Junk or Jank?

by Steve Giannopoulos

The new Standard has arrived and with it many brewing options. A lot of big mana strategies seem to be the thing and the aggro strategies seem to be relegated to Zombies, WG Aggro and Mono Red.

Mono Red is always the kind of deck that thrives at the beginning of a format and has pretty much no late game to speak of. Cards like Vexing Devils kind of just hit play and sit there staring at bigger dudes not doing much but probably chumping. You can always rip a Thunderous Wrath and randomly win but that’s sort of like relying on luck a weee but much for my taste.

I was personally inclined to the play a Green-based Aggro deck with Rancors as they seem rather well-placed in the current metagame. I called a friend and asked him for his decklist for the upcoming Grand Prix Trial the day before. He was kind enough to provide me with one:

JUNK by Xavier Biron

Creatures
4 x Arbor Elf

4 x Avacyn’s Pilgrim

4 x Strangleroot Geist

4 x Loxodon Smiter

4 x Dreg Mangler

2 x Deadbridge Goliath

3 x Disciple of Bolas

2 x Sigarda, Host of Herons

Spells
3 x Rancor

4 x Abrupt Decay

2 x Tragic Slip

2 x Sever the Bloodline

Lands

4 x Overgrown Tomb

4 x Temple Garden

3 x Isolated Chapel

1 x Sunpetal Grove

1 x Woodland Cemetary

2 x Gavony Township

1 x Vault of the Archangel

1 x Swamp

1 x Plains

4 x Forest

Sideboard
2 x Crushing Vines

2  x Thragtusk

2 x Ray of Revelation

1 x Sever the Bloodline

2 x Tragic Slip

1 x Sigarda, Host of Herons

3 x Knight of Glory

2 x Rest in Peace

You might recognize the deck designer’s name. He recently got in the Pro Tour and will be going to Seattle to battle it out with some of the world’s best players. He won a Pro Tour Qualifier with a Green/Blue Infect deck. It was a somewhat rogue deck and caught a few people by surprise. He usually has a good understanding of the metagame and can back up a lot of his card choices by indicating a lot of situations in which they would be better than the cards that are usually played or proposed to him.

The Junk deck above is not exactly revolutionary, but it is somewhat unusual. You will notice that the color white is very minorly represented in the list but it does pack quite a punch.

Sigarda, Host of Herons

This little angel has become increasingly better for a few reasons. The main one being that 2 out of 3 monoblue clones just hit the curb with the arrival of the new Standard format. Incidentally, this was a big reason Olivia Voldaren was held back for quite some time. The only option now for clone shenanigans is Clone or Evil Twin. At the moment, they are suboptimal, but you never know…

                       

Remember these guys?

She invalidates Liliana of the Veil’s -2 ability as well as making Killing Wave, Barter in Blood, Tribute to Hunger and targeted removal utterly bad. She is definitely a good target to slap a Rancor on. There’s not much slowing her down save mass removal or a bigger angel like Angel of Serenity, which is seeing some play.

Loxodon Smiter

This bad boy makes Liliana of the Veil’s +1 rather risky. Often compared to Obstinate Baloth minus the lifegain, this guy is a lot more relevant as he comes down a turn earlier AND cannot be countered. It almost seems like the ‘cannot be countered’ cycle came out a set too late. With Mana Leak no longer in the format and Syncopate not nearly as effective, a lot of decks can afford to play less carefully around counters. It also helps that the control decks start to shape up more after the aggro ones do, since you obviously need to know what you need answers to. The best answer in this case is Mizzium Mortars, which incidentally is also the answer a lot of times your opponent ‘Miracles’ Entreat the Angels on his upkeep. Early on this guy just goes through unmolested against most decks and he is sizeable enough to play with the big boys later on. As a side note, I believe he is probably a very valid addition a Maverick-style Sideboard in Legacy, but most probably more in Modern. He punishes Jund’s discard and steers clear of the Lightning Bolts. this is similar to Obstinate Baloth of course, but the Smiter feels more Maindeck-worthy.

Gavony Township and Vault of the Archangels

                     

The Township has been gaining popularity as of late. The only real risk in activating it is put a counter on Strangleroot Geist and not being able to bring it back after a Supreme Verdict or the like. It definitely gives your mana dorks (Avacyn’s Pilgrim and Arbor Elf) some value in the mid to late game. It can also fatten up one of your creatures to sacrifice to Disciple of Bolas and get a pretty massive card draw and lifegain advantage.

The Vault offers somewhat different benefits. It allows your little dorks to trade with bigger creatures, thus warding off some aggro at times. Also, it’s really great with Strangleroot Geists since you have no qualms about trading them against other creatures and having them come back for a repeat performance. In mirror-matches (well, kind of . ie: Zombies and GW aggro) it can present a real dilemma to your opponent when he is trying to decide how to attack and not incur a major life swing  in the process. You would activate it on after blockers are declared to make some unfair trades and then on your turn when you hit him back for more life.

The Scavengers

Deadbridge Goliath and Dreg Mangler are really well-costed for their size. Not only that, but they allow you to recover pretty well post-board whipe. Everything went boom and you just drew an Avacyn’s  Pilgrim? No problem! just play that bad boy and ‘equip’ him with some +1/+1 counters courtesy of the Scavenge mechanic. As a side note, don’t forget that they can also add +1/+1 counters to an Unleash creature and make it unable to block. This is really marginal, but probably an interaction people should be aware of (mostly in limited).

The Goliath is Blastoderm-sized and probably slightly better than even Blastoderm would be these days. Sure he isn’t Hexproof or Shroud, but he does provide an advantage after his untimely demise. Blastoderm would probably just 2 for 1 a couple of creatures which is ok in the current Standard. Goliath can do the same or eat a removal and probably force another removal when scavenged. The difference is that the Goliath stays in play much much longer and is better if Counterspelled (also probably a reason why it’s a Rare).

Dreg Mangler is basically Strangleroot Geists # 5 through 8. Again, with some added value if they are Countered or milled (unless of course, if they get Dissipated or Syncopated). Just like pretty much most of the aggressive creatures, it’s really good with Rancor. 5/3 trample haste? Yep! Sign me up!

Card Advantage?

Yes, there are many forms of it. The more direct advantage comes from recurring Rancors and drawing cards off of Disciple of Bolas. Disciple is so good in this deck since you can probably recoup the things you sacrifice. Sacrifice a Rancored Deadbridge Goliath, get Rancor back to your hand and scavenge the Goliath later on. Did I mention this thing is the Release Party card? I would probably get a playset on the cheap at the moment as they are probably undervalued.

Removal? in Spades!

Tragic Slip continues to be good in this metagame. It kills early game accelerators (Pilgrim Arbor Elf) and also is a card that deals with Falkenrath Aristocrats. Obviously, you can get more value out of it when you trigger its Morbid ability, since it can kill other nuisances such as Lotleth Troll and Wolfir Avengers.

Sever the Bloodline was somewhat hyped for a small time during the past Standard season but never really saw play. Now with the absence of Doom Blades and Go For the Throats, it is much much better. Add to that the fact that it removes the creature, so it’s an ideal removal for Geralf’s Messengers and other Zombies. In other cases, it will just board-whipe tokens, namely Entreat the Angels tokens. The fact that it has flashback is rather nice, since control decks can cast it after having dumped it in the grave with Forbidden Alchemy later in the game.

Abrupt Decay is somewhat pricey at the moment with good reason. In the current environment it can really kill way to many things. Oblivion Rings, Keyrunes, some Planeswalkers, tokens, Detention Spheres and the list goes on. The fact that it cannot be countered simply adds to its goodness. It seems to be a good future staple in formats that are more mana-efficient as you can deal with more permanents. It’s also quite better than Murder, since using your turn 3 to cast a Murder is not quite what you want to be doing in a mostly aggressive deck (unless your turn 1 was a Pilgrim and turn 2 was a Loxodon Smiter, of course).

Sideboard

This sideboard is basically an anti-graveyard, anti-aggro one. Also, as the Knight of Glory indicates, we are prepared for a heavy black metagame. Crushing Vines versus Angels mostly and perhaps the odd artifact here and there as Scars Block has come and gone. Ray of Revelation do a great job against Oblivion Rings and Detention Spheres.

More removal follows, just in case you are not always the aggressor.

Value is now harder to spell… T h r a g t u s k

Thragtusk is just overall good, so why not? Also, he is a great ‘target’ for Disciple of Bolas.

This covers our small trip to Ravnica Standard for today. Stay tuned for further decks and articles!

2 thoughts on “Junk or Jank?

  1. The deck looks solid. I was wondering how good Disciple is, he does seem to work well with Rancor, the Scavenge guys and Tragic Slip. However, when you sacrifice a creature, you are losing a threat which doesn’t work well when you’re the beatdown. The best scenario would probably be a Rancored Strangleroot Geist that you sacrifice for value while keeping your guys in play. Would it be possible to play Garruk (2GGG version) one alongside the Disciple since he provides almost the same effect?

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