I was feeling good about things coming out of Grand Prix Philadelphia. Despite the fact that I punted an opportunity away, I now knew that making a deep run a GP was something I was capable of doing and a bunch of my friends had finished the cash. All in all, the tournament was a huge success for my playgroup.
Unlike the rest of the group, I had to prep for another big tournament right around the corner: Grand Prix Chicago. I was going, already had my flight booked a couple months ago, and no one else had decided to make the trip. You may be wondering, then, why would I even bother? Who wants to travel alone and stay in a hotel alone?
So why would I go? Well, because one of my best friends, Caitlin, lives in Chicago and as soon as I told her that there was a big Magic tournament in her city, she had only one response: “You can come stay in my apartment that weekend!”
Going in to the GP, I was looking at the tournament as a bonus. I got to travel to see a close friend I rarely get to see because of the distance and actually hang out for a while. If I did well at the tournament, that was just gravy.
The format for the GP was Modern, where I don’t have a lot of experience. I played a couple of MODO PTQs while away on a study aboard trip and that was about it. I played UWR Delver in those PTQs and never managed to do well. The deck seemed powerful despite I never felt like I was doing much more powerful things than my opponent. Flashing back a Lightning Helix off of Snapcaster Mage was great but sometimes it wasn’t enough. The deck also has to play Steppe Lynx because there are no other options but it’s actually terrible in the deck. I Day 2’d Grand Prix Providence last year with Steppe Lynx in my Zoo deck and usually love the card but every time I drew it with this deck I wanted to hit something.
On top of that, the metagame had shifted to a place where I wouldn’t even consider playing the deck in a large tournament. The deck that won the first Modern PT, Splinter Twin, was barely on the radar anymore and Jund had been the dominant force at PT Return to Ravnica. Eggs was a metagame call that I expected a few people would pick up at the GP but wouldn’t have enough time to learn the deck inside and out like Cifka. Along with Jund, Infect and Affinity were clearly major players with a plethora of decks sitting just beneath Tier 1.
I started testing with the elephant in the room, Jund. And by testing, I mean Carl Versteeg was smashing my face almost every game with Affinity. Carl is a good friend of mine who offered to help test so for a few days before Chicago I headed over to Carl’s place to jam games. It was during those days that through the grapevine (in this case Ross Merriam) I first heard of people playing a Temple Garden and some Stony Silence in the board of Jund for the Affinity and Eggs matchups.
With fetchlands, dual lands, and Deathrite Shaman being the nuts, putting the fourth color in Jund wasn’t really that far of a stretch. I didn’t think it was worth it for only Stony Silence, even if it did affect poor matchups positively. It shuts off Cranial Plating, Arcbound Ravager, Steel Overseer, and all their mana outside of Glimmervoid against Affinity, leaving you to deal with their creatures. This is obviously something Jund excels at. Against Eggs, well let’s just say they won’t be hatching anytime soon. Just hope they don’t find that Echoing Truth in time.
Intrigued, I began looking at things I wasn’t with in Jund. The Kitchen Finks/Geralf’s Messenger debate was not anywhere close to being solved, though I was leaning towards Finks, and I found myself drawing Liliana of the Veil a little too often. At that point I decided to try out an idea that I had and had been floated to me before that seemed like it helped Jund greatly:
Before I go any further, this is the list I played at the GP:
Somehow, I spiked it and built the same deck as Team Fireball. My mana base and sideboard are completely different but on the actually spells I was off by 4.
Fireball played 8 fetchlands and a Plains along with 4-of Blackcleave Cliffs and Raging Ravine. With this configuration you’re much more reliant on your opponent’s graveyard to use Shaman for mana. This isn’t much of a stretch since the format is dominated by the fetchland-shockland mana bases but even I still had multiple games where I had turn 1 Shaman with no fetchland on either side. This makes my mana base more painful, which can be annoying in certain matchups. I haven’t tested with Fireball’s mana base yet but I would go ahead and assume it is better than mine. I was very happy with my mana throughout the tournament though. I was very happy with Treetop Village. There’s a big difference between a 2-mana activation cost and a 4-mana activation cost.
Don’t play my sideboard. It’s terrible. Whose idea was it to let my build my own sideboard? Don’t let me do that again.
That said, I wouldn’t play this deck with less than 3 Zealous Persecution in the board going forward. This card was one of my MVPs all weekend. If this version of Jund becomes more popular (and with a mirror match in the finals it seems likely) Persecution only gets better.
Day 1 of the tournament went pretty well. I started with 2 byes on Planeswalker Points. I choose to spend Friday afternoon sightseeing with Caitlin instead of trying to grind for that third bye. Caitlin has membership at the Art Institute of Chicago and was able to get me in for free. I’m lame and love museums. After walking around for a while we left to get dinner. On the way out, she had me rub the tail of the lion statue guarding the museum for good luck. FORESHADOWING.
Since Modern is a format that doesn’t get a lot of attention, here’s each round along with my opponent’s deck, to give a better idea of the metagame.
03 Win Guerra, Yannis, Merfolk
04 Win Mena, Chris
05 Win Vidugiris, Gaudenis, UR Storm
06 Loss Dettmann, Aaron, MonoRed
07 Win Tickal, Matthew, Affinity
08 Win Lax, Ari, Infect
09 Loss Calcano, Christian, Doran
I can’t remember what my round 4 opponent was playing for the life of me. Sorry about
that. The match can’t have been too eventful otherwise I’d remember.
I’ll go through the notable plays of Day 1 quickly. I won round 3 in game 2 when my opponent had lethal on board but I had 8 Spirit tokens in play. He was at 14, I ripped Zealous Persecution and with my opponent tapped out, I pumped and attacked for the win.
Round 5 Gaudenis drew pretty terribly. I Inquisition’d him game 1 after a mulligan, took Manamorphose from hand that also included a Desperate Ritual and Seething Song. He flooded out game 2.
It was after this round I got a call from Dustin Taylor telling me that Fireball was on the same deck as I was. I was completely shocked. I had assumed that since none of the pros played this deck in Seattle they had found a good reason to not play it. Apparently I was wrong.
Round 6 I lost to top decks games 2 and 3. I feel like this is a bad matchup, based on playing the match and on history. MonoRed was one of the very decks that could get a leg up on Jund while it was in Standard.
In my round 7 match against Affinity, Lingering Souls showed its power and flexibility. In game 1, at the end of my opponent’s turn 3 he has a board of Mox Opal, Darksteel Citadel, Vault Skirge, Vault Skirge, Signal Pest, and an Ornithopther. I have Abrupt Decay and Lingering Souls in my hand.
What’s your play?
Here, since Lingering Souls completely shuts down any offense from him, I decided to Decay the Mox Opal. He remarked at how good of a play it was. I didn’t realize how right he was until he showed me his had at the end. He never draws another land and ends the game with all 4 Galvanic Blast in hand. If Lingering Souls isn’t in the deck, there’s no way that play is viable. Game 2 Lingering Souls does more work and I take the match.
I was one win away from locking up my second Day 2 in three weeks, with the same deck as Fireball that I had built independently from them. To say the least, I was having a good day.
I got paired against Ari Lax and I was expecting him to be on Infect since he did well with it in Seattle. I was right. We went to 3 and all the games were close. Lingering Souls for blockers with timely removal spells allowed me to get there and lock up Day 2.
The match against Calcano was pretty uneventful. I didn’t draw particularly well and in Game 2 he had Maelstrom Pulse for my Souls tokens after a flashback that I needed pretty badly. A little trick to keep in mind: Don’t forget to remove your opponent’s Kitchen Finks or Geralf’s Messengers with your Deathrite Shaman while the persist or undying triggers are on the stack.
I was pretty pumped despite ending on a loss. I had locked Day 2 with a round to play and had beat two pros in the process. I was eager to play Day 2 and cash where I had failed to in Philly.
Day 2 starts off terribly. I got to bed at a reasonable hour but woke up at 445 with a splitting headache. It actually felt like two drills were boring into the back of my head. Needless to say, I did not get back to sleep. I was feeling better once the tournament started but not by much.
These are my matchups on Day 2.
10 Loss Campbell, Brad, Splinter Twin
11 Loss Tragos, Peter, Infect
12 Win Saari, Tim, Affinity
13 Win LANDREE, JOSHUA, Affinity
14 Win Vu, Quang, Naya Pod
15 Loss Ruggiero, Scott, Merfolk
Brad Campbell beat me in games where he had Deceiver Exarch while I had a Lightning Bolt and in the other game the last card in his hand was Izzet Charm to counter my Zealous Persecution after he put Splinter Twin on a Pestermite. This is another point in favor of Zealous Persecution. It kills Pestermite and fogs Exarch for a turn in this matchup. Fogging can actually be extremely relevant. If I had been able to fog the Exarch attack in game 3, I would have won on a lethal swing back with large Tarmogoyfs.
Next around, I threw away a game that I had no business losing. I basically decided I just didn’t want to win this game. I was at 11 and had 5 Spirit tokens. I had been chump blocking immediately, even trading a Tarmogoyf for a Glistener Elf since he had 2 Noble Hierarch as well. I felt like it was better to not take any damage at all, since a later Blighted Agent can just steal the game if I have no removal. I had the Souls in my hand so I knew I would be able to block and attack even without the Goyf. Off of my own mana base, I was at 11 life. He attacked with a Noble, making it a 2/3 with 4 cards in hand. I think that going to 9 isn’t a big deal. He has played a land for the turn and when I don’t block, he casts Groundswell, Groundswell, Mutagenic Growth, take 12. Whoops. Game 2 he has Vines of the Vastwood when I have the removal spell. I wish I knew how this game 3 played out.
The next two rounds against Affinity I win again because of Zealous Persecution and Lingering Souls. I had one huge blowout but I don’t remember which round it was in. My opponent has a board of Steel Overseer, Memnite, Citadel, Inkmoth Nexus, and Springleaf Drum. I drew Zealous Persecution for my turn. I pass, as the only way I have to deal with the Nexus at this point is the Persecution. This is greedy of me, since if he plays Ravager my play is completely stopped. But he doesn’t and he does exactly what I want him to do. He activates the Nexus and attacks. I say no blocks, he activates Overseer, I Persecute him, and the game just ends.
Against Pod in game 3 my opponent kept a terrible hand and Jund did Jund things.
Here I was again, playing for cash in a GP. It would be my first cash and I wanted to make up for flaming out in Philly. It wasn’t meant to be though, as game 3 against Merfolk he drew Cursecatcher, Mutavault, Vial, Master of the Pearl Trident, Master of the Pearl Trident, Phantasmal Image, and Lord of Atlantis. I only drew 3 removal spells and one of them was an Abrupt Decay that I had to use on a Spreading Seas just so I could block and get another turn. Unsurprisingly, I did not find the Damnation that was not in my deck.
So that’s that. I failed to cash again. Fireball put two copies of their deck in the top 8 and they played for the title. I ended up in 87th, another decent finish but again I failed to cash. It was a little bittersweet, knowing I had correctly identified the best deck for the weekend but being unable to put up better results myself.
Moving forward, swap the third Decay and the Terminate in the board. I was terrified of Cranial Plating but with Spirit tokens to block, being able to kill manlands with Terminate is much more important. I would 100% play this deck in any Modern event coming up. I would recommend testing both mana bases and playing whichever one you think is better. I enjoyed mine but could easily see adjusting some numbers. For a board I would recommend something like this:
Olivia was already very good in the Jund mirror but gets even better if they are on Souls. The Fireball guys said Grim Lavamancer was one of the best cards in their board. I don’t doubt it but I feel like I want more than one copy if I’m going to play it. There’s a pretty good chance I’m wrong on that though. Those Fireball guys are pretty good I hear.
That’s the story of my weekend in Chicago. Thanks for reading.