A month ago, I wasn’t really considering going to Toronto—it’s far, it’s expensive, it would be in the middle of my finals, and I need a Visa to get into Canada. Then, American Airlines decided to make a promotion to, “make up for the hassle from Hurricane Sandy,” which provided double qualifying miles for the period of December. With one more trip, I’d become Executive Platinum, the highest level in their flying miles program.

Since the benefits you get for being that level are easily worth more than a plane ticket, I decided that traveling for one more GP would be worth it—plus it’d give me the chance to get a couple of points which I really need this season. I checked for flights to Canada and was surprised to notice that they were considerably cheaper than flights to Indianapolis, so I hurried to try and get a visa in time—I’d need one for the PT anyway, after all.

After an extremely complicated process in which they asked me all sorts of question, including stuff about my brothers that was so obscure that I had to actually call them to ask about it (yes, I have two brothers; most people seem very surprised when I mention it. I’m also tall, most people get surprised about that too), I managed to get my visa with one or two weeks to spare.

The timing for the GP, however, couldn’t have been worse. I was extremely busy with college (and still am). You see, in my major, we generally have two big exams per class—one in the middle of the semester, and one at the end (sometimes there are group assignments and things like that, but the bulk of your grade is those two exams).

I skipped all of the ones in the middle of the semester for PT Return to Ravnica, so when we got to the end of the year, I had to take all the ones that are naturally at the end of the year plus all the ones I was supposed to take in the middle, making for about two weeks of total chaos. Most of my preparation, therefore, consisted of talking in our team forum about the decks, and absorbing what other people were saying.

From the beginning, I wanted to play Scapeshift—ever since I lost to it at the last round of the PT, actually. With every Jund deck tuned to beat the mirror, and every other deck tuned to beat Jund, it seemed like a very sensible choice—plus I had already played the deck to some success, in different formats.


Josh was on Jund, Kibler was on GW, Conley was sick, Ben was on Scapeshift as well, and Luis didn’t know. Luis decided to play a couple of tournaments with Scapeshift, and decided he didn’t like it—the deck seemed too inconsistent, and some matchups, like Twin, were very hard, so he’d just play Jund. Ben said the deck was a favorite against almost everything and he almost never lost. I had two problems with this:

1) Ben uses hyperbole very much—sometimes it’s hard to believe him.
2) Some of the things he said, I disagreed with. He said, for example, that Storm was a good matchup, but I did not think that was true—both from the limited testing I’d had and from simple logic, the match couldn’t be good for you. If his assessment that Scapeshift was a great deck was based on, for example, its Storm matchup, then I didn’t think I agreed with it.

The decision gnawed at me until the last moment. I really didn’t want to play Jund, because I despise the deck. I tried to convince other people—I argued that we wouldn’t have any edge in the mirror, the most played deck, which was especially bad in a GP when we can assume we’re going to outplay almost every opponent. The others agreed, but still decided Jund was the best choice. The prospect of traveling 20 hours to play Jund mirrors all day long was extremely unappealing, but in the end I gave up and chose to play Jund as well, because I thought it was just the better deck. I was very wrong.

This is the list we played:

[deck]Main Deck:
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
1 Blood Crypt
1 Forest
1 Godless Shrine
4 Marsh Flats
1 Overgrown Tomb
4 Raging Ravine
1 Stomping Ground
1 Swamp
1 Plains
1 Misty Rainforest
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Dark Confidant
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Tarmogoyf
2 Batterskull
2 Dismember
3 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Lingering Souls
2 Maelstrom Pulse
3 Thoughtseize
3 Rakdos Charm
2 Rule of Law
4 Fulminator Mage
3 Shatterstorm
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
2 Olivia Voldaren[/deck]

The main change from the previous version was no [card liliana of the veil]Lilianas[/card] and [card]Batterskull[/card]s. Liliana is one of the strongest cards you can have in some matchups (Scapeshift, mainly), but we didn’t feel like it was good enough in the mirror—not with everyone running [card]Lingering Souls[/card].

They became two [card]Batterskull[/card]s, and an extra [card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/card] to make up for our now worse combo matchup. [card]Abrupt Decay[/card]s had been underperforming, especially because they don’t kill manlands. They became Pulses, which also don’t kill Manlands but are good against [card]Lingering Souls[/card].

The list I played deviated a little from the rest of the team. I played [card]Dismember[/card], they played [card]Terminate[/card]. The idea of playing [card]Dismember[/card] came from the World Cup, a long time ago. I had not played much Modern then, and we were trying to come up with a list of something. Willy told me that, if I played Jund, I should play [card]Dismember[/card] and not [card]Terminate[/card].

His arguments all made sense. A couple months later, at the PT, I presented the idea of [card]Dismember[/card] to the team, but they liked [card]Terminate[/card] more, so I went with them. This time I felt like I already knew enough to make my own decision, and [card]Dismember[/card] seemed better to me, so I played it. The reasons it’s better are the same as they were when Willy told me about it:

• It can’t be [card]Spell Snare[/card]d
• It doesn’t cost red mana (I don’t want to play [card]Terminate[/card] in a deck with Plains and Forest)
• It doesn’t cost black mana! (You can play it under [card]Blood Moon[/card])
• It only costs 1 mana

The fourth point is obviously the most important, but the others are not irrelevant. I understand it costs life, but look at it this way—when you have three mana, they’re the same. When you have two mana, you lose 2 life, so [card]Dismember[/card] is slightly worse. When you have only one mana, though, [card]Dismember[/card] is infinitely better—you can’t even compare the two, because you just can’t play [card]Terminate[/card].

In a format with Infect and Splinter Twin, I really want my answers to be cheap, and I think being able to play a removal turn one and a 2-drop on turn two is very important. Besides, people don’t expect [card]Dismember[/card]—they will not play around it, and will do things like going off when you’re tapped out of red or only have one mana up.

Of course, there are downsides. It doesn’t kill some creatures ([card]Primeval Titan[/card], [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card], a big [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], or a big [card]Raging Ravine[/card]), so it’s not like [card]Dismember[/card] is all upside, but overall I think it’s the better card and I was happy with them.

Our sideboard was, well, bad. We were afraid of Tron and Scapeshift, so we played [card]Fulminator Mage[/card]s. They’re quite good against Tron, but not that powerful against Shift and the matchup is just not good. [card]Shatterstorm[/card] and [card]Rule of Law[/card] are incredibly narrow, and I boarded them in exactly zero times in the entire tournament.

[card phyrexian metamorph]Metamorph[/card] is OK in the mirror, though we wanted him more as an answer to [card geist of saint traft]Geist[/card] than to anything else—Without Lilianas, we are soft to it. [card olivia voldaren]Olivia[/card] was good most of the time, but is also vulnerable. [card]Rakdos Charm[/card] is versatile, but it’s also horrible some amount of the time, and cascading into it is usually bad. Overall, it felt like everyone had a sideboard and we didn’t.

This is how the tournament went for me:

Rounds 1-3: Bye

Round 4: Jund. 0-2.

The mirror is the mirror; nothing really exciting happened. Liliana was actually exceptional against me, and at some point in game two my hand was an [card]Olivia Voldaren[/card] I couldn’t cast (because I knew he had a way to kill it), a [card]Maelstrom Pulse[/card], and the [card]Phyrexian Metamorph[/card] as I was getting beaten by [card]Raging Ravine[/card].

That really showcased a flaw in our sideboard plan, since I drew all of my sideboard cards and couldn’t cast any of them (which doesn’t mean they aren’t the best cards available, just that the sideboard for this match is kind of bad). In the same post-sideboard game, my opponent played [card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/card], [card]Thoughtseize[/card], [card]Olivia Voldaren[/card], [card]Maelstrom Pulse[/card], [card]Abrupt Decay[/card], [card]Fulminator Mage[/card], [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card], [card]Dark Confidant[/card], [card]Lightning Bolt[/card], and [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], so I’m not entirely sure what he sideboarded out.

Round 5: Merfolk 2-0.

My opponent got really unlucky both games, but I don’t think he would have won anyway—Merfolk is a really easy matchup.

Round 6: Merfolk 1-2

Ahem, nevermind. I win game 1 on the back of [card]Batterskull[/card], and I lose game 2 to [card]Spellskite[/card] + some mana problems.

Game three I start with a winning hand of ‘[card tarmogoyf]Goyf[/card], [card dark confidant]Bob[/card], [card lingering souls]Souls[/card], [card inquisition of kozilek]Inquisition[/card], and 3 lands. I lead with the discard spell and see [card]Lightning Bolt[/card], [card]Silvergill Adept[/card], [card]Rest in Peace[/card], and 3 lands. After some deliberation, I decide to take [card]Rest in Peace[/card].

Turn two I draw a second Goyf and I play it, a 3/4 already. He passes turn two, I draw a second Bob and I decide to play [card]Lingering Souls[/card] next—that is 1 less damage than Goyf, but it lets me play two spells next turn, and I want to flashback the card as soon as possible because I don’t want him to draw [card]Rest in Peace[/card].

He immediately draws [card]Rest in Peace[/card], which shuts down my entire offense. Frown. Luckily, I have two Bobs and two tokens; I play both Confidants, because I know he has Bolt to take one out. He untaps and immediately plays [card]Pyroclasm[/card]. Right. I draw and pass the turn, and he plays [card]Silvergill Adept[/card] and eventually a Lord, which I kill in response to an [card phantasmal image]Image[/card]—so he is left with two 2/1s . He plays [card]Spreading Seas[/card] on my [card]Godless Shrine[/card] and I draw [card]Lingering Souls[/card] the turn after—which I now can’t cast. I just die to his 2/1s.

Round 7: Jund with some LD spells ([card]Molten Rain[/card], [card]Fulminator Mage[/card], Boom/Bust) 2-0

Round 8: Jund 2-1

My opponent had a rather unconventional sideboard strategy, boarding in [card]Rakdos Charm[/card] in place of [card]Dark Confidant[/card] because I killed him with [card]Batterskull[/card] game 1. He won game two, and game three we were moved to the feature match.

It was quite a battle—I kept the debatable hand of [card deathrite shaman]Shaman[/card], ‘[card tarmogoyf]Goyf[/card] and five lands, and he kept the debatable hand of [card]Raging Ravine[/card], [card dethrite shaman]Shaman[/card], and no other land. About four turns later, he’s still stuck on one land, and I have not drawn a spell yet—which means I have an 0/1 and a 1/2 facing down his 1/2, and therefore can’t punish him in any way for his mana problems.

Eventually I draw [card]Raging Ravine[/card] and spells, and eventually he draws his third and fourth lands, but by then it’s too late, and the only question remaining is if I can kill him in time. Turns out I can, on the fifth turn, and I don’t think there was much he could have done to stop it. If you’ve watched this match, you might have noticed that I started with my lands behind my spells—people on Twitter were speculating whether I was forced to do it this way, but I simply wanted to try it, because some people complained the games were harder to follow.

Unfortunately, it didn’t really work—by the end of the game my lands were again ahead of my creatures, and I honestly don’t have a clue how that happened. I guess I just moved them unconsciously until they ended up there, like what happens when you sleep with socks on and in the morning they just show up one at each side of the bed.

Round 9: Tron 2-0

A theoretically bad matchup, but game 1 I managed to discard all his action (which wasn’t a lot), so I beat him even though he got Tron, and game two I managed to [card]Fulminator Mage[/card] him out of the full set, and he died with [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card] and [card]Karn Liberated[/card] in hand. I’m not sure how people can play this deck, honestly.

Round 10: Scapeshift 2-0

I had good hands both games, and managed to hit [card]Scapeshift[/card] so he wouldn’t be able to kill me.

Round 11: Pod 2-0

I almost managed to throw the game away here by playing horribly, but [card olivia voldaren]Olivia[/card] is very hard for them to deal with.

Round 12: 5c “Zoo” 0-2

This match was against Reid Duke, and it was on video. Game 1 my hand was really good, but so was his, and he had the t1 Shaman into Geist followed by four burn spells, and I don’t think my deck could ever beat that draw.

Game two was closer—we got to a point where I felt in control; he had no creatures and I had a [card]Batterskull[/card], a [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] and a [card]Dismember[/card] in hand, and four lands. His second [card bloodbraid elf]BBE[/card] (I knew he had two) hit [card geist of saint traft]Geist[/card], though. I bricked on lands for a couple turns, and when I finally played them, he drew [card path to exile]Path[/card] followed by [card]Ancient Grudge[/card] for my [card]Batterskull[/card] and that killed me.

This is a simplistic version—the game was quite interesting, and I’m sure I messed up with one of my [card]Dismember[/card]s (though I don’t think it would have mattered because he drew the Grudge specifically, though if his draw had been, say, a Path or a Bolt, it would have), so if you can watch it I recommend it. Overall the match didn’t feel so bad—I’d say their deck is a favorite if it gets a Geist in play, but we are favorites if they don’t (though those were the only games I played).

Round 13: Jund (I think?) 2-0 (I think? I might have the order of all the rounds on Day 2 wrong)

Round 14: Jund 0-2

Round 15: RG Scapeshit 2-0

My opponent got really unlucky here. Game one he never drew his fourth land to play the two [card Mwonvuli Acid-Moss]Mwonshfshfs Acid-Moss[/card] in his hand (which actually seems like a pretty decent card for this metagame), and game two he needed to draw his sixth Mountain to stay in the game but drew a third [card valakut, the molten pinnacle]Valakut[/card] instead.

So, I finished 40th at 11-4. Not a bad result, but not really spectacular either, and I was not very happy with it. Still, that felt almost a miracle given how badly positioned our deck was—every deck on Day 2 was either the mirror or a bad matchup, since Jund became so popular that it scared every single deck it beats, which now includes Infect and most of Affinity players. This was definitely the tournament where Jund was played “one too many times,” and I really wish I had played [card]Scapeshift[/card] instead.

“But, didn’t Jund win the tournament”?

Alas, it did, but there were like 200 Jund players, and most of them did not do well. You could argue that Willy won because of his different build, but I don’t think that’s exactly true; Let’s look at his list and compare:

[deck]Main Deck:
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
1 Blood Crypt
1 Fire-Lit Thicket
1 Forest
1 Godless Shrine
4 Marsh Flats
1 Overgrown Tomb
3 Raging Ravine
1 Stomping Ground
1 Swamp
1 Temple Garden
1 Treetop Village
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Bloodbraid Elf
2 Dark Confidant
4 Deathrite Shaman
1 Grim Lavamancer
2 Kitchen Finks
2 Lotus Cobra
4 Tarmogoyf
2 Thundermaw Hellkite
2 Dismember
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Lingering Souls
2 Maelstrom Pulse
3 Thoughtseize
2 Darkblast
1 Dismember
1 Grim Lavamancer
2 Kitchen Finks
1 Lingering Souls
1 Maelstrom Pulse
3 Rakdos Charm
2 Rule of Law
2 Slaughter Games[/deck]

He has [card]Thundermaw Hellkite[/card]s over [card]Batterskull[/card]s, which I think is worse for the mirror, burn, and I would assume all the GW-type decks, but better against most other things. It does kill [card]Lingering Souls[/card] in the mirror, but it’s also stopped by [card]Lingering Souls[/card]—if I play Hellkite and then you play Souls, you’ve almost stopped my trump card rather easily, whereas [card]Batterskull[/card] will win you the game whether it’s cast pre- or post-[card]Lingering Souls[/card].

Depending on the direction, I could see playing one or the other, but I certainly don’t think having Hellkites over [card]Batterskull[/card]s made him win the tournament. [card]Lotus Cobra[/card] is a very interesting addition that might be pretty good, but [card]Dark Confidant[/card] is also very good. Overall, I think Bob is better, though I’m not opposed to cutting something else for Cobras. His sideboard is a little more generic, though—his [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card]s would have been worse against Affinity, but surely were better against the various Pod decks (and, well, Merfolk).

If I had a tournament next week, I would most definitely not play Jund. I would not play Scapeshift either. It did relatively well in this tournament and so did Tron, so people will be packing hate for you. I wish I knew what you should play, but I have no idea.

If you insist on playing Jund, I would consider cutting a [card]Lingering Souls[/card], and perhaps the sixth discard spell (an [card inquisition of kozilek]Inquisition[/card]). You can then fit Cobras if you want, or Finks, or even Fulminator, which is not bad in this format. It’s not ideal in the mirror, but it does kill [card]Raging Ravine[/card], [card]Godless Shrine[/card], and helps if Jund starts packing more four-drops. I would not cut [card]Dark Confidant[/card].

Regarding the sideboard, you should probably diversify some:

-1 [card]Shatterstorm[/card] -1 [card]Fulminator Mage[/card]

+2 [card]Sowing Salt[/card] or [card]Slaughter Games[/card]

Games is better versus most Scapeshift decks, but [card]Sowing Salt[/card] is better against Tron, so I’d prefer the LD spell. Another card I think you should consider is [card]Jund Charm[/card]—it was played against me in the mirror and it was surprisingly good. Now that Jund plays [card]Lingering Souls[/card] and [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card], it’s actually vulnerable to this sort of effect, and [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] is the only creature that survives [card]Pyroclasm[/card]. You can see other decks adapting with multiple [card]Pyroclasm[/card]s from Scapeshift lists, [card]Whipflare[/card] from Affinity (which I’m a very big fan of), and even that stupid Pyroclasm from my Merfolk opponent. If you’re the one playing Jund, watch out for the mass removal spells!

Well, this is about it; I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and next time you see me trying to play Jund please stop me.

See you next week,