I spent most of this season grinding as many points as I could, making a strong case for earning a bye for the Invitational in Somerset and retaining said
bye. Leading up to the weekend of SCG DC, I was well within striking distance of the top 32 of the leaderboard, but I wasn’t going to worry too much about
it. While it would be nice to obtain it, I worked very hard to just better my game as a whole this season and letting the rest run its course. If I was
playing to the best of my ability and scrubbed out, then I had a good day. If I won the tournament and played awfully, then I better work harder and not
let up on improving.
It’s all about the process.
This past week was the last Open before Somerset, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more determined. I did a lot of work on my Jund Planeswalkers deck since
picking it up a couple of weeks ago, and I knew that no matter how I did in DC, it was going to be my weapon of choice in New Jersey. I joined Chris
VanMeter and his stream last Tuesday to work more on his version, and I learned a lot of things about playing the deck, constructing the shell, and working
One of the biggest issues I see with Jund Planeswalker decks right now is the cutting of mana sources. To put this simply and bluntly: don’t do it. You are
the most mana hungry deck in the format that needs to get its threats down on time at the worst. You are a twenty-four land, eight Temple, two
Rakdos’s Return deck. You are a deck with four to six five-drop planeswalkers, three six-mana sweepers, a bunch of demanding multicolor removal spells, and
you want to cut acceleration, lands, and other resources needed to cast your spells?
For some reason, the mindset behind Temples is that you can get away with playing less mana sources as a whole and lean on scrying to get the lands you
need early on, avoiding mana screw, and getting to your power cards earlier when you aren’t looking for lands This logic is backwards and doesn’t actually
work in practice throughout the course of an entire tournament. Playing more temples actually means you want to play more lands and have more sources of mana. You don’t want to rely on your scrying to hit lands early, you want your scrying to get rid of the garbage cards and
excess lands later, which increases your chances of getting cards you do want because you aren’t wasting scrys on trying to hit lands nearly as often! You can do much more in a game when flooded as opposed to screwed, and
you shouldn’t fundamentally overcompensate for it by changing the functionality of your well-oiled machine. It doesn’t matter what you wind up doing:
adding Stormbreath Dragon, more removal spells, or more land–you still need mana sources to cast those cards, and the times you struggle to get off the
ground or are light on threats because you were forced to scry lands to the top, will far outweigh the times you will reap what little reward you get.
Also, planeswalkers are pretty damn good when they’re cast ahead of schedule. Just sayin’.
As far as strategic knowledge that I’ve gained, I no longer feel that trying to beat the mirror is the priority anymore. Before, I followed Willy Edel’s
line of thought and maxed out on Nissa along with adding a second Rakdos’s Return, third Dreadbore, and removed the Chandras and other general removal like
Abrupt Decay. I think that for DC, I want to put more into beating Rabble Red, Black Devotion, and Blue Devotion primarily. Like other heavy midrange
decks, Black Devotion can have a difficult time dealing with a multitude of Planeswalkers on top of a bunch of hard removal spells; essentially beating
them at their own game. Rabble Red, while being pretty great against us in game 1, becomes way more manageable in games 2 and 3 when Anger of the Gods
provides more removal, and Mistcutter Hydra plays more important roles than your high end cards would. I think it’s a common misconception to assume that a
bad game 1 matchup means a bad matchup overall, and the Rabble Red versus Jund Planeswalkers matchup is a big example of that.
The Blue Devotion matchup, however, needs a lot of work, and I’m unsure what I need to do to fix it.
Thassa has given me all kinds of fits, enabling Blue Devotion to come back from virtually nothing to a convincing win. Judge’s Familiar has also been a
major contributing factor in the headaches I’ve received from this deck. It might be worth bringing in Thoughtseize to help, but once Thassa’s already
down, that plan gets way, way worse. Anger of the Gods is only good against about half of their deck–the Nightveil Specter, Cloudfin Raptor half–but the
Judge’s Familiar, Frostburn Weird half doesn’t have as much trouble. Currently, my plan is to kill every single thing they play, and play a reasonably
sized Mistcutter Hydra in the late game.
This is close to what I’ll be jamming in DC, subject to change, of course.
Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned going in was that you can’t beat everything in this Standard. Obzedat, Ghost Council has been a pretty stern beating
for a while now, and with this build, I only have two answers to it. It simply isnt possible for me to invest more into the card Obzedat without losing
investment in another department. For this tournament, I feel more inclined to address three entire archetypes as opposed to a single card in one. It is
what it is.
As the Invitational gets closer and closer, I think it’s important to put as much focus on mastering your craft than trying to get an edge via deck or card
choices. The chances of you breaking Standard or Legacy are so ridiculously small that you’re probably going to break even by not mastering what you broke
the format with! Both Standard and Legacy are formats that reward maximizing your craft, and the more time you spend trying to chase the belief that there
is an absolute best deck, the less time you’ll have working on what’s best for you. With all of that said, recognizing when something just isn’t working
for you is just as important as recognizing when something is, and if Jund Planeswalkers, for whatever reason, stopped working the way I wanted it to work,
then there are a few backup plans I’d take into consideration, each of which I’ve had a solid amount of experience with for a long time.
One of these backup plans is straight up Jund Monsters:
- 2 Scavenging Ooze
- 2 Desecration Demon
- 2 Ghor-Clan Rampager
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Polukranos, World Eater
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 4 Stormbreath Dragon
- 3 Courser of Kruphix
I never thought that Monsters was any better or worse than Planeswalkers, though it does have a bad Planeswalkers matchup. I think players stopped playing
the deck for no real reason and just hopped to ‘walkers because it was new and shiny. While Jund Walkers is much better at getting ahead and staying ahead,
Jund Monsters far surpasses its Planeswalkers counterpart at operating from behind. In fact, I’d argue that Planeswalkers isn’t actually that
well-positioned right now because of that. I mean, look at how much the format has sped up since the Pro Tour. Rabble Red and Blue Devotion have
taken the aggressive end of the spectrum hostage, while the opposite end, Sphinx’s Revelation, is trying to fill their deck to the brim with ways to get to
their power cards as quickly as possible, going up to the full four Quickens and Divinations in a lot of cases. Everyone’s trying to jam their low end with
hyper efficient cards or ways to make their high end matter more quickly. Monsters decks excel at creating both a problem and an answer against a large
portion of decks, and Planeswalkers decks rarely allow for such flexible play. If Jund Planeswalkers is underrepresented, then it may be time to sleeve up
Polukranos and friends again.
In Legacy, I expect a whole lot of Delver, Deathblade, and Miracles in the field. Omni-Tell can have a difficult time against these decks because of how
many angles they can cover after game 1. Does this mean I try to become more aggressive, or try to interact more? That’s something I’ll have to figure out
in the week leading up to the Invitational, but as said before, the last thing I would want to be doing is playing a different deck. The tournament is very
long, over the course of two days, and is very draining, both physically and mentally. I don’t need to put any more strain on myself by trekking unfamiliar
Like Standard though, I’d always make sure I have a plan just in case things aren’t going well, and Jund, the deck I’ve championed before Omni-Tell, would
be my backup, especially since it’s strong against a lot of what I expect at the Invitational:
This was a build that I never really got to work on before, but I feel it may be a good time to bring it back. The mini-Crop Rotation package serves as a
more finesse way to have hate against various decks, both fair and unfair. What you were missing from this package was Life from the Loam, a way to recycle
my Wastelands that you grab off of my Rotations, a way to recover when your Grove of the Burnwillows gets hit by Wasteland, and a way to get through
opposing Wasteland-heavy plays from your opponent without being oversaturated on Crop Rotations. Against the decks where Punishing Fire is good, having an
express ticket to Grove of the Burnwillows is huge and allows you to get away with running three of them.
Lastly, running a single Raging Ravine, while fragile, covers a serious issue with this deck against decks like Deathblade and Shardless BUG: closing the
game out. You can attrition with the best of them, but when it comes to actually killing them, you don’t have a True-Name Nemesis or Batterskull effect to
really shut the door. While the land doesn’t compare to the likes of those two powerhouses, it’s certainly a starting point.
With the Invitational just a week away, I’m going to buckle down and really put in my best effort. I’ll be working with my usual partner in crime, AJ
Kerrigan, for this one again, and if we can do the work like we did last time, I’ll be very happy regardless of how we wind up.