Menu

The Anti-Junk Junk – An overlong deck tech

Modern is a sweet Magic format. Looking at the current metagame, there’s two main issues that challenge this statement: the return to the almighty B/G/x overlords following the recent bannings and the popularity, consistency and increased power level of linear burn strategies.

According to the metagame data the guys at Masters of Modern gathered, these two decks make up nearly a quarter of this format together. The third elephant in the room, URx Splinter Twin, is also heavily played and with the other two strategies forms a clear trio of top decks one needs to have a solid plan against.

The idea is to join them, but not quite. This is obviously nothing new and has been demonstrated by Jacob Wilson (and others) who rocked the recent Modern Pro Tour with a creature-heavy version of Junk that was built to specifically address the match-up against ‘regular’ Junk decks. While it also has a decent shot against Burn (arguably better than stock Junk), it lacks enough meaningful interaction to keep up with Twin.

As I am soon going to Denmark to battle in some sort of modern-age Hamlet rendition, slinging spells and cardboard, my aim is to come up with a Junk list that ticks all three boxes: being a clear favourite in the mirror, having an even to slightly good Burn match-up and being even to slightly favoured against various Twin strategies.

At its core, Modern (unlike Legacy, etc.) is a format representative of Modern magic principles: threats versus removal with some archaic combos present that don’t follow this paradigm. When building this deck, I wanted to have resilience against the three most played and powerful removal spells in Modern (Lightning Bolt, Abrupt Decay and Path to Exile) while simultaneously having access to a wide array of these effects myself.

Here’s the deck list; I feel I have managed to put together a pile of cards that won’t ever get 1-for-1ed by a mere piece of burn or Golgari-flavoured destruction.

Not So Junk Modern

Creatures (14)
Voice of Resurgence
Kitchen Finks
Siege Rhino
Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Spells (21)
Lingering Souls
Abrupt Decay
Path to Exile
Maelstrom Pulse
Murderous Cut
Dismember
Go for the Throat
Inquisition of Kozilek
Thoughtseize

Land (25)
Verdant Catacombs
Windswept Heath
Marsh Flats
Stirring Wildwood
Temple Garden
Overgrown Tomb
Godless Shrine
Forest
Swamp
Plains
Gavony Township
Vault of the Archangel
Sideboard (15)
Aven Mindcensor
Stony Silence
Thragtusk
Duress
Choke
Path to Exile
Sorin, Solemn Visitor
Zealous Persecution
Wrath of God
Dromoka’s Command

While there’s probably a lot to take in here, I’m sure some of my readers will have started yelling “NO GOYFS?!? NO LILIS?!?” at the top of their lungs when they had the first glimpse at this list. Indeed, everyone’s favourite wallet-munching Lhurgoyf and powerful planeswalker are fully absent here. We are joining Junk but we brought some recruits left without a home after the Pod banning instead of these B/G core cards and I’ll explain the reasoning more in-depth when it comes to individual card choices.

The Creatures:

4 Voice of Resurgence

4 Kitchen Finks

These go hand in hand and provide a resilient early game and raw card advantage when faced with most removal. While Path to Exile is effective against this list, it is also overloaded and an early Path can provide us with some back-breaking ramp, while the deck’s 6 (!) basics mean that we can also benefit from late-game Paths to power up our mana sinks.

While Voice, unlike Goyf, leaves a sweet, sweet token (see: Lingering Souls) back when it gets decayed, another less intuitive advantage is that you can always slam it on T2 when you expect a Lightning Bolt. Sure, the magical Christmas-Goyf (which is not such a rare occurrence) comes down as a 2/3 or 3/4 after a T1 discard spell and laughs at red mages’ silly spells, but the T1 manland T2 Goyf sequence gets tempo’d and valued out hard. Voice doesn’t even allow them to use their mana end of turn; solidifying an all-important tempo and positioning advantage. It also makes any Liliana of the Veils in their hand look rather silly. Just like Tarmogoyf, Scavenging Ooze is a very good Magic card, but needs to be played around Bolt (needing triple G mana and two creatures in graveyards) and simply dies to Decay.

Kitchen Finks shares Voice’s resilience but is a key creature here for its role in the Burn match-up. Not only is the incidental lifegain worth a lot, it also blocks all their creatures, offering an additional two precious points while doing so. Moreover, it combos with the 1-2 Gavony Townships that we should be running, further allowing us to grind out opponents in the late game. Also, hi Liliana!

4 Siege Rhino

It’s Siege Rhino, ‘nuff said. Yeah this is where we’re at with this format and while I love it, I totally see why people are put off. The most efficient 4-drop totally changes the dynamic of how Junk plays and what removal is good in which quantities. Generally, playing a bunch of removal spells that can’t 1-for-1 a rhinoceros is a losing proposition.

2 Tasigur, the Golden Fang

Bananas are good for you. Playing a 4/5 for 1-3 mana and having a late game mana sink that is especially back breaking in the mirror is also good. I am playing two as this list doesn’t fill up the graveyard as fast as other decks that can run Tasigur and because I want to run a singleton Murderous Cut as another delve spell.

4 Lingering Souls

Some lists run three and I think that’s wrong. It’s not only the nuts in the mirror, it also highly increases the game we have against strategies that are generally hard match-ups, particularly Affinity and Infect who don’t want to see a ton of flying 1/1 blockers. The spirits also combo with Voice tokens and our utility lands, while not caring much for spot removal.

The Removal Suite:

3 Abrupt Decay

I love Abrupt Decay, I would like to run four, but I don’t think it’s a good idea. We want (most of) our removal to be able to deal with Siege Rhino and Tasigur and I assume that others have also experimented with Decay-proof decks. A natural weakness against control decks is negligible at the moment, but the Melbourne scene has a weird obsession with UWR durdles. On the flip side, Decay kills a lot of stuff for two mana: they want to tech you out of the mirror with Sword of Light and Shadow -> decay it, oh noes, Pyromancer Ascension -> decay it, 9/1 with Cranial Plating … I’m sure you get the deal by now. Fortunately, there’s a similar effect that gets rid of the rhinoceros king as well.

3 Path to Exile

The drawback is real. There’s no point in pretending it isn’t. Having a one-mana no-nonsense answer to just about any creature is huge though. The tempo gained by pathing a Siege Rhino is real. Being able to kill Wurmcoil Engine is also real. In an ideal world, we would use this as a late-game answer after developing our board and killing problematic permanents with other spells in our repertoire first. If you’re not aware, this is not an ideal world and sometimes you have to path a T2 or T3 threat and then deal with the consequences.

2 Maelstrom Pulse

Where did that fourth Abrupt Decay go? Ah, here it is. We traded one copy for Decay’s bigger and more expensive cousin. I used to hate Maelstrom Pulse and thought it was an over-costed, unnecessary catch-all answer. Then Treasure Cruise got the axe and Rhino took the throne, and now this kills Rhino while still doing the Decay thing for one extra mana. It’s bad against Twin game 1 but is a nice out to Batterskull post-board (as well as killing Jace, Architect of Thought, Sower of Temptation and most other evil attempts of next levelling you). I would never run more than two in Modern, but I feel that that’s a good number at the moment.

1 Dismember

1 Murderous Cut

1 Go for the Throat

A healthy mix of more situational answer that all deal with Rhino, Goyf, Deceiver Exarch and other things that we don’t want on the battlefield. Dismember is pretty horrifying against Burn, Murderous Cut taxes our graveyard and Go for the Throat is dead against Affinity which is still the fourth most played deck in the format. As one-ofs they’re all similar enough in effect while avoiding the problem of drawing multiples when they’re just dead cardboard. Go for the Throat has the (well-known by now, I guess) additional bonus of not being redirectable to Spellskite versus Twin and Infect as the Skite is an illegal target.

Interruption:

4 Inquisition of Kozilek

2 Thoughtseize

Discard is essential in Junk for curve purposes as well as an answer to random combos people want to throw at you. I like six in the main deck, although seven is reasonable too. With Burn more than a tenth of the meta, my default starting point is 4 Inquisitions. Having more discard in the sideboard is also important and lets you interact with decks like Scapeshift more (this list has a noticeable worse match-up there without Lilianas and Goyfs, if Valakuts become more popular again, this would need addressing).

The Manabase:

This is a deck’s most important part. Spells need lands to cast them with and we want our lands to do more than just that. This manabase is VERY different to stock Junk and I like it a lot. In general not playing cards like Liliana of the Veil, Courser of Kruphix and Scavenging Ooze takes out a lot of the strain of the colour requirements we have to meet and allows us to play more of Magic’s most undervalued cards: basic lands.

4 Verdant Catacombs

3 Windswept Heath

3 Marsh Flats

Ten fetches allow us to reliably get the basic we want while upping our game against Blood Moon and providing fodder for Tasigur and Murderous Cut. A slight bias towards Verdant Catacombs as the most common starts this deck has are T1: fetch Swamp or Godless Shrine and play a discard spell, T2 fetch/play basic forest and play Voice of Resurgence.

1 Temple Garden

1 Overgrown Tomb

1 Godless Shrine

Yup, only one shock each. We don’t need more due to our lowered colour commitments and taking two damage is never negligible, especially not when your opponent wants to Lava Spike you out of the game.

2 Forest

2 Swamp

2 Plains

The bread and butter of this mana base. Unlike other Junk lists, we are not BGw but have a fairly even split between the three colours, so this is reflected in the choice of basics. Basics are gas, they don’t cost life, come into play untapped and let you beat Blood Moon. Play more!

4 Stirring Wildwood

Manlands are sweet. They’re additional late game threats that don’t cost a card, help against board wipes and planeswalkers and even tap for mana. We’re running four Wildwoods and no Treetop Villages as tapping for two colours is valuable and especially important with Voice of Resurgence as a two-drop. They also fit the theme of not dying to Lightning Bolt.

1 Gavony Township

1 Vault of the Archangel

There’s three options for colourless utility lands: these two Innistrad-block gems and Tectonic Edge. I prefer the more proactive approach and Tectonic Edge is not at its best in the current metagame and doesn’t work too well with Path to Exile. I wouldn’t run more than two of these as they’re awkward in multiples and don’t cast CC spells like Voice of Resurgence and Abrupt Decay, but they provide powerful effects and a use for extra mana. While Township is more synergistic, Vault is great against Burn and allows all our creatures to trade up in unfavourable boardstates. If we happen to draw both it is also nice to have a choice.

Sideboard:

Nearly as important to a deck as the manabase. Especially in a well-rounded midrange deck, it makes more sense to see the whole 75 cards as a fluid entity that takes different shapes according to opponents’ decks and sideboard plans. That’s why I eschew powerful but narrow hatecards where possible and try to work with cards that serve a purpose in multiple match-ups. I’m particularly averse to cards that just answer Burn, such as Kor Firewalker and Feed the Clan, as I don’t think they are necessary with the 60 tuned to have game against burn and a range of more flexible choices in the board.

3 Aven Mindcensor

This is the good old Fulminator Mage slot. We can’t run the Stone Rain on legs due to mana cost issues but this bird is a worthy replacement. Primarily aimed at Scapeshift, Tron and Amulet Bloom, it is also a possible consideration in match-ups where a 2/1 flash flyer with upside is better than some main deck cards.

2 Stony Silence

The gold standard of hate cards. Does nothing in multiples but back-breaking against Affinity and helpful against Tron.

2 Thragtusk

I respect Burn too much to play Batterskull over this. Comes in versus pesky red mages and the mirror and is a beast in both. Or two beasts. Whatever. A good Magic card.

2 Duress

As you might have read earlier in this pile of an article, more discard in the sideboard is good. Duress is another Burn/other match-ups split card with strong applications against most things combo. What we gain in flexibility by not running additional copies of Thoughtseize, we lose on power as we are not able to hit cards like Inferno Titan or Wurmcoil Engine out of Scapeshift’s sideboard.

1 Choke

Rather narrow but powerful. I don’t like Islands; neither should you. Choke your Merfolk, Twin, Delver, etc. opponent out of the game. Much fun.

1 Path to Exile

Additional removal when we need it.

1 Sorin, Solemn Visitor

Fulfils the same function as Thragtusk, grinds and gains life. Only costs four mana and can get out of hand quickly.

1 Zealous Persecution

This kills Lingering Souls in the mirror, is a near boardwipe against Affinity and is useful against other decks utilising X/1s. Also helps if Young Pyromancer is making a resurgence; although I’d play more copies then.

1 Wrath of God

Just a boardwipe. Most Junk lists play Damnation; this is the same effect except easier to cast with our manabase. Surprisingly relevant in the mirror as we run eight threats that leave a body behind.

1 Dromoka’s Command

An untested new addition. I guess I like flexibility. Another Burn/stuff split slot. An easy 2-for-1 against a Burn spell plus a Goblin Guide or Eidolon of the Great Revel and the only card in our 75 that can deal with a resolved Keranos, God of Storms against Twin or Blue Moon.

That’s it. Way longer than I thought but I hope it’s a decent read. Junk on!

Bonus sideboard guides for the Top 3 decks:

Junk midrange:

– 4 Inquisition of Kozilek
– 2 Thoughtseize

+ 2 Thragtusk
+ 1 Sorin, Solemn Visitor
+ 1 Zealous Persecution
+ 1 Path to Exile
+ 1 Wrath of God

Post board our focus is card advantage and containing their scariest threats, slowly grinding them out of cards.

Burn:

– 2 Thoughtseize
– 2 Maelstrom Pulse
– 2 Lingering Souls
– 1 Dismember

+ 2 Thragtusk
+ 2 Duress
+ 1 Sorin, Solemn Visitor
+ 1 Dromoka’s Command
+ 1 Path to Exile

Gain life, don’t take damage, fetch basics and present a clock.

Twin:

– 2 Siege Rhino
– 1 Dismember
– 1 Murderous Cut
– 1 Maelstrom Pulse

+ 2 Duress
+ 1 Choke
+ 1 Dromoka’s Command
+ 1 Path to Exile

Don’t fear but respect the combo and clock them. Adjust according to what their sideboard plan is, not their game 1 deck. Respect Blood Moon and get basics when you can. Path to Exile on your own creature can also get you a basic in a pinch.

%d bloggers like this: