April 1, 2016

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Screw Loose Brews: Greedy Jund

Greed is a powerful thing. It can push a person to greatness, or it can drive them to madness. Complete and utter MADNESS. Greed can also be a weapon, or a source of tremendous power – at least if you're playing Magic.

The return to Innistrad brought us two things in particular that I'm excited about; the Madness mechanic, and The Gitrog Monster. After all, who doesn't love going insane and/or giant frog monsters? Let's talk about this amphibian horror  a quick moment before we break into this week's Screw Loose Brew.

Also known as the Gitgud Monster, also known as the Bog Frog, also known as Sir Draws-A-Lot-Of-Cards. The amount of power this guy can bring you is limited only by your ability/willingness to take risks. For starters, he's a 6/6 for five mana, which is amazing. Second, he has Deathtouch, which means he is going to come out on top in most combat situations. I wish he had reach like some of his frog brethren, but I'll settle for Deathtouch. Here's where it gets silly:

At the beginning of your upkeep, sacrifice The Gitrog Monster unless you sacrifice a land.
You may play an additional land on each of your turns.
Whenever one or more land cards are put into your graveyard from anywhere, draw a card.

Every upkeep, we have to sacrifice either a land or the big Bog Frog himself. If we opt to sacrifice a land – which we probably will – the final portion of his ability triggers and we get to draw a card. The passive component of his ability, being able to play an additional land each turn, should theoretically help make up for sacrificing a land each turn, but only if you can consistently draw into them. The only problem with that is, if we're consistently drawing into land, we're not drawing into other important things like removal, or other creatures. This is especially true if we're only drawing one card a turn.

But why? Why should we only draw one card a turn? Where's the fun in that? Where's the greed? Where's the silliness?

Enter Avaricious Dragon.

Queue the Jurassic Park noises people, this is a big ol' beastie. A 4/4 flyer for four is never a bad thing. His ability can give pause for a moment though:

At the beginning of your draw step, draw an additional card.
At the beginning of your end step, discard your hand.

Greedy, greedy, greedy dragon. I like it! So, at the end of each turn, we discard our hand. That's kind of a drag (Ha! Get it? It's a drag, and it's a dragon? #GeniusPuns), but we get to be greedy and draw an extra card at the start of our draw step. A beautiful piece of synergy between this guy and The Gitrog Monster is that if we discard any lands at the end of the turn, we get to turn around and draw a card for each land if there's a Bog Frog on the log. I mean the field. We'd then sacrifice a land during our upkeep to draw a card and keep the frog, followed by drawing two more cards during our draw step. The greed is real! Multiple Avaricious Dragons means multiple extra cards drawn at the start of our draw step – Because like I said, drawing one card in a draw phase is just no fun at all.

But is it enough? Is drawing two-three cards a turn really enough? Maybe, but I think we can do better. I think we can have more if we really commit to this auspiciously avaricious play style. The only real problem is, if we commit to the Avaricious Dragon, we're admitting we're insane. If we're admitting we're insane, we're going to get committed. If we get committed, we're going to want some company.

Perfect company. So, just to be clear, not only this card a 3/1 for two mana, but it lets us draw another card!

At the beginning of each player's upkeep, if that player has no cards in hand, you draw a card and you lose 1 life.
Madness {1}{B} (If you discard this card, discard it into exile. When you do, cast it for its madness cost or put it into your graveyard.)

At the beginning of each player's upkeep, you say? As in, right after Avaricious Dragon will have caused us to discard our hand? Fantastic. +1 card, and if we play that during our opponent's turn, we'll end up with yet another +1 card. Which is then followed up with +1 from The Gitrog Monster, and then another +1 from each Avaricious Dragon on the field. Oh, and of course the card that we're supposed to draw during our draw step. This is greed I can get behind!

Let's take a quick look at a list that uses (and abuses) the greed these monsters bring, in a way that only a Jund coloured list can:

I've said it already, and I'm going to say it again. The greed is real. You know what else is real? The synergy. Let's break it down a little more.

Fiery Temper is going to be the new Lightning Bolt for as long as it's in Standard, provided you have steady discard outlets – which we very much do in the form of Avaricious Dragon, Sinister Concoction, Lightning Axe, and, of course, Olivia, Mobilized for War. The only time we don't want this bad boy in our hands is if we tap out to play Avaricious Dragon. As soon as he's on the field, we want all of the Fiery Tempers. Discard them from the Dragon, discard them for Olivia, discard them for Lightning Axe, discard them for fun and profit! You're going to want to keep that field clear and occasionally burn your opponent for some quick damage.

Lightning Axe is the new Roast. A discard outlet and removal spell in one, this card should be able to burn through almost anything you see leering at you from across the table. Once our draw engines are in place, we should almost never draw into one of these with nothing to fuel it, and nothing is quite as satisfying as discarding a Fiery Temper for a Lightning Axe and clearing a field before swinging with Avaricious Dragon, Asylum Visitor, and any other friends we might happen to have on the field.

Sinister Concoction is a beautiful card here. Not only is it one of the quickest plays we can make, but it feeds delirium, acts as removal, and is a discard outlet. So good here. The real reason we play this card here is that like Lightning Axe and Fiery Temper, it has a cost of one mana. This means that even with an Avaricious Dragon on the field, we should be able to empty our hand as quickly as we fill it. And we will fill it many, many times, because we're just so greedy.

Reclaim is the secret MVP of this deck. With an Avaricious Dragon out, we definitely want the option to recover discarded items – but the problem is, we don't want them in our hand when our turn ends. Reclaim lets us pick something from the graveyard and put it on top of our deck, meaning that it becomes card number one of two (or three, or four, or five) that we'll draw next turn.

'But Screw Loose  Brew Guy', you're thinking, 'What happens if all I draw into is land?'. Have I got just the thing for you! Molten Vortex paired with fresh Groundskeeper! As an Enchantment, Vortex helps us feed Delirium if it ends up in the graveyard, but if it stays on the field it provides us with a steady source of removal that we can feed any surplus lands to. You get extra bonus points if you have this and The Gitrog Monster out at the same time – Deal two Damage to target creature or player and draw a card for one mana? Gitgud indeed, Bog Frog, gitgud indeed.

Groundskeeper is here to stop us from harming ourselves too deeply by our greed. She brings back lands sacrificed to the Molten Vortex or the Gitrog Monster, or that have ended up in the graveyard by way of Avaricious Dragon or Sinister Concoction. Groundskeeper + Molten Vortex + Gitrog Monster = absurd. Absurd! But let's be honest, it's not absurd enough to run as more than a singleton/side combo for removal or recursion.

While I feel that the Languish is self explanatory, I want to talk a little about why I have three Unnatural Endurance in this list. The reasons are myriad, but can primarily be summed up with two words: 'Aggro' and 'Lightning Axe'. This deck needs it's draw engines on the field, which means it needs an Avaricious Dragon or two, but it also needs to constantly be putting pressure on your opponent. Swinging in with a 3/1 on the ground or a 4/4 in the air is great pressure – right up until they die to a Lightning Axe and we lose the ability to draw tons of cards. Unnatural Endurance helps preserve our guys through a Lightning Axe and gives them the ability to both hit harder and trade better. An absolutely essential card in my opinion, but one that is not so essential that it can't be discarded to Axe or Olivia or Sinister in a pinch.

Olivia, Mobilized for War herself is here for two reasons – the first is to give make our dragons into 5/5 flying haste creatures, the second is to act as a discard outlet. The fact that she's a 3/3 flyer for three doesn't hurt things, but her role here is relatively minor compared to the rest of our previously mentioned creature choices.

Murderous Compulsion is here simply to act as removal, though the Madness synergy is incredible here. Discard it to anything and play it for it's Madness cost to gain that extra bit of advantage that you just won't find in decks that aren't as greedy as this one.

Deathcap Cultivator is pretty straight forward – He helps us accelerate our game play, and in the mid/late game he can pretty easily get that Delirium-induced Deathtouch and become an adequate chump blocker.

Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is self explanatory – Are you running a bunch of removal spells that will lead to your opponent having multiple dead creatures consistently? #BetterCallKalitas. In this deck list, he acts as a potential win condition through nearly endless zombie tokens, and helps recover some of the life we've lost to Asylum Visitor and Sinister Concoction. As a fun play, you can sacrifice anything that Olivia has made into a vampire to pump him up. This is especially fun if your opponent is about to destroy that creature. Deny them the satisfaction and do the work yourself, giving Kalitas more +1/+1 counters! Asylum Visitor can also be sacrificed to Kalitas if the sustained life loss starts to get to be too much.

Inexorable Blob is here to keep the pressure on your opponent as much as possible. Will you have Delirium by turn four? It's entirely possible. Between Sinister Concoction, Lightning Axe, and the rest, it's quite likely that we can tailor our graveyard to hit that Delirium count very early, and start the endless multiplication of Blobs. For extra value, use Unnatural Endurance to trade successfully with an opponent's creature post token generation.

So, what do you think? Can greed be good? As always, let me know what you think about this week's brew in the comments below, and thanks for tuning in to another edition of Screw Loose Brews!