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Although I may not be here to tell you how I won the 2012 Washington State Championships, I am here to tell you how I almost won the tournament and why you should catch the Fervor. But first, a quick bit of personal background so you can know that I'm not a random scrub feeding you Misinformation. I'm a local Seattle player, who can usually be found at Uncle's Games in Redmond or Card Kingdom in Ballard. My recent accomplishments include a standard PTQ Top 8 and I went 9-0 at GP Seattle with a completely awful sealed deck, only to scrub out on day 2 and miss the money.
I suppose last season spoiled us with regards to our creature quality. Entire decks were built around getting value out of their creatures just by having them enter play. With the rotation of titans and completely OP creatures, we are left with Wolfir Avenger, Lotleth Troll, Geralf's Messenger, Huntmaster of the Fells, and Olivia Voldaren. The main problem that all of these creatures have is their vulnerability to Terminus, the best wrath in the format. In addition, every major removal spell is sorcery speed, which requires immediate value from your creatures.
After Todd Anderson's win at the SCG Open in Cincinnati, it was clear that Miracles could be a deck, at least for the following week, and would be heavily netdecked. From initial testing and hearsay, it appeared as though a lot of people had evolved the deck from U/W/R to Bant for Centaur Healer, Thragtusk, and possibly some number of either Garruk and Armada Wurm. There were also many articles posted touting the strength of Joe Bernal's BR Zombies deck. Jund also seemed to be a deck with some amount of Humans, GW, and other anti-zombie midrange decks.
So where does Fervor fit in? For quite a while I knew that I wanted to be on some form of Jund, since you have access to the two best cards in the format against zombies (Thragtusk and Pillar of Flame). It became clear that your deck could handle an early zombie rush or other agro decks, but the endgame of miracles was too good. Your deck also had lots of do-nothing cards like Huntmaster of the Fells, Wolfir Avenger, and Olivia and it was hard to actually kill them. I honestly could not stand to draw these cards in pretty much any matchup and quickly cut all of them.
After glutting the creature suite, there were some holes to be filled and I thought to myself “what if all my creatures had real value when they enter the battlefield?” As you can assume, this “value” was the ability of haste and it just so happens that there are solid creatures in Jund colors with haste, with some of them having evasion.
Why this Deck is Good
As I mentioned before, you can be in fine shape against control, when all of a sudden your opponent miracles Terminus like a lucksack. Maybe they miracle it and then land a Planeswalker on the now-empty board. With a normal aggro or midrange deck, you would tilt a little bit and be sad, but instead, you can simply play any haste creature and start applying pressure again. A control player is never safe even when you have no creatures in play. For one, you could have a Rakdos Keyrune in play to provide wrath insurance, or you could just play Thundermaw Hellklite and demand another wrath. Azorius Charm is also exceptionally weak against you since it is only a Fog or they are putting Thragtusk back on top your library. In fact, I would not be stretching the truth to say that this deck completely crushes control.
People say that Zombies is a fast deck. Fervor Jund is also a fast deck, but you can't draw a 2/2 that can't block on turn 7. Imagine this completely normal curve: Turn 2 Strangleroot Geist, attack (18), Turn 3 Dreg Mangler, attack (13), Turn 4 Falkenrath Aristocrat, attack (4), Turn 5 win. This draw even wins through an on curve Supreme Verdict. This deck is very good at being the aggro deck in a matchup, and the sideboard allows you to switch roles against a deck like zombies or mono red.
Enough talk about the deck, let's have a look so I can explain some of the specific choices:
4 Thragtusk, Pillar, and Farseek: These should be fairly self-explanatory, but it does make me somewhat sad that the deck is not all haste creatures.
4 Strangleroot Geist and Dreg Mangler: These allow you to get the early beats in. If people are playing Rakdos Shred-Freak, you can laugh at them while you play the same thing with undying. Like traditional Jund, these creatures are inherent two-for-ones late game while still clocking for a good amount on curve. Scavenge doesn't always come up, but it is generally awesome when it matters (especially with Rakdos Keyrune). Geist is also very good against aggro decks as he trades with two 2/2s.
3 Falkenrath Aristocrat: An absolute bomb in zombies, with plenty of fodder to eat up, she still shines here for her ability to kill quickly (turns 3 and 4 Aristocrats after Farseek is an unassisted turn 5 kill) and eat up Strangleroot Geists or Dreg Manglers. One of the things we quickly noticed in testing was that there really aren't any fliers in the format, leaving the skies clear to Flame Rift your opponent.
2 Thundermaw Hellkite: Thundermaw is the real deal. As I said before, all of the removal in the format is sorcery speed, guaranteeing five damage from Thundermaw. In addition, there's no pesky Vapor Snag in every other deck to gain tempo, even though there are some with Unsummon and Dramatic Rescue. He is also a perfect follow up to opposing Thragtusks, since he continually clocks your opponent for five a turn. This deck is the perfect home for Thundermaw Hellkite with multiple ramp spells to ensure that you hit five mana.
1 Olivia Voldaren: Yes, I said that I hate this card and I still do. One of the problems with the deck is the 4-drop slot and I wanted a card that could block against zombies while still being good against midrange. This card was never that great for me, but I don't think you can just play 4 Aristocrats.
1 Garruk Relentless: Garruk is just awesome and more should be in the maindeck. Against aggro decks you should be able to flip him and start tutoring up Thragtusks, while he makes a constant stream of wolves against control or midrange.
2 Bonfire of the Damned: Bonfire is still good against aggro and midrange decks and the full four belong in the 75. You are an aggro deck and the tempo it generates often wins games. You also achieve large amounts of mana quite often and can easily hardcast it for 2-3.
1 Dreadbore: People show up with all sorts of things at States and it's nice to have outs to creatures that don't die to pillar.
1 Mizzium Mortars: I wish I could play more of this card, but the Overload cost is actually quite difficult to achieve. It's generally just a worse Dreadbore and should probably be cut in the future (unless you add more red to the manabase).
2 Rakdos's Return: When you cast this after your opponent taps out for a Tamiyo, you will see just how awesome this card is.
2 Garruk, Primal Hunter: The only way for a control deck to answer this is with a Counterspell or Detention Sphere. If you play around countermagic you should be able to get some good value out of him. The midrange matches are generally determined by who gets the most card advantage and winning the Garruk war is a good way to do that.
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Round 1: Junk Tokens
After losing the die roll, I proceeded to win a fairly easy match as any tokens he made were Bonfired away or Severed. In game 2 I stole his Trostani and ooze token with Olivia, but didn't have any white mana to populate! #FirstWorldProblems. (2-0), (1-0)
Round 2: Jund Midrange
I lost the die roll again, but I played three Thragtusk to his two and out-Junded him in game 1. Game 2 involved more Thragtusks and some flying beatdown, topped off with a Rakdos's Return for his whole hand. (2-0), (2-0)
Round 4: Bant Miracles
I finally won the die roll, only to keep a hand with no red source, get my Farseek countered, and then draw a bunch of red cards. By the time I found red mana, he found Tamiyo and we were off to game 2. Efficient hasty creatures got in done in game 2, and in game 3 he mulliganed to 5 and succumbed to the card advantage of Garruk, Primal Hunter. (2-1), (4-0)
Round 5: Travis Woo with Monored
I was not very excited to be on the draw in game one knowing that I was playing mono red. My hand had Sever the Bloodline for removal and a Geist and Dreg Mangler for blockers and he still killed me on turn 5. In game 2 he stalls on two land and I manage to fill the board with creatures including Thragtusk. Once he reached four mana, if he had drawn a Hellrider I would have lost a significant portion of my life since his board was something like seven 2/2s. It was difficult to attack through his board state because I could all of a sudden be facing lethal on the backswing. Eventually a Bonfire of the Damned sent us to game 3. Game 3 played out in similar fashion with him dumping his hand and me playing all four Strangleroot Geists without him seeing a Pillar of Flame. Garruk Relentless provided more blockers, and also helped to get rid of Pyreheart Wolf. Once I cleared away enough of his board I was able to swing in with my team and force chump blocks, which quickly led to victory. This match was very difficult and there were multiple turns in the games I won where a Hellrider on top would have just killed me. (2-1), (5-0)
Round 6: Blaine Rybacki with BR Zombies
Blaine handed me my first match loss of the day pretty handily by curving out into Hellrider. I managed to win one of the games by playing multiple Thragtusks, but this matchup is just really tough. (1-2), (5-1)
Round 7: Martin Goldman-Kirst with Bant Control
I didn't know whether Martin was playing the Entreat endgame or Angel of Serenity/Sphinx's Revelation, but knew he was playing Bant Control, which is a very easy matchup. He missed his fourth land drop a few times in game 1 and couldn't handle hasty flying creatures. For game 2, I got him somewhat low by the time he cast Angel of Serenity to get back his Thragtusk and then cast Rakdos's Return for his hand. He discarded 2 Sphinx's Revelation, Jace, and Supreme Verdict. He drew a blank and on my turn I killed his blockers and swung for lethal. (2-0), (6-1)
At this point I was in 5th place with the second highest breakers among X-1s and drew into the Top 8 with Ricky Manz who was X-0-1. Looking back, I probably should have just played out the last round to get a better standing in the Top 8, especially since I knew my opponent was playing Grixis control. Being the 6th seed in the Top 8 meant I was going to be on the draw for every match.
Quarterfinals: Richard Goff with UR Delver
This match was interesting in that every game played out differently and my sideboard plan changed from game 2 to 3. In game 1, he played like a control deck with Augur of Bolas and Snapcaster Mage and I eventually got a Thundermaw to live after exhausting all of his burn. Game 2 had him cast his own Thundermaw, which was dispatched by a topdecked Dreadbore. I was low on action, and he played a large Runechanter's Pike. At the end of my turn he flashed in a Snapcaster Mage, which I allowed, and then played another one as Ambush Viper, only to be met with a Golgari Charm. I didn't have an answer for Snapcaster number 3 and we were off to game 3. My opening hand was very good and I curved Geist into two Dreg Manglers and he quickly died without ever reaching four mana for the three Clone in his hand.
Semifinals: Ricky Manz with Grixis Control
Whereas the previous match took upwards of an hour, with Dwayne already waiting in the finals, this match took around ten minutes with my opponent casting lots of sorcery speed removal and slowly dying to haste creatures.
Finals: Dwayne St. Arnauld with BR Zombies
Game 1 was the usual Slaughter with one drop into Messenger into double Aristocrat on the play. In game 2, he completely bricked on land and allowed my Garruk Relentless to slowly grind the game away. And then in unexciting fashion, he dumped a bunch of one drops and a Messenger onto the field with burn back up in game 3, while a Thragtusk rotted in my hand. I wish I could have done something different to win the match, as it would have been awesome to actually be Washington State Champion, but his draws in games 1 and 3 were pretty much perfect and crushed me through some early disruption.
Although the deck didn't win the tournament, it still has a lot of potential in the metagame. As more people move towards midrangey, durdle decks, Fervor Jund gets better. At the FNM level however, you can always expect players to show up with Zombies or Mono Red and the Aristocrats and Olivia should probably be swapped for some Huntmaster of the Fells.
Before I head out, I just want to give a shout out to Vikram Kudva, Ranjan Pradeep, and Joel Quey for testing with me for the event.
Thanks to you guys for reading, and I hope to take home the glory next year.
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