Rocking Junk – Why You Do Not Need to Play Blue to Win in Legacy

Over the past couple of years in Legacy, there has been a bit of backlash against Blue for being very good. Blue is able to counter spells, draw more cards, and manipulate other cards. No other color has access to the array and variability of these techniques like blue, but, fear not. You don’t need to be playing Brainstorm, Force of Will, or Jace to be winning in Legacy. As we can see by recent results, many tournament top eight’s are filled with many different decks, including those that do not run any blue cards. This goes to show you the amazing diversity in the Legacy format and how much innovation is there, or opportunities just waiting to be exploited. Many have recently stated that Maverick, RUG Delver, and Miracles were the end-all be-all, but the results beg to differ.

Recently, I placed second at the StarCityGames Legacy Open in Seattle (WA, USA) playing a deck without Force of Will, Brainstorm, and Counterspells. This high finish is just one example of how much variety that can exist, as well as succeed, in the format. I’d like to take you through the deck design of the deck I piloted, BWG Junk (or BWG Rock, as some call it), to help illustrate why you don’t need to be playing blue to be winning in Legacy. Now, we’ll move onto the list.

BWG Junk, 2nd Place SCG Legacy Open Seattle 11-18-2012, by Matt Pavlic

[Business] (39)
Dark Confidant
Knight of the Reliquary
Scavenging Ooze
Deathrite Shaman
Inquisition of Kozilek
Swords to Plowshares
Abrupt Decay
Maelstrom Pulse
Green Sun’s Zenith
Sensei’s Divining Top
Sylvan Library
Garruk Relentless
Maze of Ith

[Mana Sources] (22)
Verdant Catacombs
Marsh Flats
Windswept Heath
Dryad Arbor
[Sideboard] (15)
Hymn to Tourach
Pernicious Deed
Ulvenwald Tracker
Virtue’s Ruin
Garruk Relentless
Surgical Extraction
Gaddock Teeg
Timely Reinforcements

What Junk Is

First, what is Junk and why should you even play Junk? Junk is, by its very nature, a mid-range deck that has components of aggro and control. Junk’s game plan is to control board with an overwhelming amount of removal and to protect its threats pre-emptively using discard spells. Then, once the coast is clear, Junk drops big, efficient threats that tend to outclass the other creatures on the board, while still maintaining that element of board control. Junk isn’t like RUG in the sense that you hopefully ride one creature to victory. Junk usually likes to lay out a few larger threats and protect them without the use of counterspells, since discard trumps threats pre-emptively. Junk isn’t playing to beat the opponent in the first four turns, and it isn’t looking to go into the very long game where the true control deck shines. Junk is most comfortable in the mid-game, where the early disruption leads to mid-game advantage by closing the life point gap with those efficient threats. But, a question still remains: why should one play Junk? What are some of the advantages of playing Junk in the current Legacy metagame?

The Abrupt Decay of “Only Blue Can Win”

The answers to these questions lie in two recent additions to the Junk arsenal from Return to Ravnica: Abrupt Decay and Deathrite Shaman. Junk has always had an issue of being a deck full of answers that wins when it gets the correct answer for the question being asked of it. If it doesn’t find the correct answers to those specific threats in time, it died pretty quickly. You had little to no manipulation or card selection to work your way through your deck like blue did with Brainstorm and Ponder. Abrupt Decay solves the former predicament by essentially being an answer to nearly everything. Not only is it an answer, it is an answer that can’t be countered. Maelstrom Pulse, Vindicate, and Swords to Plowshares are all efficient and powerful cards, but running them headlong into Force of Will, Spell Pierce, Daze, Counterspell, or an active Counterbalance at a pivotal moment doesn’t help you one bit. Your answer might trump the Delver of Secrets that’s been slowly eating away at your life total, but your attempts to turn it into a farmer may be lost if you don’t have the right tools in your kit. There’s a specific tool for every job, and Abrupt Decay turns out to be a really great all-in-one tool that never disappoints. Beyond being a limited Vindicate, Abrupt Decay is also uncounterable. This is a point in Junk’s favour regarding the RUG Delver matchup, as easily found counterspells can usually counter key removal plays at critical points in the game. Abrupt Decay is a solution to a problem as soon as you draw it, and negates any countermagic the control player has found.

Prior to Abrupt Decay, when playing against UWx Miracles, it was easy to potentially be locked out by Counterbalance due to a suite of converted mana costs centered around zero through two. Recently, with new additions to the deck, a new Counterbalance curve stretching from zero to five has been implemented. More importantly, the curve now has a nonzero amount of three drops (between four and six). This is important to locking out your Vindicates and Knights of the Reliquary. By smashing Counterbalance with Abrupt Decay, Junk is more able to lay out efficient threats that pose a real danger of ending the game in quick succession. There isn’t as much of a situation like with Maverick where all your small critters need to be present on the board in numbers to be a threat – which is where Miracles wants to be, especially with Terminus and Engineered Explosives. A single threat can end the game in four turns or less, making them either waste a Terminus or find removal or a threat to outclass you, like Entreat the Angels or Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

Finally, and most importantly, we come back to Abrupt Decay. They say every problem starts to look like a nail when you’re a hammer, but in the case of Abrupt Decay, almost every relevant problem in Legacy is a nail at this point. Umezawa’s Jitte? Blow it up mid-combat. Sylvan Library leaving you in the dust? Destroy it. Counterbalance countering you from having a good time? Destroy it. Opposing Knight of the Reliquary about to go postal on your manabase? Kill it without fear. The point is most problems that a deck may face in the Legacy format consist of some non-land permanent with a converted mana cost of three or less. Only control bombs, such as Jace the Mind Sculptor, Humility, Moat, Smokestack, The Abyss, Nether Void, Elspeth, and Garruk are not dealt with by Abrupt Decay. But, being able to handle every non-land permanent below three means you don’t have to worry about your mix of Vindicates, Pulses, Swords, and other removal pieces doing different jobs. Now, you just run Abrupt Decay and cut the more situational cards. Abrupt Decay kills, without question or worry, the following:
Knight of the Reliquary
Dark Confidant
Mother of Runes
Noble Hierarch
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Oblivion Ring/Detention Sphere
Sylvan Library
Delver of Secrets
Stoneforge Mystic
Umezawa’s Jitte
Sword of X and Y
Animate Dead
Lord of Atlantis
Scavenging Ooze
Crucible of Worlds
Cranial Plating
Priest of Titania
Vendilion Clique
Snapcaster Mage
Baleful Strix
Vedalken Shackles
Rest in Peace
Energy Field
Painter’s Servant
Pernicious Deed
Engineered Explosives
Gaddock Teeg
Goblin Lackey
Goblin Piledriver
Liliana of the Veil

The list continues for quite some time, but hopefully I’ve covered most of the things you would encounter that you want to not bother you. Abrupt Decay doesn’t care what your problem is, and only has two rules: no lands, and no permanents with a converted mana cost of 4 or more (women and children are okay, though).

Deathrite Shaman

Second, Deathrite Shaman. I’ve read posts here and there and have heard rumblings and results of Shaman being great in Modern. The problem is, Modern isn’t Legacy, so I had my doubts about this guy from the get-go since a card being great in Modern doesn’t necessarily translate to being worthwhile in Legacy. As soon as people said he was, “an automatic four-of,” I had my doubts. Few cards deserve the phrase of automatic four-of. That’s rubbing elbows with the likes of Swords to Plowshares, Brainstorm, Mishra’s Workshop, and most other cards that people have called to be banned or have been banned for being too good as a four-of. I started testing Shaman by shaving slots out of the maindeck. My doubts were initially caused by two factors. One: does Junk need a mana acceleration dork? Two: are his abilities good enough to be worth his inclusion? The former question is usually a flat no. Over the past two years, people other than and including myself have touted Mox Diamond, Birds of Paradise, and Noble Hierarch as the answer to Junk becoming the next big thing. The myth of the “turn one Hymn to Tourach” is too good for some ignore, and many people start playing card disadvantage-ridden Mox Diamonds in hopes of pulling of that spectacular play that you brag about to your friends for days. Sure, turn 1 Hymn to Tourachs, Dark Confidants, Stoneforge Mystics, and a multitude of other plays are great, but they don’t accomplish your goal. Junk runs between 22 and 24 lands, with 2-5 not being mana producing or fetches. Throwing away lands needlessly leads to Turn 1 Hymns, but Turn 2 through 4 stalls and losses.

I for one feel that the line of thinking of playing a card that causes you card disadvantage immediately, as well as in the late game, is not a viable line of play at this point in Legacy. Each accelerant had their own side effects that made their inclusion not worth the effort. This changed with Deathrite Shaman due to mana fixing as well as being a utility creature when you needed him to be. He’s like a flip-card that goes from mana dork to utility creature, which is everything Junk has been looking for in an acceleration body. I’ll walk you through why each ability is such a step forward for BWG midrange.

Exiling lands from either graveyard is not only good for colour fixing and acceleration, but also for shrinking opposing threats, as Knight of the Reliquary is a card. Removing their lands can accelerate you and be advantageous in future combat scenarios. Loam-based decks, or even decks just playing Loam for value, now get less value out of their cards. That’s good. 43 Lands, although a minor player in the overall Legacy scene, now has something else to deal with, as does Dredge or Reanimator. You don’t even need to want mana with this ability; you can just use it to nuke lands that have gone into the bin for value. I’ve found the mana ability to be relevant usually within the first three to four turns, which is when we transition into the other two tap abilities.

The exiling of instants and sorceries is another great utility piece attached to Deathrite Shaman. Snapcaster Mage quickly became a major player in UW Control Decks, but his popularity is now waning with the move to a Miracle-based control deck. Exiling instants and sorceries means not only does Snapcaster get weaker, but the additional advantage is the life loss. It gets around Glacial Chasm locks, Solitary Confinement, and advanced combat and cluttered board states. Creature combat can get messy, and many times, players are afraid to advance the board since there’s no clear winner. Knights, Mother of Runes, Exalted triggers and such all gum up the board and usually cause situations where someone waits for a bomb card to gain value, either by equipment, evasion, protection, etc. Deathrite Shaman exploits these common stall situations by slowly picking away at the opponent. The argument of weakening Tarmogoyf has merit, but with all the Instants and Sorceries people are playing, you should have no trouble making the opponent lose two while still taking Tarmogoyf to their face.

The last ability of sucking up creatures for life is also great for tight matchups where you need to gain life to survive. RUG Delver, Burn, UR Delver, and even just regular Maverick matchups all flirt with life totals close to our demise for one reason or another, and just boosting your life by two points can mean the difference between winning and not. It nicely hates out Reanimator and Dredge in addition to gaining life. The whole package, however, is what makes Deathrite unique. He’s also a 1/2 in offense and defense, which is much more useful than Noble Hierarch. Now that the bragging about the two newest additions is out of the way, let’s take a look at what we cut for them.

Trimming Cards

The most important aspect of finding new tech is not how many cards to include, but rather what to cut from the current decklist you have, and why. Abrupt Decay filled a niche where some 1-of utility cards were lying. Life from the Loam, Engineered Explosives, and another copy of Maelstrom Pulse were replaced by three copies of Decay, and I couldn’t have been happier. I’ve switched removal and utility for better removal and utility.

Deathrite Shaman was a bit trickier. He filled a niche that I had already cut from the deck over a year ago, so it was time to cull my babies. Ulvenwald Tracker is a fantastic card, and if I had another slot, I would add him back in first, but he didn’t pull his weight in some matchups, whereas Deathrite always did work. Scavenging Ooze #2 was replaced by another Deathrite, since their roles overlapped and the versatility of Deathrite won out. I haven’t missed Ooze #2 as of yet, since I am running three copies of Green Sun’s Zenith, as well. The last cut for Deathrite #3 was Qasali Pridemage. Pridemage seemed to be a vestigial silver bullet from the days of Mental Misstep-era Blade Control. Qasali Pridemage blowing out Batterskull was an insane play in 2011, but in 2012, this isn’t as much of an issue. Tricky artifacts and enchantments are already mostly handled by Abrupt Decay and Maelstrom Pulse, and Batterskull isn’t a major player at the moment (and Abrupt Decay handles the Germ, if you really want it to). The flexibility of Deathrite does win out over the specificity of Qasali Pridemage. Some of my contemporaries disagree with this cut, but so far, I haven’t missed Qasali at all. Abrupt Decay really does shine that much.

Now we all know why the deck is able to do better than it once did and what we cut for these new additions supplied to us in Return to Ravnica, but it doesn’t explain the rest of the choices for the deck, so let’s do that now. There are so many available efficient options in our colors that we will have to be discerning in both our choices and our numbers.

Card Choices

First, let’s take a brief look at the manabase for a known general card pool we want to run. We want to be a midrange deck utilizing Knight of the Reliquary to some extent, so we should consider a toolbox, as well as duals, fetches, and most importantly, basic lands. UWx Miracles does so well, as Merfolk once did, because of a rock-solid manabase. Basic lands are the foundation of a strong mana development throughout the course of a longer game. Many decks skimp on basic lands to get away with the greed and flexibility of dual lands. This isn’t Modern and Wasteland is a card. There are decks out there looking to screw your manabase over, and those decks are better than you at doing that. You aren’t going to beat RUG Delver at the mana denial game. You need to attack them on a different plane of interaction: trumping their Wastelands with basic lands. This mana development is further strengthened by Deathrite Shaman, who has to also take a Lightning Bolt if they want to potentially take you off of a certain color. I’m playing one basic of each color, meaning I can cast most of the spells in my deck off of three basic lands if I need to, or if I need a color sustained until I can fetch for another basic land. Always fear Wasteland, Stifle, and Blood Moon, and you won’t die to them. Miracles, Merfolk, Goblins, and Elves have heeded this warning, and perhaps, so should more people. Fetching a Swamp to play Deathrite Shaman allows you run the long game of draining them for two life over a longer period of time, and can allow you to subsequently cast Dark Confidant, Maelstrom Pulse, etc. without having to worry if you’ll be cut off from that color.

Eight fetchlands are included to make sure you can fetch basics if you need to, but also for shuffling, pumping Knight of the Reliquary, and feeding to Deathrite if need be. You always want to find the lands you want and to shuffle if possible.

Dryad Arbor is an interesting inclusion that most people question. It was originally there for the Turn 1 “GSZ X=0” play for acceleration. It also functions as a sac outlet, a surprise attack, and a surprise blocker. It can fight Garruk to make him very Veil Cursed. It can be fetched to attack an open Jace at end of Turn to start pinging away. It can block a creature off a fetchland. It’s got a lot of utility on such a little body.

Karakas is in the deck mostly in case of Griselbrand or Emrakul shenanigans, but can also return a Gaddock Teeg if need be to dodge removal.

Three Wastelands seems curious as well. As the deck evolved from having four [/card]Hymn to Tourach[/card] and four Vindicate to zero Vindicate and zero Hymn to Tourach, Wasteland wasn’t as much of a player in the overall strategy that my Junk deck was following. Hymn allowed you to possibly double Sinkhole your opponent, and following up with Vindicate on the lands they may have had left, leaving your opponent sitting there like a limp starfish, helpless with a hand full of cards but unable to respond to your advances. With Spell Pierce and Daze being more prevalent, Vindicate and Hymn became worse and worse, and so did being on the four Wasteland plan. Some say it is sacrilege, but you’re not the best at the mana denial plan. RUG Delver is the best at doing the job of screwing your mana, and Junk is not. It’s simple. The ability to tutor Wasteland also means I don’t need to naturally draw all the copies that I need. Lastly, Junk is very colour heavy, so having the extra coloured land can be very advantageous. The Wastelands here are used much more strategically than in a pure tempo-based mana-denial deck. If you can Wasteland them, you do. If that screwed them, then you’re happy. If it didn’t, it slowed them down, and you’re still happy, but you don’t have to be committed to that line of play. You can hold them or tutor them up for an opposing Maze of Ith, Academy Ruins, Rishadan Port, etc.

Having already talked about Deathrite Shaman, we can move on to the other creature selections. The numbers for creatures may seem odd, but remember that you have Green Sun’s Zenith to fetch for them. Tarmogoyf should ideally be maxed out, but again, the number of slots is tight. Scavenging Ooze more than pulls its weight as a one-of, but more than that can lead to some Oozes going hungry for the evening, and I couldn’t allow myself to do that. Dark Confidant and Knight being four-of’s is pretty self explanatory. You want Dark Confidant for card draw and you can’t fetch him, so you have to play as many as you can. Knight is essentially fat, utility, and a win condition, so you always want more of her, so we make that seven virtual copies of her. Together, you have a suite of beatdown and utility, card draw and maindeck hate. This configuration with Ulvenwald Tracker was very good, but again, Ulvenwald is a situational card.

Junk, as some have said before, is a deck full of answers that only wins when the stars and fate align and certain answers to certain problems occur together. To combat this issue of hoping and praying you have the right tools for the job, I decided to go further. RUG bases much of its success of playing eight Brainstorms with Brainstorm and Ponder. Combo decks sometimes run ten copies and include Preordain. Why? What are they doing right? They’re selecting the cards they want to win. I wanted to do just that and I knew I didn’t need Brainstorm. Sensei’s Divining Top has been a Junk staple for a while, usually as a three-of. I really like Top, but using one mana each turn to dig can sometimes tie up mana you’d like to be spending on the answers you’re looking for. I started testing Sylvan Library in 2010 and 2011 on the advice of some testing partners as well as people on MTG The Source. I immediately had success with the card, and increased it from one to two soon after. Sometimes Sylvan is just a Mirri’s Guile, but other times, Sylvan pulls so much weight you crush your opponents in cards. In the control matchups and mirror-like matches, Sylvan combined with your creatures being STP’d means you’re just going to get to draw a bunch of extra cards. You bury them using a card they can’t easily remove. Miracles is the premiere deck for dispatching creatures in the format, and does an alright job at controlling the stack. However, their removal for noncreature permanents is lacking, so again, attack them where the armour is thin: enchantments. I can’t pump up Sylvan Library enough in this deck because it lets you keep up with those decks that run Brainstorm. Against Maverick, you’re running eight pieces (4 Confidant, 2 Top, 2 Library) to their 0-2 Sylvan Library; against RUG, you’re about even (8 Brainstorms to 8 manipulation effects); against Miracles, you’re about even as well (4 Brainstorm, 4 Top vs. 4 Confidant, 2 Top, 2 Library). You might not beat them at card manipulation, but you can sure keep up. I think this is a major point many Junk lists have failed to realize in the past is that they don’t have enough manipulation to find the cards they need to win.

Now that we’re finding cards, what cards do we need to find? Answers and threats. The discard package allows us to not only gain information on how we should plan our attack against our opponents, but also lets us deal with a threat pre-emptively and not have to waste a piece of removal. Thoughtseize allows you to grab Jace, the Mind Sculptors that are hard to deal with later, as well as Top (the main card holding Miracles together), Counterbalance, Aether Vial, etc. The split of the 3 Inquisition of Kozilek and 3 Thoughtseize is mainly due to the life loss. As was said previously, most things cost three or less, so Inquisition in most cases does the job we want to do. However, Force of Will, Jace, and other large bomb cards that can outclass us cannot be hit by Inquisition, and must be dealt with by Thoughtseize. The 3/3 split also has some marginal value in terms of lifeloss against RUG Delver, as well as having a split against Cabal Therapy, as marginal as that line of play may be. Discard gives you some game against combo, as well as just having general information about how you want to sculpt your line of attack. Do you want to race them? Are you the control deck? Do I have time to assemble more cards? Are they going to combo off? Should I get Gaddock Teeg instead of Ooze? These questions can all be answered with hand disruption.

What we can’t grab from the hand, we must remove from the battlefield. Blue decks control the stack, we control the board. Abrupt Decay is an all-around all-star, but so is our old friend Swords to Plowshares. I wouldn’t ever suggest less than four Swords, since killing anything without question is good and the life gain for an opposing player doesn’t matter, whereas the life increase for you can matter strategically against Burn, Storm, or other marginal scenarios. To cap off our removal suite, we need to hit those threats above four CMC, as they are not dealt with Abrupt Decay and deserve attention, as they can quickly end the game. Maelstrom Pulse at the moment seems to be this deck’s best answer. Vindicate hits lands, but for reasons stated above, isn’t as necessary. With all the tokens floating around, whether they’re Goblins or Angels, killing multiples in my opinion is marginally more relevant than nuking some lands every once in a while. There may be situations where a Knight needs to die, but your Knight wants to live. I’m not saying a sacrifice once in a while doesn’t happen, I’m just saying with two copies, the benefits outweigh the risks of self-sacrifice more often than not.

We’ve plowed through removal, card selection, threats, answers, and lands. The only cards left to talk about are Green Sun’s Zenith and the lone Garruk Relentless. Green Sun’s Zenith falls under card selection for being able to tutor up sideboard bullets as well as just adding consistency in pulling out threats. We have just under 20 creatures when counting Green Sun’s Zenith, which isn’t bad at all, and most can be fetched. We’re playing this for many of the same reasons as Maverick, but we are not solely dependent on drawing Green Sun’s Zenith. We do not want four copies, since we do not have the creature density to support it. Some have cut back to two copies, or even zero. I have found three just fine, and it will stay that way until another major shift.

Garruk Relentless seems to have many people confused. He’s a single copy in a 61-card deck. I’m not going to talk about statistics and 61 cards, but many people see him as the logical cut to optimize to 60, and many also ask why Garruk isn’t Liliana of the Veil. This comes down to two reasons: metagame and play style. As of late, Miracles has become a powerhouse in Legacy. Its plane of attack really cut into the work Maverick was doing on the metagame as a whole. Some wondered if Maverick was too good, and that question was decisively answered by Terminus. Terminus destroys Maverick because of a few key reasons. Maverick needs many creatures on board to play its game. Noble Hierarch accelerates; Mother of Runes protects; Scryb Rangers does tricks untapping Knight and Mother of Runes; Thalia, Guardian of Thraben slows them down with a tax effect; and Knight does the beating. The variety of abilities and flexibility of the small creature in Maverick make Knight of the Reliquary the threat that it is in Maverick. To have this happen, the Maverick player usually has four creatures on board as support. For the Miracles player, this is a perfect opportunity to X-for-1 them with a one mana Wrath of God. Just like that, all the advantage is gone at the cost of one mana. The Thalia tax doesn’t matter since most players would pay two mana to wipe the board any day of the week. Maverick is looking unfavorable right now because Miracles can so easily overturn their superior board position by one card at one mana that they can find easily with Sensei’s Top. So, how do you fight Terminus?

Again, this comes down to knowing your enemy. Terminus is good at X-for-1’s, where X > 1. When X approaches one, the value that they’re getting out of Terminus diminishes. To make them waste a Terminus on one or two creatures, they need to either have evasion, protection, or be huge. RUG attempts to do so with Nimble Mongoose. Junk can do this by playing Tarmogoyf, Knight, and Deathrite. Most of the time, Goyf is a 4/5 or a 5/6, and Knight can be upwards of 6/6. Either creature deserves Swords to Plowshares. If they have it, fine, and you play another. If they don’t, they need to find a way to remove it in three or four turns, which isn’t much time. Without a fetch or a Brainstorm, they’re seeing a maximum of seven cards when using Top. Seven seems like a lot, but remember, you’re only seeing three at a time. If they DO draw removal, then they may then be on a shorter clock when the next threat comes around. Against Maverick, replaying Knight hurts them, but replaying Noble Hierarch doesn’t require the same attention.

What really beats Miracles though is something they cannot remove: planeswalkers. If you were to have something that created creatures all the time, you could potentially cause them great catastrophe, since the investment for tokens beyond the initial investment of the token creator is usually not much. Enter Garruk Relentless. Garruk, from the get-go, produces 2/2 Wolf tokens, which are nothing to sneeze at. In non-Miracle games, gumming up the board with 2/2’s changes the math of attack and defense. Against Miracles, it means you don’t have to overextend into a Terminus: they have to find some way of dealing with your constant army of 2/2’s. Garruk also comes in and acts as removal, killing something with less than two power and three toughness. Removing a blocker or annoying creature is great, and allows you to convert Garruk into his true beast. 1/1 Deathtouch Wolves shine in the creature matchups like Maverick. Knight can no longer rumble in without Mother of Runes protection, which allows a gap for you to use instant-speed removal while they grant protection from your wolves. The layering of complexity further adds to the nuances that need to be accounted for by your opponent. The 1/1 Wolves usually end up attacking for a few points at a time while your other creatures act as defense, and now Deathrite can further extend this reach. With Ulvenwald Tracker, you absolutely dominate creature combat by using Wolves to throw up against Knights, again opening more windows for instant-speed removal in response to Mother of Runes activations. Tutoring for another Knight by sacrificing Dryad Arbor or a Wolf is also a good trade. Garruk’s ultimate doesn’t come out often, but can definitely by something to remember especially if you’ve been in a stalemate situation for a while; you can literally win out nowhere if you opponent fails to realize what is going on.

But what about Liliana of the Veil? Liliana costs a mana less, but is more colour intensive. She has symmetrical discard though, which means for it to be very effective, you have to want to pitch cards or have something like Life from the Loam to gain long-term advantage. Her ultimate is fine, but you’re blowing up stuff anyway. You’re already killing creatures. She’s redundancy for the Junk deck, but she’s not doing anything groundbreaking that you shouldn’t already by doing. She does very little in the Miracles matchup, since she’s not exploiting any weaknesses. They draw more cards than you, and they usually have few permanents they care about if her ultimate ability is used; they will usually save anything such as a Jace even if they are required to sacrifice the rest of their permanents. They play no creatures (basically) that you care about, except Angel tokens which require little investment beyond casting Entreat itself. Garruk not only exploits weaknesses, but puts other decks on the back foot, and forces them to find an answer to a threat they did not expect. He is pricey at four mana, but he’s worth the investment. The value in creature combat, as well as breaking control matches, is nearly unparalleled by another reasonably costed planeswalker except Elspeth. Elspeth fell off my radar due to a few reasons. The mana cost is a bit prohibitive to a deck mainly in black and green. Everyone has an answer for white tokens since Lingering Souls became a card. 1/1 tokens are easier to deal with. Her ultimate doesn’t help against Miracles. All these sentence fragments have pushed me away from Elspeth and into the loving arms of Garruk Relentless. Many decks still run Elspeth, and she’s very good, I just don’t think she does enough things that I want in the current metagame.

The article is running a bit long, so I’ll talk about the sideboard in the next article. The key piece of advice I can give until next time is to find sideboard cards that overlap in your matchups so you do not have dead cards in your sideboard that only function in one matchup, unless you feel that matchup is poor enough and prevalent enough to warrant the inclusion of those cards.

Closing Thoughts

With the correct suite of card draw and filtering, threats, answers, and a well built sideboard and manabase, anyone can succeed in a defined metagame playing a deck that they like to play. The nice thing about Junk is that with the suite of removal and disruption, along with a fast clock, you can do well in most metagames because you have a wide variety of answers to many diverse strategies. Even if your mainboard cannot cover a variety of matchups, the colors of Junk contain many relevant cards to bring in from the sideboard to shore up any given matchup. Right now, the Junk color pie is shaping up to be well positioned in a metagame consisting of Maverick, RUG, Combo, and Miracle Control. Maybe put down those Brainstorms to try the raw power that is a Black, White, and Green mid-range deck. You might otherwise never know how much fun you can have beating up on Blue.

Until next time,
Matt Pavlic