Gonti, Lord of Luxury is one of my favorite cards in standard and I pre-ordered 4 copies because I knew he was a decent piece in a mid-range deck. Cards with ETB abilities can be treated as a 2-in-1 card because you get a creature and a spell-based effect in 1 card.
Gonti has a decent body and a very strong ability all for 4-mana. He can take down anything that comes in contact with him in combat regardless of size, and he snatches the best cards in the opponent’s deck if he hits those 4 cards deep from the top. The anxiety that he leaves behind is also nerve wracking because your opponent won’t know what you took and how you plan to use it against him.
I built a deck that utilized Journey to Eternity here and it was relatively OK during playtesting and I wanted to upgrade it a bit and really push ETB effects to the limit and really get extra value from Journey.
On the 2-drop slot we have Dusk Legion Zealot and Kitesail Freebooter. They do the exact opposite which is cool. Dusk Legion Zealot replaces itself with a card and leaves a 1/1 body behind that can block which is relevant against aggressive decks, and Kitesail Freebooter snipes a card out of the opponent’s hand which can make him stumble on the curve or disrupt his mid-game decisions. They are dispensable in combat which makes them hit the yard relatively quick for our Atzal, Cave of Eternities to bring back.
On the 3-drop slot we host a creature suite of removal, card filter and card draw. Banewhip Punisher looks odd but she is a miniature Ravenous Chupacabra that hits the best X/1 creatures in the format right now!
All these 1-toughness creatures die to Banewhip entering the battlefield and her sacrifice ability makes her a great target for Journey to Eternity. Jadelight is trying its best to replace Rogue Refiner but if we remove the energy capabilities from the Refiner, Jadelight is actually better because it can potentially draw you 2 cards or have a bigger body and filter your next 2 draws. Lastly we have Pia Nalaar which helps us clutter the board early to soak up some of the early damage. On her own, she is also a great way to stop Glint-Sleeve Siphoners’ Menace. She’s also legendary which means we can loop her with Atzal and keep churning 1/1 thopters if needed. In desperation, we can attach Journey to her thopter and sacrifice it to flip it.
In our 4-drop slot is more removal thanks to Ravenous Chupacabra. The Chupacabra has placed Noxious Gearhulk behind the spotlight because it gave black decks a very cheap way to kill any creature while leaving a 2/2 body behind, sometimes bringing removal early is better than the life gain which you can be too dead to enjoy anyway. Gonti definitely joins the club because having played 2 copies means we can abuse his ETB like Pia thanks to the Legend rule. The last creature we have does not have an ETB ability but it does have a relevant DIES ability. Rekindling Phoenix is so hard to remove permanently that Vraska’s Contempt ticked up a few dollars in speculation for the Phoenix’s widespread debut. We will use it primarily to exhaust the opponent’s deck from taking it down over and over. Even if the 0/1 token dies, Atzal can bring Rekindling Phoenix back to life which would then force the opponent to make a 2-for-1 again just to bring it down forever. A 4/3 haste flier that’s near impossible to remove is also a fast clock.
Liliana sits alone in the 5-drop slot and she glues the deck together if we are not successful in flipping Journey to Eternity. She’s super good at bringing this back, populates the graveyard for Atzal, and clogging the board with a bunch of 2/2s. We will almost never ultimate her but having a panic button is almost always good.
Another card I didn’t talk about yet is Arguel’s Blood Fast. It is actually there for the other side because it allows us to sacrifice a creature not to gain life but to re-animate with JTE. We might need to get precariously low on life to flip it but sometimes we might just be low on life naturally. We can also bring ourselves close to 5 life by drawing a ton of cards. I only included one because I never want to see two at any point of the game.
Though we have a ton of built-in removal, we will still play a couple more to make sure we have the right answers at instant speed and survive the early turns and get to the mid game where this deck flourishes.
We don’t have one-drops that matter so Fatal Push takes this place to make sure we don’t get overran early. Vraska’s Contempt is specifically there against The Scarab God. The reason why we didn’t play our own Scarab God is because it’s sort of counter-intuitive to Journey. While Journey needs the creature to remain in the graveyard, Scarab eats it which means we can end up with few to no targets after Scarab is done eternalizing them. Although they come out as 4/4s, we are not really after making our creatures bigger but rather abuse their ETBs.
So here’s my Jund Value Deck!
4 Fatal Push
3 Vraska’s Contempt
3 Journey to Eternity
1 Arguel’s Blood Fast
3 Dusk Legion Zealot
3 Banewhip Punisher
4 Jadelight Ranger
3 Pia Nalaar
3 Ravenous Chupacabra
4 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
3 Rekindling Phoenix
1 Liliana, Death’s Majesty
4 Dragonskull Summit
3 Rootbound Crag
4 Blooming Marsh
3 Canyon Slough
2 Sheltered Thicket
1 Foul Orchard
4 Kitesail Freebooter
3 Deathgorge Scavenger
2 Thrashing Brontodon
1 Noxious Gearhulk
2 Moment of Cravin
The sideboard is mostly creatures that also have ETB or some sort of abilities we can use alongside Journey. Having most of the sideboard as creatures also allows us to reconfigure our threats to suit our opponent’s deck without nerfing the synergy we already have or reducing our creature density.
Against heavy control players we have Kitesail to disrupt their hands. It’s also a great target for Journey against this match-up because they wouldn’t want to kill it unless they want you to Duress them over and over. Dreamstealer does not have an ETB trigger but he is one card we want to eternalize to really strip our opponent off of cards.
Deathgorge Scavenger comes in against RDW, GPG, and Scarab Decks. The life gain on ETB is great versus aggressive decks and the repeatable effect after attacking is also not bad if we are not afraid of it dying in combat which we are not because we can always get it back with Journey later on.
Thrashing Brontodon comes in against Anointed Procession, Hidden Stockpile, Vehicles, Monument and even GPG. We can attach JTE on it and sac it to flip into Atzal and against these decks, it should stop them from setting up their combos and still have a 3/4 we can swing with.
Sometimes we can use some life gain and against huge creatures, Noxious Gearhulk is perfect in converting threats like Ghalta and Glorybringers into mouthful of life.
The last 2 slot in the sideboard is an instant, Moment of Craving. I am guessing that RDW will be the most difficult match up because we need some time to set up, have a creature survive to attach the JTE to, and win from there. The life gain from Moment of Craving and killing 16 of their creatures (Bomat, Khenra, Crasher, Kari Zev, Soul Scar Mage) is a huge upside to help us bridge Fatal Push into our 3-drops and 4-drops. This should allow us to stabilize for the long game which RDW is not very good at now that they lost Ramunap Ruins.
Overall, I think the deck looks really stable and I’m a few cards short from completing it. I am preparing this shell for Dominaria where I hope to see good replacements for Pia, Gonti, Bullwhip and Gonti. ETB effects have been part of Magic’s history so I am confident we will get some ETB cards in Dominaria.
Excited for what the new standard will be once Kaladesh and Amonkhet rotates? I am.
See you back here in a couple of days – this week is going to be a very busy one!