Day 2 DanNation #2 – Jund vs. Mythic in Rise Standard

With the Nationals qualifier coming up – followed in short order by a PTQ for Pro Tour Amsterdam in our own backyard, many players have been playtesting decks for standard. A few decks in particular have been showing up in good numbers in the top 8s of high level tournaments. Blue-White Tapout Control and Blue-White-Red Planeswalker Control (Also known as Super Friends) are two popular and powerful control variants that having been performing very well, with Super Friends even coming out on top at the recent Star City Games 5K Tournament in Atlanta. Along with these blue based control decks, the ever present Jund is still in full force, and it has several tricks up its sleeves. The Bant Mythic deck which was seeing some success previous to the release of Rise of the Eldrazi has a fantastic new trick with Eldrazi Conscription and Sovereigns of Lost Alara that greatly improves its explosiveness. Aggressive Vampire decks and Red Deck Wins are still viable strategies that anyone should be prepared for, and the new Eldrazi spawned more than a bunch of 0/1 dorks – the new Summoning Trap and Polymorph combo decks should be taken into consideration as well when preparing for the new environment.

Of course I’ve been preparing to play my best – the Bant Mythic Conscription deck has been my deck of choice so far. It has absolutely unmatched threat density in its creatures, plus the ability to simply explode, catching the opponent with their pants down and often finishing the game on the spot. I’ve had some games where the opponent had full control through the whole game, and I hadn’t gotten in a single bit of damage – but I took the opponent from 20 to 0 in a single turn and they could do nothing about it. The deck also runs a set of powerful planeswalkers – Elspeth and Jace the Mind Sculptor are almost always in the list, and Gideon is starting to appear in lists as well. Pro Player Matt Sperling ran 1x of new white walker in the deck, winning a Pro Tour Qualifier with it, and even said after the tournament that he wished he ran more.

Jund is in an interesting position right now as well – the rise of the new control decks which provide a less than fantastic match for the deck as it was before the release of the new expansion means the deck has to adapt to come back, but there are plenty of powerful options for the deck and it is still a great choice for the upcoming tournaments. Not to mention some interesting new choices like Sarkhan the Mad and Consuming Vapors will make for more variance in the deck and a more interesting play environment in general. Jordan Stensgard, a fantastic local player who simply hasn’t had the time or chance to “get there” (though he performs well at nearly every tournament he joins – topping States in the past and sitting comfortably with a 1907 total rating at the time of writing), has been my playtesting partner, and Jund was his deck of choice – the raw power in the deck (and his ability to cascade like a champion, an important trait in a Jund player), plus the high amount of decks for which the Jund mainboard has an already incredibly favorable matchup makes it an excellent deck to run in the upcoming qualifiers. However, we’ve seen the deck to have a poor matchup against the Mythic Conscription deck – it can fail to answer all the must-answer threats or simply fold to a well (and often very early) placed Conscription. This made it a great match to test for, as the Jund sideboard would have to be much different than it used to be in order to handle the deck. We were also testing a few new cards in the deck, with very interesting results.

The two decklists follow:

Stensgard’s Jund

Creatures
4x Putrid Leech
4x Sprouting Thrinax
4x Bloodbraid Elf
3x Siege-Gang Commander
2x Broodmate Dragon

Other Spells
4x Lightning Bolt
2x Explore
2x Terminate
4x Blightning
3x Maelstrom Pulse
2x Sarkhan the Mad

Land
4x Savage Lands
4x Verdant Catacombs
4x Raging Ravine
2x Lavaclaw Reaches
2x Rootbound Crag
2x Dragonskull Summit
3x Mountain
3x Swamp
2x Forest

Sideboard
3x Duress
4x Doom Blade
1x Maelstrom Pulse
2x Consuming Vapors
2x Consume the Meek
2x All is Dust
1x Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund

Day 2 Dan’s Standard Mythic Conscription

Creatures
4x Noble Hierarch
4x Birds of Paradise
4x Lotus Cobra
4x Knight of the Reliquary
3x Dauntless Escort
1x Rhox War Monk
4x Baneslayer Angel
4x Sovereigns of Lost Alara

Other Spells
3x Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2x Elspeth, Knight-Errant
2x Eldrazi Conscription

Land
4x Misty Rainforest
2x Verdant Catacombs
1x Arid Mesa
3x Celestial Colonnade
2x Stirring Wildwood
2x Sunpetal Grove
1x Glacial Fortress
1x Tectonic Edge
1x Sejiri Steppe
4x Forest
2x Plains
2x Island

Sideboard
4x Kor Firewalker
2x Oblivion Ring
4x Negate
1x Deprive
2x Qasali Pridemage
2x Linvala, Keeper of Silence

Kenji Tsumura swears by this guy.

While my list is hardly different than most Mythic Conscription decks (besides the extra Rhox War Monk which is to be replaced by a fourth Dauntless Escort), Jordan’s deck has a few key deviations from the usual Jund lists that we are used to seeing. He is running both Explore and Putrid Leech, as the Leech provides important aggression against the control decks that are popular right now while Explore helps him reach his late game power while still being a better cascade than rampant growth in most situations. Also, most noticeably we have been trying out Sarkhan the Mad, and he is truly impressive.  He is a multifaceted planeswalker – he can remove menacing opposing threats (a 5/5 Dragon is much easier to deal with than a Baneslayer Angel!), provide you with evasive power by sacrificing Thrinaxes, Leeches, or Manlands, provide free card draw, and blow the opponent out with his ultimate after playing Broodmate or simply making one of his tokens. He also makes for an interesting sideboard strategy in the Jund mirror match after boarding in the one-of Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund. Make their Bloodbraid a dragon, and then steal it? Yes, please! We are still talking about getting in a third Sarkhan – he might be that good. The explores do feel a little awkward, but it’s possible that the ramp is necessary with all the high end and the lack of Garruk. Sarkhan feels a little more in place in the deck than Garruk did, though, and his ability to make big fliers is a huge advantage in the mirror match and in any match where there are planeswalkers to kill – which is a lot of them!

As for the Mythic build, we found Jace to be rather underwhelming. In the coming week we will be putting the deck to the test against other decks where he may be better, but in the same line we will be testing Gideon in place of one of the Jaces (and possibly a second in place of the lost, lone Rhox War Monk). The build is fairly tight as it is though, and it is really hard to find room for all the great cards that could be in it. There is always room for improvement, so if you have any suggestions about either deck feel free to leave them in the comments below.

So, how about hearing the actual results? We played 15 games (we were on a bit of a time constraint, otherwise we would have shot for at least 20). Eight games were pre-board, and seven games were done with sideboarded cards. Ideally we would have gotten in more sideboarded games, as that really is the important game to know – at the absolute minimum, half of the games you play in a tournament will be post-sideboard, and at maximum two-thirds of the games will be with your sideboard included.

Pre-sideboard, Mythic won 5 of the games and Jund won 3. In no games did either player mulligan to 5 or less, so there wasn’t a lot of result skewing due to mulligans. In general, when Mythic ramped out a turn 3 Baneslayer Angel or a quick Sovereigns of Lost Alara, the game was over. Jund has a very hard time keeping up its removal  to deal with fast threats like that. The games that went the best for Jund were the ones where the player had a full grip of removal in the opener. Sending Mythic to topdeck mode by answering everything seemed to be the best strategy – Jund historically is the winner when both decks are forced to topdeck. Tectonic Edge tended to be a real backbreaker, though – there were a couple games where a clutch Edge on the only source of a color ended the game on its own. If you are playing Mythic and want to shore up the Jund matchup a bit more, a second Edge in the side wouldn’t be a bad idea. Stensgards advice to a Jund player faced with a Mythic deck: Don’t tap out after turn 3 or you will probably lose the next turn. Save your instant speed removal for those turns when you expect the Mythic deck to drop Sovereigns. If you have Pulses, cast them early over fast removal like Terminate – you want to save those to break Mythic’s back when they try to hit you with a huge Conscripted creature.

Reaching into our sideboards, we decided on the following changes:

Mythic:

-3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
+3 Kor Firewalker

Jund:

-1 Explore
-4 Putrid Leech
-2 Broodmate Dragon
+1 Maelstrom Pulse
+2 Consume the Meek
+4 Doom Blade

Not quite Damnation, but close.

As you can see, we packed his sideboard with the four-of instant speed Doom Blade, which can answer both a Conscripted dork (or the Sovereigns itself) or a Kor Firewalker, which Jund should expect to see a lot of being sided in against them. We played five games with this particular sideboard strategy before changing it again. Mythic took four games to Jund’s one during this time. The Doom Blades were great and the Consume the Meek – which might even be unexpected to the Mythic player as Jund has a lot of options when siding now – was truly backbreaking. We also found a great interaction between Sarkhan’s sacrifice ability on big creature like Baneslayer Angel and Consume the Meek – essentially you can make your Consume the Meek get rid of anything by first making them sacrifice it for a 0-converted mana cost Dragon token. Dauntless Escort becomes even more important for Mythic to have when Jund sideboards in more removal like this – make sure you get him down early to protect your board from the Consume the Meek or Chain Reaction that you are sure to see. Firewalker is fantastic out of the board as always – but especially when he gives you a much more protected target for your Eldrazi Conscription. Stensgard was not happy with his sideboard after five games, so he switched it to be even more removal heavy and put his powerful, Sarkhan-Synergistic Broodmate Dragons back in.

Jund’s second sideboard strategy:

-4 Putrid Leech
-4 Sprouting Thrinax
-1 Blightning
+2 Consuming Vapors
+2 Consume the Meek
+4 Doom Blade
+1 Maelstrom Pulse

Unfortunately we only had time for a couple more games before Stensgard had to leave for his own agenda – he took one more game and Mythic took one more game, leaving the final post-sideboard score to be 5 wins for Mythic and 2 wins for Jund. But he was pleased with the switch from aggressive Jund to control Jund – having all the removal was necessary to win the match, and the focus on the late game Dragons to win seemed like the right call. We never got to see Consuming Vapors in action in this match, but theoretically it’s essentially at the very least “Destroy 2 lands, you gain 2 life” when you hit a couple Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarchs with it. His advice if you choose a sideboard like this – try not to worry about Mythic’s mana production if you have a Consume the Meek ready. Single target removal can be saved for the big targets and Consume will sweep away the rest. You’ll often be casting Consume the Meek during your main phase so the opponent doesn’t get to use their mana producers on their turn. Mythic needs to be more careful and try to play around Consume the Meek if they expect it – it’s a tough balance between speed and conservation, but don’t forget that you can always late game explode with Sovereigns and finish a game that you were losing the whole time. Try and bait out your opponents removal on Knights and the like if you expect this to be your way of winning. Firewalkers are also fantastic for eating Doom Blades – but if your opponent draws into 3x Doom Blades plus more removal, it can be difficult to win.

Overall, Mythic still has the edge in the match, but Jund can tech the sideboard to make the match much more winnable. It requires Jund to accept that they can’t be the aggressor in the match, as Mythic is just so much better at it. If you prepare your Jund sideboard to have a lot of removal options, though, you will be much better off. Don’t underestimate Mythic’s ability to win the game in a single turn – that’s really the take home message here.

Until next time,
“Day 2” Dan Green