Hello and welcome back to another edition of Storming Standard! Last time, I covered a Daily Event where I played Naya Shaman to a 3-1 finish. Today, I’ll be discussing a Standard Premier Event that took place on August 28, 2010. Instead of running Naya Shaman and talking about that deck, I thought I would spice things up with an old favorite- Jund! My hope is that for each edition of Storming Standard I will be able to discuss a different deck to keep your interest — and mine! But first, here is the Jund list that I ran in the Premier Event:
Jund with rainin6
(To load a .txt deck into Magic: Online’s Deck Editor, click “Load”, select “Local Text Deck”, find the location of the downloaded deck file and double-click the deck.)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Everyone is familiar with Jund and what it’s capable of doing. The reason that I decided to play this dirty, dirty deck was because of the recent popularity of Fauna Shaman and Pyromancer Ascension decks. Admittedly, the blue-white Control and Primeval Titan decks are not entirely favorable matchups for Jund; however, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Jund, it’s that it can sometimes just win.
In regards to this particular build, the only cards that merit discussion are Grave Titan, Obstinate Baloth, and the sideboard. More than anything else, I just wanted to try out the black Titan. Everyone has recognized that Grave Titan is an absolute beating in Limited. With that idea in mind, I thought that Grave Titan should find a permanent home in a Standard deck and maybe that home sweet home for Grave Titan would be Jund — we’ll see. I played three Obstinate Baloths in the main deck because I knew I wanted to play him somewhere in my 75 cards but couldn’t really find space in the sideboard. In fact, I think he is better in the maindeck where opposing Jund decks will recklessly fire off the first Blightning in the mirror match. Certainly this would make them think twice.
I’m sure that the peculiar card in the sideboard that draws the most attention is Sarkhan Vol. He is my “tech” singleton answer for two rough matchups: (1) Polymorph and (2) Primeval Titan decks. I thought that old Sarkhan would be a nice card that could steal either Iona or Emrakul (!) and bash for a turn. Similarly, I wanted a way to deal with green Titans — even if it was for only one turn. The problem that I found versus the Primeval Titan decks was that they would typically go: Turn 2 — Rampant Growth (or Explore), Turn 3 — Cultivate, Turn 4 — Primeval Titan. Well, with Sarkhan Vol, I would be able to bash with Titan if necessary. Let’s just hope to draw it when I need it!
I decided to cut down on the Goblin Ruinblaster from the usual four. Ruinblaster used to be crucial in the Jund matches, particularly while on the play. Up until now, this was correct. But with Obstinate Baloth being available, this isn’t quite the case. The reason Ruinblaster was so good in the mirror match was because the tempo that it would create. By keeping your Jund opponent off their fourth land for a turn meant that Bloodbraid Elf (among other things) would be cast one turn later than normal. What Obstinate does is neutralize some of the tempo that the opponent may have going. Gaining four life and sticking a huge 4/4 in their way will definitely slow them down. That being said, Ruinblaster is still a good man (goblin), and I wouldn’t play any less than the three that I have there.
Round One: DarkPuppet (w/ Fauna Rock)
G1: I kept a reasonable hand of three lands, Putrid Leech and three Lightning Bolts. My thinking was that if he was any sort of green creature deck, I would be in good shape. I pumped my fist when he played a Birds of Paradise on his first turn. However, on his second turn, he played a Swamp and passed the turn- which threw me for a loop. The only deck I could think of that has this opening is Dredgevine, and passing the turn like that is definitely not something Dredgevine would have done. I put him on a rogue deck. He continued to play more lands and played his third Birds of Paradise giving me a chance to Maelstrom Pulse both Birds out of play — the first one was bolted away. In most cases, I would not waste a precious Maelstrom Pulse on a couple of Birds of Paradise, but he had made no other plays along the way other than a Fauna Shaman. By keeping him off six mana for just long enough, Putrid Leech and Raging Ravine finished the job.
G2: Jund did what it does with Putrid Leech, Sprouting Thrinax, and Bloodbraid Elf. His Vampire Hexmage, Lilianas Specter, and Vampire Nighthawk were no match for Alara’s most hated Shard. I can’t say that anything spectacular or noteworthy really happened aside from a Blightning that I cascaded into. Against all decks that can board into Obstinate Baloth, I will sideboard out two Blightning because having too many becomes a liability. So just a note, when you do flip a Blightning from a Bloodbraid Elf against a green deck in Game 2 or 3, keep in mind how a discarded Obstinate Baloth may affect your strategy. (“Next Level Strategy” would getting the read on whether or not they even have it in their hand!)
Note: What I would want to impart upon the reader here is that when it comes to sideboarding, it is almost always better to sideboard too few cards than too many. The reason is that many players are too excited about bringing in all the hate cards that they forget that what they may be taking out of the deck is more hurtful. For example, Pyroclasm, Doom Blade, and Slave of Bolas might look good here, but all I did was remove two Blightning for two Slave of Bolas. By keeping it simple, the inherent strengths of the deck will shine and win post-board games.
Round Two: drVendigo (w/Jund)
G1: This was a fantastic game of Magic. You see, I was on the play and able to play Putrid Leech on Turn 2, followed by a Sprouting Thrinax on Turn 3. My opponent’s first play was a Putrid Leech on his Turn 3, without laying a third land. This huge opening allowed me to Terminate his Leech and get in for 7 damage leaving him at 11 life. When he missed his third land drop again and passed the turn, the game was over, and he scooped it up. I am so good at this game!
G2: Would you keep this hand on the draw?
Despite lacking green mana, I decided to keep. My rationale was that Bolt and Terminate would help me survive the early game and I could draw into some green mana. At that point, I could recoup by playing a defensive Bloodbraid Elf and gain life from Obstinate Baloth. Unfortunately, I did not draw a second source of green mana, stranding two big Baloths in my hand. He continued to attack me aggressively, and I lost. Should I have taken a mulligan?
G3: Being on the play in the Jund mirror match is a huge advantage. The person playing first will generally be the one who sets the pace of the match by casting the first threat and continuing the barrage. The key to maintain this sort of tempo is being able to constantly apply the pressure by attacking whether it is losing a Bloodbraid Elf to their Putrid Leech during your first all-in attack or swinging with a Raging Ravine for value even though there are other spells in hand to cast. In this game, I was able to attack aggressively, keeping my life total high while taking his dangerously low. After early pressure, it was difficult for him to counter-attack, and I drew my Sarkhan the Mad. New Sarkhan did his thing and a gross Saproling blossomed into a beautiful Dragon; he scooped after his draw.
Note: There are different ideas on how mirror match sideboarding should go, but I firmly believe that it depends greatly on whether you are on the play or on the draw. Specifically, if on the draw, I find it beneficial to have access to cheaper spells and Maelstrom Pulse, but less Blightnings. Maelstrom Pulse is one of those cards that can restore the balance of the game if you can catch two copies of any creature. It’s actually surprising because some players don’t play around Maelstrom Pulse in post-board games- assuming that there are none left in their opponent’s deck. Less Blightning is also appropriate because it will be tougher to find a spot where casting Blightning is the right play. But if on the play, I want less Maelstrom Pulse and less Lightning Bolts, while Terminate is still good. I want to be able to attack with all creatures possible and create uncomfortable situations with Slave of Bolas.
Round Three: czarro_pl (w/ Blue-Green Turboland)
G1: My opponent started the game with a mulligan to five cards while I kept my initial seven cards containing a Putrid Leech, Bloodbraid Elf, and Blightning. He was able to get a large amount of mana into play, but could not draw any business spells (i.e. Avenger of Zendikar or Primeval Titan). He did cast an All is Dust and clear the board after casting a moderately-sized Mind Spring. The game was definitely not looking good as the only thing that I could do was attack with my Raging Ravine for two turns. I cringed on his turn to see what would happen, but much to my surprise, he had nothing! Victory!
G2: MTGO did what it does best and lost this game. What I do remember is that I kept a hand with Blightning and Bloodbraid Elf and did think about taking a mulligan, but didn’t. My hand wasn’t nearly disruptive enough nor aggressive enough to stop czarro_pl from eventually casting Avenger of Zendikar and sending greenhouse worth of dudes at me the turn after.
G3: The screenshot below captures how the game had progressed. I cast a Putrid Leech on Turn 2 and attacked on Turn 3 whilst “Doom Blade-ing” his Overgrown Battlement. My unkickered Ruinblaster on Turn 5 was countered by Mana Leak. On my sixth turn, I drew my fourth mana source, a Verdant Catacombs. What should I do?
Oddly enough, I decided to do absolutely nothing aside from attack with Putrid Leech! As crazy as it sounds, this is what I was thinking at the time: I knew that I could get in for 4 with the Leech putting him virtually at 3 life. It would seem to me then that Bloodbraid Elf would be the right play. However, you just had to put the opponent on multiple Mana Leaks, or at least one more. Why? He had 5 cards in hand, didn’t take a mulligan, yet didn’t play Jace, Time Warp, Oracle, or any of the other usual suspects. They had to be reactive cards, namely Mana Leak. I’m sure some of them were also Primeval Titans or Avenger of Zendikars that he could not yet cast. So I just presumed that Bloodbraid would not resolve and the cascade was too random to rely on (with lots of blanks possible). So what’s wrong with just Lightning Bolt after attack? He may have an unbelievable 2 Mana Leaks or a Negate. My game plan was to force him to be be proactive and give him zero value for the reactive cards in his hand.
On his turn and at 3 life, he cast an Obstinate Baloth. With the lifegain on the stack, I sent a Lightning Bolt to his dome for lethal damage! I suppose you could say, “Still, it’s better to cast Bloodbraid Elf, and if he drops the Obstinate Baloth, then you could Doom Blade and Lightning Bolt.” Incorrect, if he played Obstinate Baloth and had two lands open, he could counter Doom Blade. I didn’t think that far into it though- I just had a feeling that waiting on Lightning Bolt was good enough.
Note: After losing Game 2, I thought my best chance of winning against Turboland was boarding into cheap removal and just trying to hit him hard and quick. I didn’t want to get to the point where he had plenty of mana to cast his big spells. Hence, that’s why I brought in the Goblin Ruinblasters and Doom Blade. I had no intention of kickering Ruinblaster nor running Doom Blades at his Titans or Avengers. I think trying to win the long game is a losing proposition against this deck and other ramp decks.
Round Four: katoriarch123 (w/ Naya Shaman)
G1/G2: Instead of giving a report of how this matchup went, I will sum it up in one picture below. This matchup does indeed warrant discussion; however, I go on to play it again in latter rounds and would like to defer the play-by-plays until then. So for now, enjoy this picture, kekekeke.
Round Five: Emperok (w/ Naya Shaman)
G1: The game plan that you want to execute against Naya Shaman is basically doing everything in your power to keep Fauna Shaman and Knight of the Reliquary off the table. I’ve found it terribly difficult to win when either of these creatures is given the opportunity to use their abilities. In this matchup, you are the control while they are the beatdown… at the start of the match. The gears change flawlessly and quickly where you must become the beatdown. There will be one point in the match where Naya stalls for a turn or so — and that, is the turn where you start being aggressive. This is where your Bloodbraid Elves come across to attack with [card]Raging Ravine[card]s, occasionally bringing along even a [card]Sprouting Thrinax[card]. It’s a graceful dance that Jund performs.
G2: Here’s the opening stage of the second game:
The most obvious play here would be to just cast Pyroclasm and go about your business. I normally would do that, but something told me that Putrid Leech was the right play. I thought that maybe on my Turn 3 I would be able to pump the Leech and use ‘clasm to grab two creatures. Although at the time it was an instinctual play, looking back at it, I think I can provide analysis and proof that waiting with Pyroclasm was right.
The main thing that I noticed was that when he tapped mana to cast Noble Hierarch, he hesitated before Noble Hierarch appeared on the stack. To me, this almost suggested that he was thinking whether to cast a Birds of Paradise or a Hierarch. My thought at the time was: I want to save Pyroclasm and catch both of them. But a mere stall in casting a Noble Hierarch shouldn’t be all that there is to demand this course of action. The other thing was the possibility of catching a Knight of the Reliquary or Bloodbraid Elf on the following turn. Bloodbraid Elf is explanatory since it has a toughness of 2. So thus, our discussion should be at this point: How do you know that he doesn’t have a fetchland in his hand to protect Knight of the Reliquary from Pyroclasm? Looking back you can see that he doesn’t have a fetchland in his hand because that would have entered play rather than Sejiri Steppe. He knows himself that playing a 3/3 Knight of the Reliquary is risky, and would play a fetchland on Turn 2, and hope to draw a fetch on Turn 3 so he can cast a 4/4 Knight. By playing a Steppe on his second turn, he is telling us that he doesn’t have a fetchland. Of course, this could mean that he doesn’t even have a Knight of the Reliquary. As it turned out, I hit the jackpot — he cast a Knight of the Reliquary without a fetchland as a meager 2/2. We just went through this mental exercise to show you that even the simple plays of land can be very telling of a person’s hand. I’d love to see what other people have to say about this, honestly. Am I an idiot? Did I just get lucky here? (Does this make sense?!?)
Whew. I went to pump Putrid Leech and attacked first to get my damage in. When I cast Pyroclasm, he cast Path to Exile on my Leech, but I still got card advantage from my ‘clasm. With some of his mana producers knocked offline, he faltered on his land for a few turn and didn’t hit four available mana until Turn 6. He did play out another KotR, but I had a Terminate for it. When he passed on his Turn 5, I knew it was time to turn up the juice and went aggro on him. Naya is not the best at playing a defensive game.
Note: Naya can be a tough matchup, but it really depends on how you play it. I’ve found most success in this matchup by just trying to kill their important creatures and finding gaps where I can get in attacks. In replays of this matchup, what I see is Jund never winning when they try to race Naya’s Vengevines. Most of the time, they are going to be hitting much harder than you with their Vengevines aided by your Putrid Leeches. It is better to stabilize the board, then go for the win — preferably with a Broodmate Dragon, Grave Titan, Sarkhan the Mad, or whatever other, high-end finisher that you have at your disposal.
Round Six: lurtz99 (w/ Turboland)
G1: I won a long drawn-out game where I was able to bring him to 3 life and then stall the game enough turns to drew an out. I consider myself pretty lucky here considering that I drew three [card]Maelstrom Pulse[card]s during the course of the game to deal with his plant tokens.
G2: Sadly, my opponent had me dominated much of this but just couldn’t get the job done in time. It looked very much like he would have won this game (and probably match) but for issues of time- lucky me.
Note: Often overlooked are shortcut keys! I usually play with my right hand on the mouse and my left hand on the F2 and F4 key. F2 key is for “OK” and F4 is to pass priority for all the steps of the turn, but it will ask for your response when there is actual combat and spells are cast. Although, it will bypass to the End of Turn step if your opponent does nothing. Also, for triggers where you know that you will not have a response, you can right-click on that ability and yield to it for the rest of the game. If you ever change your mind, you can press F3 which will undo the priority passes on cards that you have auto-yielded to. A good rule of thumb is to try and keep your clock at a greater amount than your opponent — the aforementioned shortcut keys should help greatly.
Round Seven: dunkle_stille (w/ Bant Shaman)
G1/G2: I conceded the match because I wanted to eat lunch. Little did I know that it would also save me a few paragraphs of typing!
Quarterfinals: karnak_ (w/ Naya Shaman)
G1/G2: Are we sick of this matchup yet? I know I am. The first two games were split 1-1.
The line of play that I took was to target the Fauna Shaman with Lightning Bolt and attack with Bloodbraid Elf. I did not want to cast the BbE that was in hand just quite yet, because I had plenty of removal in hand and was still the control player in this matchup. Also, I could have cast Sarkhan the Mad this turn which while definitely being a strong play, would allow Fauna Shaman to become active. Being the control player, I felt that Sarkhan the Mad on the following turn would be acceptable. I opted to leave open mana for Doom Blade and Lightning Bolt. He ended up blocking with Vengevine. On his turn, he cast a Baneslayer Angel that promptly attracted my Doom Blade. On my turn, I untapped, cast Sarkhan the Mad and made a Saproling token a Dragon. From there, it was elementary.
Semifinals: endress (w/ Naya Shaman)
G1: More Naya Shaman. The interesting part of this game came up in the scenario below. I wanted to highlight my opponent’s excellent play here — what would you get with Shaman (discarding Vengevine)? The other bit of information to know is that there is no more land to be played on his turn so that takes Baneslayer Angel out of the equation. Do you get Bloodbraid Elf? Knight of the Reliquary? Another Vengevine?
No. You get Noble Hierarch. Endress realized that Sarkhan was a strong card and that he would be in a precarious position if the Planeswalker lived. By fetching Hierarch, he could attack Sarkhan with Linvala. In turn, it would not make sense for me to chump-block with my Dragon token. Sarkhan was dead. The following turn, he fetched up Baneslayer which I could not stop and took the game. It was surprising to see Fauna Shaman used to fetch a seemingly simple Noble Hierarch! Well done!
G2: Would you keep or take a mulligan — why or why not?
I took a mulligan to 6. While I had a decent hand with three lands (Jundtron), two Putrid Leech, Blightning, and Sarkhan the Mad, I just didn’t feel confident that I could beat Naya Shaman with this hand. A starting hand lacking any removal against that deck is a game that I would not likely win. With that idea, instead of just taking a chance, I took the strategic mulligan (which I talked about in my previous article(http://www.mtgoacademy.com/storming-standard-%E2%80%93-welcome-to-the-rainin6-season/)). It paid off as I found Verdant Catacombs, Swamp, Terminate, Lightning Bolt, Pyroclasm and Bloodbraid Elf in my new six carder. While this hand lacked red mana, I did have the requisite removal. At this point, it’s easier to try and draw a source of red mana than taking a chance to go down to five cards. Naturally, I drew Lavaclaw Reaches on my first turn.
As the game developed, I was able to cast Pyroclasm to kill his Noble Hierarch and Knight of the Reliquary. Go Pyroclasm! With his mana development stalled, I luckily drew into two more Bloodbraid Elves. He quickly died to the onslaught trio of Bloodbraid Elves and their accompanying cascaded castings.
G3: Here again, I took a mulligan because my opening hand did not have any creature removal. In any event, the game progressed back and forth bringing us to this situation where I topdecked a Bloodbraid Elf that cascaded into a Bolt to off a KotR with summoning sickness. Keep in mind our life totals, tell me what the play is here, with a finals appearance on the line:
How do you attack and why? The line of play that I chose was to attack with Leech, 2 Elves and the Reaches as well. The reason that I felt confident in attacking with everything was that if given the time, Fauna Shaman would get out of hand, despite him having zero cards in his hand. Moreover, I knew that at 10 life, there was very little that he could do to deal lethal damage to me. He naturally blocked a Bloodbraid Elf and went down to 3 life. I chose not to pump Leech at this point- while 10 life is safe, 8 life is not! He could draw any creature and turn it into a Vengevine to kill me; now he had to draw a ‘vine and use his Shaman in the red zone to get the job done. But he only drew an Obstinate Baloth, and I drew a Terminate for the Baloth and the match- dealing exactly lethal damage!
Note: Putrid Leech is an amazing creature, but he just can’t be pumped blindly! There is always removal to watch out for, but you also have to keep an eye out for situations where Leech may suck your own life total too low. Remember that there is a big difference between making instinctual plays and automatic plays — you want to avoid the latter.
Finals: martymar1290 (w/ Eldrazi Green)
G1/G2: I conceded the match, because I had to run some errands- a climatic way to end things, right?
Looking back over the tournament, I was thoroughly impressed with Pyroclasm — obviously because I played against Naya Shaman numerous times. Also, Grave Titan definitely pulled his weight in the deck. As for Jund, it’s still a great deck even though it gets a lot of flak for being a “lucksack” deck. There definitely is a component of luck with the cascade mechanic, but I find that there can be a huge advantage generated based on when you decide to cast Bloodbraid Elf. One of the major options I was presented throughout the matches was deciding whether to cast Maelstrom Pulse (or other creature removal) or Bloodbraid Elf. Most people would think that if there was something to Maelstrom Pulse it would just be better to use it instead of roll the dice with Bloodbraid Elf- I don’t think this is right. Sometimes, quite often actually, it was better to take a chance with Bloodbraid Elf instead of using removal that was sitting in your hand. Of course it depends on the threat, but there is never an absolute answer. Lastly, I did not get to harness the awesome power that is Sarkhan Vol, but maybe next time we will team up and win a game!
Now that you’ve finally made it to the end of this report, I will appreciate you dear readers for any critiques and analysis of anything else you would like to discuss. In regards to the tournament, I definitely had my fair share of luck. To win any sort of competitive Magic tournament though, some luck is always required — whether it is via pairings, cards drawn, or opponents’ mulligans. I just hope that my luck has not run out, and there is much more to come! Until then, good luck grindin’ on MTGO.