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In Development – Investing in Right Now

 

This is pretty much my favorite creature in Magic:

Figure1

I’m not saying it’s the best creature in Magic. That honor probably goes to [card]Dark Confidant[/card]. But it is my favorite.

Why?

Because of those magical words, “comes into play.” Or, if we want to go to the modernized Oracle text, “enters the battlefield.”

I will preferentially stock my deck with creatures and other cards that do something right now over cards – possibly even “better” cards – that do something only after a turn. I have to be careful that I don’t get so excited about cards that do something the turn they’re cast that I end up making decks that don’t really have high-power action cards.

So what’s the thought process here? Why am I so excited about a 2/1 for three mana that gets me a card back? More to the point, how does this plug into what I’ve been playing lately in Standard?

Investing in right now

Before he Top Eighted Pro Tour Honolulu and was subsequently absorbed into the R&D team at Wizards, Zac Hill wrote an article that centered on the concept that “sorceries and instants have haste.” That article was a big clarification for me, as it gave a qualitative name to a preference I’d sort of noticed in myself prior to that, and explained why creatures need to be very efficient to see play if they don’t have some kind of impact on the current turn.

Essentially, when we cast a creature that doesn’t do anything right now, we’re investing in the potential gains we’ll make from that creature in the future. This is almost the core theme of non-Conscription builds of Mythic – all the creatures have high-value payoffs. Knight of the Reliquary and Baneslayer Angel can be sole gamewinners, if you manage to untap with them in play.

Of course, we’ve all had the inverse experience where you topdeck that Baneslayer, and all it does is eat a removal spell EOT before your opponent untaps and kills you with all their stupid little critters. In that position, something like a Kitchen Finks might have been better, or, in modern Standard, a Wall of Omens drawing you into a relevant solution spell like Day of Judgment.

Still, the potential payoff of the Baneslayer or Knight is big enough that you don’t toss them by the wayside simply because you might end up in one of those situations where the investment in future turns doesn’t pay off.

In modern Standard, we have a lot of things that impact the board immediately, and I think we need to keep them in mind whenever we’re building or tweaking our decks.

Things with actual haste

Although I’d been having a pretty good time with the BRG Planeswalker Control deck I talked about two weeks ago, last week I had to shelve it. Why?

As it happens, decks featuring thirty plus creatures including four Vengevines are just too good at overwhelming a deck that tries to hold back and use removal to keep the board clear. The specific strength of Vengevine Naya comes from its eponymous vengeful elemental, which by dint of combining reanimation with haste effectively imparts haste to all the other creatures in the deck. Although I’m not a fan of pushing too hard to trigger your dead Vengevines – by diluting the deck’s strength with Kor Skyfisher, for example – the simple fact of having a 4/3 haste that keeps coming back takes it over the top and makes it painful to fight.

In line with this concept, I also noticed just how nauseating the turns can be where my own deck kicks out a Bloodbraid Elf that cascades into a Goblin Ruinblaster.

Looking at everything that has haste in Standard right now, we come up with a pretty short list of decent creatures:

 

In particular, Cunning Sparkmage makes the list when appropriately Collared. Hellspark Elemental is a borderline card and may be a goner in the era of Wall of Omens.

I’m not counting the haste that unearth creatures get in their “second life” in building this list. If we take a look at the Top Eight from last weekend’s GP DC, we see:

12 copies of Bloodbraid Elf
7 copies of Goblin Ruinblaster
4 copies of Hell’s Thunder
4 copies of Vengevine

Notably, the Vengevines and Thunders both lived in Bradley Carpenter’s hyper-aggressive take on Jund, which offered the perhaps even-more-nauseating possibility of Bloodbraid cascading into Hell’s Thunder.

Figure3

We want to have creatures with haste and “haste” whenever possible

Creatures with “haste”

The category of creatures with “haste” – that is, creatures that do something the turn they come down – is much wider than that of creatures with actual haste. My general assertion is that given the choice between a creature that does something eventually and one that does something right now, we want to play the one that does something right now, even if this requires a bit of a power cut.

Returning once more to the top eight from GP DC, check out the tally of creatures that have haste, “haste,” or nothing. I’ll limit myself to main decks for this tally:

In the three Jund decks

Owen Turtenwald’s Jund – 4 Haste, 1 “Haste,” 9 Nothing
Joshua Wagner’s Jund – 4 Haste, 2 “Haste,” 11 Nothing
Bradley Carpenter’s Jund – 12 Haste, 3 “Haste,” 12 Nothing

In the four U/W Control decks

Kyle Boggemes’ U/W Control – 4 “Haste,” 3 Nothing
Michael Stanfar’s U/W Control – 6 “Haste”
Carlos Ramao’s U/W Control – 4 “Haste”
Brad Nelson’s U/W Control – 4 “Haste,” 4 Nothing

In the one Mythic deck

Brett Blackman’s Mythic – 4 “Haste,” 24 Nothing

I do have a point here – I think there’s a good lesson in the top eight decks. Although we’re naturally going to end up picking more powerful creatures that don’t do anything for us the turn they come down as we include more creatures, as good players and designers winnow down their creature lists, they tend to bias those lists toward creatures that have true haste or “haste.” The control decks, in particular, can’t afford to include too many creature choices that don’t either immediately impact the board or dig you deeper into your deck, as it’s essential that as many of your non-land topdecks as possible offer you the option of doing something immediately, so that you won’t be overwhelmed by those aggro decks that have loaded up on truly hasty creatures.

This is also one reason that Conscription Mythic is probably a better choice than non-Conscription Mythic. The simple addition of those four copies of Sovereigns of Lost Alara effectively imparts a kind of pseudo-haste to your otherwise fairly meaningless mana dorks, converting it from a deck that invests almost purely in later turns into one that has the option of making plays that impact the game right now.

The ultimate life cycle investment

I’m a big fan of planeswalkers.

There are a couple reasons for this. I like the kind of games they tend to generate, since they intrinsically operate on-board, and inspire a lot of back-and-forth with decisions about whether to attack you or your planeswalker buddy, when and how to redirect damage, and which of their many abilities to use. I also like the fact that they are the ultimate now-and-later investment.

Simply put, every planeswalker does something right now. Every planeswalker is also an investment in the future, as you can look forward to incrementally gaining card advantage, board position, or some other game advantage each turn after this one.

With most creatures, even awesome ones, your long-term investment is solely in damage. Planeswalkers are generally a superior investment because they’re an investment in a portfolio of futures, including damage, tempo, and card advantage.

The short, take-home version of this point is that even if a given planeswalker doesn’t intuitively look great to you, you probably ought to test it out anyway to see if it’s a better investment opportunity than you realized. After all, there was a lot of negative noise about Sarkhan the Mad during the spoiler-month fervor about Rise of the Eldrazi, but six copies of crazy uncle Sark made it into the top eight of GP DC.

Figure2

Left to Right: damage + card advantage, card advantage + card selection, tempo + card advantage

Bringing this all together

As I alluded to above, Standard is chock-a-block with cards that impact the board immediately. As a consequence, I think we want to think very carefully about including permanents in our deck that don’t have some potential to generate an immediate effect.

For example, I’ve played against a number of variations on U/W and U/R/W that continue to run Wall of Denial. Carlos Romao had two copies in the sideboard of his deck at GP DC, but I think maindecking a card like Wall of Denial is pretty much wrong at the moment. Although it offers the promise of future tempo loss for your opponent, it doesn’t dig you any deeper into your deck, nor does it deal with the planeswalker that they may well drop on their following turn, or that Bloodbraid Elf into Putrid Leech into Vengevine.

The whole “multirole” idea that I was going on about three weeks ago was an expression of my desire to have all my cards have the potential to have a meaningful impact on the game right now. I’ve found in subsequent testing that there are some reasonable exceptions to this rule – specifically, I’m having a great time with Malakir Bloodwitch and its immunity to all the spot removal in U/W decks. But in general, I think the right bias to have is toward cards that have an immediate impact on the game, whether that’s via a triggered or activated ability, or by having actual haste and putting your opponent on the defensive.

All of this has led to what I’m playing right now, which has regressed enough to the mean to be legitimately termed “Jund” once more:

Coterie Jund

 

Yes, that’s Vol, and not “the Mad.” Wacky, I know.

This take on Jund is built toward a metagame that is rich with U/W control decks, Jund decks, and a reasonable smattering of Naya and RDW. I’ve let my paranoia about Open the Vaults largely lapse for now, as I haven’t been seeing much of it around. Here are some sideboarding notes:

Versus U/W Control

+2 Growth Spasm
+1 Liliana Vess
+2 Chandra Nalaar
-3 Doom Blade
-2 Borderland Ranger

Note that this assumes that your U/W opponent is running just the four Spreading Seas. If you’re up against a more Spread’Em-style deck, you may need to board the Rangers and extra Spasm back in – that’s what they’re there for.

This matchup is the primary justification for running Vampire Hexmages over the more popular Jund speedbump, Sprouting Thrinax. Although Hexmage is far less helpful in the mirror, the ability to have 67% of your cascades end in a card that is relevant against planeswalkers (Blightning, Maelstrom Pulse, Vampire Hexmage) is tremendously useful.

Versus Jund

+3 Growth Spasm
+2 Chandra Nalaar
+4 Bituminous Blast
-4 Vampire Hexmage
-2 Consuming Vapors
-2 Malakir Bloodwitch
-1 Liliana Vess

Outside of Jund decks that pack as many planeswalkers as this one does, the Hexmages are pretty much dead weight in this matchup. We’d prefer to simply hit our Growth Spasms and ramp into Bituminous Blasts and Chandras, relying on a superior load of card advantage to help us beat our Jund opponents down.

The degree of sideboarding involved in this matchup has had me considering going down to three Bloodwitches in the main and moving one copy of Chandra in from the sideboard.

Pro tip: Vapors come out when Bit Blast goes in. It’s really embarrassing when one forgets that. Not that I’ve done that or anything.

Versus RDW

+1 Doom Blade
+2 Jund Charm
+4 Bituminous Blast
-4 Goblin Ruinblaster
-2 Consuming Vapors
-1 Liliana Vess

I used to think it was useful to drop creatures to clog the ground in this matchup, but have since been disabused of that notion. Early creatures are largely just handles to hang [card]Searing Blaze[/card] on, and will be overrun by [card]Ball Lightning[/card] and so forth anyway. The current sideboarding options are all about keeping mana up to kill hasty attackers (there’s that haste thing again) before you start dropping life-gaining finishers and going for the throat.

Versus Mythic

+1 Doom Blade
+2 Jund Charm
+1 Liliana Vess
+2 Chandra Nalaar
-4 Vampire Hexmage
-2 Garruk Wildspeaker

Although Mythic decks do run planeswalkers, they don’t run enough to make the Hexmage a worthwhile inclusion over the superior available sideboard options. The whole gist of this matchup is “kill their stuff over and over again,” and the sideboarding strategy entirely supports that notion. The Jund Charms can potentially make your Bloodwitches big enough to win some fights they otherwise might not, but their real point is to kill all those stupid Birds and Hierarchs before someone gets clever and casts Sovereigns of Lost Alara and then kills you with a giant, trampling Bird.

Versus Vengevine Naya

See above. Seriously. The primary different between the Mythic and Naya matchup is that this time around, the Jund Charms are there to clear their graveyard once they develop a backlog of Vengevines who are all ready to wreak vengeance on you. They can also incidentally clear out tiny dudes to let your Consuming Vapors have a field day on their big guys, but keep the Vengevine recursion problem in mind, and hold onto your Jund Charms if you can.

Versus Polymorph

+1 Doom Blade
+2 Jund Charm
+2 Sarkhan Vol
+1 Liliana Vess
-4 Goblin Ruinblaster
-2 Garruk Wildspeaker

You know what’s better than a Threaten that can’t even target Emrakul? Right. A Threaten that can target Emrakul, or that can give your dudes a bonus and haste and ramp into dragons in those games where it comes down to an Awakening Zone-spawned board stall.

I have, indeed, used Sarkhan to steal someone’s Emrakul and hit them with it. It’s a delicious feeling. Note that [card sarkan the mad]crazy Sark[/card] is a fair alternative here, since he can simply convert Emrakul into a much-more-palatable 5/5 dragon. That said, the impact of hitting them with their own Emrakul is usually game-ending, so I’ve been enjoying Vol for now.

The take home – now is a good time for now

My particular and peculiar take on Jund aside, I think the take-home from last week’s Grand Prix is that the current environment strongly, strongly favors loading your deck with cards that have an immediate, this-turn impact on the game. At some point in the future we may return to a Standard metagame where we’re happy making three 1/1 Spirits for three mana, or two 4/4 dragons for six, but at the moment, if you’re putting cards into your deck, they need to pass the test of “is there a better card that could impact the game the turn I cast it?”

Figure4

A hand full of relevant action.

Clearly, many cards make the cut, but if you find yourself falling continuously behind in your matches, it may be time to go back and reevaluate your card choices, asking each card “What can you do for me right now?”

35 thoughts on “In Development – Investing in Right Now”

  1. Here’s an up-to-the-minute deck list update:

    I’ve pretty much come around in the last day or so to the PoV of roughly half the Jund players in the world, and think crazy Sark is the right call for the Jund mirror. I also think my mana base was a touch too cute in trying to avoid Spreading Seas, and actually becomes more vulnerable due to tempo loss as a result (i.e. Wilds + Expanse are too slow). With that in mind, here’s my modestly updated current deck list:

    * 4 Vampire Hexmage
    * 4 Goblin Ruinblaster
    * 2 Borderland Ranger
    * 4 Bloodbraid Elf
    * 3 Malakir Bloodwitch
    * 3 Doom Blade
    * 4 Maelstrom Pulse
    * 4 Blightning
    * 2 Consuming Vapors
    * 2 Garruk Wildspeaker
    * 1 Liliana Vess
    * 1 Chandra Nalaar
    * 4 Verdant Catacombs
    * 4 Savage Lands
    * 4 Raging Ravine
    * 3 Lavaclaw Reaches
    * 4 Swamp
    * 3 Mountain
    * 4 Forest
    * Sideboard
    * 1 Doom Blade
    * 3 Growth Spasm
    * 2 Jund Charm
    * 2 Sarkhan Vol
    * 1 Chandra Nalaar
    * 1 Liliana Vess
    * 2 Sarkhan the Mad
    * 3 Bituminous Blast

    Keep in mind that this list still assumes that you want your game one tweaked to take down U/W and U/W/R lists. If your metagame is all Jund, shuffle the 75 accordingly.

    Metagames are a moving target, as always. 🙂 Even my quirky lists need to adapt.

  2. (…and to be clear, this illustrates the point of this article. Sark the Mad does the right things /right now/ in the Jund mirror, either leveling up your dudes or drawing you in to more high-quality cards to win the attrition war.)

  3. This is hilarious. Do you even play Jund? The sideboarding is just horrid. I’d rather have Bit Blast than any card vs Mythic and Naya. Leaving in Blightning vs the vengevine deck is brilliant too. Taking out all the doomblades and promptly dying to an unanswered baneslayer seems like your cup of tea as well… between firewalker, baneslayer and 100% of planeswalkers, you have 4 pulse and 2 vapors, which oftentimes just hit an Elspeth, Coup token or a wall of omens.

    Also, just out of curiosity, what happens when your opponent plays a Leech or Thrinax?

  4. I really liked the prophetic prism sb tech used at GP Washington to counteract spreading seas

  5. Please explain your use of Doom Blade over Terminate.
    I also have to question your 4-of main deck use of a card that is only good against one (or maybe two) kinds of decks. (Vampire Hexmage). Also, doesn’t it seem foolish to sideboard a card (Sarkhan) that you only want to use against one type of deck that isn’t that big of a presence in the current metagame? Especially when it has such a narrow use in this case.

  6. The honor of best creature ever goes to Dark Confidant?

    uhh…Psychatog?

    Bob is really good though.

  7. Bob is the best creature in Magic, 2nd going to Goyf. It’s pretty close but Bob gets the nod. Psychatog is 3rd cause he hasn’t made as much of an impact on formats overall as the previous two creatures mentioned.

  8. Concerned Citizen

    I really question this deck. Clearly it’s completely theory crafted, and if not you need to find better people to play against. I understand what you’re trying to do, but this deck is just cute and unfocussed.

    Sure,hexmage trades with a planeswalker. So does leech and/or geopede, which by the way still attack for 4-5. First strike does…nothing? This card also costs BB. I can see sooo many situations where this makes your development terrible. I mean I see that you no longer need to cast thrinax, since you cut it, but that’s just plain bad, since that creature is actually good.

    Doomblade is straight up terrible in the maindeck. Also I get that you’re trying to make it easier on the mana, but the trade-off is sooo terrible. Jund might not be the metagame monster it was, but when you’re trading that doomblade for a bloodbraid instead of a leech that’s beating your head in (and that IS going to happen, since the only creature in your deck that trades with leech is bloodwitch) you’re going to feel pretty foolish.

    I can’t begin to imagine how you think Garruk is better than Sarkhan the Mad. That card is straight up ridiculous, why do you think it was in every jund list at the last gp? You want your planeswalkers to provide card advantage and damage? Have you read Sarkhan the Mad? With all these 2/1 and 2/2 dorks in your deck, Sarkhan 2.0 gets even better!

    I think you’re trying to be rock-like with this list, but your card selection is subpar for one thing, and for another you’ve got 4 ruinblaster, which I don’t think I could ever justify unless I was really really aggressive, which your not.

    I appreciate the Sarkhan Vol sideboard thing because it’s funny, but it’s just not worth the slots. If you want to beat Polymorph, play magic, not terrible cards.

    Also, I don’t think that decks ever splashed black JUST so they could play bob. They did for another 2 drop however. Tarmogoyf is heads and shoulders above bob, even if I like that spicy little 2/1 a lot more.

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  10. I like how you people argue about one line of the article that pretty much has nothing to do with the rest of it.

    That being said, the only thing wrong I can see truly wrong with the deck list is the exclusion of Sprouting Thrinax. He may be hard to play through a spreading seas but no more than vampire hexmage. Also, he is great in both aggro and control matchups clogging up the ground and giving wrath protection. He doesn’t have “haste” but he still immediately affects the board.

  11. Bob vs tarmogoyf splashing is not a meaningful comparison. Bob needs to come down t2 to be really excellent, goyf does not.

  12. Thanks for the comments (even, yes, the negative ones!). One of the purposes of the In Development column is to track our collective progress through the game, so I always appreciate the feedback.

    That said, did anyone have any thoughts on the idea behind today’s piece? That is, that modern Standard is more heavily oriented toward “immediate impact” cards than the last few Standard formats?

    I’m going to have to stop including deck lists at this rate. 🙂 They draw too much attention away from the core theme each week.

    Generally, I’m learning that I’m insufficiently experienced with Blightning. I honestly don’t like it, yet I’m playing it because I feel as if I should if I’m attempting to be more aggressive. I may give up on that, however, as I’m pushing myself into misplay territory if I can’t figure it out.

    @Wes – I’ve been asked about this on twitter, too. Although it was kind of an offhand remark, I picked Dark Confidant by dint of its status as a cross-format all-star. It’s not as crushingly good as Psychatog was, but it was an excellent card in Block and Standard, and remains an excellent card in Extended, Legacy, and Vintage. So that makes it a good fit for “best of all time in Magic” for me — it’s a pentathlete.

    @Concerned – I’m starting to get onboard with the cuteness issue. I love my Hexmages for trading with walkers, but they stress the early game mana and are too bad otherwise.

    Gonna have to contest the theory-crafted idea — I’m genuinely playing this! Which is, of course, why I’m tending to agree that it continues to need to shift. My win rate is decent, but needs to be better than “decent” to really be good.

    @Nicolas Bolas – I’ve been nonplussed by Thrinax in a lot of matchups, even though it is an excellent ground clog card. That said, it’s actually easier to cast, on the whole, than my pet Hexmages.

    @CSeraph – I’m going to have to go with Baller. I’ve seen far more games won by Dark Confidant-fueled card draw than by a big, vanilla dude.

  13. Do you tweak any SB plans besides adding Sarkhan the Mad against Jund? Polymorph appears to be a tough matchup. I’ve seen some people swear by Sparkmage against Polymorph.

  14. I suspect the Doom Blade is to counter the presence of Kor Firewalker in every W/x/x deck’s sideboard without having to use 4 slots in your own SB for it.

    Plus its only problem is vs. Jund (and Vampires), and not complete dead vs. Jund either.

  15. dowjonzechemical

    1. Psychatog (a win con in and of himself, and perfect mana and curve for the deck you want him to be in)
    2. Goyf…come on..the opportunity cost and mana efficiency are infinitely better than any other extant creature.
    3. Bob…card advantage engine that one has to throw removal at on site or lose.
    4. Wild Nacatl see “slightly less than Goyf”
    5. Goblin Guide…. see” Slightly less than Nacatl”

    This is my opinion, yet I digress….

    I liked this article. I do agree that Standard is about impact now. The reason that Jund has been so successful for the past year is that is had an efficient way of having a huge impact on your opponents life total before they could find the right yet narrow answer to the cascade onslaught. The decks that were struggling before WWK and ROE now have a way of impacting the board right now to slow the game enough to execute late game trumps against it.

    Funny side note: I love how all the pros articles talk about how much they :heart: Jund now that there is a tier 1 deck with blue. The whining about the “death of blue” has subsided immensely.

    I don’t think you should stop putting decklists in your articles. One thing you will notice as a writer is that people like to split hairs, especially when the subject matter could be considered “technical”. Therein lies a problem in terms of metagame evolution. If you constantly approach MTG like you “know” how to play, you will never reflect on your mistakes, especially if you win. If you instead approach MTG with a working “knowledge” that can be built upon,then you will be more reflective of your games and become a better player. The reason that people whine about decklists is because you are not spoon feeding them what they want to see, so they just focus on that instead of the point of the article…

  16. I liked the article. Good work. Dont listen to all these jund experts 😉 they dont wanna try anything, although prophetic prism over something like growth spasm is probably better, and sideboard switching borderland ranger for growth spasm might be redundant.

  17. I really like the premise of the article, and have a naya list I play from time to time which works on the same principle; every non mana dork is doing something immediately (ruinblaster, kor skyfisher, vengevine, BBE, ranger of eos, wall of omens, baneslayer being the core of the deck) with the exception of baneslayer angel, which merits inclusion because it does actually do something straight away against aggro. I dropped knight of the reliquary and wild nacatl on those grounds.

    I think that’s a good way to think in a format with tons of good spot removal and alot of sorcery speed removal in the control decks.

    My problem with your actual decklist is exactly the same as my problem with my own naya list; its just a bit too cute. Hexmage does something ‘right now’, but thrinax is just too far above it in power level (and let’s be honest, it also does sometihng ‘right now’ most times, like discourage a wrath, or chump 4 attackers). Ruinblasters are awesome in the correct MUs, but I think you could be blown out by a random mono-g or mono-white deck, because there’s alot of ‘dead weight’ against those decks (blasters, hexmage, liliana vess). One of the reasons Jund is so so good is the strength of its top-decks. It consistenly draws awesome cards. Why? Because the whole deck is awesome cards, most of which are good in most situations, and nothing else except land. As you weaken that, you weaken the deck’s ability to attrition well, and ultimately its ability to win games, in my opinion

  18. Wow, the comment discussion here is great.

    I, like you, want hexmage to be a good answer to planeswalkers.

    I chose to run geopede instead, though. This is for several reasons. Geopede can get through wall of omens, then kill a turn 4 planeswalker. It can kill a turn 3 planeswalker (because it doesn’t need to get past wall of omens if they didn’t play one). It can be played on turn 2 around spreading seas.

    This is better than hexmage, since Jund would still have to get around that wall of omens somehow.

    For more aggro matchups (excluding RDW) Geopede swinging for 5 on turn 3 is great. This is a good way to beat polymorph, naya, and mythic. Also, if the first strike sticks it is good against RDW (though the odds of that are pretty low IMO).

  19. PS: To round off my argument, I will say that Hexmage is bad in aggro matchups, since it either dies, chumps poorly, or is completely ignored.

  20. I find it so unfortunate that an otherwise excellent article in terms of theory / deck design that is generally applicable throughout Magic, both now and in the future, is so bogged down by people worrying about whether or not Dark Confidant is the best creature in Magic (which was an unimportant throwaway introductory line) and/or whether or not the proposed Jund list used as an experiment to push this idea to its fullest is actually ideal. Neither of these are really important parts of the article!

    I found this article worth reading for the concept of “Spellhaste”, “Planeswalkerhaste” and, in terms of creatures, Haste vs. “Haste” alone. These may seem obvious or trivial, but it always helps to have them put into words in a concise way with examples. The breakdown of the DC Top 8 helped tremendously as well, I think it rings true to the theory of the article. Even Mythic, the deck with the least Haste (of either variety) of any of the decks is an example in favor of this article’s theory since, as explained, the Conscription version has generally placed better and been more widely adopted than the non-Conscription version (which is decidedly without Haste).

    Something you might want to consider (in a followup, perhaps) is Patrick Chapin’s Next Level Bant deck from DC. If you haven’t seen it, there’s a Deck Tech video in the coverage where Bill Stark interviews Brian Kibler about the deck. Something they specifically talk about is why the deck doesn’t include typical standouts in the color combination such as Baneslayer Angel and/or Knight of the Reliquary. In the 3-drop slot the deck is running SEA GATE ORACLE and yet has 0 Knight of the Reliquary.

    Brian’s answer is two-fold. First, getting Vengevine back is much easier with Cantrip creatures (as they get you more creatures off the cantrip). Second, “Haste” creatures make your opponent’s typical responses much worse. Instead of Day of Judgment clearing your board of all the cards you just spent from your hand, it’s only cleared your board. Your hand is still full of cards, and you can most likely mount an easy comeback, ideally including a Vengevine that will be attacking them despite having just wiped it away with Day of Judgment.

    I can understand what you’re attempting to do with the Jund list, but I too think you’re being a bit too cute, and pushing the “Haste” concept too far. I think you might want to look at this statement from the article:

    “if you're putting cards into your deck, they need to pass the test of ‘is there a better card that could impact the game the turn I cast it?'”

    and take its inverse. Namely: If you’re putting cards into your deck, they need to pass the test of “is there a [much] better card that could impact the game the turn after I cast it?” As an example, I think despite its lack of “Haste,” Putrid Leech does far more for the deck than Vampire Hexmage ever can/will. Also, discounting Sprouting Thrinax in this context is a bit flawed, I think. In numerous matches, Sprouting Thinax has a form of Haste in its own way. For example, against Red you can tapout for a turn 3 Thrinax pretty safely most of the time, since despite some weird shenanigans you will at least get your Saprolings to block for you. The same concept can be applied to decks with sweepers. Later on if I’m expecting a sweeper I won’t necessarily want to run out my Siege-gang or my Bloodbraid Elf (who are super awesome post-sweeper anyway) but I’m fine running out my Thrinax. Even if they sweep, I’ll have my tokens for next turn.

    I’m not really trying to critique the deck here, I’m just using it as an example within the framework of the theories in the article.

  21. I thought this was a good read though I ultimately disagree with some of the ideas in the article. Alex, I think you have correctly identified a trend for decks to include more “immediate impact” cards, but I think that some of your conclusions as to why this is occurring are suspect. I got the impression you feel that because decks are gravitating toward more “haste” cards that the future of Standard is to include even more “haste” cards in your deck. And the Jund list you included is a reflection of that. I think something else is going on though. I don’t think decks are slowly evolving to a point in which they are entirely made up of cards with immediate impact. Instead I believe that through the additions of more powerful options in Rise of the Eldrazi they have evolved to be a balance of the best immediate impact cards and “investment” cards.

    I think having a balance of the two types of cards is preferable because though “haste” cards have a lot of power, the power they possess comes with a trade-off. For one thing many of them are quite narrow. Hexmage is really only having an immediate impact when the opponent has a planeswalker on the board. I mean, in every other situation wouldn’t you just rather invest in a Thrinax? Secondly, I think that “haste” cards give a lot away in the late game in comparison to investment cards. If both you and your opponent are in topdeck mode wouldn’t you much rather peel a Siege Gang Commander or a Broodmate Dragon than almost anything else. Cards like Goblin Ruinblaster and Borderland Ranger aren’t getting you there on turn 12.

  22. This article would be a lot easier to Grok if you just used Value instead of “haste”.

  23. The ideas that you’re providing us with are very valuable, and are reasons to really rethink how we play the game. At one point I remember someone asking me why I was running X card over bituminous blast. As with just about any other question about my card preferences, my answer has become a default “It doesn’t do anything.” Usually I see a look of confusion on the other person’s face, but then I try to explain exactly what your article is about. The spell I chose over the card I’m being asked about affects the board position I have, as well as casting a free guy, or killing another of your guys, leaving you with an empty hand, and me with at least two or three cards. Cascade is a mechanic that has exactly that effect on the game, and by virtue of that, should probably be part of every deck with that sort of purpose in mind. Do something and get incremental advantage by structuring your deck in such a way as to accentuate the value gained from such a spell.

  24. Tarmogoyf is much, much, much more powerful than Dark Confidant. Dark Confidant is a great card, but it dies to basically every burn spell ever printed and is only a decent topdeck late in the game. Tarmogoyf also can go into pretty much any non combo deck, while Dark Confidant is more limited.

  25. Wow, so many TOP PLAYERS who want Alexs job, im sure you could do SOOO much better, if you can, then go be a pro. This guy is an innovator….get real people, ungrateful little cheeseheads! ( no offense to GB fans, of course) Smac

  26. Of all the little dudes who do things ‘right now’, I’d say my favorites at the moment are Gatekeeper of Malakir and Thought Gorger. Goblin Ruinblaster is still pretty sick, but only at his sickest if you’re running JTMS (to ‘soft-lock’ someone if they don’t have follow-up lands and stall on 3 after you Ruinblast them), other land destruction effects (for linearity), or are the beatdown. If you’re not the beatdown, Ruinblasting is about as good as Blightninging: sure, you get card advantage at some point in the future, but it’s often not a relevant ‘hasty’ play, in the sense that removing one land is often not a meaningful change to the board state. Not if you’re on defense, anyway.

    I think that because your current Jund list is relatively mid-range you should find a different 3-mana Cascade target other than Ruinblaster, Alex. Leave the ‘Blasters in the board, and bring them in against any deck which is slower than you. You definitely don’t want Ruinblasters mainboard against RDW, Mythic, UWR Control on the draw (Ajani V’s too fast for you), or faster (Geopedey) Jund builds, but you want to be able to pull them in versus UW and slower Junds. If you want a comparably anti-control target for Cascade, Anathamancer fits the bill nicely. Gatekeeper is also nice, if you can float the B instead of R to kick it.

  27. You’re all wrong. The best creature in Magic is clearly Squire. It’s base stats are comparable to Dark Confidant (but Squire never randomly kills you), the same as Psychotog (but Squire’s one mana cheaper), and much superior to Tarmogoyf. I don’t know why we’re even having this discussion.

  28. You’re wrong too GRF. A creature’s value is approximately equal to value/mana cost. Therefore the obvious winner is ornithopter. Though it’s value is trivial with a mana cost of zero it’s efficiency is infinite. It could be argued that kobolds of kher keep has the same efficiency, but obviously as both approach the limit, an 0/2 flyer has more efficiency than an 0/1 creature, although the red is an obvious bonus. Perhaps Shield Sphere is a close 2nd.

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