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Silvestri Says – Jund Aggro in Standard

 

So why do I like Jund Aggro now versus when it was new, shiny and had a little surprise value? Well, because now we actually had time to make good versions of the deck instead of sloppy B/R variants splashing for Putrid Leech and Bloodbraid Elf. Mana-wise the deck still might not be optimized, but I’m far more confident in how it holds up over 9 rounds of play than I was with any of the original builds. In addition, there’s now a clear structure to them, abusing the tribal lands along with a niche of Changeling cards to make the mana function as well as keeping use of Wren’s Run Vanquisher and other G/B Elves mainstays.

Here’s a few example decklists in case your not familiar with the version I’m talking about:

Jund as suggested by Sam Black, based on Nassif’s GP: Seattle build.

 

My Jund build

You’ll note the main difference between the two is my removal of Kitchen Finks in exchange for more creature removal, pump and Sygg. From the testing I’ve done, Sygg and Bloodbraid Elf are the life-blood of the deck and make it into a true monster by replenishing its force. The one card I’m unsure of is the 4th Pulse in the maindeck over the 4th Colossus, as the Colossi right now have a lot of power against the mirror, slower Jund 5cc, and against any midrange deck with significant black like Doran. Inversion is very important to keep not only for tribal purposes, but to take care of the many early threats running around with three toughness, like those present in Jund and Elves.

Now this deck might not come as that big a revelation, because Jund has always been very powerful, the problem always came from the lands themselves. Allow me to segue into the biggest problem with old Jund: The mana; and how the problem has been mostly corrected for Jund 2.0 models.

Sadly for the heroes, despite all the power the Jund deck has, the mana-base has been a constant disappointment since the deck came out. However recent advances in the construction of the deck have allowed for the full use of tribal lands, making the mana function far cleaner than previous incarnations of the deck. For reference, take a look at the mana from the list Sam Black listed recently, based off Nassif’s build from GP: Seattle.

 

Isn’t that a thing of beauty and wonder? Where the old Jund decks had a hodge-podge of pain lands and CIPT annoyances, this new version effectively runs only 7 of the latter and none of the pains. My main disagreement is, of course, the lack of Treetop Village in the deck, but ignoring that for the moment I’m impressed at how well the mana and deck seems to mesh together.

The Mana

Mana breaks down like (cut 4 off each if you don’t want to count Pool):

22 Black sources

18 Green sources

16 Red sources

This is a pretty sick spread, especially considering the number of Red cards only amounts to about 10 or so in every game. Of course, if we add Treetop Village, then we have to make some alterations. Even if we add Colossal Might to the deck as more of a miser 1-of, that still doesn’t require too many Red sources and that would be the first thing I’d be looking at to cut back on a bit. Here are the must-have lands as far as I’m concerned:

 

This gives us the requisite amount of green and a good base for our splash colors and we’ve covered the manland. Twilight Mire is the obvious filter that goes here since it allows for the turn two Putrid Leech that everyone enjoys hitting. The real question is how many filters should we run here? I’m good with three, since the number of Red cards we run are minimal and I personally hate the basics in the deck anyway. Past that, a full set of [card]Savage Lands[/card] and Pool just makes sense due to the number of non-basics and lack of 1-drops we need to hit.

That leaves 5-6 lands left to add. Due to Treetop Village being mono-color, we need to make a bit of a stretch to make sure all our red and black sources are accounted for. Instead of just throwing in the full set of Treetop Villages, we’re going to be a little conservative and go with this:

 

This might be a little odd, but the 4th Treetop Village cut into the off-color sources and I wasn’t comfortable running less than 14 red. That can be forgiven and you only need 12-13 sources if you only plan on running Bloodbraid, Anathemancer and not going too much higher post-board. The reason for the singleton basic Swamp was simple; I wanted something to fetch if a guy got Pathed and the basic Forest was literally worthless as a search land. So why not run the one-of each? It cuts into three precious land slots in an already tight mana-base to optimize a situation which only three decks will likely create (Lark, Doran and B/W Tokens). In addition, drawing the Mountain or basic Forest in the opener is all sorts of horrible, especially if paired with a Reflecting Pool.

For my version of the mana we still have:

21 Black sources

19 Green sources

14 Red sources

As long as we don’t go overboard with the Red in any board matches (And there’s no real reason to), this base is still valid for the needs of our deck. Now assuming you buy into the reformation of the mana for Jund, let’s go over why it becomes a better choice than its two closest competitors: B/R Aggro and G/B Elves.

Reasons to play it over B/R: Bloodbraid Elf, Maelstrom Pulse, Treetop Village, Putrid Leech and Wren’s Run Vanquisher.

The big gains over the standard B/R aggro deck come from the amount of reach you have. Bloodbraid Elf and Treetop Village slide right in and are annoying at almost any point of the game, as well as being especially difficult for control and Faeries to deal with efficiently. Wren’s Run Vanquisher and Putrid Leech can just dominate a game. As many people can tell you, whether it is in a creature fight or against Seismic Assault, these two creatures demand a little bit extra from your opponent to kill.

Maelstrom Pulse is unique in that it doesn’t give the deck reach in the traditional manner. It doesn’t even deal damage or draw you into cards that will, but rather it stops cards that just outright beat you. Cards like Behemoth Sledge, Seismic Assault or Planeswalkers are typically putting you on the back foot in an attempt to deal with them. Half of them B/R has no real answer to outside of narrow cards like Everlasting Torment. The utility Pulse provides is incredibly useful in keeping your percentages up in a Game One situation against a permanent that would normally hose aggro strategies, while being good in every match.

The only real loss you get in this transition is Figure of Destiny, which sadly doesn’t work with this mana base unless you want to run a 5c Chapin-esque Cryptic splash type of manabase which goes to great pains to make it function correctly. Since 99% of you will not do this, we can safely remove FOD as a potential addition and instead focus on the impact of this. Losing Figure from the equation means two things: one is that the 1cc slot is now vacant and we can safely run comes-into-play-tapped lands. The second thing this means is more weight is placed on the rest of the deck to pick up the slack for missing our one-drop. Since this deck plays fairly with the field, it means if were going to start making mana and curve concessions all your other drops need to be very strong.

Thankfully they are, so that’s why I feel this switch isn’t any drop from the standard B/R arrangement. Only the mana issues persist as any valid reason why to play B/R over its tri-colored cousin, but even those aren’t as valid with the tribal lands for additional non-CIPT multicolored lands. As a result, I think anyone considering B/R should switch over into Jund aggro.

Reasons to play it over B/G: Bloodbraid Elf, Anathemancer and the ability to board in sweepers

Arguments against B/G are a lot trickier, because you don’t gain quite as much, especially outside of the control matches. Really the best argument for the Red splash is that it gives you a boost against Faeries and 5cc, both of which will probably see an uptick due to their respective Grand Prix performances. B/G Elves against Faeries, from my experience, is very close to an even split and really depends on how well each player can adapt their role. Elves hands can play out vastly different in the match-up. Some are best as just overwhelming aggression from the 1st turn and hoping to force Fae to catch up. Other hands, especially on the draw, are more like controlled aggression where you get to leverage your Thoughtseizes and larger creatures against their supply of counters. Terror and Agony Warp aren’t too backbreaking considering the size of the creatures involved, but can make life miserable if you ignore them completely.

So is that gain against Fae and 5cc worth giving up some mana stability? This is much closer than the previous, but I still think Jund is superior. Cascade is a broken mechanic and taking advantage of that is a pretty good plan in my book. Add to this that Anathemancer kicks the crud out of any normal Green or Black threat (not named Chameleon Colossus) against control and I’m opting for the power boost. Jund allows for more hands that can just go all-out aggression and leads to many more wins before Faeries can stabilize. The loss of Thoughtseize and Profane Command is regrettable, but Thoughtseize can still stick as a sideboard card and with the extra threats you usually don’t need to steal control’s best card. Only Mistbind Clique is truly a disaster if you can’t shut it down before attacking into it, and even then you can get bailed out of that via Colossal Might.

Now I know I haven’t listed an actual sideboard and that’s because I’m still trying to hammer out a good one. Right now there are a number of options and I’ll hit some of the ones I’ve been considering.

Thoughtseize: An obvious one, but sometimes the best options are. Seize is good against Swans, not awful in the mirror and batters any version running Cruel Ultimatum by yanking it before it becomes the swing factor they were counting on. This version even has multiple ways of casting it turn one. The main issue is that by adding this to your deck, you’re adding more spells that lose value over time. Right now a strong point in favor of Jund is that almost all of it’s spells still retain value as the game goes on. Some have haste, the removal is pretty good and even Colossal Might provides a big enough pump to make any creature a potential killer. Thoughtseize gets pretty bad after turn five except for very specific circumstances, and the life-loss isn’t a non-factor when combined with Putrid Leech.

Verdict: Pretty good, but it depends on precisely how much control there will be.

Kitchen Finks: Anti-aggro, derf.

Verdict: If burn makes a resurgence due to Fae coming back strongly, definitely consider a set; the same goes for if Jund becomes the new go-to aggro deck. If not, it doesn’t really pack the same punch against Tokens and other midrange.

Taurean Mauler: Nassif played this in his board and at first I couldn’t see why, but after I tried him out I started to see why he was fine as a 1-of for him. Mauler is a changeling, which means he can safely board out a CC or Inversion if he feels the need too without hurting his overall tribal counts for land purposes. It actually grows at a pretty rapid pace against red and token decks, while still being respectable against older control variants.

Verdict: I certainly wouldn’t want more than 1 or 2 of these guys, but in the matches where CC is invalidated or just plain bad, this guy can come in as a replacement and not stink up the joint.

Guttural Response: Good against Fae and Cryptic Command in general, at times it just blows the opponent out. Other times it sits around and you wish it was a spell that actually did stuff.

Verdict: Meh, very narrow usage, but stopping a Cryptic Command usually gives you a huge advantage. I wouldn’t run it unless I explicitly knew the best players were running Cryptic decks.

Primal Command: Another anti-aggro tool, that also can double as anti-Swans* in a limited sense.

Verdict: Likely a 3-of in red infested metagames and probably a 2-of elsewhere. It can provide a pretty big swing in the Jund mirror by finding the stoneblade and giving you enough life to play it, and red obviously just scoops to Primal for +7 and Finks.

*Anti-Swans in that if you turn 5 it, you can sometimes gain enough life to buy an extra turn while slowing them down at the same time by bouncing a Vivid land. I’ve also won by bouncing a land and finding [card]Anathemancer[/card] for lethal for the following turn. It isn’t some silver bullet, but merely an OK card to replace a bad one with.

This article is already pretty long, so next week we’ll take a look at some of the more uncommon possibilities and narrow down a board as well as going more in-depth with the actual matches. Short story on matches is that I believe a majority to be even-ish to giving you the edge, but Swans and Faeries are both difficult, albeit winnable and the mirror is a crap-shoot.

Josh Silvestri

Email me at: joshsilvestriATgmailDOTcom

(p.s. I ALWAYS answer my e-mails, maybe not for a few days due to outside factors, but I always answer them. If you haven’t gotten a response from me it’s because I never received your e-mail! Resend it or leave me a PM and I can ship you an alternate address.)

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