We started our Standard testing like everyone else, focusing on Saheeli Combo, various versions of G/B, and Mardu Vehicles. At some point, Matt Severa brewed up a Jund version of Vehicles that sacrificed the white 1-drops for bigger creatures and a better late game. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of aggressive decks, and I liked the deck from the second I first saw it. After some unsuccessful attempts at tuning the deck by others, I took it for a spin on Magic Online and really liked how the deck played out. I cut some of the Vehicles for more big spells like Chandra, Nissa, Vital Force, and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship to make sure it didn’t run out of steam after the early aggression, and posted in our forum that I was locked in.
Jund Energy Aggro
One of the most important things is that the deck attacks the opponent from multiple angles, and it’s really hard to answer all of its threats. Fumigate and Radiant Flames can deal with 2-drops like Longtusk Cub and Voltaic Brawler, but they won’t kill Heart of Kiran or Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Scrapheap Scrounger makes your opponent’s Disallow and cheap removal look really bad because you can just keep bringing it back from the graveyard. A hasty Fleetwheel Cruiser immediately kills a resolved Saheeli when your opponent thought it was safe to play it on an empty board. Your removal spells are never dead because even against control, Unlicensed Disintegration will deal with Torrential Gearhulk while usually delivering the final blow. Your mana is excellent for a 3-color deck with no fetchlands, and the planeswalkers and Tireless Trackers serve as flood protection.
Playing the deck is straightforward as it is an aggro deck at its core. Ideally you want to start with an Attune the Aether to fix your mana and get 2 energy, and follow that up with one of the 2-drops. After that, you keep pressuring your opponent with more creatures while getting rid of their blockers with cheap removal. Shocks and Greenbelt Rampager are important here because they allow you to double-spell on turn 3 and get ahead on tempo, which is the most important thing in this format. Your goal is to force your opponent to keep answering your threats while they are taking damage and can’t progress their board.
4 Greenbelt Rampager: This little Elephant can do so much more than just be a 3/4. If you have less than 2 energy, you can play him, crew one of your Vehicles with the trigger on the stack, let him bounce back to your hand, then replay it and have him ready to block or crew again. It also helps you create a constant supply of energy for your Aether Hubs and Longtusk Cubs.
4 Voltaic Brawler, 4 Longtusk Cub, 4 Scrapheap Scrounger, 3 Heart of Kiran: Any one of these is your ideal turn-2 play. All of them beat hard and usually must be answered with different cards, so which one to play first always depends on your opponent’s deck and what kind of removal they have. If your opponent starts with an untapped Inspiring Vantage, there is a good chance they have Shock and you should usually play Heart of Kiran rather than one of the green 2-drops to make them spend their mana less effectively. Sometimes you will want to start with Longtusk Cub because you will be able to make it 4/4 on turn 3. Scrapheap Scrounger is the perfect 2-drop against control decks full of removal because it just keeps coming back.
2 Tireless Tracker, 1 Rishkar: I actually added both Trackers to the deck on Thursday evening, thinking there would be more control decks against which you want to get value from Clues. As it turned out, I should have been more worried about the aggro decks, and having something like 1 Flagship and 1 Rishkar in their place would have been much better in this metagame. Rishkar is the perfect creature to cast on turn 3, both by making your 2-drop larger then their 2-drop and by helping you cast your Verdurous Gearhulks and Flagships on turn 4 in the aggressive matchups.
2 Shock, 2 Harnessed Lightning, 4 Unlicensed Disintegration: Unlicensed Desintegration is a one of the best removal spells in the format, dealing with anything from Heart of Kiran to 8/8 Verdurous Gearhulk while also giving you a free Lava Spike for good measure. Remember that you can also redirect that damage to planeswalkers. Shocks are a necessary evil in this format where Mardu Vehicles is the most popular deck, while also being able to stop the Saheeli + Felidar Guardian combo by killing the planeswalker after activating the -2 ability. Harnessed Lightning is a little bit of both worlds—it’s reasonably cheap, but can still kill a Torrential Gearhulk against control.
3 Chandra, Torch of Defiance, 1 Nissa, Vital Force: I wanted to be able to follow up the aggressive creatures with something that dealt damage every turn, but stayed on board in case they had a sweeper. I would have played an extra Flagship if I had known Mardu Vehicles was going to be that popular—with 24 mana sources you can easily support some expensive cards. Remember that Chandra can also produce 2 red mana if you are stuck on 4 lands with 5- drops in your hand.
Cards I Didn’t Play
0 Blossoming Defense: I had 1-2 in the deck for a while, but expected the good players at the Pro Tour to play around it by killing my creatures when I was tapped out. Also with 5-8 Vehicles in your deck, you really need as many creatures as possible, so in the end I just couldn’t find space for it.
0 Servant of the Conduit: You have nothing to ramp into on turn 4 other than Chandra, and with 24 mana sources already, you can’t really afford to play any more in an aggro deck.
2 Tireless Tracker, 1 Chandra, 2 Nissa, Vital Force: For the control decks. Tracker is one of the best value creatures printed in a long time, and control players are never happy to see you get value from just playing out lands. I love that Nissa attacks for 5 the turn you play it while immediately threatening ultimate. It’s usually better to just keep pressuring your opponent with 5/5 attackers, but going off by drawing a card for every land you play doesn’t hurt.
3 Verdurous Gearhulk: What do you do when your G/B opponent brickwalls your 2-drops with bigger creatures and makes them even larger with Verdurous Gearhulk? You give them a taste of their own medicine with your own Verdurous Gearhulks. Pro tip: win the die roll and be the first one to play it.
2 Skysovereign, Consul Flagship: The best card against Mardu Vehicles that won me many games over the weekend. Their deck is full of small creatures and once you trade a bunch of removal spells, they usually have nothing big to follow it up with while you have a 6/5 flying monster than can pick off whatever they have left on the table, or can kill a Gideon in one swing and the Ally token it just made.
I went 4-2 against Mardu Vehicles at the PT, beating Finkel, Nassif, PV, and Dezani, while losing to Liu Yuchen and then to Eduardo Sajgalik in 3 brutal games in the Top 8. I felt favored if they have Shocks, but it gets much harder when your opponent has 4 Fatal Push. Flagships and Gearhulks are good in the post-board games when they are trying to fight you with cards like Fragmentize and Shock. A big part of this deck’s success was that people had no idea what was in my deck and what my game plan was. It might get slightly worse now that everybody knows the exact 75 and how it plays out, but I still think this deck is well positioned in the metagame. I received many messages and requests for more information about the deck, so I’ll try to put together a sideboard guide and some tips as soon as possible and make sure it goes up before GP Pittsburgh. Be sure to check ChannelFireball later in the week!