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FFfreaky Friday – Playing with Junk

Since I got home from my crazy travels, Standard has rejuvenated me. I’ve been playing in as many tournaments I can, trying to find a new deck to play. Fortunately, it didn’t take long. I’ve found my new best friend.

In my last article, I said that Boros was not performing to my expectations. In the comments, a lot of people were discouraged. I’ve been a big spokesperson for the Boros Bushwacker deck for some time. It was the deck I played from the beginning of the season, through Worlds, and up until this week. Boros isn’t a bad deck – that’s not the problem. The problem it faces is how this metagame is developing. Every week there are more matchups that give it a rough time. Other decks are being refined to deal with Boros and it doesn’t have the tools to counter these changes. It can only do the same thing it always does.

It isn’t unplayable, by any stretch, but I’m finding it harder to get the win percentages I personally want. It performed very well at the only big tournament I played, which was Worlds. I went 4-2, losing to my own play mistakes. I was having a tough time consistently winning, however, on Magic Online.

The other reason it is slowly becoming a bad deck decision is that I thought the metagame would only be about 30 percent Jund. This isn’t even close to the real number. Jund makes up almost 50 percent of any metagame being played outside of professional tournaments. Jund is also making changes to counter new hate, which in turn is also good for its Boros matchups. With Rampant Growth replacing Putrid Leech in most lists, the matchup only gets harder since they hit their late game so much faster.

At the St. Louis 5K, I went 1-2 in the Standard tournament and decided to put away my [card]Steppe Lynx[/card]es for a while. I didn’t know what I was going to start working with until the Top 8 started, when Tom Ross and I did commentary on the match with the great guys from GGslive.com and a deck from the Top 8 caught my attention. It was a Junk list with several alterations I enjoyed.

It didn’t take its Top 8 matchup, but I saw some key problems with his list. First of all, he had an Ob Nixilis in his deck that couldn’t see play without having a landfall trigger from Lotus Cobra or a Birds of Paradise in play. He only had one Swamp in the deck, which made his double-Black spells awkward to cast. I made some changes to the deck and played in a few Daily Events and Eight Mans.

This is my current list:

Junk

This deck is amazing. I don’t know why I haven’t played a Baneslayer deck in Standard yet, but I better start floating with the current instead of fighting upstream all the time. An unanswered turn three Baneslayer Angel is the most fun thing to do in this format. The Brian Kibler “put Baneslayer Angel in everything” approach to this game might be 100 percent correct. The card is just that good.

After playing about 30 matches, Eldrazi Monument might merit an additional slot. It has me win every game I draw it and probably a few I couldn’t have won without it. This might sound like a “win more” card, but there is a lot of parity in Constructed right now and a flying Anthem breaks that.

When I saw this list, I thought the one-of Garruk was a bit peculiar, but after playing the deck it makes sense. The deck wants another four-drop in that slot, but you never want to draw two copies of Elspeth, Knight-Errant or Master of the Wild Hunt. Garruk gives the deck just a bit more spell diversity and can set up a potential Overrun blowout. For now I am going to keep it in.

The Bant Panorama is the most unusual card in the main deck. It actually serves as a great one-of. Sometimes I want to double pump my Knight of the Reliquary and trigger my Emeria Angel twice without taking a point of life. Every other land in the deck produces colored mana the turn it comes into play except for Oran-Rief, the Vastwood, so the colorless issue doesn’t come up often. Being able to tap for colorless the turn it comes into play, however, makes it much better than Terramorphic Expanse.

Let’s talk a bit about matchups.

JUND

This matchup is the one you will run into the most. It can be a pretty hard matchup because of how powerful their cascade spells are against you. Many games I have been way ahead, but one Bituminous Blast later I’m back to square one and down a card. The most important card in this matchup is Vines of Vastwood because of how much tempo you can gain when they spend an entire turn trying to kill a Master of the Wild Hunt or Baneslayer Angel, but you simply pay a Green mana to protect it.

You have to play this matchup as the aggressor, but that can be very difficult. It really comes down to how many good threats you can stick. Dauntless Escort helps in the first game because it acts as a proactive Clone. It comes down early and, besides a Lightning Bolt, they won’t spend their turn killing it. Then you play a creature they want to kill and they don’t get the opportunity. This gives you at least a one turn window to start playing a second or third threat they have to kill.

The best way to win is if you can get ahead on creature-quality advantage. It’s the easiest way to win. Elspeth does not count here, by the way. While she is good at making them spend time on a card, it usually won’t really get you ahead. She only shines when you have a Knight of the Reliquary in play and need that last big punch or when you are winning the race in the air.

Blightning can be a very difficult card to play against. Your spells are big and good but slow, so Blightning really takes a toll on your overall stamina. Blightning can really attrition you a few turns after it’s cast, when it leaves you in a bad top-decking position. This deck doesn’t like to have to top deck its answers because of the useless late-game Birds and Cobras. Because it thins out its lands very well, however, it is still possible to draw out of it. And again, an unanswered [card]Baneslayer Angel[/card] will always do the trick.

Sideboard:

On the draw:

-1 Maelstrom Pulse
-1 Eldrazi Monument
-1 Garruk Wildspeaker
+2 Grim Discovery
+1 Dauntless Escort

On the play:

-2 Maelstrom Pulse
-1 Garruk Wildspeaker
+2 Grim Discovery
+1 Dauntless Escort

I have toyed around with this matchup a lot lately and found the Monument was really good when I am on the play, but very bad on the draw. Grim Discovery is one of the best attrition cards we have to fight this deck. It replaces one of their Blightnings and gives the deck a great top deck in the late game.
Some Jund players also take the LD approach in this matchup and try to destroy all of your mana producers in the early game. This sometimes is a great strategy, but Grim Discovery destroys that plan when they don’t have enough removal to take care of everything and you can make your fifth land drop.

Game 2 and 3 play out a lot like the first. They don’t usually have much of a sideboard for this matchup, but their original configuration is enough to do a decent job.

One thing about this matchup that Josh Utter-Leyton touched on in his “10 Things to know about the Jund Matchup“ article a few weeks ago is really important: knowing when to cast your threats against them. He hit it on the head when he said it was more of a situational/theoretical idea. If you have the decision to cast multiple different creatures against them, you have to think about that they will do with their turn.

When my opponent is just getting to their fifth mana next turn, I would rather not play Master of the Wild Hunt over a Baneslayer Angel. This will allow them to Bituminous Blast away the Master and get further ahead on the board. Reverse the situation and put them getting to their fourth mana, I would rather play the Master, which makes them spend a different removal, in turn making Bituminous Blast worse against the Angel.

It’s hard to go over every situation for this theory, but if there is a lot of interest in this, I could go over it in more detail in a different article.

BOROS

The first game can go either way, but it usually comes down to a blow-out on either side. If you get an aggressive draw with an accelerator the matchup isn’t too difficult. Emeria Angel truly shines here with the ability to produce multiple chump blockers. Master of the Wild Hunt also does this job but without the speed of the Angel. Vines of Vastwood tends to win the game if they can’t beat through one of the creatures.

Sideboard:

-4 Maelstrom Pulse
-1 Garruk Wildspeaker
-1 Eldrazi Monument
-1 Dauntless Escort
+4 Wall of Reverence
+3 Doom Blade

Doom Blade is a better removal spell than Maelstrom Pulse because it’s cheaper and an instant, which will muck up their math calculations. Wall of Reverence is a backbreaking spell that can take you so far out of reach that they can’t finish the game. Like I have preached before about Boros, don’t let them deal early damage if you can prevent it. If this means chump blocking in the first couple turns to stop five damage when you won’t need the creature, do it.

Most losses against Boros can be prevented if you play smart.

GW/X VARIANTS

There are multiple different takes on these decks but most have a number of the same spells. The most important thing about these semi-mirror matches is being good at combat. It’s the hardest part of the game, but knowing combat is how you will win these matchups.

Sideboard:

-3 Vines of Vastwood
-1 Dauntless Escort
+ 3 Doom Blade
+ 1 Eldrazi Monument

By taking the Monument approach in these matchups, you need to have enough creatures in your deck to support them. Vines of Vastwood is still a decent card, but not better then your overall goal, so it has to go. Pulse can become very awkward in this matchup so playing them correctly is important.
Don’t be afraid to take some Lifelink damage. Life totals tend to not matter as much as board position. Someone will win and they will win big. Make sure your late game potential is alive when playing this matchup.

GRIXIS CONTROL

I have played this matchup a handful of times and it didn’t seem too difficult. They have decent spells to slow you down, but I have never seen a late game effect win. Sphinx dies to your Vines of Vastwood and Cruel doesn’t beat a full board of creatures. In theory this matchup should be in a control player’s favor, but since it has to be metagamed to beat Jund I think your ability to just play dudes and a little removal makes your draws better.

Sideboard:

-4 Maelstrom Pulse
-1 Eldrazi Monument
-1 Baneslayer Angel
+2 Identity Crisis
+2 Grim Discovery
+1 Dauntless Escort
+1 Qasali Pridemage

The Baneslayer for Pridemage is to just lower the curve. The other spells should make sense on why they are changed. Just be aggressive and time out your Crisis. They tap out a lot in the early game so sticking one isn’t too difficult.

TURBO FOG

This is probably the hardest matchup to play against. Not much to say here. You just have to hope to draw a ton of Pulses.

Sideboard:

-4 Baneslayer Angel
-1 Eldrazi Monument
+2 Qasali Pridemage
+1 Dauntless Escort
+2 Identity Crisis

Try and win with the removal you bring in. It’s a tough match, but keep playing it out because sometimes they just don’t have the Fog effect.

MONO-RED

This matchup can be rough in game one. If you stick a Master or a Baneslayer it gets better and you will probably win, but it comes down to making sure their [card]Ball Lightning[/card]s don’t kill you in the late game while keeping enough pressure on them in return.

Sideboard:

-4 Maelstrom Pulse
-1 Eldrazi Monument
-1 Garruk Wildspeaker
-1 Vines of Vastwood
+4 Wall of Reverence
+3 Doom Blade

I have a much easier time against Mono-Red after the sideboard comes in. Just like Boros, Mono-Red loses to an unchecked Wall. Be very defensive in the early turns because inevitability is on your side. They will run out of chances to deal lethal damage to you by the later part of the game.

UWR CONTROL

I haven’t played this matchup much. I think it plays out a lot like Grixis Control. Watch out for post-sideboard Baneslayers by keeping in a few Pulses. I wouldn’t worry too much about this matchup since it isn’t gaining much popularity online yet.

And that’s that. I really think this is one of the most powerful decks to be playing right now. I wish I picked it up a long time ago because winning with this deck is much easier then it was with Boros. It is the most expensive deck to play online, but it is well worth the investment.
I wish you all luck in your next few Standard tournaments!

Brad Nelson

FFfreaK on MTGO

[email protected]

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