This upcoming weekend is SCG Cincinnati, and while I will be unable to play in the main event (which sounds awesome, this new standard sounds like a brewer’s paradise), I will be playing in the modern classic. What will I be playing in the classic you ask? Anyone who knows me knows the answer to this question:
I love me some Living End. I fell into the deck when Birthing Pod got banned, and Living End was the only deck I had left. Once I got the hang of it, it was a wrap. I feel quite confident when I sit down with Living End, and with the recent updates provided by the Amonkhet block, Living End is as good as ever.
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
4 Verdant Catacombs
2 Copperline Gorge
2 Grove of the Burnwillows
1 Blood Crypt
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Stomping Ground
1 Blooming Marsh
First thing you probably noticed it that this is still a three color variety. I will probably get some flak for what I’m about to say, but I’m going to say it anyway: PLAY THE JUND VERSION. There is a five-color variety floating around that I will admit looks sweet as heck and at first I thought maybe this is the proper way to play Living End now, but the five-color version lacks something that is key in a hostile format like modern: Resiliency. The lack of disruption or an alternate path to victory from the five-color version is going to be harmful in the long run.
Furthermore, you’ll notice that I am still running Simian Spirit Guide and Fulminator Mage (granted only three main now). SSG is key to accelerating out some cascade spells when opponents are not expecting them, and we generate so much virtual card advantage that we can sacrifice a card for the temporary mana boost. Fulminator Mage is a tougher sell right now, but the “free win” potential from locking out an opponent is just too good to pass out in my opinion. I could maybe be convinced to drop one more from my main deck, but it will probably take tron decks falling heavily out of favor before I do that.
Sticking with the theme of card choices, the prevalence of Death’s Shadow in the format means that it is correct to play at least two Grove of the Burnwillows. Having your land occasionally weaken the popular one-drop and even sometimes turning off Stubborn Denial as a result is worth the extra life some opponents will gain. Besides, we’re attacking with 6/4s now, not 3/4s. We can spare 1-2 life.
Why play Living End?
Living End mulligans very, very well. Since the nature of the next is built around a mechanic that draws you cards (cycling), you churn through your deck extremely quick. Because of this you can often keep hands that don’t even have your key sideboard card in them because you will draw them soon enough.
When deciding to keep or not, it’s fairly easy: Have at least one land, have at least one cycler that can be cycled off said land, don’t have too many multiples (three Beast Within in your opener won’t be winning anything), and don’t have a Living End. If any of these are hit, mulligan and try again. I have won a fair amount of matches against good competition on a mulligan to four. Living End abusing the graveyard allows for the deck to generate virtual card advantage, so it can catch up a couple mulligans quickly.
Quick sidebar about mulligans with Living End in your hand: Once you have mulliganed to six, keeping a hand with an actual Living End in it is not unreasonable, especially if the remaining five is extremely solid for a hypothetical mulligan to five. There are some matchups where suspending a Living End to set up a turn later where you can overwhelm various hate cards can be the correct line, as is sometimes the case against control decks especially.
Living End heavily preys on creature based decks. Some creature decks feel like a bye. Living End having some way to deal with lands main board also leads to easy wins if your opponent kept a land-lite hand. This applies to jund variety of course. Having ways to just fall into some free wins in a long tournament can be a huge boon.
The Looks on People’s Faces
Even though plenty of people know about how Living End works, there is still that not-so-small percentage that do not. I will admit: I enjoy teaching people about Living End the hard way. The first reaction to people seeing Living End ranges from “Oh that’s awesome” to “What the heck!? That’s total crap!” If you play Living End and you do run into someone who is unfamiliar with the deck, you should take it upon yourself to teach them the basics afterwards if they ask.
How to Beat Living End
With Living End going up in popularity, it is important to know how to fight it.
“Just play Rest in Peace. GG…..”
Not that easy. Living End is surprisingly resilient in the hands of a capable pilot. I’ve won plenty of games where the opponent landed a turn two Rest in Peace and then followed it up with nothing. If you are playing against the jund version, you have to keep in mind that they have Beast Within. Blowing up any permanent at instant speed and wiping the board next turn can derail plenty of good sideboard plans. In my opinion, the best thing you can do is have at least two forms of disruption, disruption with a good clock, or just stick to your normal game plan. Mulliganing to RIP and nothing else is a recipe for disaster. That being said, good sideboard cards still put a hamper on Living End, so always bring in your graveyard hate, counterspells and hand disruption.
If you are going to be playing in the SCG Cincy Classic, tweet me what deck you’ll be playing or your thoughts on the format @CloudRunner172. I will have a recap on how I do next week, and maybe even touch on some limited! Good luck with your events!