Reflecting Ruel – Jund versus Turboland: The Turboland Perspective

Grand Prix GP Columbus July 30-August 1, 2010
Tuesday, July 20th – Yesterday, Antoine Ruel piloted Jund against Oli’s Turboland, to a fine result. However, it wasn’t all one-sided, and Oli has a few tricks for the Turboland player today. With both sides of the match-up explored by the Hall of Famer brothers, anyone with a Standard tournament on the horizon should take note!

Today, Antoine and I are testing in a pre-M11 Standard format. Of course, it would be better to include the latest edition in the testing, but we were unfortunately unable to perform real life testing as we live 200 miles apart, and we therefore had to use Magic Online, on which M11 has not been released. Thankfully, most decks won’t show spectacular changes in the new Standard. Of course, a card like Mana Leak will make heavy sorcery decks a lot worse, but in most cases, the mechanics behind the format won’t change much. As far as the Jund versus Turboland match-up goes, we had the feeling it wouldn’t change much with M11.

I’ll be running the Turboland version Antoine tested in his last column, while he will be running the Jund deck that Shouta Yasouka took to Japan Nationals Top 8 spot.

Maindeck Games: 9-15 (37.5% games won)

On the play: 6-6
On the draw: 3-9

The match-up is pretty difficult. The card you dislike the most is clearly Putrid Leech. Played on turn 2, it is almost an auto-win when they are on the play, and it reverses the “playing first” advantage when you’re on the play. The only way to compete with it efficiently is to open with Explore or Rampant Growth on turn 2. It is something I had a lot of trouble doing, as I (too) often played an Explore that wouldn’t accelerate into anything, as I was stuck on three to five lands. Stuck on five lands… that sounds wrong, but when you are running 29, you can definitely hope to draw many.

The other big threat from their deck is obviously Blightning. Your winning plan is to reach seven lands before they can kill you, and to get an Avenger of Zendikar onto the battlefield in order to survive. However, if you really want to play all of the fixers (including the guys which are precious bait, helping Avenger survive when the time comes), it will cost you; you’ll empty your hand, and therefore become very vulnerable to the discard spell. Depending on how popular Obstinate Baloth will be, Blightning may simply disappear from Jund, in which case the match-up will suddenly be a lot better. Assuming the Blightnings are replaced by a card which is good versus Control (like Duress), the match-up still won’t be great, but it would be a lot closer to 50-50. Still, if you can afford it, try and keep at least three cards in hand when you have a card (most likely Avenger of Zendikar) you’re looking to protect.

The most disappointing card in the match-up is clearly Time Warp. With only 31 spells in the deck, and half of those with the sole purpose of getting mana, it is rather troublesome to have four copies of such a useless card in the deck. Only once in fifty games did I manage to play it with Jace on the board. The card may be great in the other match-ups, but it is just too slow here, and a five-mana Explore is often the first card you’ll gladly discard to Blightning.

The best surprise in this match-up comes from Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Not only does it often survive for one or two turns (thanks to the accelerators and Cobra attracting Lightning Bolt), it is also pretty good on its own. A turn 3 or 4 bounce on either Sprouting Thrinax or Putrid Leech will always buy precious time. Several plays you should keep in mind are related to the Planeswaker, and to how to make it survive:

– Don’t chump-block with a Plant token too early. It may be tempting to block a Leech, as that token won’t save you more than four life any other time, but it is best to wait for a turn or two and see if you can cast a Jace, in which case a chump-blocker will often prove useful. And anyway, you should be able to block that same Leech at some point later in the game.

– When using the Brainstorm ability of the Mind Sculptor, always bear in mind that Blightning could be coming anytime soon, and that you should place your best card, if not the best two cards depending on the situation, on top of your deck. This may be obvious when you only have two out of four cards to put back on top, but it is just as important (but much less intuitive) when you have five or six.

– Never play a fetch land until you need to sacrifice it. If you open with a Island, Verdant Catacombs, Rampant Growth, and four random spells hand , it can be tempting to open with the Green land as it doesn’t seem like it will matter. However, if you draw a Forest, you will be glad you had kept that fetch for future use with Jace, Halimar Depths, Oracle of Mul Daya, Ponder, and Lotus Cobra. Still concerning Verdant Catacombs, Misty Rainforest, and Scalding Tarn: if you have three cards in hand and at least two of them are lands, play the fetchland immediately. This way, if your hand is wiped out by Blightning on the next turn, you’ll still make 13 of your 31 spells (and even 4 of your lands) instantly better.

The other difficulty concerns how the two-drops should be played. The following examples imply that you already have a Green and a Blue mana, should one of them be in your hand.

– The first land you search with is, in general, an Island. Indeed, it’s much more common for UUUU to be needed on the same turn, rather than GGG or even GGGG. In the case you have only one Island or Forest in your deck, but the one you will search for is not important, just check if you have passed one of your two fetch lands to see which land to search for with Rampant Growth or Misty Rainforest. For instance, if you have only one Forest left in the deck, you’ll usually sacrifice Misty Rainforest for Island, but if you have passed Verdant Catacombs, you know you won’t draw any dead cards for now, so you can go for either.

One last tricky play in the match-up: the fact your opponent has no guys doesn’t mean yours should be attacking. Anyway, you won’t be aiming for a close race and, most of the time, the moment you play Avenger of Zendikar will be the moment the match is over on one side or another. Therefore, a single Cobra punch won’t change much, while keeping it in defense when you have no more uses for it as a mana accelerator and/or a Jace, the Mind Sculptor protector to prevent a Bloodbraid Elf from attacking.

Sideboard plan:
+3 Narcolepsy
+2 Flashfreeze
-2 Time Warp
-1 Lotus Cobra
-2 Oracle of Mul Daya

Time Warp is often ineffective, but it’s not bad enough for you to want to take four of them out. The creatures are easy targets for Lightning Bolt & Co, but in the meantime, if you were to cut them, the removal would all fall on Avenger of Zendikar the moment he touched the ground. The Oracle is pretty useful, even though it is fragile, but four mana is too expensive against a deck which runs Blightning, so you don’t want four copies. Oh, concerning the 2/2, don’t forget: when you play the first of your two lands, notify your opponent that this is the additional land you’ve decided to play. This way, if you have to give him priority in between lands (which happens when the land on top of your deck is Halimar Depths or Khalni Garden, or when you have a combination of enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands in hand), you will be able to play a second even if your guy gets Terminated or Bolted away.

Post-board Games: 10-16 (38.5% games won)

I was hoping that having an answer to Leech would make the match-up better, but the addition of Duress and Goblin Ruinbaster make the match-up a little more troublesome. The first takes down my ramp in the early game and my card draw a little later, while the second acts pretty much like a four-mana Time Walk which can deal damage. At least he had to take out some removal, so even though I took some of my guys out, they are more likely to survive.

It is crucial to be able to play around both of those annoying sideboard cards.

– Keep playable cards on top of your deck. When you play Halimar Depths, think carefully about the content of your next three turns so you don’t draw a card you won’t be able to play too early. This also, of course, applies to Jace, the Mind Sculptor’s Brainstorm ability.
– When you play Rampant Growth or sacrifice Misty Rainforest, what matters now is not how to get UUUU or GGG, but how to get at least GUU if Goblin Ruinblaster is coming at you too quickly.
– Try to hold your non-basic lands in hand for the first four turns. It is not that easy, but if you can keep them from playing Ruinblaster in the early game, the impact of what may now be their best card is clearly lessened. In the cases when your only non-basic land is Tectonic Edge, try and keep it and another land open, so Jund must destroy one of his own lands if he wants to kick the Goblin.

M11 and Improving the Match-up

Obstinate Baloth: Dodecapod and Loxodon Hierarch in one card. Even if people stop running cards which make you discard it, you still have an excellent sideboard card against RDW, and even a good card versus Jund. Indeed, they will be tempted to take out Terminate and Bituminous Blast against you, which will give the 4/4 a good chance to survive and, ultimately, trade with the annoying Putrid Leech.

Aether Adept: When I see how much tempo a bounce from Jace can give, it’s hard to think the new Man-‘O-War wouldn’t be good. However, three-mana spells are not so interesting in a deck which should, thanks to Explore and Rampant Growth, have four mana on turn 3 anyway. As Jace, the Mind Sculptor seems better, it’s unlikely the 2/2 will make it.

Foresee: Searches through up to six cards for only four mana, and therefore interesting for the deck, but worse than Mind Spring for as long as Blightning is played in Jund. If Blightning happens to disappear, the card becomes pretty interesting.

Preordain: Pretty good, but still a little worse than Ponder when you are running so many fetch lands.

Garruk Wildspeaker: Okay, it was already here in M10, but I’m surprised people don’t run this card, which seems excellent in this deck. Turn 4 Avenger, anyone?

Cultivate: Accelerates and provides a card to discard to Blightning. But once again, three-mana spells aren’t optimal here, and Blightning may disappear pretty soon because of… etc, etc.

Have a great week, and good luck in your upcoming events!

Olivier Ruel