SCG St. Louis $5k - *3rd Place*
Two weeks ago I knew that I would be attending not only the State Tournament, but both SCG $5k tournaments the following weekend in St. Louis. The problem for me was that I had not played in a Standard Tournament in over a month, and had only played one local Legacy tournament since Grand Prix Chicago. So going into the week of States, I knew I had limited time for testing both formats. I came to the conclusion that I would test Standard for the week going into States and the week going into the $10ks I would test mainly Legacy. About three days prior to States I settled on Jund. If I had more time I would have tried to homebrew some kind of control deck. But since time was limited most of my consideration went to Jund, Naya Lightsaber, and my friend's Crypt-Deck list that he had success with in local tournaments. Out of the three decks, Jund became the obvious choice for several reasons. First of which is that Naya Lightsaber is not a lock to beat Jund. That is not to say that it isn't favored in the matchup, but Jund is capable of putting up far more wins than the final match of the world tournament would lead you to believe. And if Lightsaber was not a lock on Jund, I saw no reason to choose it over Jund at all. To elaborate a bit on that statement, Jund is a more versatile deck than Lightsaber. Cards like Blightning, Bituminous Blast, and Maelstrom Pulse, cards which Naya cannot play, give the deck reach. Plus to get the favorable match against Jund, Lightsaber has to have a 13 card sideboard. In what would likely be a 8 or 9 round tournament I didn't know how many Jund decks I would see, and I wanted more flexibility in my sideboard. When it came to my friend's Crypt deck, which is worth noting is not a dredge deck, I simply did not have the time to do testing all the testing that would make me confirmable with taking a rogue deck.
When it came to States, I started the day at 2-0, but finished 2-2. I knew that the list I had was solid, but it was missing a few sideboard options that I think could have helped me take on my opponents in the tournament. Over the next week I decided on a three card change to my sideboard. This is the list I ran in the Standard $5k.
As you can see, for the most part my list was a classic Jund list. So I really don't need to explain how great all the cards are. Unless you have been living under a rock for the last 2 months, you know the normal weapons for Jund.
What probably stands out from the main list is the inclusion of two Exotic Orchards in the land base. In early testing those two spots were occupied by Oran Rief, the Vast Wood. I really like Oran Rief as you may have read in a previous article of mine. But the decision to cut it came down this. Jund has an awkward mana base at best, which against decks running Spreading Seas, Goblin Ruinblaster or Ajani Vengeant can be problematic. I decided to give up the cool trick in Oran Rief, to better strengthen my mana base. The obvious choice was to turn those two deck slots into some combination of basic lands or go up to a fourth Dragonskull Summit. In the end, after reviewing many tournament reports and top 8 deck lists I realized that nearly all opponents would give me one or more colors for my deck. And if I had a Jund matchup, the land would be the equivalent of a Savage Land that does not come into play tapped. Taking into consideration all of my matchups at States and in the St. Louis $5k, I not only think that running two Exotic Orchards was the correct call, I would recommend adding the card to anyone thinking of running Jund in a tournament. My sideboard for this tournament was exactly how I wanted it. Not too many cards for a specific matchup, but a lot of cards that work in many matchups.
Round 1 I was paired against Red Deck Wins piloted by Marsh Usary. This matchup proved to be tough as Marsh was a great player, coming off a top 8 appearance last week in the North Carolina State Tournament. Game one I pulled off a win. Game 2 he pulled off a win. It was in game three that the cool stuff started to happen for me. I ripped my opening hand and saw two Lightning Bolts, two Terminates, two lands and a Borderland Ranger. It would be a perfect hand for this matchup if it wasn't for the lack of red mana in my two lands. I paused for a moment to weigh the risks of keeping this hand next to taking a mulligan into what would in all likely be a worse hand. I decided to keep the hand, which would be the first of several risky hands that I kept throughout the tournament. Part of my thoughts on keeping the hand where that my opponent may play a turn 1 Goblin Guide. Goblin Guide is an awesome card, and I don't want to see it turn one on the draw, since killing it before it swings three times is nearly impossible for my list to do. But seeing it turn one when I'm on the play is something that I like to see from Red Decks. To me it means that they have one less big damage burn spells in their hand, and it typically can get in for damage only once before I have the chance to answer it. Plus I seem to have some insane luck when it comes to facing down that card. As more often than not I seem to hit land on top of my deck. As the game went, my opponent thankfully had a slow hand without many of those big burn spells with legs. I was able to drop the Borderland Ranger on turn 4 to fetch the mountain that I needed. A turn or so later it came down to my opponent taping down to cast Quenchable Fire to put me low on life. With a few cards left in his hand, I knew that if it came back around to his turn I would be dead. Luckily, by being screwed on read mana for the first few turns of the game I had not used any of the Lightning Bolts in my opening hand, on top of drawing into a third Lightning Bolt by that time. I was able to send the burn at my opponent and attack for the win.
Sideboard Strategy; -3 Maelstrom Pulse, -1 Garruk Wildspeaker, -1 Broodmate Dragon
+1 Terminate, +2 Jund Charm, +2 Borderland Ranger
Match (win 2-1) Tournament (1-0)
Round 2 I was paired against Jund piloted by John Lindsey. I was not looking forward to a mirror match, especially this early in the tournament. My thoughts going into the tournament were that the Jund mirror, especially if I was winning would require a lot of luck. I say winning because I would not expect to have my opponent making any misplays that I could capitalize on in the winner's bracket, which you may find at the lower tables. Thankfully for me I did not have to put my cascade skills to the test. My opponent could not seem to get anything going either of the games. So I took advantage of the situation. I won game 1 quickly and game 2 I was able to use Goblin Ruinblaster to take my opponent out of the game.
Sideboard Strategy; -3 Maelstrom Pulse, -4 Lightning Bolts, -1 Garruk Wildspeaker
+1 Terminate, +3 Goblin Ruinblaster, +2 Mind Rot, +2 Borderland Ranger
Match (win 2-0) Tournament (2-0)
Round 3 I was paired against G/W/x piloted by Tim Bury. I have to be honest, this is probably my favorite matchup to see. I sharpened my claws on this deck 2nd round of States. And while it is an interesting deck that I like a lot, G/W/x doesn't really stack up to Jund. The only problem that I had with this matchup was during game 2, when on the play my opponent played turn 1 Noble Hierarch, turn 2 Great Sable Stag. I didn't mulligan for a hand with a Lightning Bolt. So after a few turns we went to game 3.
Sideboard Strategy; -4 Sprouting Thrinax
+1 Chandra Nalaar, +1 Terminate, +1 Maelstrom Pulse, +1 Mind Rot
Match (win 2-1) Tournament (3-0)
Round 4 I was paired against Dredge piloted by Chase Lamm. To be perfectly honest I had never seen the Standard Dredge deck in action before this match. I had seen some deck lists online when doing my homework for the event, but never gave the deck much thought and didn't expect to run into it. In game one Dredge did what it's supposed to do. My opponent's graveyard swelled with creatures that were unearthed by the Crypt of Agadeem. A couple of hits from an Extractor Demon and its fellow unearthables and I promptly lost game 1, but in losing my opponent revealed his strategy and I knew what I needed to do against him the following two games. The next game my opponent kept a risky hand of one Crypt and stalled on one land for several turns. I was on the play and had a Ruinblaster in my opening hand that was dropped on turn 4. My opponent scooped. Game three my deck did its thing and I pulled off another win.
Sideboard Strategy; -3 Maelstrom Pulse, -4 Blightning
+3 Goblin Ruinblaster, +1 Terminate, +2 Jund Charm, +1 Borderland Ranger
Match (win 2-1) Tournament (4-0)
Round 5 I was paired against Naya piloted by Tom Ross. From my understanding, Tom was coming into this tournament off a State Championship win last weekend. Though I cannot recall what state it was in. And to top that off it was a feature match streamed live over the internet, my first feature match in 10 years (if you recall my first article I was on hiatus from the game for eight of those years). So needless to say I was nervous, but I don't think it affected my play during the match. Tom was playing the homebrew Naya list that he had won states with the week prior. I started out playing against the deck as though it was Naya Lightsaber. But to my amazement, game one my opponent drops Sarkhon Vol against me. I'm so unfamiliar with the card that I'm not certain I am even spelling its name correctly. The card proved annoying but not overly problematic aside from having to read what it does several times during the course of the match. It was in the last game of the match that my deck really began to shine, and Jund did what it does. About mid game I drew into a heavy cache of cascade spells that sealed the win for me. The tournament results have this match listed as a 2-1 win for me, but my notes have it listed as a 2-0. As I keep running life totals during a match in my notes I'm inclined to believe those.
Sideboard Strategy; don't ask, I don't recall and it probably wasn't correct
Match (win 2-0) Tournament (5-0)
Round 6 I was paired against Boros piloted by Garner Perigo. I usually love to sit down and see a Boros deck across the table when I'm playing Jund. I find the deck is like playing against RDW except little to no damage is thrown directly at your face. Meaning that muliganing for a hand of instant speed removal is always good against this matchup. Anyways, I took game 1, my opponent took game 2. In game three I played my first major misplay of the tournament and was lucky to bounce back from it. My opponent had tapped out to put his guys on the field, I swung in holding a Jund Charm and a Lightning Bolt. My opponent declines to block. If I had Jund Charm'd one of my creatures and bolted him I would have won, but instead I neglected a lesser used ability of the card and had damage dealt as normal. Anyways, it turns out the more commonly used ability of Jund Charm is a defensive one that is really useful against Boros. When it came back around to my turn I top decked a second Lightning Bolt. Now at this time I should point out that my opponent had countered my Broodmate Dragon earlier in the match. “WHAT?! COUNTERED!?!?!” Yes, he played the white Counterspell that sends the card to the top of my deck. So even though I had lethal in my hand I didn't know what tricks he may have up his sleeve. I declared attacks and swung in. My opponent blocks and uses Harm's Way to redirect some of the damage. Now that my opponent was tapped out on white mana and used the trick that would have kept him alive, I sent the double Lightning Bolts to the face for the win.
Sideboard Strategy; -3 Maelstrom Pulse, -1 Broodmate Dragon, -1 Garruk Wildspeaker
+1 Terminate, +2 Jund Charm, +2 Borderland Ranger
Match (win 2-1) Tournament (6-0)
Round 7 I was paired against Jund piloted by Michael Pozsgay. This was another feature match that is still probably available for viewing online. Having to play Jund again was inevitable. As you can see, even at 6-0 it held the keys to me getting into the top 8. I had met Pozsgay through a friend the week prior at States. Cool guy and a better Jund player than I. Prior to starting our first match we got deck checked. I have to say I really hate getting deck checked. Not because I'm afraid of having an illegal deck. I check my deck next to my registration list several times before a player meeting. I dislike getting deck checked because they sort the deck. Before I start my first game in a tournament I shuffle the hell out of my deck, play a game or two, shuffle some more. Anyways, I pile shuffled about three times as well as other forms of shuffling and for some reason decided to keep a land heavy hand with only a few spells. As game one went, I think I finished the game with 10 lands and only 5 spells played. One of them I cascaded into. Not off to a good start. Game two I started out miss-boarded and proceeded to get run over. I could not recall if Pozsgay was the one who was asking around for Great Sable Stags prior to the tournament or if it was someone else. So I boarded as I would against a typical Jund deck without Stags. Thankfully my opponent did not draw any of the Stags to make my sideboard mistake blatantly obvious. At the end of the match Pozsgay could draw into top 8 and I had to win the next match to make it in.
Incorrect Sideboard Strategy; -4 Lightning Bolts, -3 Maelstrom Pulse, -1 Garruk Wildspeaker
+3 Goblin Ruinblaster, +2 Mind Rot, +1 Terminate, +2 Borderland Ranger
Match (loss 0-2) Tournament (6-1)
Round 8 I was paired against Jund yet again, piloted by Bobby Olesky. Both of us knew what was at stake. The winner would likely be able to draw into top 8, while the loser would have to play for top 16. Game 1 I got run over by several Bloodbraid Elves. At this point it was obvious to me that his Cascade skills were better than mine. I employed the same board strategy as earlier going into games two and three. Game two I think my opponent had a Ruinblaster in hand, I could be wrong, but I was fine with that as I think the first 5 lands I played were all basics. He again played more Bloodbraid Elves than I did. But I was able to take the game on the back of Broodmate Dragon. The first two games in this match I think the amount of Bloodbraid Elves played were 5-2 in favor of my opponent. In game three my cascade finally kicked into over drive and I won the match.
Sideboard Strategy; -4 Lightning Bolts, -3 Maelstrom Pulse, -1 Garruk Wildspeaker
+3 Goblin Ruinblaster, +2 Mind Rot, +1 Terminate, +2 Borderland Ranger
Match (win 2-1) Tournament (7-1)
Round 9 I was paired against Spread Em piloted by fellow top 8 player Tim Hunt. This was the easiest match of the tournament. It took us seconds to agree to a draw.
Top 8 quarter finals I was paired against G/W/B piloted by Matt Yagger. To be perfectly honest I liked his deck better than mine. That isn't to say that I think his deck was better. I chose to play Jund instead of a deck like his because I believed it to be the best deck in the format. But my opponent's deck did seem like a more fun deck to be playing. Anyways, all or part of this matchup can probably still be viewed online if you search for it. So I won't go into too much detail as you can see it for yourself. Overall I was happy to play this matchup first round. As I had said earlier I feel this is a great matchup for my deck. Having split the top 8 payout we were not playing for money at this point, we were playing for points towards the SCG Player of the Year race and towards qualifying for the invitational. Making it to the semi-finals guarantees at least 10 points, which is what is needed to qualify for the $50k invitational. I must say that at this point I was tired and it showed in my play. I spent the latter half of game 2 playing catch up on my own play mistakes. But thankfully my opponent made a large error as well, and I was able to avoid a Baneslayer Angel that would have almost definitely sent the match into game 3.
Top 8 semi finals I was paired against Red Deck Wins piloted by tournament winner Richard Wayne. This match can be read about in the tournament coverage provided by SCG, so I won't go into too much detail. Suffice to say that I got steam rolled by RDW. Missing my fourth land drop in game two didn't help much either.
When it comes to the deck list, if I was going into another Standard tournament in the coming weeks I would not make any changes. I knew the main deck was solid even with my .500 record at States, and the fine tuning of the sideboard going into the $5k appears to be what I was looking for.
So thanks for reading. I will likely post my Legacy $5k tournament report next week. In that tournament I started the day at 4-0-1…