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Feature Article – All Things Jund

 

Cliff’s notes: You should play Jund at States. A brief analysis of the Standard metagame follows, but file-find “Washington States” if you just want the list and matchup analyses.

Constructed formats are traditionally defined by their poles. Fast aggro and combo decks and phase three control decks provide a baseline for when prospective decks need to begin interacting with their opponents. Zendikar-Shards of Alara Standard has a different set of poles than most formats. Combo decks are a very small part of Standard because Steppe Lynx aggro decks can easily race them. No control decks have demonstrated the ability to survive a creature assault and make it to the late game. Indeed, Blue decks are so far off the radar that Spreading Seas is a legitimate mana denial strategy because no one has any Blue cards. Jund, the dominant deck, does not occupy any extreme spot in the metagame; it can be aggressive or controlling depending on the matchup or even on Jund’s draw. How did this happen?

Dredge and Time Sieve are the fastest combo decks in Standard, and both decks consistently goldfish a kill by turn six. The Red-White aggro decks led by Steppe Lynx and Plated Geopede consistently goldfish a kill by turn five. Neither combo deck has any effective way of interacting against a low curve and burn; not surprisingly, neither combo deck has a good matchup against the Lynx decks. Because the Lynx decks are so prevalent in Standard, the combo decks are not.

Historically, most control decks have either tried to keep the board reasonably stable for five or so turns before deploying an insurmountable threat or played a long game of attrition, grinding the opponent out of cards. Why aren’t those plans working?

It’s not very hard to kill a guy in Standard. Lightning Bolt, Wretched Banquet, and Path to Exile are all very efficient removal spells, and you can get more value up the curve.

What you can’t do is play a creature that dominates the board the same way Keiga and Meloku did in 2005. Your opponents all have their own removal spells, and if all you are doing is killing their animals up until you deploy, say, Baneslayer Angel, your man is going to make all of their removal spells live. Worse, all of the removal is cheap; your opponent is probably going to be able to play a threat along with their kill spell and continue bashing you. If you were relying on having a blocker, you will probably lose.

(Sphinx of Jwar Isle is an exception to this, but it’s a little embarrassing when you have to trade your Dragon that is trumping their team for their three drop lest you accidentally lose to a Woolly Thoctar.)

Cruel Ultimatum is removal-proof, but it’s much harder to cast after the rotation of Vivid lands, and decks have evolved to withstand Cruel Edict + Mind Twist. The Lynx decks kill long before turn seven, and the other White decks have Emeria Angel and Conqueror’s Pledge to provide fodder. Jund can even sacrifice Sprouting Thrinax, if they don’t just Blightning the Ultimatum away.

Since tap-out control decks don’t have anything to tap out for, control decks have to look to fight a war of attrition. However, Standard doesn’t have any powerful raw card draw beyond Mind Spring, and it’s hard to get away with spending a ton of mana on Mind Spring in lieu of affecting the board. Jace Beleren is an easy target for Lightning Bolt. Even effects saying “draw two cards” are hard to come by, requiring either shaky mana for Esper Charm or a four-mana, two-turn investment in Courier’s Capsule.

You can try getting your card advantage from mass removal, but that takes quite a bit of work. Day of Judgment is too slow to fight the Red-White one drops. Pyroclasm is good against the Lynx decks, but is almost blank against the bigger midrange decks. Eldrazi Monument might just blank your entire removal package. All of the Green-based midrange decks can present a reasonable clock while only exposing two or so cards.

Consider the Putrid Leech into Sprouting Thrinax draw. Pyroclasm is obviously no good. Facing down just those creatures, a prospective control deck is at nine going into turn four, and is going to six even with a Wrath. The Jund player can untap into Blightning and Lightning Bolt and win easily. When 4/4s cost two mana, it’s hard to use Day of Judgment as more than a spot removal spell. Getting multiple cards out of it requires jumping through several hoops and paying some life to hopefully get up one card, maybe two. (And heaven help you if one of those cards was Sprouting Thrinax.) The spot removal is really good, true, but you don’t win games by trading one-for-ones against decks with fewer lands and Blightnings.

Further, while the control decks are having a hard time drawing cards, it’s very easy for aggressive decks to get ahead on cardboard. Blightning and Mind Rot are obvious two for ones, and Bloodbraid Elf gets you a card, plus a Black Lotus to pay for it. Nissa Revane and Garruk Wildspeaker are very hard to answer without ceding an extra card. Compare Ranger of Eos to Courier’s Capsule. For four mana, the control deck gets two random cards. The aggro deck gets a 3/2 and two spells. Aggro decks can generate tempo and card advantage simultaneously, while control decks have to choose one or the other.

Cascading is the best way to get tempo and card advantage, and Jund is the best cascade deck. Unsurprisingly, Jund is also the best Standard deck. It’s a powerful midrange deck that is very good at blocking and attacking. Jund has no obvious vulnerabilities to exploit; it just makes a Putrid Leech and spends the rest of the game playing two-for-ones. There are no cards that just trump Jund. Ultimatum-esque spells are vulnerable to Blightning and Duress, and it’s very hard to win an attrition fight with a deck that is all cascades, Planeswalkers, and double Dragons. If you want to out-midrange them with better creatures, it’s going to require a fair amount of finesse to dodge Terminate, Maelstrom Pulse, and Bituminous Blast.

There are people who hate Jund’s dominance. They liken it to Faeries’ rule over Standard for the last two years while throwing their arms up in the air and saying the format is terrible. I disagree. First, when you play against Jund you actually get to, you know, play your spells, as opposed to getting Mana Shorted repeatedly by Mistbind Clique. Sure, Blightning is probably the least fun card in the format, but it isn’t nearly the offender Mistbind was. To be sure, discard effects are annoying, but one Blightning is not going to strip you of the ability to play Magic. (Granted, the second one, particularly off cascade, is pretty brutal.) Faeries was frustrating to play against because they had so many counterspells, shroud guys, and Mistbind Cliques that it was hard to interact with them. Games without interaction aren’t fun. Jund is certainly a very good deck, but most of its interactions take place in the combat step, and virtually all decks are equipped to battle in the red zone.

I’m playing Jund at Washington States. It’s the best deck, despite the maindeck presence of cards like Celestial Purge and Flashfreeze. It has a ton of raw power and provides ample opportunities for your opponent to make mistakes. You get to cascade. And it has Dragons!

// Men

 

// Kill your men

 

// Mind Twist Deserves Its Own Space

4 Blightning

// Real estate

 

// Sideboard

 

I have an unusual configuration. I expect to play the mirror four or five rounds out of eleven, and have prepared accordingly. In the mirror, Putrid Leech is solid when you are on the play and have a Thrinax to accompany it, and your opponent does not have Bolt, Terminate, Pulse, Thrinax, or Bloodbraid. That situation is rare. In other situations, Leech does not race well, and is not a good blocker. I favor going bigger in the mirror instead; I max out on Dragons and have Chandra Nalaar to accompany them. Chandra’s ultimate is good against control decks and stalled boards, and she can shoot down Dragons and Baneslayer Angels. She was originally Thornling, but getting that guy Pathed is enormously frustrating.

I prefer Garruk Wildspeaker to Master of the Wild Hunt. Garruk almost always creates a Beast immediately, so even if Garruk is immediately Bolted, you are still up a 3/3. In contrast, Master doesn’t generate immediate value, and you fall very far behind if your opponent untaps and has Bituminous Blast or Bolt plus another spell. Garruk is slightly worse against Blightning, but you still get your Beast, and it’s awkward for your opponent to waste mana casting Blightning on turn four or five, especially if you are ahead on the board. Of course, you can also just tick Garruk up and make him Blightning-proof while threatening Overrun. That play is better after boarding when your opponent doesn’t have Maelstrom Pulse.

Garruk is also the best threat against control decks, and while you can’t shoot protection bears with Garruk, you can sure put 3/3 Green men in front of your opponent’s Great Sable Stags, White Knights, and other animals.

Random notes before delving into matchup analysis:

If you are holding Lightning Bolt in the mirror and don’t have another way to kill Master or Garruk, don’t gleefully slam Bolt down on their Putrid Leech in response to a pump on turn three. You get a slight tempo advantage and some life, and your opponent gets infinite tokens. Awkward.

Don’t just run Bloodbraid Elf out onto a dry board. Sure, sometimes the other guy is a control deck and you will just never have a Terminate target, but don’t court missed cascades. You might think you’re getting value from your 3/2 haste, but you will get infinitely more value out of killing their guy. There are sometimes curve considerations where you have Bloodbraid into Chandra into Dragon or something similarly unfair, but those situations are the exception, not the rule.

Similarly, against White decks, don’t feel a sadistic compulsion to kill a man just because you drew your Terminate. Yeah, sometimes you need to wax a Wild Nacatl before it deals you six or nine, but you are favored in the long game barring a bunch of Baneslayer Angels. If you don’t actively need to use your removal to get to the long game, hang on to it.

Matchups:

The mirror: -3 Maelstrom Pulse -1 Terminate +2 Borderland Ranger +2 Mind Rot.

Assuming no one misses their third land drop and just dies, the mirror either ends with someone getting blown out in the midgame from a couple cascades, or winds up being a long war of attrition won by whoever controls the last man standing. Whether or not you want to be aggressive is usually dictated by your draw. Most of the time, the Putrid Leech lists are on offense, and you are defending. Because of Chandra, the Dragons, and Garruk, you tend to win the long games.

Basically, you want to minimize the damage you take and keep the board somewhat stable until you can play out your fives and sixes. You do that by trading aggressively. Bituminous Blast and Bloodbraid Elf are best when racing, because they kill a blocker (or two) while providing an extra clock. If you aren’t racing, their cascades aren’t quite as much of a blowout. Thrinax is fantastic, because it blunts their aggressive Elf draws. Don’t let Pulse two for one you unless you have no other choice.

They are going to cast Blightning. It is very hard to win if they cast it twice and you don’t cast any, but if you are only behind by one it isn’t the end of the world; usually you are doing well on the board if they are making you discard. Three Blightnings to your one is also hard to beat, but hopefully you will be able to play out your hand quickly enough to mitigate the effects of the third Blightning. A good rule of thumb is to discard a land and your most expensive spell, but it doesn’t always apply. Sometimes you will discard a redundant drop. If you are ahead on the board (and if they are casting Blightning you often are), you might want to just try to race. Try to avoid discarding Thrinaxes, Bloodbraids, and Blasts.

After sideboarding, most people will have Ruinblasters and either Mind Rots, Stags, or more Dragons. I am unimpressed by Ruinblaster; unless you succeed in actually manascrewing the other guy or pick off an Oran-Rief, he’s not that good. Borderland Ranger in particular makes the card look quite silly. You have so many x/3s that Ruinblaster’s body is often irrelevant, and the land destruction effect as a pure tempo play isn’t that powerful. Mind Rot is solid, but you don’t want to draw too many Mind Twists and get run over by their creatures. Stag is very good with Oran-Rief, but is otherwise hard to cast on turn three and mediocre against Garruk, Bloodbraid, and Bolt. Borderland Ranger is unimpressive on the surface, but you need to hit your land drops very badly, and doing so with value is actually quite good. The strategy after boarding is the same: don’t die, then start casting Dragons.

Steppe Lynx aggro: -4 Blightning -2 Chandra Nalaar -1 Broodmate Dragon +4 Pyroclasm +2 Terminate +1 Maelstrom Pulse

This matchup is real straightforward. They are going to try and run you over in a freight-train-like fashion, and you are going to try to derail them. Their curve is usually something along the lines of one drop, two drop, and another creature on turn three. If you manage to stem the bleeding, they will reload with Elspeth, Knight-Errant or Ranger of Eos. This is a matchup where you want Leech back; just being able to trade it for Goblin Guide or Elite Vanguard is quite helpful.

As long as you can keep doing things to the board, you are probably in good shape, but if you are on the draw and don’t have a play until turn three, you are likely dead. If you have Terminate or Bolt in the first couple turns, a three drop, and a Bloodbraid Elf, you are the favorite. If you get two guys with a Maelstrom Pulse, it’s very difficult for them to win. You also get some free wins when they miss land drops and their landfall men don’t do anything.

Overall, game one is pretty hard with this list. You bring your curve down after boarding, and cut Blightning in favor of cards that affect the board. Blightning isn’t that bad because they need their lands and have such good four drops, but you need to keep the board clear before you can worry about the long game. Don’t try to milk Pyroclasm; trading it one for one is fine if you will be casting other things on turns three and four. You also don’t want them to leave up a fetchland on turn three and keep their landfall guys around. (This, incidentally, is why Pyroclasm got the nod over Jund Charm.) You could play a Burst Lightning in one of the Terminate spots, but Pyroclasm is good enough that drawing it plus Terminate is an okay curve, and Burst and Bolt is only slightly better than Terminate and Bolt.

Midrange White and/or Green aggro decks: -3 Blightning +2 Terminate +1 Maelstrom Pulse

This encompasses basically all of the creature decks that don’t have Steppe Lynx and try to get you with creatures that cost three or more. They are pretty good matchups. None of them have a particularly fast clock, and you have time to bring all of your two for ones online. Their card advantage engines are fragile creatures, whereas yours are built into your spells. Even Naya Lightsaber isn’t too hard. Their best threats are Woolly Thoctar, Ajani Vengeant, and Baneslayer Angel. Their smaller creatures match up poorly against your 3/3s, and your removal overloads their legitimate threats very quickly.

Blightning is actually pretty good against most of the White decks, but most of them are also Green and are going to go after you with Stags postboard, which is why you can’t cut Bolt despite it being somewhat lackluster in game one. If they have Goblin Ruinblaster, you want the extra Borderland Rangers. If they have Conqueror’s Pledge, you want Pyroclasm instead.

Vampires: -2 Chandra Nalaar -1 Broodmate Dragon +2 Terminate +1 Maelstrom Pulse

Vampires is another aggressive deck without much of a clock, but they also have Mind Sludge, which requires a different line of play. Normally, you would want to go after a weenie aggro deck with Pyroclasm and just kill every Vampire Nocturnus you see, deploying Dragons at your leisure after they are out of cards. That plan isn’t so good against Mind Sludge, and so you keep Blightning in to keep them off five lands. If you don’t get Sludged and can contain Nocturnus, you will probably win. Play out your hand quickly; if you have Garruk in play, you usually want to spam his +1 to unload your hand as quickly as possible. Your spells outclass theirs, so as long as you actually get to cast them you’ll do fine.

Turbofog: -3 Bituminous Blast -2 Borderland Ranger -2 Chandra Nalaar +2 Duress +2 Unstable Footing +2 Mind Rot +1 Maelstrom Pulse

Game one is pretty hard. Ideally, you want to draw Thrinax and Bloodbraid and establish a quick clock while going after their Howling Mines and Fonts of Mythos with Maelstrom Pulse. If you can make them use their Flashfreezes on your Pulses or get them to tap out for something like Jace plus Fog, double Blightning on turn six will often force them to discard enough critical cards that you might be able to run them out of Fogs a couple of turns later. Don’t let Jace go ultimate. Angelsong will protect Jace from combat, but Safe Passage won’t; it’s usually worth spending your turn killing Jace instead of trying to push through damage. If Turbofog gets to untap with Jace at five and proceeds to do the Time Warp, you are probably getting milled for twenty. Don’t let that happen.

If it is the mid- to late- game and they Path to Exile a guy during your upkeep, you don’t want to search for a land. That one-of Path exists primarily to turn on their Archive Traps. Don’t let it.

You can cut Ranger because if they have Howling Mine, you will be hitting all your land drops while drawing three or so cards per turn. Chandra is a little slow, and it’s downright embarrassing for her ultimate to eat a Safe Passage, so she’s out. Terminates stay in because you want to be Pulsing their artifacts but still need outs to Baneslayer Angel.

Conveniently, you always draw your sideboard cards against Howling Mine decks. After boarding, you just want to sculpt a board where you have lethal damage and eight mana. At that point, you will Blightning them twice, cast Duress, and then blow them out with Unstable Footing when they try to Fog. The discard should overload their hand and punch through Footing, but even if it doesn’t, their hand is probably gone and they are relying on the top of their deck to be all Fogs. You can also just take a free win on turn six or seven if they tap out for Font and Angelsong and you have already mised a Footing.

Blue-based control decks: see below for sideboarding

All of these decks are trying to control the board and win going long. You don’t have Putrid Leech to clock them, but you do have several other tools. Thrinax is impervious to their removal, and can sprout some men if they put Wall of Denial in his way. Blightning is obviously insane, as is Bloodbraid. Your best card is Garruk, who pumps out 3/3s and threatens Overrun. Chandra is also very good; it’s hard for them to keep her off her ultimate. Don’t let them counter your Planeswalkers if you can possibly avoid it; make them tap out to deal with your other threats and sneak the Planeswalkers in unmolested.

Sideboarding is fluid. You want Duress and Mind Rot, and usually you want Maelstrom Pulse for things like Ajani Vengeant. However, if they are a White deck, they are bringing in Baneslayer, and you have to keep in a certain amount of ways to kill it. If they are Black, they are topping out at Ultimatum and you probably don’t need creature removal. If they are cascading into Spreading Seas, you want the Borderland Rangers and the Maelstrom Pulse.

And there you have it. Jund is straightforward, powerful, and does unfair things. You get the best cards in the format, and your opponents get to make mistakes when you Blightning them. A lot of people have built decks they think beat Jund. Prove them wrong this weekend.

Max McCall

[email protected]

14 thoughts on “Feature Article – All Things Jund”

  1. I think jund doesn’t compare to faeries at all. It is comparable to affinity. At worlds, there was a higher percent of people playing jund, and people winning with jund then when affinity was at it’s peek of broken success. That information is in an article on this site. I loved jund, and have been playing jund since before reborn was even out in alara block tournes. But, i hate a format with few sucessfull deck options. I can’t believe wizards can fuck up like this again. People said that worlds would bring new ideas to the table, and it did, but none of these options or any options have been quite good enough to be a possible comparable deck choice with jund. People are playing rediculous cards for tech against it. Look at spread em’ for fucks sake, you know the format is bad when it’s like that. It’s just like when affinity was around, you ran artifacts, or artifact hate.

  2. hello, i want to chime in and say great article. Very in depth. I do have a question, although the idea could very well be dumb, I am thinking outside the box though. … You are running 4 dragons , i am guessing this is because if you cast one against the mirror its good. however, if and when you get blightning(and mind roted), you most often will be discarding a dragon. What about running ” grixis slavedriver”( yes thats right people, i just mentioned a bad card lol) to actually gain some value out of blightning ??? they cast blightning and you discard slavedriver and whatever. Now you have a 4/4 haster that gives you a 2/2 ??? on its own it still has value as well. ( blocks most creatures and kills them. you get a 2/2 and have a 4/4haster and another 2/2 down the road. If this is utterly dumb, I’m fine with knowing , but it sounds awfully cute to me …..( this whole statement is based off of you playing alot of mirror matches. he is really bad if you are not forced to discard )

  3. @ Derry: % of the field isn’t a very good indication of a decks objective power level. Jund has such a high % of the field because it has 50-65% match ups against anything. It is the ultimate mid range deck in a metagame without a real control option. Clearly it is the best deck, but it isn’t Affinity like at all. Affinity had 50% against decks specifically designed to hate it and 80+% against anything else.

  4. My point isn’t that jund is as powerful as affinity, but that, the format has few options, and is as bad as affinity. It’s play jund or be inferior to jund.

  5. Derry: The deck is much closer to Fae than Affinity. Instead of a degenerate linear deck, you have a deck that while not as fast as the hyper aggro decks is still able to be aggressive and has many ways to generate card/tempo advantage. Both are even weak to the same strategies: hyper aggressive decks with lots of reach. Fae was also very under represented at events for how well it performed against the format, mainly because there was a lot of room to mess up the utility cards in the deck and make it awful for the metagame and a lot of room to misplay in the non-auto win games. In reality, over the year and a half or so Fae was legal, there were maybe 5 events/points where it was wrong to play it.

    And Spread’em is not even close to a sign of a degenerate metagame. Its just an extension of the standard LD archetype that has existed for years, using the current tools.

    The only reason Jund is so dominant is that cascade hit at a point in time where Wizards was trying to dial back the power level of cards. It also doesn’t help that a lot of the power decrease is in reactive blue cards, which are one of the incentives to not play cascade. When most other strategies are nerfed and one is on par for the previous power level, its clear which strategy is going to dominate the format. The cascade mechanic by itself is just really strong, but in context of the weakened format it is broken.

  6. Divination also draws 2 cards for 3 mana, better than Esper Charm or Courier’s Capsule. But it’s still not, you know… good.

  7. This just in “you can play your cards against jund”. You won’t win but your spells will resolve. In related news the format is great.

  8. @Draw5: Slavedriver is worse enough than Dragon in situations where you aren’t being hit by Blightning that it isn’t worth the effort, particularly since if you aren’t in the mirror, or if you don’t have Slavedriver in your hand when you get hit by Blightning, it’s pretty bad.

    @all: I overlooked the value of Duress against Vampires. Getting their Mind Twist is unbelievably important, and Duress should come in over the fourth Pulse. I’m not sure what you want to cut for the second Duress; it’s certainly better than a Blightning because you can’t miss, but my inclination would be to cut a removal spell or perhaps a Garruk for curve reasons. Assuming you don’t get Sludged, you’re the favorite, so cutting a second Dragon wouldn’t be unreasonable, but part of the reason you’re the favorite is because on turn six they have two drops and you have all these Dragons.

  9. What do people think of vampire nighthawk in the main? I run 2 atm moment with 3 Rangers as well. What do u guys think?

  10. Pingback: MTGBattlefield

  11. Youi mean like this one?

    Ivan Govedarov, 5-1
    2009 World Championships, Standard
    View a sample hand of this deck

    Main Deck

    60 cards
    4 Dragonskull Summit
    2 Forest
    3 Mountain
    3 Rootbound Crag
    4 Savage Lands
    5 Swamp
    4 Verdant Catacombs
    25 lands

    4 Bloodbraid Elf
    1 Broodmate Dragon
    4 Putrid Leech
    4 Sprouting Thrinax
    4 Vampire Nighthawk
    17 creatures 3 Bituminous Blast
    4 Blightning
    2 Chandra Nalaar
    4 Lightning Bolt
    4 Maelstrom Pulse
    1 Terminate
    18 other spells

    Sideboard

    4 Goblin Ruinblaster
    4 Hell’s Thunder
    3 Jund Charm
    1 Pyroclasm
    2 Terminate
    1 Thought Hemorrhage
    15 sideboard cards

  12. Why skip on 2-drops? The mirror is quite often a damage race actually and in alot of other matchups being fast is incredibly important. The deck just HAS to go traditional (leech) or saito (rampant growth) because skipping turn 2 too much is just weak. Going 4 broodmate 3 blast and 2 chandra without any tools to get them out quicker is just making the deck too slow, especially since the most common routes to attack the deck are racing it (boros, RDW, etc), attacking the mana (most sideboard tech) or outlasting it (URW control, turbofog). Most people avoid the attrition war against jund so playing tempo instead of some extra broodmates is just better, worlds results also support this as the LSV version didnt do as well as the saito or classic version.
    Furthermore the sideboard for this deck is pretty off and just raises alot of questions to me:
    – why pyroclasm over jund charm? Pyro is cheaper yes but jund charm being instant is incredibly useful against goblin bushwacker and RDW decks with ball lightning and friends, the graveyard ability is also randomly useful against some tier 3 decks and the pump makes it less dead then pyro when you need to race.
    – goblin ruinblaster is so damn useful that I’d never skip out on it. In the mirror on the play its definately solid, on the draw perhaps less so. The real value lies in how many matchups its useful, any 3+ color control gets killed by it and even against turbofog its usefull by simply being a hasty threat with added value.
    – why no malakir bloodwitch? Bant, naya, GW and monoW combined make a pretty big part of the metagame and they all have a big problem of dealing with the card giving you time to win with your cascade spells. Being able to stall a baneslayer makes life much easier for the jund player as you wont have to slowplay a removal so often for fear of losing to baneslayer while you dont have removal.Especially with a worlds win naya is probably going to be overplayed so why not shore it up a little bit.

    Also why leave in garruk vs boros? In the matchup you generally want to use bituminous blast on their turn because of being able to hit more creatures then. (flipping pyroclasm on your turn when they got bushwacker pretty much sucks, also pulse is more likely to be a 2 for 1 on their bushwacking turn) Garruk off a flip on their turn sucks, and since they oftne race you its just a weak card. With your list being so topheavy i can understand you’re cutting some topheavy cards but all that this reveals is that your list is just too topheavy. Borderland ranger might ensure you can play your higher drops (although tapping out for a 2/2 sucks often) it doesnt let you play them faster, just add rampant growth or leech and have a far better list as a result…

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