Duel with Ruel – Rise of Eldrazi Standard: Grim Ultimatum versus Jund

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Friday, May 7th – In today’s edition of Duel With Ruel, Antoine Ruel tries an updated version of Manuel Bucher’s Grim Ultimatum deck against Jund, piloted by his brother Oli. With Rise of the Eldrazi rocking Standard in a plethora of ways, can Jund still Blightning its way to the top?

The new Standard is here, and Rise of the Eldrazi will definitely have an impact on it. A few days ago, I was helping Oli to rank the 50 best cards in the set, and I realized that the Top 50 were actually playable in Constructed. Of course, most of the cards will not find a room in the best decks. Some, despite being powerful, are not adaptable to the current formats. Still, I believe that people underestimate this full set, and they will be glad to add many cards from it to their decks.

It seems like Blue/White/Red Planeswalkers and Mythic Sovereign made a big impression in the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Atlanta, but we will wait for the format to be a little more established to go back to the Standard testing. Next week, I will test two Legacy matchups with Manu, probably playing 25 games of each.

Back to this week’s playtesting: Manu’s original Grixis decklist against the infamous Jund. Oli will be the sparring partner this week.

I have no idea who should win here. Spouting Thrinax and Siege-Gang Commander seem to be a pain for the control deck.

Olivier’s Jund decklist with Rise of the Eldrazi:

On Manu’s advice, I changed the original decklist’s 4 Treasure Hunts, swapping them out for 4 See Beyond.

Maindeck Games (13 wins, 11 losses, 54.1% games won)

On the play: 7 wins, 5 losses
On the draw: 6 wins,6 losses

For the second week in a row, none of us mulliganed to 5 cards or less, and we only dropped to 6 a few times each. This makes the results more accurate. Oli cast a lot of Bloodbraid Elves, getting a reasonable cascade from each possible card.

The Grim Discovery Grixis deck is really nice to play. I enjoyed it a lot. Every single card (besides Lightning Bolt) makes some card advantage, and has a very good synergy with the rest of the deck. I never really liked Grim Discovery in draft, but I have to admit that the card is broken in a deck such as this.

At first, I thought that the manlands would be a big problem, but the deck draws so much that it gets to the Lightning Bolt and Spreading Seas really quickly. The Blue enchantment is a key card in the matchup. It kills manlands, and also slows the Jund deck a lot. Do not hesitate to cast it on Savage Lands on turn 2 when you go first, as with no early pressure, Raging Ravine will be less scary.

At first, Oli was up 4/1, and I was wondering how I could ever win a game. Then I understood that I would not win if he had a sick draw unless I could transform one of his lands into an Island really quickly. Then I won the games where I had the perfect answer to everything, and those in which HE drew badly. I lost the rest (16% of the games), which is quite acceptable as long as I won more.

Spouting Thrinax is a real pain, as obviously expected, but if it is not followed by some quick aggression, Gatekeeper of Malakir will do the job quite well. Of course, it is the only target for removal in the deck, but it’s already done its job when it dies. Also, you can bring it back with Grim Discovery, and keep on picking up some semi-card advantage. Consuming Vapors was better than I expected, even against the Thrinax, as the gain life ability compensates the fact that two 1/1s survived. The card was really good against Broodmate Dragon as well, once I took care of the other creatures. The four-mana sorcery spell was good for tempo too, as Oli could not cast a creature on the following turn or the Rebound would get rid of it.

Any token engine is really annoying, as most of your removal spells are Diabolic Edicts; any 1/1 protects the big guys from your best – and only — removal options.

Everything that you will do in the game is to set up a Cruel Ultimatum. The card itself usually is your game plan: you need to survive before and after you cast it, and give you time to collect all the necessary mana. After you cast it and got rid of the removal and Maelstrom Pulse in your opponent’s hand, then you can start playing Planeswalkers and Architects of Will.

Architects of Will is a very good card. It makes your deck virtually 56 cards; combines very well with Grim Discovery and Terramorphic Expense; and it makes sure that your opponent will not come back into the game by rearranging the top of his library once you have the lead. The few damage it will deal will be precious. Please do not play a spell then cycle, or cycle at the end of the opponent’s turn. Recycling your Architect of Will should always be the first thing to do before casting spells if you plan to do it anyway.

I remember reading someone’s response to Manuel’s article about the deck. The guy was saying that Sorin Markov’s “target’s opponent’s life becomes 10” ability was really good with 2 Cruel Ultimatum. I found it funny, as usually whenever you cast 2 Cruel Ultimatum, you should not need a third card to win the game. With no Wrath effect in the main deck, it does happen sometimes, as killing two 1/1 tokens and gaining 10 life does not win all by itself.

Sorin is very good at killing tokens, gaining life, and helping whenever you are on defense. It’s also really good to finish your opponent off, as it is easier to deal 10 damage than 20 with Gatekeeper of Malakir, Architect of Will, Lightning Bolt, or Cruel Ultimatum.

It is really important to set up the mana correctly. It is mostly better to sacrifice Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse on the first turn than to put down a Crumbling Necropolis. Not only you will be able to play Grim Discovery early with lands in your graveyard, but also your Dragonskull Summit and Drowned Catacombs will come into play untapped for the rest of the game with a Swamp turn 1. You also need your first two lands to be Black in order to cast a freshly drawn Gatekeeper of Malakir on turn 3. Turn 5 is a good turn to play your lands that enter the battlefield tapped as you have a hole in your five-mana curve.

I really liked playing See Beyond, as even though the card itself is crap, it is the best Blue draw spell nowadays, and should be played often in the future (Treasure Hunt only hope of being better is with the non-basic tapped Island: Halimar Depths). See Beyond is much better if you keep a card in hand. If you have seven mana on the table and a land in hand, rather than playing it in case you draw an Cruel Ultimatum and want to play a two-mana spell in the same turn, it is better to keep the land in hand and raise your probability to get two spells out of See Beyond without shuffling one back.

Sometimes, when I had a high life total, I would not spend my Lightning Bolt on a Bloodbraid Elf immediately. First because I want to keep it for a manland, and second because I still want my opponent to have a creature on the board if I draw Gatekeeper of Malakir or Consuming Vapors.

Dealing with Blightning is okay, as you draw a lot of cards/lands, and Grim Discovery is an excellent answer to it.

If your opponent is smart (which happens sometimes), you will prevent his Putrid Leech dealing you four damage for a few turns just by keeping a Red mana untapped, which can help.

The matchup should be a little favorable game 1. I am afraid of the Goblin Ruinblasters in Oli’s sideboard, and I hope that he will not have another scary, card such as Duress.

Sideboard plan:

+ 1 Grim Discovery (more creatures now, anti-Blightning)
+2 Consume the Meek (probably my favorite card in the new set)
+2 Sphinx Of Lost Truths (Manu said so)
-3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor (good but not enough)
-1 Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker (good, but too expensive against Goblin Ruinblaster)
-1 Consuming Vapors (even if it is okay, Jund has a lot of tokens)

Manu does not like the Consume the Meek, as it is only a semi-answer to everything.

Sideboarded Games (9 wins, 17 losses, 34.6 %games won)

On the play: 6 wins, 7 losses
On the draw: 3 wins, 10 losses

I got destroyed.

The Goblin Ruinblaster were okay, as the main thing I tried to achieve every game was to destroy his manabase with Spreading Seas, and to get some land advantage out of Grim Discovery.

I thought at first that Consume the Meek would give me a good edge in the games, thanks to the draw potential of the deck. Most of the games I lost would have been won with an extra copy of the black Wrath/Smother. The card has to be tried main deck (as dictated by the metagame), and there should definitely be three copies after sideboard. The card combines really well with Consuming Vapors.

Things started awfully when Oli cast Thought Hemorrhage for Cruel Ultimatum. Then he cast two in the same game. Then he cast at least one per game for five games in a row. When I asked him if he had three (assuming he only had two, to complain about his luck a little), he answered affirmatively. I checked people’s decklists from the StarCityGames.com Atlanta Standard Open, and a lot of Jund decks had it or/with Duress in the board. Maybe they were afraid of Summoning Trap decks or something, but that card is a killer in this matchup, especially as I have no counterspells at all. It is very hard to kill without Cruel Ultimatum, but even whenever Oli removed my Grim Discovery or Sorin Markov, I could almost scoop. The worst scenario was when he played the Lobotomy just before I reached my seventh land for Cruel Ultimatum, destroying my whole game plan (and there is sadly nothing I can do against that).

If everyone in Jund plays these, or many Duresses, then you will probably have to add Negate or Flashfreeze to your sideboard, or you will lose.

Aside from this, the games were pretty similar to the pre-board versions. I would lose to Putrid Leech turn 2, Spouting Thirnax turn 3, Bloodbraid into something good turn 4 almost no matter what when on the draw, but Consume the Meek could help on the play. Actually, the Wrath won games I could never have hoped to win game one, but it was still unbalanced compared to the efficiency of Thought Hemorrhage.

In the end, the deck has a lot of potential, but it needs to evolve with the format. It will be easier to build it perfectly once the field is defined. I still like it a lot, and I’m waiting for Manu to write about an evolved version soon.

Until then… good luck! Maybe we’ll meet next week at Grand Prix: Lyon.