Owen’s a Win – Jund Versus Reanimator

I decided to go back to my roots this week and write about Standard. I received some messages lately from players asking me about Jund and if it’s still a good choice, and how to make Jund favorable against Reanimator. Let’s start with the most common form of Jund these days, the list Reid Duke used at the MOCS on his way to a 4-0 in the Standard portion.

[deck]Main Deck:
4 Blood Crypt
3 Dragonskull Summit
2 Forest
2 Kessig Wolf Run
4 Overgrown Tomb
2 Rootbound Crag
4 Stomping Ground
4 Woodland Cemetery
2 Arbor Elf
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
3 Olivia Voldaren
4 Thragtusk
2 Abrupt Decay
2 Bonfire of the Damned
1 Dreadbore
4 Farseek
2 Garruk, Primal Hunter
2 Ground Seal
3 Liliana of the Veil
1 Mizzium Mortars
1 Murder
2 Rakdos’s Return
2 Tragic Slip
2 Acidic Slime
2 Bonfire of the Damned
3 Duress
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
1 Mizzium Mortars
1 Pillar of Flame
1 Rakdos’s Return
2 Slaughter Games
2 Tragic Slip[/deck]

Jund has traditionally been weak to graveyard strategies in Standard, because it aims to play a long-game, creature-removal strategy, and your long game is weak to super powerful cards like [card]Angel of Serenity[/card] and [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card], while creature removal is soft to [card]Unburial Rites[/card]. I think if you took a Jund deck from 6 months ago and paired it against a Reanimator deck from today, Jund would probably win 20% of the games.

This doesn’t mean the matchup is hopeless, it just means you need to respect it and make card choices with it in mind. The cards available to help solve this matchup are quite effective, so there is hope.

[draft]deathrite shaman[/draft]

[card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] is played in Jund from time to time, and is clearly a very powerful card. [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] is seen across Modern and Legacy, so it’s hard to deny its effectiveness. That said, I think it is a poor card in Standard, and the largest reason for that is the lack of fetchlands.

In older formats, it serves as a [card]Birds of Paradise[/card] with good late game potential as a threat that can deal damage first, and as a form of graveyard hate second. One of the reasons I dislike [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] is because it requires you to leave up mana every turn in fear of getting blown out by [card]Angel of Serenity[/card]. If your opponent has no cards in his graveyard you are not safe, because he can simply cast a [card]Grisly Salvage[/card] end of turn and put the Angel into his graveyard alongside an [card]Unburial Rites[/card] or he could even just cast a Rites from his hand.

Often you stunt your own development to protect yourself with [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] and it can just die to [card]Abrupt Decay[/card], and while you slow yourself down with it you can just die to hard-cast [card]Angel of Serenity[/card]. The biggest reason I dislike [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card], though, is that your own copies of [card]Ground Seal[/card] shut it off.

[draft]ground seal[/draft]

I mentioned [card]Ground Seal[/card] shutting off [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] because I believe [card]Ground Seal[/card] is the absolute best card to beat Reanimator. It is not the single most effective or powerful choice, but I like for a multitude of reasons.

[card]Ground Seal[/card] is incredibly cheap at just two mana and it allows you to protect yourself very early in the game and duck under their [card]Unburial Rites[/card] before they can nut draw you. I like that since [card]Ground Seal[/card] draws a card when it comes into play it is never a dead draw, and so is quite good against [card]Abrupt Decay[/card].

I never liked being all-in on cards like [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] or [card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/card], because savvy Reanimator opponents can sideboard out some or all of their [card]Unburial Rites[/card], making your hate cards blank draws, or they can also just have [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] to destroy it and move on. [card]Ground Seal[/card] is never a blank draw and makes it far less effective for them to [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] it and win easily. [card]Ground Seal[/card] is also a fine card to maindeck, though it is quite a bad draw against the hyper aggressive blitz decks. Aside from that deck, it’s a reasonable card against [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] and it warps the Reanimator matchup, which is not only tough game one but also pretty popular. I like having [card]Ground Seal[/card] in the main but it is totally metagame dependent.

[draft]grafdigger’s cage[/draft]

The sideboard of this deck runs 1 [card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/card], and when I recently played in a big Standard tournament Reid gave me his deck list with 1 [card]Ground Seal[/card] and 1 [card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/card] in the sideboard, which I quickly changed to 2 [card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/card]. I played two Cages because I liked it much more against the Human Reanimator deck, which was more popular then and sees nearly no play at all now. I liked the fact that the Cage shut off [card]Unburial Rites[/card] and made it so even a hard-cast [card]Angel of Glory’s Rise[/card] won’t win.

[card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/card] also shuts off flashback spells like [card]Lingering Souls[/card] out of Reanimator, and can even be used as a good sideboard card against blue control decks to shut off [card]Think Twice[/card]. Normally I would be against a card that’s sole purpose is to weaken [card]Think Twice[/card], but when you play against control, the Cage can shut off [card]Think Twice[/card] and [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card], allowing [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] and [card]Rakdos’s Return[/card] to be even more devastating. Smart control plays use [card]Think Twice[/card] in a number of ways to work around Liliana and [card]Rakdos’s Return[/card], the best plays are often casting it once and never flashing it back until either they have to cast it or die, or when they are in topdeck mode.

If I cast [card]Rakdos’s Return[/card] and make you discard your entire hand, if you ‘saved’ a [card]Think Twice[/card] in the graveyard, you now have two shots at a [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card]. If I can use Liliana to empty your hand, I may not actually get you to discard a card with the +1 if your last card in hand is a Think Twice in the graveyard.

Basically, having a Think Twice in your graveyard is an extension of your hand size that is impervious to discard. With Jund, if I can [card]Slaughter Games[/card] my opponent’s [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card]s, have a [card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/card] in play, and [card]Rakdos’s Return[/card] their entire hand, I know they have basically no outs to win the game except a [card]Jace, Memory Adept[/card]. Setting this all up can be difficult, but when you do it’s a hard lock. A [card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/card] in play for a very long game can shut off multiple [card]Think Twice[/card], and if I can play a card that says, “target opponent draws 4 less cards this game,” for 1 mana, then that is quite good. In the end, I think Reid was right and I only like one copy of [card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/card], because drawing two is horrible—it’s quite bad against [card]Abrupt Decay[/card], and almost nobody plays [card]Angel of Glory’s Rise[/card] any longer.

[draft]slaughter games[/draft]

Lastly, you can see Jund has adopted [card]Slaughter Games[/card] again, which I like. I said previously in an article that I hated [card]Slaughter Games[/card] against blue/white/red control, since they can just beat you with fair cards like [card]Restoration Angel[/card], [card]Boros Reckoner[/card], and [card]Aurelia, the Warleader[/card]. I did say that I hated [card]Slaughter Games[/card] against control, but I do like it as an answer to Reanimator.

I like to play only two copies of this card, because although it does have many uses against Esper and other control decks, it can still be weak drawing multiples. I hate that the best target for [card]Slaughter Games[/card] against Reanimator is [card]Unburial Rites[/card] and people often sideboard it out. But I do like that when I cast it, I can get the immediate satisfaction of seeing it have an effect on the game. Often I cast [card]Slaughter Games[/card] and then lose a few turns later, and when it doesn’t immediately rip a card from my opponent’s hand I feel like I wasted a card and a turn doing nothing, but when my opponent has already milled an [card]Unburial Rites[/card] from a [card]Mulch[/card] and I get to remove i,t I know I disrupted the most powerful part of my opponent’s game plan and made efficient use of my card.

[draft]olivia voldaren[/draft]

[card]Olivia Voldaren[/card] remains one of the best cards in the Jund deck against any deck with creatures, but it is extra powerful against Reanimator. There are many builds of Reanimator, and the power of Olivia fluctuates based on each, but I like her against cards like [card]Arbor Elf[/card], [card]Avacyn’s Pilgrim[/card], and [card]Lingering Souls[/card]. It’s excellent against [card]Lingering Souls[/card] and [card]Somberwald Sage[/card], which are the best cards at powering out a [card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card].

I like that besides [card]Angel of Serenity[/card] most builds of Reanimator actually can’t remove a creature with converted mana cost higher than 3. Olivia can grow to be enormous pretty quickly, so once you stop them from doing what their deck is built to do with your various sideboard hate cards, then Olivia will kill your opponent before they can stabilize. I also like Olivia as an answer to [card]Thragtusk[/card], since when my opponents sideboard out [card]Unburial Rites[/card], they usually aim to win with a more aggressive plan relying on [card]Restoration Angel[/card] and [card]Thragtusk[/card]. When you have Olivia in play, it’s hard for any opponent to justify putting a creature on the table into open mana.

rakdos’s return

Lastly, I like [card]Rakdos’s Return[/card] as a proactive strategy against Reanimator. It can be a little risky because you hate to slam it and fill up your opponent’s graveyard with [card]Angel of Serenity[/card]s that they were otherwise stuck with in hand, but using [card]Rakdos’s Return[/card] in combination with any form of graveyard hate is going to make it quite strong. I like it both because you can use [card]Arbor Elf[/card] and [card]Farseek[/card] to ramp it out for 4 or 5 to [card]Mind Twist[/card] them before they can get off the ground, and because it can act as a [card]Fireball[/card]. One of the reasons I love Jund is because in a deck with a very large number of mana sources, you have access to [card]Rakdos’s Return[/card], [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card], and [card]Bonfire of the Damned[/card] which all act as [card]Fireball[/card]s.

[draft]tormod’s crypt[/draft]

I hate [card]Tormod’s Crypt[/card]. The Reanimator deck can simply fight through it, and in the meantime it acts as a stone cold mulligan. [card]Slaughter Games[/card] can sometimes name [card]Thragtusk[/card] or [card]Angel of Serenity[/card] and have an immediate impact of the game, [card]Ground Seal[/card] cantrips so you never get that feeling that it’s a mulligan, and [card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/card] has its uses against Esper and [card]Lingering Souls[/card], so it never feels as bad as a [card]Tormod’s Crypt[/card] does. That said, I think [card]Tormod’s Crypt[/card] is a great choice for an aggressive deck like Naya Blitz, simply because it’s free.

I hope this helped explain how to fight Reanimator with Jund, and how not to oversideboard and hurt your chances at winning. If you had 4 [card]Slaughter Games[/card], I think the matchup would be worse for you than if you had 2, and that’s a part of Magic that’s counterintuitive to most people.

Owen Turtenwald
Qazwsxedcrfvtgbyhnuj on Magic Online
OwenTweetenwald on twitter


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