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January 11, 2017

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Going Rogue: Jund Vial Blue

Hello and welcome back to Going Rogue, where winning isn’t the goal, but it often happens anyway.

It’s been a while since I’ve been able to write an article (adulting is overrated), but I’m happy to be back today because I’ve got a weird one that aims to address one of Modern’s fair-deck selection questions: “Which is better, BGx, or URx?” (Hint: The answer is both.)

To archetype faithfuls, this idea might sound like befriending of an ancient enemy. But as I would to any stubborn partisan, I’d implore you to see past your prejudices and appreciate that the other side has a lot to offer towards hedging your weaknesses, and that you have an unexpected binding principle that you can agree on.

BGx deals proactively with opposing threats by way of early hand disruption and efficient two-drops like Tarmogoyf, but are often at the mercy of opposing interaction when their turn is over, and can struggle to generate card advantage if Dark Confidant doesn’t survive – and he rarely does.

URx on the other hand has an excellent reactive game, but is infamous for struggling with large threats and for taking a little longer than average to assemble its finishing formation.

Things are very different when you get to do both: dump out gigantic two-drops, but still enjoy the late game reach of a nimble Bolt-Snap-Bolt.

As for that unexpected binding principle? Yeah, it’s Aether Vial.

Aether Vial does a number of insane things in this deck. For one, it significantly alleviates the mana stretch imposed by introducing a fourth colour to Jund, since the only Blue cards are two-drop creatures. Next, it gives traditional Jund creatures Flash, and they all make extremely good use of it as either beefy blockers or powerful engines to untap with. Third, its downside of being a lame card late in the game is mitigated by it being excellent graveyard fodder for Liliana of the Veil, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, or Grim Flayer, helping to pump the latter and its Lhurgoyf friend. And fourth, these decks are ripe with excellent two-drop creatures, so we can cut everything else and never have to worry about how many counters to keep on it. (And heck, for bonus points, it’s a low-cost card that encourages low-cost deckbuilding, which plays nicely on a team with Dark Confidant, and offers an extra one-drop in a deck that doesn’t always get to start with Thoughtseize.)

tl;dr: It’s a really good fit.

This also seems like a good opportunity to address some misconceptions about Aether Vial, which is something I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about as a brewer who loves this card. Aether Vial has a lot of similarities with Collected Company, but they do not share the same limitations on a deck’s creature density. I’ve heard far too many times that someone believes Aether Vial has no place in a deck with less than fifty-percent creatures, and that it’s a waste of a card for creatures that already have flash.

Nonsense.

While an opener of three Vials and an Abrupt Decay is pretty miserable, the flexibility it offers you for how and when to deploy your threats is unparalleled, and redundancy in Flash is hardly a bad thing since it promotes a more consistent play style.

Truthfully, I hardly think I need to justify Aether Vial as a card in theory though. Let’s take a peek at its surrounding cast and get an idea of how it shapes out in practice.

Alex’s Jund Vial Blue

Creatures: (20)
Dark Confidant
Grim Flayer
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
Scavenging Ooze
Snapcaster Mage
Tarmogoyf
Vedalken Aethermage

Spells: (17)
Abrupt Decay
Fatal Push
Lightning Bolt
Harsh Scrutiny
Inquisition of Kozilek
Kolaghan’s Command
Liliana of the Veil
Nameless Inversion
Oath of Nissa

Land and Vials: (23)
Aether Vial
Blooming Marsh
Bloodstained Mire
Verdant Catacombs
Blood Crypt
Stomping Ground
Overgrown Tomb
Watery Grave
Forest
Mountain
Swamp

Sideboard: (15)
Ravenous Trap
Izzet Staticaster
Magus of the Moon
Slaughter Games
Thoughtseize
Kolaghan’s Command
Maelstrom Pulse
Feed the Clan
Ancient Grudge
Abrupt Decay
Terminate

As is typical of this column, there are a few oddities that stand out for me to defend.

Vedalken Aethermage, while definitely a pet card of mine, fully deserves its slot in this deck. As extra copies of Dark Confidant and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, its tutor cost is lined up with the same time that Vial would be on two, so it can be relevant to get either of those engines going early. As a fifth copy of Snapcaster Mage, it’s another tool to expand your late-game options, and it also helps double up on sideboard bullets like Izzet Staticaster or Magus of the Moon. (And since we do bonus points in this column, occasionally you get to bounce a Mutavault with it – score!)

It also acts as a second copy of Nameless Inversion, which has always been a cute maybe card alongside Tarmogoyf, but I want to make the case for it as even more impressive alongside Grim Flayer, because of how quickly it turns your lackluster 2/2 into a 7/1 trampler. (Yup, that works.) This deck is actually quietly side-designed to ensure these two creatures are as big as possible at all times, and features every card type to help you achieve the fated 8/9 Tarmogoyf.

Next up is Harsh Scrutiny, which I’ve actually been enjoying on the regular in BGx decks since it hits most decks on Turn 1, or does a good job of apologizing for its bad draw in the later game thanks to its scry.

I suppose no other card choice is particularly suspect. Fatal Push seems all but destined to be a Modern staple as soon as Aether Revolt hits the shelves, and although Magus of the Moon doesn’t necessarily look so hot in a four-colour deck, it still shuts down certain challenging opponents such as Tron and gets a free double-up on copies thanks to the Aethermage.

Claiming this creation to be better than a well-tuned BGx or URx deck might be somewhat bold, but I’ve successfully taken it toe-to-toe with top decks like Affinity, Jund, and Breachscape, and have come out ahead more often than not. It still plays out basically like Jund, but with a slightly more aggressive bent to it, especially when you lead off with a Vial. The most significant difference is that you’re trading off your late game Raging Ravine for Bolt-Snap-Bolt. Opinions will differ on that one, but I’ll take the UR classic duo every time.

More important than all that though, the deck is simply a ton of fun. Sleeve it up if you’ve got the cards (sorry – this one is far from cheap to assemble, though), and take it for a spin.

That’s all we’ve got for this week. I hope you enjoyed this wonky idea. Until next time, have fun, and may the force be with brew.