Mythic Point Challenge - Preparation, Results, Deck Primer
After the World Championship, my girlfriend and I spent some time sightseeing in Hawaii. It’s a beautiful place that's a little out of reach, so it made sense to spend a couple more days once we were there. This meant I got back home on Monday the 24th, which was five days before the Mythic Point Challenge. I had to hop quickly to my birth town, because my dad had his 60th birthday celebration and I couldn’t miss such an occasion. This left me with only a couple days to practice for the event, which was really hard to do, because I was extremely jetlagged as well. According to my deck tracker, I spent only like 15 hours playing Arena. This was fine, because after Worlds we’ve had a pretty clear picture of the format. Together with Stan and Ivan we decided to install deck trackers, so we would see what the metagame looks like, in order to adapt as best as possible. Today, I’m going to talk about what led us to the decision of playing Jund Cat in the challenge, and then talk about the deck some - sideboard guide obviously included. At Worlds it was pretty clear that UW was the most dominant deck. It’s also very powerful, so it was no surprise to see UW being a half of the top 16 at Dreamhack Anaheim. This put a target on its back, and strategies with good UW matchup started emerging. One of them was the Temur Adventures deck that propelled Aaron Gertler to victory. Aaron himself had an insane win percentage against UW, and reading his report, it’s pretty clear how he became the champion - by crushing UW over and over again.
After Anaheim we wanted to figure out how the metagame would look. There were a bunch of questions we needed to answer. Will Temur Adventures become popular? Is Mono Red still everywhere? What about UW? Are there any other decks that are heavily represented? Obviously, there is only a limited amount of matches we can play, so our knowledge won’t ever be perfect, but tracking matches definitely helped us to see what’s going on. In short, Mono Red and UW were still the most played deck. Temur Adventures wasn’t that popular, maybe because of its difficulty. It’s been marked by many as the hardest deck to play. Personally, I don’t think that’s the case, but it surely gives you a loads of options, because every card has two modes, and Fae of Wishes has like 16. As for other decks, Bant picked up on popularity, mostly because of the myth, the man, the legend Crokeyz, who had little over 75% win percentage in hundred plus matches. However, we were afraid of Bant’s chances against MonoRed. Then there were other decks like Jeskai Fires, Temur Reclamation or Jund Cat, but those were less popular.
Now that we had a snapshot of the metagame, we needed to figure out what to do. First, I’d like our deck to have a good matchup against both UW and Red. This isn’t easy to achieve. Temur Adventures were one option. Against UW you’re big favorite, against Mono Red a slight favorite. There wasn’t much that could be improved on that deck, because Aaron did such a great job with it, so we set it aside as our backup. My fear was that people would adapt to this deck, adding more artifact destruction into their sideboard, and picking up archetypes that are better suited to beat it. At this point Stan started brewing up his super secret deck, that we will have an article on later in the week. That deck showed promise, but ultimately fell a little short.
Jeskai Fires was another option, but our household isn’t that big of a fan of this archetype, which might be a shame. Bunch of people did really well with this deck, so we’ve probably missed something there, but it might just be that the deck is solid, and becomes amazing in the hands of a great player. Personally, I’ve never felt comfortable playing Fires, so it wasn’t amongst my considerations. I reached out to Matt Nass, who went 10-2, and he told me it has a favorable matchup against Adventures, which might make it a good choice moving forward.
My frontrunner from the start was Jund Cat. It was the deck I was most worried about going into Worlds. UW has a hard time beating it, because it interacts poorly with the Cat + Oven + Trail combo. It’s cheap so it sneaks under your counterspells, and you can’t answer it with Elspeth Conquers Death. Jund’s worst matchup Temur Reclamation was pushed out after it’s poor performance at Worlds. Against Red you’re not the best, but that could be improved with a solid sideboard. Also rumour had it, that the deck is favoured against Adventures. I played a bunch of matches with the deck and ended up with good, but not great 66% win percentage. This wasn’t that promising, but my winrate picked up the closer it got to the event, with more experience under my belt. I didn’t spend much time playing Jund Cat in past Standard, so I definitely needed to get in the tune with the deck. With so many tiny interactions going on it took me a while, and I’d benefit from having an extra day or two.
Late into the testing process, Martin Juza, who we discussed our findings with at the end of every day, mentioned he might play Temur Reclamation. I believe this deck will be strong with UW and Mono Red being on a decline after this weekend, but I think it was tad early for it in the challenge. None of my housemates felt comfortable playing that deck on low practice as well and me neither. Reclamation looks like an absolute nightmare to just pick and play well with, but if you’re able to pilot it properly, I think it’s due for a comeback.
After our secret deck failed, we had to choose between Adventures and Jund Cat. While I've had good results with Adventures, I had five wins to zero losses, I was still worried about the field being harshly prepared for it. The boys also settled on Cat, they both played the deck infinitely in the past, and I felt like we had solid plans against all the matchups. We kind of gave up on the Temur Reclamation matchup, but I honestly didn’t think it would be popular. None of us faced it in the event. Here’s where we ended up:
We’ve already written so many articles about this deck, so let’s skip over the basics. Cat, Oven, Trail, Devil, Goose are the bangers. Always play four of those. Then we have the usual suspects Korvold, Murderous Rider and Casualties, and a couple new cards. One thing to note is that behind the core of the deck, the quality of cards goes down. If you could play like 55 cards, this deck would be much better, in my opinion. Late into the testing, we added an extra land, because Stan wanted to have more green sources, and also because it led us to playing one less bad card maindeck.
The most interesting addition is Wolfwillow Haven. I believe this is an upgrade to Paradise Druid. While this doesn’t fix your mana, it’s almost immune to removal, although it can be bounced by Teferi and blown out by Casualties. The biggest reason why I like this is the fact that you can play it on an untapped land and use it right away. This makes it cost basically a single mana, which is nice. It also has some synergy with Korvold and Mayhem Devil, being a sacrifice effect, but this doesn’t come up that often.
Agonizing Remorse is nothing special, but it's a useful catchall. I think two copies is the perfect amount, and I wouldn’t play four like Kanister does. Polukranos is a fine answer to Dream Trawler, but it’s honestly nothing special and I could see it getting the axe.
Rounding up the deck is a copy of Wicked Wolf and Midnight Reaper. These cards could be anything based on the metagame. Massacre Girl, Angrath’s Rampage and maybe Thrashing Brontodon, but don’t tell Stan, because he banned this card from our house testing.
Like I mentioned already we tried to build our sideboard in order to beat Mono Red. We figured Redcap Melee was the best card against Red, with Dragonfire being supplemental answer for Anax. We wanted to have a bunch of answers for artifacts with Clover being popular. Rampage lines up well against Dream Trawler, but I’m not a big fan of the card, its mana cost is very prohibitive and sometimes it gets blanked by a random creature. It would also be good against Bant, but then they sometimes cast Tamiyo and you want to quit Magic. However, it’s quite flexible, so we ended up with two copies. Ceratops is your best card against UW and it’s nice against Fires too. Akroan War is a card Stan likes. It’s good against aggro, while ruining Fires from time to time, but it could easily be a third copy of Wicked Wolf. Couple copies of Duress so we have a chance against Reclamation, and Noxious Grasp for Bant/Innkeeper.
In - 3 Melee, 2 Dragonfire, 1 Wicked Wolf, 1 Akroan War
Out - 2 Casualties, 1 Reaper, 2 Remorse, 2 Murderous Rider (1 Castle, 1 Trail instead on the draw)
Bad game one, good postboard. I’ve never faced this deck in the Challenge, which is a shame, because we tuned our deck to beat it. Stan played it a bunch and beat it every time as far as I know. Not much to say here, protect your life total, assemble your combo, don’t die to Embercleave and win.
UW In - 2 Angrath’s Rampage, 2 Ceratops, 2 Duress
Out - 2 Haven, 1 Wicked Wolf, 2 Rider, 1 Casualties Once you get your combo going, you really don’t need to play anything into their counterspells. Their best way to win is fast Dream Trawler, which can cause us problems as our only main deck answer is Polukranos. However it’s not trivial for them to just tap into Trawler, because we can punish them with Korvold. Postboard it gets trickier and you should board based on what you saw game 1. Murderous Rider can be a fine card if you see a lot of Archons of Sun’s Grace, in this case you might also want to look into bringing Wicked Wolf. Casualties get better if you see Glass Casket. You could cut one Cauldron Familiar as well. Unfortunately I lost to UW twice in the challenge. Both times, I won game one easily and then lost in the postboard games. One of those losses I believe I could have played tighter and in the other I’ve resolved Korvold that drew me like five cards, but I had a flood of biblical proportions and lost. Given my experience, I believe this matchup is evenish. In the case of UW being popular in your metagame, it might be worth considering playing just BG version that would lean more into Castle Locthwain.
In - 2 Rampage, 1 Wicked Wolf, 1 Return to Nature, 1 Noxious Grasp
Out - 2 Casualties, 2 Murderous Rider, 1 Polukranos Low confidence in this sideboard plan. Personally, I’ve played this matchup only once, and there’s been a disagreement on how to sideboard in our household. Ivan claims Remorse is bad, and that Casualties are okay. I think that answering Escape the WIlds is important, so I prefer the discard. It could also be a case of play/draw sideboarding, because Remorse can catch Clover on the play. We will see this matchup more and more moving forward, but this would be my starting point with sideboarding. While the rumors were that this should be a favorable matchup, I think it’s closer to 50/50 than I previously thought, but we should still be favored. Your plan is to deny them both Clover and Innkeeper engine, after that winning should be trivial.
In - 2 Ceratops, 2 Duress, 1 Akroan War, 1 Angrath’s Rampage Out - 1 Wicked Wolf, 4 Mayhem Devil, 1 Polukranos
On the play, keep the Wolf and don’t bring in the Rampage. I believe this matchup is slightly favorable. It’s basically the same as it was last season, but Remorse and Haven are nice additions. Ramping into Korvold is key, but Paradise Druid left you vulnerable to Clarion previously. Besides that they don’t have many ways to interact with your engine. Die roll plays a more crucial role in this matchup and versus Mono Red than against any other deck.
In - 1 Grasp, 2 Duress
Out - 1 Wicked Wolf, 1 Polukranos, 1 Cat Lots changes from version to version. If they don’t have Tamiyo, you want to have Rampage. If they have Narset, Midnight Reaper gets worse. Still not sure about this matchup. Stan picked up his only two losses against this, while I went 3-0, and Ivan also reported doing well against it. Personally, I think this can swing either way, depending on how well your Bant opponent tunes their deck to beat you. Heliod’s Intervention, Aether Gust and Devout Decree are cards that hurt your chances. Your goal is to get on board fast, manage to draw a bunch of cards with Korvold, play smartly around Shatter and Elspeth Conquers Death, which hopefully leads to a win. We’ve had a debate about boarding in Duress, I’ve really liked it, but Stan was a little more hesitant. Information is a big advantage in this matchup, because knowing what to play around is of utmost importance, so I’m certain Duress deserves the slot. Would recommend practicing this one, because it’s not easy, especially with chess clocks. With Cat, it’s incredibly hard to be ahead on time with your engine taking forever clicks, so that’s something to be mindful of. If this matchup gives you trouble, I’d suggest adding Liliana. Ivan actually played it in the event. It’s nice, because it can’t be countered with Gust and it's a very potent answer to Dream Trawler.
In - 2 Duress, 2 Ceratops, 1 Return to Nature
Out - 1 Wicked Wolf, 2 Murderous Rider, 2 Casualties
Like I’ve said, this matchup is pretty bad. You could improve with more discard and enchantment hate like Mystic Repeal, but I’d be surprised if this ever got to 50/50. Whenever you face a bad matchup, I’d recommend being a little bit more reckless. Take risks like not playing around Storm’s Wrath, keep high variance hands and so on. You need to be aggressive here, because eventually they play Expansion/Explosion, which will kill you, and it’s not a card you can answer.
In - 1 Grasp, 1 Akroan War, 1 Melee
Out - 1 Wicked Wolf, 1 Polukranos, 1 Cauldron Familiar
I’ve never played the mirror, but discussed it at lengths with Stan. The key card here is Korvold, and the matchup should be played accordingly. We bring in the Akroan War, which is a great answer to the almighty Dragon. Redcap Melee might look weird, but it can sometimes snipe the Korvold, guaranteed if you have the Mayhem Devil out. The Devil itself is also one of the key cards, so it’s nice having an extra answer. It might be tempting to board in more answers like Scorching Dragonfire, Return to Nature or another Melee, but I can’t stress the importance of keeping your engine intact enough. You simply can’t board much. That’s all I know about the Cat. Our records in the challenge were 10-2 for Stan, 4-3 for Ivan, who lost his last match due to internet issues, and yours truly at 7-3. Picking up 3 Mythic points might come handy in the MPL race, so that’s nice. This puts our combined record at 21-8, which is a respectable, but not totally amazing winrate. Looking back at the event, I think it might have been wiser to register Temur Adventures, because it would suit my playstyle better. However, I believe Jund Cat is a tier 1 deck, and I’m satisfied with our preparation. Overall the Standard metagame seems healthy. There are a bunch of playable decks, and the metagame shifted a lot in the past couple weeks. Moving forward, I’d explore Temur Reclamation and the Bant deck a bit more. But really you can play whatever you like. Too bad, I have to set my sights on Modern and Pioneer for the upcoming Players Tours.
To all those Cat lovers out there, I hope you’ve enjoyed yet another piece on one of our favorite decks, and may your Ovens be always full of kitties. Thanks for reading, Ondrej.