MTGO recently – like, around August – decided to decouple themselves from the EDH Council for online play, based on players primarily focusing on 1v1 commander on MTGO. I’ve not been very interested in Standard right now – not sure why, I think it’s the loss of Eldritch Moon and the failure of Ixalan to excite me for constructed – so instead I’ve been playing Commander 1v1.
The two things about Commander 1v1 that appeal to me the most are that it’s a high-variance format, and its card pool is well, kinda-vintage. It’s wide enough that I can play with some old favourites that had already left Standard by the time I saw them, but the investment to get involved isn’t like getting into canlander, legacy or vintage.
Judgment was in my taillights when I started playing the game, even though it was full of cards I like the look of. I also skipped Alara block, meaning that to me, Jund has always been an ideal rather than oppressive game presence. Jund is a sort of philosophy of play: Mid range, aggression, pressure. If the Rock was a control deck of incremental value, Jund is the midrange deck of it – a deck that wanted disruption into mid-sized threat into control to close things out. A jund deck was happy to use threats I like, like Putrid Leech or Bloodbraid Elf, because they give you something more than just the body; creatures on the board hit faces but on the way in or the way out, they get you a little bit extra.
I’ve made a few builds of this deck and some of them I really like: they win decently well, but I notice sometimes I’d lose from oddball side effects, of effects not being redundant or not having quite enough of something. Floods, screws – the normal testing limits of a deck building experience.
What we’re going to do here is a little process series; I’m going to start with some ‘base’ Jund decks, and then we’re going to decompile them, and talk about how to represent the same thing in a Commander 1v1 deck. We’re going to discuss some 8×8 theory, redundancy, and high variance magic. We’re going to talk about having a game plan, and being able to make that game plan work, and we’ll talk about building within budget constraints. Sound like fun?
Step 1. Picking A Purpose
I’m starting out looking to play Jund colours – red, green, and black. Why am I heading to Jund? It’s a bit of a walk, but come with me. Here’s the basic reason:
This is a Hermit Druid. Hermit Druid is part of a classic combo deck that uses an unintentional effect of this card to dump as much of your library into your graveyard as possible, then use some of a variety of effects to put a card from your graveyard onto the battlefield that can win on the spot. There are a lot of ways to do this, but that’s the basic idea, and one of the ways this basic idea can work is with this friend in the graveyard:
I really like Anger. Anger transforms decks from being decently threatening to being super aggressive; mid-range creatures with haste become absolute beat-sticks when you can continue to pile on the pressure. Anger, on its own, is a really decent little card. If your game plan is to barf your library into your graveyard, Anger seems a really good creature to add to your deck anyway.
Hermi Druid is banned in commander 1v1. I wouldn’t want to play a pure Hermit Druid deck though because pure Hermit Druid is just a bit dull: it’s a deck that has only one particular axis of action and it either combos or it doesn’t combo, and I don’t like playing pure combo. I like playing midrange, normally. But the idea, a deck that fills its graveyard and hits its opponent is pretty interesting. I’ve played decks like that – particularly decks that orient around Karador and Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord. Those decks, however, tend towards being slow and grindy, and they tend to rely heavily on their core plan of graveyard manipulation, and any Bokuja Bogs just end your game.
The interaction between Dredge cards and multi-draw-and-discard spells for Black, however, really interests me; dredge is one of the most broken mechanics in the game, and this is a comparably fair way to play with it: use it with cards you want to play with, then maybe some mult-draw spell lets you suddenly flush your graveyard full, and then you get some sort of aggressive payload that lets you win suddenly from a behind position. A backup plan that turns the deck into some sort of combo. I really like that idea!
So that’s our starting point: A mid-range deck that’s willing to put a bunch of cards in the yard for potentially explosive wins, without being reliant on the graveyard. That means the deck probably wants a gameplan that isn’t reliant on the graveyard, but still gets perks to some extent from the graveyard. Good news is, that means that there’s some value to cards that provide us with Flashback, or Retrace, or other stuff that play out of the graveyard – cards that come with some inherent small advantage.
With that in mind, that reminds me of a deck that has a similar plan – and we’ll learn more about it next time, when we talk about templating off a classic deck, Jund.
Oh, and, if jund colours aren’t your flavour… there’s a similar combo available in 1v1 commander with the Mimeoplasm consuming Blackcleave Goblin and something like Jokulmorder and Wonder + Brawn in the graveyard, but that feels a little more focused. I don’t like it as much because I don’t think I’d want to run the goblin in the deck if I never drew/discarded anything else.