Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Wise Man Said This

"Most Standard tournaments will be won by Jund, but I think it will essentially be a random Jund player that wins them. Many Jund players will do badly, and you have little control over which of the Jund players you are. They are all over the standings; you can always find Jund at the top tables, but also at the bottom tables. On the other hand, if you pick the correct “other deck” for the tournament, you personally have much better control of how you do."

I think Sam Black is correct. That right there is an absolutely true statement. Jund is the most popular, and thus will appear in the top 8 much more often; not only that, it's on average the strongest deck and thus will also appear in the top 8 more often. But take any random Jund player in a tournament: how good exactly are his/her chances at Top8'ing? Even if that person also knows the deck in and out, has a great sideboard plan, and makes skilled decisions during gameplay? 

With a deck like Faeries, which used to be the best, your skill and your sideboard could guarantee you a top place finish. With Jund, the same isn't so. Although having great sideboard planning helps certainly. 

But if you're playing the Snake, the deck that slithers and winds its way through the cracks in the metagame, you have much better control over your wins and losses. Suddenly you can attribute your losses to actual THINGS. Misplays, wrong sideboarding plan, not enough tweaking, mulligans. As always, you can get unlucky, but the more you reduce your reliance on luck, the better.

Whereas Jund mirrors are largely endeavors in trying to have lands, playing first, not mulliganing, playing spells, and topdecking. There are a few tricky sideboard innovations one can still use, as well as mainboard tweaking, but looking at the First Place decklists, they're still kind of exactly the same.

Right now, I recommend playing one of the following:

GW Tokens with Eldrazi
RWU Control
Bant Aggro 
Naya Lightsaber

These are the "safe" choices. The choices that aren't rogue enough to be rogue. But they're still underdogs because everything is an underdog to Jund. I think most of the GWx variants will do fine actually: bant, GWb junk, naya variations, GW aggro, etc. If built right, they can have a winning plan against Jund. And as long as they HAVE a plan, and that plan can go off consistently, then it should be enough. 

Sam Black's article is unfortunately inaccessible to nonPremium members of SCG, but he discusses his own build of GW Eldrazi there. And I can't post the contents here, or I will get sooo busted. (Honestly! They say so!) 

After testing some matches between Jund and GW, it feels like GW has the edge game one. Jund doesn't have enough removal and can only deal with one threat at a time or one group of tokens. Everything has a target on its face. This is where Putrid Leech really shines. If it can get in a few times, Jund has a chance to burn and Blightning the opponent out. 

Jund's plan game one is to hope they get enough damage in before you take over. You have more threats, more inevitability. As silly and surprising as that sounds, I believe this is true. They generally need two cards to deal with each one of your threats -- and that will put them too far behind. Their plan should be to ignore you, bash quickly before you get too many tokens, and then burn you out. Removal should be spared for first-turn mana dorks, Baneslayers, Emerias, Knights, and Masters. Possibly in that order. Blightning seems to go a long way here. Eldrazi and Elspeth are things that should not stay on the table for long if possible. 

Having a good GW sideboard plan against Jund is essential. What will the Jund player take out? What will they put in? Will they take the stance of the control player and add Jund Charms? More removal? Or will they try to be more aggressive (how do they even do this? They don't really have aggressive cards in their sideboard.) 

In which case what should GW do in response? I'm not 100% here, but I think more Eldrazis are helpful. Harm's Way. Vines of the Vastwood. More Dauntless Escorts. For Bant, Bant Charms and Negates are helpful blue additions. Protect your guys. Your guys will win. Especially the flying ones.

For some reason, I think GW decks add Celestial Purges in these matchups, but that's wrong. Jund takes the control position absolutely. The GW deck should be faster. Almost all you have to do is protect Emeria and win on her back. A combination of Vines and Dauntless Escorts seems unstoppable. 

There's another list with Khalni Heart Expeditions and Martial Coup. Those kinds of interesting variations might be enough to surprise your opponent enough to take games. Martial Coup is especially good and generally, people don't expect wraths in the main of an aggro deck. 

There's enough variation in GW these days that the Jund player won't know what to expect just by looking at your lands. That can be an advantage to push. Don't steal a well known decklist. Honestly that is just a dumb idea. Modify it enough that they don't know what to play around. Encourage mistakes. That's my well-intentioned, real advice.