I wasn't sure what to think of the Sprouting Souls deck I made, but I still get e-mails thanking me for this one. At the time a lot of people were afraid that Building on a Budget decks were losing their flair. I guess making a deck that can attack for 14 damage the turn after an opponent plays Wrath of God is a good way to tell people that I'm in favor of fun.
I have a co-worker that put this deck together with draft leftovers around his house he's been playing with it ever since. He plays Magic casually with his friends and he claims this deck makes combat so complex that his friends and he have started bringing pens and paper to figure out the math.
If you haven't gotten the chance to play with Sprouting Souls, I strongly suggest sleeving it up. This deck is extremely powerful and plenty of fun.
I'd like to start by apologizing for an error I made last week. Bant Charm kills artifacts, not enchantments. In my defense, a friend of mine destroyed my Oblivion Ring with it in a draft and I didn't bother to read the card and just assumed he didn't misread it. Sorry folks, my bad.
Last week I asked which shard you guys would like me to write about. I was surprised to see such a varied response. Wizards really did an excellent job with this new set and it seems every shard has people excited. I've decided that I'll bring you a deck in each shard for my next few columns. Last week I wrote about Bant; this week I'll give you my take on Jund.
Sprouting Thrinax is, in my opinion, one of the most exciting creatures ever printed. I played with it in a draft and it's just so hard to lose when you play it. I'm definitely going to take this guy for a test run with my Jund deck. If I have a Nantuko Husk in play, the Thrinax can be sacrificed along with its tokens for +8/+8. Thrinax is also excellent at carrying equipment. "Want to kill it for some tempo? Be my guest."
It's hard for me to shake Torrent of Souls. The card is just absurdly powerful. I don't think I've ever lost a game where I resolved it. Have you thought about how good this is with Sprouting Thrinax?
Scenario: I have Sprouting Thrinax and some random guys in play and I'm happily beating down my opponent. My opponent decides he needs to stop the bleeding and plays Firespout. I'm left with just three measly 1/1s. I untap and play Torrent of Souls. I attack for 14.
I've decided that I want to build a Jund Torrent of Souls deck.
The new uncommon lands give us the ability to play a three color Torrent of Souls deck. We used to settle for odd cards like Rise of the Hobgoblins, now we can afford to run the more versatile and efficient Hunting Triad. Like last week, I'm not going to play any one-cost spells because our mana base will require that I use at least seven lands that come into play tapped. Sprouting Thrinax may be awesome, but its mana cost requires a lot of commitment.
When considering what two-cost creatures to play, I decided that I needed to get some sort of value. The deck I'm planning on making will have a lot of guys in play and I think it's important that our two cost spells are worth their salt.
Dragon Fodder: I know it isn't a creature, but it's basically Mogg War Marshal. Dragon Fodder is excellent at doing what we need it to. It puts two creatures into play for two mana. It's elegant and efficient.
Elvish Visionary: Elvish Visionary is just an excellent card. It replaces itself right away and helps us find a big win condition in the endgame. Even chump-blocking with it seems fine. It pays you off right away; no condition needs to be met. "Nice to meet you. Oh, a free card! Don't mind if I do."
Ravenous Rats: The other end. Ravenous Rats has been seeing competitive play since the dawn of time. Ravenous Rats is very similar to the Elvish Visionary in card effect, but probably not as important in a deck like this. I generally prefer drawing cards to making my opponent discard them.
I'll be playing enough land in my final build to afford a lot of three-cost creatures. The three-cost creatures available are extremely powerful.
Sprouting Thrinax: I've already explained how exciting this card is. Sprouting Thrinax is one of the biggest reasons to play Jund. It's an incredibly powerful card that gives just about every deck a gigantic headache.
Nantuko Husk: The Nantuko Husk isn't what it used to be. It's still very powerful in this deck and I'm still going to play four of it. I just miss being able to couple it with Greater Gargadon. The Husk is very necessary, though. It's a great way to make your opponent block in a very specific fashion, and it's an outlet that can be used to sacrifice your creatures when you need to. Sometimes you want to sacrifice a Sprouting Thrinax and play a Torrent of Souls. Worse yet, an opponent may have a Condemn for your Sprouting Thrinax. Make sure you play your Nantuko Husk before you attack with your Sprouting Thrinax if your opponent has access to white mana on your turn. Condemn is getting more popular as Demigod of Revenge continues to rise in popularity. It may seem like an obscure card to play around, but it's good practice to hope for the best and plan for the worst.
Loxodon Warhammer: I like Loxodon Warhammer a lot in a deck like this. We will always have some random token to equip and swing with. It gives us another way to just win when our opponent taps out. (We can equip a Nantuko Husk and go all in for absurd amount of trampling damage.) The lifelink is also extremely relevant against the burn-heavy red decks.
Again, I normally wouldn't be playing this many cards that cost four or more, but I'm going to be playing twenty-six lands and I think I can afford to maximize the power level of my spells. I want to play all eight cards that make three guys. (Oh, how I wish Spectral Procession was red.)
Hunting Triad: Hunting Triad is extremely versatile. It's a good way to surprise someone that's trying to buy some time with Firespout. Imagine I have Sprouting Thrinax and Elvish Visionary in play. My opponent plays a Firespout, probably with the intention of playing another on the following turn. I use Hunting Triad to give my Elvish Visionary +3/+3, untap, and play Torrent of Souls targeting the Sprouting Thrinax. That's 20 damage. Hunting Triad is also an excellent token producer; it makes three bodies for one card.
Marsh Flitter: Marsh Flitter is similar to Hunting Triad, but it has a number of other powerful applications. Marsh Flitter is a creature with evasion that holds a Loxodon Warhammer like a champ. Unlike Hunting Triad, Marsh Flitter is a creature, which means I can bring it back with Torrent of Souls.
The Big Plays
Imagine me and you
I think about you day and night
It's only right
To think about the card you love,
and hold it tight.
So happy together!
If I should call you up
Invest a dime
And you say you belong to me
And ease my mind
Imagine how the world could be
So very fine
So happy together!
Predator Dragon: Predator Dragon is one of those cards that you can practice palming in your hand and slamming onto the table emphatically. Here's a scenario: the ground is stalled and it looks like the game is going to turn into an attrition war. I have a bunch of tokens in play and my opponent decides to tap out and play Chameleon Colossus and Tarmogoyf. He or she passes the turn. Here's where I get ready. I have to make sure I've stretched my shoulder a bit to prevent injury. I can even stretch my shoulder inconspicuously while I untap my lands—I just do the elbow-out untap. I draw my card cross-body with my left hand with the Predator Dragon already palmed in my right. Now I swing my arm with reckless abandon and slam this monstrous flesh-eating reptile onto the table. I pick up all my tokens and casually drop them off to the side. My opponent will probably scoop here. In fact, they'll definitely scoop. Slaughter Pact is no longer Standard legal.
After hammering out some numbers the deck looks like this.
Most of the cards were obvious four-ofs with a few exceptions. I don't think we can play four of a card that cost six mana, but I really want to draw one of my big spells by the end game. I decided to keep the Predator Dragon count at three; it's a little greedy, but winning that way seems like a lot of fun. Loxodon Warhammer is a fine two-of. It isn't very good until the game starts progressing in a way that you need it. I can see us sideboarding in more of them. The one random Ravenous Rats may seem out of place; just think of it as Elvish Visionary number five. I really wanted a ninth two-drop and I decided Ravenous Rats was the best way to go. If you look at the curve you'll notice that the deck plans on tapping out most turns beyond the first. I'm playing nine two-drops, ten three-drops, eight four-drops, four Torrent of Souls, and three Predator Dragon.
I'm going to be playing a lot of land in my final build of the deck. There are a lot of spells with big casting costs and I think we need to have the mana to play more than one in the late game. Sometimes games will go long. I want to get to seven mana so I can play Dragon Fodder and Torrent of Souls on the same turn. In the really late game I can do absolutely despicable things like Marsh Flitter and Torrent of Souls on the same turn. In the late game my opponents will never be able to tap out. If they ever give me a turn to play action, I will kill them.
The mana base for this deck is pretty complex. I think I need to break down the cost of each card to decide how much of each land I need.
Black mana symbols: 17
Red mana symbols: 21
Green mana symbols: 12
I definitely want four Savage Lands, as the tri-lands are excellent. They're certainly making the column a lot easier for me. If I'm going to play any Vivid lands they probably need to be Vivid Crags so I can use them to help generate for my Predator Dragon in the late game. After a little math I come to this mana base.
Here's what the final list looks like.
The main deck is situated in a way that makes it good against decks with and without mass removal spells. I'm really excited about this deck's sideboard, though. I can play Overrun in the board against decks that lack mass removal and I can play Kitchen Finks against decks that have mass removal. I also need to play at least four removal spells in my sideboard for decks with key creatures that need to be handled quickly. Right now my sideboard would look like this.
It's important that I'm able to refill the board every time my opponent wipes it. I want every card to provide me with more than just a single body. I want my Torrent of Souls and Predator Dragon to end the game. There should be very few situations where I resolve either of these spells and don't win immediately as a result.
I get a lot of emails asking me how I would change my budget decks if I had access to any cards I wanted. I could replace Elvish Visionary with Bitterblossom and take out a Hunting Triad or two for some Sarkhan Vol if I were looking to upgrade my budget Jund deck. Sarkhan Vol works extremely well with Nantuko Husk. I can use Sarkhan Vol to Threaten my opponent's creatures, attack, and sacrifice them to my Nantuko Husk after they do their job.
I hope everyone puts together this deck and takes it for a spin. The Jund deck is powerful and it's a blast to play. If you have any changes you want to suggest, just shoot me an e-mail. I'm pretty good about reading them and getting back to people.
I can't stress how much fun it is to play Sealed with Shards of Alara. I went to a PTQ last weekend and there were over 240 people! I had a blast and really enjoyed getting to play with the new set in a competitive setting. I know not all of you are into the PTQ scene, but I strongly urge you to make your way to your local store to play in a Sealed Deck event. If the store in your area doesn't have Sealed Deck events, you should set one up with your friends.