GP Bologna 2017 in a nutshell

This past weekend was an exciting one for Slovenian Magic: the Gathering community as many attended GP Bologna for some card action and achieved great results, especially at the main event (Limited) where three ended in the Top100 (Rutar 18th, Avsec 21st, Dolar 98th), congrats!

Robin Dolar writing down the sealed pool.

Day 0 – Modern: 4 Rounds

Our company consisted of four players and only one attended the main event while the rest of us went for some side event action, starting on Day 0 (Friday) when two of us played Modern and one went for Standard. I went 2-2 after starting off with two losses against Affinity and Merfolk, yet managed to beat Amulet Titan and Burn. While not a good result, it seems that I was warming up for Super Modern events on Saturday and Sunday. I went back to playing Jund after sleeving Abzan for MKM Frankfurt and despite many claims that Abzan is better in the current metagame, I just prefer to play good old Jund.

Day 1 – Super Modern: 6 Rounds + Top8

Our friend Časar had two BYEs for the main event so we didn’t have to be at the venue that early and when we arrived, most of the players were already seated and playing. Sadly, Časar didn’t open a strong pool but we met up with another friend from Slovenia to start grinding side events (three of us for Modern and one for Standard).

Super Modern on Saturday had 50 participants but the prize pool was great, including two MM17 booster boxes for the 1st place. We signed up and were ready for action. My first opponent was on Grixis Faeries and thanks to his mana problems I took the series with ease (2-0). Next up was Elves that had the new Devoted DruidVizier of Remedies combo and Game 1 I got run over, and in Game 2 I made a misplay that lost me the game on the spot. I killed an Archdruid instead of Devoted Druid while I knew my opponent had Chord of Calling AND Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in his hand, so once he chorded for Vizier and casted Emrakul I scooped. The misplay happened and there was nothing I could do, but it should have not and it was all my bad. However, I didn’t let it get to me and looked forward.

At 1-1 and with 6 rounds, I had to avoid further losses in order to finish the tournament in the Top16 (prizes). My third opponent for the day was Bogles and I managed to dismantle it. Discard to take one of the creatures, Decay in response of Daybreak Coronet and Goyf beatdown sealed the Game 1. For the second game my opponent had two copies of Leyline of Sanctity but turn three Maelstrom Pulse into turn four Liliana spelled victory for me despite being on 4 life. What followed was a lucky streak of two 2-0 wins against Abzan CoCo and Bant Eldrazi, where my good cards (typtical Jund) capitalized on opponents clunky keeps and below average draws.

Art by Dave Allsop

I was at 4-1 and I got paired with one of my friends. After some discussion and because a down-paired player had to play, we decided to ID so one of us would get in the Top8 while there was hope for the other as well. Because of my decent tie-breakers I got that Top8 spot, but I was set to be on the draw because I was the 8th seed.

My quarterfinals opponent was on Merfolk and knowing that deck I was hoping that he doesn’t have the nuts. My hand in Game 1 was superb and I won after Fatal Pushing his Master of Waves to take the lead. Game two he got me to as low as 5 but my finks clogged the board and Huntmaster flipped to break the board stall. From there, I had a clear path to victory and my opponent conceded.

Semi-finals are quite intense since the difference in prizes are big but I wasn’t really nervous. I was happy that I made it this far and just wanted to play as good as I can. My opponent was on Bant Spirits and I have never played that match-up before, but I remembered reading that it is not the best for Jund. I soon discovered that those claims on MTGSalvation Jund primer are indeed true as I lost 0-2 and didn’t even put on a fight. Maybe he got great draws and I was flooded in Game 1, but I still felt it is hard to fight many flying creatures that have flash and hexproof without drawing a lot of sideboard cards (and they have to resolve). I made a mistake in Game 2 when throwing my Anger into a counter but after seeing the rest of his cards I would have lost either way. However, I did learn that I want to dodge this match-up in the future, and Top4 is far from a bad result.

Art by Adam Paquette

Day 2 – Super Modern: 7 Rounds + Top8

Our main event competitor sadly dropped after Day 1, but he went to participate in the PTQ while the rest of us continued with grinding side events in Modern and Standard. I guess we were all a bit more tired than the day before because we didn’t get to sleep as much, but fatigue got to me only after 5 rounds (during the sixth) so it was not that bad, and in the end it didn’t even matter.

Pairings were up for Sunday’s Super Modern with 82 players (7 rounds) and I get a mirror match against a nice yet an inexperienced Jund pilot. Game 1 it was my Raging Ravine beating his for the win, while Game 2 I am down on everything but came back from behind to win the series even after he drops a Huntmaster of the Fells, yet again on the back of my Ravines. After the games we talk for a while and I explain some sideboarding choices as he didn’t side out his discard spells. We parted ways in a friendly manner, he with a lesson and I with the win.

Round two is posted and I’m paired with Ad Nauseum. My discard spells ended up being too much for him and without Leyline in Game 2, it looked like an easy 2-0 victory for me, but it never is that easy against combo decks that can win out of nowhere.

In the third round, I’m up against a Death’s Shadow Jund and he comfortably takes Game 1, but I draw excellent in Games 2 and 3 and manage to win on the back of Surgical Extraction (both games on Lingering Souls, in Game 2 I even strip one from his hand) and Liliana of the Veil. I have no idea if and how much Death’s Shadow Jund is favored against the classic Jund, but I would rather play against Shadow than Tron decks, any day all day.

Art by Howard Lyon

I’m 3-0 and it was looking good until I saw my fourth opponent play a Tron land. Well, it was at least Eldrazi Tron, which is not as hard a match-up as Gx Tron. Anyhow, I managed to take the series on the back of discard, fast clock and some luck with drawing the right removal against his threats. Not bad at all, but it felt like I used all my luck for the day, but that was not the case. All I needed was another win in the next two rounds and I could ID into the Top8, yet that did not happen as I got demolished by UB Faeries and Grixis Delver (both 0-2) to end up at 4-2.

After checking out the standings, there was a slight possibility that I could get in by winning in the Round 7, especially since there was a down-pair that had to play it out (déjà vu..?). I was paired against a 4-color Scapeshift (RUGb) and technically we played it out (I won 2-1), but he conceded due to my high tie-breakers. We eagerly awaited for the standings and I was pleasantly surprised when I ended up on the 8th place yet again (yup, déjà vu…).

Top8 was announced and I got to play against a great guy from Austria on Affinity. Game 1 I draw a decent hand with lots of spot removal, but didn’t draw enough lands so I couldn’t keep up with his value threats (Ravagers). I should have shocked myself turn 1 to kill his Vault Skirge but not doing so ended up a fatal mistake. In Game 2, my greed got to me yet again! I open with Inquisition of Kozilek with another one in my hand and instead of taking Etched Champion, I took the Skirge (I could pick Drums, Ornithopter, Etched or Skirge), thinking to myself that I will just take Etched Champion on the next turn. However, when I tried, he had a Spell Pierce. Ha! Luckily, I could remove all other robots and Huntmaster pressure sealed the deal after a short standoff (draw-go). I was dead if he drew a Galvanic Blast, but he was on two and I managed to squeeze the last points of damage to win Game 2 and tie the series. The last game was as exciting as it gets; there was one point in the game where I played a Goyf and had an untapped swamp while my opponent had two Ravagers, Inkmoth Nexus and a lot of artifacts. I tapped the swamp, untapped it again and did some math before passing the turn with a Swamp up. I was in fact without a Fatal Push and would be dead if he sacced his whole board to pump the Nexus to 10/10 with his Arcbound Ravagers, yet he was not willing to go all-in so I took only 5 infect damage. From there on, I was slowly but surely taking control of the game, but was still missing enough mana to play two spells a turn. My Goyf was hitting for 4 while he returned the favor with a 4/4 Memnite. The race was on.

Art by Svetlin Velinov

After a few turns of draw-go, I had two 4/5 Tarmogoyfs and Engineered Explosives on 0 on the board with Kolaghan’s Command and Night of Souls’ Betrayal firmly in my hand, while my opponent was stuck with Mox Opal, 4/4 Memnite, two copies of Blinkmoth Nexus, the 5/5 Inkmoth and no cards in his hand. I was at 4 life but had my opponent dead on the next turn for as long as he doesn’t draw a Galvanic Blast. He goes on and plays a Welding Jar off the top and follows by activating Inkmoth. I crack Explosives with activation on the stack, he regenerates his Mox Opal and tries to attack but I destroy the Inkmoth and deal 2 damage to my opponent (putting him to 6 life) with my Kolaghan’s Command. He passed the turn, I play NoSB to disable his Blinkmoth blockers and attack with two Goyfs for 6. He extends his hand and voilà, I made Top4 yet again (déjà vu!).

But there awaits my next opponent, the same guy with UB Faeries again (also a great dude, respect!). I end up losing without much fight as he answers my threats and makes it look easy. Sure, it’s not a good match-up for Jund, but I felt almost as powerless as playing against Tron. So there I was, losing in the semi-finals for the second time (.. déjà vu ..), but truth to be told, I was more than happy since I didn’t imagine I would go this far two times in a row on a 50+ player tournaments with a deck that some say is “not competitive in this metagame”. Jund is never not competitive.

Myself, Pirc, Kos and Časar. See, I’m happy, no salt detected.

Deck and card choices: breakdown

If we stick to the previous topic of Jund and its competitiveness, I believe it all comes down to match-ups, mulliganing and sideboard cards. Sure, Death’s Shadow might be the best deck in the format, but it’s not that bad of a match to begin with. Secondly, you can get lucky with pairings, or vice-versa. You can choose the best deck for the metagame but face fringe decks and lose. You can draw your well prepared sideboard and win against the likes of Valakut, Eldrazi and Tron decks, or never see your Liliana against Bogles. You can go Thoughtseize into Tarmogoyf and Liliana of the Veil and beat any deck, or keep a two land hard with good cards but end up being screwed. As stated so many times before, play a deck you like and practice with it. Prepare for the expected metagame and pack some hate against bad but winnable match-ups to improve your odds. Think about your role in the particular match-up and mulligan correctly. Most of the time, a hand with Dark Confidant, Huntmaster, Liliana and lands seems decent against control, but it’s too ineffective against Affinity. And lastly, pray you don’t face Tron.

For example, a friend of mine played with Abzan at the same tournaments as I did, but faced and won against RW Control (Sun & Moon) and GW Tron while losing to UW Control, Skred Red and 4-color Scapeshift. Despite winning against Tron, those match-ups are not something to look forward to.

Anyhow, this is what I piloted on Day 2 with only small changes from the days before, but more on that after the decklist.

Jund, GP Bologna 2017 side events (Sunday)

Creatures (12)
Tarmogoyf
Dark Confidant
Scavenging Ooze
Kitchen Finks
Huntmaster of the Fells

Spells (24)
Thoughtseize
Inquisition of Kozilek
Fatal Push
Lightning Bolt
Terminate
Kolaghan’s Command
Abrupt Decay
Maelstrom Pulse
Liliana of the Veil

Lands (24)
Swamp
Forest
Verdant Catacombs
Bloodstained Mire
Wooded Foothills
Overgrown Tomb
Blood Crypt
Stomping Ground
Twilight Mire
Raging Ravine
Blackcleave Cliffs

Sideboard (15)
Anger of the Gods
Fulminator Mage
Maelstrom Pulse
Engineered Explosives
Kitchen Finks
Collective Brutality
Night of Souls’ Betrayal
Damnation
Ancient Grudge
Grafdigger’s Cage
Surgical Extraction

Here is the breakdown of card selection by days:

Day 0
4 Fatal Push
0 Lightning Bolt
1 Collective Brutality
1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
2 Forest

I thought that Death’s Shadow decks will be prevalent, but there was more Affinity than anything else with quite a few creature decks running around, so including Bolts going forward seemed like a good idea.

Day 1
3 Fatal Push
2 Lightning Bolt
1 Collective Brutality
1 Forest
1 Twilight Mire
1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance (sideboard)

After drawing Forests quite a lot, I ended up changing my second one for Twilight Mire as I didn’t fear Blood Moon that much and wanted some help casting my mainboard Finks. I moved Chandra to the side and removed one Push to make space for two Lightning Bolts.

Day 2
3 Fatal Push
3 Lightning Bolt
2 Collective Brutality (sideboard)
2 Ancient Grudge (sideboard)

Day 2 side events meant that more players were expected, especially those that dropped from the main event. With Burn almost non-existent and Affinity running around rampant, I added another Lightning Bolt instead of a Collective Brutality, which was moved to the side. I also loaned my Chandra to a friend playing Standard and added a second Ancient Grudge to the side to up my Affinity hate. I was keen on having one Grafdigger’s Cage for Chord and CoCo decks while hating the graveyard at the same time.

However, this is just my view on the things and with my limited experience playing Jund (currently only 64 official matches, 62.5% winrate), I don’t see myself as credible as someone who is piloting BGx decks for a year or more. Grand Prix side events aren’t the highest tier of competitive Magic tournaments and I could have been just lucky when needed, but Jund did make Top8 on two Super Modern side events with 6 and 7 rounds at a Grand Prix in Europe, so it seems that it is here to stay.

Art by Christopher Moeller

Why I prefer Jund over Abzan midrange

When I played Junk, I used four Dark Confidants, so I have no experience playing Nobles and/or Grim Flayers which might be a better version of Abzan midrange (or not). Still, I won quite a few games on the back of Raging Ravine and Night of Souls’ Betrayal as well as Chandra, Torch of Defiance. In addition to that, I feel like Anger of the Gods is the best sweeper other than Damnation and I don’t miss Stony Silence at all, thanks to Kolaghan’s Commands and Ancient Grudges. Playing no Lightning Bolts might look like a correct decision on MTGO, but I will stick to the versatile removal spell going forward. I also dislike the fact that Path to Exile gives a land, so I don’t mind paying one more mana for a Terminate. Last but not least, I feel like casting Fulminator Mage easier is more important that Kitchen Finks on turn three in the current metagame, as I feel Burn is on a decline during the last few Modern tournaments I attended around Europe (not that double black is a problem, but technically Jund has more B/R sources than Junk has B).

Again, I might be wrong since I have no data to back it up so take this with a grain of salt, but not too much so you don’t get salty!

All images but the last courtesy of WotC.

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