Innovations – That Kind Of Jund In Standard!

Wednesday, March 16 – Patrick Chapin puts his innovative mind to action and produces a Standard decklist with enough power and card advantage to rival The Best Deck. Check it out for SCG Open: Dallas/Fort Worth this weekend!

Faeries. Five-Color Control. Jund. Mythic. Valakut. Caw-Blade.

Best decks go in; best decks go out. You can’t explain that.

“The Best Deck” is certainly not always the best deck to play, but

it’s generally the most important deck to consider when selecting or tuning

a deck,
in a given meta. That said, most people seem to misunderstand a

basic strategic question about the best deck. Right now, Caw-Blade makes up

about 20%
of the field. That is The Best Deck, so beating it is a very noble

ambition. However, you’re generally going to have to beat an awful lot of

decks in order to actually Top 8 the event, let alone win it.

Building a true “anti-deck” is rarely correct, even if The Best Deck is 40%

of the field,
so the idea that an anti-deck is a desirable goal in as balanced of

a format as we have is foolish.

The real goal, when we talk about making sure we beat The Best Deck, is to

build a deck that reaches a certain performance threshold against the field

besides The Best Deck, as well as having a certain performance

threshold against The Best Deck. Often, this threshold is about 55%; though

if we
have multiple good options, we decide where a better bar is (for

instance, Necrotic Ooze Survival vs. U/G Survival, or Faeries vs. Five-

Color). There
are times when we can’t even reach this baseline goal of 55%, making

us decide what to settle for (though measuring win percentages from your own
testing in increments smaller than 5% is generally worth little, as

you’re just not getting enough quality information to achieve that precision

describing matchups).

Sometimes the best deck is not so good or so popular that we feel we

have to actually beat it. In fact, sometimes the best deck to play is

Scissors, so
to speak; however that usually involves either just a crushing

record against the rest of the field or The Best Deck not being particularly

strong or
popular. For instance, I didn’t mind having a soft matchup to

Valakut in Paris, as it wasn’t that popular, nor that

good (or good
at all, in my opinion).

There are also times where you just can’t find a deck that beats the

field to a satisfactory degree. Here’s the dirty truth that many people

don’t want
to hear.

Sometimes The Best Deck is the best deck.

Gerry Thompson is responsible for more technological breakthroughs

than most, showing up at countless StarCityGames.com Opens with cutting edge
splashes, sideboards, or hybridizations. However, he also shows up

with Valakut, with Vampires, with Jund. If he had months to work on his

decks, every
time, he might break it every time, but he’s playing in events every

week. Sometimes when you register new brews, what you write down is

fierce like Shoryuken. Other times, you just play The Best Deck and sweep

kick over and over again (to borrow from some some rando…). If you’re
going to play a format multiple times, it calls for a very different

tactic than if you’re playing in FNM, PTQs, or Opens every week.

Regardless, not everyone wants to play The Best Deck, or perhaps

just not this one. Caw-Blade is very good, but it’s hardly that

threatening of
a boogeyman. Rather than overreact and try to engineer a 90/10

crusher of Blades (that gets 30/70ed by the rest of the field), it’s far

better to take
the anti-Faerie approach. That is to say we just slant all the

little decisions towards the option that’s better against Faeries, play tons

of cards
that are above average against Faeries, avoid many cards that are

bad against Faeries, and play a strategy that can hang with Faeries on a

level. This isn’t about hoser cards because decks like Faeries and

Caw-Blade are too resilient to fold to silver bullets. If you want to beat

like this, your core strategy must be designed with The Best Deck

(aka The Enemy) in mind, though not to such a degree that we’re playing

narrow hoser

There have been so many The Best Decks; it isn’t even funny, though

Faeries is often a perfect example of how to approach resilient Best Decks

seem to win week after week, despite the secret’s being out. Not

everyone wants to play Faeries or Caw-Blade, however. Today, I’m going to

discuss a
new deck, but rather than skip straight to it, I’d like to take a

few moments and detail the thought process that has led me in this

direction. Also,
keep in mind, this is a concept to work with, not my recommendation

for Pro Tour Tomorrow.

This particular brainstorming session began with my idly jotting

down a deck idea for Vampires with Lead the Stampede. Now, this is not a new

idea. In
fact, I suggested this exact strategy in my exclusive preview of the
card. Still, it was pure theory. There’s only so much time in the

day, and I hadn’t gotten around to working with B/g Vampires much, beyond a

few lists
that inevitably were abandoned on account of a lack of B/G dual

lands; the mana bases don’t exactly scream out “Vampire Lacerator!”

Now this list is interesting, as Lead the Stampede does seem pretty

sweet with this many creatures, not to mention possibly discarding

Vengevines and
Bloodghasts, as well as finding “spells,” like Gatekeeper and

Kalastria Highborn. However, there are a number of flaws that screamed out

to me. First
of all, tapped lands are certainly not the most exciting lands to

play in a “Carnophage” deck. At least B/R Vampires has Lavaclaw Reaches so

that your
tapped land is still adding another threat to the board.

Additionally, the prospect of finding not just a Forest, but a second

Forest, in order to
power up Vengevine seems awfully loose in a Gatekeeper of Malakir

deck. Fetchlands are not dual lands, and it takes three Swamps and two

Forests for me
to be able to cast my spells. When you need more lands in play than

your most expensive spell just to be able to cast your spell, you aren’t

looking at
a realistic mana base.

The next problem I observed was the lack of interaction with Sword

of Feast and Famine. Sideboarding in removal of any sort, short of like

Slime, was going to quickly make the Lead the Stampedes poor. What

was I doing? What is the purpose for this deck, now? How is it a good fit

for this
meta? It’s all well and good to try to build around a card or a

combo or a theme, whatever. However, when it comes time to realistically

evaluate the
deck, sticking to a theme is only justified if there is a purpose.

For instance, Bitterblossom, Mutavault, and Vendilion Clique are fine cards

on their
own, but if you use them and add Spellstutter Sprites, you can gain

Mistbind Clique. Sticking to the theme has a tangible reward.

This left me torn, as there seemed to be two very different issues

to address. First the mana base. What makes the mana base terrible? Two


1) Basic Forest

2) No manlands.

One possible solution to both of these is the addition of red

(killing two birds with just the one stone…).

4 Raging Ravine

4 Lavaclaw Reaches

4 Verdant Catacombs

3 Terramorphic Expanse

7 Swamp

2 Forest

1 Mountain

This was interesting, as this mana base looked pretty exciting. I

may have increased the number of lands, but with this many manlands, that’s

positive. Unfortunately, we were now up to eleven lands that enter

the battlefield tapped, making Vampire Lacerator look worse and worse.

this mana base actually has one more non-black land than the

previous mana base did.

Addressing the other problem, I asked myself what I was really

trying to accomplish. After all, if I’m trying to build a Lead the Stampede

deck that
can actually beat Caw-Blade, maybe what I really need to be flipping

was Manic Vandal and Acidic Slime. I started sketching some ideas, just

what they looked like in front of me. Eventually, I started moving

towards an R/G list reminiscent of Nassif and Sperling’s R/G Extended deck

Atlanta, discussed here.

This one could be interesting to explore, but I knew I was not going

to be able to go much further along these lines until I actually got a

chance to
shuffle it up. A few major problems seem to stand out to me, aside

from the general lack of power compared to decks with Jace, Primeval,

Tezzeret, or Gideon. The lack of removal was a bit distressing.

Cunning Sparkmage helps, but my intuition was telling me that most of the

best ways to
gain tempo in the format were with removal spells. There is a fair

amount of card advantage in this build, but without reliable solutions to

there’s a big risk that all the card advantage will be unraveled by

a Fauna Shaman, a Titan, a Baneslayer, whatever.

It was at this point that I decided to try to merge the two

“experiments.” What would I have if I combined that mana base with the basic

theory of this
G/R deck? To me, the idea of a turn 1 Llanowar Elves is not actually

very appealing (compared to how it normally is). I really wanted to play a

ton of
manlands, anyway, which would conflict with them. I started

sketching some ideas and eventually arrived at:

This Jund list is actually strategically very similar to the Jund

deck that dominated Standard for so long. It may not have Bloodbraid Elf,

but a
closer examination reveals a starting quantity of card advantage.

Twenty-six card-advantage spells combined with the virtual card advantage of

manlands means that we are never running out of gas. In fact, the

only ten spells in the deck that don’t generate card advantage are super

1-for-1s that help give us much-needed, cheap interaction. Let’s

take a look at the cards one by one.

It’s hard to imagine a more Jund-esque creature selection than the

lineup provided here. Each of these creatures is at least a two-for-one,

which is
actually far more important than just “card advantage is good.”

Standard is a format defined by Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Jace, the Mind

bounce a guy is so much more remarkable of a play than most realize,

so having a creature suite that’s naturally resistant to this was a huge

part of
the theory behind the build. After understanding why Jace/bounce is

so devastating, it’s useful to consider what it’s like to be hit by a Sword

Feast and Famine. It’s the same sort of thing, since your trump card

is giving you an entire turn’s worth of mana, in addition to now being a

powerful permanent on the table, making things worse for the


Sword of Feast and Famine, as tournament players everywhere are

coming to realize, is not just for Stoneforge decks. A couple Swords add an

dimension to a midrange deck, as once you hit five mana, every

random 1/1 or 2/2 sitting on the battlefield threatens to turn into a

devastating threat
that provides card advantage and gives you an entire Time Walk worth

of extra mana, which is convertible into more cards, removal, and everything

good in this world.

Sylvan Ranger isn’t just a great Sword-bearer; it also works well as

a speed bump and is just a fine way to make sure that you hit all your land

Can you get a little flooded in a deck with four Sylvan Rangers,

four Sign in Bloods, and some Ragers? Sure, but with eight manlands, I think

it’s more
likely that we’re a land short than a land over. Manlands make extra

basics in your hand the equivalent of spells, going long.

Gatekeeper of Malakir is just a generally excellent card, but the

edict effect is especially potent here. Whether providing solutions to

Plated Geopede
or Primeval Titan, it’s nice to be able to actually kill anything.

It’s somewhat unfortunate that putting your Gatekeeper of Malakir in a Mimic

isn’t particularly sweet, but generally you can just put whatever you

Gatekeepered into the Vat. If we can take a moment to imagine our favorite

Wonderland scenarios, my personal favorite is Gatekeepering their
Stoneforge Mystic when you have a Mimic Vat. Once you Stoneforge

your first Sword, you’ll easily have mana to go get the other one! One last

note on
Mimic Vat: It may be slightly ambitious to play two Mimic Vats and

two Swords (I definitely want the two Swords); however I wanted to start

with both
Vats and cut one if it was too “heavy.”

Phyrexian Rager doesn’t see a lot of play, but that’s primarily a

function of not being a Vampire, costing three during a time when there’s a

lot of
competition for three in black’s curve, with black generally not

getting much play at all. I love him here; though we can only play so many

forcing me to make some tough cuts for curve. He’s a fun one to get

on a Vat, though; that is for sure.

The other three-drop that I want to mention is Vampire Nighthawk.

Depending on what your meta looks like, I could totally see playing 3-4

main or board. He’s so good with the good Sword, but he also helps

make up for life loss from all the Sign in Bloods, Ragers, and Catacombs.

It’s a
little bit of a strike to want to block Squadron Hawks with black

(or green) creatures, though.

Acidic Slime is just awesome, right now. Four Acidic Slimes and four

Inquisitions help provide a core defense against other players’ equipment.

manlands and Valakuts is also a great feature, not to mention

solving countless fringe problems, like Basilisk Collar, Tempered Steel,

creatures, and even Dark Tutelage. Setting up the lock with Mimic

Vat is even an option, going long.

Grave Titan is, surprisingly, probably the most questionable

inclusion. The Swords and Vats provide nice endgames, especially factoring

the massive
number of two-for-ones to complement them. Still, Grave Titan is an

incredible amount of raw power, letting you brute force your way through big
problems like Gideon Jura. Sam Black suggested Vampire Hexmage to

help with Gideon, an idea I’m going to try soon.

It sounds like overkill, but Mimic Vat actually works great with

Grave Titan, since people actually do play Day of Judgment and Go for the

Throat. I
should note that I wanted to play one Grave Titan and one Inferno

Titan but didn’t want to play the second Mountain. If you’re a player who

wants four
Goblin Ruinblasters in your sideboard (which would be totally

understandable), you’re going to need another Mountain (instead of a Swamp,

possibly, or
more likely just a 25th land). With a second Mountain in the deck,

one Grave Titan should probably become that Inferno Titan.

We don’t have access to Blightning; however this format is very

different, calling for a different approach anyway. We still have Mind Rot

in the
sideboard for matchups where we want to go that route (like

Valakut); however cards like Squadron Hawk, Vengevine, and Bloodghast make

that a far less
appealing maindeck strategy. Instead, we opt for Inquisition of

Kozilek, the premier discard spell of the moment. Being able to hit

Stoneforge Mystic,
Squadron Hawk, or Sword of Feast and Famine is just huge, not to

mention gaining information about their hand.

Lightning Bolt is just excellent right now. Being able to blow out

someone when they equip their Sword is just one of the countless tempo plays

will come up now. Steppe Lynx, Goblin Guide, Fauna Shaman, Lotus

Cobra, Precursor Golem, and so much more. When Disfigure is a top-tier

removal spell,
you know Lightning Bolt is going to be good! Outside of the vital

creature removal aspect, Bolt also provides more defense against Jace (and

walkers) and adds a bit of reach (especially when combined with Sign

in Blood!).

Go for the Throat gets the nod over Doom Blade because Grave Titan

is a real issue, whereas Bolt covers Precursor Golem, and other artifact

just die to Acidic Slime. Go for the Throat is needed to put Titans

in your Vat, as well as deal with Gideon (a harder-to-deal-with problem than

for us). We have enough card advantage and removal that we don’t

need as many sweepers as some, but the two Black Sun’s Zeniths go a long way

and can
really disrupt our opponent’s game. If there is an above-average

quantity of Kuldotha Red, Hawkward, Elves, and such in your area, feel free

to add
another sweeper to the board, though we do already have three extra


Midrange decks that rely entirely on reactive two-for-ones are

destined to run into a variation of the “Wrong Answers” problem. If you have

Vandal and they don’t play artifacts, you don’t have your card

advantage (you have Gray Ogre). Gatekeeper and Acidic Slime are versatile

enough that
they will rarely be without targets.

Sign in Blood actually goes a step further and provides true card

draw. This is especially potent in decks like this, since your card drawers

start to chain together a little, ensuring a steady stream of

business. This sounds like a great luxury, but it’s actually just a matter

of necessity,
since the other guy could have Jace. A single, unchecked Jace is

like a zero-mana two-for-one every turn with as many modes as Cryptic

Command. Sign in
Blood (and Phyrexian Rager) hardly solve this issue, but they

certainly help. Card draw also works exceptionally well with Sword of Feast

and Famine,
as the only thing better than actually having extra cards is being

able to cast them.

We have already discussed the good Sword a fair bit, but I’d like to

add a few words on it. First of all, Sword makes a better five-drop than a
three-drop, as hitting with it “with haste” makes it basically

“free.” When deciding how to play a given game state, be mindful of the

possibility of
getting blown out by an opponent with removal. Ask yourself, “What

could they possibly have? If you were them, what would make you act the way

acting now? What is their plan?” Finally, on the topic of Sword of

Feast and Famine, make sure to factor in the interaction with manlands (you

often attack with an extra land, plus manlands ensure that you

always have someone to carry the Sword), as well as play your tapped land


Mimic Vat has been discussed a bit, as well, but is another

misunderstood card deserving a few extra thoughts. First of all, Mimic Vat

is a “big game,”
meaning if you can get it going, you can often ride it to victory.

Learning the nuances of the Vat takes practice, but many opponents you face

will not
be familiar with how to fight it. It provides an answer to Vengevine

or Bloodghast (in a pinch), as well as just serving as our “virtual

A final trick that you’re probably familiar with is the play of

holding up Mimic Vat in case you need a blocker, then when they don’t

attack, you can
end-step make a guy that will be able to attack on your turn

(potentially even with a second copy, if you’re feeling frisky!).

The sheer volume of manlands only further incentivizes us to trade

as much as we can, aiming for an attrition game. Remember how well manlands

in old Jund? This one is no different. Flooding when you have a

million manlands is a good time!

The sideboard is fairly straightforward, though there are plenty of

other directions that one might want to take. Having at least three more

some Duresses, and at least a couple Manic Vandals are all pretty

much locked in, but there’s a lot of room to mix everything else up.

Goblin Ruinblaster, Vampire Nighthawk, there are so many possible

plans to explore. (Thrun is the last thing you would want, so avoid

that one.
All of his defensive abilities are wasted in a deck that doesn’t

have creatures worth killing anyway.)

While this build is still very raw, it sure is sexy. How can you not

love that much card advantage? Nine out of ten fall short, but someone has

to try
them all out to figure out which one is the keeper, so those of us

not trying to Caw-Blade are left with the responsibility.

See you Monday!

Patrick Chapin

“The Innovator”

Buy Next Level Magic Now!