The Industry Standard: Scars And Stripes

Michael Bonde took down the Worcester Standard Open with Junk Aristocrats, far from his native home of Denmark. Find out how… and why!

First of all, I would like to thank StarCityGames for an amazing weekend in Worchester! I really enjoyed the site, the way the event was run, and the SCG crew and judges for making it insane – some organizers could learn a thing or two!

My name is Michael Bonde Pilgaard – or as it says on my DCI card, Michael Bonde (it kinda sounds nicer ) and I am from Denmark. Even though I am a bit old (26 – sorry for those of you who may be older and do not think they are “old”), I am pretty new to the competitive scene in Magic – with my first “real” event being Grand Prix: Copenhagen 2008.

Since then, I have played a lot of Grand Prix in Europe with some win-and-in’s that didnt go my way – until I finally made the Top 4 at Grand Prix: Strasbourg and secured a qualification for Pro Tour: Theros in Dublin alongside Thomas Enevoldsen, my fellow team member from Team Rocket who won the event.

When talking about Thomas Enevoldsen, I have to mention Christoffer Larsen and Joel Larsson. These guys being as awesome as they are, I decided to ask them if they wanted to join me on a trip to the United States during our summer vacation – basically just to play Magic for two months. Unfortunately we couldn’t all disappear for two months, so we had to split it up but eventually we got to talk it through – we scheduled where to go, when people would arrive and which tournaments we wanted to play!

Starting off in Houston, Joel and I travelled on to Las Vegas which led to Miami. This was easy for us as there were no other tournaments in between. But last weekend there where both Grand Prix: Kansas City and the StarCityGames.com Open Series in Worchester, so we had to decide what to do and where to go!

Thomas had qualified for the Invitational with his Top 4 finish in Cincinatti last year (where Chris, Thomas and I went as well), and we really wanted to do this together too since the Invitational is insane!

Since our experience with StarCityGames has been so positive in the past (they run really smooth events and all the players are nice, which means a lot to me) and because we wanted four opportunities, instead of two, to qualify for the Invitational in Somerset, we decided to go with the Worchester events.

In hindsight, this was a really good idea!

Not having played Standard that much in the last two months, we didnt really bring anything to Miami except frustration about an open format with a lot of different decks and four of each Standard-legal card, hoping for an epiphany.

The funny thing about this is that it actually happened! After talking to Brad Nelson, who we had a blast with the last time we were over here, he told me to drop what I had in my hands and play Junk Aristocrats.

After that conversation, I couldn’t really focus on anything else other than sleeving the deck up, testing it, reading about it, and just getting used to the different mechanics and play styles the deck has. That may sound easy, but I can tell you it isn’t.

And even though I managed to make Day Two in Miami, I still felt like I wasn’t really in the right mindset unfortunately. This didnt make me abandon the deck, though, and with Brad finishing in the Top 4, it made me feel even more motivated to learn the deck and get comfortable with it.

This brings us to round one at the StarCityGames.com Open in Worchester with me in the feature match area with a fully pink-sleeved Junk Aristocrats deck, ready to duel against another planeswalker (nerding it up a notch!). The match ended with me coming out on top 2-0, and I was really feeling good about the deck, the sideboard, and the whole setup. And why wouldnt I?

I didnt make it myself, so there was no room for failure!

The event proceeded with me getting my first loss against Jund in round eight – a tough matchup with too many Bonfires of the Damned in my opinion – but exactly enough in my opponent’s opinion!

I managed to win against Junk Reanimator and then drew to lock up not only Top 8 but also the Invitational! YEAHHHH! The Top 8 eventually became a Top 4, then a Top 2 where I managed to beat Stephen Ruck to claim the title as the first European StarCityGames.com Open Series winner!

I would like to start of by saying that this deck is so much fun to play. Not only does it have a lot of triggers, which keep you on the toes, but it also has a really interactive gameplan that changes a lot over the course of a game, making the smaller descisions weigh more in the long run.

If you look at the cards by themselves, they aren’t that powerful on their own – except Obzedat, Ghost Council – but together, this grinding machine of Skirsdag High Priest, Doomed Traveler, Garruk Relentless, Voice of Resurgence, and Gavony Township make the deck a potent weapon against every single deck you play against.

The single change that I made from Brad Nelson list from Grand Prix: Miami was to replace a Sin Collector in the sideboard for a Ray of Revalation due to the fact that I didn’t want to lose to random Rest in Peaces or to Bant Hexproof. I think that sideboarding with the deck was a bit difficult, but I think that in the end I did OK:

Vs. Junk Reanimator:

+4 Deathrite Shaman, +2 Duress, +2 Appetite For Brains

-2 Varolz, the Scar-Striped, -2 Young Wolf, –4 Voice of Resurgence

In this matchup, we don’t really care about the ground. We want to fly and disrupt while trying to kill the opponent before they can land an Angel of Serenity, or at least deal as much damage as we can before an Angel eventually arrives.

Vs. Jund:

+1 Obzedat, Ghost Council, +2 Appetite For Brains, +2 Duress

-3 Skirsdag High Priest, -2 Young Wolf

In this matchup, I wanted more power and more disruption. Because of all the removal that Jund packs, both in spot removal and mass removal like Bonfire of the Damned and Mizzium Mortars, it is to risky to keep the Skirsdag High Priest in. And with that leaving, Young Wolf is a natural cut as well. Duress is for Farseek early, but later on it’s for the mass removal spells. Appetite For Brains is mainly for Olivia Voldaren, but is also nice if you have an aggressive hand and can take away a Thragtusk.

Vs. Bant Hexproof:

+3 Abrupt Decay, +1 Ray of Revalation, +2 Duress

-1 Gavony Township, –1 Obzedat, Ghost Council, – 4 (Play It By Ear)

I was a bit unsure of the other three cards to cut but I started by boarding out three Skirsdag High Priests and one Young Wolf because I felt I never had time to trigger Morbid. Ideally, you want to kill their one or two creatures unless they suit up a hexproof guy, then you have Abrupt Decay or Ray of Revelation to deal with Unflinching Courage and similar enchantments.

Vs. RG Aggro:

+3 Abrupt Decay, +2 Smite

-1 Gavony Township, –1 Obzedat, Ghost Council, -3 Skirsdag High Priest

This game is all about surviving until turn four or five. They’re very aggressive, so early spot removal (Tragic Slip, Abrupt Decay, etc) is the key to victory. Smite on a Bloodrushed creature is a huge blowout too!

Vs. Naya:

+3 Abrupt Decay, +1 Smite

-4 Lingering Souls

I don’t know if this is right, but I didn’t really want to get wrecked by Thundermaw Hellkite, so without Lingering Souls, it’s just a 5/5. Due to their lack of removal, the Skirsdag High Priests are really powerfull and can easily race the deck. Abrupt Decay and Smite are for the ground creatures to stop their early pressure.

It has been a great weekend, and in these past few weeks I have met a lot of really friendly and nice people – which makes me/us even more excited to get to play in the StarCityGames.com Open Series in Richmond and the Invitational in Somerset!


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