It's three in the morning, and I'm annoyed.
The fact that I have to get up in less than five hours for a PTQ that I don't feel adequately prepared for is probably the reason, but you could also contribute it to my traveling companions snoring so loudly that I'm forced to put on headphones. Eventually, it becomes like one long, unified snore because when one stops the other picks up where they left off and the sound begins to blend together. Everything else becomes moot as my mind descends into madness.
I am slowly going insane.
Deciding that sleep is more or less no longer an option, I decide to fire up my laptop and start picking through various decklists to possibly find a gem that I might have missed the last time I went through various decklists to possibly find a gem the hour before.
That's the true definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
In order to break up the monotony, I decide to fire up Facebook because I am a responsible adult and that's what one does when one needs a mindless distraction. The options were endless; I could play Candy Crush, Angry Birds, or just troll people's comments and post witty and clearly rehearsed jabs in order to agitate other posters. The third one seems the most likely considering my mood.
Mike: Did you check out that video about that deck I mentioned?
Oh yeah . . . he mentioned something to me earlier in the day while I was getting drained and brai—beaten badly while playing Jund in a $1,000 tournament. I pushed it to the back of my mind in lieu of being miserable and feeling like a failure because that's what Magic players do. It's a part of the healing process, which also included eating ridiculous Chinese food and driving around Tampa.
My buddy Mike Reilly directed me to a video about something called "Jedi Jund." You can view it here. Basically, it's a Jund deck that splashes white for cards like Blood Baron of Vizkopa, Sin Collector, and Assemble the Legion. Now, Mike is a great guy, but he can go a little off the deep end occasionally. I would site his obsession with the card Possibility Storm as evidence, but in this case he seemed to be on to something.
The more we talked about it, the more I started to believe this deck is real, and the more we talked about switching certain cards around, the more I wanted to play it.
Jund Midrange has always been very, very good to me, but recently I felt like the mirror match was too coin-flippy, if such a word exists. Often if you didn't have Farseek on turn 2 and they did, winning seemed quite difficult, and it was mostly just a race to see who could Rakdos's Return who first or land that Garruk, Primal Hunter and protect it for a turn. I am a man who loves mirror matches, but like Patrick Chapin pointed out, last weekend showed that Jund Midrange is over 30% of the expected metagame. I don't like mirrors that much. Take that and blend it with the fact that U/W/R Flash was starting to see a lot of play again and you have a recipe for why I wanted to steer clear of Jund.
But then again, I do love me some Jund . . .
The Siren Song was too great, and sometimes you just have to go with what you know. Sort of.
Mike and I talked about some changes we'd make and decided to play the same 75, which as romantic as it sounds kind of put us both in the position of sink or swim. Either we both do well or both fail. Given that we both have a ton of experience piloting Jund Midrange, we decided to say "what the hell" and give Jedi Jund a chance completely in the dark, now a paltry four hours before the tournament started.
As the kids say nowadays, #YOLO!
The choices we made were minimal but still warrant discussion.
I felt that Jared Boettcher's deck was just a tiny bit jumbled in that it felt like he was trying to do too much. His maindeck Unburial Rites seemed to be very powerful but uncomfortably narrow in other matchups. Gaze of Granite is extremely clever since it pretty much one shots most Bant Hexproof decks out there, and I felt regulating it to the board was appropriate given that it's a dead draw in a lot of other games. Mike felt that Liliana of the Veil was a good answer to all of the U/W/R Flash decks that were popping up since if they lack a Warleader's Helix, she can spell disaster for them pretty quickly.
Chromatic Lantern might seem hokey, but it acted as a much better Rakdos Keyrune all day. Your deck is already configured in such a way that it is very strong in the "mirror" match, so a 3/1 with first strike that blanks their Thragtusk is just icing on an already delicious cupcake. Sometimes too much icing can be bad, even though this is America and we sure do love our icing. The Lantern made my mana beautiful all day and was key in making sure I could cast all of my spells comfortably. When you're a deck trying to cast GGG, BBG, RB, BW, RW, BB, and RG, having that safety net is important.
Mike and I liked Barter in Blood as an answer to not only Bant Hexproof but also the R/G decks we were sure to see during the day, so we pushed Ratchet Bomb out, surmising that Gaze of Granite was going to be better against B/W/x Token decks. Golgari Charm was another gem, giving us more Bant Hexproof protection as well as ways to punish creature decks. It didn't hurt that it was good against the newly emerging Elf decks. We cut Rest in Peace from the board due to adding Scavenging Ooze, and booooy howdy the Ooze was loose all day long. With a deck that packs so much removal, it seemed silly to not play a card that capitalizes on all of it, not to mention it's Rest in Peace with legs that stomps and walks mud holes dry.
With our deck completely untested and in tow, I made my way to the tournament site with two of my best friends in the world, Sheridan Mickelson and Cliff Weixler. We gorged on some Dunkin' Donuts, and as a 27-year-old male I discovered that I think I like coffee.
The tournament hall was large, hot, and stationed next to a gospel revival, which was fantastic because it was Sunday and I should have been in church anyway. The soothing sounds of "Amazing Grace" ushered in a 262-person Standard PTQ the combatants dubbed GPTQ Tampa. This would be the largest Standard PTQ in Florida history, and the nine rounds it held guaranteed that it was going to be a long day.
After starting with a quick 4-0, I was handed my first loss by my buddy Shawn Ellis piloting R/W/B Midrange. After two very intricate games, our game 3 saw me Rakdos's Return Shawn and promptly draw ten lands in a row and die. That is one of the prices you pay when you pick up Jund, and floods do happen.
Bouncing back I dispatched of a Naya player with relative ease before meeting another friend, this time in the form of muttonchops master Mike Letsch. At 5-1 we were both in dire straits, needing a win to propel us to a possible win-and-in round. The first two games we played were uneventful, with him crushing me game 1 and me riding Olivia Voldaren in game 2 as if she were Seabiscuit.
Game 3, however, started out very grimly as I mulliganed to five. I managed to mount a comeback, though, casting a Bonfire of the Damned for one that cleared all of his mana creatures and then using a Tragic Slip to kill his Thragtusk. With only three lands in play and one card in his hand, I felt like I might actually pull this out. I played out a Huntmaster next turn, and Mike just drew a land and passed. Huntmaster flipped, and I drew another. Things were turning around!
Then he drew a card, played a land, and cast Obzedat, Ghost Council.
At that point my deck started coughing up lands while his gave him spells, among them Restoration Angel, which shortened my clock and doubled my life loss and his life gain. After a few more turns of flailing, I was defeated, but I was happy that my fellow professional wrestling enthusiast friend was able to get himself in a real position to Top 8 the event. Congrats again, Mikey!
A few wins later and I was left with my third or fourth PTQ Top 16 of the Standard season, which is sickeningly disappointing to say the least, but I really can't complain because I feel like I'm playing very good Magic.
As far as the deck, there were some things I noticed.
What We Got Right
When Jared said he built this deck to beat the mirror, he wasn't kidding. This deck handles Jund Midrange, and when I say handles I mean beats it on just about every level. So many people asked me how a Blood Baron of Vizkopa is supposed to beat a Thragtusk, and when I replied "we have a trillion removal spells," they just laughed and wrote it off. Later in the day a crowd of people watched my Blood Baron ascend to a 10/10 against an opponent who played three Thragtusks and used Restoration Angel on two of them. That game wasn't even close.
Sin Collector goes a very long way in making sure that your Jund Midrange opponent doesn't slam their Rakdos's Return before you do, which gives him a lot of weight in the matchup. Against U/W/R Flash I was able to strip a Rewind and a Counterflux off of a Cavern of Souls naming Human. That let my Rakdos's Return land and pretty much locked up the game. My opponent was speechless—he'd prepared for normal Jund, not this nonsense I was coming at him with.
Assemble the Legions was also pretty filthy. I landed it against Grixis, and my opponent pretty much slumped in his seat without much of a fight after. Later in the day it was instrumental in another victory. Making a million 1/1s with haste is a real thing on a real card.
What We Got Wrong
Liliana of the Veil was terrible. Despite the fact that she is my favorite planeswalker, this is not the deck for her. I understand why Jared advocated Unburial Rites, and even though I thought it'd be too narrow, it turns out it would have been fantastic in some capacity, probably as a one-of.
Deadbridge Chant was garbage; in the matchups you want it, it's either an easy card to counter or fodder for opposing Scavenging Oozes. Underworld Connections is a thought, but Acidic Slime is still a thing that scares me. This slot might be better filled by something like Staff of Nin since if it does resolve the extra card is big game and the one damage can be quite relevant. Against Jund decks it's likely Staff would do a ton of work for you, and that's never a bad thing.
We also didn't prepare enough for Junk Reanimator. Tales of Junk's demise were greatly exaggerated, and even though it's not showing up in the numbers it once did, I still think it can be a hard match for Jund decks in general. This deck may want another Scavenging Ooze, either in the main or board, to help out against Unburial Rites.
Combined Mike and I went 14-4 with the deck, finishing 17th and 15th respectively. Without a doubt if my luck went the other way in my losses, I felt like I could've taken the entire tournament down. Every match that I won was a 2-0 sweep, and the deck's power level felt fantastic. Even though it's a little different than what I've become accustomed to, Jedi Jund feels stupidly powerful, and all the holes that normal Jund Midrange has felt plugged. Blood Baron of Vizkopa was the real deal in every single match I played. Loxodon Smiter with Unflinching Courage? More like Blood Baron of VizNOPEa.
That was my attempt at a pun. In a world of Brian Braun-Duins, it's really easy to feel inadequate in the pun department, and they can't all be winners. Just cut me some slack, please.
Do I think this deck is a contender? I do. I like it so much that I'm going to FNM with it this week. FNM is like when you take your girlfriend to meet your parents; it's not too serious and you hope it goes well, but if it doesn't you can just put your girlfriend back in your backpack and unsleeve her later without much worry.
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While it sucks that I wasn't able to qualify for the Pro Tour this time around, I still think that I've got a great shot at it in the coming months. Positive thinking breeds positive results.
If you're looking for something to spice up your Jund-playing life, be sure to give this deck a whirl. It served me well, and I hope it does the same for you.
I'd also like to point out I made it through this entire article without making a single lame Star Wars joke. The force was strong with me tod—DAMNIT.
Catch ya on the flip-