Did you know that you can play Tarmogoyf in a Monastery Swiftspear deck? You probably need to add Mishra’s Bauble and definitely a couple of Rancors. You could call it Gruul Prowess and have a lot of fun!
You could also just play Tarmogoyf in your Jund deck and win a Grand Prix.
I have done both of the above and I would like to tell you about how I moved from one to the other.
In the weeks prior to GP Barcelona I played around with the numbers in my pet deck that was built to maximize the size of Prowess creatures and Lhurgoyfs alike. Around New Years I renewed my efforts in trying to break Abbot of Keral Keep (!) and arrived at a decklist that didn’t change much at its core over the next half year. Well except for replacing the Abbot with Soul-Scar Mage. So much for breaking the card. The deck had success at FNM-level and it was tremendously fun to play.
Moving forward to July, though, I was having trouble winning, especially against Path to Exile decks, and even though most of the undead can’t block, an 8/8 Hogaak with pseudo-Vigilance will race most any Monastery Swiftspear. I loved the deck but could no longer see myself playing Prowess at GP Barcelona.
To Go And To Stay
For me, going to GPs is equal parts winning, playing fun Magic and having a good time with friends, and then the travel which is counterweighing all the fun. Last year I went to a string of GPs but ended up burning out at the end. Looking back, I had a lot of relatively good finishes, but all it took was one bad result and the bad parts outweighed the good ones, which made for very a long weekend.
And so, I was glad to see that there were almost no European Modern GPs in the first half of 2019. That meant I didn’t need to push myself to go or excuse myself when ended up not going. All the same, I was glad to return to Barcelona for a combined summer vacation and Magic trip. It was a mix of unbearable heat, sangria, La Sagrada Familia, the local Magic shop and great company.
But before I could go to Barcelona, I had to find a deck that was fun enough and good enough for me to play through 8 to 15 rounds. So I turned to my suite of available decks. And what a pile. Near the bottom of the list were 42-land Seismic Loam and an actual Séance deck… The three decks at the top were Jund, Azorius Spirits and Gruul Prowess. I needed cards for Jund, a list for Spirits and confidence in Prowess.
Spirits I did have success with last year at GP Prague, but I hadn’t touched it in a long time and I didn’t trust the lists online which were filled with Noble Hierarchs, Thalias and all the other non-Spirit options, neither of which I feel like fit into what makes the deck work. I had no idea what a list would look like, if it had to be both good and something I wanted to play.
I brought the Prowess deck with me, but I leaned pretty hard into Jund. I knew that I could play the grindy playstyle of Jund, even though I had barely played the deck before. It reminded me of Grixis control, only Jund has better tools to close out the game, and I knew I had to work on switching from defense to offense earlier than I was used to.
One problem remained, the new cards. I had all traditional Jund cards, but in these Modern times, everything is changing, and so, out with the old, in with Wrenn and Six. To my rescue came local BGx-specialist Jeppe Brandt, who had just won an EMCQ with Jund. Only problem: He had lent the entire deck to Martin Dang for the Mythic Championship… The solution: Jeppe had another set of Modern Horizons Jund cards that I could borrow! Shout out to Jeppe for being well prepared and a great guy!
Did you know that you can play Thoughtseize in an Aether Vial deck? You probably need to add Snapcaster Mages and why not Abbot of Keral Keep and Kolaghan’s Command? You could call it 2-drop-Grixis-Vial and have a lot of fun!
You could also just play Thoughtseize in your Jund deck and win a Grand Prix.
I never really got into playing “good” decks. I haven’t had a tournament where I my need to win exceeded my need to have fun, or where I saw the power level difference between two decks as greater than my familiarity with my deck or than the surprise factor of playing something people won’t believe is playable.
I choose decks on the base of gut feel and some loose theorizing. I rarely have time or opportunity to test through the different card choices in a deck, not to speak of different deck options, so I often go with what I have been toying with lately. This has worked for me in the past, and I can most likely make up some reason why Azorius Spirits is better than Bant Spirits, for example, but in the end it’s just my preference without solid reasoning.
I don’t play “bad” decks because they are bad, but because there’s a lot more of them than the good ones. With that comes a lot more options and some of them match my taste and most of them will be unknown to most people. That allows me to express myself, surprise opponents and stand out from the rest.
It’s not easy building a deck from scratch or finding the obscure corner of the internet where a weird deck is being discussed. But it’s even harder letting go of a deck after you have actually seen it work. A deck might be great for one tournament, but chances are the metagame has moved on next time you need a deck, especially these days, and especially when you are one of the few working on the deck.
And so you can’t just use your pet deck every time if you want to win. Kill your darlings and all that.
Choosing the Good
So what made Jund in Barcelona different for me? How did I end up playing a stock list of tier 1 deck for the first time? Because I had most of the cards? Because the deck had new cards to play around with? Because I had given in and just wanted to win? No, I don’t think so. Instead it’s probably the fact that I was caught off guard.
I wanted to have fun at the GP and it wasn’t fun to envision my match record using one of my decks in their current form and the current meta. I had been pushed into a corner and I realized I had begun to consider what tier 1 decks I had within my reach. Which one would be the most fun for me? The conclusion came pretty fast and before I came to my senses, I had been testing Jund for a week and Jund‘ed my way through 18 rounds of Magic.
Choosing the Bad
You probably know that you could play Liliana of the Veil in an Abzan Superfriends deck. You could even go for Birds of Paradise and definitely a lot of removal. I haven’t tried this one yet, but it sounds awesome… until you topdeck Noble Hierarch and needed literally anything else.
You could also just play Liliana in your Jund deck and win a Grand Prix.
But for now, I’m eager to collect the cards for Orzhov Eldrazi Taxes and 3-for-1 some people with Wasteland Strangler at FNM.