The weekend has come to pass.
Swarms of powerful magicians descended on the majestic city of Atlanta for some Theros Block Constructed, and our very own Patrick Chapin emerged victorious. Not to be left out, fellow writers Todd Anderson, Brad Nelson, and Brian Braun-Duin all finished in the Top 50 as well.
Good job, boys!
But that's not why you're all here, is it?
You're here because I traveled to West Virginia to battle in their State Championships and ended up winning the whole thing.
To shave or not to shave, that is the question, but before we get to that, let's talk a little bit about the weekend and the StarCityGames.com Spring State Championships. I really like the program, especially how adding Open Series points to the prizes incentivizes a lot more people to play in them and makes them a little more high-profile. There are some people who were a little upset about some areas of the country having tournaments on Saturday and then another one on Sunday if you were willing to make the trip.
I definitely was.
It wasn't easy. Three hours to the West Virginia tournament, and then to get to the Virginia one, we had to basically go back through Roanoke, which was three hours, and then another three hours to Hopewell, followed by another three hours back home.
I may have been able to play in two tournaments, but the Sunday one was miserable, and after twelve hours of travel on the weekend and playing through an entire tournament and winning on Saturday, I was beat and felt like crud for the Sunday State Championships.
I can definitely see the system going to only Saturday events in the future, but for now I'm going to take all the chances at Open Series points that I can get.
BBD was in Atlanta battling his little heart out, so in his stead, along with Stephen Horne and myself, we had coverage guru Nick Miller tagging along with us. We joked about getting to the finals together and him scooping to me for the points and he could have the medal and playmat.
Sadly, we met in the Top 4 rather than in the finals.
I played Jund Monsters again, and I felt like my deck was very well-positioned and that the changes I had made to it from the last incarnation were very good.
I wasn't going to play Jund Monsters, though, as crazy as that sounds, because I really liked the R/W Burn deck and felt like the matchup was pretty close. I figured if I was going to play R/W Burn, then I was going to have a good time, and cashed out a chunk of my store credit to get the majority of the deck in foil.
I tested a bunch with R/W Burn, starting with Black-based Devotion decks. I lost quite a bit. I'm sure there was a bit of variance, as it felt like he had Desecration Demon on Turn 4 in the majority of the games and I was struggling to find Chained to the Rocks, but it really felt like I was fighting a steep uphill battle every time they cast Demon.
I bemoaned how much the deck sucked. I knew it didn't, but these tournaments were very important to me, and I didn't really want to play a deck that I had less experience with and didn't feel comfortable with my chances against any of the Black Devotion decks.
I knew that with the Burn deck winning last weekend there could be a resurgence of them, similar to what happened when Burn did so well at Grand Prix Beijing right before GP Cincinnati.
In anticipation of more Burn decks, and a handful of aggressive decks that were going to try and go under the fiery menace, here is what I sleeved up.
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 3 Ghor-Clan Rampager
- 3 Scavenging Ooze
- 4 Stormbreath Dragon
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 3 Courser of Kruphix
- 4 Polukranos, World Eater
There were a handful of changes in the main and sideboard that I'd like to go over.
This is a pretty big difference from theJund Monsters deck that Top 8'd the Open in Knoxville that played zero Temples and a full four Mana Confluence. By removing one of the shocklands and adding a Temple, we are reducing the overall damage that we will do to ourselves with our lands and giving ourselves another chance at superior card selection. This is very important, as our deck is mana sources and gas, so once we get into the mid-late game we want to be drawing gas. Our cards are all absurdly powerful and can win games all by themselves, so scrying a land to the bottom can be the difference between winning and losing. I can't see myself playing this deck without at least four Temples, and I was very happy with six.
For this weekend I decided that I wanted five removal spells in the main, where previously I was always only running four.
I wanted Abrupt Decay in the main, like the Jund Monsters deck from Knoxville, but I also felt like having some number of Mizzium Mortars was right. I was also changing some cards around in the sideboard, and only had room for one copy of Mizzium Mortars there, and wanted to have access to at least two in my 75.
With how popular Lifebane Zombie is in the maindeck of the B/g Devotion decks, I felt like I was cutting Ghor-Clan Rampager a lot against them. In the pure G/R version, you have to keep Rampager in as an additional way to push damage through Desecration Demon, but in the Jund Version, we have hard removal spells that can just kill Desecration Demon, so having Ghor-Clan Rampager is less important.
I kept everything else the same in the main deck, and I want to talk about the creatures for a few. I keep seeing people cutting Polukranos, World Eater for creatures like Reaper of the Wilds. I think this is absolutely crazy. Polukranos is absurd, and cutting it for a creature that's worse doesn't make much sense to me. The legendary argument doesn't really do anything, since you can close the game out with just a single Polukranos very quickly, and I have often attacked with one that was already Monstrous and then played a new one postcombat and used it to kill a one-toughness creature.
The big changes to the sideboard were the additions of Nylea's Disciple and Bow of Nylea. Just like I had feared, Bow of Nylea was too narrow and I only ever wanted it against the Burn deck, but Nylea's Disciple surprisingly overperformed. I played against a lot of G/W, Hexproof, and Brave Naya, and Disciple was just fine in those matchups. One change I would make moving forward would just be to swap the Bow of Nylea for a third Nylea's Disciple.
In order to make room for the changes, I moved the Abrupt Decay to the maindeck and cut the Chandra, Pyromaster. I still like Chandra, and will probably try to find room for her once again somewhere in the deck, but I felt like for this weekend she was definitely the weakest card in the 75 and had to be removed.
We also added the Doom Blade that BBD was playing too. We're gonna kill 'em all!
One of the things that I get asked a lot is just how good Xenagos, the Reveler is and how I "usually" use him. Xenagos is one of those interesting cards who has quite a few different abilities and his use is going to ebb and flow with the texture of the game and your hand. He's also unique where, in the matchups that he's "bad," he's not even all that bad and is still actually pretty good in Game 1.
Some of Xenagos, the Reveler's common uses are:
Creating a steady stream of 2/2s, making us resilient to spot removal and sweepers.
Creating a steady stream of 2/2s to provide protection for himself and locking down Desecration Demon.
Creating a 2/2 and soaking up three damage as a means of turning the tide early in a race if our opponent doesn't realize what our game plan is.
Using his +1 as a means to cast multiple spells in a turn, exhausting our opponent's spot removal and flooding the board.
Using his +1 as an extra way to try to facilitate a Mizzium Mortars overload.
Threatening an Ultimate can also be pretty powerful. It doesn't win the game on the spot, but it can still swing the game, or put a close one away.
Xenagos also has a special ability that most people don't realize; you can sideboard him out! A lot of people have this weird problem with siding out Xenagos and Domri in this deck, when a lot of the time it's 100% correct to do so with our removal-heavy sideboard.
I know what you're all thinking. I can hear it now. "But CVM, thanks for the sweet list with all these interesting cards, but how exactly do I sideboard with this mess?!"
Sideboarding was always my weakest part of my game, besides having extreme bouts of "being really stupid," so using a sideboard guide really helped me with that. You still have to experiment, and make changes on the fly depending on what you see your opponent play and do, but here is a general sideboarding guide.
Vs. G/R/x Monsters
There were a few times that I kept in one Xenagos and cut the other Abrupt Decay when it felt like my opponent had cut most/all of his Scavenging Ooze, but I still like keeping in all of the Abrupt Decays since they also hit Domri Rade.
Vs. U/W/x Control
Here I like to keep in a Dreadbore to mise aginst a Jace or Elspeth, in addition to them possibly still having Archangel of Thune. If you see Archangel, you definitely want the other Dreadbore too. I like shaving a Courser of Kruphix and a Scavenging Ooze, and Polukranos, World Eater is just a big dumb hydra who dies.
Vs. Black/x Devotion
I like cutting the Rampagers here because of Lifebane Zombie. I also like cutting Abrupt Decay because I feel like it's too narrow and I would rather have Mizzium Mortars as a way to catch up if we get behind against Pack Rat.
Vs. Brave Naya
Sometimes I will bring in Vraska if it looks like they've cut a bunch of one-drops and I'm on the play. It might seem a little weird to board out a Polukranos, World Eater, but I really hate Selesnya Charm and they always have it. I shave some Domris here because we don't want to play him on Turn 3, so we don't need the full four to ensure that.
Vs. R/W Burn
BBD recommends cutting Stormbreath Dragon for Mistcutter Hydra since we want to try and race them, but I still like Dragon. We get some instant speed removal for their creatures, and I like to keep in a single Mizzium Mortars in case they have a draw with multiple Satyr Firedancers.
We are bringing in Bow of Nylea here because we don't have anything else to bring in. We could potentially leave in a Domri Rade as a way to kill Fiendslayer Paladin, which I would swap if I see it in Game 2.
I hope that this guide will help anyone who is looking to pick up Jund Monsters. I'll be in Somerset this weekend battling for more Open points, so be sure to stop and say "hi."
Before I go, I want to talk about something important.
There are millions of babies out there who suffer from a sever beard deficiency. I would like to work to bring awareness to our community for these poor beardless babies.
No, seriously, I won West Virginia States and want to see what everyone thinks about if that's good enough to shave. When I started this whole ordeal, I said that I would shave when I won something that was PTQ level or higher. Do the State Championships count? Cedric Phillips so generously put the question out there on his Twitter and we got a lot of responses, but there wasn't a single clear consensus answer.
Think about this while you answer.
If my beard were powerful, I would have already won something. I don't doubt the majesty of my beard, but it is definitely not the source of winning Magic tournaments.
If I do shave, I will definitely grow my facial hair out. I look like a 12 year old child when I'm clean-shaven. Hayden Bedsole better be prepared for the "Whoa, are you CVM?" comments after I do get to shave.
This thing is for you guys just as much as it is for me. It's kind of taken on a life of its own, which is pretty damn cool.
Let me know what you think. If the Internet thinks that it counts and I should shave, then I will. If the internet thinks that it doesn't count and I shouldn't shave, then I won't.
It's in your hands. Tell your friends. Have your grandma vote if you have to.