Standard Four-Color Midrange Deck Guide: The Interaction of Grixis With The Power of Jund
Table of Contents
Sneak big creatures into play and deny your opponent’s Invoke Despair with this colorful list!
Hello fellow gamers, it’s Josh (AKA Parabolian). Isn’t it amazing how this meta has shifted? It’s like a beautiful multi-faced diamond. You might have been looking at it through one angle, but if you just twist it around in your hands a bit, it will reveal something entirely new to you.
A few weeks back, I told you to slam Workshop Warchief and not look back. Not long after I posted the article, I realized that I should have told you to rock Invoke Despair instead (or at least in conjunction with the rhino). I tweaked the list and it propelled me to a nice #510 rating on the ladder. If you still want to go Jund here is the updated 75 and the deck guide:
It still struggles occasionally with Mono Black (though it is not an unwinnable matchup), but other than that, it feels pretty darn good. So far, I have a 64% win rate (32-18), and most of those were Diamond or Mythic games.
I also said that I thought Grixis might be the best deck in standard right now (considering how seldom played it is, I think I was wrong about that,) but Jund wasn’t far behind. Essentially, I am doubling down on what I said before: anything with the color black looks solid at the moment (at least I got this right.) That is what led us here.
We like Jund and we think Grixis is good. What if we could combine the card advantage and counter magic of Grixis with the terrifying top end of Jund? We could call it Grund (Grixis + Jund), or maybe Grunge because it sounds cool. I was surprised as anyone when streamer crokeyz attempted this very concept. It turns out the mana does not suck. Of course, we are not saucy enough to run Invoke Despair in a four-color deck, we have to have some standards here! Still, this deck can certainly smash face without this devastating sorcery.
Here is my take on the Grund/Grunge list.
I started a cool 4-0 in ranked Mythic matches with the list, then I took it onto the meta game challenge and went 7-0 there (three of the matches were versus Mono Black.) Pretty good I’d say to go undefeated for its first 11 matches. Of course, as the sample size grew larger and the meta more solidified, I have dropped down to a more reasonable 19-9 (note this does not count the 7 wins in the Meta Game Challenge). All in all, this deck feels legit.
Let’s breakdown what is going on this pile of cards.
When I started the list, I tried a lot of combinations of cards. My first iteration was more akin to the Grixis shell with an emphasis on Bloodtithe Harvester and Corpse Appraiser. Bloodtithe Harvester feels suddenly underwhelming to me right now. I think everyone is expecting a two-drop creature and is prepared to punish you for playing it and it rarely sticks around to combo with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker.
Also, while I like Corpse Appraiser, I just did not have enough fodder to support it, a lot of our removal is exile-based by necessity and some decks just don’t run many creatures right now. As good as this is to gobble up a Tenacious Underdog, it feels pretty bad to play as a vanilla 3/3 if there is nothing to eat. Cutting these two key vampires made me also want to ditch Evelyn, the Covetous.
Therefore, I pivoted to a more traditional Ramp/Reanimate style of deck with Titan of Industry taking center stage. I have, on occasion, deployed a Titan of Industry as early as turn four. The sequence is not even excessively difficult to pull off either. Deploy a turn three Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, turn four toss a Titan of Industry with the loot chapter, attack with the goblin token, generate a treasure, then cast The Cruelty of Gix with four mana and one treasure token (read ahead to third chapter). Voila, hello giant green stomper.
I want to acknowledge how well positioned Teachings of the Kirin is right now. It is great to provide multiple targets for spot removal, it can exile Tenacious Underdog, and absorb most of Invoke Despair. Not to mention, it makes a lot of sense in our deck by turning over lands for Soul of Windgrace, or milling Titan of Industry for later shenanigans with The Cruelty of Gix.
Weirdly, the thing that makes me so happy about this list is the three main deck copies of Make Disappear. I say weirdly, because while I respect this spell, I am not a huge fan of mana tax counterspells (not named Mana Leak). However, this is the meta we are in right now, Make Disappear is the card that helps us combat Farewell, and most importantly, Invoke Despair. Against Jund, Mono Black can pretty much slam Invoke Despair down with impunity; now, they have to respect our counter magic, which at the very least will buy us valuable time to setup our late game, or best-case scenario, will destroy their whole turn when they tap out to play this five-mana spell, and in response we say nope.
With the Jund list, we could try to get lucky and catch them with a Duress, but that doesn’t stop them from top-decking the Invoke Despair. Thus, normally, our best defense was to play creatures, enchantments, and planeswalkers to absorb the damage and card draw of this sinister spell. We still have that as an option (as bad as it is) with the Grunge list too.
That’s the beauty of this deck, it takes multiple viable strategies and smashes them together without missing a beat. Either we are going to stop our opponent from playing Invoke Despair, or we are going to minimize the damage to our board when they do.
Barring the giant elemental from showing up to the party, we can still grind with the best of them. Reckoner Bankbuster has become as ubiquitous as Invoke Despair for good reason.
Crokeyz ran Golden Argosy in their list (along side Sol'Kanar the Tainted). I think the idea is cute, but sometimes it felt like a win more scenario to me. I would find myself looting this card away more often than not. On an empty board, it was dead space. In place of this, I have actually gotten up to 27 lands and have not regretted it for a moment.
It’s funny, despite running 27 lands, I am certain I have been mana screwed more than flooded. The list has so many outlets for excess mana. We have expensive spells, can toss them to Soul of Windgrace, and loot them with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker if we have too many. To me, it’s much worse to not hit a land drop every turn until seven than it is to get stuck on two mana for a few turns. I am also more confident in keeping a decent two-land hand because I feel odds are in my favor for drawing another.
Another notable exclusion is Sheoldred, the Apocalypse. I am certainly not saying this card is bad, it can still single-handily win games, I am just trying out other things. Against Mono-Red and Gruul (if you ever see those decks anymore), it is an excellent card, but against the bevy of black decks we are seeing it can be liability when they can answer it for two mana with Infernal Grasp.
I have cooled slightly on Cut Down, though I suspect that feeling will be cyclical. Right now, it seems to me that aggro decks have already been choked out by the rise of the grindy midrange decks. I cannot help wonder if that is because of this highly efficiently one-mana removal suppressing those faster decks. Of course, as the midrange plans engage in an arms race to go over the top of one another, I am sure that Aggro will swoop in and teach them a lesson about balanced deck building.
Mono-Black is making up an excessive portion of the meta as we saw in the recent Japanese Standard Tournament. While its true that Cut Down can take out Tenacious Underdog, it cannot target Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, Graveyard Trespasser, or an Evolved Sleeper that has sufficiently evolved. It was best against Gruul which has dropped off the face of the earth.
Matchup and Sideboard Guide
Jund – Invoke Despair
|-1 Make Disappear||+2 Disdainful Stroke|
|-3 The Cruelty of Gix||+1 Burn Down the House|
|-1 Briarbridge Tracker||+2 Ob Nixilis, the Adversary|
This will be a game of focus. Trying to stay ahead in cards will be key, thus, it’s worth it sometimes to use a Tear Asunder to keep their Reckoner Bankbuster from getting too much value. Unless one player stumbles on mana, expect a back-and-forth affair, try to favor moves that give you card advantage, which sometimes necessitates trading life. Since they are a Invoke Despair deck, you do have to be cognizant of your life total.
I often like to side out The Cruelty of Gix in postboard games because I feel like opponents often bring in heavy graveyard hate when they know you are on this strategy. Ob Nixilis, the Adversary is excellent at absorbing an Invoke Despair.
Jund/Boros/Naya – Reanimator
|-3 Make Disappear||+2 Disdainful Stroke|
|-1 The Cruelty of Gix||+2 Tear Asunder|
|-2 Teachings of the Kirin||+1 Soul Transfer|
|-1 Briarbridge Tracker||+1 Riveteers Charm|
|+1 Unlicensed Hearse|
We morph into a more controlling deck here by siding in more of our removal and sidelining some of our threats. I particularly enjoy casting a surprise Riveteers Charm against an opponent in response to a reanimation attempt to blank them. Although, if its Invoke Justice, they can still place plus +1/+1 counters on something, even if they don’t get their big beater back.
|-3 Make Disappear||+1 The Meathook Massacre|
|-1 The Cruelty of Gix||+2 Tear Asunder|
|+1 Soul Transfer|
I know, I am surprised to see this deck here too. I have recently witnessed a huge uptick in its play. It features fast starts with Jukai Naturalist and Wedding Announcement that can quickly overwhelm a board. It also has the good old Kami of Transience, who despite losing its runic buddies, can get quite big in a hurry. The good news is we have four copies of Tear Asunder which is like kryptonite to this deck. Let’s not forget either that The Meathook Massacre is still a card.
|-2 The Cruelty of Gix||+1 The Meathook Massacre|
|-2 Make Disappear||+2 Disdainful Stroke|
|-2 Briarbridge Tracker||+1 Duress|
|+1 Unlicensed Hearse|
|+1 Burn Down the House|
The Meathook Massacre is actually your best card against them as they play a bevy of smaller creatures that The Meathook Massacre can take out; just be careful to not get blown out by Make Disappear. Many of these lists will also run Invoke Despair too. Try to anticipate the turn your opponent might play an Invoke Despair to catch it with a counterspell. The Unlicensed Hearse is mainly there to counter their Corpse Appraiser activations and to eat the occasional Tenacious Underdog. I am not really seeing much of Bloodthirsty Adversary at the moment, but it’s still nice to know this also stops that.
|-2 The Cruelty of Gix||+1 Riveteers Charm|
|-1 Titan of Industry||+1 Parasitic Grasp|
|-1 The Meathook Massacre||+1 Burn Down the House|
|+1 Workshop Warchief|
As mentioned earlier, these decks have dropped in popularity (at least in Bo3), but if you run into it, try to lower your curve a bit. The key is to get them in top deck mode while protecting your life total; that way, you are not going to die to a hasted creature suddenly showing up. When a trade for creatures is offered, you should generally take it. Try to keep the board clean and you will eventually overwhelm them. The Meathook Massacre is a tough call here: on one side it’s a great source of life gain, but on the other side, Gruul can often grow creatures too target for this to be efficient enough. On the play, I am more apt to run copies of this sweeper.
|-1 Shigeki, Jukai Visionary||+2 Ob Nixilis, the Adversary|
|-3 The Cruelty of Gix||+1 Parasitic Grasp|
|+1 Workshop Warchief|
It seems that this deck has become the boogeyman of the meta. I think that Ob Nixilis, the Adversary is actually pretty good tech against it. This devilish planeswalker can create three to four targets for Invoke Despair if you can get off a big enough casualty with it. Titan of Industry is also back-breaking for them, so the key is to live long enough for it to show up. I fully expect to see Graveyard Trespasser or Unlicensed Hearse out of this deck making The Cruelty of Gix a big risk.
Esper, Jeskai and Azorius Control
|-3 Teachings of the Kirin||+1 Duress|
|-3 Make Disappear||+2 Tear Asunder|
|-2 The Meathook Massacre||+2 Disdainful Stroke|
|+1 Burn Down the House|
|+1 Soul Transfer|
|+1 Riveteers Charm|
Ideally, you would love to get early pressure on them with Teachings of Kirin, but that is exactly what the opponent would expect. If you are on the play, you might consider this strategy, but on the draw, you can morph into a more draw-go style deck. Since game twos tend to go even longer, I would shift away from Make Disappear as they can often wait to pay the two mana for their key spells. Shigeki, Jukai Visionary / Soul Transfer loops can singlehandedly win these games.
Tips and Tricks
- Casualty is a big deal with Make Disappear. lt not only does it up the mana to pay to four, but it also can deny a counterspell attempt that something like Mana Leak would not be able to do. In addition, against other Casualty spells (Ob Nixilis, the Adversary being the most common), don’t forget you can divide both instances of your spell against each instance of there spell.
- Some of you might be wondering why I am playing Burn Down the House, to which I would reply, why aren’t more people running this spell? I have been extremely impressed with this flexible card. It is nice to wipe out planeswalkers as we all know but don’t be afraid to make three hasty devils either as this often provides a ton of value.
- Don’t forget that The Cruelty of Gix can also target opponents’ graveyards. I have won several games stealing something like an Ao, the Dawn Sky when nothing better presents itself.
- Try to recur your two fetchlands (Riveteers Overlook and Maestros Theater) first before anything else with Soul of Windgrace as we have only 4 basics in our deck. It can be nice to recur these in late games anyway when you have exhausted all basics just to get the one bonus life point.
- Our two most common turn two plays are either Teachings of the Kirinor Make Disappear, try to sequence your mana accordingly.
I think we are all still figuring things out in this current standard block. I have seen some interesting brews running around out there. Including an unique take on a mono-white midrange style deck as well as a big green deck that looks to quickly deploy a huge squad of threats onto the board.
I was also shocked to see Selesnya Enchantments coming back into Standard. I will be keen to see what other innovations come out in the next few weeks. A meta is never really solved, though I think its outlines can get shaded with a darker brush strokes. Don’t be afraid to color outside the lines. Most importantly, have fun.
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