Last week we began a descent into madness, where every deck we've ever hated (or loved if you're a psychopath) came back to haunt us in what is now Extended. Welcome to Extended: Recurring dead archetypes like its 2009. We love our Bloodbraid Elves, and we love our Bitterblossoms, but how much do we love them? Are we willing to battle mirror matches over and over until our heads explode? The short answer is yes. The long answer is also yes, but only because we have to play this format forced upon us by people who want to limit the ability of deckbuilders to gain an advantage through a much more open format. It's a PTQ format. End of story. End of ranting. Let's resume.
Faeries has won both of the Magic Online (MTGO) PTQs thus far, but there's quite a bit of time left in the season, and we can overcome the winged menace. The path we take might not be what you want to play or even enjoy playing, but sometimes you gotta be the bad guy to beat the bad guy.
With Faeries running rampant and people gunning for the mirror, this is possibly the best time to get aggressive and mess up some Bitterblossoms. While every Faeries player is packing tons of discard, it's no longer a good plan to rely on Volcanic Fallout to take control of the game. You have to control the pace of the game starting early, making Faeries make tough decisions that hurt them in the long run. You beat them by forcing them into situations where they have to make decisions on your terms, instead of their own. When they dictate the pace of the game, it's almost impossible to win.
With Faeries being "top dog," or whatever you want to call it, it's almost like you have a bull's-eye on your forehead if you play it. While I think Faeries is probably the most powerful deck and definitely gives you an edge if you're a proficient pilot, there's a lot to be said about battling against a hostile field. With that in mind, it might be best to play something that's a little harder to hate out. Enter Bloodbraid Elf.
Faeries has always been afraid of Bloodbraid Elf and for good reason. Getting a free spell, on top of a 3/2 with haste, is a pretty good deal for four mana. When that free spell is another problematic card for Faeries, it becomes even worse for the person sitting on their Bitterblossom. The problem with Faeries is that there is no card like Damnation in the format (Consume the Meek is just too slow) to help when your opponent overwhelms the board. While you could delve into white for Day of Judgment or something, it would strain the mana base and hinder your game plan beyond belief. Additional strain on a Faeries mana base can be disastrous, making Thoughtseize much harder to cast on the first turn and would also force you to play more lands that enter the battlefield tapped.
When your opponent applies a constant stream of pressure starting from turn 1 and 2, there isn't much you can do. This is especially true when your opponent casts a creature that you have to kill before letting them untap, a la Fauna Shaman. Fauna Shaman generates some crazy advantages in this format, since Demigod of Revenge is like a gigantic, flying version of Vengevine. Speaking of Demigod of Revenge, why hasn't this guy seen more play? He's pretty insane in multiples, and the removal people are playing nowadays don't get rid of him permanently. People are skimping on Path to Exile, making Demigod a fine endgame for a deck like Jund, Mono-Red, or possibly some other concoction.
I'm not sure who was the first person to play Fauna Shaman in Jund, but they had the right idea. When everyone and their brother is playing Faeries, why not take a different route and smash people's faces in? There's a small problem though. People can't seem to stop playing cards that were good last year. Blightning is just terrible, and you shouldn't be playing it. Mind Rot isn't the way you want to attack Faeries, and every other deck in the format has plenty of redundancy and doesn't mind discarding a few superfluous cards. Sure, the three damage is nice, but we really need more ways to interact with Mistbind Clique. Terminate seems like the best option possible for dealing with Mistbind, since it also helps battle problematic creatures from other decks. Naya and Mythic have been getting more and more popular on Magic Online, so having an efficient answer to Knight of the Reliquary is incredibly helpful.
I've seen a lot of lists playing only two or three Fauna Shamans, but that just seems terrible. You need to have a two-drop in order to put Fae on the back foot, so maxing out on one of the best creatures in the format seems logical. I'm also not sold on having so many Anathemancers in the deck, since the format is becoming more and more aggressive, and instead I'd play more in the board with a singleton in the maindeck to tutor for.
Here's my current list for Jund:
- 1 Anathemancer
- 4 Bloodbraid Elf
- 1 Cloudthresher
- 4 Demigod of Revenge
- 4 Fauna Shaman
- 4 Kitchen Finks
- 4 Putrid Leech
- 1 Shriekmaw
- 1 Sylvan Ranger
Kitchen Finks is a creature I just can't get away from. Every time I try to cut him, I end up coming back to him and wanting more. The small amount of life has helped win countless races, and he's so resilient to removal that I don't know why I ever thought about cutting him. Sprouting Thrinax was in his place for a hot minute, and he was really good, but it became very difficult to cast him when people realized that hurting my mana base is the best way to disrupt me. Spreading Seas and Tectonic Edge are coming back in a big way, so making your spells a bit easier to cast helps a lot.
The singleton Cloudthresher is obviously a nod to Faeries, and most people won't see it coming, since you can search for it early and evoke it on the fourth turn or all at the same time on the fifth turn. It wipes away Faerie tokens so that you can swing in for lethal with your horde of dorks, but it's also a sweet surprise at the end of someone's turn on a stalled board or when they're attacking into you. Cloudthresher is a big guy (elemental-tree-thing), and he eats Faeries for breakfast.
Fauna Shaman adds something to Jund it didn't have before: a toolbox. Instead of just having a single strong threat for two mana, you get two, making your draws more consistent. It also gives you the Demigod endgame that's just bananas against almost every deck. The ability to search out answers like Shriekmaw, Anathemancer, and even the Sylvan Ranger when you're short on mana is really awesome. While Vengevine seems like it should have a place here, your removal suite keeps your Bloodbraid Elves from always hitting a creature, making your ability to bring back Vengevine inconsistent. Demigod always brings back more Demigods, so he wins the fight between the two.
I've maxed out on Maelstrom Pulse and Lightning Bolt for various reasons, but mostly because they're very good at handling your problems. Maelstrom Pulse can answer anything from Jace, the Mind Sculptor to Prismatic Omen to Lotus Cobra, giving you outs to cards a normal aggro deck wouldn't have. Lightning Bolt is an incredible answer to every creature costing less than four mana, and most creatures at any cost. While there are some creatures that dodge Bolt, they don't matter nearly as much as the ones you'll be facing off in the early game. Bolt is also very good at finishing off opponents after your pressure puts them low on life.
The sideboard war between Great Sable Stag and Volcanic Fallout is pretty split, but I'm really high on Great Sable Stag at the moment because Fallout kills so many of your creatures! The older versions of Jund that used Fallout to severely damage Faeries played more Boggart Ram-Gangs and Sygg, River Cutthroat, making it much better in those spots. Now, with Fauna Shaman and Kitchen Finks, the deck's creatures are much worse at surviving Fallout, effectively nullifying the advantage you gain from clearing the board.
The singleton Anathemancer is to compliment the one in the maindeck, giving you a better chance to draw one instead of relying on Fauna Shaman to find it. However, I almost never want to draw more than one except against 4CC, but having access to two feels just right. The damage it deals in the late game is nice, but against most decks, you just want to draw a three-power creature and beat down.
Thoughtseize is for a variety of matchups but is just abysmal against aggressive decks, so it stays in the board. There could be a time where playing it over Lightning Bolt in the maindeck is correct, but right now is not one of those times.
Deathmark is for any Naya or Mythic deck but is also random splash damage against White Weenie and Elf combo. It's efficient at killing all of their best creatures, giving you a way to pull ahead on board while keeping them off their best guys. While it doesn't kill Sovereigns of Lost Alara at instant speed, hopefully you'll be able to run them over before they can get him into play.
I'll admit, I can't take credit for "finding" Deglamer, but that card is pretty sweet. Not only does it keep Sun Titan from recurring dead Prismatic Omens, it makes Wurmcoil Engine look foolish. Since it shuffles the card into the library, it gives you an answer to the creature that makes your life most problematic, while also being an answer to Wall of Tanglecord and Bitterblossom. Nature's Claim is a solid card, don't get me wrong, but an aggressive deck doesn't want to give the opponent life. The tempo gained by costing one mana isn't as valuable as the four life you're giving them, as well as the ability to permanently remove a Wurmcoil Engine from play.
I'm still not 100% on the sideboarding, so I'm not going to go over a guide, but I'll give you a few pointers:
Lightning Bolt is mediocre against Faeries, but killing Vendilion Clique is crucial at times, so I like to leave in a few. It's also great for killing them once your creatures and their Bitterblossoms have dealt them a bit of damage. However, you don't want to draw too many, since you need to apply steady pressure, but drawing one is fine.
Maelstrom Pulse is also okay against Faeries but nothing special. You don't have very many ways to kill Big, Dumb Mistbind Cliques, so having a few after board should be okay. However, if they have Scion of Oona in their deck, don't leave it in. You're just asking to get blown out of the water.
Kitchen Finks is good against every deck. Against aggro decks, he's trading 2-for-1 constantly, while gaining life. Against control decks, he's resilient to removal, making him valuable on multiple fronts. I almost never side him out.
Anathemancer is solid against Faeries, 4CC, and Prismatic Omen as long as they have a decent number of non-basics. Most of your removal is traditionally bad against these guys, but Deglamer is actually solid against all of them. 4CC will probably bring in Leyline of Sanctity or Runed Halo, and they'll certainly have Wurmcoil Engine, which you'll want out of your way. Faeries will often bring in Wurmcoil and Wall of Tanglecord and still have Bitterblossom, so Deglamer is pretty good against them as well.
Thoughtseize comes in against virtually any deck that doesn't like to attack. If your life total is irrelevant for the first ten turns of the game, then Thoughtseize is probably great. Faeries can be an exception because your life total matters when they start to race you, but Thoughtseize is remarkable against them for obvious reasons. Keeping them off Cryptic Command, or shutting down their entire plan by hitting their Bitterblossom is just nuts.
Your tutor targets can occasionally come out against the matchups where Fauna Shaman doesn't survive very often. Sylvan Ranger and Cloudthresher are particularly miserable against Mono-Red, but you don't have too much in the way of sideboard cards against them. I like to write that matchup off, but that might be dangerous considering Faeries is Public Enemy #1. Obstinate Baloth is a solid option, since he's decent in the mirror since most people are still packing Blightning.
Lastly, I'd like to stress that Great Sable Stag, and an aggressive approach, is what you need in order to beat Faeries. Don't leave too many reactive cards in your deck, and bring the heat when they give you the chance. You aren't as good of an aggressive deck as Naya or Mythic, but you have more tools to handle the aggressive decks than they do. Having solid removal should give you an edge in the pseudo-mirror matches where you're running creatures into each other, but you should also win most of those due to Fauna Shaman fetching some Demigods.
Blightning is not the way to go. It's a slow spell that limits two resources of your opponent but in a very small way. As I said earlier, the number of redundant cards, or cards that become useless as the game progresses, is high in a format based on tempo. It should help my point when I tell you that whenever my opponent taps three mana when I'm tapped out, I'm excited and relieved when it's just Blightning. It doesn't have the power it used to.
While I may not enjoy the new Extended format as much as the old, it does have a lot of play, which is refreshing. Standard and Block are two of the more popular formats on Magic Online, and I can tell you that playing Extended is much more enjoyable then either of those formats. While the new set for Scars of Mirrodin Block should bring a cool twist to the format, there's a lot of time between now and its online release. Hopefully this mish-mash Ex-Standard horror show of a format will give me enough to focus on. I've already got a few interesting ideas, and hopefully they'll prove worthy for Grand Prix Atlanta. If not, I'll just sleeve up a Boogeyman from Standard's past and bring some pain.
Thanks for reading.
strong sad on MOL