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 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.

-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

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.

-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.

-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.

36 thoughts on “Feature Article – Jund from Start to Finish”

  1. best article thats been printed on channelfireball. whatever you are paying him, you should double that

  2. The format will change with M11, but I don’t see M11 as a reason for Jund not being a viable deck anymore. Until Alara rotates out Jund will continue to appear in the top 8 lists.

  3. LightNing bolt does nothing against control.. It might kill a jace after it’s drawn a card but that’s pretty weak

  4. This article didn’t really tell me anything I didn’t already know. (Well, as a Jund player since Lorwyn Block was still in standard I guess there isn’t much left to learn)

    Your sideboarding plans just seem… off. First of all, if your entire plan against Jund is that they board wrong then you just might be doing something wrong yourself. Goblin Ruinblaster may not be as exciting on the draw as on the play, but he is better than pulse. Considering that you won’t win the game anyway if he gets the nut draw (leech, blighting, ruinblaster, maybe bloodraid elf) then you might as well board in a decent card that becomes very good if they miss their own turn 4 ruinblaster. At worst he kills their manland. At best he can turn a game around.

    Against Naya and NLB removing all your blightings is foolhardy. (note: this is pre-m11; that baloth could change things around.) A well timed blighting can decimate their game plan. You just can’t just go on autopilot and turn 3 blighting. Turn 5 or 6 if you have nothing else to do it isn’t bad. Late game its really good when they hold a guy to get Vengevine back; you can set them back two turns. With that list I would go -2 Purtid Leech -2 Blighting +2 Doom Blade +2 Pyroclasm for Naya (your the control here so you really want to cascade into removal.) For Next Level Bant go -2 Blighting +2 Doom Blade (or even -1 +1) You’re the aggro here so the leech is good, and they aren’t as reliant on their mana dorks as mythic or naya so pyroclasm will probably just be a 1 for 1. And it can be a dead cascade. Also, grouping these two decks together is a bad idea; they have many cards alike but their game plans are entirely different.

    (note: I don’t actually like pyroclasm; it’s too narrow. I run another doom blade and a forked bolt; the bolt usually does everything a pryoclasm does for one less mana and it isn’t such a dead cascade. Where lighting bolt is good, it’s really good and forked bolt acts as a fifth bolt that can sometimes two-for-one them.)

    Well, your UW and UWr plans are good and your analysis on the Turboland matchup is spot on.

    But, overall, not a very informative article. I guess its good for players looking to get into jund but, like you said, it’s a little late to jump onto that bandwagon.

  5. Lightning Bolt is not good against U/W.

    I usually do this:

    -4 Lightning Bolt
    – however many Bituminous Blasts you run
    – Cunning Sparkmage or any other jank tech like Forked Bolt you might have main
    – 2 Terminate

    + 4 Goblin Ruinblaster
    + 3 Prophetic Prism
    + 2-3 Doom Blade (Depending on if you believe they may or may not side in Sphinx of Jwar. Consuming Vapors is decent against the Sphinx but not optimal with Marshall Coup and Elspeth hanging around.)

    and I never ever lose to U/W or U/W/R control. I’m not exaggerating. Since I upped to 3 Prophetic Prism and sided similarly it’s an easy matchup if you mulligan correctly.

  6. Who even plays Spreading Seas?? I agree regarding Ruinblaster v UW but lately Bolt has been great for me.

  7. Also matt sayers, all you say is “lightning bolt is not good against UW”. Why?

  8. may I ask why u didnt find it worthy to run vengevine main?
    i’ve tested with it for some time now, and it shows promise, espacially against the mirror, UW and UWr, any comments?

  9. I’m not the kind of person to be picky about minor errors as a rule, but this comment genuinely confused me:

    “It’s very hard to get more than 2 nonland cards out of a sarkhan because everything costs 4+, with the exception of bolt and leech”

    The GP list you posted also has 2 terminate, 4 blightning, 4 maelstrom pulse and 4 sprouting thrinax. All of your sideboard cards except the 1 bloodwitch are 3 cmc or less. In fact, you only have 12 cards costing 4+ maindeck (4 BBE, 4 Bit Blast, 1 siege-gang commander, 2 sarkhan the mad, 1 broodmate dragon), compared to 22 at 3 or less. Which means you’ll get more than 2 nonland cards from him around 40% of the time.

    Am I missing something?

  10. it has way to few creatures for vengevine, it would have to be completley rebuilt to fit em in.

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  12. Everyone who is saying Owen T’s plan with Jund is wrong should probably stop and think. Are any of you better than him or have you done better with the deck? Pretty sure the answers are no/no.

  13. Owen: I’ve personally found the right play on the draw in the mirror is to board in Duresses. Sarkhan is obnoxious almost to the point of being unbeatable, and being on the draw means theirs will hit before yours every time. Duress is the only real answer to it when you aren’t able to establish an aggressive presence like on the play. If it doesn’t hit Sarkhan, sure it sucks, but then they don’t have it.

  14. Your sideboarding strategy against the mirror is pretty surprising indeed. I understand your logic for only bringing in Ruinblasters on the play. I’m surprised you keep in all of that removal though; I usually bring in more threats for the mirror. Can you expand on your thoughts here?

    I agree Pyroclasm is better than Jund Charm. But for the matchups where you want that effect isn’t Forked Bolt just better? It kills the mana dorks you are fighting in Mythic / Naya / NLB for 1 red.

  15. Thelonelyfriend

    Owen- First off I want to start off by saying I very much enjoyed your article. You prob don’t know me, but I see you at all the big tournaments I go to. I am not a random guy who is just going to ask you for advice or help since you did good at a tournament. But let’s be real, you so funny Owen you should be a comedian! Regardless I would like to see more articles from you.


  16. Dark Tutelage in R/B Ad Nauseum style aggro deck looks inviting. Bloodghasts, Gobling Guides, suicide aggro style!

  17. Sorry guys who say the opposite, but Owen’s SB plan for the mirror IS correct. I’m not one to say that i haven’t lost a couple of games to a player who brought ruinblasters on the draw, but the way i see it (and I play jund on a daily basis for about 6 months) it’s too much of a gamble to rely on them on the draw. Picture this: you’re on the draw, with 2 ruinblasters in hand, 3 lands, leech, bloodbraid elf. Apparently, this hand is pure gold in the mirror, but there’s one key factor: our lists (that is, lists that follow latest trends like owen’s) don’t play ramp anymore. What happens in this case is that if your opponent is on a similar hand you will be totally destroyed. And you’ll wish your ruinblasters were some kind of answer like pulse.

    I too have thought for a long time on the season that maelstrom pulse were always bad, but that reality can be deceiving as in the mirror there’s always a player playing the role of control and another playing the role of agressor. When you’re on control role, pulse can be a good card.

    As a bonus note, the way I sideboard in the mirror is slightly different on the draw because I have different cards on my SB. I bring in 2 inquisiton of kozilek and 2 jund charm for at least 2 pulses and the last 2 cards being boarded out are always cards from the higher casting costs, and that depends more on the list they’re playing than something else. inquisition of kozilek + jund charm allow me to play better the control role when on the draw, the former being capable to hit many problematic cards like ruinblaster, blightning or sprouting thrinax, and the latter giving the ability to generate massive blowouts whenever they overextend, and being overall the perfect card to switch the numbers of the table in your favor. It also makes your bolts better against their thrinaxes.

    Overall, I agree with almost all plans owen has. My only difference is that I no longer focus on beating blue white, because I believe many UW players have migrated to NLB and turboland nowadays. Therefore, there are much less spreading seas in the tables, and I no longer feel the need to have tools like prophetic prism anymore. But i guess that is very metagame-dependent and players should make their calls accordingly to the fields they’re expecting.

  18. @ Rei:

    It’s not so much that Lightning Bolt is not good against the mirror but it is the best choice to side out. Everything you keep in is required. Most Jund lists are only running 15-17 creatures with Sarkhan right now and to take any aggro pressure out is a bad idea. And what exactly does Lightning Bolt work effectively on against U/W and U/W/R? Jace, finishing off a Wall of Omens, pinging for 3 and possibly being countered? It’s not worth it. I’ve played many many games against control and unless I keep a questionable hand or they draw something crazy like 3 Spreading Seas and 2 Wall of Omens it is an easy match up. The only time I would keep them in is against someone who main decks Knight of the White Orchid and even then they take Goblin Ruinblaster’s slot because that card becomes ineffective. Test my suggestions and you will agree.

  19. Wow, after reading that you seem much less of a genius then i thought you were. I’m winning the GP i’m like “man, this guy knows his stuff”
    but when i read your article it seem more like “and a friend told me to play this, so i did :D”.

    your still awesome just, less awesome

  20. EDIT: My last comment I meant Lightning Bolt against Control decks not mirror. Sorry. I’m off to post a thread somewhere on how to sb w/ Jund and I’ll link it here when I’m finished. Good luck.

  21. Mana leak will kill Jund even more than all of the other better decks that exist now do.

  22. Thanks for all the feedback guys and I just wanted to add a couple things. when I say in the article I haven’t found a reason to want to change my plan vs jund by that I mean it almost literally hasn’t failed me yet, I feel the matchup is very skill intensive and my opponents always manage to find a way to play worse than me. I agree with all of you that say Maelstrom Pulse is marginal in the mirror but its not like there is a 4x card that just solves the mirror or everyone would run it already and if im not losing to jund why would I try to change my sideboard to be better against it.

    I feel like siding out Lightning Bolt vs UW is automatic but to explain myself it is a pretty bad card to cascade into and at the very best it can hope to do is do 3 to the dome (which can be good if my draw is good but very bad if their draw is good AKA situational) or trade with half an Elspeth. For those who like to keep Lightning Bolt in against UW might i ask what you feel is a weaker card in the maindeck to sideboard out?

    Drawing cards with Sarkhan: I had origionally written that the costs in the deck besides Leech and Lightning Bolt are 4+ or exactly 3 so its hard to get good value from him. You probably can get about 2.5 cards off him on average but how useful are Dragonskull Summit and Forest when you already have enough mana to cast Sarkhan? So I stand by what I said unless you flip over Raging Ravine you will probably only get two spells off Sarkhan.

  23. True, but if that forest is on top of your library anyway it is better to draw it with sarkhan than to waste a draw step on it.

  24. Nice Owen. Glad to see you writing here. I know there isn’t much demand for it, but a vintage article would be sexy. Been brewing for legacy at all?

  25. Owen,

    How do you feel about the persecuter builds out there? I have been playing it and it feels pretty powerful. Just wondering what your thoughts were on the Abyssal. Thanks.

  26. @ Matt. I agree that siding lightning bolt out USED to be a good plan. However, having played UW a lot lately. I have come to realize that leaving bolt in results in more victories through burning them out in the mid to end game than taking them out. Seriously, no one plays baneslayer or spreading seas so terminate is usually pretty underwhelming, even more so for Prophetic Prism. I’m not saying it is always correct, just that LB is useful for burning UW out.

  27. I agree on the lack of Ruinblasters on the draw in the mirror, but depending on their list I would definitely bring in 2-3 copies of Duress. Being able to stop Sarkhan the Mad and Bituminous Blast before you can play your own is pretty good.

  28. Balancingthetwo

    Ok, I just ran your updated list in a standard daily b/c It was starting and I had just read your article. I ended up going 3-0-1, split in the finals (luckily) against Mono Red, lol, not much board there for that matchup.
    Either way, great article and thanks for the 8 packs 😀

  29. This is fairly minor, but you should take out the terminates for doom blades vs turboland since the restrictions of doom blade are irrelevant and it’s easier to cast.

  30. The problem with Bolt is that it is ONLY good if you can bolt them for lethal or maybe finish off a walker or occasionally finish off a wall, which pretty much sucks. It never trades for a card on it’s own, therefore it should be the first thing you cut against U/W. It’s weak. This has been common knowledge for a while.

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