Tag: jund

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Daniel Clayton Daniel Clayton - September 4, 2014

The Pinnacle: Designing Monstrosities (Part 2)

Progenitus - Top creatures in Magic the Gathering

The Pinnacle: Designing Monstrosities (Part 2)

Top creatures in Magic the Gathering

By: Daniel Clayton – The Will of the Floral Spuzzem
(Link to part 1)

Today I want to talk about some of the most utilized creatures in the game as a whole and what makes them good. I’ll also try to pull some decks in and show just how good they are with their performance throughout time since their printing. Some of the cards on this list are a part of the most expensive cards in the game club while others are not quite as flashy. My requirement is that they are creatures and they have had some type of impact on the game at some point. While I will try my best to put the best creatures in the game on my list I am only human and as such make mistakes so I apologize in advance if your favorite did not make it on my list. As this is a type of card versus a specific card I figured I would drop them out in a top 6 list going from number 6 to number 1. I’ll also be pulling in some honorable mentions from throughout the years. In the previous article we started talking about creatures numbers 6 through 4 and some decks that they exist in that have done fairly well in over the years. To give a little review, at number 6 we had our super mana-producing creatures Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary and Metalworker with a spotlight on a powerful and fast deck: Metalworker (MUD). Sitting at number 5 we went over our unique creatures Arcbound Ravager and True-Name Nemesis, as well as the uniquely difficult decks that they exist in. Finally, sitting at number 4 is our combo creatures Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Stoneforge Mystic, along with the powerful modern creation Kiki-Angel deck (My name for it… I think). In this article we’ll hit numbers 3 through 1 and try to find out what the best creature in the game is… well the best one in my opinion anyway.

 

Honorable Mention

Progenitus

In the early days of Magic they printed a card called Oath of Druids and a whole deck was designed around it. The deck became a huge contender long after it was printed, the major idea of the deck was your opponent put out one creature then you could cheat the most powerful creature in your deck into play. This card and others like it made the deck a huge challenge for its time. One of the major fuels for the deck was Forbidden Orchard, a Legendary Land from Kamigawa that tapped for one mana of any color and put a 1/1 colorless spirit token into play under your opponent’s control. This card exists as part of a triumvirate of the most powerful creatures in the game. With protection from everything and the creature being a 10/10 it’s almost always an unstoppable 2 turn clock.

 

Deck:

 

So the major idea for this deck is to get Oath online and then win by taking infinite turns with Time Vault, and swinging for victory with the Progenitus. This deck is almost card for card the same deck that was created by Starcity games a while ago, with a couple differences to suit my own tastes; the two differences are the adding in of Progenitus and the adding of Tezzeret. Tezzeret combined with Time Vault is basically a win condition on its own; it acts as a replacement for Voltaic Key and even does it better than Voltaic Key sometimes; it can be put into exile to activate Force of Will; and his final creates attackers if you don’t have any others. I put in Progenitus, because if I can get it online on my turn and I’ve got infinite turns it’s almost impossible to stop. If you do decide to get into Vintage and build this deck there just note that it typically gets beaten out by more true to name control decks for their ability to counter spells and abilities.

 

 

Number 3

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn Blightsteel Colossus

Clocking in at number 3 are the other members of the triumvirate, and also the 2 strongest creatures in the game, these cards are so powerful in fact that many decks that run these two creatures don’t typically run too many other win conditions. Emrakul is so powerful for all of the things that he has; the strongest creature in the game at 15/15, he can’t be countered, he grants you an extra turn when he’s cast, he has flying, protection from colored spells and most importantly he has annihilator 6 (this means your opponent sacrifices 6 permanents every single time he attacks). To show you how good this creature is it is the creature that has replaced Progenitus in almost every deck that Progenitus has held sway over in the past. At 15 power it wins the game in two swings and can take down just about anything that blocks it, and at 15 toughness there aren’t many things that can take it down in a fair fight. Flying gives this card a fair amount of evasion, and the protection from colored spells gives him protection from most of the removal that he has to deal with; the ability to take an extra turn means that this card has an ability which is strictly better than haste. The real ability that wins games is none of these however, Annihilator 6 is the knife that ends the games in most situations; it is typically just too hard to recover from sacrificing 6 permanents and blocking with one for you to fight against this card in most situations. On the other side of the bench is one of the only creatures that has an ability to deal with Emrakul reliably, Blightsteel Colossus; this is the other member of the triumvirate and is my personal favorite. He is big, he is bad and he is the card that ran to replace Darksteel Colossus. He is an 11/11 for 12 with Trample and Infect; he is indestructible and if by some off chance he would be put in a graveyard, he is shuffled back into his owner’s deck instead. This is one of those cards that typically wins the game the first turn he’s out, unless your opponent finds an answer the game is over before they can find one. These are the two most powerful creatures in the entire game based on brute strength. Now if we compared how good cards are by how well they are able to defeat other cards of the same type then these two would be the most powerful cards in the game hands down, but they don’t do much for you early to mid-game if you don’t trick them out leading to their rating of 3 instead of 1As for a deck list for these two look up the last article to see Blightsteel Colossus in the Metalworker deck and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn easily takes over Progenitus’s spot in the Oath of Druids variant.

 

 

Honorable Mention

Dark Confidant and Snapcaster Mage

Now, I’m sure there are some of you wondering why these two cards did not make the list, surely there are cards on this list that are less than these two creatures and the short answer is debatably yes there are worse cards on this list than these 2 cards, but I wanted to show diversity of creatures and different scales on which they could be graded, essentially where the essence of the most powerful creatures in the game fit when compared to the essence of the other most powerful creatures in the game, as for why these 2 cards aren’t taking up the spot for their creature essence type, that will become apparent when I reveal our number 2 card; the overall theme of this card is card advantage. These two cards have become staples in just about every format they are legal in, in just about every deck that has their color, and for good reason.

 

Number 2

Griselbrand

People have been calling for this card to get banned almost since its printing as many people complain that it’s just too powerful. The card is beautiful and simple, but a post-editing R&D pulled the card away from too broken card-hood; it’s a 7/7 Flyer with Lifelink that you can pay 7 life to draw 7 cards, so obviously it costs 7 to go with the theme? Wrong, it costs 8 mana probably to keep it from once again being too broken. But does increasing its mana cost make the card unbroken? According to many of the players who have been faced down by the Demon not by a long shot. With tons of ways to cheat this into play the card may be facing the ban-hammer one day very soon, but for now it sits in a very powerful spot at number 2 on our list. The traditional list for Griselbrand involves ways to cheat it out and runs alongside the ever-powerful Emrakul, and a lot of the time people would much rather have a Griselbrand rather than an Emrakul. The reason for that is the draw ability which lets you draw almost a quarter of your deck in just a turn, it costs you some life, but the trade-off is easily worth it, especially when you consider he regains you the life you lost for drawing 7 cards. This card is so strong it’s not even funny. Plus when you consider the fact that in the 7 cards you draw another Griselbrand shouldn’t be too far off from feasible in just your first try. The flavor text on the card seems fitting for not only his opponents in the story but also for any player who’s had the misfortune of being faced down by this demonic power house. For this deck I look back to 2013 and look at a deck that took 1st place Sneak and Show.

 

Sneak and Show Legacy Decklist

 

The major game plan of the deck is to get a Sneak Attack or Show and Tell online and put an Emrakul onto the field and win the game from there. The deck may pretty much be a one-trick pony, but who needs other tricks if it works? The deck is highly competitive and the inclusion of Griselbrand makes the deck much, much faster. Everything in the deck, Griselbrand included, is used either to get pieces for your combo, to defend your combo or to get your combo out sooner. It is a very aggressive and powerful deck.

 

To Recap

I’m pretty sure at this point just about everyone can think of at least one of the cards at our number one spot, but let’s go through our list one more time in case you missed one. At number 6, we have Rofellos and Metalworker or just mana producing creatures in general, being able to ramp is a powerful ability and these two seem to do it better than anyone else, they may not get you there by themselves but they’ll provide the fuel to do it. At number 5, we have Arcbound Ravager and True-Name Nemesis, these creatures may not be the biggest they may not offer much by themselves, but for their weirdness and uniqueness you have to give it up to these 2 powerhouses, capable of getting in there and pulling out a game for their sheer adaptability as hard to hit and hard to get rid of is the name of the game with these lovable weirdos. At number 4 sits our combo suite, with cards like Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, and Stoneforge Mystic; these two powerful cards may be almost useless by themselves, but in the right deck these two grow to legendary proportions and can hold their own in any fight. At number 3, are our Heavy Hitters, these are cards that are nearly unparalleled in their power and winning potential, not much needs to be said about these 2 goliaths. Sitting lonely at number 2 is the diabolic Griselbrand, a card which is so powerful it’s being called for a banning in Legacy by some players, a format where Jace, the Mind Sculptor is legal.

 

 

Number 1

Tarmogoyf and Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration

I’m sure that the Tarmogoyf might have been expected as it is currently the most expensive creature in the game, but people may find Delver of Secrets a little bit more exciting. If we had to name this category of creatures, it would probably be cheap, efficient beaters. It might be surprising to people to find out that when Tarmogoyf first came out it was actually one of the lower cards in the set. Goyfs with similar abilities had been seen before and none of them had been very good, so people logically thought that Tarmogoyf would follow suit, but he didn’t and has turned himself into a staple in just about every deck that runs green and is allowed to be played in. He didn’t even start off that strong with the inclusion of planeswalkers and fetch lands in Modern buthe’s truly built himself up as a powerhouse. He is mostly commonly run in the current mondern deck Jund:

 

Jund modern decklist:

 

With only a few exceptions the lands in the deck are used to either find or produce mana. The exception to this is Raging Ravine, which is in the deck not only to produce mana, but also to act as a reliable way to get in for some damage. Courser of Kruphix allows for fixing of your draw, lifegain and a slightly more reliable way to get out mana each turn. Scavenging Ooze, while it is sort of a counterpart to Tarmogoyf, acts as both a potential big beater creature for cheap and potential life gain. The Dark Confidant acts as card draw and can be a beater if you need him to. Chandra and Liliana basically act as a mop for anything you miss with the rest of your cards and can even deal a little bit of damage themselves. Almost all of the Instants and Sorceries are aimed at making your opponent discard, dealing damage to them or having a reliable way to deal with any problems you might run into for the most part. Overall, the deck just acts as a get in there type of deck getting in there for quite a little bit of damage between Tarmogoyf and Scavenging Ooze.

More surprising to readers might be my choice of Delver of Secrets, but of course if you’ve been to Legacy, Vintage or Modern tournaments recently you’d probably be less surprised by this choice. There aren’t many flyers in the game that cost 1 to play unless they come with drawbacks or are 1/1’s or less. There is only one flyer in the game that has none of these and is in fact a 3/2. The card is outstanding for control decks, which typically only want to get 1 creature on board and just keep up the clock by slowly wasting your opponent’s life and this card performs this duty heroically. This card just placed first in a Legacy tournament on July 6th of this year in

 

American Delver Legacy decklist (UWR Delver)

 

The lands in this deck are used exclusively to either produce mana or find other lands. I have seen a lot of variants of this deck that run basic lands in the main board just in case the opponent runs Path to Exile. Other variants of this deck run Green instead of White while some stay dual colored with only Red and Blue. This deck, however is an American variant of the Delver deck that runs only Red, White, and Blue mana. The True-Name Nemesis is a card that we went over earlier in the article and you can read about it there, but in this deck it gets in for a hit each turn which can mean a lot especially when equipped with an Umezawa’s Jitte and is exceedingly hard to kill. The Delver of Secrets in this deck mean that you are going to be able to deal 3 damage each turn pretty reliably from turn 2 on. Finally, the Stoneforge Mystic in the deck basically acts as a combo on its own fetching up various equipment from your deck and is able to put them directly onto the battlefield for cheap, and it is the reason that the deck runs the 2 artifacts that it runs. Umezawa’s Jitte is a powerful card that earned a banning when it first came out for just being too good. The card basically does just about everything you’d want a card to do as soon as it gets to hit an opponent, it acts as removal, makes your creatures bigger, and gains you life. Realistically, the only 2 things you could want more of are static abilities (Flying, First Strike, etc) and card draw. On the other side of the artifact spectrum is Batterskull, which acts as a reliable blocker through vigilance, reliable life gain through lifelink, and recursion through its activated ability to return to your hand; when coupled with Stoneforge Mystic, these two cards can be a powerful one-two-punch. The sorceries in the deck act as both knowledge generator, whether that knowledge come in the form of knowing what your opponent has (Gitaxian Probe) or knowing and controlling what you’re going to draw next (Ponder), and card draw (both Gitaxian Probe and Ponder). The instants in the deck either act as removal (Lightning Bolt and Swords to Plowshares), Card Draw/Knowledge Generation/Card Fixing (Brainstorm), or Counterspells (Spell Pierce, Daze, and Force of Will).

By Daniel Clayton – the Will of the Floral Spuzzem
@DC4VP on Twitter
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Avatar Bruce Gray - May 25, 2014

Underappreciated cards of Magic sets past: Dragon’s Maze

Ral Zarek - Dragon's Maze art

 

 

 

Underappreciated cards of Magic sets past: Dragon’s Maze

By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters

So, much time has passed since I last wrote about underappreciated cards, but it has now been a full year since Dragon’s Maze joined us as far as a set to be played.  By and large, the reception for Dragon’s Maze was lukewarm at best despite having all the flash and dazzle of being the final set for the Return to Ravnica block.  However, the set was rife with cards that are geared for EDH and multiplayer formats with only a few staples that would get seriously added to the pool of competitive cards.  It did allow for the full Return to Ravnica block draft, which was also very challenging and tons of fun, but constructed players were deeply saddened by the near unplayable cards and fringe options the set yielded. However, this set was a veritable gold mine for casual players of all stripes.  Today, I’ll be going through my selections for some underappreciated cards at each of the 4 rarity slots (common through Mythic) that you might want to slide into a deck the next time you sit down to play at your next Casual Encounters.

Dragon’s Maze gave us a full set of 10 Maze Runners, champions for each guild that would negotiate the Maze and dominate Ravnica.  However, while it would seem that the Maze Runners were going to be the most powerful cards printed in the set, the reality was that many of them were clunky and poor at best.  No, the most powerful cards were creatures like Voice of Resurgence, Aetherling, and Blood Baron of Vizkopa and a select few spells like Advent of the Wurm.  However, while the Maze Runners weren’t much fun to play with, and these select high priority spells cost a small fortune to acquire a play set, there are still plenty of viable cards at all 4 slots that can bring some variety and fun effects to your next game.

 

Common:

Gatekeeper Cycle

Each of the 5 colours had a Gatekeeper for 4 mana.  These 2/4 creatures were serviceable bodies in their own right but hardly exciting unless you controlled a pair of guildgates, in which case you were able to reap some sort of benefit.  Now let’s be honest with ourselves.  In draft were you likely to EVER be able to grab a pair of guildgates? Not likely.  In any form of constructed format, were you likely to even THINK about playing guildgates, much less these guys?  NOPE.  In EDH you are only likely to have a pair of guildgates, at best, among your 100 cards which means you would be unlikely to be keen to run these cards either.  No, these gatekeepers fall firmly in the realm of casual players looking to do something silly with them.  Of their abilities, they are pretty standard (ie. Blue draws a card, Black gives target creature -2/-2, Red gives a threaten effect etc) and only impact the board when they enter play…but if you’ve read some of my previous articles I LOVE making these effects recur by finding ways to get my stuff to leave play and then re-enter the battlefield.  Also, as a Casual player, I’m very apt to play guildgates because they are very functional (if unexciting) ways to help smooth out your mana.  Particularly in a multiplayer game of some sort where things may be a little slower, the requirement for the correct colours is key and you may be spared the punishment of having lands come into play tapped by the slower pace of the multiplayer environment. These 5 guys are solid additions with decent bodies and good upside. Give them a second look and see if you can make them fit into a deck the next time you sit down to play.

 

Uncommon:

Give//Take

If you’ve been reading my other articles, you might have got the sense that I’m big on the shenanigans that +1/+1 counters can do for you in Return to Ravnica block.  Scavenge and Evolve are both super interesting mechanics and the ability to then turn around and draw cards off of those counters is super fun.  In a previous article about Gatecrash I attempted to describe how Zameck guildmage can be abused to draw all sorts of cards off those counters…but with Give//Take you don’t even need a Zameck in play to go card crazy.  Perhaps my most favorite play is to land Prime Speaker Zegana on the battlefield and draw cards equal to her power.  This can usually be a fairly solid number of cards because having her be at least a 5/5 is no real stretch.  However, on your next turn, cast both halves of Give and Take and turn all those +1/+1 counters into cards and suddenly your card advantage has gone bananas.  In a multiplayer casual variant this is totally possible and means that you now have a significant edge over the opposition because of the resources available to you. Let me assure you, it’s fun and your opponents will be doing their utmost to prevent this from happening since they don’t want to get caught behind in the race for resources…and when you pull it off it’ll be amazing! Try it out for yourself!

 

Rare:

Tajic, Blade of the Legion

This guy is so simple in terms of design and so mindlessly powerful that he gets overlooked.  A 2/2 indestructible creature for 4 mana means he’s likely too expensive for a Constructed format (and to trip his Battalion ability takes WAY too much set up cost), but in a casual environment this guy is a true menace.  It is very conceivable to see this guy get his Battalion ability triggered and be a MONSTROUS 7/7 wrecking ball of hate smashing around…and he’s indestructible meaning he’s wildly difficult for your opponents to deal with.  If nothing else he becomes a reliable blocker and suitable target to dress up with auras to pump him with because you are unlikely to get 2 for 1ed off of an exchange.  But here’s the thing, more than a few people in my play group will just flip right on by Tajic in favour of other creatures…and every time I ask “WHY? ARE YOU SICK? PLAY THAT DUDE!”.  He crushes face, is hard to deal with, isn’t unreasonably costed and is in perhaps the most aggressive colour combo available…making him a perfect bulldozer in your next game.  Trust me…you won’t regret it.

 

Mythic:

Ral Zarek

As always, the mythic slot is hard to pick because they are all powerful.  Dragon’s Maze was no exception and the planeswalker of the set seems like a dead obvious place to start when picking a card, but Ral was spoiled with great fanfare.  His ultimate, of flipping coins and taking extra turns, is hilarious and immediately caught the attention of the Magic playing community…only to hit the ground at release with a resounding THUD! He was unplayable in competitive Standard, and cost too much to play any Eternal format. His first two abilities are reasonable, but hardly awe inspiring, and the ultimate leaves a lot to be desired.  Basically, he was very quickly resigned to his role of coming off the bench for Casual Magic and I’ll happily pick him up to pinch hit for me!

If nothing else, the ultimate ability on Ral Zarek just SCREAMS Casual all-star.  When you think of playing Casual Magic you think of splashy cards, crazy abilities, and full on shenanigans…well…here you go! All of these things are rolled into the flip of coins as part of Ral Zarek’s ultimate.  Also, his +1 ability of tapping and untapping various permanents just leads to soooo many ridiculous plays that it is almost impossible to list all the possibilities.  Basically, Ral Zarek opens up loads of fun and innovative options that will totally take your opponents by surprise that I think he’s well worth the time to pick him up and give a try.

 

So, no article highlighting underplayed cards would be complete without some sort of deck showcasing some of the cards and today is no exception.  Now, if I asked you how do the vast majority of games get won and lost, what would you say?  If you said attacking with creatures, you would be right.  Sure, sure, there are some people who prefer combo or mill or locking out your opposition with a control deck, but let’s be real, you play Casual Magic to cast fat creatures, turn them sideways and see what powerful interactions you can dream up.  Now, let’s change the axis on which you are prepared to engage your opponent and instead of you using YOUR creatures to kill your opponent, why not use HIS creatures to kill your opponent.

Let’s see what I’ve got today:

 

Jund Punch your own face Decklist

 

The game plan with this deck was inspired by that older brother who used to take your hand and smack you in the face with your own hand…and then say “Stop hitting yourself!”.   So, your opponent is expecting you cast creatures and attack, but in reality you are waiting for them to cast creatures and then use Act of Treason and Traitorous instinct to take their creature and smack them in the face.  However, what made this deck really sweet was the addition of Smelt-Ward Gatekeepers who is an Act of Treason attached to 2/4 body…and if it is attached to a body it can be recurred.  So, the ability to have Roaring Primadox return Smelt-Ward Gatekeepers to your hand and cast it again for the recurring Threaten effect.  Ubul-Sar Gatekeepers is basically a Dead-Weight on a stick and Saruli Gatekeepers gains you a huge pile of life that can quickly put things out of range, but they aren’t the real threats.  Now, after you’ve taken the creatures with  the Threaten effect, most opponents won’t block because they don’t want to block their own creature, when they know that they will be getting the card back shortly so they eat the damage and hope to move on. Before you return the creature, nothing is more hilarious that sacrificing it to one of the numerous Sacrifice outlets in the deck for a) more damage b) cards c) to mill them d) attack their hand e) gain more life.  The options are endless and drive your opponent bonkers because they are expecting to get the creature back. As an additional way to close out the game Crackling Perimeter allows you to tap the large number of gates in your deck to do damage to your opponent and close out the game.  All in all, this deck is a funny way to punch your opponent in the face with their own creatures and to reap the benefits.

 

So, that’s my selection for underappreciated cards from Dragon’s Maze and a little sample of what you can do with the cards to make a fun and unexpected deck that can really frustrate your opponent.  Perhaps I’ve missed something and some of you have other things you would rather play, or cards that I may have skipped over, so I’m always game to hear what others think. Shoot me a tweet and let me know what you thought…or go ahead and build yourself your on deck and see what you can find from Dragon’s Maze to make your next Casual Night fun and lively.

Until next time, keep fun, keep it safe…keep it Casual.

By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791
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Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - May 17, 2014

Jund Modern by Andrew Huska (2nd at GP Minneapolis Modern on May 11th ...

 Deck of the day

Liliana of the Veil

 

Jund Modern by Andrew Huska

2nd at Grand Prix Minneapolis 2014 
 

By rights this is the deck that should have won in Minneapolis last weekend and would have if that Scapeshift had not been peeled off the top. Jund has long been a bogeyman of the format, but the recent ban on Deathrite Shaman did a lot to suck the wind out of its sails. But it continues to compete as a tier 1 strategy because it has so many powerful pieces of disruption and removal, backed by a team of beatdown creatures.

The main strategy to victory revolves around two key monsters crashing the red zone with longtime all star Tarmogoyf widely accepted as the best two drop beater ever printed as it continues to scale up as the grave fills with different card types, and also manland Raging Ravine which continues to grow with each attack and as a land is able to dodge any sorcery speed removal. There is also Scavenging Ooze which has the ability to grow to epic proportions as well but is most useful as a way to control the opponents graveyard if they are operating with any recursion now that Deathrite is no more. There is also Dark Confidant which is the decks main source of grinding card advantage and newcomer Courser of Kruphix which is largely a brick wall with its four toughness but also acts as a form of ramp and those life points will often be very relevant in the end. The next key element of this deck is the disruption package and that is found with three trios of discard with Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize as amazing turn one pinpoint extraction also enabling you to see the opponents current plans, and also Liliana of the Veil which is a symmetrical discard but you are able to prepare properly in advance and often force early misplays from the enemy. Liliana also double as removal with her sacrifice ability and is able to rid the board of troublesome creatures especially Hexproof or Indestructible ones that you normally would not be able to destroy. The remainder of the deck is basically more removal of varied flavors including Abrupt Decay and Maelstrom Pulse able to hit many different problem permanents, Slaughter Pact and Terminate as pinpoint removal for creature threats, and Anger of the Gods which provides the deck a sweeper capable of exiling the many recursive creatures especially from Melira Pod decks. There is also the requisite set of Lightning Bolt, almost a given for any deck in the format running Red, which doubles both as removal but also as additional reach to close out games quickly. The final card is a one of Chandra, Pyromaster which with her ability to negate blockers will be a road to victory in many games that she hits the table and her second ability help provide additional draw to the deck which is one element that is not a strength.

And so despite any attempts to suppress what has always been a very powerful Midrange strategy showing itself in its early days from a mere Standard deck then porting into Modern and ultimately finding success even in the wide open format of Legacy. Because the deck revolves not specifically around any particular card but instead is simply a conglomeration of available discard and removal backed by beatdown creatures it will always find a way to rise back to the top. It will be very interesting over the upcoming Modern PTQ season to see just how well the deck competes and what sort of evolution it may go through to again reign over the format.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
Email: ejseltzer@hotmail.com
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Avatar Bruce Gray - May 6, 2014

Casual Encounters- Duel Decks Mash up #1: Jund Tibalt/Vraska

Assassin Token

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-

Sorin-vs-Tibalt-Duel-Decks-Spoiler

 

Now, for Vraska.

Jace vs Vraska art

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.

Bruce Gray

@bgray8791

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Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - March 20, 2014

Champion’s Deck – Jund Monsters by Philippe Monlevade (1st...

Dreadbore
Philippe Monlevade
 1st Place at Grand Prix Buenos Aires Standard 2014
This deck has but one goal and that is to bring the beats. It is focused on fast acceleration to power out huge monsters. There is some support from a trio of powerful Planeswalkers but the primary goal is to get some huge threats into play way ahead of the curve. The core shell is that of Gruul Monsters but the addition of Black to it allows for some extra answers and interesting threats.

The opening strategy is focused on your mana dorks to come and ramp to the fatties. We find full sets of Elvish Mystic, Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix all of which can speed you plan up by several turns. Also, removal aimed at them means less removal to deal with the big boys. As far as those ‘big boys’ are concerned there is Polukranos, World Eater and Stormbreath Dragon who’s ability to become Monstrous will often spell certain doom for your opponents well before they’re ready to deal with them. Then there are a few support creatures with Reaper of the Wilds with a Scry ability helpful when the opponent is removing your creatures or chumping with his, Ghor-Clan Rampager which can turn a game saving chump block into a game ending surprise, Scavenging Ooze with incidental lifegain and graveyard hate, and Xenagos, God of Revels pushing the beatdown plan into high gear. Speaking of Xenagos we find the same standard package of Planeswalkers as in Gruul with Domri Rade and Xenagos, the Reveler which both are invaluable in a creature heavy deck both accelerating and digging for them while also working hard to control the battlefield. The addition of Black is what allows an interesting one of Vraska, the Unseen which can spell certain doom if her assassins are able to infiltrate through the enemies defenses but will most often be used as removal of various types of threats. And speaking of removal the deck is completed with a minor removal suite which consists of a pair of Dreadbore and pair of Mizzium Mortars but is also somewhat supplemented by the Monstrous ability.

Definitely the addition of Black to the Gruul shell offers some more options to the deck but in all honesty this is really the Gruul Monsters with a splash of Black in it. Going forward it is going to be interesting to see if the splash is adopted or if the extra color offers an inconsistency to the manabase. In either case I’m certain that these monsters will continue to bring the beats in Standard for months to come.
Eric J Seltzer
@ejseltzer on Twitter
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Avatar Eric Jeffrey Seltzer - November 24, 2013

Champion’s deck – Jund Matthew Costa (1st place SCG Providence Sta...

Reaper of the Wilds
Jund
Matthew Costa
1st Place at StarCityGames Standard Open on 11/24/2013
Main Deck
60 Cards
Lands (25)

Creatures (16)

Spells (19)

Sideboard (15)

Matt Costa was able to pilot this deck to a win against Boros Aggro in the finals.  Following along traditional Jund lines of incremental advantage into the midgame this deck combines power and versatility.  The creature suite has two ‘monstrous’ heavy hitters at the top end with Stormbreath Dragon and Polukranos supported by utility from Reaper of the Wilds, Scavenging Ooze and Sylvan Caryatid.  This is backed up by a very potent package of removal with Abrupt Decay & Hero’s Downfall for spot removal and Anger of the Gods & Mizzium Mortars as sweepers.  Finally the deck is rounded out with Thoughtseize & Rakdos’s Return to disrupt the opponents hand and Read the Bones to ensure that the right answers show up at the right time.

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Avatar Gregoire Thibault - November 17, 2013

Deck of the Day: Jund (Legacy GP Washington D.C. Qualifier Winner)

Deathrite Shaman
Jund
Qualifier #6 – Oren Ginsberg
GP Washington D.C. Qualifier Winner
Main Deck

60 cards

23 lands

15 creatures

4 planeswalkers
Sideboard
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Avatar Gregoire Thibault - May 17, 2013

Top Cards from Dragon’s Maze for Standard pt. 1

Welcome everyone to this edition of “My top cards from Standard” pt.1 for Dragon’s Maze.
We see a diverse meta starting to form with the exciting new release of Dragon’s Maze and decks have evolved a lot since my last Top cards from Gatecrash.  It’s a small set, but it has a lot of powerful multicolored cards adding tools to decks like Jund, Bant, Junk, and Grixis.  Although we see a few two colored decks, three colored decks are preferred as we can see with the results put up so far.  We’ll take a closer look at some of the top cards I’ve found for Standard and I’ve pulled up some of this weekends top decks to see them in action.  There are more cards then just these that will get played in standard, but this is already quite a lot to look at.  I’ll be continuing in part 2.

Sire of Insanity

Sire of insanity:  This guy makes coming out the gates strong really pay off, and especially if you’re ahead you can really lock the win once your opponent discard their hand.  An especially good tool versus control decks.  We see him in almost all Jund builds right now.

Putrefy

Putrefy:  Great removal and easier to cast then Murder that can’t be regenerated with the added option of removing artifacts instead like Staff of Nin or Rakdos Keyrune for instance.  Another great tool for Jund that’s also in some Junk sideboards.

Jund
Tyler Phelps
2nd Place at StarCityGames.com Standard Open on 5/12/2013

Creatures (13)

Planeswalkers (3)

Lands (25)

Gaze of Granite

Gaze of Granite:  Finally a decent sweeper for Jund and BUG, kind of like a new Pernicious deed that you need to pay for all up front.  It’s starting to see some play in some Jund sideboards like this one:

Jund

Danny Li
6th Place at StarCityGames.com Standard Open on 5/12/2013

Deadbridge Chant

Deadbridge Chant:  I’ve heard a few people wanting to brew with this card.  For now we’ve seen copies in Jund sideboards like this next list.  They want to abuse it by exiling their graveyard to make sure that they always recur the same spell, like a Rakdos’s Return for instance, each turn.  This is a sick card and I’d love to see more decks abusing it.

Jund
Kyle Thomas
4th Place at StarCityGames.com Classic on 5/12/2013

Voice of Resurgence

Voice of resurgence:  This badboy 2-drop should see a lot of play in this standard meta coming up and those to follow.  Will it become on par or even better than others like Tarmogoyf, Dark confidant, Stoneforge mystic and Snapcaster Mage?  Only time will tell.

First off two versions of Junk Reanimator, one from Ali Aintrazi with an Angel of Serenity plan using 4 Voice of Resurgence in it’s sideboard in the list right below.  The other reanimator uses Immortal Servitude as tech using all 2 drops including Voice of Resurgence.

Next we have  two Bant versions: Bant Auras and Bant Flash.  Replacing an old favorite one-drop Delver of Secrets with Voice of Resurgence in Bant Auras in the third list.  Combining Geist of Saint Traft and Invisible Stalker with Voice of Resurgence in the auras deck makes opponents options awkward when trying to answer your auras.  Bant Flash however is also keeping it in its sideboard with the fourth list.  You will see further below that Bant Auras and Bant Flash are also using other Dragon’s Maze cards that had high expectations.

Reanimator
Ali Aintrazi
9th Place at StarCityGames.com Standard Open on 5/12/2013

Immortal Servitude
Elliot Smith
2nd Place at StarCityGames.com Classic on 5/12/2013

Unflinching Courage

Unflinching Courage: This new Loxodon Warhammer style aura is quite powerful.  When played at the right time you can take over a game even in limited.  We find it here in Bant Auras as an easier to cast replacement to Gift of Orzhova.  Scroll down a bit and you’ll see another version of Naya blitz using it in it’s side.

Bant Auras
Robert Rusch
4th Place at StarCityGames.com Standard Open on 5/12/2013

Advent of Wurm

Advent of the Wurm: This Awesome 5/5 4-drop is one of my favorite new cards from Dragon’s Maze, except you’re summoning this badboy at instant speed.  It allows you to abuse cards like Augur of Bolas and Snapcaster mage like in this Bant Flash list.  Who said Sphinx’s revelation was dead yet?  I also added a sweet G/W Token list with Advent of the Wurm and Voice of Resurgence.

Bant Flash
Zachery Byrd
7th Place at StarCityGames.com Standard Open on 5/12/2013

Renounce the Guilds

Renounce the Guilds: Interesting new removal tool we see in Bant control’s sideboard, the only permanent you might lose is your Wurm token.  This is good against Planeswalkers like Ral Zarek or used like Devour Flesh against Geist of Saint-Traft .

G/W Tokens
Ben Suddueth
17th Place at StarCityGames.com Standard Open on 5/12/2013

Viashino Firstblade

Viashino Firstblade:  It’s an aggressive 3-drop as a 4/4 when it comes out with haste.  This can get hard to manage when you’re facing a deck like this Naya Blitz version.

Naya Blitz
Daniel Battle
5th Place at StarCityGames.com Standard Open on 5/12/2013

Ruric Thar, the Unbowed

Ruric Thar, the Unbowed: I imagine this guy must be a beast against decks like Bant Auras and Bant Flash, making it awkward to remove anything once he’s on the board especially if you’re behind at all.  This next Naya list went on to win 1st place.

Naya
Justin Tracey
1st Place at StarCityGames.com Classic on 5/12/2013

We see another version of the Naya Blitz list here with 4 Frontline Medic in the main instead of Viashino Firstblade.  He also opted for 3 Unflinching Courage in the side, the new Loxodon Warhammer-style aura from Dragon’s Maze.

Naya Blitz
Ben Ragan
8th Place at StarCityGames.com Standard Open on 5/12/2013

Sin Collector

Sin Collector: This is a weaker Duress on a stick.  We see him in some of the new Junk Reanimator lists.  Also used in The Aristocrats deck where he makes a good sacrifice to Falkenrath Aristocrat since he’s human.

Reanimator
Wayne Polimine
12th Place at StarCityGames.com Standard Open on 5/12/2013

Profit // Loss

Profit // Loss: Can be used as a combat trick for all of your creatures or a sweeper against opponents opposing Falkenrath Aristocrat, their Invisible Stalker or if you prefer take out all there dorks like Arbor Elf and Avacyn’s Pilgrim.  You can always fuse it for best results with that all out swing.  We see The Aristocrats with one in the sideboard.

Wear // Tear

Wear // Tear: This versatile fuse card is an answer for artifacts like Staff of Nin or if you prefer to remove an enchantment like Unflinching Courage you can too. This is the second fuse card we’ve found in an Aristocrats deck like this one:


The Aristocrats
Dylan Farmer
13th Place at StarCityGames.com Standard Open on 5/12/2013

Ral Zarek

Ral Zarek: The newest Planeswalker in the roster which has neat abilities.  His first one can be used to tap an opponents blocker or a land to screw up his answers, then it gets interesting where you can untap a land to ramp up or a permanent to get his effect a second time, like Izzet Staticaster in this next Grixis Control list.  Ral Zarek’s second ability is probably one of the most played cards in Magic a Lightning Bolt with two bolts before he croaks.  His ultimate ability with an average of 2.5 Time Walk  each time will get you so far ahead it will be hard for opponents to recoup, but not impossible.

Far // Away

Far // Away: Another great split card.  In this current meta I believe you want to use Far against Bant Auras to bounce an enchanted creature and then Away against his  Geist of Saint Traft.  Here’s the Grixis Control deck using it in sideboard probably for exactly that.

Grixis Control
Andrew Schneider
83rd Place at StarCityGames.com Standard Open on 5/12/2013

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