t's Jund Week here on magicthegathering.com, and I thought I'd take a sideways look at what that means. Jund is a world dominated by enormous, predatory dragons, creatures of—in the words of planeswalker and dragon enthusiast Sarkhan Vol—hunger, heat, and need. That doesn't mean, however, that all dragons are the same ....
The Jund dragons are gathering for their weekly multiplayer Magic game at HELLKITE OVERLORD's lair. FLAMEBLAST DRAGON and PREDATOR DRAGON have just arrived. PREDATOR DRAGON looks antsy, and FLAMEBLAST DRAGON is, as always, visibly excited about her latest deck.
HELLKITE OVERLORD: Hey guys. Come on in!
FLAMEBLAST DRAGON: Hi! Is everybody here?
PREDATOR DRAGON: More importantly, what's the plan for dinner? I'm thinking goblin.
HELLKITE OVERLORD: We did that last week. Besides, I hate getting my claws all greasy.
BROODMATE DRAGON arrives, along with her friend DRAGON TOKEN.
BROODMATE DRAGON: Sorry I'm late. I brought a friend—hope that's okay.
DRAGON TOKEN: Hiya. I'm Dragon Token. Call me DT.
HELLKITE OVERLORD: Always room for one more.
HELLKITE OVERLORD is a gracious host and longtime multiplayer veteran. He's the undisputed king of the table, winning something like half the dragons' games. He keeps dozens of decks packed with multiplayer goodies sleeved up, alphabetized, and ready to go. He's a good sport whether he's winning or losing, and he relishes his reputation as the player to beat.
HELLKITE OVERLORD ambles over to an enormous set of shelves piled high with deck boxes and starts thumbing through them.
HELLKITE OVERLORD: I won with my Big Stealy deck in that second game last week, right?
BROODMATE DRAGON: Yes.
HELLKITE OVERLORD: Oh, and I came in second with Wildfire the game before that?
FLAMEBLAST DRAGON: Yes.
HELLKITE OVERLORD: And, let's see, it was Mono-White Control two weeks ago ....
PREDATOR DRAGON: Yes already!
HELLKITE OVERLORD: Okay, okay. Be cool.
HELLKITE OVERLORD makes his decision and arms himself for tonight's battle.
FLAMEBLAST DRAGON is always up to something, and she's always completely obvious about it. She's not afraid to slam down cards that say, "Deal with me or lose." And win or lose, she seems to enjoy the challenge of making herself the top-priority target, particularly if she can do so with cards and strategies that are unlikely, unconventional, and/or obscure.
The dragons settle around the table. FLAMEBLAST DRAGON begins meticulously shuffling a very large deck.
BROODMATE DRAGON: Uhhhhh ... That is not a small deck. That is a big deck.
FLAMEBLAST DRAGON grins maniacally and keeps pile-shuffling a deck of at least 200 cards.
HELLKITE OVERLORD: So, Battle of Wits, then?
FLAMEBLAST DRAGON shrugs, still grinning. PREDATOR DRAGON digs through binders for a few more cards for his deck, and then everybody's ready to go.
BROODMATE DRAGON is a friendly, affable player who wants everyone to have a good time. She often plays Howling Mine-type cards that move the game along for everyone, and she's the most likely to invite a friend over to join the group. She doesn't seem to care much whether she wins or loses—she's just there to play Magic.
It's turn two. BROODMATE DRAGON has two lands and a Birds of Paradise in play.
BROODMATE DRAGON: Okay, my turn. Rites of Flourishing.
PREDATOR DRAGON: You have to put that in every deck?
BROODMATE DRAGON: I'm contractually obligated. And hey, a little plankton never hurt anybody.
DRAGON TOKEN: Plankton?
HELLKITE OVERLORD: Cards that help everybody. The theory is that it'll make people think twice about attacking you.
PREDATOR DRAGON: Hey, I'm all in favor. You want to run cards that help me out? Well, two can play at that game.
On nearly the opposite end of the spectrum from BROODMATE DRAGON, PREDATOR DRAGON comes to the table to win. He keeps a small number of carefully tuned decks on hand. When playing, he's careful and shrewd, keeping a low profile and letting others do the fighting until the perfect moment arrives and he can close the vise on his remaining opponents.
FLAMEBLAST DRAGON: Okay, end of your turn, Gifts Ungiven, for ... um, give me a minute ....
PREDATOR DRAGON: This could take a while. Battle of Wits, plus ... ?
FLAMEBLAST DRAGON: Here we go. Yes, Battle of Wits—plus Recollect, Eternal Witness, and Woodland Guidance. Hellkite, would you do the honors?
HELLKITE OVERLORD: You can keep Recollect and Woodland Guidance, I guess. Might as well make you spend some mana.
On her turn, FLAMEBLAST DRAGON plays Woodland Guidance targeting Battle of Wits, clashing with BROODMATE DRAGON. She wins the clash, untaps her Forests, and plays Battle of Wits.
DRAGON TOKEN (reading Battle of Wits): Oh. Neat!
PREDATOR DRAGON: So ... anybody have an answer?
The others shake their heads. FLAMEBLAST DRAGON grins.
PREDATOR DRAGON: Fine, I'll do it. End of your turn, bounce your Battle of Wits with Cryptic Command, draw a card.
FLAMEBLAST DRAGON: Sure thing.
HELLKITE OVERLORD: Why didn't you just—
PREDATOR DRAGON: On my turn, Cranial Extraction you naming Battle of Wits.
FLAMEBLAST DRAGON: You got it.
FLAMEBLAST DRAGON hands over her deck and hand, and PREDATOR DRAGON roots through them looking for Battle of Wits.
HELLKITE OVERLORD: That deck has Cranial Extraction?
PREDATOR DRAGON: Well, I made some adjustments.
You might wonder, if PREDATOR DRAGON's decks are tuned and powerful, why he has 63 cards in here. Far be it from this narrative voice to cast aspersions, but one can't help but wonder if those 3 Cranial Extractions were a late addition after seeing Flameblast Dragon's deck.
BROODMATE DRAGON's friend DRAGON TOKEN is a relative newcomer to the game who isn't familiar with older cards. He's borrowed a deck from BROODMATE DRAGON and knows how to play it, but at a five-player Free-for-All table, it's easy for him to get lost.
DRAGON TOKEN: Broodmate, I'll attack you with Hamletback Goliath. It's 16/16 right now.
BROODMATE DRAGON: Are you sure? My Waveskimmer Aven has Shield of the Oversoul, so I can just block.
DRAGON TOKEN: Oh, is that what that is? Uh, okay, Predator Dragon, I'll attack you instead.
PREDATOR DRAGON: Okay. Makeshift Mannequin grabbing Keiga, block.
DRAGON TOKEN (reading Makeshift Mannequin): Wait—before you can block, I'll Crush Underfoot to kill Keiga. That's 21 points, now, since a 5/5 came into play.
PREDATOR DRAGON: Sure. Keiga dies. Steal Hellkite's Woodfall Primus and block with that.
DRAGON TOKEN: Oh.
HELLKITE OVERLORD: When Woodfall Primus comes back, I'll blow up that Shield of the Oversoul.
BROODMATE DRAGON: Hey, you leave me out of this.
FLAMEBLAST DRAGON: Eight, nine, ten mana. Perfect. I'll play Traumatize.
HELLKITE OVERLORD: Targeting?
FLAMEBLAST DRAGON (grinning): Me.
FLAMEBLAST DRAGON starts to count the cards in her library.
DRAGON TOKEN (reading the card): Huh? Why?
HELLKITE OVERLORD: Good question. Predator? You Cranial Extractioned her. What's she doing?
PREDATOR DRAGON: I don't know. I was just looking for Battle of Wits. The rest of the deck's just there to hit the magic number, right?
HELLKITE OVERLORD: Anyway, I have a response. Dramatic Entrance—responses?—Okay, I'll put Vulturous Zombie into play.
FLAMEBLAST DRAGON: Two hundred and six! So that's a hundred and three cards in the bin, including two Narcomoebas ....
HELLKITE OVERLORD: Vulturous Zombie is 106/106.
FLAMEBLAST DRAGON: Sure, sure .... There it is. I'll discard a Forest to retrace Worm Harvest. Let's see, that's ... 49 land, so 49 Worms.
BROODMATE DRAGON: Wow.
FLAMEBLAST DRAGON: Sacrifice two Narcomoebas and a Worm to flashback Dread Return, targeting Flame-Kin Zealot.
HELLKITE OVERLORD: Wow.
FLAMEBLAST DRAGON: No responses? Okay, Zealot comes back. Attack each of you with twelve hasty 2/2s.
BROODMATE DRAGON: I'm out.
DRAGON TOKEN: Me too.
HELLKITE OVERLORD: Me three.
PREDATOR DRAGON: Man, the one turn I tap out ....
There's a knock at the lair entrance.
PREDATOR DRAGON: At least the food's here. Play again?