Why do I play Jund?
I love Jund! There, I said it, and I am not ashamed to admit it. With the recent release of Return to Ravnica, and the subsequent rotation of Scars Block, I am now able to play Jund colors in all three major constructed formats (Standard, Modern and Legacy). About two months or so before rotation, I decided to start focusing a little more on Modern in order to prepare for the upcoming PTQ season. At the time, I had been playing a R/G Tron deck to mediocre results.
As much fun as casting Karn Liberated on turn three was, the novelty quickly wore off and the decks were getting faster and had developed means to handle the threat. I decided that I wanted to play something different, something with a bit more consistency. At the time, I had recently finished building my Legacy Aggro-Loam deck and had really been enjoying playing it both casually and in tournaments. Sure, loam isn’t the best deck. In fact, I doubt it would even appear on many people’s Top 5, or even top 10, Legacy deck lists, but I genuinely enjoyed playing it, even if I didn’t always feel advantaged going into a match. That’s when I decided that I would just try to port the Legacy deck over to Modern.
I knew that Aggro-Loam had won the Modern GP in Lincoln, Nebraska in the hands of Bronson Magnon, so that is where I started. I spent about two weeks testing Magnon’s more aggro-based version, running Countryside Crushers and LSV’s more controlling version, which attempted to utilize Worm Harvest to overrun its opponents. I found that I was running into mostly the same problems I was with the G/R Tron list: My opponent’s were typically too fast for me. Without having access to the cycle lands, Mox Diamonds and Wastelands, I wasn’t fast enough and didn’t have enough disruption to keep my opponent’s off of their plan long enough for me to set up the Loam-Assault lock. The format was just getting too fast and I couldn’t keep up piloting loam.
The transition from loam to Jund was pretty obvious and easy. I already owned the most expensive parts of the deck, so all I had to do was pick up a handful of commons and uncommon and I had the deck finished. I had always heard from friends how powerful and how much fun casting Bloodbraid Elf was back in Shards of Alara Standard, but I had never experienced it for myself. Let me just say, that if you haven’t experienced yet, I highly recommend it. There are few things more exciting than casting Bloodbraid Elf and then watching your opponent grit his or her teeth while you flip card-after-card off of the top of your deck. See, most decks that utilize the Cascade effect do so in a very specific way. Typically, they are trying to Cascade into a particular spell. Jund, however, does not follow this line. Instead, Jund contains a series of powerful, efficient spells and creatures that it can potentially cascade into, which leaves you with that little bit of randomness, and that randomness is what makes Jund feel more like opening presents on Christmas morning when you were 5 years old. You didn’t always know exactly what you were getting, but you knew it was usually going to be something awesome!
Why should you play Jund?
In Modern, Jund is easily one of the most powerful and consistent decks. It’s not powerful in the sense that you have numerous match ups that are highly favorable for you. It is powerful because you do not have many, if any, unfavorable match ups. The only match up that I have played so far where I felt like I had a less than 50% chance of winning was against an Eggs deck. Other than that, I feel like every other match is greater than 50% in our favor, with many being around 60% in our favor. Combine this across-the-board power-level with the consistency and card advantage afforded to us via Dark Confidant and Bloodbraid Elf and you can quickly see why Jund is a great choice heading into any event.
Another reason that Jund is so good can be attributed purely to card quality. Every card in Jund is either a must-answer threat or an efficient form of removal or card advantage. When you combine them all together, you end up with a brutally efficient engine that is capable of grinding out almost any opponent via trading 1-for-1 or 2-for-1, and then pulling ahead by resolving Dark Confidant or Bloodbraid Elf.
The final reason to play Jund is that most decks don’t have a way to capitalize on Jund’s biggest weakness, its mana base. The biggest reason Jund is not a great Legacy deck is because of Wasteland. Jund lives and dies by its mana base. This is why Blood Moon can be so devastating. Jund runs numerous non-basic lands and is a base BG deck that splashes red for removal and Bloodbraid Elf. In Legacy, it would be very easy for most opponents to keep you off your lands and colors to cast your spells. We run a lot of double-color spells and our curve is a little higher than most Legacy decks. In Modern however, players do not have access to Wasteland, and neither Ghost Quarters nor Tectonic Edge come close to being as effective as Wasteland. Blood Moon is really our worst enemy in Modern, and not many decks are able to play it effectively due to them also having heavy non-basic lists.
How does Return to Ravnica impact Jund?
With the release of Return to Ravnica, Jund gained access to some new spells, but the one everyone has been talking about is Abrupt Decay. This 2-cmc instant is poised to turn Jund into quite a powerhouse, if it wasn’t already powerful enough. While not being as big of a player in Standard due to the format being a little slower with most hard-to-deal-with threats being >3-cmc, in the eternal formats of Modern and Legacy, the card is an all-star. Modern and Legacy are much faster than Standard in that there are numerous cards in the 1-3 cmc range that require immediate answers. Cards such as Dark Confidant, Tarmogoyf, Counterbalance, Stoneforge Mystic, Liliana of the Veil, Umezawa’s Jitte, and more are all very powerful permanents that, if not immediately answered, threaten to take over a game very quickly. Abrupt Decay effectively answers all of them for BG.
If that wasn’t good enough, Abrupt Decay also comes with the added bonus of being uncounterable. Again, in Standard this is not as big of a deal, as counter magic has been seeing less and less play overall. In Modern and Legacy however, it’s a completely different story. Both eternal formats feature powerful blue decks that utilize some of the best counter magic to ever see print. Daze, Force of Will, Remand, Spell Snare, and Spell Pierce are all very powerful counterspells that allow blue mages to gain tremendous amounts of tempo advantage on their opponents. Abrupt Decay dodges all of these cards, allowing you to manage your opponent’s early game threats without having to worry about dodging their counter magic. Abrupt Decay will greatly help BG-based decks keep up with the blue decks in the early game, allowing them to be on equal footing going into the mid and late game, rather than having to play catch up, which can often times be very difficult when facing a strong tempo-based blue deck.
So, the question then is how best to fit Abrupt Decay into the current Jund shell. Here is where my current list sits:
2 Raging Ravine
4 Treetop Village
4 Verdant Catacombs
1 Misty Rainforest
2 Blood Crypt
1 Stomping Ground
1 Overgrown Tomb
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
1 Twilight Mire
3 Liliana of the Veil
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Dark Confidant
3 Kitchen Finks
3 Abrupt Decay
2 Maelstrom Pulse
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
I play a few more basic lands than most stock Jund lists that you may see because my meta features a decent amount of sideboard Blood Moons. Fortunately, Abrupt Decay also deals with that enchantment should it become a concern, but I like having 2-of each Forest and Swamp, which allows me to still be able to cast all of the spells in my deck, even with a Blood Moon on the table. Although, now that I do have access to Blood Moon, it could very well be correct to eschew the extra basics in favor of more dual lands and a smoother mana base.
I wanted to keep the Maelstrom Pulses and Terminates in the main deck because Abrupt Decay doesn’t really deal with all of the things that Pulse and Terminate do. Pulse allows me to still be able to answer problematic planeswalkers like Elspeth and Karn, and Terminate still kills Restoration Angel or Kiki-Jiki at instant speed. I removed Jund Charm from the main deck and moved the extra copies to the sideboard. Jund Charm is still a good card, and I do want the effect in a few match ups, but it’s not always the best main deck card to have against every match up.
Similarly, I trimmed a copy of Kitchen Finks and a copy of Liliana of the Veil to make room for the additional Abrupt Decays. Finks is a great creature, but sometimes GG was tough to come by early and a lot of the time Finks simply gains me 2 life and then eats a Path to Exile. I trimmed a Liliana for the same reason. BB isn’t always easy to get on turn 3 and Abrupt Decay just seems like a better main deck card in multiples than Liliana.
My sideboard is in a constant state of flux. It seems like I am changing one or two cards in it on a weekly basis, just depending on how my local meta shifts. There are some cards that seem to have a permanent spot in my sideboard though, and those are Fulminator Mage, Ancient Grudge, and Jund Charm. Everything else changes, both in name and number, regularly.
I hope this has been informative to those reading who may not already be familiar with Modern or Jund. I know Jund is a fairly cost-prohibitive deck for many players, due to containing some of the most expensive Modern cards, but I encourage anyone to try it if you can borrow/trade for the cards. Even if Jund is not your thing, it would be a good idea to become familiar with the deck and what all it is capable of doing before playing in your next Modern event. I can guarantee you that the deck will not be disappearing from the meta anytime soon.
In my next article I will cover the Standard version of Jund, as I believe it is one of the better current strategies available in the format, until then, happy planeswalking!