have been playing a lot of Standard recently. I was hoping that Jund would meet its demise at Pro Tour–San Diego. Unfortunately, Jund still rules the Standard metagame. Jund is the best deck because it is extremely hard to hate, it plays some of the most powerful spells in Standard, and it can afford to play a lot of land considering the power level of its spells. Many people, myself included, have made any number of decks that supposedly beat Jund. The truth of the matter, however, is that Jund has no "bad" matchups. Sure, there are decks that beat Jund more than 50% of the time, but there are certainly no decks that beat jund more than 65% of the time. I never truly understood this until recently.
I resisted playing with Jund for a few months. Sometimes I would beat the format-dominating menace, but usually I found myself losing. Two weeks ago I decided that I needed to have a better understanding of Jund. I put the deck together on Magic Online and started playing tournaments with it. I did very well. I found myself winning a higher percentage of matches than I had with any other Standard deck I had tested since Lorwyn block's rotation. It was frustrating in an odd sort of way. I was experimenting with the deck in an effort to better understand its weaknesses. This experiment, however, revealed the overwhelming strength of the archetype more than it did any weakness.
After playing over one hundred matches with the deck, I had started to get a feel for the mirror. Blightning seemed like it was the most important spell in the deck. Mirror matches are often won by the player that wins "the Blightning war." The Blightning war is not merely a contest where each player tries to draw more Blightnings than their opponent. (Though it certainly helps to do so.) Timing Blightnings is also crucial. A single Sprouting Thrinax can often hold back up to three of your opponent's threats in the mirror, and a choice to save Blightning for "value" often results in your opponent discarding mirror powerhouses like Broodmate Dragon or Siege-Gang Commander.
I remembered an article I had written a few months back, The Specter of Change. I was in the same place when I wrote that piece. I was frustrated with Jund's dominance and badly wanted to create a budget masterpiece that had a strong advantage.
I decided to take a lesson from my good friend Brad Nelson. Brad played an innovative deck at the Pro Tour in Hawaii last year. You see, a huge portion of the field for that event featured a full four copies of Blightning and Bloodbraid Elf. Brad attempted to win the Blightning war by playing Sedraxis Specter. When your opponent cast Blightning, you could simply discard Sedraxis Specter and "Re-Blightning" at the discounted cost of two mana.
With that information, I made a deck that did well against the Jund decks of the time.
Here's the original list for Specter of Change:
Specter of Change
Standard - October, 2009
I wanted the new version of the deck to play more land, fewer noncreature spells, and more powerful cards, like Broodmate Dragon.
I noticed that Creeping Tar Pit could be found for 1.5 tickets on Magic Online, and I started to get really excited about the new Specter of Change. Creeping Tar Pit is one of the most powerful lands ever printed. I imagined stalled boards clogged up by Sprouting Thrinax and Siege-Gang Commander. Creeping Tar Pit has no problem getting into the red zone regardless of the your opponent's blockers.
Hypnotic Specter has lost a lot of value since October. Most decks run enough removal these days to keep it from hitting them, so Hypnotic Specter seems like too much of a liability. Madrush Cyclops becomes a lot worse when we cut the Hypnotic Specters.
I fiddled with a bunch of new lists and ended up settling on this as the final concoction:
A good number of people in the forums have said that my Magic Online ticket trade rates seem low. These things change, especially when cards become more popular. I was generous with the ticket values I gave to each of these cards. A savvy trader should be able to find all these rares for less than 25 tickets.
Siege-Gang Commander 2.75 x 3 = 8.25 tickets
Broodmate Dragon 2.25 x 4 = 9 tickets
Sedraxis Specter 1 x 4 = 4 tickets
Creeping Tar Pit 1.5 x 4 = 6 tickets
Total ticket cost of rares = 27.25 tickets
The deck's major weakness is aggressive white-based strategies that include Kor Firewalker. There is no way to find room for a main-deck answer to Kor Firewalker. Luckily, most decks don't play with Firewalker in the main. I suggest having four Deathmark and some number of Malakir Bloodwitch in the sideboard. Malakir Bloodwitch can be found for 1.5 tickets on MTGO, and it's definitely worth finding.
That being said, this deck is not a "poor man's" answer to Jund. This deck is tier one quality. In fact, I believe that this deck is probably the best option for Friday Night Magic players who play in Jund-heavy areas.
I played a ton of matches with the deck and would like to share a few of them. I did not include a sideboard with the initial list, because the sideboard seems to evolve from match to match. I have experimented with cards like Cunning Sparkmage, Vithian Renegades, and Jund Sojourners, all of which seemed good. The only card I believe to be absolutely necessary in the sideboard is Deathmark.
I lose the roll and keep Putrid Leech, 2 Sedraxis Specter, Siege-Gang Commander, Creeping Tar Pit, Savage Lands, and Swamp. My opponent plays a Lavaclaw Reaches and passes the turn. I draw a Mountain, play my Savage Lands, and pass the turn. My opponent plays a Verdant Catacombs into a Forest and casts Putrid Leech. I draw a Bloodbraid Elf, play my Swamp, and cast my own Putrid Leech. My opponent attacks with his Putrid Leech and pumps it, I block and pump my Putrid Leech, and they sucessfully trade. My opponent casts Blightning, and I discard both Sedraxis Specters. I draw a Broodmate Dragon, unearth one Sedraxis Specter, attack my opponent for 3 and a card, and play Creeping Tar Pit before passing back. My opponent plays a Sprouting Thrinax and Savage Lands and passes. I draw an Ancient Ziggurat, play my mountain, cast Bloodbraid Elf, cascade into Blightning, and pass the turn.
My opponent now has no cards in hand and, after drawing one, simply passes the turn again. I draw a Creeping Tar Pit, unearth Sedraxis Specter, and attack for 3. My opponent discards a Siege-Gang Commander, and I play my Creeping Tar Pit and pass the turn. My opponent plays a fifth land and passes. I draw a Broodmate Dragon, play my Ancient Ziggurat, cast Broodmate Dragon, and pass the turn. My opponent draws and casts Siege-Gang Commander before passing. I draw a Borderland Ranger, attack for 8 in the air, and cast a Siege-Gang Commander of my own. My opponent plays a sixth land and passes the turn. I attack with my team, and my opponent declares some blocks and uses all the Goblins to shoot down a Dragon. I cast another Broodmate Dragon, and my opponent draws and concedes.
I mulligan and keep Bloodbraid Elf, Blightning, Creeping Tar Pit, Forest, Crumbling Necropolis, Swamp. My opponent plays a Savage Land and passes the turn. I draw another Crumbling Necropolis, play it, and pass the turn. My opponent plays a Raging Ravine and passes the turn. I draw a Mountain, play another Crumbling Necropolis, and pass the turn. My opponent plays a Blightning, and I discard two lands. I draw a Bloodbraid Elf, play my land, cast Blightning, and pass the turn. My opponent casts a Great Sable Stag and passes the turn. I draw a Broodmate Dragon, play my land, cast Bloodbraid Elf, flip into Sedraxis Specter, attack for 3, and pass the turn. My opponent casts a Maelstrom Pulse on the Sedraxis Specter, attacks for 3, and passes the turn. I draw another Creeping Tar Pit, play it, cast another Bloodbraid Elf, flip into Lightning Bolt to shoot down the Stag, attack for 6, and pass the turn. My opponent taps out for a Siege-Gang Commander.
I draw Lightning Bolt, unearth my Specter, and attack with all 3 of my creatures. My opponent blocks one Bloodbraid Elf with the Commander and blocks the other with two tokens. I pass the turn. My opponent activates Raging Ravine and attacks, but I cast Lightning Bolt on the creature land. I draw a sixth land and cast Broodmate Dragon. My opponent casts a Bituminous Blast on one Dragon and cascades into a Bloodbraid Elf, which cascades into Putrid Leech. On my turn, I activate a Creeping Tar Pit and attack for 7. My opponent draws and concedes the match.
I win the roll and keep Savage Lands, 2 Ancient Ziggurat, Forest, Sprouting Thrinax, Bloodbraid Elf, and Lightning Bolt. I play my Savage Lands and pass the turn. My opponent plays a Goblin Guide and attacks, and I get a free Creeping Tar Pit. I draw a Broodmate Dragon, play my Creeping Tar Pit, and pass the turn. My opponent casts a Hellspark Elemental and attacks with both creatures. I reveal a Bloodbraid Elf and cast Lightning Bolt on the Goblin Guide. My opponent passes the turn. I draw the Bloodbraid Elf, play my Forest, cast Sprouting Thrinax, and pass the turn. My opponent plays a Lavaclaw Reaches and passes the turn. I cast Bloodbraid Elf and cascade into Sprouting Thrinax, then attack for 6. My opponent casts a Lightning Bolt on each of my Sprouting Thrinaxes on my end step, then untaps and casts Earthquake for 2 to wipe my board. I draw a Sedraxis Specter, cast Bloodbraid Elf, cascade into Blightning, and attack for 3. Then I play my land, and pass the turn. My opponent unearths Hellspark Elemental, attacks for three, and passes the turn. I draw a Lightning Bolt, attack for three, and lightning bolt my opponent for the win.
I keep Crumbling Necropolis, Swamp, 2 Mountain, Sedraxis Specter, and 2 Lightning Bolt. My opponent plays a Lavaclaw Reaches and passes the turn. I draw Blightning, play a Mountain, and pass the turn. My opponent casts a Plated Geopede, and I cast Lightning Bolt to kill it. I draw a Sprouting Thrinax, play my Crumbling Necropolis, and pass the turn. My opponent casts Hell's Thunder, attacks for 4, and passes the turn. I draw Ancient Ziggurat, play it, cast Sedraxis Specter, and pass the turn. My opponent plays a Burst Lightning to destroy my Specter, plays a land, casts a Hellspark Elemental, and attacks for 3. I draw a Broodmate Dragon, cast Blightning—leaving my opponent with no cards in hand—and pass the turn. My opponent plays a fifth land and uses unearth to hit me for another 4 with Hell's Thunder. I draw an Ancient Ziggurat, unearth my Sedraxis Specter, hit my opponent for 3, cast Sprouting Thrinax, and pass the turn. My opponent plays a sixth land and passes the turn. I draw a Lightning Bolt, play my land, cast Broodmate Dragon, attack for three, and pass the turn. My opponent draws a card and passes the turn. I draw another Lightning Bolt, attack with my team, and finish my opponent off with some burn.
I will probably be playing with this deck for the next few months. This deck is probably the most powerful Building on a Budget deck for a given format since I began writing the column. I strongly recommend playing some games against this deck if you don't want to play with it. May your FNM be full of Jund decks!