September 5, 2017

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Brewing With Ixalan - Ju(nd)rassic Park

Okay, yes, it's a bad pun - but somebody had to be the first one to make it. Or at least the first to take credit for it on a public forum. Hurray for the internet!

But in all seriousness, let's talk Jund. As I'm sure veteran players are sick to death of hearing by now, 'Jund' gets its name from the red, black, and green shard of the plane of Alara, and it was a massively popular archetype during the eponymous Shards of Alara block.

As a Standard format archetype of the time, Jund was aggressive, and was dreaded for its seemingly standard-breaking ability to generate advantage out of every card it played. Cards like Broodmate Dragon, Sprouting Thrinax, Siege-Gang Commander, and the infamous Bloodbraid Elf were complemented by an array of efficient removal such as Terminate and Maelstrom Pulse. It was a rough standard, folks. Having an opponent Cascade from Bituminous Blast into Bloodbraid Elf into Rampant Growth was just... the soul-crushing worst.

Today, Jund is still a powerful archetype in the Modern format, where its aggression is paired with cards that offer big effects for massive value. Cards like Scavenging Ooze, Abrupt Decay, Liliana of the Veil - and who can forget Tarmogoyf - make the Modern Jund a multi-faceted threat that punishes opponents on various fronts.

With Battle for Zendikar, Oath of the Gatewatch, Shadows over Innistrad, and Eldritch Moon all rotating out, and Ixalan ROARING its way into an LGS near you, could this be the moment Jund has been waiting for to make a return to Standard? Let's do a couple of bad brews and see what we can do.

When designing this brew, I tried to stick to the theme of getting a ton value for each card played, and I feel like I've hit that mark pretty well.  On the low end of the curve, we have a plethora of familiar two and three Mana removal spells, as well as a play set of Drover of the Mighty and a trio of Beneath the Sands. While they aren't the most advantageous cards to be playing, they certainly compliment this deck quite nicely, and help speed up the rate at which you can climb up to the top of your Dino-curve.

Ripjaw Raptor in the four-drop slot is definitely the way to go. As a blocker, having a 4/5 body means it's capable of stopping all but the staunchest ground attacks. It can also survive interactions with Abrade or Cut // Ribbons in a pinch when you really need that card draw. This guy and Sweltering Suns might just be best friends.

Cards that generate a sizable token like Regisaur Alpha are few and far between in Magic's history, and when they are printed they almost always have a heavy impact on Standard. With the right deck, I believe that Regisaur Alpha could have what it takes to join the likes of Thragtusk and Wingmate Roc in the value-generating, standard-defining hall of fame.

While it should go without saying, the goal here is to use a hefty removal suite to keep the board clear while ramping into ever-greater beasties, getting ever-bigger dinosaurs on a curve that includes the monstrous Carnage Tyrant. If this guy hits the field, your opponent is going to be digging for a Fumigate, Doomfall, or Haze of Pollen, because short of those few cards, there just aren't a ton of ways to deal with a resolved Carnage Tyrant. As if being uncounterable wasn't enough, or if being a 7/6 Trample for six Mana was still not good enough, it also has Hexproof. Ouch. I, for one, welcome our Dinosaur overlords.

Next on the curve, with its own Godzilla-like 7/6 body, is Gishath, Sun's Avatar. While lacking the Hexproof that his mono-green sister-rex has, Gishath is still able to dodge all but the staunchest red removal spells (I'm looking at you, Star of Extinction). Having Trample, Vigilance, and Haste means that a well-timed T-Rex attack is guaranteed to do some serious damage. not to mention when he triggers his ability:

"Whenever Gishath, Sun's Avatar deals combat damage to a player, reveal that many cards from the top of your library. Put any number of Dinosaur creature cards from among them onto the battlefield and the rest on the bottom of your library in a random order."

If you land an attack with Gishath, expect to be able to dig for at least a few of dinosaurs out of your deck. If you're lucky, you'll hit a more than a couple targets. If you're unlucky and you some how happen to whiff the first time, your opponent better have a plan to deal with this dastardly dinosaur, or else face a field full of fierce lizard faces. (Say that five times fast!). Pre-sideboard, the deck is already 25% dinosaur - I like those odds! After sideboarding, you can bring that number up to 30% if you feel you just aren't getting enough dino-bang for your dino-buck.

Liliana, Death's Majesty is this deck's real late-game boss. Her ability to bring dinosaurs back to life is something I intend to use in as many games as I possibly can throughout all of Ixalan Standard - and I'm sure I'm not the only one. Paying five mana to get a 4/4 isn't great. However, Paying five mana to get a 4/4 and a 3/3 with Haste and Trample is pretty great. Paying no mana to get  a 4/4 and a 3/3 with Haste and Trample is amazing. Make no mistake, reanimating dead dinosaurs is going to be a serious problem - one that your opponent is going to have to deal with as soon as humanly possible. Let's not forget about the potential for reanimating a Gishath and attacking with him as soon as turn four. Gross.

Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure there's a four-part documentary out there about the pros and cons of reanimating dinosaurs like this, with a fifth part due soon... But whatever, let's talk sideboard. In creature-light matchups, turning a bunch of removal into a set of Tormenting Voice gives this deck major digging power (or should I say excavating power?) while filling your graveyard with the monster bombs that much quicker. A set of Prowling Serpopard and a pair of Heroic Intervention in the side are just what the doctor ordered to deal with pesky control decks, while some Sweltering Suns helps deal with Ramunap Red, Zombies, and probably Merfolk. Round it all off with a couple extra copies of some of our biggest fatties, and we can call it a day on this brew!

I don't know about you guys, but I can't wait to see what else Ixalan brings us. Long live Ju(nd)rassic Park!