Playing Junk…Because That’s What I Like!

Brian DeMars has taken the recent success of G/W Aggro and coupled it with the staying power and removal of Mono Black! Test this Junk Midrange build for #SCGDAL’s Standard Open!

It’s no surprise if you’ve read my weekly articles for any extended period of time, that I always seem to gravitate toward building Junk Midrange decks in Standard.  So, it should be no big surprise that given a new set and a little bit of time to play around with it that I’d ultimately end up falling in with the same old crowd.

Truth be told, I simply really enjoy playing with the random G/W cards that are in Standard at the moment:

Slightly better than Watchwolf

Now when I say that I enjoy playing with cards that “I like” I don’t exactly mean that I’m off on Mars like Dr. Manhattan trying to brew up a tribal Merfolk deck for Standard full of terrible cards.  “I like” Fleecemane Lion and Voice of Resurgence because I think that they are both absurdly overpowered Magic cards and a collection of very good cards tends to be what wins tournaments.

The leader of the pack!  Vroom!  Vroom!

While Voice of Resurgence and Fleecemane Lion may be at the top of the class with regard to powerful two mana creatures, the powerful black creature Pack Rat has clearly proven itself to be the professor that is teaching the course in Standard.

The combination of Turn 1 Thoughtseize (take an opponent’s answer to Pack Rat) into Turn 2 Pack Rat has proven to be a recipe for building a successful Standard strategy for the better part of a year and a half.  So, with that being said, I decided that I wanted to play with Pack Rat in my G/W deck.

So, basically what I’ve done here with my Junk list is to take the elements that I really like about a G/W list that are unique and powerful and hybridize those strategies to also incorporate the more powerful elements from the format defining Mono-Black Devotion deck.

What I ended up with after combining the two decks is a singular deck that can play to the strengths of both G/W and Mono-Black.

In my opinion the game breaking cards in Mono-Black Devotion are Mutavault, Thoughtseize, Pack Rat, removal, and Desecration Demon.  The rest of the cards in the deck tend to be place holders for what pilots wish were merely more of the same cards!

The color combination of G/W has Elvish Mystic, Courser of Kruphix, the high-powered two drops I mentioned earlier, and extremely high quality high end threats like Archangel of Thune and planeswalkers.

What I have done here is to fill in the holes along the curve between the two decks in order to include the highest quantity of the best cards at every part of the curve.
The end result is a deck that I am very much looking forward to playing in tournaments very likely until the release of the next set in the fall.

The biggest trade off in playing a deck like this over a straight G/W or Mono-Black deck is that the mana base becomes a little bit more tricky (and unfortunately painful).  One of the things that I’ve gleaned from playing a lot during this Standard format is that while incremental damage from one’s mana base does matter, especially in certain kinds of matchups, it isn’t really the be-all-end-all factor in determining games. 

My thought on what is important in the current Standard metagame is getting key threats deployed quickly and answering an opponent’s key threats.  For instance, it doesn’t really matter that much if you took five damage or zero damage from your own cards if an opponent has an uncontested Pack Rat going to town!  In fact, in such a situation, it’s possible that you could have started that game at 30 life and would still be too far behind to catch up by simply casting your cards and playing fair.

So the concession that I made with this deck is that I simply accepted that I’d be doing a little bit more damage to myself than most conventional decks are willing to give up and in return, I would get to play with cards that are individually (when combined) more powerful than other more streamlined decks up and down the curve.  I have always tended to gravitate towards “good stuff” decks where I can leverage every single card for the utmost value and have stuff left over when the trading is all said and done.

Let’s talk about the high end threats for a second and why I chose them.

Let’s discuss why Elspeth is good.

Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is the best and most versatile high end, quality threat in Standard.  The planeswalker is often better in the mid to late game than all of an opponent’s cards combined, which is the perfect kind of threat for a deck like Junk Midrange.  I also think it is a big advantage for a deck like this to get to play with a card like Elspeth against a deck like Mono-Black because it simply goes over the top of whatever they’re doing.

It isn’t even close to the first Archangel I’ve played, and it won’t be the last.

Archangels are basically the crème de la crème of the angel tribe and the Archangel from Thune is a particularly saucy one.  She teams up with Scavenging Ooze and Courser of Kruphix to go bananas and win the game outright and is also a silly combo with Elspeth, Sun’s Champion.

I also chose the card because she is tactically important in a number of matchups such as against Mono-Blue Devotion where the card can win the game all by itself.

Hasn’t gotten a fair shake yet.

I have played with Ajani, Mentor of Heroes in more decks than most, and I have found the card to be extremely effective at being a premier level threat.  It does basically everything that a midrange deck could possibly want from a five-drop haymaker in that it allows the Junk deck to dig for more threats and get card advantage from one ability, and it presses board advantage by pumping up creatures for a functional “haste damage” effect with the other.

A card that lets a player choose to generate “card advantage” or “board presence” every turn is a great card that I want to be playing with!

The sideboard is also very functional and straightforward with a deck like this:

More and better conditional removal.

Junk is a deck that is about sticking creatures, pushing through damage, grinding advantage, killing threats, and going over the top; therefore, having more and better conditional removal spells is important for generating these board/tempo swings.  More than a third of the sideboard is dedicated to being able to become a better “removal deck” across the board in creature matchups.

Golgari Charm is a great flexible sideboard card (as should be fairly obvious based upon how much it gets played) as it can come in against a wide grouping of decks and can actually do a lot of different things.  I respect the Hexproof deck more than most and having a spell like Golgari Charm really helps.

More conditional hand disruption.

In matchups such as against U/W Control, the Junk deck can basically do what a Mono-Black deck does and bring in more disruption to take their important cards at the exact right moment.

There are plenty of matchups besides U/W Control where Duress and Sin Collector are nice cards to have in the tank (for instance against Burn decks), so I’m always happy to be able to go to my sideboard for more cards to attack an opponent’s hand.

Narrow but deadly.

I can’t really imagine better cards than these for the matchups that I plan on using them in.

It is also pretty sweet that Skylasher + Unflinching Courage teams up for an unbeatable mondo combo against Mono-Blue Devotion (something I learned from my Hexproof Mage days…).

The moral of the story with this Junk Midrange deck isn’t that Junk Midrange is going to take the metagame by storm and be the runnaway best deck in the format, but rather that the format is certainly diverse, deep, and open for people to build and play new and unique decks.

The “Top Decks” like Mono-Black Devotion, Mono-Blue Devotion, and U/W Control have certainly proven that they are good, consistent, and resilient strategies over the past few months and nobody is ever going to deny that.  However, the format is not nearly as stale or rock-paper-scissors as a lot of people complain that it is.

I actually believe that this is one of the most open and forgiving Standard seasons that I can remember in the past decade.  Sure, Mono-Black is a thing, but it is light years away from being Delver, Faeries, Jund w/ BBE, or even Thragtusk.

My advice to players out there right now would be to take advantage of the last couple of months that we have with Return to Ravnica Block and experiment with playing some of the really neat and interesting cards that are out there in a format that actually allows people to play with cards that are not in one of the two defined “best decks.”

Who knows what will be coming in the next block and whether or not the metagame will be so open to playing rogue decks that can still be competitive.  I will be happy when Sphinx’s Revelation, Lifebane Zombie, and Pack Rat rotate out of the format, but I also worry about all of the one mana 2/1s, the Devotion mechanic + Nykthos being oppressive, and a lack of Ravnica shock ands leading to multi-color decks being outclassed.

Who knows what will come with the next rotation–all I know is that despite having a few of what I feel comfortable calling “flaws” (Pack Rat, Sphinx Revelation, Mutavault, and Lifebane Zombie) that I have found it to be one of the most dynamic, open, and enjoyable Standard formats that I have ever played.

I strongly encourage players to try their hand at building some new or hybrid decks and try out some of the awesome Ravnica cards that they’ve always wanted to cast but haven’t gotten around to playing with at some local events before it’s too late.