I had an interesting discussion with someone over the weekend about a previous article I wrote. I have long maintained that getting into Modern doesn’t have to be overly expensive, as I have explained in a previous article right here on Three Kings Loot. However, people still don’t seem to believe me. So, I set myself a little challenge to show another, different way to get into playing Modern.
The Duel Decks, for those that aren’t familiar, are a pair of themed decks sold together with the intent of being played against each other. This is for those players who are somewhat familiar with the game play of Magic, but aren’t really comfortable building their own decks yet. The nice part about the Duel decks, particularly those built around Planeswalkers, is that there is a surprising amount of value and very playable cards contained within each. You can’t argue when decks contain foiled Planeswalkers, solid cards like Underworld Connections, premium creatures like Hellrider and Reaper of the Wilds, and splashy counter magic like Remand. So, I periodically pick up these Duel decks, sometimes because of the sweet alternate art on the cards, or because I’m actually pretty jazzed about the cards that they contain. The only issue with the Duel decks is that, because they are pre-constructed, they contain a large number of single cards as opposed to the more powerful 3 or 4 of certain cards that get used in other constructed decks made by players. This means that your deck has a high degree of variance each time you draw. This is fun if the other deck has an equal amount of variance, but if the deck is more concentrated and loaded with high powered spells then the reality is that you are likely to get blown out. What can you do about this?
My solution has been to take two of the Duel Decks and to mash them together to see what I can brew up as the best deck. My starting point was to take the Tibalt deck from Sorin vs Tibalt and then to take the deck made for Vraska out of Jace vs Vraska. This means that you get R/B/G deck in terms of colours, which is normally referred to as Jund. Now, my limitations were that I could only use the cards contained in the decks. You’ll see I violated this a little bit, but that I’ll explain what I did and I don’t really think that I violated the spirit of the deck. I will also go through some of the options you could make in order to spice up this new deck that I have affectionately taken to calling Jund Mash-up.
First off, let’s review the deck list for each of the decks I’m using for the Mash-up.
Here is Tibalt-
Now, for Vraska.
These two decks give us quite a number of options to take any Mash-up in, but there are some very obvious cards that are too good to pass up. First off, Tibalt and Vraska need to make the cut because they both offer us some very powerful abilities. Both of these Planeswalkers get a bit of a bad rap, but only because there are others out there that are far more powerful. That doesn’t mean that these two can’t be solid additions to a deck such as this. Next, Underworld Connections is too good a card to leave out simply because of the card draw ability. Reaper of the Wilds and Hellrider are extremely powerful 4 drops that can’t be ignored. Terminate is an extremely efficient removal spell and Browbeat allows you to do two things you want: either draw cards, or make your opponent take damage. So let’s take a look at what I slotted in here to make up the 60 cards in the Mash-up deck.
Jund Mash-Up deck
So, there is the 60 card list. You’ll notice that the only additions I made were to add an extra Reaper of the Wild, because I had an extra, an extra Treasured Find (for exactly the same reason). I substituted Night’s Whisper and replaced it with the improved Read the Bones. Finally, Last Kiss was replaced with the virtually identical Pharika’s Cure. For the Read the Bones I was prepared to pay the extra colorless mana to Scry 2 and then draw 2 meaning my card selection was vastly improved. For Pharika’s Cure I decided that the double black in the casting cost was preferable to paying three mana (2 colourless and a black) because I could have access to it earlier.
So, with only minor substitutions I have created a Jund Mash-Up deck that can do a little bit of everything. The heavy creature removal package pretty much assures everything dies to my spells. The Underworld Connection and Browbeat and Read the Bones allow for additional card draw to keep up the pressure. Blightning is the only real source of hand disruption, but with the ability of Treasured Find I could replay this card and make use of the ability again…and I could go and craft a sideboard out of the remaining cards that will assuredly pack some pretty good discard options. Lastly, the curve of creatures is pretty reasonable. Jund decks have the ability to get out early and this deck is no different. With a number of 2 drops early pressure is almost a guarantee and by 4 mana the real heavy hitters are hitting the battlefield allowing you to really take charge. All in all, the build “feels” pretty decent, if still a little high on the variance order due to all the single cards in the deck.
The easiest way to spice this deck up would be to tinker with your land base. Now, I’m not going to go for pricey lands because you may not have the high price lands like Shocklands from Return to Ravnica. However, there are still a number of options available to you still in the form of Guildgates, namely Rakdos, Golgari and Gruul. The issue becomes if you add in these 12 Guildgates a lot of your land comes into play tapped…which is a perfectly valid observation…but with a tri-colour deck such as this you may put more of a premium on the lands that produce 2 colours instead of just playing basic lands. It also means Tainted Wood may not be a strong choice because you may not control a swamp to allow it to produce green and black mana. Other options are more of the Zendikar life-gain lands like Kazandu Refuge or Akoum Refuge. These inexpensive lands still give you access to both colours of mana, but at least you get a life when it enters the battlefield. Of course, you can keep going on down the line and find plenty of expensive lands if you want, but if the goal is to try and keep your deck cost down and at a reasonable level these choices are perfectly acceptable.
For those interested, the Duel Decks themselves run about $25 for either the Sorin vs Tibalt or the Jace vs Vraska decks at your local game shop, so you would need to shell out about $50 in order to put this together. All in all, that’s pretty decent value and gives you a starting point from which to begin to build your Jund deck to make it more competitive. This shell will give you enough of the key ingredients that you can play and not look out of place, but as discussed, you will miss out on the consistency due to the much higher degree of variance in the cards in your deck. Still, it is a beginning and a fun stepping stone to get you into Modern and ready to play…and gives these Duel decks a new lease on life outside of just being decks primed to face off against each other.
So, before you turn your nose up the next Duel Deck you see, take a second and give it a deeper look. Is there something more you could be doing with this collection of cards? What pieces could you put together in order to maximize what you get out of these deck lists? The possibilities are just about endless even with such a limited card pool and it won’t break the bank…and has plenty of fun available when you play.
Thanks very much and if you guys have any feedback or suggestions on things you would like to see me explore, I’m all ears and would love to hear what you guys want to see me dig up and bang on next.
So, until next time, Keep it fun, keep it safe…Keep it Casual.