 4 Fatal Push now, I decided to start cutting Heart of Kiran and just play for the late game with Gearhulks, Flagships, and Release the Gremlins.
Don’t play too scared of the combo. That just gives them time to start playing Torrential Gearhulks. Sometimes you just have to tap out and hope they don’t have it—that’s perfectly fine. If they don’t combo you on turn 4 or 5, you should build enough board presence that you can start passing with removal up. Planeswalkers and Vehicles help a lot against Fumigate, meaning you don’t have to overextend and hope they don’t have it. It’s usually more annoying if they have Oath of Chandra than Fumigate. Unlicensed Disintegration isn’t great because it gets Dispelled a lot, especially in game 1, but you still need it against Torrential Gearhulk.
This matchup is a little different because they have so many creatures that can trade with yours and slow down your clock considerably, but the basics are still the same. You are more then happy to Shock their Servant of Conduit or Rogue Refiner because you are trading up on mana and it means your guys get to connect. I don’t mind keeping in the 1 Flagship because of all the creatures they have. If they have 4 Whirler Virtuoso it might sometimes even be better than Nissa. Keep in mind that the 4-color version usually has a bunch of Dispels as its only counters.
I expect this deck to be popular this weekend. Heart goes out again because they will be overloaded with removal and you really don’t want to see it Fatal Pushed. Playing first is huge in this matchup because your opponent has to start killing your creatures instead of deploying theirs to make sure things don’t get out of hand. You will usually kill each other’s creatures until you can start playing Gearhulks and Flagships and make their Fatal Pushes and Grasps look stupid. Chandra is really bad against Walking Ballista and they also have Hissing Quagmires to finish her off with.
This matchup is much easier than the aggro version because you can’t just randomly die to turn-2 Constrictor and turn-3 Rishkar if you don’t draw a removal spell in your opening hand. Chandra does nothing against Mindwrack Demon and Ishkanah, but their deck is pretty slow so it’s hard for them to pressure her. Leaving some Fatal Pushes in the deck is okay as an answer to Grim Flayer and Hissing Quagmire. With Rampager and Clues from Tracker, it’s also pretty easy to turn on the revolt. You may want more on the draw, depending on the exact configuration on your opponent’s deck.
This matchup is similar to Mardu Vehicles. Fatal Push is your best card. Try not to die too quickly so Gearhulks can take over the game. Flagship isn’t as good because the creatures are usually too big. Shock could be fine on the draw instead of Chandra. Gnarlwood Dryad or Narnam Renegade are good options if you want another cheap card that trades well, especially if Bristling Hydra becomes popular.
Against U/R and Jeskai Dynavolt Tower decks I usually keep Fatal Pushes, especially on the draw, because those decks tend to bring in Thing in the Ice and it’s really important you kill it without having to skip a turn of playing a creature.
That’s all I have for today. Good luck in Pittsburgh!
POST-SCRIPT: My Thoughts on the New Nationals
Wizards decided to bring back Nationals, great news! While the first year might not be perfect, they have shown they are willing to listen to feedback and it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Personally, I would change two details:
- With the new Nationals format being all Standard, it still just feels like a 2-person WMCQ. I’d like to see 2-day tournament split into Limited and Constructed, just like it used to be in the good old days—3-4 rounds of Standard (depending on the size of the event) followed by 3 rounds of Draft and the same on Day 2, then a cut for Top 8. Everyone seemed to like this system and it also gives people a taste of what the PT actually feels like. Don’t fix what isn’t broken! The latest Nationals also used to give away Pro Points for top finishers—I’m not sure if that’s a good idea, but it’s certainly worth looking into, as it gives the event a more serious and competitive touch.
- The biggest issue I have with the current system is that I hate that the person who earned the most Pro Points during the season is the automatic National Champion. I currently have the most Pro Points in my country, and I still don’t like it! I’ve “won” the title “National Champion” this way in the past, and it just doesn’t feel the same as actually winning the event where everyone has a chance to compete for 1st place. Right now the top Pro doesn’t get to play in the event, is guaranteed a spot on the 3-person national team, and everyone else plays for the other 2 slots. So the finalists will just shake hands and split the prizes because there is nothing else to play for. To me, a National Championship should be a chance to compete for the title of National Champion. What’s the point of calling it “Nationals” if no one can actually win it and call themselves the champ? Give the top Pro 2 byes, 3 byes, automatic pass to Day 2, or whatever reward is best, but for the sake of the spirit of the competition it would be so much better if people were actually competing for the title.
My suggestion to modify the current system would be:
Day 1: X rounds of Standard, 3 rounds of Draft.
Day 2: 3 rounds of Draft, X more rounds of Standard, cut to Top 8.
The top Pro plays in the event just like everybody else, but is guaranteed to be a part of the 3-person national team even if they finish dead last or choos not to attend. Both finalists will make the team, but they are also playing for the title of “National Champion.” Should the top Pro make the finals, the 3rd invite passes down and there is a 3rd place playoff. This way the top Pro is still rewarded for doing well during the season (and perhaps already making plans with being a part of the team in mind), but everyone still has a chance to be their national hero for the year.
What do you think?