Nissa, Worldwaker is busted.
It took me a bit to come around, and I initially didn’t want to do it, but after casting Nissa for the first time earlier last week, I became a believer.
I was pretty sold on Jund Monsters, even after the Pro Tour results, as I was still doing well with it at the IQs I was attending. I had this nice plan for
the mirror, adding Desecration Demons in the main to leverage their non-Xenagos draws, and Lifebane Zombie out of the board. Then I realized that there
would be no mirrors anymore. In the Top 8 of an SCG IQ, I quickly realized how hard I was working to fight off a Nissa, Worldwaker and a Garruk,
Apex Predator. I won the match, but man, did I feel super dead at so many points.
Stormbreath Dragon? Nice card, Vraska it.
Polukranos? Garruk says, “Eat this!”
Fast forward to the Thursday before the Open Series in Syracuse, and I’m sitting in my room reading Gerry Thompson’s article. He stated that Jund Planeswalkers
is much better than Jund Monsters, and after reading his explanation, I was sold.
I did my research, I looked up the lists from the Pro Tour, I talked with Erik Smith, who was on the deck as well, and I started going to work.
I may or may not have heard Gerry’s voice in my head in the process, saying: “Just play the deck, stupid!”
On the way up to Syracuse with friends Zack Kanner, Robert Pompa, and Josh Rosario, I was pretty pumped to be playing a green Thundermaw Hellkite. I was
never a big fan of playing Mono-Black Devotion because I was always trying to run people over. Monsters gave me that angle, but I definitely missed how
well Mono-Black could attrition almost anything. This deck gave me that near-perfect medium I’ve been looking for. I spent some more time theorycrafting,
getting closer to where I wanted to be. Read the Bones was the card I was excited to jam since the sheer velocity it provided was nearly unmatched. Erik
wound up playing Underworld Connections, but like many others, I felt that the format was too fast for Connections to keep up with most thing-unless we’re
talking Gray Merchant of Asphodel builds, and even then, one could debate it. Some more deliberation got me to a more tuned list, but then I found Willy
Edel’s Twitter post, containing his updated list. I was convinced that his version was the better version for this week, and I decided to play his sixty
after listening to Joe Spanier chew me out for not wanting to cut Chandra, Pyromaster.
Here is what I registered:
I tend to bring my decks a bit lower to the ground where applicable. I didn’t touch the maindeck because I felt that everything was where it should have
been, and there was no reason to really go lower. The sideboard was adjusted to be more equipped to deal with Mono-Blue Devotion, G/W Aggro, and
Nykthos-based devotion decks. I felt that I could move a little bit away from Mono-Black and Blue-based control for larger events, so Doom Blade got the
nod over the Ultimate Price Willy had, and Slaughter Games got cut for the more bomb-y Mistcutter Hydras. Nylea’s Disciples were cut to make room for all
this, and I was willing to lean on Scavenging Ooze and Hydra to help race against R/W Burn.
While my plan worked in theory, I lost a lot of action against Mono-Black Devotion. While the Pack Rat plan felt pretty covered, Desecration Demon was
surprisingly very strong against me. My removal was already stressed from trying to deal with Pack Rat and Nightveil Specter or Lifebane Zombie, but if I
didn’t have a Xenagos, or if they had an answer to Xenagos, things got really tough. I think that I’d add another removal spell in the maindeck, possibly
an Ultimate Price over one of the Golgari Charms or Read the Bones, and overhaul the sideboard completely.
Fast forward to this past Wednesday, and I’m pitted on the Staten Island Ferry with Ross Merriam, making our way to an Invitational Qualifier at Get There
Games. We discussed some minor adjustments to the deck and some sideboarding, and I eventually came to this:
The addition of Dark Betrayal addressed many of the problems I was experiencing; being able to handle Desecration Demon, Obzedat, Ghost Council, and
Nightveil Specter, along with an early Pack Rat–which is important because it alleviates the strain that your other removal would have. Thoughtseize,
while powerful, has been less and less impressive for me, and I think I may chop them for Duress, as it’s much better in the Burn matchup and still
applicable where I want them. That said, I chose to stick with this configuration as I didn’t expect much Burn, and I wanted to be more prepared for Black
Devotion, U/W Control, and opposing Walkers decks.
I ended up winning the near forty-person Wednesday IQ, battling through a slog of Black Devotion and U/W Control (with a Rabble Red thrown in), throughout
the event. While I felt that I played pretty well in the swiss (aside from one major misplay that cost me a match), I was not happy with how I played the
entire Top 8, so I don’t really consider the event a complete success. When you have an Invitational coming up, and you’re getting closer and closer to a
bye, every single point counts, which means that every single match, game, play, and card counts much more. There will be matches where making those
mistakes will cost me, so learning from these mistakes, tightening up as much as possible, and focusing and preparing for the next event as hard
as possible is the key.
I’m still relatively new to the deck, but here’s what I’ve been doing thus far. This version of the deck will sideboard fairly differently from other
versions because of the lack of double black cards like Hero’s Downfall, a different game 1 behavior, and a heavier reliance on Nissa to win the game for
you, but as always, find out what works best for you, and don’t take any of this as set-in-stone.
VS U/W/x Control:
It may be crazy, but after talking with a lot of players I respect and trust, the conclusion is that your threat density is so important, you’re better off
shaving or cutting Caryatid for more action. There’s no real reason to try to push threats under them with this configuration, and with Thoughtseize in the
mix, your midgame becomes more robust. It may be worth leaving in some number of Mizzium Mortars if you expect your opponent to bring in any sort of
midgame threat, like Archangel of Thune, Nightveil Specter, Blood Baron of Vizkopa, or Brimaz, King of Oreskos.
VS Rabble Red:
Leaving in Elvish Mystic while boarding in Anger of the Gods seems weird, yes, but Elvish Mystic’s primary role in this matchup is to block Foundry-Street
Denizen. Staving off two or three damage on turn 2 is huge and can give you more time than the mana Mystic would otherwise provide you. Mistcutter Hydra is
actually very good in this matchup, as it’s an early blocker as well as a win condition. I don’t like any of the top end in the deck, as Xenagos is blanked
by the four Legion Loyalists, and Nissa is ultra clunky and often times not fast enough. Putrefy is very important for destroying Hall of Triumph, which
helps Chandra, Pyromaster do her thing.
VS Mono-Blue Devotion:
Xenagos is kind of meh to me, and I’d much rather have Mistcutter Hydra in that spot. If I can kill everything and stabilize with Nissa, Vraska, or a giant
Hydra, then I feel comfortable, though Thassa can pull off some insane stuff. There is an argument for keeping in some number of Xenagos to ramp up to a
large Hydra, but that doesn’t feel as realistic as it looks. Lowering the curve by shaving Nissa is also something I prefer doing, and Thoughtseize, while
being very good at answering Thassa, is not a card that fights them on the front I want to fight them. Dark Betrayal is very narrow, being able to only
kill Nightveil Specter, but killing it is so important that I think it’s worth bringing it in. Anger of the Gods isn’t actually spectacular against the
deck, but sometimes it lines up pretty well, so I don’t mind bringing in a couple.
VS Mono-Black Devotion:
Not a lot changes here because your deck is very good against Black Devotion when operating on all cylinders. The hard part is just that: getting the deck
going. Thoughtseize throws a big wrench in that plan, and Pack Rat as a follow up can end the game before it even starts (what else is new?). They aren’t
always going to have both pieces though, and sometimes you can get far ahead with ramp and an overloaded Mizzium Mortars, or by pushing ahead with Xenagos
and the one-for-one game constantly. On the play, it’s probably worth bringing in Chandra, Pyromaster. Sticking it on turn 3 kills a Pack Rat, gets over a
Desecration Demon, and eats a Hero’s Downfall for your better planeswalkers. Rakdos’s Return is pretty good against Black Devotion, especially when you
aren’t straining yourself via needing to kill Pack Rat and Demon, but Underworld Connections mitigates Return’s effect, making it an effective Fireball,
which is still fine but not something I want two of in the second or third game.
Golgari Charm has the inverse problem. It’s good against Underworld Connections and Pack Rat, but all the other threats make it look embarrassing, so I
don’t want to see more than one of them during a game. Thoughtseize is enticing to bring in since it’s good on the play to snatch their Rat or Demon and
can cripple their progression if they’re leaning on a single card, but like Rakdos’s Return, I don’t want effects that don’t affect the board directly. If
I’m going to attack their hand, I’d want the second Return before the first Thoughtseize. I’d be more inclined to have Thoughtseize against B/W Midrange
because Obzedat, Ghost Council is such a major issue, but even then, with Dark Betrayal, it gets less appealing.
How you sideboard can vary greatly depending on how you choose to attack the matchup, and I wouldn’t fault you for doing things differently at all.
VS G/W Aggro:
Anger of the Gods is powerful early, but you don’t want too many since Advent of the Wurm, Loxodon Smiter, and pump spells outclass it quickly. I’d be
weary of additional protection spells like Ajani’s Presence out of the board, so killing things while they’re tapped out is recommended if possible. I’m
unsure if Chandra is worth it since she helps kill Wurm with Mortars but gets slayed easily by said Wurm. Scavenging Ooze helps you catch up in a big way,
and while it’s a bit of a non-bo with Anger, you’re still going to want it.
VS Jund Planeswalkers
Like Mono-Black, there isn’t much actual sideboarding going on, but the actual dynamic of the game changes because of Thoughtseize. Mizzium Mortars and
Nissa, Worldwaker are the two more important cards, with Dreadbore assisting in different spots and Read the Bones providing a high amount of velocity and
comeback potential. Chandra is a bit too low impact to really do anything relevant, and Mistcutter Hydra is a consideration as another way to attack
planeswalkers (though I wouldn’t recommend it).
VS R/W Burn:
I generally always assume that Burn plays Young Pyromancer, so Chandra helps pace it. Outside of that, I just try and race as hard as possible, and hope
for the best. Thoughtseize is good in theory, but I think it’s better to have actual gas instead of trying to one for one them. Mistcutter Hydra is your
primary racing tool, and with Nissa and Xenagos, you can easily pile on the damage. Scavenging Ooze and Courser of Kruphix are your most important tools,
and Rakdos’s Return is a huge beating even if you don’t get their entire hand.
I’ll be jamming this deck and learning more about it as the Invitational comes closer, and I have about two IQs and the Open Series in Washington DC to get
the points I need to get a bye, but I want to leave you with an interesting hand that was debated all weekend. I was playing against Noah Cohen, playing
B/W Midrange. It was game 2, and I was on the play. I decided to keep this hand:
Do you keep this hand against a deck with Thoughtseize and Pack Rat? If you mulligan, what are you trying to mulligan to? If you keep, what are you looking
to scry into?
While I’ve been fortunate enough to accumulate a solid amount of points this season, the primary goal, as it’s always been, is to learn and get better.
Being around like-minded players who want to succeed and get better as much as I do, while still putting in the work and effort at all times, like Ross
Merriam and Gerard Fabiano, has been a major boon to my progression lately as well. Having worked along for so long and feeling such a major plateau in my
game because of it, I can finally say that I’ve found players that I can be comfortable with on a personal and competitive level.
Lastly, and I know this may sound like something that’s said often, but I really want to thank everyone that talked to me these past couple of weekends,
and everyone that has ever spent some time meeting and chatting with me. I wish I could express just how much it means to me when any of you give me
compliments, criticisms, and general advice. Every single one of you make a huge impact on my Magic career, and you guys are the driving force of my
motivation to improve as a writer, player, and person. So thank you for all of the support.
See you in D.C.!