Positive EV – Open the Vaults versus Jund: The Jund Perspective

StarCityGames.com Open Series: Indianapolis on March 13-14
Friday, March 5th – Earlier this week, Antoine Ruel picked up the innovative Open the Vaults Standard deck and threw it against Manuel Bucher’s Jund. Today, Manu shares his thoughts on the matchup from the Jund perspective, telling us exactly when to cast those oh so tempting Blightnings…

Nobody else was available for Antoine to test with for this week, so I have postponed my Pro Tour: San Diego article for yet another week. However, at least I’ll be playing a version of the deck I played at the Pro Tour… Jund.

Even though I really hated what the deck did at Pro Tour: Honolulu where it was super cascade heavy and the cascades would decide many games or even later on at Worlds where it was still super mid ranged with tons of Bituminous Blasts and Broodmate Dragons. With the release of Worldwake the deck evaluated in a way that I like the deck now a lot. With the printing of the man lands the deck got a lot faster and cards like Bituminous Blast and Broodmate Dragon are loosing their sex appeal.

Let’s get started with the deck list I will be playing. It is Simon Görtzen’s list he managed to win PT San Diego with.

Aside from the number of Broodmate Dragons, I really like what this particular build is doing. The cascade’s random effect is reduced to a minimum, and the only blank spells you can reveal to an empty board is Maelstrom Pulse. This lets you play Bloodbraid Elf as an actual four-drop, which would be a lot less powerful if the list was running more cards with no impact on an empty board from your opponent.

One thing I dislike, however, is the sideboard. I am still a fan of Goblin Ruinblasters, not only for the Jund mirror, but also for all the Control decks that are seeing play right now.

In today’s matchup, I will be playing against Open the Vaults, a deck similar to Niels Viaene’s list with which he managed to make Top 8 at Pro Tour: San Diego. I expect the matchup to be tough, but definitely not unwinnable. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is more or less a blank in this specific matchup, and whenever he is not lucky enough to draw Sphinx of Lost Truths, it will be fairly difficult for him to get Filigree Angel into the graveyard, assuming I manage to time the Blightnings correctly.

I don’t think the sideboard will change much for both sides. If only there were Goblin Ruinblasters (yeah, I like the guy a lot).

Before I talk more about Blightning in the matchup, I will post the version of the deck Antoine was playing.

Maindeck Games (13 wins, 11 losses)

On the play: 10 wins, 2 losses
On the draw: 3 wins, 9 losses

The results heavily favor the player going first. The main reasons for that are Spreading Seas and Putrid Leech. On the draw, a Spreading Seas is faster than your Putrid Leech, and will often prevent you from casting the Zombie Plant. On the play though, Spreading Seas will be too slow to accomplish anything as good as that, and if the Open the Vaults player doesn’t have the early Journey to Nowhere, the game will be over very quickly.

There are two ways you are able to win against a Spreading Seas in your opponent’s opening hand, if he is playing first. Either draw a Rampant Growth which you are able to cast on turn 2, which will almost Negate the effect of Spreading Seas, or make it impossible for him to cast his Spreading Seas by opening with Verdant Catacombs. The second option is only effective if you either have double Verdant Catacombs into Sprouting Thrinax, or if you manage to cast a second turn Leech even though you have to open with a fetch land.

An interesting starting hand, on the draw against the Spreading Seas, was:

Verdant Catacombs
Lavaclaw Reaches
2 Putrid Leech
Bloodbraid Elf
Sprouting Thrinax

I think the only right play is to play Verdant Catacombs turn 1. This allows you to play Putrid Leech turn 2 no matter what. If he has Spreading Seas, he will end up Time Walking you anyway, but you don’t want it to be your second turn when you have the Leech. If he doesn’t have the enchant land, you are building up maximum pressure with Putrid Leech followed by Putrid Leech, and hopefully backed up by Bloodbraid Elf.

The second important thing in this matchup is how you are timing your Blightnings. Just throwing a Blightning out there just because you have one won’t be very rewarding in this matchup. The time you want to cast Blightning is when your opponent has two or fewer cards in his hand (or four or less if you are able to cast two Blightnings this turn). Remember that you don’t have to cast your Blightning if you reveal it with Bloodbraid Elf. In other moments where Blightning will be decent but not deadly is after your opponent has cast Sphinx of Lost Truths. You often lose the turn after the Sphinx hits the battlefield, but if he is not holding the game-winning six-mana sorcery, his hand will most likely be effective spells.

You should always build up some pressure before disrupting your opponent. Even though the only disruption you have in this matchup is Maelstrom Pulse, it is important to play Thrinax before you hit your opponent’s Borderpost with a Pulse. But if you already have a guy down, destroying your opponent’s mana source will very likely be more effective than adding more pressure to the board.

This is how I sideboarded:

-4 Blightning
-3 Broodmate Dragon
-2 Lightning Bolt

+4 Great Sable Stag
+3 Master of the Wild Hunt
+1 Pithing Needle
+1 Maelstrom Pulse

Unlike in other control matchups, it is likely that your Maelstrom Pulse will have targets, and cascading into it will not mean you’re revealing a blank spell. Not only does he have a fair bit of artifact based mana, he also has host of enchantments you can kill to get a guy back — remember that you also can kill the Spreading Seas, allowing you to cast spells you wouldn’t be able cast to otherwise, or even get a manland back in action.

I expect the Pithing Needle to be possibly effective on turn 1, if you can name a cycling guy which stops his engine a fair bit. It can also randomly be effective against cards like Celestial Colonnade or Courier’s Capsule.

Master of the Wild Hunt is mainly replacing Broodmate Dragon. The Dragon is just coming into play one turn too late, as your opponent is likely to Open the Vaults on the same turn. It also gets easily blocked by Sphinx of Lost Truths if it doesn’t catch a Day of Judgment. The Master at least is a decent four-drop and, surprisingly, I activated its ability a fair amount in the games we played.

Great Sable Stag is a really good upgrade over Blightning. The Stag can steal games away from Open the Vaults when there is no Filigree Angel, and it’s adding some more early drops which can build up pressure. Blightning, on the other hand, is often the blankest spell you can reveal with Bloodbraid Elf, and you will end up not casting it a fair amount of the time. The scenarios where the discard spell will be amazing are too rare.

Post board Games (16 wins, 10 losses)

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

The post board games get a lot simpler for you. The only new card we should be playing around is Flashfreeze. If your opponent is likely to be holding the card, just go for the Stag if you have one available, otherwise attacking with a manland is another good option over casting a spell. His deck is unable to deal with any attacker at instant speed, so you can fearlessly attack with any manland, assuming he doesn’t have six mana and Celestial Colonnade. Playing around Flashfreeze also means that you should play your other threats over Great Sable Stag if your opponent is tapped out, so you are able to play the Elk once your opponent has mana up to pay for the counterspell.

The results are a little extreme, as my draws were really good in those games. I had a turn 2 Leech the majority of the time when I was playing first, and if he was playing first I was able to cast turn 2 Leech off a turn 1 Verdant Catacombs far too often. On the other hand, my sideboard in this matchup is about as bad as it gets. The only real card I am boarding is Great Sable Stag, while I don’t have any Duresses or Goblin Ruinblasters for additional disruption. I think both other Jund decks that made the Top 8 will post better results on average in this matchup, as they both have 4 Goblin Ruinblaster supported by 3 (or even 4) Duress.

The situation where I had an early Pithing Needle and could name one of the cyclers sadly never came up, and both times I drew the card it was a blank for my side of the table. I once named Courier’s Capsule, so I don’t know if Antoine drew the card advantage artifact later on in the game.

Open the Vaults is yet another of the many decks where a lot of pilots believe they were unlucky if they lost to Jund. Almost every player chooses his deck because he thinks the Jund matchup is fine, which is far from the truth, as the results from the PT show. I think the Open the Vaults deck is decent enough against Jund to be played if it is posting good enough results against the rest of your metagame. But it is definitely not “crushing” Jund.

I will be very likely to run Jund myself at the Grand Prix in Brussels. My list is not very similar to the one Simon ran, but I like the way it is playing a lot better (I’m not saying that the deck is actually better, of course). More about that list next week, when I will finally write about my experiences at the Pro Tour… unless Antoine does not manage to reach Sam Black or his brother yet again.

May the turn 2 Leech be with you…

Manu B