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Careful Consideration – The Top Eight Things I Think I Think About Jund

 

I did not recently set myself on fire or fall off a cliff. I just needed a break from Magic – I had burnt out pretty hard and wanted to recharge my batteries, but it’s hard to just give up on Magic and only play what you want and when you want when you’ve got a weekly column. Luckily, LSV is a nice guy and he gave me a break from writing (although I continued my daily duties as co-editor of this site), and after durdling and burdling around for a while, I’m fired up and ready to go.

I’ve been playing a fair bit of Jund, both on paper and online, and it’s one of the most misunderstood decks. Or rather, this format is tricky to get down, and has been since Lorwyn rotated, giving us this current Standard format. Even broad, general concepts like the approach to beating Jund on any sort of regular basis took months to figure out, and I’m not completely convinced that it’s been solved. Hence the title being the things I merely think I think about Jund – while also being homage to Sports Illustrated columnist Peter King.

1. You need more than just four creatures that can attack through Wall of Omens.

Recently in Standard we’ve seen a trend of cards that have pretty large impacts on the format, but do so in subtle ways. Spreading Seas wasn’t really given much of a thought when it was spoiled, but it has affected the format in a large way – and Wall of Omens is now doing the same thing. The Wall’s power – that is, being able to stop an attacking Sprouting Thrinax or Bloodbraid Elf while also replacing itself – was more readily apparent than that of Spreading Seas, but is equally strong. The colorshifted Wall of Blossoms is ubiquitous in control decks that play white, and Jund has to adjust. Four Putrid Leech is a good start, but having four more creatures that can attack through a Wall of Omens is becoming increasingly necessary. Whether it’s Plated Geopede, Vengevine, or Sedraxis Specter (postboard), have a way to bash through a 0/4.

2. Yes, Vengevine does have a home in Jund.

When Vengevine was spoiled, the initial thought was that it didn’t fit into Jund because it was unlikely to be triggered in the mirror unless you got lucky to cascade into another creature via Bloodbraid Elf, an unreliable plan at best. Jund mirrors often go long and are attrition wars, and you’re not going to be able to hold two creatures in your hand in order to trigger Vengevine’s graveyard ability. So Vengevine found itself in other decks, often built around Vengevine (playing sub-par cards like Kor Skyfisher, for example), and these decks weren’t very good.

This reminds me a bit of when Tarmogoyf started to see play after Regionals 2007 (he wasn’t played much during that tournament, despite the fact that red/green aggro was the top aggro deck in that format; most people just hadn’t caught on). Tarmogoyf initially was put into Time Spiral Block Constructed decks with inefficient cards like Chromatic Star and Edge of Autumn solely to make Tarmogoyf as big as possible, since he “comboed” with those cards. But in reality, Tarmogoyf just comboed with playing Magic: The Gathering. So people stopped trying so hard, and Tarmogoyf was realized as being the awesome efficient creature that he is. If there happened to be an artifact or an enchantment in the graveyard, then it was just a bonus, but it was unnecessary.

Vengevine is the same way. He may or may not do things to come back from the graveyard, but more importantly, he’s a four power haste creature for four mana with no drawback. If you happen to cascade into him via Bloodbraid Elf into Sprouting Thrinax, then that’s just icing on the cake. Otherwise, he’s still a perfectly fine, quality creature that bashes through Wall of Omens and trades with Putrid Leech. Sign me up.

3. Aggressive Jund builds let you have a clear plan in the mirror.

The Jund mirror isn’t a lot of fun because it is one of the most draw-dependent mirrors in a long time, but more importantly, it was sometimes difficult to determine whether or not you should be the beatdown in any particular game. It depended largely on what was in your hand, whether you were on the play or draw, who mulliganed, and what was in their hand. You have information on the first factors, but you don’t know what’s in their hand (not exactly – apply powers of deduction as appropriate). Do you trade your Sprouting Thrinax for their Bloodbraid Elf, or do you take the hit and go beatdown? When is it right to chump Putrid Leech with Thrinax? Do you Terminate the attacking Putrid Leech, or can you afford to take the hit and discard the card to Blightning if they do so postcombat? If they don’t have the Blightning, then one line of play is correct, while if they do have the Blightning, then the other line of play is better. Often it’s a guessing game, and if you guess wrong, you give up an edge.

But if you’re playing Geo Jund versus the slower, more lategamey midrange Jund, your plan becomes much clearer, and some of the “my plan depends on what he has or could draw”-ness goes away. If they cast their top-end Broodmate Dragon and they’re not close to dead, you’re probably in trouble. In those matchups, you are the beatdown and you can look at your opening hand and draws and plan accordingly.

Obviously this won’t be the case 100% of the time, as you can have a slow but keepable hand and be placed in the same situation as before (that is, playing a more “midrange” game in the mirror), but having a deck that’s geared around a particular plan will help make your mirrors more consistent and feel less like a coinflip. Although most of any edge you get in the Jund mirror is going to happen during deck construction, games are definitely won or lost based on choosing the correct plan. Having a build that lets you choose the correct plan more consistently is going to add up to more wins.

(If they’re playing a similarly aggressive Jund deck, then you’re in the same boat as before, but that’s not really avoidable.)

4. If you’re going to play Goblin Ruinblaster, stay aggressive.

I see some people try to play both the aggression role and the attrition game in the Jund mirrors, and I don’t think that’s the way to go about it. If you’re going to play Goblin Ruinblaster, leave the Mind Rots at home. If you want to throw him in the same deck as Plated Geopede and leave in your Putrid Leeches postboard, on the other hand, then he’s largely okay. I admit to not being a huge fan of him against decks that play 27 lands, but if you’re going to play cards in your Jund decks like Lotus Cobra, Nest Invader, or Rampant Growth, then you can really blow them out with a turn three Ruinblaster, especially on the play. I think there are better ways to approach the mirror and in other matchups Spreading Seas can sometimes make kicking him difficult, so he’s not my favorite guy – but if you are going to play him, then take a plan and stick with it. Playing a 2/1 hasty guy just as a Stone Rain when you’re trying to win an attrition war is pretty loose. Playing a 2/1 hasty guy when your plan is to beat down every turn is a better, more cohesive strategy.

5. Consuming Vapors is way stronger than I initially thought.

If Jund has a drop in popularity (like in the first few events of the post Rise era), I would even consider maindecking Consuming Vapors. Initially I thought it would only be good against creature-based decks like Mythic, but I found that it is actually very strong against decks with Wall of Omens, especially if they’re maindecking cards like [card]Sphinx of Jwar Isle[/card]. Postboard it’s almost a must, as Wall of Denial is a huge problem, but Consuming Vapors helps mitigate that problem significantly. Interestingly, the lifegain aspect often comes into play, as games can play out where you’re racing with Putrid Leech and they are beating you back down with a Celestial Colonnade. Elspeth can make Vapors a little awkward, but overall you still get a ton of value out of that card in that matchup.

Against Mythic it can be a little awkward if it just eats Noble Hierarchs and Birds of Paradise, but if your postboard plan is to use a lot of spot removal to kill their mana birds and then Consuming Vapors their bigger guys, the card is quite effective. Look at the removal that John Pham’s PTQ-winning decklist has against Mythic:

 

That’s not even including 4 Siege-Gang Commander as removal. If your plan is to let the mana birds live and just kill whatever big things they play (Knight of the Reliquary, Baneslayer Angel, Sovereigns of Lost Alara if they leave it in), then Consuming Vapors is only mediocre. But if you slow them down by bolting their Hierarchs and Birds, that’s where Consuming Vapors really shines.

Even against Mono-Red, those decks have shifted to be more creature-based (I’ve seen some UWx players leave in Day of Judgment against them), and that’s another matchup where Consuming Vapors initially stayed in the sideboard after game one, but eventually found its way into the deck postboard, as it does just enough against cards like Kargan Dragonlord and Devastating Summons to warrant the slot. And it can eat your own Sprouting Thrinax if need be to get a lifegain boost without setting back your board development too far.

6. If you want to beat Mythic consistently, don’t skimp on removal.

For Nationals Qualifiers, I expected more Turbofog, Polymorph, and Open the Vaults combo decks than there actually were. In testing, the John Pham Jund deck was utterly crushing the Sperling Conscription Mythic list, especially postboard. I mentioned that it felt like punching a baby repeatedly.

As a result, I thought I could skimp on removal and cut the two Doom Blades for Thought Hemorrhage, noting that Doom Blade really only came in against creature-based decks like Mythic and Mono-Red. I didn’t expect a lot of Mono-Red, and the Mythic matchup was “such a good matchup I could get away with it.”

But what I realized is that you do need a critical mass of removal, because you have to be able to execute your “kill everything” game plan, and the Doom Blades are necessary. I had to leave in two Putrid Leeches over the nonexistent Doom Blades, and in a key game, I was confronted with the following six card hand on the play (after mulliganing a no-lander):

 

That’s a pretty solid six card hand for Jund, and an autokeeper. But the problem is that you need to draw removal, and in spades, in order to stay with your plan. If they untap with a Knight of the Reliquary or Baneslayer Angel, you’re probably toast. I Burst Lightninged a Noble Hierarch, drew (and played) two more Putrid Leeches, cascaded into a Borderland Ranger when I did play Bloodbraid Elf, and my plan to beat “my best matchup” went out the window, likely costing me a slot at Nationals.

It’s easy to be results-oriented here, but Mythic can be such an explosive deck and Jund has to have enough cards to contain it. If they get an awkward draw and stumble, then Jund will get punished. More testing is necessary, but it may even be correct to mulligan that hand, as crazy as that sounds.

If your plan is to kill everything, then have the cards that kill everything. Consume the Meek is a card worth trying, although it doesn’t get around Dauntless Escort the way Consuming Vapors does, and it’s a littlPutrid Leechese slow.

7. Consider cutting Lightning Bolt from the maindeck entirely.
Bolt is not very good in the mirror and it’s not very good in the UWx matchup, and is boarded out in both matchups. If those are the two most popular decks, then you might want to think about cutting the card entirely, and putting Bolt in the board. If you don’t expect a lot of Mythic, Naya, or Mono-Red, you could even leave Lightning Bolt out of the deck entirely. It’s crazy to think that Lightning freaking Bolt is not a particularly strong card in a format, but right now it’s not particularly well-positioned if you don’t expect a lot of creature-based decks that aren’t Jund.

Pham/Wrapter went down to two Lightning Bolts in the main and had two more in the sideboard, and I don’t fault them for that. I find myself boarding out Lightning Bolt a lot, although it’s pretty key in the Mythic matchup and you really need to be able to kill Birds and Hierarchs if you’re on the above Consuming Vapors plan, hence them actually having a fifth Lightning Bolt in the board (Burst Lightning).

8. Sedraxis Specter is the real deal in both the mirror and against Spreading Seas decks.
When I first saw Sedraxis Specter in the sideboard of Jund decks a few months ago, I was skeptical. Jund’s mana is bad enough as it is, so why would you add a fourth color? But Wrapter/Pham found an elegant way to get around this problem. Playing seven ways to get the Island postboard (four Terramorphic Expanse/Evolving Wilds, one Scalding Tarn, and two Borderland Rangers) isn’t a lot, but when you take into account that the maindeck cards all play well with Plated Geopede and help fight against Spreading Seas, it really works well with the deck. Having a more resilient manabase that’s less vulnerable to both Spreading Seas and Goblin Ruinblaster will win games. Combine that with being able to play Specter off the Spreading Seas, and I’m sold. In Jund mirrors, I often found myself without the Island, but I was still able to get a lot of value out of it by discarding it to Blightning, then continuing my gameplan of staying aggressive and wanting to beat down every turn (see point #3) by unearthing the Specter and getting in damage while taking a card out of their hand.

Being able to discard Specter to Blightning and giving him haste the following turn is pretty big. For one, you get a lot of use out of him if you don’t draw the Island (or a way to get it), and two, it’s damage that can come out of nowhere that makes it difficult for the opponent to account for. Taking a surprise extra three damage (or even six!) while also being down a card is a pretty dramatic turn of events. Incidentally, I recently won a match where I was almost certainly going to lose the next turn, but he cast Cruel Ultimatum, letting me discard two Specters and unearth them for exactly lethal the next turn. It’s been a while since I’ve won a game because my opponent cast Cruel Ultimatum, something that hasn’t happened since the days of Reflecting Pool, Vivid lands, and opposing Anathemancers.

Sure, Wall of Denial is a problem, but that’s why you have Consuming Vapors. Against UWr, Specter really pulls his weight when you have ways to clear the way for the guy.

Jund seems very well-positioned, and it’s the most adaptable deck in the format. I really have a hard time believing anyone when they say “my deck just crushes Jund.” I can believe that it has a good matchup against particular, specific builds of Jund that may be popular at any given point in time, but Jund can adjust its sideboard for any matchup and continue to be one of the strongest decks – if not the strongest deck in the format. It’s telling that the only matchup where Jund really has a hard time getting a large edge is the mirror.

Yours returningly,
-Zaiem
zaiemb at gmail dot com
zbeg on Twitter
zbeg on Magic Online

29 thoughts on “Careful Consideration – The Top Eight Things I Think I Think About Jund”

  1. Thanks for the article, nice to see jund getting some treatment that doesn’t involve people wanting to hang those that play it.

  2. Its good to have you back bud. I like the style of this article. I had been playing jund since zendikar but i recently switched to Superfriends. I still think that it is one of the best decks, but the major thing which took it down a notch is the diversification of the format. Pre RoE, the traditional mainboard was more or less effective against every deck in the field and you could have strong game 1’s vs any other deck depending on your draw. The problem I see with the deck now is that your cards arent good vs everything now, which takes from being ‘the best deck’ to being ‘a tier 1 deck’. this is fine; the deck is still top quality, but it now becomes a metagame choice rather than an auto play.

    The issues I see with the deck are now:
    1) It is now just a normal ‘good deck’.
    2) Jund’s swingy draws have now become more swingy (except with Wrapter Jund, where youre usually the aggro)
    3) You now have to make metagame calls about how you want to build your deck.
    4) Sometimes, it just doesnt work

    Jund still probably has the most raw power of any deck in the field, but i personally don’t like playing draw-dependant decks. It seems to me that Jund has now become a draw (and cascade) dependant aggro/midrange deck which just doesnt seem good enough to me.

  3. very good read but i disagree that there are no decks that crush jund. The new vengevine naya deck is a very bad matchup as Im fairly sure jund has no good answer to vengevine and they also have stoneforge mystic, KOR, ranger of eos, bloodbraid elf, scute mob, and behemoth sledge which are all very good against jund…and jund can often get blown out by its own blightning. Its not a dream scenario for the naya deck to pitch 2 vengevines to a blightning then reanimate both of them the following turn. Even pitching 1 vengevine and getting it back for free is very strong.

  4. @John: Did you ever write something worth reading?

    On topic: I was playing Jund like the whole season and was trying to qualify for nationals with the deck. However, I only qualified after I switched to Mythic Conscription and was thinking the days of Jund being the best deck were more or less over. Recently it has become a good choice once again: it has adapted (where I admittedly failed to adapt with the deck when I was playing it lately), and maybe even more important: people build their decks now with UWx control in mind, instead of pre-sideboarding their anti-Jund plan all the time.

    Thanks for making me realise that Jund still rocks, I will try to adapt and play it once again.

    p.s. wat do people think of a) Broodmate in Jund: are her days over because she’s too slow? b) Persecutor in Jund: I guess there are plenty of possibilities to remove him when needed? (Vapors, Sarkhan, Pulse, Terminate)?

  5. It’s weird to hear you say Mythic is your best match-up. In our testing the only way Jund could win Mythic in g1 involved Mythic getting flooded with mana creatures and too few big guys. It definitely gets harder after sideboard, but Mythic should still be favored.

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  7. Instiqma:

    Once Jund boards such that it is 25%+ removal post board with minimal non-removal cascades, Mythic just folds.

  8. Thanks for the great article. Sure there are many articles about Jund but I still find every one informative since the deck can adapt and evolve so well. I hope to play Jund with some success on MTGO since its the only top tier deck that can be built without ridiculous money mythics. Keep up the good writing

  9. @ wout: like you said they’re all meta calls.
    In stock lists: Broodmate’s days are over atm, they only mu its good against is the mirror and even then your hoping not to beaten up by ruinblaster on the way. Persecutor is showing up a lot in the Japaneese Jund lists, its great against control while being decent against other decks. It gets better when you combine it with Sarkhan (who is amazing and should be a 2-3 of in every stock Jund list) it gets even better, worth testing but your basicly playing a different deck with persecutors so its too much time for benefit I feel.
    I came 3rd at my qualifyers with 4 SGC in the main. They are just so necessary now if you want any chance against control mu’s.

    Jund isn’t nearly as good as it used to be. However, I do believe that Jund can still be built to beat 3/4 of the top decks (Mythic, U/W/x, RDW and mirror) successfully. The challenge now is to work out which one your least likely to play against.

    I’ve tried dropping bolts untill I realised that my chance of getting past the first few games in a tournament drop significantly. I still think they deserve their spot with so many random decks still showing up in the early rounds. The geo-jund builds don’t need to worry so much as they’re fast enough to get around those problems.

  10. I was impressed by the level of insight. So much so, that I am shocked by at least one of the rude comments written here.

    I thought the article was timly and actionable. What more could one want from an article? This is EXACTLY what I want in an article.

    Jeff

  11. I thought this article was done very well and a good read. My only question is what version of the deck would you bring to a ptq type tourney. I understand it is a meta call but it seems like it would be hard to understand how the field will look if you don’t get to see all the deck lists ahead of time. Is there a list of jund that is just better than the rest vs the field or would you say it is just a guessing game. And if that were the case wouldn’t something straight forward like mythic just be better?

  12. Very good article, and I’m glad to have you back writing. I played you at GP Houston (Round 4, I believe, I was playing Living End) and I was disappointed to not get a tourny report from you on that, especially after your strong start!

    I enjoy your articles quite a bit and am excited to be able to read them again.

  13. “Still think bit blast and consuming vapors in one deck is pure anti-synergy”

    If Consuming Vapors cost 3BR, was an instant, and let you choose the first creature that died, would you play it?

  14. Bit Blast into Consuming Vapors
    3BR
    Instant

    Target creature’s controller sacrifices it. You gain life equal to its toughness.

    (Note, no rebound. Also not quite accurate since you could vapors yourself off the blast, but that’s fairly rare.)

  15. @Adam – It’s not as much of a problem now, but I was pretty amazed by the hostility towards Jund about six weeks ago, when I first started playing it on MODO. In queues, no less – not the tournament practice room. They would berate me and tell me how their deck had a good Jund matchup, and they would yell at me for playing “a stupid deck.” You’d think I’d just eaten a puppy. Bizarre.

    @W A MacMurdo – I agree that it can feel very swingy. Cascade creates a lot of variance, as does the three-color manabase and the ETBT lands. It is pretty swingy, though as you pointed out, Wrapter Jund makes it a little less so. I like Wrapter Jund for many reasons. The biggest issue I have with Jund is that the mirror really feels like a coinflip. Maybe a little less if you’re playing Wrapter Jund v non-Wrapter Jund, but it’s still really coinflippy.

    @Gavin – I tried to work it into this article, but didn’t find an elegant way to do so. For the rest of you who are wondering what he’s talking about, I played four Jund mirrors in the first five rounds at National Qualifiers, and I mentioned that I felt like I was flipping coins. Gavin said something like, “the Jund mirror is all ‘durdle burdle herpa derpa,'” while making cascading motions. Then we decided that if I played another Jund mirror, that’s exactly what I would do. I would just make “herpa derpa” noises instead of saying actual words.

    …so the next round, my opponent played turn one Savage Lands, and it was on. I herpa and derpad my way through the game, not actually saying a real word. My opponent was pretty awesome and took it in stride, although after game one he did ask, “okay…so uh, what’s the deal?” I explained, and he was on board. There were more durdles and burdles, herpas and derpas. The disappointed “herpa” as you get Blightninged twice. The excited “zerpa?” as you play Bloodbraid Elf, as you need to cascade into the right spell. And when you rip Bituminous Blast into Bloodbraid Elf into Blightning, that obviously warrants a very excited “GURPA DERPA HERPA DERPA!” I wouldn’t have done it if I thought my opponent was getting annoyed, but he was a really good sport about it and we had a good time.

    @Zach – I can’t seem to beat a good Wrapter Jund player postboard when I play Naya with any sort of consistency. Vengevine helps, but they have so much bloody removal and they seem to win on card quality. But I haven’t played it a ton; my plans this week are to play a lot more Naya v Jund postboard.

    @John Smith – Yes.

    @wout – I know the Japanese are all about the Persecutor, and that guy’s a ridiculous person. I definitely want to try that guy out. It also gives me an excuse to maindeck Consuming Vapors, which is a card I’m impossibly in love with right now. Broodmate seems a little slow for this environment and while he’s strong in the mirror, that’s the only matchup where I like him. And I’d rather beat down with Geopedes and Leeches, so by the time they play Broodmate, I can hopefully burn them out with Siege-Gang Commander or a Blightning.

    @instiqma – I think this is indicative of this format being very hard to understand. I know people who think Jund’s best matchup is Mythic, and others who say Mythic is favored. I don’t remember the last time there was so much disagreement over the fundamental nature of a given matchup. I don’t know if it’s because Jund is so high variance with its cascades that you need a larger sample in order to determine who’s favored, or what.

    @Kenseiden, Jeff Stewart – Thank you. 🙂

    @e_hawk77 – I would play Wrapter Jund, because I think it’s a little more consistent and it is aggressive, which I think is the way to go right now. And I think it’s stronger than most builds in the mirror. It’s actually a very well-designed deck, and it has a bunch of little subtle things going for it. Unless someone can find me a nice build with Abyssal Persecutor.

    @Bug – Thanks, and yeah it was round 4. GP Houston is one of the reasons why I did take a break from Magic, and I wanted to throw myself into the Gulf of Mexico that weekend. Here’s a tournament report, though:

    Started out 6-0. #1 in standings.
    Finished 0-3. Missed day 2. Set myself on fire.

    @Glenn – Exactly right. Bit Blast into Consuming Vapors isn’t an immediate two-for-one, but if they have an empty board, do you refrain from casting Bloodbraid Elf because you could cascade into an empty Terminate or Maelstrom Pulse? Of course not. And cascading into Consuming Vapors is actually much better, because you still get to Vapors the next turn on the rebound. Let’s not be greedy!

    @Monk Realist – You still get the rebound, because the Bituminous Blast doesn’t resolve before the Vapors does. The Vapors resolves first. They obviously choose the creature you targeted with Blast. Vapors resolves, it gets exiled, and then Bituminous Blast is still on the stack. The target is gone, so Bituminous Blast is countered. I guess if they have no creatures left, you can’t do a whole lot with Vapors, but I think that’s an okay position to be in. If you’re bringing in Vapors, presumably it’s against a creature deck, and if they have no creatures left, you’ve probably done a pretty good job of executing your gameplan.

  16. @zaiem
    rebound doesnt work that way, you have to cast the rebound card from your hand in order to rebound

  17. @hans – Oh, wow. You’re right. My consuming vapors at Nats Qualifiers were in Japanese, so I didn’t realize that’s how that worked. Hmm. Thanks for the correction. Okay, so Bit Blast into Vapors isn’t as strong as I thought, but I put it in the “bloodbraid elf into terminate onto an empty board” category. It happens, it’s unfortunate, but it’s not a reason to exclude either of those cards from your deck.

  18. “do you refrain from casting Bloodbraid Elf because you could cascade into an empty Terminate or Maelstrom Pulse?”

    Pretty often, yeah.

  19. cascaded from bloodbraid into gutural response in natz, but cascaded from enlisted wurm into green command/wrath a lot in GP Sao Paulo so it pays ^^

  20. HEY NICE ARTICLE CAN SOMEONE PLZ TELL ME HOW TO SIDEBOARD THE WRAPTER JUND AGAINST TOP DECKS PLZZ

  21. I am almost interested in the answer of Tommy’s question, how do you sideboard with this deck? Most of the cards in the main seem so good I don’t know which ones I don’t want. If someone could please post a sideboard guide, that would be fantastic. Thanks.

  22. I think the disagreement about Jund’s match-up with mythic is probably because the ratios are hugely dependent on how much removal the Jund deck has pre and post sideboard (as an allies player, I relate to this). And number of removal spells is something Jund decks vary quite widely on.

  23. @tommy – Check Silvestri Says from a couple of weeks ago. There’s a SB guide posted there.

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