Duel With Ruel – Jund versus Blue/White Control: The Blue/White Control Perspective

StarCityGames.com Open Series: Indianapolis on March 13-14
Wednesday, March 10th – With the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Indianapolis this weekend, the Ruel brothers have joined forces to test one of the most important matches in the metagame: UW Control versus Jund. Today, Antoine takes us through the matches from the UW Control perspective. Join us later in the week for the Jund opinion!

Most of the people on the forum folk wanted us to playtest the above matchup, to deduce if Chapin’s crew deck had found the answer to the format. Is the UW Control build a deck that beats Jund and still posts decent results against the rest of the metagame?

Jund is actually a killer deck. As I said last week, the deck destroys everything that is not designed to beat it. Worse, Jund’s sideboard is good, and it can annihilate any kind of threat and make every single card in the deck a pain for his opponent. A lot of people think that they beat it because they did not test post board games, or they tested against a weak or inappropriate sideboard. I tested with the R/B/G deck against a friend, who played a National Qualifier with Eldrazi Elves splashing White for Ranger of Eos, last weekend. His results against me were really good, but he still lost to Jund at the tournament, as his opponent played 2 Bituminous Blast in game 3 (I do not like the card anymore); both cascaded into Bloodbraid Elf, then into Lightning Bolt / Maelstrom Pulse. Jund has a random Cascade Factor that will reverse the outcome of a match in the blink of an eye.

On the other hand, the deck that almost put Nassif in the Top 8, and put Chapin in Top 16, was a new deck at the Pro Tour. Whenever you show up with something unexpected, your opponents make huge mistakes and sometimes throw the games away against you. My goal this week will be to find out the viability of the deck by testing it against the most popular and strongest deck there is in the current metagame. Again, if a deck does not beat Jund 55% of the time (50% when you consider the Cascade Factor), I would not recommend that you play it, unless it crushes everything else. Otherwise, play Jund or pray you will not face it too often.

Olivier will be the Guinea Pig this week, piloting the Pro Tour winner’s Jund…

I think that the German’s Jund needs to be revisited, but it is the closest possible version to the one most people will play, and it is good. About the UW deck – I do not really like the Iona, shield of Emeria, but it must be good against some matchups. The deck seems almost a perfect example of a two-color base deck.

Maindeck Games (8 wins, 16 losses, 33% games won)

On the play: 7 wins, 5 losses
On the draw: 1 win, 11 losses

Once more, Jund had a huge edge. Not only in the results, but in the way the games play too. Despite having average draws and cascades, his spells appeared to be more efficient than mine. At some point, my housemate was watching the games and asked me if I was not ashamed that I was creating less card advantage with a Blue White Control deck than my opponent was with his Aggro deck. I was, of course. As card advantage matters a lot in the matchup, most of the few games I won were thanks to Mind Spring. Anytime you have nothing else to do, as bluffing is just terrible, you can tap out and cast the Blue card draw spell, even for two cards. Being greedy does not make sense there, as you have to react quickly to every single one of your opponent’s spell.

Jund is very good in the early game and in the long game, mostly thanks to the man-lands. The best case scenario after casting a life-saving Day of Judgment will be a land animation and the damages that go along with it. Worst case scenario? He casts a Siege-Gang Commander or a Broodmate Dragon, and attacks with three Saprolings he got from a Thrinax. You have to consider these problems and have a game plan: counter the Bloodbraid Elf if you need to, and do anything possible to cast your White sorcery as late as possible. Then, for instance, you will be able to keep a Blue land and a Tectonic Edge for instance, to either kill the activated land or counter an upcoming threat. Of course, you do not necessarily have that opportunity, but it is the situation that you should try to reach if you do not have something like Martial Coup and seven mana up on the following turn. The Coup is really good, as it often handles your opponent’s next few turns, and it is a game-winning card in the matchup.

I was very disappointed with Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I had the feeling that the card was really important in the deck. It is really synergistic (Fetchlands, Treasure Hunt), it provides card advantage, it deals with the board and even with the top of the libraries – no more topdeck for you, sir. Presented this way, it seems to be a dreamy card, and it is not surprising to see it in Nassif’s, Chapin’s and Wafo-Tapa’s decks, the three guys at the Pro Tour who like to end games with the most cards in their hands. Besides those beautiful promises and the fact the card is worth an insane price, the card had almost no impact on the games. Either I had the games under total control and it helped me keep my lead (which any spell would do), or for four mana I’d get to:

– Bounce something, prevent three damage (still good if it’s used on a token or on the only creature on the table).
Brainstorm, prevent three damage (with no fetchland or Treasure Hunt… not so good).
– Prevent five damage and do nothing (you might actually help him by using the fateseal in the early game, or dig him into something even better. And if he has a fetchland up, he will just shuffle his library anyway.

Of course, it is good to activate the +2 effect when he has no pressure, but it’s not impressive; I would recommend targeting yourself with it very often. After a few games, Olivier understood that attacking Jace, the Mind Sculptor was overrated, and often decided to punch me instead (as the situation dictated, obviously). I was actually happy when he attacked the Blue Planeswalker, as I could then cast the other one I was holding, or gain precious life. But, just like Jace Beleren, the card’s power decreases with your opponent’s skill or experience. It is also one of your opponent’s only targets on which he can use his Maelstrom Pulse.

Do not misunderstand me. Jace is great, and decent in the matchup, but considering how good it is against other decks, I was a little disappointed. It is just a bit too slow against Jund, and it doesn’t fulfill its goals in the deck. It is the motor of the deck, and is not adequate for the matchup, eventually causing your loss because it doesn’t do as much as the deck needs from it (as a tempo and draw engine, mostly).

How to play the cards:

Jace, the Mind Sculptor: Do the best possible thing, which is always obvious.

Counterspells: Counter whatever shows up, as any of his spells will be worth it. Just cast your Negate, Cancel, and Essence Scatter before Flashfreeze if possible, as this one counters everything that should be maindeck.

Treasure Hunt: As long as you have other things to do, keep hold of them and wait for a combo piece (Halimar Depths, Jace) to turn them into an efficient spell.

Fetchlands: Do not sacrifice them to have one fewer lands in your deck, if you can afford it. Wait for Halimar Depths or Jace to turn them into “card advantage.” That is the only reason why they are in the deck.

Everflowing Chalice: The best time to play it is on turn 3, leaving a Blue mana and countermagic up. It is sometimes better to hold it for two turns and then play it for two or three and cast your Iona, Mind Spring, Martial Coup, or activate your Celestial Colonnade for the win. By holding one in hand whenever you already have one in play, you will avoid a devastating Maelstrom Pulse.

Celestial Colonnade: Make sure to enter combat with it whenever you can. On the attack, it is huge pressure, and very hard to handle; on defense, it is big. Both ways, thanks to the vigilance, you will be able to cast a counterspell with your mana up.

Blightning: Do not be too greedy, and sometimes keep lands in hand. As Jace will always die to it if you go for the Brainstorm ability, make sure you put the best card on top of your library in order to protect it.

Game 1 is winnable if you play first, which I would highly recommend. Otherwise, you will have to struggle, or hope (just like everyone does) that you opponent does not run Putrid Leech.

Let’s see if the creature sideboard can reverse the outcome of the match.

Sideboarded Games (16 wins, 10 losses, 61% games won)

On the play: 9 wins, 4 losses
On the draw: 7 wins, 6 losses

-2 Cancel
-1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
-3 Day of Judgment
– 1 Scalding Tarn
-2 Oblivion Ring
-2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

+3 Baneslayer Angel
+3 Kor Firewalker
+1 Plains
+2 Flashfreeze
+1 Essence Scatter
+1 Mind Control

I hesitated between removing Day of Judgment or removing Martial Coup on the play, on the draw, tried both. The only games I really needed Day of Judgment were on the draw whenever he made turn 2 Putrid Leech, turn 3 Great Sable Stag. The odds of this situation happening when I have my Wrath up and I still end up winning are too low; I would rather have a game-winning card in the deck.

Anyway, the matchup became much better for Blue/White Control. Obviously, if he ran Goblin Ruinblasters, I might have ended up losing, but then maybe he would not have had the annoying Stag, or he would have to sideboard his removal out and thus free the path for my Baneslayer Angel.

The games’ tempo changed a lot. The freshly sideboarded two-mana counters were extremely good. I could gain the advantage in the early game and not release it. Whenever I played first, I would counter his early drops and develop quietly. Whenever I was on the draw, the main question would be does he have Putrid Leech on turn 2? If he did, the games would be tough; if he did not, the games would be much easier.

Olivier could not deal with Celestial Colonnade. I remember asking Nassif why he played this expensive Mishra’s Factory rather than Sejiri Refuge at the Pro Tour, but the card was really impressive. Along with Kor Firewalker, I finished the games really quickly, and even raced with Oli’s squad.

Baneslayer Angel is so good that I am surprised that it is not maindeck. It combos with just about any protective counterspell to win the game. Even if Oli kept and cast a few Terminates on it, it ruled over the matchup. Whenever you cast it, Jund has to have an immediate answer or he will lose. With no more Lightning Bolt in Jund after boarding, the Angel is hard to kill, and it also benefits from Jace, the Mind Sculptor being destroyed by Maelstrom Pulse.

With only two copies in the deck, and more good cards around it, the Planeswalker was much better. It was still very easy to kill, but at least it did not need to do huge things, just to get a bit of tempo to help more adaptable cards. I think that keeping 2 cards in was the best option.

If your opponent plays first and does not play Putrid Leech on turn 2, you can cast Kor Firewalker as it will handle all his three-drops except for Great Sable Stag, a card which you will not be able to counter anyway.

To conclude, I consider the deck good, and definitely playable, as it should beat Jund as often as it loses to it (assuming that the Goblin Ruinblaster versions are tougher after sideboard). I would consider playing Baneslayer Angel main deck, but maybe it is not necessary against the rest of the field.

76% of the voters decided that next week’s matchup will be LSV Naya versus Nassif’s Blue/White Control. I too am curious to see what would have happened if they met in the Top 8 in San Diego.

French Regionals (which qualify for Nationals) are currently being held. If any other countries also have to play these soon, good luck! And don’t forget to play the remaining PTQs for San Juan. Cheers!