Jund in Liverpool – A Modern PTQ Tournament Report by Grant Hislop
Don’t call it a comeback….
I’ve not really been playing much Magic over the festive period, so I haven’t had much to say. I’ve never been one to be overly concerned about the amount of Magic content in my articles, but it’s generally for the best if there’s at least something borderline relevant, and over the last month or so, I’ve really had nothing to say. December is traditionally a pretty stale time for Magic, with holiday season in full effect, meaning local stores don’t run FNM’s, and typically, there isn’t much in the way of high level tournaments, making it pretty easy to take a break.
While I was initially considering going to the Chesham PTQ just before Christmas, but on the 23rd, it seemed like a recipe for getting stuck down south over the festive period, added to the fact that Chesham is stupidly difficult to get to from the North, and I stayed at home and got drunk in the house by myself instead, which was clearly the right call.
The UK Metagame
Once the Christmas festivities were out of the way, it was time to take advantage of the fortnight off work to throw myself into Modern preparation. I bought the cards for UW Restoration Angel Control on Magic Online, but wasn’t impressed with the deck at all. I kept having Spell Snare in hand when I needed Mana Leak, and vice-versa, drawing Geist of Saint Traft when I wanted Blade Splicer and so on. It seemed good against the combo decks, but it just wasn’t working for me against almost anything else. Sadly, purchasing the cards for this deck took my entire Magic budget for the month, so if I wanted to play anything else, I’d have to do the testing in paper or on Cockatrice, one of which isn’t ideal, and the other would be only slightly preferable to a paper cut on my urethra. I’ll leave you to decide which is which.
With the UK Metagame typically under-representing combo and over-representing UW Tempo decks, I felt that playing the UW Angel deck myself would be a bad call. I got a couple of friends together to test some of the gauntlet decks, and I never really got any further than Jund. When testing, most people seem to want to play their pet decks, and it can be quite difficult to find someone willing to be the ‘baddie’, and play the deck to beat. Typically, it’s me that slots into that role, before moving onto the other decks. I’d recommend anyone who’s serious about PTQ’ing to make sure that they’re at least competent with the best deck, so as to maximise testing time, as well as having a solid fall-back in case the format suddenly becomes hostile to your plan A.
In this case though, I didn’t feel the need to move on from Jund at all. I played maybe 10-15 games with other decks, but I really kept wishing I was playing Jund. It’s possible that in my own playgroup, which favours combo decks far more than the UK as a whole, and for some reason seems excessively averse to interactive Magic, my perspective is somewhat skewed, but I was beating everything they were throwing at me pretty handily, and enjoying myself while doing so.
Obviously, there’s many different flavours of Jund, and it was not just a case of deciding that Jund was my deck. There were choices between Lingering Souls or not, the Land Death package or not, Lotus Cobra or Dark Confidant, Three-Drop creatures or additional removal, Treetop Village or Raging Ravine, as well as many other, small decisions.
I opted for a traditional Jund list, heavily based on Yuuya Watanabe’s list from the Pro Tour a few months ago, with a few ‘upgrades’ to combat the current metagame.
This is what I ran:-
Jund Card Choices & Why
As you can see, there’s nothing particularly unusual about the deck. Everything should be fairly obvious to those who’re familiar with the deck. I’ve opted for Kitchen Finks over Lingering Souls, due to me not really expecting much in the way of Affinity or Infect in the room, as neither of those are particularly ‘UK’ decks, and personal preference for Finks. I’ve got one more man-land than most Jund decks, due to how good they are in the mirror. I favour Raging Ravine more than Treetop, due to me expecting more UW decks than usual.
The only vaguely interesting choice in the maindeck was the single Grim Lavamancer, which over-performed all day. It’s a slight nonbo with Deathrite Shaman, but it was seldom an issue. Anything that helped me curve out properly was excellent news as far as I was concerned, and Grim Lavamancer seemed like the best option available.
The sideboard was full of generic answers. Mirror trumps and combo breakers were the order of the day, and outside of Obstinate Baloth, each of them were worth their inclusion. Were I to play the tournament again, I think I’d keep the maindeck the same, but I’d swap the Baloth into a Phyrexian Metamorph, or possibly a third Slaughter Games. I ended up with one more mirror trump than I wanted, due to not being able to count properly while finalising my sideboard, but Phyrexian Metamorph seems like it would be solid, and Obstinate Baloth was just woeful all day.
The Tournament Report
The tournament in question was the PTQ in Liverpool. There was some confusion with the start time, as for some reason, the TO’s had advertised both 11am and 12pm start times in various places around the web. They seemed quite annoyed that people had expected that a PTQ would start at noon, and were attempting to shift the blame onto the players who’d thought that what they’d read was accurate, and weren’t overly impressed at the delayed start time. For me, there are times when it’s appropriate to attempt to shift blame, and there are times when you just sack up, admit you made a mistake and move on. This seems like the latter to me.
In any case, the 12pm start time suited me fine, as it meant we could drive down on the morning of the event itself, rather than the usual night before and a stay in a hotel or on a local’s couch, which was ideal, as it made the trip a little cheaper. For stuff like GP’s, the touristy stuff is certainly appealing, and I prefer to visit nice places, but for PTQ’s, because I’m awful, and expect to have to play in a lot of them, the cheaper the better.
I filled my car with four additional bodies, and drove down, very uneventfully. The M6 is a brilliant road at 7am on a Saturday. There’s no speed cameras, and at that time of morning, there’s no police presence to speak of, so it’s really simple to make excellent time. We managed the drive in just over three hours, giving us plenty of time to get Full English Breakfasts at a greasy spoon café just up the road from the venue, and hand out cards to the various people who’d asked in the run-up to the event.
Round One – Rich Hagon – Burn
Starting off the day against one of the voices of Magic was an pleasant surprise. He was playing Burn, which wasn’t. Every time I’ve seen Rich play, he’s been throwing Lightning Bolts at people’s faces, and I didn’t expect this to be any different.
In game one, he failed to make his second land drop until turn four or five, by which time he was very dead.
I don’t particularly like this sideboard plan, but I think it’s the best I can do. I hate having Inquisitions still in the deck, so it’s possible that they should be Olivia Voldaren, but I’m just attempting to keep my curve as low as possible, while being able to trade one-for-one.
Game two, I cascade into a second Deathrite Shaman off my Bloodbraid Elf to add to my Grim Lavamancer while at seven life, and his two card hand is Rakdos Charm and Lightning Bolt, and I die. Boo. I played this game pretty badly, messing up simple things like my fetchland ordering, causing me to Time Walk myself, as I didn’t want to take excessive damage to my mana-base, and it ended up costing me big time. I was pretty angry with myself at this, as I’ve been playing fetch-dual mana bases for years now, and I’m still messing up my fundamentals, which is unforgivable.
Round Two – Peter Deane – RUG Scapeshift
In game one, I Inquisition on turn one and see a lands, Izzet Charm, 2x Remand and a Farseek (I think), which I take. His turn one had been land and Search for Tomorrow. I’ve got a decent aggressive hand, so I think I’m in pretty decent shape here, but he draws, in order, Sakura Tribe Elder, third land, fourth land, Ramp Spell, Primeval Titan, Scapeshift, and I die. He surprises me on turn 3 by Izzet Charming my turn three Thoughtseize, rather than Remanding, which seemed like the play given how bad his hand was when I’d seen it, but given that he drew basically perfectly, it ended up not mattering.
In game two, I’m on the play, so I make Deathrite Shaman turn one, while he suspends a Search for tomorrow. On turn two, I Inquisition of Kozilek and see five lands and an Obstinate Baloth. This game isn’t remotely close.
Game three, I think I get a turn two Liliana, which is always nice, and she does a short number on his hand. He starts playing entirely off the top quickly, with four lands in play, which is a pretty solid position for me. I runner-runner two Slaughter Games when he hits his sixth land, first naming Primeval Titan, and Scapeshift with the second, and the game ended shortly afterwards.
Round Three – Ian Holland – Burn
Having no idea what my opponent is playing, I keep four lands, Bloodbraid Elf, Thoughtseize, Dark Confidant, which is obviously very good against most people, but not so good against burn. I manage to Lightning Bolt myself on turn one, and trade my Thoughtseize for a Shard Volley, seeing two Lava Spike, a Bump in the Night, Keldon Marauders and two lands. I realise that I still have to go down the Dark Confidant route, but figure that I’ll be able to chump the Marauders with it, but the game doesn’t go that way. He Spikes me on turn one, Spike + Bumps me on turn two, and I flip Bloodbraid Elf twice off Bob and we’re going to sideboards.
Same as before. I keep Goyf, Finks, Baloth + Lands, and he stumbles slightly. I win pretty handily.
Game three, we get to a stage where he’s playing off the top, has a Vexing Devil in play, and I’m at 2 Life and have a Deathrite Shaman on the board. My hand is just a Liliana, and I have 4 mana on the board, only one of which is black. I draw a Verdant Catacombs, and have to crack it for a basic swamp to cast the Liliana to deal with the Devil, putting me to one life. The graveyards have plenty creatures in them, and I’m confident that if I can live through the next turn, I’ll be able to stabilise.
Obviously, at 1-2, I’m eliminated from Top Eight contention, but everyone else is still playing, and the prizes aren’t totally shit, I keep playing. Tournament practice is a valuable commodity where I come from too, so I wasn’t totally gutted.
Round Four – James Timm – Spirit Cobra Jund
My memory of this round is pretty sketchy. I win game one, presumably through better Bloodbraid Elf cascades, and we sideboard.
In game two, I draw lands, and he draws spells, and I die.
Game three, I get an early Liliana, and he’s not able to deal with it. He has a slightly awkward draw that I exacerbate by Bolting his Cobra on turn 3 in response to the fetch trigger, and he isn’t able to cast a second spell. He makes Spirits on turn 4, and I make a Hellkite on Turn 5. Classic Jund mirror where everything dies, and whoever has the last bomb wins. People complain about the Jund mirror all the time, but to me, it’s almost like a game of limited, where it’s just combat maths, creatures and removal, post board at least, and I’m pretty confident in my ability to attack and block appropriately in these types of situations.
Round Five – Lee Brook – Gruul Tron
While shuffling up for game one, he flips over Chromatic Sphere and an Urza Land, and my heart sinks. Gruul Tron is easily my worst matchup, and I knew I’d have to get very lucky to win game one. I keep the somewhat risky hand of two lands, three Dark Confidant, Deathrite Shaman and Lightning Bolt, knowing that I’d need to draw very well anyway, and that all those Bobs gave me the best possible chance to do so.
Game two, I get turn two Liliana, turn three Fulminator Mage eating a Tron Land, turn four Slaughter Games Wurmcoil Engine, and then he Karns. I’m pretty frustrated, as clearly I’ve been quite unlucky in the Tron land I’ve eaten, picking the one that he’s had a multiple of, but it doesn’t matter, as he eats the Liliana with the Karn, leaving me a window to cast a Bloodbraid Elf, which comically cascades into another Liliana, allowing me to empty his hand. Another Bloodbraid into a Fulminator Mage the following turn is all she wrote for Lee, and we go to game three.
Again, an early Liliana starts doing a number on his hand, and Slaughter Games shortly after limits the ways that he can win. I make a mistake here in playing my fifth land with active Liliana, Tarmogoyf and Bloodbraid Elf in hand. I should have held the land, pitched it to Liliana, and cast the Bloodbraid Elf, keeping the Goyf in case he finds Oblivion Stone, but I don’t. Another fundamental error, again for which there is no excuse.
The game ends up being me swinging with an increasingly large Raging Ravine into a Spellskite for three turns, which were being searched out by Eye of Ugin. His Oblivion Stone on the board made additional commitments futile, but the Ravine ended up getting there after a few turns, fortunately for me. Whew. Nightmare matchup won. More than a litte lucky, but that’s why we play the games, after all.
Round Six – David Sutcliffe – Spirit Jund
As usual in this matchup, game one came down to cascades and combat maths. I certainly cascaded better, and took the game as a result.
The reason for this sideboarding is that the games become a total grind. Both of you empty your hands quickly, and the game devolves into top-deck wars. Obviously, whomsoever plays the last bomb wins the game. As a result, you want to make sure that your topdecks are as good as possible. For some reason, Sutty decided to keep his discard in, while I upgraded mine into bombs and removal, and won handily when he started top decking Thoughtseizes into my empty hand. Ripping opportune Bloodbraid Elfs didn’t hurt either…
Round Seven – Steve Rybowski – Infect
In game one, he mulligans on the play. I cast a discard spell, and see Verdant Catacombs, Forest, Misty Rainforest, Groundswell and a Vines of Vastwood, which I take. Then, I cast a Dark Confidant, and he doesn’t accomplish anything meaningful before dying.
I keep a removal heavy hand for Game two, and fortunately, he’s heavily reliant on Inkmoth Nexus, giving me enough time to find a Tarmogoyf to present a clock. Ancient Grudge makes a double Nexus draw pretty embarrassing, and he dies without being able to deal more than 2 poison to me over the course of both games.
Round Eight – Aidan Brown – UW Restoration Angel
Game one, he opens on Delver, which I immediately Lightning Bolt. He makes a Geist of Saint Traft on turn 3, which surprises me, so I reward him tapping out with a Liliana of the Veil. We all know how Liliana takes over an empty board, and this game is no different.
I’m honestly not sure how good this plan was. I figured that our decks were very similar, and the game would probably be a grind, so I sideboarded similarly to how I would vs Jund. Answers on a postcard about how stupid/bad/wrong I am here please.
He Serum Visions on turn one, while I make a Deathrite Shaman, which gets Vapor Snagged on his turn two. I make Liliana on Turn three, as he’s tapped out for Snapcaster on the Visions, from which I infer he’s missing lands. His Snapcaster is sacrificed, and he hits his fourth land. I fear Cryptic Command, so I just tick Liliana up, dropping a land, while he drops a Mana Leak. At the end of my turn, he Cryptic Commands, bouncing Liliana and drawing a card, and passes back to me. In my draw step, he casts a Vendilion Clique, and sees my hand, which by this point is Lightning Bolt, Bloodbraid Elf, Thundermaw Hellkite, Liliana of the Veil (lol), and he only has one mana open, and two cards in hand. He thinks for a minute, and takes the Elf.
I cast the Hellkite, kill the Clique and attack for 5. He untaps, draws a card and passes back. I attack, and my Hellkite meets a Celestial Purge, and Liliana of the Veil takes a land from me, and a Spell Snare for him. I draw a Bloodbraid Elf, cascade into a Kitchen Finks and take the last card from his hand, and the rest of the game is academic.
So certainly a record in game wins that could easily have Top 8’d, but my early losses were enough that I finished outside of the top 16, missing out on half a box of product, somewhat frustratingly.
Would I play the deck again? Absolutely. I felt in control of most of my games, and the losses were very much within my ability to avoid in the future. I’d maybe make a couple of changes, to keep up with metagame shifts, but I feel like staying in the tournament, given my slanted perspective on the format was very valuable, and that I learned a lot about how people in the UK are approaching the format as well.
Next PTQ I’m likely to attend is Dublin in February, post Gatecrash release, so the landscape is likely to look quite different, but it’s unlikely to be a million miles away from what I saw in Liverpool.
Stay classy mtgUK,