The Birth Of An Aristocrat

AJ tells you how he was inspired to start playing and tuning Jund Aggro in Standard. Take a look at his latest list before Grand Prix Miami this weekend!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love Jund Midrange in the current Standard format. I’ve been playing the deck for about five months with only occasional breaks to test the waters. Unfortunately, I don’t own a whole lot of Magic cards. I would attend tournaments, but I rarely have a chance to actually play the deck in one of them because I can’t borrow the cards in time.

SCG Open Series: Philadelphia was this past weekend, and my friend Anthony Lowry was instrumental in getting me the deck to play. I was confidant. While I hadn’t played the deck too much in the week leading up to the event, I still had a solid list. I was ready to take the event down. Before I get to the real subject of this article, I want to give a quick report on how my event went.

Round 1: Mike with Bant Hexproof

Game 1 I kept a hand with four lands and three spells, most of which were pretty mediocre for this matchup. I drew exactly zero other spells except for a Farseek and lost in relatively short order to his Geist of Saint Traft with a Spectral Flight on it.

In game 2, I had some good ramp spells and used multiple Barter in Bloods and Mizzium Mortars to deal with any creatures he played. An Ajani, Caller of the Pride caught me unexpectedly, but I was able to deal with all of his other creatures and kill it before it got out of hand. Eventually, I found a good creature and won.

Game 3 I had to mulligan to five cards, but I had an okay five. The game went on for a few turns, and at one point I made a crucial misplay. I don’t remember the exact details, but basically if I +1ed my Liliana, I was playing around any two enchantments that gave a total of +4/+4. If I -2ed, I was playing around Unflinching Courage. I chose the latter, but I should’ve known that people typically board Unflinching Courage out and he did play a little bit more as if he had the former.


Round 2: Stephanie with R/G Aggro

Game 1 I used a couple Huntmaster of the Fells and Thragtusks to deal with her onslaught and eventually put her life total to zero. Not much really happens in this matchup that is exciting.

For game 2, I kept a risky seven on the draw with only two lands and two Huntmasters. I unfortunately never saw the fourth land, only drawing a Farseek, and died by turn 6.

Game 3 went very similarly to game 1, and two Barter in Bloods easily shut her out of the game.


Round 3: Michael with Bant Hexproof

My opponent mulliganed down to five or six for both games 1 and 2, and he really never got much going. Liliana easily shut him down in both games before Geist could do work, and he unfortunately never saw other creatures. Game 1 took a while because a Geist with an Unflinching Courage got him to around 30 life before I found an answer to it and I had to wait to draw a creature, but once I dealt with the first Geist he never really had much else.

Game 2 he didn’t stick a creature until really late in the game when I had already taken it over.


Round 4: Pat with Mono-Red Aggro

As I said, not much really happens in these red aggro matchups. Both games he started to get me really low, but I made sure never to go below four life and Olivia Voldaren took the game both times. I never saw Thragtusk either game, causing him to wonder if it was even in my deck. I got to do the cool play of stealing Boros Reckoner with Olivia Voldaren and pinging it a few times each turn to shoot him in the face. It’s the little things in life that matter.


Round 5: Edgar with Esper Control

In game 1, I got off the ground quickly with a Farseek and then kept throwing spells into his counterspells. Eventually, a Huntmaster and a Thragtusk resolved, and then I used a Rakdos’s Return to hit his hand. He fell behind immediately and lost the game in short order.

Game 2 he mulliganed to six and then got stuck on lands with awkward colors. He finally started to work his way out of it and used a Duress to make sure the coast was clear. Unfortunately, he had to use a bunch of cards to make land drops, so the Rakdos’s Return I topdecked closed out the game rather quickly.


At this point, I was feeling pretty good. While a round 1 loss is never awesome, I was working my way back. I thought I was playing good Magic and was ready to keep winning games. Then the wheels fell off.

Round 6: Jonathan with Jund

My notes on this match are a little difficult to comprehend, but I remember some things. Game 1 he mulliganed to five and lost pretty quickly to my Rakdos’s Return.

Game 2 we both went to six, and the only other thing I remember is that I lost.

In game 3, I went to six and Duressed him on turn 1. He had five lands; Garruk, Primal Hunter; and Farseek. Unfortunately, I missed my fifth land drop for four turns with five cards that cost five in my hand. Eventually, he drew Rakdos’s Return for my hand, and I lost. I got daggered by drawing my fifth land on the very next turn.


After this my notes get pretty lackluster, but I dropped from the tournament at 4-4. I was defeated but not entirely disappointed. My friend Anthony needed a Top 32 to qualify for the Invitational, so I was birding him and hoping for the best. Unfortunately, he fell off at the end similar to myself. He’s only three points away from qualifying though, so he should be able to make it.

Anyway, I decided to do a lot of reflecting on why I was losing so much in real life but not online. I felt like I was playing really well, so what was it? After some pondering, I came to the realization that I just wasn’t mulliganing very well. I was keeping risky hands or hands that seemed good but didn’t actually do anything way too often. I felt burnt out from playing the deck for so long, so I figured maybe it was time to try something new.

Anthony, my friend Bryan, and I started brainstorming some cool new lists we could throw together. For a while, we discussed splashing white in Jund and playing some weird Dark Naya lists, but we decided to put some thought into the G/R Aggro deck that Anthony played.

We realized that the deck was lacking a good way to punch through. Thundermaw and Domri Rade were awesome, but they weren’t enough. We needed some good resiliency and damage output. Enter Falkenrath Aristocrat. We started brewing up a list, trying to keep the deck as close to G/R as possible. We used Cedric Phillips‘ list from SCG Standard Open: Seattle as a baseline and went from there. After some tweaking, we ended up at this:

We ran the deck through a Magic Online Daily Event that night and easily went 4-0. None of the games were particularly hard, and we even crushed a few more two-man queues. Anthony had a "Win a Modern Masters Box" event in the morning and was excited to give this deck a try. He won every match on his way to winning a box. I also 4-0ed another Daily Event. We were both sold on the deck. We compared some notes about the deck, and after a little bit more testing, we came to the current list. While there are still some kinks we are working out, the deck is pretty powerful.

I’ve been pretty happy with how almost every matchup plays out. Bant Hexproof is slightly worse than 50/50, but that can be improved with more Golgari Charms if the deck ever picks up in popularity. The new U/W Control deck running around on Magic Online is also a really bad matchup, though U/W/R Flash is a really good matchup. The B/G Control deck can be a tough matchup as well.

The biggest question I get is why I am playing Mizzium Mortars over Bonfire of the Damned. What I found is that I wanted an answer to individual large creatures, not a bunch of small ones. As I played the deck more and more, I also found the direct damage to be less and less relevant. The fourth Domri Rade has been in and out of the main, but right now the creature count is 29, which in my opinion is a little bit low for a full set of Domri. I’m currently in the process of cutting a Borderland Ranger since I don’t want fewer lands in my opener but want to get flooded in the late game a little less often. Currently, I’m not sure what I want to cut it for, but I have some ideas that I’m going to test out.

Overall, I’ve been really happy with the deck, and I highly recommend that you try it out. Falkenrath Aristocrat is just what the deck needed in my opinion. The big thing I’d avoid is lowering the curve and playing Experiment One and Dreg Mangler. Those creatures are awesome, but they force you to play a different deck that is much less resilient. At that point, you really should just go back to G/R Aggro to prevent shock damage.

While my list is pretty set in stone right now, I’d still love to hear what you have to say about it. I’d also love to hear if you’ve put up any good results with the deck. I’ll gladly answer any questions you have about it as well. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you again in two weeks!