Modern Updates

Hey everyone, I’m back with some more updates for the Jund archetype in Modern and Standard.  In my last article, I presented my updated Modern Jund list, which included the addition of the new RtR rare Abrupt Decay, but I really dropped the ball by completely forgetting to add Deathrite Shaman to the list.  I really don’t know how this guy managed to completely slip my mind, as I had been working on a Legacy deck involving him at the same time.  As soon as I turned on coverage of the Pro Tour and saw the first of many Jund v X matches, I was quickly reminded of my mistake and made the necessary adjustments.

Deathrite Shaman does everything I could hope for in a 1-drop in the G/B colors.  It is part Birds of Paradise, part Grim Lavamancer, part Kitchen Finks and part Relic of Progenitus; quite literally a Swiss Army Knife.  I have been very pleased with him in my testing so far, and will be looking for other ways to abuse him in the future.  Let’s take just a moment and analyze what all this guy does for the Modern Jund archetype specifically.

First, he gives the deck some extra speed through his accelerator ability.  This isn’t very useful in Standard because of the lack of fetch lands and land destruction, but in the eternal formats, this ability is almost always active.  In Jund, this ability allows us to play our Liliana’s and/or Kitchen Finks on turn 2, and allows us to cast Bloodbraid Elf on turn 3.  Playing Liliana on turn 2 is pretty big game against most of the tempo-oriented U/W decks as it can get her in under their counterspells and force them to play a more proactive game, rather than just sit back and react to everything you are doing.  Against some of the more aggressive lists, being able to play out a Bloodbraid Elf on turn 3 can help stabilize the board and pull you ahead.

Second, he is an effective graveyard hoser that can be main decked.  An active Deathrite Shaman can effectively counter Snapcaster Mages and shut down reanimator strategies.  He’s also effective at stopping our opponent’s Kitchen Finks or Geralf’s Messengers from coming back from the dead.  He’s not that great against the Eggs deck, but he can still eat copies of Second Sunrise/Faith’s Reward, so he isn’t a complete bust in the match up.  Prior to this guy, Jund was relying heavily on Jund Charm and/or Surgical Extraction or Extirpate for their graveyard answers.  This guy provides us a cheap, effective main board answer to many graveyard shenanigans, which allows us to shave some sideboard slots previously reserved for graveyard hate in favor of answers to other problems.

Lastly, he has OTHER abilities!  That’s right, not only does this guy accelerate us and slow some of our opponent’s down, he is also a pseudo-lavamancer/finks.  The ability to do 2 damage or regain 2 life per turn is nothing to scoff at.  In multiples, this guy can completely take over a game.  He punishes opponents for every spell they play and provides our removal spells with additional utility where otherwise there would be none.  There are some differences to take note of here though.  Unlike Grim Lavamancer, Deathrite Shaman’s damage ability only affects opponents, so it can’t be used to target creatures.  Lucky for us, our list isn’t short on ways to get creatures off the battlefield.  Another difference is that the damage ability on Deathrite Shaman does not target our opponent and it causes life loss, not damage, so it is harder for our opponents to negate it.  Cards like Leyline of Sanctity do not stop Deathrite Shaman from dealing its damage.  You do need to be careful about how often you activate the Shaman however, because we don’t want to be shrinking the size of our Tarmogoyfs if we can help it, so that is also something to keep in mind when using this guy.

Overall, the Deathrite Shaman is a perfect fit in the Modern Jund lists as another 4-of threat that helps speed up our overall game plan and board development.  Here is where my Modern Jund deck stands currently:

Land (24)1 Forest

1 Swamp

4 Treetop Village

4 Verdant Catacombs

2 Marsh Flats

2 Misty Rainforest

2 Blood Crypt

1 Stomping Ground

2 Overgrown Tomb

4 Blackcleave Cliffs

1 Twilight Mire

 

Planeswalkers (4)4 Liliana of the Veil

Creatures (19)

4 Deathrite Shaman

4 Bloodbraid Elf

4 Dark Confidant

4 Tarmogoyf

3 Kitchen Finks

 

Spells (13)1 Abrupt Decay

2 Terminate

4 Lightning Bolt

3 Inquisition of Kozilek

3 Thoughtseize

 

Standard Updates

I’m sure that, by now, it is no surprise to learn that I am also playing Jund in Standard as well.  Jund was one of the more obvious choices for a deck going into the rotation as it was clearly one of the best, if not the best, post-ban block constructed decks out there.  Normally whenever Standard rotates, a good starting point for deck construction involves looking at what was good in Block Constructed during the previous season.  Tempered Steel was a great Block deck in Scars Block, and it was a powerful choice during the early part of Innistrad Standard.  It stands to reason that Jund would also maintain some of its Block power, especially considering that RtR is a multi-color Block and we are regaining access to the Ravnica dual lands.  Additionally, the current most powerful creature/card in the format, Thragtusk, just happens to be on color with Jund.

Here is my current Standard Jund build that has been doing very well for me so far:

Land (24)1 Forest

1 Swamp

1 Mountain

2 Evolving Wilds

4 Blood Crypt

4 Overgrown Tomb

4 Rootbound Crag

4 Woodland Cemetery

1 Dragonskull Summit

2 Cavern of Souls

Creatures (12)4 Huntmaster of the Fells

4 Thragtusk

3 Olivia Voldaren

1 Thundermaw Hellkite

Artifacts (3)

3 Rakdos Keyrune

Enchantments (2)

2 Underworld Connections

Spells (19)2 Abrupt Decay

3 Dreadbore

3 Mizzium Mortars

4 Pillar of Flame

4 Farseek

3 Rakdos’s Return

 

First, let’s look at the creature package.  Overall, this is largely a stock creature lineup.  We have 4-ofs of Huntmaster and Thragtusk to help keep our life total high while applying pressure to the board.  Olivia Voldaren is a solid threat that can completely take over a game if she is left to her devices.  Thundermaw Hellkite provides us with a hasty 5/5 flier which helps combat decks relying on Lingering Souls or Azorius Charms to buy them time, and can get in for five damage or take down an opposing planeswalker before being dealt with by opposing sorcery speed removal.  So far, the Hellkite has really been impressive and I’m definitely considering moving a 2nd copy into the main deck.  Rakdos Keyrune, while not specifically a creature, does fill the 3-drop role very nicely.  Rakdos certainly got the best of the five keyrunes in this set, as the 3/1 First Striking artifact can completely dodge the sorcery speed removal and can hold off Thragtusks without any other assistance.

I’ve seen various planeswalkers being run in Standard Jund lists.  I’ve personally tested every planeswalker, in various numbers and combinations, and none of them felt overwhelmingly powerful.  The best choice for a main deck planesalker in this deck would have to be either Garruk Relentless or Garruk, Primal Hunter.  Liliana, unfortunately, is a sideboard card at best in the current format.  She is very useful against decks revolving around Geist of St. Traft, but against the rest of the field she is sub-optimal at best.  As long as reanimator lists or lists running Lingering Souls are prevalent in the format, using her +1 ability can be quite the gamble.  Both Garruks allow you to generate card advantage every turn by putting 2/2s and 3/3s on the battlefield.  I would still give the nod to Primal Hunter over Relentless in this deck though.  Garruk Relentless’s other abilities really do not do much for us.  We already have plenty of removal, and we don’t really have a great toolbox of creatures to make use of his tutor like pod did.  We also don’t run a high enough creature count to really make use of his +X/+X ultimate.  Primal Hunter, however, is useful in all modes.  Whether he is generating a 3/3 every turn or drawing us five cards off of a Thragtusk, he is providing us with card advantage.  Even his ultimate meshes well with our list because of the Farseeks, even though you will rarely ever activate it.

Instead of running main deck planeswalkers, I have opted to run two copies of Underworld Connections.  Enchantments are a little harder to interact with than planeswalkers, which means this card should be a more reliable form of card advantage for me over the course of a game than even Garruk, Primal Hunter.  So far in my testing it has been very good and is one of my favorite cards in the deck.  Anytime I can afford to resolve this enchantment, I feel like I’m in a really good position to win the game.  Even against some of the aggressive match ups the enchantment serves a purpose.  It allows us to trade 1-for-1 with them and then stabilize and pull ahead in card advantage.  That being said, it’s not something I want to draw early in every match, so I’ve left it at a 2-of in the main deck.

As for the rest of the main deck, I run a full 4-of Farseek to provide some much needed ramp and mana fixing.  Being able to fetch up the Ravnica dual lands is a great benefit to Farseek.  These, along with the three keyrunes, have proven to be more than sufficient for fixing the mana in the deck.  I’ve never found myself unable to cast any of my spells due to not having access to a color.  The removal suite is a little deeper than many other lists I’ve seen.  I am still running the full 4 Pillar of Flames.  In my local meta, zombies is still played, along with a smattering of other aggressive decks, such as Humans or mono-red.  For me, the Pillars are almost a necessity, so I have kept their number high.  I have considered trying to swap Pillars out for Searing Spear though.  If zombies continues to decline in my local area, I could easily see this being correct, and for the SCG Open Series as of right now, it most likely is correct.  Searing Spear provides us with more reach and deals with more threats than Pillar of Flame.  Also, it being instant speed provides us with some added utility.  It is strictly worse against zombies though, due to not exiling, so for now I will stick with the Pillars.  I’m running three copies of Dreadbore as a catch all answer to any creature or planeswalker.  The 2 Abrupt Decays are included to help deal with some of the problematic early cards that require an instant speed answer.  These have been really useful for me for dealing with a surprise Silverblade Paladin, opposing keyrunes, Liliana, anthems, Oblivion Rings, Detention Spheres, and much more, all at instant speed and without fear of being countered.  You do still have to be mindful of Restoration Angels however.  Three copies of Mizzium Mortars rounds out the removal.  I’m really undecided on the Mortars vs Bonfire debate.  I don’t currently own copies of Bonfire, but I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to testing them.  I think they are valuable in that they can target planeswalkers or players.  This gives us more outs to pesky walkers as well as provides us with some additional late game reach.  There have been a number of times though, where Mizzium Mortars has been more beneficial to me.  Being able to burn a Loxodon Smiter or Restoration Angel for 2cmc in a pinch is nice.  However, I’ve also been in situations where hard casting a bonfire for two or three points would win me a game.  I don’t think it is wrong to play either one honestly.  I do want to test it though, if only because I think it compliments my favorite card in the deck; Rakdos’s Return.

Currently I’m running three copies main board and a fourth in the side and I haven’t had a reason to change that.  The ability to simultaneously Mind Twist and Fireball the opponent is very powerful.  Against Reanimator it can sometimes act to our detriment, however it is still not completely dead as it can win you a close race, just don’t rush to cast one for X=2 on turn 3 or 4 if you put your opponent on Reanimator.  I normally board them out against Reanimator, but I don’t feel like it makes my game 1 significantly worse by playing it.  Against almost every other deck though, this card is a total powerhouse.  In the mirror, it almost feels like games are decided by who can cast Rakdos’s Return the fastest, and other midrange decks have just as much trouble with it.  The ability for it to also take out a planeswalker is incredibly valuable.  There have been a number of times my blue opponents will tap out to play a Jace or Tamiyo, allowing me to respond by killing their walker and discarding their hand.  Against a Bant opponent, I was able to cast Rakdos’s Return for X=7 just after my opponent tapped out to play Garruk, Primal Hunter and fill his hand up off of a Thragtusk.  Even against aggressive strategies it is not a terrible card for game 1.  As long as you have one or two removal spells to deal with their first couple of threats, you can usually cast Rakdos’s Return for X=2 to grab what remains of their hand, which is usually some form of disruption, allowing you the opportunity to then stabilize.  My local meta is very control heavy though, so Rakdos’s Return is a constant boon to have.

The mana base is pretty normal, with one exception.  I was having the most difficulty facing counter-heavy opponents, specifically tempo-oriented blue decks.  I spoke with fellow Roxie Cards writer John Person, who is also championing Jund, and he recommended that I replace the Kessig Wolf Runs with Cavern of Souls.  He said that it had been testing well, and being able to make Thragtusk specifically uncounterable made it much more difficult for his opponents to win through him.  Overall, I feel like the archetype is very well positioned and stands to get better after Gatecrash, depending on how strong Gruul is.  Hopefully Gruul will provide us with some better early game creatures/spells.  We could really stand to gain some instant speed removal and some good 2-drop/3-drop threats.

Changes to MTGO

 

WotC made a recent unannounced change as to how they are going to be reporting deck lists from the MTGO daily events.  In the past, WotC has posted the deck lists of players who went 4-0 and 3-1 in the dailies.  Recently, some of you may have noticed that WotC seemed to be taking a break from doing this, and many people were attributing it to the Pro Tour and other various events.  At the time, WotC had not made any official announcements regarding a change to the daily reporting.  Well, on October 26th, a WotC employee finally divulged the real reason why the daily deck lists were missing on the wizards.com community forum here:

http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75846/29443457/What_is_WRONG_with_you,_WotC_Grrrr…..&post_num=12#525499121

In the thread, Sean Gibbons, Community Coordinator for WotC, had the following response to the inquiry:

“In regards to the recent reduced event coverage, this was a conscious decision by the Wizards R&D team that wasn’t made lightly. Ultimately, we feel that publishing every deck list leads to solving constructed formats far too efficiently, resulting in early stagnation that’s not fun for anybody. We still want to show new deck ideas every day and provide insight into the Magic play environment, but we don’t want metagame development to become purely a function of data analysis. Going forward, we’ll still provide the winning deck lists from all Premier Event top 8’s. We will also show the 4-0 and 3-1 deck lists for one completed Daily Event in each format per day.”

So, from now on, WotC will only be posting the deck lists from a single Daily Event in each format per day.  Personally, I’m not sure how I feel about this.  I’m never a big fan of limiting people’s access to information, but simultaneously, I do understand where they are coming from.  It didn’t take long last year for the online community to forge the early Delver decks into the dominant force it was, and just before WotC stopped showing the Daily Results, it almost seemed like the community was going to do it again.  I do agree with them that allowing people to have access to this much data allows you to basically turn Magic into a numbers and odds game, but you have to wonder how much this is going to slow it down.  Honestly, I think it will just force the dedicated statisticians to work a little harder to gather their data, but the data will still be out there nonetheless.  I for one am a huge proponent for slowing down the meta progression a little and letting the format take shape a little more slowly.  It will get solved eventually, but to me, the ride is much more fun than the destination.  Once you get there, it sometimes feels like there is nowhere left to go, and you are just left waiting for Fall rotation.  Plus, I really dislike trading for and/or investing in cards to build a fun deck only to have it become obsolete or terrible almost overnight.  All-in-all I think it is a positive change, I think they should have been a little more up front and vocal about it though, rather than just push it through and casually mention it on the Community Forum.

In my next article, I will hopefully have some more updates for you as well as a look at the new Jund list I’ve been working on for Legacy.  Until then, happy planeswalking!