Jund’s good again: what now?

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So Jund is back, and a lot of people are picking up the deck for the first time. I’ve seen some interesting choices being made in deck construction, play patterns and sideboard strategies and I thought I would share some of my thoughts — being a long-standing Jund Guy. For reference, I’ve almost exclusively played B/G/x midrange decks in Modern since the printing of Abrupt Decay and Deathrite Shaman.

Deck Construction

The most important thing to keep in mind when building your Jund deck is to think of the deck not as individual cards so much as chunks of lands, creatures, discard spells and removal. This will lead to some strange looking numbers, but will certainly serve you better than simply adding 4 Fatal Push and 4 Terminate to your deck and calling it a day. This line of thinking extends to the sideboard, leading to beautiful lists of one-ofs that look pretty random but function well.

With this in mind, the ‘stock’ Jund list is better served as a list of functions rather than a list of cards:

  • 23-25 lands
  • 13-15 creatures
  • 4-8 discard spells
  • 14-16 removal spells

Sideboard

  • 4 Cards for big mana decks like Tron and Scapeshift
  • 4 Life-gain cards for Burn
  • 7 Minor adjustments and specific answers

As long as you keep the numbers pretty close to this, you should be fine in constructing your own version of Jund. That being said, I’ll provide the list I’m currently playing. Keep in mind that this list of cards is in no way perfect, and will likely change by up to 10 per cent between each event. What’s important is that the shell maintains the structure above.

Kale Thompson- Jund

A couple extra thoughts about the current trends in Jund deckbuilding:

I think that Mountain can only be included in the list as a 25th land, but I also think that 25 lands is too many. The Mountain in the list will sometimes save you two life when you Lightning Bolt a Goblin Guide on turn-one or will sometimes allow you to still cast Bloodbraid Elf against a Field of Ruin deck. But, I don’t think it’s worth the downside of sometimes drawing it in your opening hand. The mana in Jund is delicate, and it looks like the only way Reid Duke was able to play a Mountain in his most recent lists, was to simply add a 25th land. I disagree with this idea, as Jund is primarily a deck designed to put the game into a top-deck war, and having better draw steps will help you win this war.

 

 

 

 

 

Many people were playing four Fulminator Mages in their sideboards at the Magic Online Championship, and I think that four is one too many. Fulminator Mage is the best tool against troublesome lands as it is good against more than just Tron and Scapeshift. It also has value against Affinity and the creature-lands you’ll fins in the mirror and against control decks. However, in those other matchups, I could find room for the fourth Mage in the my post-sideboard configurations, when I ran four at the recent Face to Face Open+ in Toronto. This leads me to believe that a more dedicated hate-card like Crumble to Dust or even a Blood Moon package might be better.

An aside on discard in the mirror:

While not directly related to the construction of the deck, something I noticed during the MOCs was people leaving in their discard effects in the mirror. I’m obviously not a platinum pro or anything, but I think this is wrong. The discard spells are at their very best on turn-one, used to take away or protect a Dark Confidant or to take away a Bloodbraid Elf on a turn that you’re not really going to be doing anything else with. However, on every other turn of the game, the discard effects are either not going to hit an important target, or are too clunky to be used at all.

The information about what your opponent has in hand is less relevant in the mirror as both players trade resources until the eventual top-deck war ensues. The nature of the Jund deck makes most individual cards redundant, meaning that you can’t really take away the key card to the Jund strategy. Most Jund decks now are playing between 2-5 Raise Dead effects, meaning you can’t even rely on keeping the Bloodbraid Elf or Scavenging Ooze down. Thoughtseize is a terrible draw from turn-five onward, and it also pollutes the quality of your own Bloodbraid cascades.

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve seen some very good players make a case for leaving in some discard on the draw to regain some tempo. I’ve seen other good players keep two discard spells in, with the thinking that they’re still good in your opener and you’re less likely to draw into a bunch of them later. I personally board-out all of my discard spells and I think that you will consistently win more mirror matches if you do the same.

How to Play Jund

The goal of most midrange decks in Modern is to take away the resources of the opposing deck and then win by drawing better, less synergy-based cards in the late game. Jund is the best midrange deck in Modern once again, du to the inclusion of Bloodbraid Elf. The unbanning has given the deck a new way of depriving resources: actually being able to kill an opponent fast.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s important to remember this distinction when playing Jund, especially if you’ve been playing Abzan or B/G while Bloodbraid Elf was on the banned list. It is possible to lose sight of the forest for the trees when playing Jund, leading to situations where you end up misusing your Lightning Bolts or creature-lands when you could just be winning the game.

The overall game plan of the deck is still to destroy everything you see until Tarmogoyf eats them — but there is some nuance to the deck, especially in how to best destroy everything and eat them in specific matchups.

Tarmogoyf will often end up being the default win-condition if only because all it does is be big and cheap. Tarmogoyf is also your best tool against Burn, Tron, and most combo decks for this reason. 

 

 

 

 

 

Scavenging Ooze is the most important threat in the mirror, taking away value from your opponents graveyard while growing large enough that Bolts and combat damage will rarely be enough to kill it.

Dark Confidant is the best creature against control decks, being both a damage source and a way to make sure you don’t get stuck drawing only removal spells against mostly creature-less decks.

The overall point here is that while Jund is simply a pile powerful cards, Jund is at its best when the pilot knows each matchup well. Losing a game because you used Lightning Bolt instead of Terminate in a race or because you ran Dark Confidant into a Spell Snare feels very bad. The more you put into the deck, the more you will be rewarded.

It pays to really commit to the Jund Life. The games are long and weird and you gain a real advantage when you know the little tricks to the deck. Some examples include:

  • Double-activating a Raging Ravine will add two counters when it attacks.
  • Pre-combat Liliana activations sometimes grow Tarmogoyf or cause the opponent to discard something they would rather not if the extra power would be relevant.
  • A turn-two Dark Confidant is often actually a rampant growth against white decks, as they will have to use Path to Exile on their own turn to prevent you from drawing an extra card. Land-light hands are more acceptable against white decks for this reason.
  • Exiling non-creatures with Scavenging Ooze can be useful to manage the size of Tarmogoyfs. Just because you have a Goyf now and they don’t does not mean that this will always be true.
  • Exiling creatures with Scavenging Ooze in response to a removal spell just to gain life is often poor, especially if you have a second Ooze in hand or a way to return the dying Ooze.
  • Don’t fetch basics just because you already have BBGGRR available. Basic lands are often the best to naturally draw (painless, untapped), and keeping them in your deck makes Field of Ruin and Path to Exile worse.
  • Learn the little timing tricks for the mirror. Exile a Kitchen Finks with persist on the stack, Bolt a cascaded-into Liliana with the Bloodbraid Elf still on the stack, skip a turn-two creature when you suspect a Liliana on their turn-three.

One last thought about Jund, if you’re new here, is that the matches tend to go longer than most Modern matches. You will more often than not play three games, and those games will likely be grinds. Make sure that you are mentally prepared for this. I won’t give the clichés of more sleep and water being important, but you need to recognize that you’ll be playing a significantly longer tournament (in raw hours-played) than you would be with a linear aggro deck or a combo deck.

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