Jund might just be the best it’s been since the days of Deathrite Shaman. Modern Horizons has offered a toolbox full of new cards to solve specific problems, improve post-board matchups, and generally notch up the power level of the deck. It’s been a long time coming, but what follows will be my comprehensive deck guide for Modern Jund. I’ll offer the decklist I would play if there was a Modern Grand Prix tomorrow. And I’ll also give you the tools you need to adapt to a changing format, your personal preferences, or a local metagame.
Jund is a highly customizable deck, which means that it can be skewed to be strong in whatever matchups you expect to face. Therefore, it can excel in any known or predictable metagame. Are graveyard decks popular? You can pack four Leyline of the Void. Expecting to face Mox Opals? Four or five anti-artifact sideboard cards ought to do the trick.
The downside, of course, is that those extra sideboard slots need to come at the expense of something. So slanting heavily to beat Burn might mean skimping on Fulminator Mages and having a bad matchup against Urzatron and Valakut. Speaking generally, Jund is going to struggle when its pulled in a lot of different directions all at the same time.
However, Jund does have some built-in strengths and weaknesses. Jund is a great choice when you expect to face a lot of small creatures. This is truer than ever before with Wrenn and Six and Plague Engineer to punish one-toughness dorks. Tribal decks, Infect, Hatebears, and most versions of Collected Company are decks that I’m always happy to be paired against. As a bonus, these archetypes all became more appealing with the printing of Modern Horizons!
The single biggest weakness of Jund is the ramp decks like Tron, Valakut, Amulet Titan, and Bring to Light-Scapeshift. Your main gameplan is to trade resources and bring the game to a topdeck battle, so any deck that can develop its mana and then threaten to draw a gamewinner at any time is going to be tricky to beat. As mentioned, you can always pack your sideboard with land destruction cards to put a band-aid on the problem, but if you’re expecting to face a lot of ramp decks, it might be better to simply choose a different deck for that weekend.
Decks that play from the graveyard can be annoying as well, since they tend to be resilient to removal and discard spells. I’ve found Dredge to be beatable if you’re willing to sideboard five or more cards, but Hogaak is a bit trickier. The decklist I’ll recommend has a fighting chance against Hogaak, but I’m not sure you’ll ever be happy to be paired against that deck, no matter how you configure things.
Modern Jund by Reid Duke
1 Forest (347) 1 Mountain (343) 2 Swamp (339) 2 Raging Ravine 2 Nurturing Peatland 1 Stomping Ground 3 Blackcleave Cliffs 2 Overgrown Tomb 4 Verdant Catacombs 1 Blood Crypt 2 Wooded Foothills 3 Bloodstained Mire 4 Tarmogoyf 3 Scavenging Ooze 2 Seasoned Pyromancer 4 Bloodbraid Elf 4 Inquisition of Kozilek 2 Thoughtseize 4 Lightning Bolt 2 Fatal Push 3 Wrenn and Six 4 Liliana of the Veil 2 Assassin’s Trophy 1 Maelstrom Pulse 1 Kolaghan’s Command Sideboard 4 Leyline of the Void 2 Nihil Spellbomb 2 Ancient Grudge 3 Plague Engineer 3 Fulminator Mage 1 Collective Brutality
The discard spells are what allows Jund to compete in the diverse and unpredictable field of Modern. When you look at your opening hand for game one, before you know what deck your opponent has brought to the table, Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize are the cards you want to see more than anything else. Additionally, they’re your best weapons against Combo and Control decks.
I never, ever leave home without the four copies of Inquisition of Kozilek. It’s easy to get caught up in daydreams about missing that crucial Primeval Titan or Jace, the Mind Sculptor–and yes, those things do happen. However, in practice, Inquisition is a much better card for this deck than Thoughtseize. Inquisition is one of your best cards against fast aggro decks like Burn and Humans, while Thoughtseize is one of your worst cards. Even in slower matchups, the lifeloss adds up. The general exchange of resources matters more than targeting any specific card from the opponent’s hand.
I’ve always been a fan of six discard spells (four Inquisition and two Thoughtseize). Any more than that and you start to weaken your topdecks and your cascades in a way that I’m not comfortable with. At times I’ve gone as low as five maindeck discard spells. Additional copies of Thoughtseize, Duress, or Collective Brutality in the sideboard are always solid options.
This is what Jund does better than every other deck in Modern. Humans players are used to scoring easy wins with their Thalias and Meddling Mages. Infect players think they can run roughshod over the format with a Blighted Agent. And then they face Jund, and all their creatures die on sight. You don’t want to skimp on removal, as it’s one of the major appeals of choosing this archetype.
Four Lightning Bolt isn’t written in stone, but it’s a decision you can always be comfortable with. In matchups where Fatal Push doesn’t shine, Lightning Bolt can always target a planeswalker or speed up your clock by a turn. Five or six one-mana removal spells feels about right, and Fatal Push is a great card for managing stuff like Thing in the Ice and Tarmogoyf, where Lightning Bolt falls short.
For the more expensive removal, you’re paying a price for flexibility. Along those lines, I’m a big fan of variety–a bunch of different one- and two-ofs instead of putting all of my eggs in one basket. Terminate and Dreadbore are considerations for certain metagames, but right now I think you want your flex slots to be able to destroy artifacts. I generally like Abrupt Decay more than Assassin’s Trophy, but the existence of Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis has me benching Abrupt Decay as well. So my current recommendation is two Trophy, 1 Maelstrom Pulse, and 1 Kolaghan’s Command, although this is one of the most customizable aspects of the deck.
Jund’s creatures need to play a diversity of roles. It’s true that you wind up winning your games by attacking with creatures, but in many ways that’s an afterthought. Your creatures need to be stabilizing the ground, protecting your planeswalkers, and (when possible) generating card advantage or disruption.
The only truly essential creature is Tarmogoyf, which ought to appear in four copies. Even after all these years, Goyf remains the gold standard for generating a ton of power and toughness with minimal investment. It’s at its absolute best in Jund alongside sorcery discard spells and instant removal spells. Goyf tends to be the most important card in matchups like Hollow One, Dredge, and Burn, where you need to produce something immediately that can fight opposing creatures in combat.
Scavenging Ooze is pretty essential as well, but its role is a bit more complicated, and it’s not a four-of. Ooze is a mediocre play on turn 2. Instead, you want to play out your hand, trade resources, and have Ooze as the last creature standing when the dust settles. The lifegain is crucial for getting out of range against aggressive decks, and the graveyard disruption comes up big in a lot of matchups, in addition to giving you a chance of stealing game one against Dredge and Hogaak.
Dark Confidant doesn’t appear in my suggested decklist, instead being supplanted by Wrenn and Six and Seasoned Pyromancer. Still, Dark Confidant remains a great creature, and I’m happy to draw one (though not two) in almost every matchup–making it a strong consideration in 1-3 copies. If I wanted to improve my matchup against U/W Control, I’d look to fit a small number of Confidants.
Seasoned Pyromancer is one of the more controversial printings from Modern Horizons. Like Scavenging Ooze, it’s not a card that you’re looking to curve into, but instead have it as the last card in your hand to help you slam the door after you’ve survived the early flurry of action. In this way, it serves the same role as Bloodbraid Elf.
One of my big concerns with Seasoned Pyromancer is the double-red cost, which can make fetching awkward, and is not trivial in a deck with only 15-17 sources of red mana. Still, I’ve suggested two copies of Pyromancer to complement the four Bloodbraids in order to keep the threat density and the power level high in the absence of Dark Confidant. Note that this configuration can be tweaked based on personal preference.
Liliana of the Veil is one of the cards that really makes Jund tick. The ability to attack either the hand or the battlefield, and to exchange resources at a profit makes her absolutely perfect for the strategy. There are times when she can feel a bit slow for Modern, and it’s true that she often won’t save you if she’s your first play to the board. The flip side is that when you curve discard spells or removal into Liliana, you can effectively win the game before your opponent ever gets their feet underneath them.
My teammate Paul Rietzl, who played Jund at Mythic Championship Barcelona, elected to play only three copies of Liliana of the Veil. I think it’s a reasonable choice, but all I can say is that every time I’ve trimmed on Liliana in the past, I’ve wound up regretting it. For me, four copies is pretty close to set in stone.
Wrenn and Six is Jund’s flagship card from Modern Horizons. While I confess that I was a doubter at first, I’ve now come around to loving the new planeswalker. You need only look at its dominance in the Legacy format to understand that Wrenn and Six is the real deal.
When paired with a fetch land, Wrenn guarantees that your mana will be perfect, and even gives you extra gas in the tank for Liliana or Seasoned Pyromancer discards. When paired with Nurturing Peatland, it serves as a lategame card drawing engine. All of this is not even to mention that devastation of casting Wrenn to kill something like a Noble Hierarch when it’s your opponent’s only creature on the battlefield.
It’s possible to build your deck and manabase around Wrenn and Six by including things like Barren Moor, Ghost Quarter, or Faithless Looting. However, my conclusion is that these things come at too high of a cost, so I prefer to simply play 3 copies of Wrenn as a value card, rather than skewing my mana in order to support the fourth.
Particularly in today’s climate, you don’t want to leave home with fewer than four graveyard hate cards.
Nihil Spellbomb is my personal favorite. For a deck whose goal is to accumulate small advantages, a cantrip that can take out an Arclight Phoenix or half of a Snapcaster Mage is absolutely perfect. You want your answer cards to be flexible, low-cost, and good off the top of your library. I find Nihil Spellbomb to one of the best possible cards against decks like Phoenix and Death’s Shadow, which use the graveyard incidentally, but aren’t completely reliant on it. I even like one maindeck Spellbomb when I can find the space for it.
But sometimes you need to break out the big guns. Leyline of the Void is a must-have in the world of Hogaak. It’s inelegant against Arclight Phoenix, but you simply need it to beat the dedicated graveyard decks.
Grafdigger’s Cage can sometimes be a happy medium, since it’s more impactful than Spellbomb, but better as a topdeck than Leyline. It’s even a nice one-of against Collected Company and Neoform decks. The weakness is that Dredge and Hogaak are free to fill their graveyards, and if they ever find an answer to the Cage, then the floodgates are open.
I’m a hater on Surgical Extraction. I think it’s the worst of both worlds in having a high cost (not replacing itself) and being too low-impact to save you on its own. Some players swear by the sideboard plan of Fulminator+Surgical to break up Urzatron, but that’s always felt unreliable to me.
How much artifact hate to play is quite metagame-dependent. There are snapshots in time where you might play a 15-round Grand Prix and only face Mox Opals once. There are other snapshots where you might face it in nearly half of your rounds.
I always start my sideboard with two copies of Ancient Grudge. It’s just such an amazing card, and that’s the baseline that I need to feel like I have a fighting chance against Affinity, Hardened Scales, Urza, and the like. If I want more beyond two Ancient Grudge, I’m probably turning to Collector Ouphe, which is yet another sweet new printing from Modern Horizons.
Shatterstorm is more narrow, but is a great one-of if you’re expecting a lot of Etched Champions and Welding Jars. (Note that you cannot regenerate from Shatterstorm, but you can from Creeping Corrosion and Fracturing Gust).
I like to start with three copies of Fulminator Mage as a versatile sideboard card. Naturally it’s one of the best cards you can have against Tron, Scapeshift, and Amulet, but it’s also a critical part of the post-board gameplan against Control decks. Additionally, you find plenty of places where Fulminator might not be a powerhouse but can round out your numbers while your sideboarding. This comes up in matchups like Infect, Affinity, Ad Nauseam, and the mirror, just to name a few.
There are more options beyond Fulminator Mage, but they start to get a lot more narrow. I was happy to sideboard one copy of Alpine Moon at Mythic Championship London, where Urzatron was 12% of the field.
I also love a singleton Choke, but blue control doesn’t have enough metagame share to make it worthwhile right now. If I was looking to improve that matchup, I’d find room for a Dark Confidant or two in my maindeck instead.
The biggest strength of Jund is preying on creature decks. While sideboard space is often used to correct maindeck weaknesses, it can also be used to hammer matchups that are already favorable. If I’m choosing Jund because I want a good Humans matchup, then I shouldn’t settle for a mere 55% win rate against Humans, I should sideboard some Plague Engineers and make it a no-contest!
Collective Brutality has a similar feel to Fulminator Mage for me. It’s a hate card against Burn, Infect, and Collected Company, but it can also come in for matchups like Humans where you want any card that can kill a creature, or matchups like Storm where you want any card that can attack the opponent’s hand.
Plague Engineer is my personal pet card from Modern Horizons. Again, this is a targeted hate card against tribal decks, but you’ll be knocked off your feet by how often you can use this to good effect. You can kill a one-toughness creature at a profit; you can shut off a Thopter/Sword combo; you can disallow the activation of Inkmoth and Blinkmoth Nexuses; or you can simply trade with a big annoying creature, due to the deathtouch.
Surprisingly, I’ve found Plague Engineer to be a key to beating Hogaak, since it plays double-duty in turning off the Zombie shenanigans while also being able to trade against the namesake 8/8 trampler.
Plague Engineer feels like a three-mana Ravenous Chupacabra with significant upside. Another example of a perfect card for a deck focused on making a series of small but advantageous exchanges. I like three copies.
I’m not a fan of board sweepers in Jund, as they’ve always felt off-plan. First, you have creatures of your own that you don’t want to Damnation away. Second, you want to kill every creature immediately, on-sight. If you try to set up for a profitable board wipe, you sometimes risk letting things spiral out of control.
One card that deserves a mention is Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. Years ago, before the unbanning of Bloodbraid Elf, I played Jund with maindeck Kalitas at Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch. Kalitas is a strong card with a lot of appeal and could be primed for a comeback in a world of Hogaak. Especially when graveyard players are trying to Assassin’s Trophy your Leyline of the Void, it’s appealing to have a four-mana card that can punish them so severely. Although I didn’t include one in my suggested decklist, it might be a great idea to find room for one Kalitas in the sideboard.
Jund is such a flexible strategy, and has been around for so many years, that it seems like every Jund player has their own pet cards and special technology. While I haven’t covered every fringe card or sideboard option, I do hope that I’ve offered enough food for thought to help you construct a list that you’re happy with. Jund is in a great place right now, and it’s a deck that will reward you for your practice, study, and knowledge of the variety of challenges Modern can throw at you.