With GenCon being such a busy time for the gaming world, and StarCityGames being no exception, the Open Series took a weekend off last weekend so I was left with the freedom to do whatever I pleased.
Well, this obviously meant that I was going to play in a tournament somewhere.
The usual suspects here in Roanoke were planning on spending the weekend in North Carolina to play in some IQs, but I had different plans. I decided that I was going to make my way up to the Philly area for some much needed R&R. I knew there was an Elite IQ at Tales of Adventure in Coopersburg, but I didn't really feel like going all the way out there since I was just going to rest my weekend away anyway.
It turned out, however, that there was a Standard event much closer to me with a pretty stacked prize pool; giving out playsets of foils for the Top 8 including Nissa, Worldwaker, Thoughtseize, and Brimaz, King of Oreskos along with eighteen packs for Top 16.
I figured this was good enough reason for me to battle some Magic: the Gathering.
I was originally going to play a Jund Monsters update that I had been working on, which I will talk about first. I had given this list to a friend who ended up making the Top 8 of the Super IQ on Sunday that he played in, so that's pretty sweet!
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 2 Ghor-Clan Rampager
- 3 Scavenging Ooze
- 1 Sire of Insanity
- 4 Stormbreath Dragon
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 3 Courser of Kruphix
- 4 Polukranos, World Eater
A lot of people have switched from Jund Monsters to Jund Planeswalkers, and I can't blame them. The Jund Planeswalkers deck has been proving itself time and time again that it's good, and it's very easy to just see it as the next progression of Jund Monsters.
Comparisons can definitely be made to the decks, as they are both jam-packed with threats that can take over the game all by themselves. They are both extremely customizable and can be tailored to attack any angle of the metagame that you want it to, and they both take huge advantage of Rakdos's Return and how backbreaking it can be against both the other midrange decks, as well as against the control decks.
The big difference that I see between the two decks is the way that the Monsters style of deck can pressure and develop its board against the aggressive decks (hyper-aggro like Rabble Red or normal-aggro like G/W Aggro) while still being able to defend itself with cards like Polukranos, World Eater and Domri Rade. Nissa, Worldwaker does a pretty good job of closing games out if uncontested, but when they have game against her it can be a little awkward.
People are still scared of losing value to Lifebane Zombie. It definitely does suck, but I still think that Polukranos, World Eater is extremely good and likely where the planeswalkers deck should be at too; plus the Mono-Black Devotion deck that won in Syracuse didn't have Lifebane Zombie in the maindeck anyway!
The other way that I see Monsters taking advantage of the planeswalker decks is with Stormbreath Dragon. With all the Mizzium Mortars and Dreadbores there really isn't a whole lot of instant speed removal being played in these decks that can stop us from getting a hit in with our Dragon. They then have to spend a portion of their next turn handling it, which gives us reprieve to Rakdos's Return or land another large threat.
Sire of Insanity is another card that I really like in Monsters right now. I played it way back when I Top 8ed the Standard Open at the Charlotte Invitational and it was phenomenal. I wanted a card to actively attack Sphinx's Revelation and he was perfect. He also was very good against the Burn deck which was growing in popularity at the time as well. I think that Sire of Insanity is also pretty good against Jund Planeswalkers; again, with all the Sorcery speed removal and all.
The U/W Control decks have moved to a Planar Cleansing version, and what better to slam down after they use one to clear the field than a Sire of Insanity. Much like Rakdos's Return in the same spot, we're clearing their hand, but we are also putting a sizeable threat in play that they have to answer soon or they will die very quickly.
I will likely be streaming with Jund Monsters a bit this week so feel free to stop by and hang out. With the Open Series in DC this weekend and the Season Three Invitational in New Jersey the following weekend, I really want to get in as much practice with the decks that I am considering for the events so that I can be well prepared. I still have a lot of questions about Jund Monsters and Jund Planeswalkers that I want to try and answer this week, but I would also like to hear all of your input about the following ideas.
About Jund Monsters:
- I still think that three Domri and three Xenagos is the right configuration, but one or both of them could just as easily be four. What do you think?
About Jund Planeswalkers:
- Is there any place for Polukranos, World Eater? I don't think we can afford to run both Nissa, Worldwaker and Stormbreath Dragon, but Polukranos seems like it would be a great fit since it can pressure and protect against the smaller aggressive decks.
- I feel like making the mana work for Hero's Downfall is where we want to be. It's instant speed removal for creatures and planeswalkers, the latter of which is very important in the mirror, but it is a huge tempo play when we can remove something on their turn and untap into a planeswalker.
- Is Sire of Insanity worth it, at least somewhere?
As you can see I still have plenty of questions that I want to answer, and I plan on putting in a lot of work this week to try and figure it all out.
As for the tournament that I played in, I ended up just playing Mono-Black Devotion. I basically took the winning list from Syracuse and removed the blue splash. I ended up playing two Temple of Deceit for a small amount of card selection and had Nightveil Specter main and Lifebane Zombie in the sideboard. I added some Drown in Sorrow and another Bile Blight since I expected there to be a lot of Rabble Red.
I won round 1 pretty convincingly against a Golgari Midrange deck - casting Thoughtseize multiple times a game tends to help you do that. Running Desecration Demons (three!) took game 1 very quickly, and a couple Thoughtsezies followed by a Pack Rat on turn 5 that went uncontested ended that game quickly.
In game 2, I waited until his draw step to use my removal spell on his Courser of Kruphix so that I could get additional information off his draw step, which is something that you see a lot in competitive tournaments, but my opponent was a pretty casual player and felt like it was a "dirty trick." I explained to him how the phases worked, and a Judge confirmed everything, but I could tell he felt like something shifty was going on. This is just another example of the importance of learning as much about the game as you can if you're planning on playing in competitive REL tournaments.
In round 2, I was paired against the mirror. We both mulliganed in game 1, but I was able to stick an Underworld Connections and control the game with my Thoughtseizes and Gray Merchants. However, my sideboard wasn't geared towards the mirror, and it showed here as I also was quite outdated on how the post-board matches play in the mirror.
The last time I played Mono-Black Devotion was pre-Born of the Gods, where it was all about Underworld Connections and Pack Rat, and your Desecration Demons were worthless because of all the copies of Ultimate Price and Dark Betrayal being played as effective early answers to Pack Rat. The old plan was to cut Desecration Demon and just go about our way jockeying for position in the game without the four-mana clunker.
I'm sure you all may have gathered already that I cut my Desecration Demons and lost very easily to his since this was the sideboard that I registered:
It was quite the learning experience, and it just goes to show that even though I play quite a bit of Magic, I had been falling prey to a common mistake people make when they champion a specific deck for too long.
I hadn't kept up with the other big decks in the format. I knew inside and out just how the Jund Monsters versus Mono-Black Devotion matchup goes, how either side sideboards or should be sideboarding. How to gain edges and play around the right things. But I had completely been neglecting putting in the time to play the other matchups with the big decks. Having complete knowledge of the format is a huge bonus as you can get ideas of how people need to be sideboarding for those matchups which effects how they will be building their sideboards and so on. It's just an ongoing process that I have been slacking off from.
In the third round (of five) I was paired against Rabble Red and just got obliterated. In the first game, my opponent went one-drop into double one-drop into triple one-drop and just crushed my mulligan. In the second game I mulliganed to five and had double Desecration Demon in all three (!) hands. We got into an awkward game state where I had the two demons in play and he had a Firedrinker Satyr and two Eidolon of the Great Revel, but I was low enough and stuck with irrelevant cards in hand and lost to my opponent tapping my demons and getting in just enough damage to kill me.
It was definitely a learning experience, and I'm glad that I went through it to open my eyes a bit so that I can now see how I have been slacking off.
I'm very excited for the Open Series to be back in this neck of the woods for the next two weekends. I'm going to prepare properly, play tight, and hopefully take back my lead on the Season Three leaderboard. I know I'm already qualified, but there is just something extremely nice about seeing my name at the top of the list! I wish Joe Lossett all the luck this season to finish strong at the Season Three Invitational to lock up his slot in the Players' Championship, but I still want that number one spot back.
The decks that are on my radar for Standard this weekend are Jund Monsters, Jund Planeswalkers, Rabble Red, and B/W Midrange. I'm currently leaning towards Jund Monsters, but I'm sure that's not a surprise to anyone.
Before I go, I wanted to give a quick Kickstarter update.
I have just about received all of the surveys back and will be putting in the order for the shirts soon. Once I have all of the surveys back, everyone can expect the "Thank You" portion of an article shortly after along with the poll for what color I will dye my beard (planning on having that done for the Invitational). I have also received two of the three decklists that I will be playing in an Open, so everyone can expect to see those in the first few opens in Season Four!
See everyone in DC!