My Jund Warriors brew was one of the more unique aggro decks at the Mythic Championship in Cleveland last weekend, and I really enjoyed the way it played.
Frank Karsten, 6-4 at Mythic Championship Cleveland
4 Blood Crypt 4 Dragonskull Summit 3 Overgrown Tomb 4 Rootbound Crag 4 Stomping Ground 4 Unclaimed Territory 2 Mountain 4 Pelt Collector 3 Gutterbones 4 Growth-Chamber Guardian 3 Rix Maadi Reveler 2 Kraul Harpooner 4 Goblin Chainwhirler 4 Gruul Spellbreaker 4 Rekindling Phoenix 2 Lightning Strike 1 Find/Finality 1 Collision/Colossus 3 Status/Statue Sideboard 4 Lava Coil 2 Cindervines 2 Duress 2 Angrath, the Flame-Chained 1 Kraul Harpooner 1 Fiery Cannonade 1 Shivan Fire 1 Find/Finality 1 Collision/Colossus
In this article, I’ll chronicle how I arrived at my deck choice. There’s a sideboard guide at the end.
Sunday, February 10
The story starts two weeks ago. As I explained in So you want to play 1-drops in Standard?, I enjoy playing aggro decks much more than midrange or control decks. That article gave a comprehensive overview of 1-drop decks in Standard and showed my early testing results: I had the best performance with White Weenie, Mono-Blue Tempo, Mono-Red, Gruul Aggro, and Mardu Judith.
As I was testing with the UltraPRO – ChannelFireball conglomerate for this event, I shared my discoveries in the team forum as well. When I posted my Gruul Aggro list, which featured Llanowar Elves and Nullhide Ferox but did not contain Goblin Chainwhirler or Rekindling Phoenix for mana base reasons, a comment from Martin Jůza planted an idea in my head. Here’s how that discussion went.
Martin Jůza: When I played this deck, I found all the red cards to be generally pretty underwhelming (or weaker than alternatives in other colors). The red cards I did want to play were Goblin Chainwhirler and Rekindling Phoenix (which I think is better than Nullhide Ferox—there are too many Cast Down right now).
Frank Karsten: Chainwhirler is a Warrior, and so are Pelt Collector, Growth-Chamber Guardian, Kraul Harpooner, and Gruul Spellbreaker. If you want to go deep, you can build a mana base with Unclaimed Territory. The resulting creature base would be excellent. But you wouldn’t be able to support Llanowar Elves, which is a big loss.
Martin Jůza: Oh yeah, I’m not suggesting to put Chainwhirler in this deck. I’m just saying that those are the only red cards I really want to play in this format. I do believe this deck should have Rekindling Phoenix though.
Although it was never Martin’s intention, the idea of an Unclaimed Territory mana base stuck in my mind. Yet the main issue I had with the idea of making such a Gruul Warrior deck was that I wouldn’t be able to support enough good 1-drops. I wanted reliable 2-power creatures to increase my clock against control or combo decks, so red 1-drops like Fanatical Firebrand or Ghitu Lavarunner were underpowered. And there was no way I could fit Llanowar Elves (which is not a Warrior) into a Goblin Chainwhirler mana base.
Wednesday, February 13
Several days after submitting the So you want to play 1-drops in Standard? article, I got some inspiration when I realized that Gutterbones is a Warrior. This meant that it might be possible to build a Goblin Chainwhirler deck with multiple heavy-hitting 1-drops. Their colors were also perfect because they enabled the combo of Goblin Chainwhirler + Status // Statue. It seemed like the brew to end all brews, and I felt that I was on to something.
A few hours later, I made the following post in the team forum.
4 Blood Crypt 4 Dragonskull Summit 3 Overgrown Tomb 4 Rootbound Crag 4 Stomping Ground 4 Unclaimed Territory 2 Mountain 4 Pelt Collector 4 Gutterbones 4 Growth-Chamber Guardian 2 Rix Maadi Reveler 2 Kraul Harpooner 4 Goblin Chainwhirler 2 Gruul Spellbreaker 4 Rekindling Phoenix 2 Collision/Colossus 3 Status/Statue 2 Lightning Strike 2 Find/Finality Sideboard 4 Lava Coil 4 Cindervines 3 Duress 2 Angrath, the Flame-Chained 2 Theater of Horrors
And by broke it, I mean that I just brewed up this madness and went 5-0 in matches on Arena so far. But that’s what this “brewing” forum is for, right?
Anyway, it’s absolutely hilarious to me that I can put Pelt Collector, Gutterbones, and Goblin Chainwhirler in the same deck and have the mana work out semi-reasonably. Hurrah for Unclaimed Territory on Warrior.
Chainwhirler + Status // Statue is pretty powerful, and getting access to Find // Finality in a deck like this is a plus as well. As long as I get to beat down with 1-drops, I’m happy.
Thursday, February 14
In the days after I submitted the So you want to play 1-drops in Standard? article, I played a bunch of extra matches with various decks. Based on those, I made the following post in the group forum:
So I focused almost solely on aggro decks. I shared some of my early testing in my article on CFB this week, but here are some additional thoughts based on more testing:
- For the Mardu Judith deck that I went 10-0 with, I was certainly on the positive side of variance in these first 10 matches. I started winning only 50% of my matches shortly after. The mana base remains an issue, and if the opponent can answer key payoff cards (Hero of Precinct One, Judith) then the rest of the deck is a bunch of random cards. I think the deck is okay overall, and I have an updated list with Swiftblade Vindicator, but I am probably not playing it. Of note, the deck is very complicated. The math with Judith, Heroic Reinforcements, etc. is sometimes reminiscent of Arcbound Ravager. That part keeps me interested, but it’s not enough by itself.
- Mono-Blue is good, for sure. But it has a huge target on its head, and I do expect people to be ready for it, with main-deck Kraul Harpooners, sideboarded Sagittars’ Volley, or just generally with decks that are good against it. Also, I personally don’t like playing counterspells at the Pro Tour because people are too good at playing around them. So Mono-Blue is probably not going to be the choice for me, but that’s partly based on my own playing style preferences. If you believe you can pilot the deck well enough to beat the hate, then I would fully support anyone who chooses Mono-Blue for this tournament. I would still recommend the 20th land, as most of my losses stemmed from mana screw.
- Mono-Red is… fine. But unspectacular. I have two problems with the deck. First, there is a lot of incidental life gain in the format, from Absorb to Hydroid Krasis, that makes it difficult to burn people out. Even if some players have been cutting Wildgrowth Walker from their Sultai decks, the plan of collecting seven Bolts is just not reliable. Second, so many cards are underpowered: Shock. Fanatical Firebrand. Viashino Pyromancer. You’re playing them because you need a low mana curve to support Light Up the Stage, but playing bad cards in your deck (which leads to many draws where you’re simply outclassed) just to get a Thoughtcast is medium. It was worth it when you could support four Frenzy, but that card has gotten much worse now that many decks are running Mortify, Spell Pierce, etc. in the main deck. Also, I am no longer convinced the matchup against Mono-Blue is even positive, assuming they play and sideboard correctly. I thought it was, after seeing Gabriel Nassif lose terribly to Etienne Busson in GP Lille the week before PT Guilds of Ravnica. But that was before Surge Mare and Entrancing Melody were added to the sideboard and before Pteramander was added as a late-game trump. Having recently played the matchup from the Mono-Red side, I am not even sure I’m favored.
- The Gruul deck (or my current favorite, the Jund Chainwhirler deck with green and black 1-drops) is actually my frontrunner for the PT. My best draws with Mono-Red were when I curved out with creatures and didn’t draw too many burn spells, or when I had an unanswered Rekindling Phoenix. Gruul (or Jund Chainwhirler) also does that, but better. The creatures are high power, I like Collision // Colossus a lot, and with Growth-Chamber Guardian, you have built-in flood and sweeper protection. I actually have a small preference for Jund Chainwhirler because of the surprise factor. It’s just so far out there. When I start with Gutterbones into Kraul Harpooner, no one is going to know what’s going on, and everyone is going to play right into my turn 3 Chainwhirler. Also, good luck figuring out how to sideboard against this brew.
- My backup plan, in case my win-rate with Gruul Spellbreaker decks starts to drop heavily—currently I’m at 77% but only over 26 matches—is actually White Weenie. Straight up Mono-White. No blue nonsense. It’s nothing special, but it’s consistent, fast, and I’ve been winning at least 70% of my matches with it, whereas my win-rate with Mono-Red is below 70%. Unbreakable Formation is a good addition.
Assuming that other players come to similar conclusions, I expect that White Weenie (with or without a splash) and Mono-Blue will be the most popular 1-drop decks at the Pro Tour and that Mono-Red won’t be very popular. Everything can change with the GP results of course, but this is where I’m at right now.
Monday, February 18
I hadn’t played any matches since Thursday because I was occupied with text and social media coverage at MagicFest Strasbourg. But I did see that Shota Takao made the Top 8 of Grand Prix Memphis with a Gruul Midrange deck that also used Unclaimed Territory to fix the mana. Looks like more people are catching on to the fact that Growth-Chamber Guardian, Goblin Chainwhirler, and several other powerful creatures are Warriors.
While Takao’s deck seemed nice, my biggest issue with it is that it didn’t have enough 1-drops and had too many 5-drops. I want to play an aggro deck and be able to present a low curve to race control or combo decks. In addition, I liked the Status + Chainwhirler combo, the ability to destroy Wilderness Reclamation with Statue, and the black sideboard cards from my list. Takao didn’t have access to those.
Teammates Thomas Hendriks and Sam Black tried Jund Warriors. Thomas won several rounds on Magic Online pretty easily, although he told me that he didn’t like Gutterbones or Collision // Colossus. Sam Black reported that he won a couple of matches against Mono-Blue Tempo, then lost several in a row to Izzet Drakes.
In any case, I have to start packing for my trip to Cleveland.
Tuesday, February 19
On Tuesday evening, after arriving in Cleveland, my record with the deck is 10-0 on Magic Online leagues and Magic Arena mythic matches. If these results hold up tomorrow, I intend to play Jund Warriors at the Mythic Championship.
The biggest issue remains the mana base. Not for Goblin Chainwhirler—I have 22 red sources, which is fine. And even if I draw Overgrown Tomb, then that’s fine because Chainwhirler + Status is a turn 4 play.
No, my biggest worry is that I only have 11 sources to cast my turn 1 Warriors, which is slightly below where I’d like to be. But it still gives an 83.1% probability of having the right untapped colored source in my opening hand. And starting with, say, Rootbound Crag on turn 1, followed by Pelt Collector and Dragonskull Summit on turn 2 is fine as well. I also have Rix Maadi Reveler to turn off-curve 1-drops into fresh cards. Ultimately, there are ways to mitigate the turn 1 mana inconsistency, and sacrificing some consistency to gain additional power seems acceptable for a wacky 3-color deck like this.
Wednesday, February 20
After playing a bunch of extra matches on both MTGO and Arena, my combined win-loss record with Jund Warriors is 24-4, which is good enough for me to lock it in.
The list I submitted, which was shown at the start of this article, was ultimately quite similar to the original list I brewed up a week ago. The deck ran smoothly, so I only made some minor changes. I cut a Gutterbones and a Collision // Colossus because Thomas didn’t like them, and I went up to four Gruul Spellbreaker because that card over-performed. I also cut a Find // Finality for another Rix Maadi Reveler to lower the curve and improve the mana, and I added a bunch of 1-ofs to the sideboard for variety.
Theater of Horrors was a bit too clunky in several games, so I cut it from the sideboard. I also cut a few Cindervines to make room, but that may not have been smart in hindsight. If Simic Nexus remains popular, the third Cindervines should return, although I’m not sure what to cut for it.
Tips and Tricks
- If you’re trying to perform the Goblin Chainwhirler + Status combo on Arena or MTGO, then be sure to hold control so you can respond to your own spells and abilities.
- Pelt Collector can trigger twice off of Kraul Harpooner (once for entering the battlefield and once for dying in a fight with Crackling Drake) and can trigger twice off of Rekindling Phoenix (once when it dies and once when it returns). So keep in mind that it can grow pretty rapidly.
- When your Rekindling Phoenix gets targeted by Vraska’s Contempt, don’t be afraid to Lightning Strike your own creature. You can even Collision your own Phoenix.
- Deathtouch and trample are a combo. If your opponent double blocks a 4/4 Gruul Spellbreaker with two 2/2s, then you can give it +1/+1 and deathtouch with Status, assign 1 damage to each of the two blockers, and trample over for 3. Other trample cards in the deck are Pelt Collector and Colossus.
- You can adapt twice. This comes up when you have 6 untapped mana and a freshly cast Growth-Chamber Guardian. If you adapt and your opponent tries to Shock it in response, you can adapt again to have a 4/4 Growth Chamber Guardian before Shock resolves.
- The wording of Rix Maadi Reveler’s discard-then-draw ability is unusual—it’s not a “may” effect. So you must discard even if your hand is already perfect. But on the other hand, it doesn’t have an “if you do” clause. This means that if you play Rix Maadi Reveler as the last card in your hand, you straight-up draw a card.
- With Unclaimed Territory, you name Warrior 99% of the time, but it’s good to remember that you sometimes want to name Phoenix (for Rekindling Phoenix) or Human (for Rix Maadi Reveler, which can also pay for its spectacle cost).
My baseline sideboard strategy is listed below, but I view it as only a rough guide. I often make a few small tweaks based on play or draw. For example, I might keep the 25th land on the play but board it out on the draw. Or I might keep an extra creature on the play but replace it with a removal spell on the draw.
I also try to anticipate the cards that my opponent might bring in. For example, I board Shivan Fire against Simic Nexus because many lists have Incubation Druid and Biogenic Ooze in their sideboard. Or I board in Collision // Colossus against any white deck that might bring in Lyra Dawnbringer. And against Mono-Red, I want to have Lava Coil and Status // Statue to get rid of Experimental Frenzy and Rekindling Phoenix after board. But if I don’t see any of those cards in game 2, then I might change things around for game 3.
Nexus of Gates
Rakdos or Gruul Midrange
Jund Warriors was misclassified as “Jund Midrange” in the metagame breakdown, but it’s decidedly an aggro deck. I got great results with it, and it’s a blast to play. It has a particularly good matchup against Mono-Blue Tempo, mostly thanks to a low curve, efficient removal, and amazing creatures: Kraul Harpooner, Goblin Chainwhirler, and Rekindling Phoenix.
Between Rix Maadi Reveler, Growth-Chamber Guardian, and Find // Finality, the deck has a decent amount of sweeper and flood protection, which is valuable against control and midrange decks. The mana would never work without Unclaimed Territory, and even with the tribal land the mana consistency is only barely acceptable. But I dared to register it, and I encourage you to give it a try.