Tower Above – This useful bit of tech came from Chris Greene who won the Atlanta 5K with this in his sideboard. Triple Green or double (Chris) Green and two colorless isn’t hard to get and what you gain is a removal spell and a way to force through damage on a crowded board. Not only does this win Chameleon Colossus and Putrid Leech fights with a vengeance, unlike Colossal Might, it forces them to happen! That’s the nice thing about Tower Above I hadn’t considered, you don’t give the opponent a choice in the matter to engage or not engage your forces. Colossal Might ultimately is a little too fair in a Jund stand-off because they don’t HAVE to play into your trick if they have some extra life lying around.
Against B/G Elves, it just goes to the top rope and drops an elbow on every single guy they play with no consequence, with the sole exception of Wren’s Run Vanquisher. This is actually a really impressive trick, but the sorcery speed really hurts against decks running Path to Exile or other instant speed removal.
Verdict: Very impressed with this one, I’d run it as a 2 or 3-of as it just devastates opponents in the green mirror.
Puncture Blast – This was one of the most highly touted options and I got at least 5 different people mentioning it to me in e-mails and more in the comments section last week. I tried it out, not expecting it to live up to its own hype, but I came away rather impressed. It isn’t a slam-dunk over Colossal Might, but it had a good argument if BG Elves and the mirror are high on your list of worries. It kneecaps Colossus, kills Vanquisher and Leech as well as sometimes being better off of cascade.
My biggest problem with it was mostly that it was another 3-drop in a deck loaded with three drops and that it simply didn’t give me a notable boost when I hit it. Tower Above and Colossal Might both force some damage through and Snakeform draws you a card. Puncture Blast just blows a guy up and that’s it. It certainly isn’t a bad card, I just am not 100% on it doing enough to justify itself, especially when it has to compete with Tower Above and Snakeform.
Verdict: Meh. It was fine, but I think the other two options are just better.
Snakeform – I kind of brushed this off because you need a guy to run into an opposing creature with while engaging Snakeform. Colossal Might could be a kill-shot or force through some extra damage through a chump blocker, Puncture Blast was removal or a CC crippler without the need for any combat at all and Tower Above forced the trade in the first place. Snakeform drew a card, sure, but it still required both parties to enter into to a certain course of action for it to be truly effective.
The flipside, of course, is that it draws a card which is all sorts of a blow-out when Pulse or cascade is the only way to gain card advantage otherwise.
Verdict: This card definitely has some situational qualities that can make it difficult to use, but people tend to respect any open mana you have once you show that you have it. Just the threat tends to get people to play less aggressively unless they have an overwhelming board presence. Basically they know the absolute worst that can happen is you hit the Snakeform, draw a card and kill their guy at no loss and then untap and Bloodbraid Elf. A solid 2-3 of, but it doesn’t lend itself to the full 4. For some it’ll share the spotlight with one of the above and to be honest, having two in hand is just awkward when you need a bona fide kill spell. I still prefer Tower Above, but I at least recognize the argument for Snakeform now (No mention of its sweet anti-Reveillark capabilities? – LSV).
Profane Command: Amazing in the green mirror and actually pretty disgusting against 5cc or 5c Blood. I was really impressed with this card and only the clunkiness of it (since it typically falls under 4-6 drop) and sorcery speed nature makes it a 3-of. I’d forgotten just how strong a well timed Profane Command is, especially with Anathemancer.
Verdict: Definitely at least a 2-of, 3 if you expect a notable number of green decks.
Cloudthresher – Great against Faeries and bad everywhere else, look elsewhere before bringing these into your sideboard.
Jund Charm / Volcanic Fallout / Infest – All of these sweepers have slightly different functions and justifications in the Jund sideboard. Infest is the worst in general, but beats Paladin En-Vec which is a pretty big deal with Kithkin getting better. Volcanic Fallout is better against Faeries and possibly 5cc Blood, but requires RR and the 2 damage you take comes back to bite you more often than you might think. Jund Charm has the most versatility, helping against outliers like Lark and the pump effect being actually useful against other BG decks, but with the least chance of hitting turn 3 and still losing out to Forge-Tender (yeah it shouldn’t see play, but it does) and Paladin.
Verdict: I’d definitely run some sweepers, but which one you run depends precisely on what you expect to see. I take Infest because I expect Kithkin and protection guys to give me more problems than Faeries. Plus Volcanic Fallout doesn’t even beat Mistbind Clique or Plumeveil which are the biggest problems Fae brings to the table. Jund Charm is fine if you think UW Lark is coming back and being 2nd best against Kithkin, but otherwise it doesn’t really have enough extra functionality.
Pithing Needle – Anti-Swans and bad everywhere else, so please don’t run this card unless you expect a notable Swans presence.
Bitterblossom / Trace of Abundance – These board cards are awful, but the fact is I’m sick of losing to cascade LD on the draw (Oh man, Trace is sick against that deck – LSV). I’m just not sure what I’d like more here, a 2 mana producing land that can’t be targeted by land destruction or a free token generator. Either one is pretty awesome and helps you out immensely with the general gameplan, at the moment though I’m leaning toward Trace, because if I can cast my 3-drops along with the twosies, I’m most likely going to win in the first place.
My personal sideboard:
Jund Aggro at the PTQ – I managed a sick 0-2 drop with the deck I presented last week. My matches? Jund LD and Mono White Goats. Yeah I played against two decks that I had no experience against and died pretty miserably. Not much Jund Aggro can do against turn 2 LD, I probably could’ve taken game 3 against the LD deck had he whiffed on his first Bloodbraid Elf and hit an Llanowar Elf or Birds of Paradise, but instead Fulminator Mage came up. His next two runners hit Elf and Birds, but that was beside the point after keeping me off of my own Bloodbraid Elf blowout.
To be fair, I did make the mistake of not keeping a 2-drop in game three. In the back of my head I knew I should treat this like Cascade LD and mull until Vanquisher or Putrid Leech hit. I simply figured with 4 lands and double Ram-Gang on the play, I’d hit my multiple 3 drops regardless if he hit a turn 3 and 4 LD spell. I was sadly mistaken and paid for it pretty miserably against turn 2 Rain of Tears.
Mono White Goats was a different error, as I had a choice of holding back mana and Nameless Inversion against Mirrorweave and letting my opponent continue to build up infinite Goats off Springjack Pasture (of which he already had 6 guys in play) or go in on a Bloordbraid Elf attempting to hit Pulse or Infest, while building some pressure and hoping his last remaining card or topdeck wasn’t a Mirrorweave. I went with the latter and he had it, so GG me. This match was actually horrific, because unlike Kithkin all his spells made more guys and a Mirrorweave on any of my own creatures would make his horde lethal.
It doesn’t matter how badly they do for the rest of the tournament because they already wrecked my day! Lesson be it to all, if you can’t figure out exactly what to do, just parallel it to an existing deck and work from there. I’d of beat the LD deck had I compared it properly to Cascade LD and thus never had to play the Tokens / Goats Mirrorweave deck in the first place.
Match-wise in general, I think other than against dedicated Cascade decks, (aka: Swans, Cascade LD and that Sao Paulo control cascade) and UW Reveillark that this deck has even to favorable matches against the rest of the field. Bloodbraid Elf and Anathemancer just bring so much to the table in a variety of matches and it just seems better suited to win the green matches post-board. Your guys are all significant threats, the mana is wonderful (except a few times where my deck decided to cough up 0 red, but 7 land) and you have a wide variety of options for whatever metagame you expect to run into.
The biggest problem with playing against Cascade decks is they either kill you before you get started (literally or mana-wise) and you never get to play a real game of Magic, or they just do a better job of grinding you to death than you. Watching an opponent gain 6 life and get a 3/2 Persist guy for 4 mana is just disheartening and don’t even get me started on some of the Ultimatum-esque chains I’ve seen from Bit Blast or Enlisted Wurm. UW Lark can grind you out as well, but it does it the traditional way via Wraths, walls and card drawing. You lose to cascade decks because the ability is just suited to blowout any deck that isn’t control or very fast swarm aggro like Kithkin. It simply gives too much in the way of tempo and mana advantage to really keep up with a fair deck.
In the future Jund Aggro will largely look and play the same; the only real question is if Lightning Bolt has a place in the deck. That may sound odd, considering just how strong Lightning Bolt is, but if you really consider it 3 damage for one mana isn’t that impressive for this sort of deck. It largely wins on battling with creatures and 5-6 points of burn coming from Anathemancer. The flip-side is that it does kill the vast majority of Elves creatures and turns Putrid Leech into more of a liability than it was previously, thanks to the new combat rules. Next week we should have more information about M10, so I’ll be able to make more informed commentary on this point.
Kithkin in the current metagame
Roberto Cibrian made top eight of the Sacramento PTQ with a W/B version of Kithkin, with an uncommon choice in the maindeck: Profane Command. Profane gives a real boost to Kith in the face of walls or large green creatures, not only providing a burn spell to finish the game, but an evasion effect in Fear, since typically only Putrid Leech and Doran have the necessary colors to stop it. Here’s his deck for reference:
Personally I still want Paladin En-Vec in there, but I was impressed at just how well Profane played for Roberto throughout the day. He told me he directly won off Profane or it directly assisted with 6 wins throughout the swiss rounds. Everyone knows the strength of Zealous Persecution, but the extra reach you get from Profane just doming players and bringing back Figure of Destiny can get pretty absurd.
Hope that helps for your next PTQ / Nats qualifiers and I’ll see you next week.
Email me at: joshsilvestriATgmailDOTcom