Junk Midrange has been one of the fastest-growing decks in Standard of late, especially after Jeff Hoogland’s third-place finish at SCG Cincinnati. You can see his list here. I first saw this deck shell when Ryan Gerhart posted a top four at SCG Detroit with his list. I fell in love. The Underworld Connections plus Courser of Kruphix interaction is sweet, and the chance of going off with an Archangel of Thune and the multiple sources of incremental life gain are a constant threat during late game. Scavenging Ooze is versatile, and the sideboard toolbox is amazing for coming back against the weaker control matchups and dominating other midrange decks. Aggro can be walled by turn-two Sylvan Caryatid into a turn-three Courser of Kruphix, playing a land to kick off a virtual Nyx-Fleece Ram with turn-by-turn life gain. Advent of the Wurm seals the deal game one, especially if you are lucky enough for them to be swinging with a Satyr Firedrinker(happened one time!).
I played around with this deck over five small tournaments, leading into my recent SCG Indy run. I settled on a very awkward decklist, resolving to accept at least a 6-4 run and seeing how each card fared in various matchups. The idea here was that I could arrive at a compact, efficient list afterwards.
Junk Midrange: SCG Indianapolis
This was the list I ran, which pains me every time I look at it. So many one-ofs! The upside was that I got very specific experience playing each card against a variety of decks. I felt lucky that I played a very diverse field: two Naya Aggro decks, two Burn, one U/W/g Control, one Mono-Black Devotion, one B/r Aggro, one U/w Aggro, and one Junk list with some interesting card choices.
Round 1: Naya Hexproof
Hexproof is a matchup I haven’t really tested against and don’t see my deck performing well against unless I can catch ,my opponent off guard with an Advent of the Wurm or start pumping out Elspeth, Sun’s Champion tokens. My opponent started game one with a mulligan to six, but he found a remarkably efficient hand. I probably should have mulliganed my Temple of Silence-Temple of Silence-Temple of Plenty-Courser of Kruphix-Advent of the Wurm-Hero’s Downfall-Elspeth, Sun’s Champion hand, but it had three mana and I was playing the first match of my first-ever premier tournament. He beat me quickly when I drew a Temple of Malady on turn turn three to play a turn-four Courser into an Advent of the Wurm that ended up blocking what became a 14/14 double striking, trampling Witchstalker, handing me lethal damage. I lost game two after a mulligan to five, something that will occasionally happen to a midrange deck with a weaker manabase.
Round 2: Brave Naya
I felt nervous but also more confident after round one. My opponent had lost his first game, I had a tad of experience playing this matchup, and I wasn’t going to make the wrong mulligan decisions because I was apprehensive. I lost quickly to an aggressive, drawing zero Sylvan Caryatids and only one Courser in two games. I had no real answer in my deck to a monstrous Fleecemane Lion. Both of these games made me reconsider my deck’s position against the explosive aggro decks that exist in the metagame.
Round 3: R/w Burn
I was distraught. How could I have lost? Was my list that awkward? I was completely distracted leading into the third round, but I had practiced the Burn matchup and felt more confident in my ability to beat this deck. My opponent was unlucky his first matches and seemed very competent (I believe he went on to 7-3 the open). He won with a fairly awkward hand after I whiffed on two Thoughtseizes, lost a Scavenging Ooze to a Searing Blood, and lost a Courser to Lightning Strike plus Searing Blood. I was beating myself up to the extreme after game one, and I knew even then that my chances of winning two more in this mental state were slim. I basically resigned game two after playing the wrong lands to make my turn-two Caryatid into turn-three Courser start.
I wasn’t prepared to fail this badly. I definitely considered dropping, but that would have totally invalidated my trip. I knew all but one of my game losses were to avoidable, basic mistakes that I would deride any other player for making. I went and watched Kent Ketter, a fellow Bloomington resident, narrowly beat out Jeff Hoogland, one of my favorite players and the innovator for the list I was running. The winning attitudes of these powerful players definitely inspired me to sit down, think through a better sideboard plan, compose myself, eat, and basically prep myself for a comeback.
Round 4: Mono-Black Devotion
Luckily, I finally got matched up against the deck mine was designed to beat. I kept a great hand, Downfalled his first Pack Rat, slammed a turn-five Blood Baron of Vizkopa, and won easily. My opponent definitely went on tilt when faced with the prospect of starting the tournament 0-4. He missed two Pack Rat activations on my end step and had some other minor technical issues, eventually losing to my Underworld Connections drawing gas to outrace his removal spells.
Round 5: B/r Aggro
My opponent was nearly silent the entire match. I started game one with an awesome curve, getting a turn-two Caryatid, turn-three Courser, turn-four Hero’s Downfall on his Master of the Feast to draw into a turn-five Obzedat, Ghost Council, for a fast win. Game two I won after my flustered opponent put two Madcap Skills on one Herald of Torment, which I Abrupt Decayed immediately. Obzedat was able to swing for exactly lethal on the pass back.
Round 6: Junk Midrange
I was on track now! I kept a fairly bad opening hand and the game turned into a long, grindy match where I eventually resolved an Obzedat drawn due to my engine of Underworld Connections and Ajani, Mentor of Heroes pumping gas. Game two, I took a mulligan to five, something that almost always dooms this deck. I feel like I gave him a good fight, stabilizing the board well but drawing into lands just when he started hitting flyers. Game three went the route of game one: extremely long and stupidly grindy. He played an Angel of Serenity, hitting my Obzedat that I had left back as a blocker, only to have me Hero’s Downfall it at the end of that turn and push through sufficient damage to end game three. We discussed various card choices, and I felt confident after winning the mirror against a more solid opponent.
Round 7: Bant Control
Game one went 35 minutes long, finally ending with Aetherling. I had gotten him to one life before he chained three Sphinx’s Revelations back to 20. Meanwhile, I had burned through nearly all of the threats in my deck. I won game two with Obzedat on turn five after he Dissolved my end-of-turn Advent of the Wurm. With two minutes in the round, he told me his record was 2-1-3 and conceded, knowing a fourth draw would definitely knock him out of prize contention. This encouraged me greatly to win the rest of my matches, and I had the most fun in this match the whole tournament. My opponent was sportsmanlike, funny, and gave me the chance I needed to top 64.
Round 8: W/u Aggro
I was definitely surprised to find myself in a position where I could still make top 64. But then my opponent played Soldier of the Pantheon, Precinct Captain, Brimaz, King of Ereskos, Ephara, God of the Polis, and Archangel of Thune. I lost that game. Game two, I had calculated that I could swing for lethal, but he pulled a Mutavault out of the one pile all his lands were in, activated it, chump blocked, and swung back for the win. That is the type of mistake that every Magic player has a story about, where you want to blame your opponent for playing a tad shadily but you know that the blame really rests on yourself. I definitely felt a little bit cheated, especially because my hopes of hitting prize at my first ever open were gone, but I decided to play out the rest of my rounds to practice with my deck more.
Round 9: Mono-Red Burn
I was weary but cheerful. These games were disgusting, starting with a great hand leading into seven consecutive lands. Game two was in my control when he drew the exact burn spells he needed to take me from nine life while in topdeck mode, but I had made enough small misplays that I felt justified having lost. Note: I did get to play an Advent of the Wurm into a swinging Firedrinker Satyr, costing him five life. At this point, my tournament partner and ride back home was pressing me to leave, soI decided to drop and watch the top eight from home.
My experience in this tournament taught me a hell of a lot about my preparation, mental state, and attitude. I would like to think I lost a bunch but also learned a bunch. My 4-0 streak after feeling so down on myself definitely felt good, and knowing I had a chance in round eight had I been paying more attention definitely helped. I learned a good amount about my deck too, mainly deciding that my list was trying to do a bunch of different things and if I wanted to succeed, I would need to trim the list to more four-ofs for consistency.
I decided that there were two routes I could take with the deck, either going into a more consistent, lower-curve build, or top-loading the curve to have more power in the mirror. Most of my prototype lists, as well as feedback on my original article on Reddit, revealed that going lower-curve is something that turns the deck into a mono-black variant or a G/W aggro deck, as wanting to play Brimaz, King of Oreskos, Courser of Kruphix, and Hero’s Downfall all in the same low-curve list isn’t going to work out. My current list cleans up the one-of’s, puts in Golgari Charms (which are absolutely invaluable, so one in the main for now), and tweaks the sideboard.
Junk Midrange Version 2.0
I moved an Underworld Connections to the side, feeling that it is dead in too many game-one matchups. Having two in my opening hand is definitely not where I want to be in almost any game one. I moved a Sin Collector to the main deck as a slight concession to the control matchup, but it’s also useful against some midrange decks as a cheap disruption spell. Mistcutter Hydra, while unpopular amongst the competitive community, continues to be a house against Burn as a racer, control as a powerful threat, and a card that just feels unfair against Mono-Blue Devotion. I just can’t justify cutting it just because it isn’t in the current trendy decklists. Lifebane Zombie stays in to deal with those annoying Naya decks and also to help out in the mirror midrange matchups. Bile Blight remains powerful against the ever-present black devotion decks. Nyx-Fleece Ram is my most contentious choice, as it exists only for the burn matchup. I considered stocking additional copies of Duress for versatility against control, but I think at this point that Burn will make up enough of the metagame to warrant two copies of this absurd turn-two play. I cut a Thoughtseize to include more Burn hate, as I rarely found myself siding in all three copies.
Thanks for reading. Let me know if you have any comments or question on the deck!
Zane Grube lives in Bloomington, Indiana, and recently started playing magic competitively. His accomplishments include winning three pro tours playing in one SCG Open, sitting next to Chris VanMeter while charging his phone, and winning an FNM booster draft “that one time.”