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Silvestri Says – Anatomy of the Santa Clara PTQ + Bonus Winner’s Report!

 

This past weekend was the first of Northern California’s PT Amsterdam qualifiers. We had about 150 people show up for the prized slot and John Q. Pham took it down with a new version of Jund developed by fellow writer Josh Utter-Leyton. What this PTQ showed was also the interesting diversity the format has to it with Rise’s release and subsequently decks either coming back from the dead (Vampires) or evolving (Jund, RDW and Mythic) to deal with the influx of Control deck. Today I want to look at the top eight from the PTQ and what this could signify for future PTQ’s and GP: DC in a few weeks.

Keep on Junding

You can find all the decks here.

1st: John Pham – Geo Jund (note that Wrapter came in 5th with the same maindeck)

There’s a lot to talk about with this build and I think it shows a great deal about how Jund is evolving. Let’s start with the most obvious tweak though: the full set of Plated Geopede as Putrid Leech 5-8. This inclusion is actually amazing when you think about the main problems with 2-drops at the moment and what control is doing to deal with early creature rushes. Plated Geopede brings yet another creature that can battle past Wall of Omens early and is a lot more impressive in a creature fight then almost any other Jund creature. When you look at Jund vs. other creature decks, you’ll almost always find the Jund player winning via attrition war or off the huge drops. Leech and Geopede combined instead can give a couple of early plays where the opponent is in deep trouble if he doesn’t have defenses that can stop 4/4’s or 3-5 power creatures with first strike.

This change also means that the curve of the Jund deck gets lowered, since instead of drops like Garruk Wildspeaker or Broodmate Dragon you have some sweet two-drops. Geopede also is far easier to cast if the first land you play is hit by Spreading Seas, though the impact of that card has been dropped drastically by this build. More on that later. What Geopede increasing the offense does is also get rid of a heavy need for early removal like Lightning Bolt or Terminate. Terminate has been jettisoned entirely and Lightning Bolt has dropped to a measly two in the maindeck, while a card like Bituminous Blast comes back into favor. Since your early creatures can now battle by Wall of Omens, Rhox War Monk or Knight of the Reliquary early removal is less useful and Lightning Bolt’s late-game value has only dropped over the past couple of months. Sure, sometimes you can snag a Jace, the Mind Sculptor or another Planeswalker after the opponent already got some value from it, but that was hardly impressive. The 4th Maelstrom Pulse was a much better answer to threats the Control decks had and does a lot more to Wall of Omens than Lightning Bolt.

Possibly the most critical change though was to the mana base, where substantial effort has been made into shutting down Spreading Seas, Tectonic Edge and Goblin Ruinblaster as disruption cards. With nine basics and nine fetches, four of which fetch any color, seeing these cards early is more of a hindrance than the Time Walk or color screw they once resembled. If a deck with Spreading Seas is on the play and the opponent starts with a first turn Verdant Catacombs, that is usually awkward unless it also has a Wall of Omens. If you can’t Spreading Seas on your second turn with one in hand, then what exactly is the plan for that card? Your curve gets screwed up and it’s probably just going to sit on Manland duty unless the Jund opponent has a really weird set of land drops. With nine fetches this is going to happen a good chunk of the time and increases the chances of non-basic hate being completely dead until the late-game. Another fetchland might not even be out of line to help out Geopede even more.

By altering the mana base to lessen the impact of mana disruption and hands where you need to draw the 3rd color of mana, it allows for more liberties to be taken with the sideboard. A good example of this is Sedraxis Specter in the sideboard which previously wouldn’t have been considered without cards like Trace of Abundance or Rampant Growth with a more stained mana base. Instead there are six Blue sources post-board, and in the majority of matches where Specter comes in, the opponent can help out by providing a Blue source with Spreading Seas. The Specter itself shouldn’t be underestimated, as it’s a very good card that was without a real home until Grixis popped back up. An evasive three-drop that does solid damage whenever it connects and still has value if destroyed by Day of Judgment or Lightning Bolt is a great card, and often just better than Sprouting Thrinax.

One change that has already caught on with the bulk of builds I’ve seen is the reintroduction of Bituminous Blast to Jund decks and the addition of Consuming Vapors to the sideboard of nearly every Jund deck. Between quad Maelstrom Pulse, Lightning Bolt, 2-3 Bit. Blast, Consuming Vapors and either Terminate or Doom Blade, that’s a hefty removal package against any other creature deck in the format. Even traditional methods of fighting Jund utilizing creatures including going bigger, Shroud and recursive elements are found lacking against such a wide array of removal options.

Still this isn’t to say this is the ultimate Jund build, although it may feel like I’ve written a love letter to the deck. It just does so much right it becomes difficult to see what else could be tried out or changed. While this deck does very well by revamping older elements in the deck with stuff we’ve had around for a while now, the Japanese swear by Sarkhan the Mad for the Jund mirror and against Control, and Vengevine still has yet to find a suitable impact deck. If one was going to use a template for a Vengevine build though, this seems like an excellent jumping off point. With a few simple swaps of Borderland Ranger and Lightning Bolt you could instantly fit in a set of Vengevine without losing too many creatures or impact spells.

Tap Out Control

While this list may not be as fresh or exciting as the first one, the numbers in this list are very interesting. It’s as if the pilot was allergic to having 4-ofs in his deck and wanted the maximum number of potential answers. While I like this approach in terms of countermagic, removal and kill options it just seems odd to see only three Wall of Omens or three Mind Spring. Wall of Omens is pretty much the only reason this deck holds up so well against non-Mythic aggressive decks without running oodles of spot removal. Mind Spring is also another odd three to see if only because with Martial Coup practically being dropped from the deck, the Everflowing Chalices have even less to ramp into or a really good draw mechanism over the URW Planeswalker deck.

Of course I like the use of maindeck countermagic in a format where games tend to be really close until one guy drops a game-breaker and gets miles ahead of the opponent. Speaking of those, Sphinx of Jwar Isle has some incredible value right now with the decline in Day of Judgment, counters that actually counter creatures, and the increase in spot-removal / Planeswalkers that can’t actually stop Sphinx. Dropping one and just asking the opponent to deal with it while either holding countermagic or throwing down a Mind Spring for your hand the next turn is a nice simple way to win Control mirrors.

What I also like comes from the sideboard; there’s no plan that takes up a ton of space just to prove ineffective against prepared opponents. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, there’s this erroneous assumption that Luminarch Ascension is some great answer to the Control mirror. Here’s the problem: since Planeswalkers are now officially a big deal and a significant strategy people in large part have moved to running 3-4 Oblivion Ring between the maindeck and sideboards of UW or UWR. This by itself wouldn’t be a problem, but in addition to these many people run 2-3 Kor Sanctifiers in turn to deal with the Oblivion Rings the opponent has, which is also splash damage against Ascension. In the average UW or UWR match you have six to eight cards worth of splash damage that stop your scheme, not counting countermagic or more outlier cards like Pithing Needle that are picking up steam.

Brett’s board on the other hand contains a variety of answers and additional copies of his maindeck cards sitting in the board to skew particular matches in his favor instead of remaking how his deck plays out. Really the only cards I don’t like in his sideboard are the two Kor Firewalker which I feel could be better suited as either additional Purges or Wall of Denial, both of which I’ve found to be stronger cards against Red post-board. If I was just going for a general field, then a 2nd Gideon / Jace Beleren and a 3rd Purge / Flashfreeze would be effective.

Bite in the Night

Here’s a deck we haven’t seen in a while: traditional Vampires making an impact again. There’s not a lot to say about this deck that hasn’t been said before; it demolishes Control decks and post-board can make Green decks suffer with a huge amount of removal. Many Control decks are just cold to a resolved Malakir Bloodwitch and Vampire Nocturnus has gained a boost by Control decks dropping down on the numbers of Path to Exile and Celestial Purge they used to have between main and sideboard. Still, depending on how much Jund and Mythic come back into prominence I can’t say this will be a good metagame choice for many. If you suspect a heavy Control slant, especially among the better players in your area, this is an excellent way to make up any edge you might be giving up.

Since we’re talking about Vamps though, let’s skip ahead a bit to the 8th place decklist.

Please stop complaining that B/R Vampires doesn’t fit as a deckname. When every core creature in the deck is a Vampire and many of the same cards or proxies are used in the strategy people are going to call it that. B/R Aggro can mean a host of things and Vampires gives people the information that it’s the version running a certain creature set. With that little tangent out of the way, let’s look at the deck that runs zero cards from Rise of the Eldrazi. This version is all about ‘improving’ the non-Vampire cards, like Terminate over Doom Blade or similar removal, Blightning over Mind Sludge and Lightning Bolt over Urge to Feed or Disfigure.

Again, this is another deck that hasn’t changed a heck of a lot, but for this deck I could see actually making some alterations. Sarkhan the Mad seems tailor-made for a midrange deck with this low of a curve and Bloodghast of all things. Malakir Bloodwitch is a great five-drop right now, I’m glad everyone agrees, but having one other late-game option that can push you over the top could definitely be valuable here. I already wrote about Lightning Bolt’s diminished utility in the Jund portion of the article, but especially here where you could be running Earthquake, Bituminous Blast or a host of other removal options over it that actually kill relevant cards. Bloodghast sure isn’t battling past Wall of Omens without help and while Black Knight does good work of giving the deck a turn two beater it really needs more ways to deal damage early without getting dragged down.

This deck is really all-in on it’s anti-control aspects with a sideboard dedicated to inflicting more pain on UW and UWR opponents. Doom Blade is cute, but really just replacing Lightning Bolt in games 2 & 3 against real creature decks and Slave of Bolas is far too slow to have a real impact. Heck, if any deck was going to run Flame Slash in the current format, this deck seems perfect for it since it can clear the way for it’s smaller dorks and has a ton of two-drops to avoid missing a creature on turn three.

American Control

4th: Jimmy dela Cruz – URW Planeswalkers

 

If you want to know more about the URW Planeswalker deck read Ben Stark’s article here.

This build is nearly the same as the one Ben Stark played, with the big difference being the Cancels in the maindeck. Personally I really like them as they give the deck some stack interaction which is a big deal now that the deck is a known quantity. It becomes much more difficult to win against decks throwing down giant spells when they can actually draw answers to Planeswalkers like Oblivion Ring, Pithing Needle or mirror copies. It also helps negate the massive mana disparity that can happen in matches between UW and UWR by countering large Everflowing Chalices or stopping the first giant Coup or Mind Spring.

The one thing in Jimmy’s version that really sticks out to me is the lack of any real card drawing outside of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Wall of Omens and Spreading Seas allow you to burn through the deck without a ton of trouble, but without [card]Divination[/card] or [card]Mind Spring[/card] it’s hard to get far ahead in the game and just bury the opponent. This is going to be a larger concern as people design decks with the heavy Planeswalker strategy in mind and forces the UWR player to resolve and protect multiple ‘Walkers at once or have an alternate strategy so they can grind the opponent out of the game. Regardless the deck is very strong and one of the top choices for many players; it’ll be a race to figure out which is the optimal version to battle Control mirrors while keeping a decent Jund match against the newer versions and somehow not losing to Mythic’s explosive starts.

As for the Mythic deck that made top eight, I haven’t tested enough with it to make any serious statements about it one way or the other! Sorry gang, my main experiences against it was crushing inexperienced pilots with UWR and UW decks. That and watching Raney and Pham mulligan to five and slap fight it out in the quarterfinals of the PTQ.

As a bonus though, I do have John Pham’s PTQ report! Enjoy.

Josh Silvestri
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom

P.S. If you have any tournament reports you’d like to put up somewhere: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=171074764728

And a link for a reader: http://twilightgaming.org/index/

Here’s John Pham’s report!

Hello, my name is John Pham. I’m what you would call horrible at Magic. I see opportunities to make horrible misplays and poor mulligan decisions and jump directly into them. Fortunately, Wrapter (Josh Utter-Leyton) brewed a Jund list that’s powerful enough even for someone like me to succeed. I got first place at the May 8th PTQ for Amsterdam in Santa Clara, CA.

Wrapter’s design is very elegant. Plated Geopede solves Wall of Omens, Evolving Wilds solves Spreading Seas, and they both work well together. The additional basics help you curve out faster, while Wilds still fix your mana. Plated Geopede is also a damage dealing machine which allowed me to race other creature decks in situations where Putrid Leech would cost me 6-8 life. I didn’t really notice how efficient it really was against control until the mid-to-late game. The opponent would be at 10-11 life instead of 14-15. I don’t remember attacking into a Planeswalker more than 3-4 times all day. It mostly wasn’t worth it when the other choice puts the opponent into Bolt range. Finally, by adding a two drop creature over Broodmate Dragon, and Terramorphics over a 2/2 split in M10 duals, I found that many additional hands were keepable than previous iterations of the deck had allowed.

Wrapter Jund

Round 1 Rory – Jund

Game 1
Rory is a new player who also happens to be piloting Jund. I win the die roll and we both lay a turn 2 Putrid Leech. I attack in for 4 with no other turn 3 play. He attacks back, and follows with Blightning. I cascade into Maelstrom Pulse and auto-target his Leech, and forget that it also kills mine. From there we trade various 3 power creatures until I drop a Siege-Gang Commander.

After thinking about it a day later, it was definitely better to trade Leeches via Maelstrom Pulse rather than go to 4 life on his next attack before he even has to spend mana. With 2 fewer cards in hand, I was behind in the attrition war, but I would be way behind in the damage race.

Game 2
Rory has no turn 3 play so I drop Sprouting Thrinax over Borderland Ranger. Rory kicks Goblin Ruinblaster, and I never draw another green source.

Game 3
If I remember correctly, Rory starts this game off with a mulligan. I lead off with turn 3 Sprouting Thrinax again. He Blightnings me and I discard 2 Seige-Gangs, keeping land, and 2 Blightning. I draw Sedraxis Specter, play the land, attack and Blightning back. Rory Blightnings me again, to zero cards. I draw Putrid Leech, unearth and attack. He Terminates my Specter rather than discard it, and I get to play the Leech safe from removal. From there we trade Leeches, Thrinaxes, Saprolings and Raging Ravines, until again I drop a Siege-Gang Commander.

1-0

Round 2 David – Mythic Conscription

Game 1
David wins the die roll and leads off with Noble Hierarch into Lotus Cobra + Birds of Paradise. On my turn 2 I Bolt the Cobra. David plays turn 3 Baneslayer and I Pulse her. Noble Hierarch hits me, while my Blightning hits 2 Eldrazi Conscription. Knight of the Reliquary doesn’t get to untap, and then Siege Gang gets there yet again. I end the game at 15 life from the early hierarch beats and some fetches.

Game 2
David mulligans and drops a turn 2 Hierarch using Stirring Wildwood. I end step bolt his turn 3 Lotus Cobra, then Blightning him. His Hierarch and turn 4 Birds die to Consuming Vapors. His Colonnade gets Bituminous Blasted (giving me a Borderland Ranger and land). He plays a Rhox War Monk, which I can only meet with a thrinax. I draw another Bituminous Blast for the War Monk, and win off my card advantage machine.

2-0

Round 3 Lin Le – Planeswalkers/Tapout

Game 1
I lead off with turn 2 Putrid Leech to his turn 2 Spreading Seas. Lin goes to 8 life from Leech before Ajani taps it down and Gideon assassinates it. In the meantime I control 4 Islands, a Forest and a Mountain. Bloodbraid Elf gets Helixed, and we are on to game 2 several turns later.

Game 2
I lead off with a turn 2 Plated Geopede, and land drops. I end the game with 12 lands in play and 8 spells in my graveyard/exile zone.

2-1

Round 4 Nate – Bant (Mythic? Conscription?)

Game 1
I win the die roll and have the option to play turn 2 Putrid Leech with a turn 3 tapland. Nate plays a turn 1 Hierarch, so I decide to play the tapland turn 2. Nate rewards me with a Knight of the Reliquary, who meets the Maelstrom Pulse. Nate follows with Rhox War Monk. Here I have the option of Pulsing War Monk, or the 2 Nobles. I Pulse the Nobles to cut off Baneslayer, Sphinx or Sovereigns, leaving Nate with only 2 Forests and a Misty for mana. Hopefully I draw another removal spell, but at least I can interact with War Monk in combat. I get Siege-Gang turn 5 and Bituminous Blast turn 6. By the time Nate can cast another threat, it’s over.

Game 2
Nate leads off with a mulligan into turn 2 Lotus Cobra. I Bolt it. I Doom Blade his Kor Firewalker. I Pulse his two Noble Hierarchs. I Bolt his Knight. I Bituminous Blast his War Monk, then again next turn. Lotus Cobra doesn’t do much on turn 8, but Siege-Gang Commander does.

3-1

Round 5 (GP Champion) Matt Nass – UWr Planewalkers

This story begins on Thursday and is mostly paraphrased:

Matt: What deck are you playing?
Me: I don’t know, either UWr Planeswalkers or Jund.
Matt: Can I borrow whichever deck you’re not playing?
Me: Okay.

Friday afternoon:
Matt: Have you decided yet?
Me: Not really.
Matt: well you should play Jund and let me play UW
Me: Okay.

Friday night:
Matt: Oh my god, Wrapter’s Jund is so sick. You should play UW and let me borrow Jund.
Me: No.

Game 1
Matt wins the die roll and but I lead off with turn 2 Putrid Leech off a fetch and Terramorphic, which eats a Path. Then I play Sprouting Thrinax. Matt has Wall of Omens protecting Jace so he Brainstorms for value against Maelstrom Pulse (and because he has another in hand). I don’t have the Maelstrom Pulse, only the Blightning. Matt plays his second Jace, and scrys away whatever he set up with his Brainstorm. I Bloodbraid into Blightning, discarding his last two cards: Day of Judgement and something. I kill Jace in the attack. If I had hit anything other than Blightning off Bloodbraid, the Day of Judgment with active Jace would have given Matt the game. I don’t win for several turns but I’m in control of the game.

Game 2
Matt gets turn 2 Spreading Seas, turn 3 Wall of Denial. I have to settle for turn 3 Borderland Ranger, and a Bloodbraid Elf who whiffs. I play a few more creatures and desperately attack his life total, but another Wall of Denial and Wall of Omens stall the board. I manage to Consuming Vapors two Walls, but a well-protected Elspeth, then Ajani put the game firmly in Matt’s control.

Game 3
I start on the play with turn 2 and turn 3 Geopedes, while Matt plays turn 2 and 3 Wall of Omens. Matt’s life total drops to 17, then to 7. Matt plays an Elspeth, but her first soldier breathes some Consuming Vapors, which force the walls to chump block. Jace bounces Geopede, but Raging Ravine and Blightning provide some hasty damage instead.

4-1

Round 6 Jordan – Planeswalkers

Game 1
I win the die roll, and Jordan starts out with a mulligan to 6. I start with turn 3 and turn 4 Sprouting Thrinax. Jordan plays turn 3 Spreading Seas off of two ETB-tapped lands, then casts Oblivion Ring on my second Thrinax. I Maelstrom Pulse the O-Ring since it wasn’t safe for him to play out Planeswalkers with no defenders, and I didn’t want to commit my Siege-Gangs which were my only other creatures. Jordan paths both Thrinaxes, and I play my first Goblin. He casts Day and I play the second Goblin. Jordan’s Wall of Omens blocks the 2/2, but my tokens attack his life. A few turns later, Jordan plays an Elspeth, and my Bloodbraid Elf into Maelstrom Pulse dispatches it. Ajani Helixed my Bloodbraid, but by then it was too late.

Game 2
I don’t remember much of this game beyond the first few turns. Jordan decides to play first, then mulligans to 5. Jordan leads with turn 2 Wall of Omens, turn 3 Divination. I play turn 2 Putrid Leech and kill his Wall in the attack before playing turn 3 Sprouting Thrinax. Jordan paths my Leech on the next attack, but my hand is all gas and I continue to play threats. Jordan deals with my threats one by one using 2 Wall of Denials, Planeswalkers, tokens and Oblivion rings, but I always have one more attacker than he has blockers, and deal 2-3 steady damage each turn.

This is also the only game besides round 1 where I drew the sideboard Sedraxis Specter. I had him from my opening hand, and never cast him. In the early game I wanted a hasty beater to attack his life, and in the late game Jordan had walls to block it. It was probably correct to play it in the early-midgame, but it never felt that much better than any of my other creatures. I am fairly certain that I overvalue the damage from Geopede and Siege-Gang, and undervalue the amazing disruption that comes from a Specter.

5-1

Round 7 Kyle – Bant Planeswalkers

Game 1
I win the die roll and play turn 2 Plated Geopede. Kyle plays a turn 2 Noble Hierarch off a Forest, after a turn 1 Stirring Wildwood. I attack Kyle to 17 then play another Geopede, storing the Terramorphic trigger. Kyle plays turn 3 Dauntless Escort. I play another fetchland so Kyle decides to chump block with the noble and goes to 14 instead of 3. I play a Putrid Leech and continue to leave two fetches up. Kyle plays a chump blocker, dropping to 7. I miss my fifth land drop and have to crack the Terramorphic to pump. On his turn 5, Elspeth gives Kyle a token, and he plays another chump blocker. On my attack, he goes to 4 as I crack the other fetch to pump Geopede. Kyle’s turn 6 has Gideon killing Putrid Leech. On my turn 7, I draw Bituminous Blast, but I decide to wait until his turn to avoid Dauntless Escort shenanigans. This is a play mistake since blasting a token instead of escort clears a blocker so I can deal more damage this turn. This ends up being irrelevant since it’s impossible for Bituminous Blast to whiff – burn, removal or a creature all mean he’s dead next turn.

This game is another example of me overvaluing Plated Geopede. I would have gotten about the same amount of damage through by cracking the fetches earlier, but would have also built a stronger board presence instead of being limited by mana. There was also a Path to Exile somewhere in turn 5 of this game, but I don’t remember what creature I played who got exiled. I know I didn’t reach Bituminous Blast mana by myself.

Game 2
Kyle starts out with a turn 2 Bird, but I decide to save the Burst Lightning for a possible Lotus Cobra. This ends up being a costly mistake because his turn 3 Kor Firewalker stalls the game for four long turns. My turn 4 Borderland Ranger (off Bloodbraid) is my only damage source. Kyle plays out two Baneslayer Angels, and I have to spend my Doom Blades on them instead of the Kor. However, when Kyle plays a second Kor Firewalker, I lucksack and draw the Maelstrom Pulse. Kyle tries to activate Celestial Colonnade as a blocker, but Bituminous Blast seals the deal.

6-1

Round 8 Tom Raney – Mythic Conscription

ID

6-1-1

TOP 8

Quarterfinals Tom Raney – Mythic Conscription

Game 1
I am 1-3 against Tom in sanctioned matches, since Tom is a much better player than I am. I’d have to get very lucky to beat Tom. I win the die roll. I play turn 2, turn 3 Plated Geopede, while Tom plays turn 1 Noble, turn 2 Birds + Noble, turn 3 Knight of the Reliquary. I Lightning Bolt his Knight, and Tom draws all blanks after that.

Game 2
This was not a game of real Magic, not the game we know and love. We both mulligan to five cards and we both keep awful hands. Tom keeps five lands and I keep a one land hand. There was no real strategy to this game, only top decking. I miss multiple land drops, but somehow draw out of it, while Tom just floods and swings with his Stirring Wildwood. I Doom Blade his Sovereigns of Lost Alara, his first creature of the game. I untap, Ranger into a fourth land, then Consuming Vapors his second Sovereigns next turn. I add a Sprouting Thrinax to my board, while Tom continues to draw blanks. By the time he draws more threats, I have a grip full of Pulses.

I don’t remember the opening seven cards in any of my other games except this one. My first seven had two Pulses, some Green and Black mana, and two Red cards. I will generally mulligan hands with only two colors, even though this hand wasn’t particularly weak. I’m fine with having to draw a third land (24/53 cards), but dislike having to draw a third color (15/53 cards). I finally decided to ship because the hand could not deal with a turn 2 Knight of the Reliquary on the draw. Tom’s mulligan made the decision easier. My six had Forest, Catacombs, all Red spells and no removal. My five had only the Catacombs, Borderland Ranger, Doom Blade and two Red spells.

Semifinals Jeff Harms – Mono Black Vampires

Jeff is another friend I get paired against often. Jeff assumes that Jund will crush Vampires, like it’s been doing for centuries. However I know something he doesn’t – I don’t have any Terminates main or after sideboarding. I only have 4 Maelstrom Pulse main to deal with his 4 Vampire Nocturnus and 4 Malakir Bloodwitch. Bituminous Blast is conditional, and Siege Gang Commander is pretty slow against those two fliers. With this build I might actually have to race the bloodsuckers, but don’t even have Great Sable Stag to do it.

Game 1
Jeff wins the die roll and starts with turn 2 Bloodghast, turn 3 Sign in Blood. I attempt to go aggro with turn 2 and turn 3 Putrid Leech, but he Gatekeepers one away. I Bloodbraid into a Borderland Ranger, but Jeff has another Gatekeeper for that too. I manage to knock Jeff’s life total to 2, but his turn 6 and 7 Bloodwitches gain him out of burn range and swing for the win.

Game 2
I side out the creatures that can’t trade with Gatekeeper, which means my fastest start is a turn 3 Sprouting Thrinax. Jeff starts even slower with a turn 4 Bloodghast. I Bloodbraid into Borderland Ranger, then cast Pulse on his turn 5 Malakir Bloodwitch. Jeff’s turn 6 Vampire Nocturnus reveals a second Nocturnus. Will he play it? He does, and attacks for 13 flying with his 7/7 nocturnus and 6/3 Bloodghast. I take the damage, and play the second Maelstrom Pulse I had waiting. Advantage Jund.

Game 3
For Game 3 vampires takes a page out of the Zendikar Block Constructed playbook. My fast start of turn 3 Thrinax gets killed by his turn 4 Gatekeeper. My Bloodbraid Elf bolts the Gatekeeper, and this begins a long attrition war that I didn’t think was possible with vampires. We trade creatures and removal for many turns, during which Jeff casts Grim Discovery 3 times for the same Gatekeeper and fetchland. It’s safe to say that Vampires beat Jund in card advantage this game. Tendrils of Corruption also made racing difficult. The game ends abruptly when Jeff misplays a kicked Gatekeeper into my Sprouting Thrinax. This gives me a board of seven tokens and a Raging Ravine to his Gatekeeper, Bloodghast and Bloodwitch. I attack him down to 5 and play Consuming Vapors. It only kills Bloodghast, but it also means that Jeff needs two blockers next turn instead of just one. Jeff sees the writing on the wall, draws his card, and scoops.

There is a turn in the middle of the game where I make a misplay that I should have been punished for. Life totals were Jeff 11, me 17. I had two goblin tokens in play, 3 land and a Bituminous Blast in hand. Jeff had only a Bloodghast, and 5 cards. In my mind I still thought that I was the beatdown, despite siding out the beatdown creatures for removal. I cast Bituminous Blast targeting Bloodghast, in hopes of getting an additional threat. This is a mistake because I have more removal than creatures after boarding, and Jeff doesn’t have a second creature making it very easy to whiff. Furthermore Bloodghast recurs very easily. I cascade past two lands into a Borderland Ranger. It was not particularly good, but better than wasting draw steps on those two lands, and way better than whiffing on removal.

Finals Brett Allen UW Control

This is my first time meeting Brett, and I find out that he’s been on the Pro Tour multiple times, including San Juan this month. Brett doesn’t know if he can make the trip to Europe, since he doesn’t want to spend too much time away from his wife and kids. He concedes on the condition that I actually attend PT Amsterdam (of course, I love Extended!).

Conclusion

I was very lucky not to draw Plated Geopede in the late game when it is just a 1/1 first striker, and also never had to use it on defense. I think that the early damage potential is worth the late game uselessness. Also if the opponent is at less than 10 life, they have to play around a top deck fetchland, unless Jace is already fatesealing you. Sometimes the opponent will kill it anyway, whether the damage is present or not. As I said earlier, it is very likely that I am overvaluing it.

The creatures that die to Lightning Bolt did not come out to play, so I didn’t miss #3-4. I missed Terminate against Vampires, but it wasn’t as important as understanding who was the beatdown (I don’t know). I didn’t miss Lavaclaw Reaches except in the long Vampire game 3, where it only would have read “1BR, Tap: deal two damage to a blocking Gatekeeper.” There were multiple turns in the Jund mirror where I was kold to a Broodmate Dragon. Yes, dragons still win the mirror. No, I only reached 6 mana on the final turn of the games I won and never in the game that I lost.

The sideboard is pretty self explanatory (even though I still needed Wrapter to school me). The removal comes in against creature decks, and the threats come in against the others. Consuming Vapors are for everyone who doesn’t make tokens. The cards to sideboard out are the cards that you do not want to cascade into.

Chandra Nalaar was supposed to be a 2 of, but I couldn’t find the second copy and opted for the 3rd Vapors. I drew Chandra once all day, and she proceeded to kill a 5/5 knight. Consuming Vapors ranged from great against Wall of Denial and Elspeth tokens to horrible against Martial Coup tokens. I drew Sedraxis Specter twice all day. It was a key discard in the Jund mirror attrition war, but seemed underwhelming against UW.

One final thing I noticed was a lot of Day of Judgment after sideboard, and not that much Celestial Purge. In the later rounds I would sideboard a few Sprouting Thrinax back in for game 3 to actively punish Day of Judgment.

I’d like to thank Wrapter for creating this brilliant deck list. He also made Top 8 of the ptq, playing Jund. All the credit goes to him. Thank you Brett Allen. Conceding the finals was so completely generous, and I will not forget it. Thank you JP Salazar, for playtesting Jund with me two weeks straight last August, and for pointing out all my misplays this weekend. Thank you JJ for telling me to just play Jund two months ago when I had lost faith. I’m a true believer now.

Slops go to Santa Clara Convention Center for not allowing me to bring a 44oz Coke inside. I guess water is healthier anyway.

27 thoughts on “Silvestri Says – Anatomy of the Santa Clara PTQ + Bonus Winner’s Report!”

  1. What about Beastbreaker of Bala Ged? Where Geopede needs fetchlands to remain a potent threat, Beastbreaker requires an investment of 3 extra mana. wrapter’s list seems to have more proactive 3 drops than the average Jund list, so perhaps his drawback is too great, and it’s true he never attacks for 5 until a ton of mana has been invested.

    On one hand, though, he doesn’t suffer from the same problem as Geopede mentioned by John: the weakness of Geopede in the later turns where you most likely don’t have a good number of lands to turn him on. Just throwing the idea out there.

    Awesome article, and congrats John.

  2. Also re: Ascension in the mirror: If the game ends quickly, it’s because Elspeth got up in someone’s business, and she happens to totally blank it.

  3. All I’ve done with this deck thus far is grind it out long by battling, or mulliganing 1-landers into oblivion. I think the extra Bolts would be helpful, considering how aggro this deck can get, and I hate lacking reach.

  4. “He concedes on the condition that I actually attend PT Amsterdam (of course, I love Extended!).”

    PT Amsterdam is Block constructed..

  5. The eighth deck in the top 8 had a 16 card sideboard…

    just sayin.

    Excellent article, though.

  6. “Nate leads off with a mulligan into turn 2 Lotus Cobra. I Bolt it. I Doom Blade his Kor Firewalker. I Pulse his two Noble Hierarchs. I Bolt his Knight. I Bituminous Blast his War Monk, then again next turn. Lotus Cobra doesn't do much on turn 8, but Siege-Gang Commander does.”

    Pretty much sums up Jund.

    Good report.

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  8. Its a shame you can’t get the rebound off vapors when you cascade into it with blast. Almost makes me think the two shouldn’t be played together…

  9. @Dave – Because this Jund list is exactly the same as every other Jund list since 5CB, right? I don’t think it’s a flaw if a very good player can put together a list that is resilient to its pilot’s occasional errors. I have the strong suspicion that John wouldn’t have won if he’d had to play with Simon Gortzen’s list, for example.

  10. I’d like to clarify round 7, Kyle was playing mythic conscription. I was running the same list. Basically a mirror of what Matt Sperling piloted to victory in San Diego with maindeck dauntless escorts.

    It might have looked like something else since he played a few of the walkers he had in his deck against you.

    Pretty sure he just had some terrible draws, and geopede is a beatdown, etc.

    Nonetheless, Nice work, and congrats on the Q!

  11. OP: “Again, this is another deck that hasn't changed a heck of a lot, but for this deck I could see actually making some alterations. Sarkhan the Mad seems tailor-made for a midrange deck with this low of a curve and Bloodghast of all things. Malakir Bloodwitch is a great five-drop right now, I'm glad everyone agrees, but having one other late-game option that can push you over the top could definitely be valuable here. I already wrote about Lightning Bolt's diminished utility in the Jund portion of the article, but especially here where you could be running Earthquake, Bituminous Blast or a host of other removal options over it that actually kill relevant cards. Bloodghast sure isn't battling past Wall of Omens without help and while Black Knight does good work of giving the deck a turn two beater it really needs more ways to deal damage early without getting dragged down.
    This deck is really all-in on it's anti-control aspects with a sideboard dedicated to inflicting more pain on UW and UWR opponents. Doom Blade is cute, but really just replacing Lightning Bolt in games 2 & 3 against real creature decks and Slave of Bolas is far too slow to have a real impact. Heck, if any deck was going to run Flame Slash in the current format, this deck seems perfect for it since it can clear the way for it's smaller dorks and has a ton of two-drops to avoid missing a creature on turn three.”

    Couple things I want to address about these comments. Lets start last and go backwards.

    Slave of Bolas is really in the deck to combat one card. Sprouting Thrinax. Sure it’s nice if you get a Baneslayer but I often found it pretty greedy to side it in against Slayer decks as you’re already quite ready maindeck to deal with one. Thrinax on the other hand is this deck’s biggest problem with jund. I defeated Jund 3 times in the swiss and each and every time it was on the back of Slave. Flame slash wouldn’t have gotten it done. Slave is such a ridiculous swing card in this format and is often totally backbreaking.

    Doom Blade seems really redundant but it’s a concession to the mono red matchup (and it’s not bad against bant either.) We found in testing that against devastating summons we wanted as many ways to handle the summons post-board as we could find. Going up to 4 term/4 blade helps immensely in this matchup.

    Wall of Omens is rarely annoying as you just stick a pro white guy (or use gatekeeper, they don’t have enough targets for keeper anyways). Then you ride the black knight/bloodwitch until they wrath their Wall away.

    Anyways, I was 6-0 (12-1) in the swiss until I scooped to a friend in round 7 and ID’d round 8. Lost to Mono B Vamps in top 8 which is a coinflip matchup for this deck. I defeated two UW, 3 Jund and 1 Grixis in the swiss. Lost the one game to Jund in round 6. This deck is real and I wouldn’t recommend changing anything except possibly removing manabarbs and adding 3 cards that work against jund and control (ie: Mind Rot.)

  12. No, Josh, you’re right on. Brett is allergic to having 4-ofs in his deck. My favorite is the Gifts deck he won Seattle States with… which only played one Gifts. 🙂

    Miss you, Brett.

  13. Heh, it’s true. 🙂 Though for this U/W deck, I have to give credit to Phil Napoli… my main deck is only 1 Gideon off of his New York PTQ-winning list. I added Firewalkers because I respected RDW, though Josh may be right that there are better answers.

  14. Mitchell Sachs

    THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! I’ve played Jund since January and I found it has gotten worse. This build is the perfect way for me not to scramble around to make a new deck I haven’t tested for National Qualifier. I find it hilarious that a land is run in the SB (i know why) the construction of the sideboard has always been hard for me in Jund because I have always wanted to run like 35 cards in the sideboard and the Island cut it down to 14. (yes I am still going to run the islannd because it is the right thing to do). I cannot express my thanks enough.

  15. scoops in the finals are the best. Excellent report, though it would have been nice for you to have some more awkward draws with the geopede and see if the positives outweigh the negatives. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad you won, but you seemed to be having one of the untouchable days with the deck.

  16. Blaine Patrick

    Ryan,

    I was considering playing a very similar RB deck to yours at this PTQ, but audibled into Jund a week before because we couldn’t get the RB deck’s numbers against Jund good enough. Slave is one card that we overlooked. I’ve been testing my build against Jund again, and I’ve added Slave per your recommendation. It truly swings the matchup when played on a Thrinax, presuming they don’t Blightning you 3 times or draw 3 Thrinaxes. There are some other ideas that I have about this deck that I’d like to share with you. I’d also like to ask you about your sideboarding plans against some other decks. Could you post your email? Alternatively, you can email me at: ogbliz(at)gmail(dot)com

    Thanks!

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