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Silvestri Says – Standard in LA, Extended Online

 

This week will be a topic by topic breakdown about Standard based on what I was thinking about before and after the SCG 5k two weekends ago in LA. After that will be a brief summary of what I’ve been kicking around on Magic Online in regards to Extended, and how that metagame has been developing. So if you’re more interested in the PTQ season, go ahead and skip ahead a few pages.
What I learned about the metagame

As many know by this point, Jund was the most played deck at the Standard 5k; in fact no other deck was even close. If you take the next four most popular decks in the tournament, you still only have 88 other decks versus 91 Jund decks. That’s how big the gap was between Jund and all the other ‘good’ decks in the field. Not exactly a well balanced metagame, but the more interesting thing was that Jund’s win-rate was quite good when you consider its overwhelming presence.

Contrary to what many thought (yours truly included) control hasn’t kicked the bucket quite yet. I still don’t think control is that good and I definitely don’t think that any form of control, Grixis or UWR, is better than Jund. What I do think is control shells have emerged that are good enough to not get rolled by Jund and Red while allowing good players room to outmaneuver their opponents. This is something the format had lacked to this point, since most people were instead trying to just play whichever fast deck had the best shot at beating Jund and didn’t fold to the guy playing Baneslayer Angel.

However, the glowing love for control has a caveat and that is something I tried to explain in my last article and failed to fully convey. For many of you, nothing has really changed in terms of deck choice, because you aren’t good enough or well-versed enough with UWR to consistently beat competent opponents running Jund, Bant or Red decks. I expect many people to switch to UWR* and subsequently fail with the deck even if it cements its status as the best or second best deck. A good chunk of the reason UWR succeeded was because it was a well-crafted and well-positioned deck, the rest was because Jeff Huang and LSV are both excellent players and prepared with the deck. The other reason is that now that the control shell is a completely known quantity, the rest of the metagame will adapt and control players will have to think ahead for new threats that they’ll see.

*You can already see this happening on MODO in the 8-man queues

Red decks were a complete failure by any measure you’d like to use and have probably fallen back into ‘not a very good choice’ category. Red aggro in particular is easy to beat if you bother preparing for them at all; even something as simple as adding 4 Dragon’s Claw to a Jund sideboard will swing the match into one with a notable advantage for Jund.

My favorite Dragon’s Claw moment was against my opponent who obviously kept a one-lander with multiple 3cc spells in hand and looked amazingly depressed when I dropped the Dragon’s Claw. Oh and if you’re reading this, thanks for being a dick about that one Dragon’s Claw trigger you claimed I missed when you dropped Ball Lightning and Teetering Peaks down at the same time. Still had all these and was at 16 life, so I didn’t care enough to argue the point to the judge. I liked how you slunk away though, good show of disgust.

Back on-topic: Even if you don’t fully board for the match, some combination of Jund Charm and a way to gain life is the key to flipping the match around. Of course this assumes you don’t just smash them with a good draw involving Blightning and a few blockers.

Boros is at an odd place where the deck sucks and it isn’t exactly clear why that is. It still has the fast starts capable of beating Jund, and the Ranger of Eos engine is just as amazing as it was a month ago. My guess though is that Boros floated too close to being a slower aggro deck, and when that happens, Jund and UWR just end up gaining bigger and bigger edges from the extra turns of development they get. Boros will likely continue to lose popularity as cards like Wall of Denial and Earthquake come back into prominence unless someone redesigns the deck in a new direction.

As long as you have some respect for the various burn decks in the format, they can’t really do much to the more prepared players outside of lucking out.

What I learned about Jund

I learned that Jund is always going to be 50/50 in the mirror unless you cut one of the key cards like Blightning, Thrinax or Bloodbraid Elf. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: A mirror is 50/50? NO WAI! BREAKING NEWS, THANKS! However I think this is important to understand because the latest trend in the ‘My deck beats Jund’ category of discussion is that now everyone claims, “My Jund deck beats Jund!” by any number of varying means.

The three most common ways people approach Jund seem to be the following:

1. The stock list

For Jund this would mean that list everyone had before Worlds and always piloted within 4-6 cards of everyone else. The lists Arthur Halavais and Sherwin Pu played list give the best description of what I mean by ‘stock’. There are no Rampant Growths or Siege-Gang Commanders, while Putrid Leech is still in the deck. Alex Tamblyn’s list is also similar under this header, but he runs Borderland Ranger which I’ll get to in a minute. In summary, when you think of Jund, these are the lists you think of.

2. Big Jund

Michael Peterson’s list (top 16) shows the usage of Rampant Growth, Siege-Gang Commander and a general lack of early drops. He also runs the full set of Bituminous Blast and Broodmate Dragon, signaling that he simply intends to reach his mana apex and overwhelm with large threats and out-muscle opposing Jund strategies. It also maxes out the discard elements post-board with four Mind Rot in the board; allowing for the maximum value against slower decks.

3. Eldrazi Jund / Hybrids

There are lists that float in-between both and run Borderland Ranger, but not Rampant Growth, simply to stabilize the mana instead of accelerating. I also believed Siege-Gang Commander to be better than Broodmate Dragon, so I didn’t even bother running Double Dragon. Matt Nass’ list took this a step further by running Elvish Visionary to help smooth draws and provide more creatures for Eldrazi Monument. These lists are more heavily relying on their creatures to carry the load on offense and defense, eschewing the usual high removal counters and cutting back to Maelstrom Pulse, Lightning Bolt and a few other removal spells.

My general point is I’ve played against all of these and none of them seem to have a clear and defined edge against the other. On paper they do, but when you actually play the games, all the lists are a lot closer in power for the type of match the Jund mirror becomes. I have yet to play against a list where given a long enough series of games; the results aren’t nearly, if not exactly, even. In fact the biggest difference I’ve found isn’t from the deck design itself, but rather how people sideboard in each match.

Some people are heavily on the resource depletion strategy and will max out on Blightning effects and bring in Goblin Ruinblaster on the play and draw. Others max out removal in an attempt to play a typical attrition war; especially if they run three or more Bituminous Blast which typically takes down two larger threats. My personal strategy and one that I see a decent number of Jund players in the Bay Area engage in is lowering the amount of removal in the deck by a significant amount.

Since the latter is the strategy I’m most familiar with, I’ll discuss it a little more before moving onto the next topic of discussion. Typically I board out as much removal as I can in the Jund mirror, leaving only Lightning Bolt and sometimes Jund Charm since I can get value out of that a number of ways. Otherwise I prefer sideboard plans that disrupt the opponent and generally just abuse my creatures to win. While cards like Terminate and Bituminous Blast may be agreeable for killing guys like Putrid Leech, Master of the Wild Hunt and larger creatures like half a Broodmate Dragon, they generally aren’t getting much value for you. Lightning Bolt kills nearly everything these spells do, only costs R and can kill Planeswalkers.

The other problem is all that removal doesn’t even take out the best threats in the match. Sprouting Thrinax makes a mini-army when it dies, Siege-Gang does when it comes into play, Double Dragon earned that nickname for a reason and so on. You just won’t get anywhere if you cast a few removal spells on their guys and only kill half the card in each exchange. If anything it should encourage people to run more ways to create bunches of tokens or evasion creatures / giving your guys flying. I ran a miser Eldrazi Monument just for this reason and got a couple of free game wins simply by changing my plan to hanging back and then overwhelming them. It’s incidental though; the point is that you can stall for a very long time in the match and that removal doesn’t particular help break through the opponents defenses. If all you want to do is kill the biggest guy each time they plan on attacking you then removal works well, otherwise your efforts could be better focused elsewhere.

As for Jund’s future against the UWR deck, there are a few advancements I see in the future. The first is the addition of Fleshbag Marauder to all Jund sideboards as an answer to Wall of Denial, Baneslayer Angel and Sphinx of Jwar Isle. As a straight 2B answer Marauder is pretty reasonable, but the times where you can eat a token pop up now and again as a sweet bonus. For the second advancement, I believe almost all Jund decks will switch to running Siege-Gang Commander in their decks regardless of version due to their pure power and damage output. For the versions running Rampant Growth, Trace of Abundance will likely be considered as a replacement to help counter the influx of Spreading Seas as well as allowing for better use of cards like Sorin Markov as potential sideboard cards.

How I did

I went 4-3 with Jund. Basically, I sucked and threw away at least three games over the weekend and made at least two horrible mulligan decisions I sacked out of. For as bad as that sounds I wasn’t playing all that horribly and those who watched the stream can attest to some of the atrocious play at the tournament. My favorite had to be the final match for a potential top eight slot between Mono-Red and Jund, where the Red opponent aimed a Lightning Bolt at Putrid Leech with no other effects on the stack. Jund guy pumped, Red guy looked befuddled and unsurprisingly lost the match. A different opponent also did this to me in one of the early rounds, at which point I almost felt bad about bringing in Dragon’s Claw against him.

Final Thoughts on Standard until Worldwake

Standard has grown since the original Jund dominance we’ve seen from the past two months, but as you can see, it’s still one of the best choices you have to actually win. Red probably is going to become a worse and worse choice as more major events get into the books and Grixis Control will become a reasonable choice instead of a fringe player. UWR Control will almost undoubtedly become the major rival to Jund and keep its absurd numbers in check, while giving some bored masters something new to play. Bant and Naya both suck, but maybe somebody can update them in the fashion of how UWR went from Worlds to now.

Extended

I’ve played a ton of Magic Online as of late, getting practice for Extended and was encouraged to play even more than usual by half-off Extended events which was excellent. From what I’ve seen the online metagame seems to be matching reports from the first few real-world PTQ’s of the weekend other than a bit more Burn online.

My general notations are as follows:

Burn is the most popular deck, since it costs about an eighth as much as other decks on MODO. Burn also happens to actually be good, so that may be a particular issue for the future success of Zoo and certain midrange decks. If you want to have a few board cards against the most played deck, feel free add Dragon’s Claw or Circle of Protection: Red to your board. It’s probably a better idea than the random three cards you put in for Hypergenesis or graveyard hate cards 7-9.

The most popular control deck is Faeries and it isn’t particularly close. Fae itself seems to be a fine deck in the current metagame and almost all of them follow the core piloted by Yuuta Takahashi at Worlds and PT: Austin. It was a major annoyance for me as the only top deck still running Leyline of the Void and it was of particular note to me to see how successful the deck was compared to Tezzeret and Thopter-Combo in general. Glen Elendra Archmage also seems to be growing slowly in popularity, so we’ll see how long it takes before the deck actually becomes old Standard Faeries just running Mana Leak and Umezawa’s Jitte.

For the combo category, Scapeshift holds the crown right now. I won’t bother going into details as Ben Stark and Lucas Siow have both written articles about the deck on this very website. However, one thing of note is that more decks are adding cards that attack Scapeshift by removing Mountains / Valakut from the deck directly. I know I’ve won a number of games against Scapeshift simply by using Hedron Crab and Glimpse the Unthinkable targeting them and milling out enough Mountains where they could no longer win. This strategy is particularly effective if you board in an Ancestor’s Chosen to go up to 40 or more life in the meantime.

Zoo sees plenty of play online, but it’s held in check by being the most expensive deck by far. A quick count for those who are playing along at home for how expensive Zoo is on MODO:

Hallowed Fountain: 28 tix

Stomping Ground: 24-26 tix

Breeding Pool: 20 tix

4 Baneslayer Angel: 160 tix

4 Tarmogoyf: 150-160 tix

So for just the set of Baneslayers and Goyfs, two Stomping Ground and the other main Rav block dual for your deck, you’ll be looking at almost 400 tix. Now throw in the cheaper stuff like Fetches, other Rav duals, Jitte, Knight of the Reliquary, etc. You might easily have to pay 500 tix to have a fully functional Zoo at this point in time. There’s a reason why most of the Zoo players are names you’ve seen plenty of times before in the Daily and PE results and the rest are people who bought into Extended early where the prices were maybe a third of what they are now.

The main Zoo variant I’ve played against isn’t Rubin Zoo, but rather the Bant Zoo list with Bant Charm, Negate and Meddling Mage in the sideboard. Many Zoo players have seemed to switch over to it and away from either Tribal or Rubin Zoo. As a result, the usual Zoo match feels far more midrange than ever before and, on a personal note, is about 1000x easier for me.

My weapon of choice as of late has been Dredge and I’ve had a lot of success with it, even though many decks online are packing hate in their boards. Dredge is an excellent deck game one deck, but for post-board games, the average hate in every person’s sideboard seems to be about 6 slots. These are almost always Relic and Ravenous Trap, but some people also run Tormod’s Crypt or Extirpate depending on if they run Academy Ruins or Black. Leyline of the Void has been dropped from nearly every deck, with only UB Fae and some Doran builds retaining them for usage. As a result you can run a Dredge deck with 0 Leyline hate and get away with it, instead loading up on cards like Duress, Thoughtseize and Nix and have a far easier time getting there than the old days.

Ravenous Trap in particular is easy to play around because many players have no idea when the best time is to Trap and fail to realize Dredge players have the option of not dredging. I’ve won more than a handful of games against players I believed had RT and simply drew for the turn, brought back a handful of Bloodghast and beat them to death. The same goes for times when I hardcast Dread Return on Iona instead of sacrificing my creatures even when it was profitable to do so thanks to Bridge from Below. Dredge players have a rough time of it for how much hate they have to deal with every round, but the hate is far less stifling than Leyline of the Void and the deck still wins most of the game ones in the format.

That’s all for now! Good luck if you plan on attending a tournament this weekend and I’ll see all of you with an Extended update / breakdown in two weeks.

Josh Silvestri

Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom

29 thoughts on “Silvestri Says – Standard in LA, Extended Online”

  1. Very informative article. Suprised to hear that Fae is doing so well, I’d have thought that the LSV blue/white deck would be the most popular.

  2. if youre reffering to me about dragons claw (and I think you are) you took it a little too harsh dont you think

    i can assure you i didnt play two cards at the same time and if you honestly felt i was in the wrong you should have called a judge reguardless if you “still had all these”

    perhaps i was depressed i was playing at the 1-2 table and about to lose and made a terrible deck choice

    luckily i made up for it the next day where you never brought it up while doing coverage for my matches yet decide to dedicate a paragraph about it

    in reality it just seems youre butthurt i called you out on a mistake you made where most people on a losing table would have

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  4. I had played the ramp jund on MODO for a while after worlds and didn’t like siege-gang too much. I found that although you were technically able to get the card advantage out of the tokens, more often than not the fact that the siege gang died before you got to untap (which should be every game if your opponent is decent) made it not worth the spots. I came back to it a little while ago and I was having the same problem. To me, Siege gang seems to run contrary to the underlying strategy of jund to out-card advantage your opponent- when it dies, the tokens it leaves behind do little to help.

    Im a little surprised you didnt mention the 2 Chandra Nalaar in the 2nd place list from Houston. I have been running 2 Chandra for a while now and they have been treating me very well. Its a massive headache v control and is very effective in the mirror and vs baneslayer.

  5. @w.a. “Im a little surprised you didnt mention the 2 Chandra Nalaar in the 2nd place list from Houston.”

    The Standard portion of this article was written immediately after the 10k event in LA, it didn’t go up until recently due to some scheduling snafus. Hence this article doesn’t take into account anything from the ensuing 10k.

    @Shane
    Shrug. It annoyed me and I wrote about it right after the event. Simple as that.

    You’re right though, I should’ve called a judge. I was so far ahead and was annoyed enough that I didn’t care at the time. I’ll gladly stand by my side of the story though and I’m sure you’ll do the same with yours. Doesn’t really matter at this time.

    As you so eloquently stated, if I was so ‘butthurt’ about it, I’d of simply not picked you for any feature matches or made you look like a jackass. I have no issue with you past that single situation and wrote a note about it right after the event ended while it was fresh. I didn’t even include your name (well until you posted it) in the anecdote.

    On a personal note, I just hate going to LA for Magic events period. The douchebag (not a shot at you, just my experiences) to decent person ratio is way out of wack for the place. I’ve been to major events all over the West Coast and only there can I be assured that everyone in our car will of met or played at least one person they took major issue with it over the weekend.

  6. Sorry, but it’s a tad childish to be bringing up little quibbles you had at your table. If you continue writing in this fashion, I for one will continue to skip your articles.

  7. “For many of you, nothing has really changed in terms of deck choice, because you aren't good enough or well-versed enough with UWR to consistently beat competent opponents running Jund, Bant or Red decks.”
    This sounds a bit arrogant, but in the end playing the cascade lottery will probably bring you the best results /effort of all available T2 decks.
    Great article though, even if I skipped the Extended part.

  8. What about Jacerator? I know that it is hated by many, but this deck seems an effective match against everything but Vamps. I think, at least for now (and maybe even with Worldwake considering the new Jace) that this deck has potential…

    Thoughts? Hate? 🙂

  9. I dont really agree on your thoughts on boros, I’ve had good success lately on MTGO, not that I’m anyone people should be listening to. The deck can’t afford to run slow stuff like Skyfisher anymore, hellspark as a 4-of is crucial, and i’ve had success against the control decks by utilizing 4 hell’s thunder and 4 ruinblaster out of the board. In my experience the Grixis control matchup is heavily in your favor, with UWR being less so but still ok. Jund isn’t so bad as they have very few ways to effectively deal with hells thunder, and you are just faster than RDW in most instances. Save some spot removal for ball lightnings and you will be ok. I lol when people play dragons claw against me, i’m not RDW, it doesn’t work as well as they hope it will.

  10. Enjoy your writing style and enjoyed this article. I believe that UWR in the hands of the right people, like LSV, will give Jund a run for it, but on the other hand anything in the hands of LSV will probably be similar. Keep your articles coming …

  11. About the dragon claw comment… I have nothing to do with the situation but i would like to comment…

    “good show of disgust”

    Have you ever looked at yourself you slob…

  12. Could you provide a tix breakdown of dredge, I am NOOB on MODO ext, and have no idea of these things

    thx

  13. i didnt really understand the good show of disgust thing either…the only thing i remember was obviously bieng dissapointed by my performance

    theres a big difference between bieng unsporsmanlike and bieng competitive and id be shocked if other people said i wasnt unpleasant to play against

    and douchebag magic players is definitely not limited to the la area

  14. dowjonzechemical: read max mccall’s article here. I also may of written an article over at some other site about it. just google my name + dredge.

    lol @ usual troll comment.

  15. … and here I was wondering why “BOLT THE LEECH” became live stream chat meme throughout that weekend 🙂

  16. @confidantdark

    Calling him names won’t do anything. Best thing to do is just stop reading what he writes. Of course, I fooled myself into thinking he wouldn’t bash anyone this time. I truly don’t know why and regret it.

  17. Re: The Article:

    I agree with almost everything you said. As a former Boros player, I think the deck is going downhill. Sure, it still has great game vs Jund, but it just up and dies to anything packing even a decent amount of low-cost removal due to its complete lack of late-game bombs. That’s why I decided to ditch Boros, trading 3 of my Rangers + a small throw-in for a pair of fetchlands. I think Boros’ time is limited.

    Personally, I play Standard Dredge now. I know the deck is terrible and it’s not winning any $5Ks, PTs, or whatever anytime soon, but it’s better than 50/50 vs Jund and is a lot of fun to pilot.

    Regarding Extended: Any ideas on beating Scapeshift without playing Blue of Black? It’s probably my worst matchup (like very close to 0-100) but I just have no idea how to answer it.

  18. about bolt the leech thing…..
    its bad enough when you do it its a lot worse when its recorded on camera!

    P.S bolt the leech is becoming something of a slogan on live stream

  19. Also, regarding the “thanks for being a dick” comment, if someone was being a dick to you, you have the right to publish it on the internet, if you have the power to do so and the respect of a large group of people. This is why I try to never be a dick to anyone.

    And, to be honest, I have the most fun at a PTQ when I’m losing. Playing at the bottom tables is a blast because nobody really cares so you don’t have to play well or tight and can just have fun playing the game. If you’re losing, just lose and make the best of it by having fun and being friendly. After all, folks, it’s a GAME.

  20. “Sorry, but it's a tad childish to be bringing up little quibbles you had at your table. If you continue writing in this fashion, I for one will continue to skip your articles.

    Comment by Ophidian – January 14, 2010 @ 4:48 am”

    You’re right, it’s childish. No less than trolling an article though. If you say you’re going to “continue to skip your articles.” that means you already have been, so why are you even bothering to open your useless mouth?

  21. @lyle

    this was not a ptq at a ptq i would not still be playing at 1-2 considering the cash payout was to top 16 i still had a chance (although unlikely) to top 16 by winning out

    i wasnt bieng unfriendly and was just playing by the rules, once again if he felt he was bieng wronged a judge should have been called even though i still got blownout. I would do the same thing again reguardless of who my opponent is or the situation. I realize there are plenty of people who play this game without care about winning or losing and i think thats great, but i simply cant relate.

    i dont read joshs articles on the regular so if this is common theme its new to me

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