What Is Jund
(Content Manager's Note: Yes, we are aware that Bloodbraid Elf was hit with a ban in modern. However this article was submitted before the ban happened, and we are running it as is. Please consider the following a historical look at one of the most powerful decks in the Modern metagame.)
In it's purest sense, Jund is one of five shards of the Alara plane. It is primarily red-aligned, with black and green as secondary colors. However, when people speak of Jund, they are usually not referring to the shard, but to a very specific deck type that came out of Alara Standard.
For those of you who weren't around for Shards of Alara Standard, Jund was a midrange deck that burst onto the scene in the wake of Faeries. While Jund was in many regards an aggro deck, it also had serious control elements. As a midrange deck, Jund focused on gaining card advantage as well as tempo, mainly through Bloodbraid Elf and the Cascade mechanic.
After Alara rotated out of Standard, Jund lived on in the Extended (ye olde Extended, not the current Extended) format; Modern had not been invented yet. Here is a typical Extended version:
Many of the cards we take for granted in Jund today had not been printed yet, or were otherwise not in the card pool. Ravnica had just rotated out. Inquisition of Kozilek wasn't coming out until Rise of the Eldrazi block. Deathrite Shaman was only a glimmer in R&D's eye. Other than the manabase, Goyf, and Great Sable Stag, this deck is almost identical to it's Standard forebearer.
Today, Jund is basically an aggressive "rock" type deck that wants to win via 2- for-1 effects, hand disruption, and attrition. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if this deck were not named after the Jund shard, we would be calling it "Red Rock".
Jund has made it to the top of the Legacy arena, as well. Legacy Jund decks have been placing very well. "You realize you’re playing a Modern deck with Hymns and Wastelands, right?" opens Pat Cox's article on taking Jund to 2nd place at GP Denver.
While there is no "one true way" to build Jund, there are several wrong ways! Here are some traps to watch out for:
- Being too aggro: Jund is not an aggro deck. If you want to play aggro, just play something like Boros, Tribal Flames (aka Haunted Zoo), or Zoo. These types of decks are better at being almost exclusively aggro. Cards like Goblin Guide run counter to the Jund gameplan (you don't want to feed your opponent lands!), and don't make Jund any more aggressive than it already is.
- Being too suicidal: If you're going to play Fetches, Shocks, Bob, and Thoughtseize, you better have some way to gain back some life. Or else you can write off aggro and burn as auto-loss right off the bat. You don't need to play 8 Shocklands and 8 Fetches for mana fixing. If you do fetch, try to get Basic Lands instead of Shocklands. Playing a low amount of Basic Lands also leaves you vulnerable to Blood Moon effects.
- Splashing too much: The only time you really want to splash a fourth color is when a single card can impact a variety of matchups so greatly, it's worth playing a bad manabase. A good example of this is the splash used for Lingering Souls. Lingering Souls broke mirror matches, and made infect much easier to deal with. It caused huge headaches for tempo decks, as well.
- Making your curve too high: Nothing over 4cmc, with few exceptions, is really worth playing in Jund. If you're on turn 7 wishing for a Dragon topdeck, you're doing it wrong. Also, chances are that you're playing Bob; anything 4cmc or higher (or even too many 4cmc cards) is going to be taking a big chance come upkeep flipping time. See item 3. The only >= 4cmc cards you may want to consider are cards that can offset the life lost from flipping them off Bob. I'm talking about cards like Batterskull or Thragtusk.
- Not playing Manlands: Raging Ravine & Treetop Village are still cards. And they work surprisingly well. Unlike many more aggressive decks, Jund rarely has a play on Turn 1, so a Turn 1 land coming in tapped should not be an issue in most cases. I cannot begin to count the number of times Manlands have saved my heinie.
One of the best things going for Jund is that it can be tuned to beat just about any meta. Is your meta combo/control heavy? Up the hand disruption. Ramp getting your goat? Put in some land disruption. Aggro? Kitchen Finks & removal spells. Unlike many more linear strategies, Jund is difficult to "hate" out of a format, since it attacks from so many different angles. This can be seen in today's Modern meta environment: Jund shifted to Spirit Jund shifted to Lotus Jund shifted to Doran Jund and shifting back to "plain" Jund.
Against most aggro decks, you'll be the Control Deck early on, but don't be afraid to start applying pressure early if they have a swarm of weak sausage on the table! Forcing them to block a large Goyf will usually play into your hands anyway. If an aggro match lasts until late-game, chances are you already have the "inevitability" to win. It's definitely necessary to be able to put the clock on decks like RDW. Or they'll eventually just burn you out.
Against Control decks, you're going to want to cut back on the removal spells, and play a more aggro style, backed by hand disruption. It's fairly common to steal wins against control decks simply by resolving Liliana of the Veil. Jund is a rough opponent for any control deck to deal with. Bloodbraid Elf naturally circumvents countermagic, and hand disruption like Thoughtseize, Blightning, and Inquisition will tear apart their means to stop your gameplan.
With Combo decks, you're going to want a more midrange plan. You want to play enough hand disruption to keep them from going off early, then kill them before they reassemble their combo pieces.
Deciding which role to play in which matchup takes a bit of skill, and a lot of practice. While some may claim Jund is a "mindless" deck, it's not. It is a far cry from its original Standard version where you simply dropped creatures and cast removal.
What about Jund's weaknesses? To me, Jund's biggest weakness is that it's a bit of a "swiss army knife". What I mean by this is that it's not particularly super at doing any one thing. It's less disruptive than control. It's not as fast as most aggro decks. It's not as good at grinding out long games as "pure" rock decks. Jund also has a bit of a problem with decks that can go bigger, such as Tron or Scapeshift.
Another very real weaknesses in Jund is that it has a distinctly suicidal bent at it's most "plain jane" state. Playing Thoughtseize, Bob, Shocklands, and Fetches make it easy for RDW decks to tap out easy wins off Jund. This makes it very important to have maindeck lifegain options.
Some Jund Builds
Here are some typical builds in the various flavors of Jund. Each deck shown has placed very well (4-0 or T8) in sanctioned events. Some of these decks seem to violate the pitfalls mentioned above. This falls under the category of "knowing the rules before you can (semi-) safely break them".
With no disruption, I'm not even sure if this qualifies as Jund.
Jund in the Modern Meta
In an unknown environment, Jund has shown itself to be the "go to" deck of choice. It has been seen at the top again and again at Pro Tours, Grand Prix, PTQs, and the online dailies. No matter which meta you look at, Jund is right there at the top. For as much as people hate it, it sure shows up a lot!
In the online Modern daily Scheduled Events:
In the online Modern Premier Events:
In both online and paper Modern PTQs:
Jund is dead. Long live Jund!