I wanted to come up with some witty quips about swinging and missing or coming up short for this article, but I'd rather just lay it out there. At SCG Open Series: Baltimore this past weekend, I lost three win-and-ins. After a 7-0 start in the ten-round Standard Open with Junk Reanimator (surprise surprise!), I was dispatched by Richard Nguyen and his Aaron Barich style Naya deck. I then lost a heartbreaker in the next round against Jund—which I was 4-0 against on the day—to a turn 4 Sire of Insanity when I didn't have an Angel of Serenity and Unburial Rites in game 2 and then a lengthy trip to Paris multiple times in game 3.
I was tilting. Bad. Thankfully, I was able to draw into the Top 32 for some money, but that didn't make it any better. I had been playing very well all weekend and had a little luck when I needed it, and then I just bricked off two rounds and was done. I got plenty of hugs and condolences from all of my friends, but that just didn't make it feel any better.
Normally in a situation like this, I like to just head back to the hotel and sleep it off. Sadly (for me, not Brad), I had ridden with Brad Nelson and Brian Braun-Duin, and we got to (had to) stay and watch him dispatch his Top 8 opponent. I'm actually really happy for Brad and very thankful that he won his Top 8 match since if he hadn't I wouldn't have been able to use his success to pull me out of my funk. I was in the dumps about my 7-0/0-2 experience, but Brad just crushed and rooting him on made me forget about it just enough to get my head straight for Legacy.
I was on U/B Tezzeret again since I still feel like Chalice of the Void is the trump to the format. After taking an early loss to a Dredge player who saw all four Nature's Claims in our last game (I had mulliganed to find a Chalice of the Void and missed), I battled my way back to 6-1 and then lost another potential win-and-in match to Omni-Tell. I did get to Jester's Cap him and then Duress him after he had resolved Enter the Infinite since I had a Trinisphere in play, but I'm still pretty sure that I misplayed somewhere in the game to let it get to the point where he released many ants.
Bricking three times last weekend stung quite a bit, but there is always more Opens. I'm extremely happy for Brad and Todd Anderson laying the smack down in Baltimore.
Enough of the sad stories. Let's talk about Junk Reanimator, Standard, and what the heck is going to happen now that we've had two new and unique decks take down the last two Opens.
First, here is the list that I played last weekend.
- 2 Acidic Slime
- 3 Angel of Serenity
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 2 Fiend Hunter
- 3 Restoration Angel
- 3 Thragtusk
- 2 Voice of Resurgence
For Baltimore, I went back to Garruk Relentless in the maindeck and changed some numbers around on Acidic Slime and Thragtusk. I also moved Voice of Resurgence into the maindeck and tweaked some of the cards and numbers in the sideboard. I was extremely happy with the list and the plan I had for the field I expected to see.
Garruk Relentless plays a couple roles right now, but it's primarily for fighting the mirror and Naya decks. I felt like the mirror was still going to be popular with its win at Grand Prix Guadalajara the previous weekend and expected to run into it multiple times. Garruk Relentless is a powerhouse in the mirror because it allows you to stymie their mana acceleration, which plays very well with our plan to Acidic Slime the ever-loving crap out of them. Once you fight an Arbor Elf or Avacyn's Pilgrim, Garruk Relentless becomes Garruk, the Veil-Cursed, and you get to search up as many Acidic Slimes and Restoration Angels as you want.
Jund is still very popular, and Garruk Relentless is awesome against them, creating a stream of threats or fighting Huntmaster of the Fells and Olivia Voldaren. Against the Naya decks, he's awesome on the play since most of them are going to have Voice of Resurgence and Strangleroot Geist moving forward. That means you don't have to worry about Flinthoof Boar and can cast Garruk on turn 3 and either fight their one-drop or just make a Wolf to block and fight next turn when you untap. He also plays extremely well with our own Voice of Resurgence, letting us curve mana dork into Voice of Resurgence into our awesome planeswalker.
Garruk Relentless is also very good against the U/W/R Control decks, allowing you to pressure them and tutor powerful threats if you ever get to his backside. His tutoring ability is what lets us play some staggered numbers on our powerful five-drops (Thragtusk; Acidic Slime; Obzedat, Ghost Council); in fact, up until minutes prior to the player meeting, I had only one Acidic Slime and four Thragtusks in my maindeck.
Everyone knows about the undying love I have for Acidic Slime. Even though the ol' Slimeball cheats on me with BBD sometimes, I always forgive and forget. Unfortunately, I think that the format is so diverse and aggressive that playing more than one or two Acidic Slimes in the maindeck can be a liability. You don't want to run into too many Burning-Tree Emissary decks or the aggressive Naya decks with Strangleroot Geist and Voice of Resurgence.
On top of that, the decks that Acidic Slime is good against are slowly adapting to Acidic Slime being a strategy. The U/W/R decks are becoming leaner by lowering their curve so that they can still cast spells while we're destroying their lands. I also felt that Pillar of Flame would be wildly popular last weekend, which is surprisingly effective against Acidic Slime by cutting down the virtual copies we have since we can no longer Unburial Rites any of the Acidic Slimes that are Pillared in Flames. Even though I expected a bunch of Pillar in Flames, I still opted to move Voice of Resurgence to the maindeck.
Voice of Resurgence is B-A-N-A-N-A-S. I touched in my article last week about Aaron Barich's Naya deck on how awesome Voice of Resurgence is, and it's just as sweet in this deck as it is in every other deck (well, minus the new Junk Aristocrats deck and their billion tokens). Voice of Resurgence is a resilient threat and a great defensive player. It protects your Garruk Relentless, and you can even fight the Voice of Resurgence to get a monstrous Elemental token and flip your Garruk—value!
Against the control decks, they can either let your Acidic Slime resolve and kill their lands or Syncopate it and let you get an Elemental token. Talk about being stuck between a Stag and a Slimey Ooze thingy!
Voice of Resurgence surprised me multiple times last weekend with how good it is against decks that I didn't think it would be like Jund. They have a lot of removal, so overloading them with threats is the way to go, and the tag-team duo of Voice of Resurgence and Thragtusk is very good at that.
I played a third Voice of Resurgence in the sideboard and felt like I wanted the fourth. I moved the Sin Collectors to the sideboard since they are really only good against U/W/R, Esper, and The Aristocrats. I still had the same access to Abrupt Decay; another Sever the Bloodline; and Obzedat, Ghost Council, but I opted to play Ray of Revelation over Gaze of Granite.
Bant Hexproof and U/W/R Hexproof are both real decks, and it's reasonable to expect to run into one or the other at least once in a tournament of this size. These types of decks are an awful matchup for Junk Reanimator, so I wanted something to combat them. I tried Gaze of Granite before, and it was just too slow. I didn't run into either of them this tournament, so I'm still not 100% sure if they're worth it still or if we should just forfeit the matchup and not even worry about it. The Hexproof decks are so inconsistent that they will beat themselves just as often as your sideboard cards will beat them.
Standard is diverse, and there are many wicked things out there. I wanted to slay them. Slayer of the Wicked is something that BBD and I played a few months ago shortly before he won his PTQ, and I decided to come back to it. We had been talking about how while Sever the Bloodline is still good against Jund, sometimes they just jam their Olivia Voldaren on turn 3 and we don't have Sever the Bloodline—but we do have all these Grisly Salvages. Having an answer to Olivia Voldaren that we can dig for when needed is just invaluable against Jund. Slayer of the Wicked also kills Huntmaster of the Fells and is a great card to bring in against B/R and Jund Zombies.
While there may be a Slayer of the Wicked in my sideboard, if you look closely there is a certain staple missing. I opted to not play Deathrite Shaman last weekend, and I still think it was a good choice. Deathrite Shaman was primarily for the mirror and Esper and U/W/R Control. Esper has all but disappeared off the face of the planet, and the U/W/R decks play so much spot removal now that it's not like we're making them waste a Supreme Verdict on it anymore.
In the mirror match, it's a back and forth battle for mana advantage. We both have Garruk Relentless and Abrupt Decay to fight Deathrite Shaman, which makes leaning on them a losing proposition. By omitting Deathrite Shaman, I'm able to effectively use my Sever the Bloodlines as another way to combat theirs as well. Moving forward, however, I think we might want Deathrite Shaman back as a tool against the Junk Aristocrats deck.
I played a bunch of games with BBD while we were waiting for Brad to paint some beautiful pictures with his opponents' blood, and it didn't look pretty. Lingering Souls pressures us, Voice of Resurgence clogs up the ground and upgrades to a giant monster when it dies, and Skirsdag High Priest poops out so many 5/5 flying Demons it's sickening. If we're going to evolve to stand a chance in the new metagame, we're going to need to make some changes. Junk Aristocrats and the new Naya decks have already proven themselves as contenders, and both of those decks beat up on us pretty badly. Thankfully, I have a few ideas!
I think now is the time to bring back Lingering Souls. The best way to combat Lingering Souls when you aren't red is with your own Lingering Souls. Golgari Charm might still have some merit, but I like going back to a Lingering Souls plan. Lingering Souls isn't even all that terrible against the new Naya decks since they aren't overloading you with Burning-Tree Emissarys now (minus the poor interaction with Dryad Militant). The board also tends to get clogged up pretty quickly against Junk Aristocrats, and I think I want Craterhoof Behemoth to unclog it. Maybe something like this:
- 3 Angel of Serenity
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 2 Craterhoof Behemoth
- 1 Fiend Hunter
- 3 Restoration Angel
- 3 Thragtusk
- 2 Voice of Resurgence
I haven't tested this yet, but if I wanted to play Junk Reanimator right now, this is where I would start. I'd be sure to play a bunch of games against the Junk Aristocrats deck and the Naya deck. It may be that Lingering Souls and Craterhoof Behemoth aren't good enough to push through and we need to look elsewhere, but I'll definitely be testing this deck out since I'll be PTQing this weekend with my roomie Glenn Jones and SCG Standard Open: Baltimore champion Brad Nelson.
I appreciate all of the comments I got about the Esper Control deck that I posted at the end of my last article. I will also be working on a control deck this week, but with the resurgence of Lingering Souls and the popularity of Voice of Resurgence, I think that we do need to be on some sort of sweeper. Perhaps Mutilate or Gaze of Granite could be good somewhere right now. Let me know if you think of anything!
See you next week.
*It was a bit under the radar previously, but Rest in Piece was surprisingly good against The Aristocrats, and I think that it is also very effective at attacking some of the synergies that this new Junk Aristocrats has.