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Feature Article – Jund from Start to Finish

Hello, my name is Owen Turtenwald, and I’ve been wanting to write an article on Jund for some time now. I may have waited a little too long, considering the format is changing with m11, but Jund is very much still a top deck with Nationals around the corner. I guess I should start back at PT San Diego, where I also played Jund, though admittedly a list I copied from Tomoharu Saito the night before:

I was pretty happy with this list during the tournament and ended up going 7-3 with it in the Constructed portion. After the tournament I continued to play Jund in random Magic Online events and local 5ks, experimenting with 4 Broodmate Dragon and Rampant Growth over Putrid Leech but when it came time for GP DC the format had changed quite a bit. UW Tap-Out (or whatever you want to call it) had been crushing the MTGO PTQs and UWR Planeswalkers came about to fight it. I knew I still wanted to play Jund simply because I had so much experience with it and couldn’t imagine doing better by picking up a new deck and trying to learn.

The first changes I made were to cut 1 Terminate for the 4th Maelstrom Pulse for the obvious reason that Pulse is so good at killing Planeswalkers. Next, I cut 2 Broodmate Dragon for 2 Sarkhan the Mad. I admit that Sarkhan can be underwhelming at times, but having him on turn five in the mirror can be devastating, and after sideboard against UW decks when you cut some Bituminous Blasts for Duresses your curve gets lower, so it’s more realistic to try and use him to draw cards. Lastly for the main deck, I added a misers Lavaclaw Reaches because I had heard good things from others about it.

For the sideboard, I liked Duress because it was the most logical answer to Spreading Seas, since it’s faster and can protect you from it even on the draw. It was also very good at making cards like Flashfreeze weaker and handling cards like Gideon and Elspeth. If I expected any UW at all I wouldn’t leave home without 4 Duress. I kept Goblin Ruinblaster as well, since he can be useful against a lot of random type decks, like anything using Cruel Ultimatum, Open the Vaults (some have a lot of targets for it, some have none) and I like it on the play only against Jund.

The Mirror

I say I only like Ruinblaster on the play in the Jund mirror for a few reasons: First, everyone has Ruinblaster in their sideboard for the Jund mirror and it can straight up be a mulligan if they play their Ruinblaster before you get to cast yours. Second, Ruinblaster isn’t exactly what you want when they start with t2 Putrid Leech t3 Thrinax, since it doesn’t fight well or stop them from casting anything particularly relevant. Third, when you do happen to be on the back foot (which is going to happen a good amount of the time playing 2nd against Jund) you don’t want to miss on your cascades. This is more important for Bituminous Blast but not a non-issue for Bloodbraid Elf, since you are usually using Bit Blast to try and catch up from a losing position.

The next change I made was cutting Deathmark for Doom Blade, mostly because Sovereigns of Lost Alara had become more popular and being able to kill them before they can enter combat and get a free +10+10 aura was pretty relevant, not to mention that Doom Blade can kill Gideon and manlands. As for the rest of the sideboard, I hashed it out the day before the GP while talking to people I respected about the deck. Kyle Boggemes told me to add 1 Malakir Bloodwitch and I did. I liked it for two main reasons, the first being that after sideboard against UW you just need something to actually kill them after you have killed their Planeswalkers and Duressed/Blightninged them down to nothing. The second reason I liked it is that the most common cards UW uses to fight Jund are Path to Exile, Oblivion Ring, Celestial Purge, and Flashfreeze, and the big Dracula gets around all of those pretty well.

Further influencing my sideboard choices was the fact that I played a bunch of games against UW and just repeatedly lost to two copies of Spreading Seas in the first five turns of the game. I got fed up with it, which is what led me to adding Prophetic Prism to the sideboard. I felt like one of the only ways I was losing to UW was if I got mana screwed, and people who played UW like Boggemes and Carlos Romao both pretty much said that plan A against Jund was to draw a good number of Spreading Seas/Tectonic Edge and just land death them.

My last sideboard cards were 2 Pyroclasms. I played these because I had seen them in other Jund sideboards and they looked neat. Others told me I should run Jund Charm since it can stop Vengevines and kill mana accelerators, but the 2 damage effect seemed far more relevant than the graveyard hate mode of it, and when you are killing Lotus Cobras, Noble Hierarchs, and Birds of Paradise with it, 2 mana compared to 3 is a world of difference. Letting them cast a Baneslayer before you could kill their mana guys, then Maelstrom Pulsing the Slayer after they got a hit in seemed like a poor tradeoff for some additional flexibility.

All of this led me to the list I used at the GP:

To be totally honest I’ve tried a lot of random different cards in the deck since the GP, and not much has worked better for me. Still, the sideboard can possibly be improved, and I like the idea of 4 Cunning Sparkmage over 2 Pyroclasm and 2 whatever you feel is weakest.

Sideboarding

Sideboarding with Jund is a little different every match you play I think. It’s never really set in stone and I like to change it up based on what I’ve seen, but I can give you a rough outline of how I like to sideboard against the top decks.

UW
-4 Lightning Bolt
-2 Terminate (keep these if you suspect 4 Baneslayer builds)
-2 Bituminous Blast
-1 Sprouting Thrinax (bad against Spreading Seas and Wall of Omens but you gotta win somehow)
+4 Duress
+2 Prophetic Prism
+2 Doom Blade (Baneslayer Angel, Kor Firewalker, Celestial Colonnade)
+1 Malakir Bloodwitch

Also feel free to take out Sprouting Thrinax for Goblin Ruinblaster if you see a nonbasic land that isn’t Colonnade, Glacial Fortress, or Tectonic Edge.

UWR Planeswalkers
-4 Lightning Bolt
-2 Terminate
-1 Bituminous Blast
+4 Duress
+2 Prophetic Prism
+1 Malakir Bloodwitch

Jund
On the draw: no changes.
On the play:
-4 Maelstrom Pulse
+4 Goblin Ruinblaster

I feel like many of you may disagree with this plan, but I havent found a reason to want to change it because I feel like the Jund mirror is very skill intensive and interactive. Most people have random stuff that I feel isn’t optimal and that’s mostly how I gain an edge against them. Ive played against Garruk Wildspeaker, Master of the Wild Hunt, Great Sable Stag, Basilisk Collar, Ruinblasters on the draw, less than 4 Bituminous Blast, Trace of Abundance, and the list goes on and on. For me it just seems like unless they draw 2 Ruinblaster on the play the game is going to be interactive enough for their poor play or poor deck building to matter.

Mythic
-4 Sprouting Thrinax
+2 Pyroclasm
+2 Doom blade

Thrinax is weak here because all it can really do is hope to trade with Dauntless Escort or chump a Knight of the Reliquary, but smarter Mythic players will never allow such things to happen. I like to kill their mana guys every chance I get but never using my best or last removal on them. Basically this means you need to keep Pulse or Terminate to kill Baneslayer or Knight of the Reliquary but go right ahead and Bolt their 1 drops or main phase Bit Blast something to keep them off Soverigns mana.

Next Level Bant/Naya
-4 Blightning
+2 Pyroclasm
+2 Doom blade

As bad as Thrinax is against Mythic he really shines here, as he’s basically the only legit answer to Vengevine that there is. Bit Blast works fine too because you don’t actually lose cards trying to kill it, and some of the time you get to hit a Blightning making it harder for them to rebuy the hasty plant.

Turboland
-4 Bituminous Blast
+4 Duress

This matchup boils down to exactly what the big pros say it boils down to, which is that turn 2 Putrid Leech gives them fits, and if you don’t have that then it can potentially be a walk in the park for the Turboland deck. From what I learned playing against Cedric, your Maelstrom Pulses are solid gold, and you really need to apply pressure because they have so many good topdecks. You have to try to get them low before they can just rip a 2nd Avenger or Mind Spring or whatever.

M11 has some really interesting new cards so far and id say the one most people are talking about so far (besides mana leak obv) is Obstinate Baloth. Yes, it can ‘counter’ a Blightning, but I think that alone won’t make this card all that great since people have always said that Grim Discovery, Divination, and Treasure Hunt all ‘counter’ Blightning and have proven themselves to be suboptimal, though I will say this card is very different than the rest of the cards like it. Four toughness is very relevant as it gets around Lightning Bolt, Bloodbraid Elf, and Sprouting Thrinax, but also important is that it still falls to Bituminous Blast, Putrid Leech, Maelstrom Pulse and Terminate. I’m hesitant to say that this card will be an auto-include in any Green deck, because those decks seem to already have problems finding a good balance of 4-casting cost spells.

Naya runs Vengevine, Bloodbraid Elf, Ranger of Eos, and sometimes more stuff along the lines of Elspeth and Ajani Vengeant, so you can be almost sure Naya won’t run this guy main deck. Mythic has a similar problem, though not as bad, and the Baloth will probably be main decked there as a 3-of. The same logic as Naya can be used for Next Level Bant, since I think between Jace, Vengevine, Ranger, Elspeth, and other various cards there just might not be space for the Baloth. What this also means is you have to be very careful when you cast your Blightning and when you decide not to sideboard it out; playtesting more with the M11 cards should prove to be very interesting to say the least.

Grave Titan is pretty interesting, and I’ve heard talk about it replacing Broodmate Dragon, which doesn’t seem that far off the truth. It doesn’t die to Bituminous Blast like Broodmate does, and getting more ‘power’ for the cost and the random bonus of getting extra guys if you attack doesn’t sound bad at all. I doubt it’s better than the 1 Siege-Gang, just because I’ve always liked playing 1-1 of them. One isn’t exactly better or worse than the other, because each has its merits. Siege-Gang can be kinda crappy if they have only a Lightning Bolt as an answer, but you may not want a Broodmate if you had to get rid of extra lands to a Blightning and got Ruinblastered. I have won many games off the 1 Broodmate because it’s such a good trump in the mirror, and the same logic used for Malakir Bloodwitch is used here: people like to think Path, O-Ring, and Celestial Purge are pure gold against Jund and I’d rather have a Broodmate against those cards than a Siege-Gang.

Dark Tutelage its pretty interesting, but I doubt it will be a staple in Jund decks for the same reason that I rarely use Sarkhan the Mad to draw cards: the deck’s manacurve is just so high. It’s very hard to get more than two nonland cards out of a Sarkhan because everything costs 4+, with the exception of Bolt and Leech. Still, I could see 1-3 sideboard against UW, or even just one of these main, as you can remove it with Maelstrom Pulse if you get ahead and don’t want to risk losing to it, and don’t have the problem of cascading into multiples, making them much worse.

Mitotic Slime deserves honorable mention as it could be just bonkers with Sarkhan and it does remind me of Sprouting Thrinax. My intuition says that it wont see much play as its not as effective as Siege-Gang Commander when undisrupted, and still not great when people are playing Path and Oblivion Ring.

Well, that should wrap up my first article here at Channelfireball, and I hope it helped you. I feel like most of the card choices and sideboarding remains relevant for post-M11 Standard, since the cards in jund are already all so good at what they do and thus difficult to replace, and besides Obstinate Baloth I haven’t seen anything that creates a new deck or strongly weakens an existing one.

Discussion

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