Last updated 1-8-14. Old discussion and primer found here.
Throughout Magic's history, several decks stand out for having clever or humorous names. "Raisin Bran", for example, was given the name because it caused most opponents to concede both games resulting in "two scoops"; which was part of the slogan in the popular breakfast cereal Raisin Bran. While "Junk" isn't nearly as clever as Raisin Bran (or any of the other 'breakfast' decks), the name Junk has become fairly popular of the years in reference to a particular style of deck.
Decks with the name "Junk" don't follow a very close trend as some other decks may have over the years, but it has come to be the most popular name of the Green/Black/White wedge despite being given some other names or references in magic's past. However, the name is not based on the colors so much as it is the style of deck. A deck like Junk doesn't really have a solid strategy, it's just a pile of good cards. Thus the name Junk is really the best way to describe. It is arguable that Junk does seem to kind of fit the color description as well, but in the end, Junk still is a pretty loose name for the deck regardless. It is quite possible in the future it will receive a new name (if the deck continues to exist) once Wizards decides to give the wedge colors a solid naming scheme.
Junk has had many different iterations in the past, the most recent of which was Junk Reanimator from the INN/RTR standard season. Past iterations have included Treefolk builds, to Tooth and Nail builds, all the way back to stax builds. The modern variant is mainly independent of other junk decks (except for in legacy), however, it is still somewhat similar to a few of the older builds. Modern Junk's greatest element is control, while also having a fair amount of aggro element to it and no combo element at all. Our deck has little synergy and our strategy is very loose. What makes our deck good is the power of each individual card and how those cards effect games. That said, it important to understand which cards are good in which situations and how, while also understanding which role you are in a match: are trying to control the game and lock down the board? Or are you playing the beatdown and trying to end the game? As a player, your job is to know when to switch between the two roles, or in more difficult situations, how to sit on the fence and do both.
Here are some points on how to know this deck is for you or not:
Pros - what you will like about this deck if you decide to play it
- The control strategy: lots of good removal and good disruption
- Raw power amongst individual cards
- Lots of choices and creativity in the deckbuilding process (contrary to popular belief)
- The ability to handle and interact with any other deck in the format, with few exceptions
Cons - what you won't like about this deck if you decide to play it
- Losing because you did not draw the right answer to the problem
- Killing yourself...a lot
- Not having a strategy or goal set for you.
- The amount of money that will be left in your bank account. I highly advise you avoid this deck if budget is a concern for you!
In order to organize the primer in a way that best covers the many different possibilities of modern junk, yet keep everything cohesive and consistent, I have divided this primer into the following sections. 'Competitively Speaking' is a section that discusses what is most commonly found to do well in the current meta game and geared more towards those building the deck for its competitive viability who haven't played this deck or similar decks before. 'Exploring other options' is a section that goes over the many other viable cards and strategies that can be used in the deck. While the cards and strategies from this section do not typically do as well in the current meta game, they do have the potential to do very well, and have already done so, in some cases. The remaining sections are self-explanatory.
The BG/x shell
Just like Jund and other BG/x midrange decks in the format, Junk includes the usual cards included in any BG/x deck. All of the cards discussed below are must-haves for this deck, with little exception.
Deathrite Shaman - I'll admit I didn't expect this card to become as big of a deal as it did when it was first spoiled in the Return to Ravnica spoilers. Turns out, this one drop is really essential in our deck as well as several other decks in black and green for several different reasons. Deathrite Shaman (DRS) is a like a multi tool for this deck that can help us against several different strategies or problems. Although our deck is not too concerned with ramping, one of our 3-drops coming out on turn 2 can be pretty effective. Furthermore, his mana ability lets us play around strategies that may attack our mana base as well such as Blood moon or ghost quarter with leonin arbiter which Death and Taxes usually employs. His second ability is his most important ability and the main reason he has been added to many BG/x decks. This ability gives us quite a bit of reach to finish our opponent, much like lightning bolt would in jund. In fact, jund often incorporated Grim Lavamancer before DRS got printed to serve this role. Although DRS is not a strict upgrade to Grim Lavamancer, his abilities still better serve our strategy. And if these two abilities weren't enough, he's got a third ability tacked on there that allows us to exile creatures from graveyards to gain life. This keeps some graveyard-based strategies in check such as living end and persist creatures like kitchen finks. This ability also helps us against aggro strategies like burn to help keep our life total up, and can even help us out through our own life loss through cards like Bob and Thoughtseize. In summary, the combination of his abilities while also being a 1/2 for 1 mana is almost ban-worthy in the BG/x shell.
Dark Confidant - This card is kind of a strategy in and of itself. Dark Confidant, or 'Bob' for short, draws us extra cards to help us gain advantage. If left unchecked, Bob can often make a very clear difference in the outcome of a match by simply drawing us 2 cards per a turn and overwhelming our opponent with our extra cards. His ability is certainly better than his body, but that doesn't mean a 2/1 for 2 mana is bad either; he can be a beater if he needs to be...or a blocker if worse comes to worse. If his life loss becomes too much of a problem, you can offset the life loss with DRS or just remove him with our own abundant removal. Be careful, though. Against aggro strategies the loss of life is often more important than drawing us extra cards, so you may want to avoid casting him in these scenarios.
Tarmogoyf - The epitome of efficiency in a creature in this format. Tarmogoyf is not as good as his price tag may make him out to be, but he certainly is the best at what he does: be a big dude for cheap. He dies to removal, and contrary to popular belief, gets outsized every so often by bigger dudes, but his big butt is really important to our deck. He will usually be 3/4 for 2 mana at the minimum which makes him good as a blocker and as an attacker. Tarmogoyf being able to play both defense and offense is why he is an important part of this deck. No other creature in the format can play this role as well as Tarmogoyf.
Liliana of the Veil - Many of the format's decks would just overrun us with their strategies if we did not have a way of disrupting them and putting pressure on them in some way. Liliana of the Veil (LotV, or Lili) fits this strategy very well along with our other disruption. There are some decks that really don't care about a 4/5 Tarmogoyf hitting the table on turn 2, or having us draw extra cards off of Bob. Those decks do care about LotV hitting the table and making them continuously discard cards all while threatening their entire board state with her ultimate. If you still don't follow, all you need to know is that she is really good against control and combo strategies that like to have lots of cards in hand or resources on the board. Without her, storm would be a big problem against us, even with the discard we already employ. To top it all off, she has an edict ability that can be critical in some cases. Etched Champion, for example, can usually only be dealt with by using LotV's -2 ability while Etched Champion is their only creature in play. For these reasons, LotV is another must-have card for this deck, and is considered by some to be the best card in the deck over the other fantastic cards we already have.
Thoughseize/Inquisition of Kozilek - Lastly, our deck must include some number of hand disruption spells to really solidify the disruptive part of our strategy. Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek (IoK) make up the last few cards that this deck must include. Unlike the previously mentioned cards, these don't necessarily have to be 4-of's. Instead, most BG/x lists run some combination of both. The recommended minimum is 4-6 mainboard in some combination of both. Many people lean more towards thoughtseize as the primary one, but this is the one part of the BG/x shell that is flexible. Currently, I use a 3/3 split of IoK and Thoughtseize, however, many more successful lists have done otherwise. Understanding how to use hand disruption is a big part of playing this kind of deck and cannot be thoroughly explained in this primer. You, as the player, must ultimately decide how you would like to employ these two spells. It is understood, however, that thoughtseize is generally better against the overall meta and IoK is better in metas where aggro is very prevalent. Even if aggro isn't very prevalent, a single matchup against a deck like burn or gruul aggro with 3 or 4 thoughtseizes main board will basically be an automatic loss in game 1. IoK may whiff a bit more often than thoughtseize in this format, but at least a whiff with IoK won't put you out 2 life and, potentially, a game. Use this knowledge, as well as your experience, to decide how best to use these spells in your list.
The BG/x shell is like the foundation for our deck, but that leaves us with about 16 more cards to add to the deck besides the lands. This is where BG/x midrange and it's many variants in modern branch out. Jund, for example, adds red to the mix for a whole branch of options, lightning bolt being the big one. Below are the most popular cards in you see filling the remaining spots in our deck.
Abrupt Decay - Abrupt Decay isn't necessarily an integral part of the BG/x shell, but 9 times out of 10, you will see 2 or 3 of these in any BG/x deck. As much as I love abrupt decay, it does not answer everything. Manlands like raging ravine blank abrupt decay pretty hard, as well as anything that costs over 4 mana that is difficult to interact with such as ajani vengeant or other 4 cmc planeswalkers. Even still, abrupt decay answers plenty of the format's problems, enough to still leave some main board spots for it.
Maelstrom Pulse - As a fan of good removal, this is a card I like a lot. Honestly, in this format, you really don't need more than 1 or 2 main board, if any. But, in this format, there's always things that need to be destroyed, and maelstrom pulse will destroy it. The ability to 2-for-1 your opponent can also drastically change a game by itself, which a lot of cards cannot do. The only downside: doesn't hit lands and it's sorcery speed. Also, another downside that is often overlooked is the amount of decks that play the same cards as you. If you play this spell in your deck, you will eventually play a game where you want to destroy something your opponent controls, but you also have the same card in play. This problem is magnified by the popularity of BG/x decks. Still, maelstrom pulse is definitely worth some main board slots, especially if there are permanents in your meta that aren't hit by abrupt decay, or your other removal spells...ie, pretty much everyone's meta.
Scavenging Ooze - A big contender against the almighty tarmogoyf. It costs the same as tarmogoyf, but it can grow bigger than tarmogoyf while also gaining you life and fighting graveyard-based strategies. The downside? The mana investment. Although his casting cost is just as friendly as goyf's, his ability can only be activated with green mana, which is not in abundance in our 3-color deck. He can still be used, but it will take effect on what kind of lands you play or fetch for in your games. Some people will swear that scavenging ooze is better than tarmogoyf.
Adding white to the shell
Lingering Souls - The first and most popular addition to the BG/x shell with white is lingering souls. Lingering Souls gives our deck both better offense and defense, but unlike tarmogoyf, lingering souls tokens have flying and, in multiples, can cause bigger problems for our opponent than tarmogoyf can. The flashback ability gives our deck some much needed ability to play around decks with lots of removal and sweepers as well. Against aggro lingering souls puts out blockers to help buy us time, and against control, it helps continuously put pressure on the board. But against combo, it may not put enough pressure on the board. Lingering souls can also get blow out by some cards, too, like electrolyze or maelstrom pulse. That said, lingering souls is really great in combination of lord effects such as the effect from Sorin, Lord of Innistrad or Wilt-leaf liege.
Path to Exile - The second most popular addition with white: path to exile. Path is the most efficient and versatile creature removal spell in the format, and second in the whole entire game, swords to plowshares being the best. Sometimes, your opponent gets a Mirran Crusader, or a Phyrexian Obliterator, or even a Blightsteel Colossus...only path to exile can take care of it. Basically, path to exile is our last resort to creatures that aren't answered by our other spells. Giving your opponent a land is still not necessarily a good thing, though, so you will want to avoid using path to exile in cases where your opponent could make some back-breaking plays with an extra land. That said, the extra land is rarely relevant, especially late game. It's also this deck's best answer to manlands such as Celestial Colonnade and Raging Ravine. Even more so, it's the only way for us to efficiently deal with Wurmcoil Engine, which sees a ton of play. For this reason alone, you really want to have at least 3, if not 4, in your 75.
All of these cards combined can almost make up a complete list on it's own, with a few flex spots open.
Coincidentally, Dan Musser's top 16 Junk list from GP Detroit, arguably the best known result to date, looks very similar. In an interesting twist, Musser has added a singleton Sorin and Elspeth to the mix:
|Junk by Dan Musser, top 16 GP DetroitMagic OnlineOCTGN2ApprenticeBuy These Cards
4 Dark Confidant
4 Deathrite Shaman
3 Scavenging Ooze
2 Abrupt Decay
3 Inquisition of Kozilek
3 Lingering Souls
1 Maelstrom Pulse
4 Path to Exile
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
4 Liliana of the Veil
1 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
1 Gavony Township
1 Godless Shrine
1 Horizon Canopy
4 Marsh Flats
2 Overgrown Tomb
4 Stirring Wildwood
1 Temple Garden
1 Twilight Mire
4 Verdant Catacombs
1 Woodland Cemetery
3 Fulminator Mage
1 Kataki, War's Wage
2 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
1 Maelstrom Pulse
2 Obstinate Baloth
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
2 Stony Silence
1 Thrun, the Last Troll