Hello fellow gamers. It’s been a whirlwind of activity since Dominaria United released. Packs have been cracked, drafts have been drafted, and decks have been brewed. The alacrity in which the meta shapes up is somewhat shocking compared to times of yore. We are a long time removed from getting the latest edition of InQuest magazine to understand the meta. Nowadays, you just visit MTG Arena Zone to get the latest hotness in near real-time.
As I have grinded the standard ladder, I have already seen a cadre of common new enemies. The decks I am facing most are:
- Esper (Control and Midrange variants)
- Gruul Aggro
- Mono-Black (with Invoke Despair)
- Rakdos Anvil
Notice that with the exception of one of these decks, Black seems to be the most common color (Red being the second most common). Perhaps this is not surprising since Black got two of the best new cards in Dominaria United with modern staple Liliana of the Veil and terrifying, new arrival Sheoldred, the Apocalypse.
I am of the mind right now (these things are of course subject to change as the meta-shifts) that Grixis is probably the best deck post-rotation. Despite losing Expressive Iteration (which most builds didn’t even play), the deck itself did not lose a beat. I am of course speaking of the vampires sub-themed deck championed by Reid Duke. Powered by arguably the strongest card in standard, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, this deck has a seemingly endless supply of card advantage and efficient interaction.
I will also argue a well-tuned Jund list is right up there in the mix of decks to watch. The fascinating thing about Jund is there is several viable builds for it right now. In the recent Crokeyz Dominaria United Tournament this Jund list took first place:
This is a more self-mill intensive version, with self-mill / looting enablers including Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Blood tokens courtesy of Bloodtithe Harvester, Teachings of the Kirin, The Elder Dragon War, and Old Rutstein. The payoff for this mill comes in two new cards, Soul of Windgrace who will happily ramp your discarded lands and The Cruelty of Gix who will return a Titan of Industry to play thanks to its third chapter.
Clearly this is an effective strategy, but I do worry that it could struggle against a deck with a dedicated sideboard plan to shut down access to the graveyard. Still, this list has many avenues of attack, and it doesn’t need the graveyard shenanigans to put up a win.
Let’s take a look at my version. Here is the list:
I would say that this version is slightly more aggro in nature. With the inclusion of a couple copies of
Shivan Devastator, we are looking to be bit more proactive. Both versions have 12 cards that I think make up the basis for any Jund deck: Four copies of
Ok, let’s break down the game plan for our list. We have, of course, excluded Soul of Windgrace. As this is not a card that can be played casually, and really needs some support to shine. Therefore, early on, we are going to eschew cards like Teachings of the Kirin for more aggressive threats in the form of Bloodtithe Harvester and Tenacious Underdog. We are looking to establish an early presence to begin pressuring our opponent.
In a pinch, we will play a Shigeki, Jukai Visionary as a form of ramp on turn two. This is often targeted for immediate removal (and rightly so), but sometimes it is worth the risk to setup an invulnerable blocker on turn three and accelerate our game plan.
The great thing about our deck, is that typical of a mid-range plan, we can pivot to respond to our opponent’s actions. The above curve-out scenario is great against slower, less proactive decks, but against faster decks like Mono Red and Gruul, our plan may be to remove their threats instead of deploying our own. We have seven forms of spot removal, and then five more in the form of Bloodtithe Harvester and the Edict ability from Liliana of the Veil.
We also are not at all worried to trade one-for-one during blocking. Our deck secretly has a lot of sustain and we can easily pivot to the long game if required. To that end, at the top of our curve we have Sheoldred, the Apocalypse and Workshop Warchief to help stabilize. Plus for super long games, we can begin looping Shigeki, Jukai Visionary and Urborg Repossession.
Like all midrange decks, the key is to know what role you are at any given time. Against the slower decks, we want to become the aggressor, against the faster deck, we want to stabilize and then overwhelm them with card advantage and card quality. In most of these games, there will likely come a pivotal moment where you have to swap your role. Personally, I really enjoy decks like these, that provide you a lot of different lines of play.
I am not going to break down every card since a lot of these we are familiar with by now, but I wanted to call out a few cards that have come to the forefront of this to new meta, starting with Workshop Warchief. I have been really digging this big, green Blitzer at the moment. The critical knock on this spell was the prevalence of Vanishing Verse. Now that Verse is gone, Workshop Warchief has vastly improved. Of course, we still have to deal with The Wandering Emperor, but that is, at least, easier to play around. If this Rhino Warrior is not exiled, it tends to provide a gigantic advantage.
Next, I wanted to spend a few words on Sheoldred, the Apocalypse. Its tough for a four-drop creature that doesn’t provide immediate board impact to be considered playable. This Phyrexian Praetor does not have an ETB ability or haste, yet it is still quite effective. Of course, it can die to removal before doing anything, and against black-based decks in particular that is very true. Sometimes though, your opponent does not have it.
If Sheoldred, the Apocalypse is allowed to linger for a few turns, the life gap between you and your opponent will rapidly widen. I was in a game where I would say that I was quite far ahead, yet my opponent played one of these and that quickly changed. The irony was, that while desperately searching for an answer (cycling lands, using Fable’s loot ability) I quickened my own demise via Sheoldred’s life drain passive.
No surprise, Liliana of the Veil has been a good card. Our deck doesn’t use this planeswalker as well some others, still it has been a fine one-of. This planeswalker is of course a better card when you have build arounds, such as pitching a Cult Conscript or Tenacious Underdog to the symmetrical hand-destruction ability.
Despite that, it is usually built-in card advantage without any support. Just dropping it to Chainer's Edict an opponent’s creature, and then making them spend resources to remove Liliana of the Veil from the board is a nice little swing.
The last card I wanted to speak about is Tear Asunder. This has been surprisingly good for me, especially against slower, planeswalker-heavy decks. It is very nice to have a catch-all, instant speed answer to so many problems. I find myself bringing in the whole play set in game two quite often. If this card catches on, Workshop Warchief may again be relegated to the sidelines. To be sure, the exile effect on Tear Asunder is excellent in a format that features no small amount of recursion.
A Message About Mana (26 is the new 24)
I think this has been the area I have struggled with the most since post-rotation. I had been relying so much on MDFCs to smooth out my draws that I nearly forgot how to build a deck without them. I will say that, unless you are an ultra-streamlined mono-colored deck, you should probably not be running 24 lands (like the auto-lands program suggests.) Instead, 26 or more lands bears better results.
I will also look askance at decks that do not have some sort of hand fixing. Fable of the Mirror-Breaker allowing you to loot two is perhaps its most underrated aspect. I have said before and I will say it again, having the right mana (colors and amount) is critical to winning. I know this is such an obvious statement, yet I think many people write off mana-issues to variance (myself included.) When building a deck, we should be looking to smooth out that variance as much as humanly possible.
I will close on the topic of mana with a note about the color fixing situation. We lost the Pathways cycle of lands during rotation. We were given pain lands in return, and they have been, well, painful. I will favor decks right now (especially of the three-color nature, which is usually my jam) that can use the Triome cycle. Color Shards that can not benefit from these triple-color bearing lands will by definition be worse than those that can.
Matchup and Sideboard Guide
|-2 Shivan Devastator||+1 The Meathook Massacre|
|-2 Cut Down||+2 Tear Asunder|
|-1 Liliana of the Veil||+1 Soul Transfer|
|-1 Sheoldred, the Apocalypse||+1 Workshop Warchief|
|+1 Titan of Industry|
This will no doubt be a battle of attrition. As long as one party does not stumble out of the gates, prepare for a long and protracted game. Workshop Warchief will be a big player here as a way to keep your life total up and to gain card advantage. It goes without saying, but do not let them untap with a Reflection of Kiki-Jiki in play. Eventually, we would like to establish our Shigeki, Jukai Visionary loop to put the game away. To that end, it is sometimes worth killing a Graveyard Trespasser with spot removal so they do not eat key cards.
If they are playing the more self-mill, graveyard recursion version of this deck, swap out a Tenacious Underdog for the single copy of Unlicensed Hearse. Pick your moments to attack with Graveyard Trespasser. Sometimes you will have to send this werewolf on a suicide mission to keep a Titan of Industry from recurring.
|-1 Liliana of the Veil||+1 Unlicensed Hearse|
|-2 Shivan Devastator||+2 The Meathook Massacre|
|-2 Sheoldred, the Apocalypse||+1 Workshop Warchief|
|-2 Tenacious Underdog||+2 Reckoner Bankbuster|
|-2 Cut Down||+2 Duress|
|+1 Titan of Industry|
This is a difficult, but winnable matchup. Their deck really revolves around Fable of the Mirror-Breaker which is a tough card to beat. To that end The Meathook Massacre will play a huge role in equalizing the board and regaining card parity, since the vast majority of their creatures will have two to three toughness. We always have to be aware that these decks tend to play some form of counter magic, but sometimes we must play into it if only because being passive will cause us to die anyway.
Tear Asunder is nice in that it can hit The Fable of the Mirror-Breaker for only two mana, plus it can take out Evelyn, the Covetous. Do not be afraid to eat your own creatures with Graveyard Trespasser to deny them as later fuel for Corpse Appraiser.
|-2 Shivan Devastator||+1 Workshop Warchief|
|-1 Karn, Living Legacy||+2 Tear Asunder|
|-1 Graveyard Trespasser||+1 The Meathook Massacre|
This matchup favors Jund. We have a life gain to offset their drain effects, plus we have main board artifact hate to stop their copies of Oni-Cult Anvil. It gets even worse when we can go up to three copies of The Meathook Massacre.
Do not be afraid to remove their own copies of this sweeper from the board with Tear Asunder as the passive life drain is very relevant. Workshop Warchief will be an all-star here, no need to blitz with it.
|-2 Shivan Devastator||+1 Soul Transfer|
|-1 Karn, Living Legacy||+1 Cut Down|
|-1 Urborg Repossession||+1 Workshop Warchief|
|+1 The Meathook Massacre|
Thus far I have come out on top versus Gruul Aggro, but it was a near thing. Hopefully you kept a hand with early interaction in game one, or be prepared to be steamrolled quite quickly. Games two and three get a lot better. Cut Down is obviously great here for their early threats. In addition, Bloodtithe Harvester is usually able to trade (always take the trade if offered).
Later on, Workshop Warchief and Sheoldred, the Apocalypse can help us stabilize and take over. We have to be aware of a hasted Shivan Devastator from off the top of the deck, so do the math and be prepared to hold up mana for removal if necessary.
|-1 Karn, Living Legacy||+1 Cut down|
|-1 Sheoldred, the Apocalypse||+1 Duress|
|-1 Liliana of the Veil||+1 Reckoner Bankbuster|
|-1 Infernal Grasp||+1 Workshop Warchief|
|-1 Tear Asunder||+1 Soul Transfer|
It is funny that this the matchup I have been struggling with most. I don’t think its because Mono-Black is the best deck, although it does seem legit. Their combination of early threats (Evolved Sleeper, Tenacious Underdog) and efficient removal (Cut Down , Infernal Grasp) quickly pressures your life total. Then they follow-up with Liliana of the Veil which they can take advantage of quite easily by pitching cheap, recursive creatures.
If you weather that storm, then you have to be worried about Invoke Despair at the top end. I think the problem I am having in this matchup is role confusion. Should I be more aggressive here or try to control the game? We have a difficult time controlling Invoke Despair as we lack counterspells, our best strategy is to mitigate their ability to draw cards from its effect, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker can take out two of the three portions, but they are still getting an enormous value from the card.
Workshop Warchief, in theory, should be good here as long as they are not running too many copies of Soul Transfer. If you can live long enough, I could also see Titan of Industry being a player, but they tend to kill you too fast for this to be a factor so maybe only consider bringing it in on the play.
|-2 Shivan Devastator||+1 Workshop Warchief|
|-1 Karn, Living Legacy||+1 Cut Down|
|-1 Graveyard Trespasser||+1 Tear Asunder|
|+1 The Meathook Massacre|
This is another matchup I have a lot of confidence in. Our creatures generally trade quite well with their own. In addition, Tear Asunder can hit Kumano Faces Kakkazan early and Chandra, Dressed to Kill later. The way we lose is a Thundering Raiju, which again Tear Asunder (and Infernal Grasp) can help us thwart.
Protect your life total as much as possible, try to keep a clean board, and they will quickly run out of steam, at which point you flip the script. They will struggle mightily to deal with Sheoldred, the Apocalypse and Workshop Warchief. Our matchup game two gets even better, as we bring in some more cards that lineup quite well against their own.
Esper, Jeskai, and Azorius Control
|-2 Cut Down||+2 Duress|
|-2 Infernal Grasp||+2 Tear Asunder|
|-1 The Meathook Massacre||+1 Jaya, Fiery Negotiator|
|-2 Sheoldred, the Apocalypse||+1 Sorin the Mirthless|
|-2 Workshop Warchief||+1 Soul Transfer|
|+2 Reckoner Bankbuster|
Settle in for a long match. Early on, our plan is get in as much damage through as we can with Bloodtithe Harvester, Tenacious Underdog, and Graveyard Trespasser. If we are lucky, we can overwhelm their defenses before they can setup. If they stabilize, we have to play a game of cat and mouse: Applying enough pressure to make them uncomfortable, but not overextending into a sweeper. Save Shivan Devastator preferably when they tap out to sweep the board so you can get in with hasty damage, or if need be, to snipe The Wandering Emperor or some other planeswalker. You will likely have to start looping Shigeki, Jukai Visionary to put the game away.
We have a ton of sideboard changes game two. The card we like to see the least is Farewell, and if you spot it with a Duress, it should be your number one priority to snag. When I play on this side of the matchup, I realize that control is hard to pull off these days, which makes me sad. Wizards is clearly promoting proactive play styles. I guess this is a good thing, because while its fun to be the control mage, its anything but fun, to be on the other end of a game where they slowly whittle away your will to live.
Post-sideboard we are looking to maximize the amount of planeswalkers we have to get around board wipes. But still keeping our early threats to apply pressure.
|-1 Cut Down||+2 Tear Asunder|
|-2 Sheoldred, the Apocalypse||+1 Titan of Industry|
|-2 Workshop Warchief||+2 Duress|
If they seem to pivot to a more controlling game, then keep the sideboard plan as is. Overall, I think the matchup now favors Jund, especially since Vanishing Verse has rotated.
Tips and Tricks
- Try to sandbag Shivan Devastator for the right moment, at the very least making it a 3/3 puts it out of Cut Down range. Also, it is excellent at swooping in and taking out a planeswalker.
- Do not be afraid to Blitz Workshop Warchief, the most common exile effect is The Wandering Emperor, so if the opponent does not have four mana to cast this planeswalker, then Blitzing will guarantee you great value and we have way to recur this card with Urborg Repossession and Shigeki, Jukai Visionary
- We touched upon this briefly already, but Shigeki, Jukai Visionary and Urborg Repossession represent an infinite loop. Therefore, if possible, it is almost always right to make sure that Urborg Repossession targets at least Shigeki, Jukai Visionary to keep the loop alive.
- I did not notice this myself at first, but Urborg Repossession allows you to target one creature and one permanent if it is kicked. This means you can recur something like Shigeki, Jukai Visionary and a copy of Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, The Meathook Massacre, or Liliana of the Veil.
- Be cognizant of the limitation to Cut Down. I have caught myself a few times missing a chance to use this spell, for example when a player cast Reckless Stormseeker, as if it pumps itself and you neglect to target it while that ability is on the stack, it is put out of range. Likewise, if someone has a way to increase a creature’s power or toughness at instant speed, it will cause Cut Down to fizzle on the stack as it no longer a valid target.
- This is not a new trick, but some folks might not have seen it. If you have two Fable of the Mirror-Breaker (Reflections of Kiki-Jiki) in play, and if even one of them doesn’t have summoning sickness, on your opponent’s ends step you can copy one Kiki-Jiki with the other, this way they can daisy-chain each other. In other words, the copied token can then copy another token, so on and so forth until you have exhausted all of your mana. Since you are already past the beginning of the end step phase, this army of tokens will not vanish until next turn. Thus, you can then untap with a ton of 2/2 tokens, who can rush your opponent or in turn could even copy something like Workshop Warchief a million times for the ultimate face smash.
I have tried a ton of different cards in fine-tuning my Jund list. It feels like an infinitely configurable shell. Certainly, as the meta shifts you can swap in other cards. Perhaps, a more planeswalker heavy approach for example.
The Karn, Living Legacy was a recent addition that I want to test out for a few games, for a while I had one copy of Halana and Alena, Partners in that slot, which was ok, but not great. I have seen folks try the new The Elder Dragon War, and Jaya, Fiery Negotiator which both seem fine.
In short, feel free to tweak this list to match your own play style or to combat what you are seeing in the meta. Most importantly good luck and have fun.