Breaking Through – Just Some Junk

Unfortunately, Grand Prix Louisville was not to be for me. Instead, I spent that weekend dealing with some health issues, which is significantly less fun than slinging spells. As a result, I never got to play a deck in the post-Pro Tour Theros world outside of Magic Online, which has a mind of its own when new sets come out, due to the cost of some of the chase cards. Still, even with only a limited number of games under my belt, I still was able to determine that the green/black deck I wanted to play in Louisville was obsolete a mere few days afterward.

I posted a slightly different list in an article, but this was the list I was on as of a few weeks ago. I specifically wanted to work some more anti-wrath effects into the main deck (hence the [card]Thoughtseize[/card]s), and my sideboard changed a decent amount as well:

[deck]Main Deck
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Voyaging Satyr
4 Sylvan Caryatid
3 Varolz, the Scar-Striped
3 Polukranos, World Eater
2 Nylea, God of the Hunt
3 Arbor Colossus
4 Mistcutter Hydra
2 Thoughtseize
4 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Golgari Guildgate
2 Blood Crypt
9 Forest
2 Thoughtseize
3 Golgari Charm
3 Nylea’s Disciple
1 Nylea, God of the Hunt
1 Bow of Nylea
2 Vraska, the Unseen
1 Polukranos, World Eater
2 Doom Blade[/deck]

Blue devotion was on the decline and control decks seem to be taking their spot at the top of the food chain. Once the metagame is established enough, control gets a chance to shine because it knows what it needs to prepare for. Esper and mono-black had a good showing at Louisville, and that mostly lasted the week after for all of the independent tournaments.

I liked some of the tools green/black afforded me, but the strategy as a whole seemed fragile. Without a [card garruk, caller of beasts]Garruk[/card] in play, you had no source of card advantage, making your opening hands crucial to the success of the deck. I wanted to increase the overall power of the deck to help with this. Despite being only two colors, the deck was not actually consistent. It often fell into the same trap that ramp decks do with drawing too many accelerators and not enough gas, or too much gas and no way to cast it.

If the deck was going to be inconsistent at mostly one color with a splash, perhaps going up in colors would not hurt consistency that much but would improve the overall power level and versatility. I had already experimented with BUG decks quite a bit and was not having the best of success with them, so I wanted to try moving in a different direction.

Theoretically, outside of a dedicated card advantage engine, Junk had all of the cards that were strong in the format right now. [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and [card]Sin Collector[/card] could give you a ton of game against control, while cards like [card polukranos, world eater]Polukranos[/card] and [card blood baron of vizkopa]Blood Baron[/card] could keep you alive against aggro. As is always the case, a midrange deck would need to draw the right cards against the right decks, but in the modern world, those cards that are “bad” against a subset of decks are not actually that bad.

How bad is [card]Thoughtseize[/card] against an aggro deck relying on a few specific cards to push it over the top?

How bad is [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] against control when they all seem to be running [card]Detention Sphere[/card]s and [card]Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver[/card]?

How bad is [card polukranos, world eater]Polukranos[/card] in a matchup that isn’t creature-based?

While the cards hardly shine where they are supposedly weak, they are also not blanks the way that [card]Duress[/card] might have been against [card]Onslaught Goblins[/card] or [card]Flametongue Kavu[/card] was against a creatureless control deck. Our cards always do things. Which lead me to this list:

[deck]Main Deck
4 Voice of Resurgence
3 Fleecemane Lion
4 Loxodon Smiter
2 Sin Collector
2 Polukranos, World Eater
2 Reaper of the Wilds
2 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
2 Obzedat, Ghost Council
3 Thoughtseize
3 Abrupt Decay
2 Doom Blade
2 Hero’s Downfall
2 Whip of Erebos
2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
3 Forest
3 Swamp
3 Plains
4 Godless Shrine
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Temple Garden
4 Temple of Silence
1 Doom Blade
2 Glare of Heresy
2 Golgari Charm
1 Hero’s Downfall
1 Sin Collector
1 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
2 Underworld Connections
3 Unflinching Courage
2 Lifebane Zombie[/deck]

If you have seen a Junk list online in the past few days or weeks, there is a chance that it looks pretty similar to this. In general, the strong cards in that triad of colors are universally strong as I mentioned before, leading to less variance in the archetype. That said, some of the decisions I made are unconventional.

[card]Fleecemane Lion[/card] is one such card, and is also one of the most common candidates to be cut from the deck as a result. The Lion provides this deck with a much more aggressive draw than most midrange decks. If you open on a [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and curve that into Lion followed by a [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card] followed by basically anything, you are putting on the pressure of an aggro deck, with protection. This puts opposing decks in an awkward spot to both have to defend your early aggression and still have answers for your big threats later in the game. If an opponent spent their [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] on [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card] so that they don’t die, how are they going to handle an [card obzedat, ghost council]Obzedat[/card] or [card elspeth, sun’s champion]Elspeth[/card] just a few turns down the road?

Of course, that implies that you had such a start, which is far from inevitable. Your shaky mana base coupled with a wide range of mana costs means that opening hands are still very important. I think the green/black deck had a harder time recovering from a bad opener, but both decks really need to curve out for maximum effect. More cards individually hold their own weight in Junk, which does make for better top deck recovery.

[card]Whip of Erebos[/card] and [card elspeth, sun’s champion]Elspeth[/card] make for some powerful late game options though, which is really nice. Whip in particular is strange in that it will generally either do very little, or overperform. Obviously, I’d prefer it only do the latter, but I still think it has pulled its weight for the most part. Lifelink against aggressive decks has been particularly strong, as most of the creatures in here are fairly large.

There are some cards that still need to prove themselves, but I think they have been at least reasonable thus far with a few highlight moments to keep them in. [card]Reaper of the Wilds[/card] is one of these cards. Some amount of the time she is just a vanilla 4/5, but occasionally she just wins you a game. Whether it is something as simple scrying after a wrath to make sure you topdeck something valuable or the hexproof singlehandedly beating mono-black control, she has some “WOW” moments.

While I have been pretty happy with the list thus far, there are a few cards that I keep trying out from time to time and they seem like they could become mainstays. While these cards have been good, I am not sure they are better than the cards already in the deck:

[draft]Scavenging Ooze[/draft]

[card]Scavenging Ooze[/card]: This mostly competes with Lion for deck space and I don’t think I would end up running more than 2 of this card. However, there are some selling points—being easier to cast than Lion is already a big plus. In addition, another source of life gain to stave off pain from shocklands and [card]Thoughtseize[/card]s is appreciated. Lion comes down bigger and can fight through [card]Supreme Verdict[/card], but Ooze is almost certainly better in creature mirrors. The negative interaction with [card]Whip of Erebos[/card] is ultimately what keeps this guy out of the deck for now, though.

[draft]Read the Bones[/draft]

[card]Read the Bones[/card]: This is a card I tried out a few times because I hate the idea of not having a way to recoup cards in these midrange or control decks. Because this deck can have a bit of a more aggressive draw though and because it has some card advantage elsewhere, I have never found the room to keep this around. Cards like [card elspeth, sun’s champion]Elspeth[/card], [card]Sin Collector[/card], and [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card] are able to give you a little more value than just a 1-for-1, so I have found myself relying on that. This does mean that your late game is significantly more topdeck dependent though. I would be interested in finding a way to fit in a draw engine, assuming it fits the confines of the deck.

[draft]Blood Scrivener[/draft]

[card]Blood Scrivener[/card]: This shares a similar rationale as [card]Read the Bones[/card] does, but it comes at it from a different angle. This would occupy one of the 2-drop slots (likely Lion) and would be there to smooth out the worst-case scenario. Theoretically, if you are not flooded, the spells you are casting are relatively high impact. None of the cards in this deck are actively bad late the way that [card]Rampant Growth[/card], [card]Llanowar Elves[/card], or [card]Jackal Pup[/card] might be. [card]Blood Scrivener[/card] would allow you to play out cheap hands and have a better shot at topdecking relevant spells late. Getting it to live is potentially a struggle though, and the vanilla nature of the card in non-worst-case-scenarios is suspect at best.

Wrap Up

If I were playing in an event this weekend, black, white, and green would almost certainly be the colors of my deck and if I veered off that course, it would only be to pick up blue instead of green for card advantage. I think the format has a lot of room for innovation once things settle down a bit, but right now, things are shifting fast and hard so it is difficult to stay on top of the metagame perfectly. Instead, you know archetypes, but not hard lists to really expect on a week to week basis. I expect that to fade a bit soon though, where the oddball stuff can find its niche in the metagame.

As for now, I think sticking to safe, powerful cards in slightly innovative configurations is the best kind of brewing to be involved with. There are so many known powerful cards in the format that have not found the right home yet that I think focusing your attention on playing the game of Tetris that early Standard formats can be is probably best. Regardless of what you end of choosing, this weekend will probably be as diverse as last in all new ways, so expect to see something new perform well. Good luck and thanks for reading!

Conley Woods

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