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By: stsung, Jaroslava Stefankova
Mar 19 2018 12:00pm
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When Bloodbraid Elf and Jace, the Mind Sculptor got unbanned. One of the first things I did (except selling my Jaces and Bloodbraid Elves) was checking the price of Tarmogoyf. It spiked. After this I wondered for a while why I did it. Since the printing of Fatal Push it seemed that Tarmogoyf - the most efficient creature - wouldn't see that much play. With the unbanning of Bloodbraid Elf though I somehow subconsciously thought 'Our friend Tarmogoyf will see play again!'.

On Wednesday night I built UW Control and Grixis Control both featuring Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I played with 3 copies of that card and wondered if I'd win a game or two thanks to Jace. I didn't. Most of the time I was boarding it out because the decks I played against were rather aggressive or combo decks and there simply wasn't room in my deck to accommodate several copies of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. On Thursday my adventure with one of my favorite cards - Jace, the Mind Sculptor - followed. Unfortunately I wasn't impressed. The last attempt I made was putting Jace in a proactive Bant Control deck where it actually did some work. I wasn't impressed though.

Friday seemed to be the day of Jund. All the matches I played were against Jund, RUG or Zoo all playing Bloodbraid Elf. So while I was clutching Logic Knot in my hand I stared at Bloodbraid Elf with its Cascade trigger on the stack and then my opponent playing Liliana of the Veil. I wasn't happy.

I reminded myself that my account has different variants of Jund decks loaded and decided to give it a try myself. Since the last time we were allowed to cast Bloodbraid Elf many things changed I wondered how well positioned Jund could possibly be. One of the cards that made a big impact was Fatal Push. I wasn't really sure how good the card would be so I included it in just 2 copies finding out very soon I'd fancy a third copy. Unfortunately the card I cut for it was Thoughtseize which wasn't the best idea. Liliana, the Last Hope is also a card that found its way into decks in both Legacy and Modern and for that reason I also wanted to see if the card can do something good in Jund. Kolaghan's Command was an obvious auto-include and I was ready to replace Liliana, the Last Hope with it if I wouldn't like it. Mana base could also profit from a relatively new card - Blooming Marsh. Since the deck already runs 4 copies of Blackcleave Cliffs running more of the BG fastland didn't seem like a good idea. I was also running into many decks running Field of Ruin and started wondering if my 2 Swamps and 1 Forest were actually enough. In the end I decided to cut Twilight Mire and add a Swamp. While I didn't regret this decision it certainly was odd. It does not really add much to the efficiency of Jund - which is the epitome of the efficiency in Magic.

With this deck I jumped into some Modern matches and reminisced while playing Jund. I felt a power or some kind of feeling surge through me. I didn't know what it was at first and then I realized it. At least partly, I felt confident. That is a feeling that I didn't experience when playing Modern since the ban of Splinter Twin. Modern was always a frustrating experience after that and the sudden feeling of confidence surprised me.

I started wondering: 'Does this mean that Jund could become the best deck in Modern?'. I can't say if and how Jund will shape the format but I can tell you why I think the deck could become tier 1 once again. In this article I will introduce Jund, show you how it looks like, and after this I will try to answer my original question.

What is Jund?

Before I start talking about why Jund could possibly be the best deck I should say what 'Jund' actually means and is. Jund is a three-color shard of Black-Red-Green and is associated with card advantage decks in all formats. It originated as a Standard deck when Bloodbraid Elf was around and Simon Görtzen won a Pro Tour San Diego with it. It was ported from Standard to Modern and it took a while until the deck became what we imagine under the name of 'Jund'. Later when the deck was almost in its final form, it started to see play in Legacy. That alone showed the power of the deck. Jund became very powerful and practically the best deck in Modern - it was winning premier events all over the world. Wizards of the Coast saw the power of it and decided to do something about it. Punishing Fire which was banned relatively early on was followed by the banning of Bloodbraid Elf. That alone was not enough to stop the Jund menace and eventually Deathrite Shaman got banned too. The deck continued to be played in Modern but the deck slowly changed into pure midrange deck without being able to generate card advantage consistently. The deck's power slowly waned into oblivion and many players switched to Junk. Siege Rhino is the card that made many people switch to black-green-white. While it is no Bloodbraid Elf the card is strong. There was no reason to splash red removal because there wasn't a single card that would allow the deck to gain more card advantage. White had access to Path to Exile and didn't really need a Lightning Bolt. At one point when Grixis and Nahiri midrange decks became popular I tried bringing Jund to WMCQ. At that event I realized that I can't even outgrind blue decks and I said my final good-bye to Jund and even Modern. The format drastically changed afterwards. Fast and proactive decks became the standard and this was not a place for Jund either. What I learned though is that red gained a new card that could create card advantage - Kolaghan's Command. Blue decks could bring back Snapcaster Mage which created bigger value than Jund not being able to recur its spells and that was one of the reasons I just couldn't win.

Things changed though with the latest Modern B&R announcement. Bloodbraid Elf was unbanned and it could change the position of Jund in Modern. It is a very powerful 4-drop and allows Jund to focus once again on efficiency and card advantage rather than a slow grind that could go awry.

For whom is this deck

Jund is a fair deck. It assumes a control role often but also requires the player to be proactive at very specific moments. After all it also runs creatures and most of the time wins through combat damage. The deck is interactive and often plays long games. It grinds as Magic players would say. It slowly accrues value. It starts by trading cards one for one, later gaining card advantage thanks to cards like Kolaghan's Command, Dark Confidant, Liliana of the Veil or Bloodbraid Elf. The deck can be tweaked to suit the metagame, it is more of a must actually, and that means the deck requires the player to have a vast knowledge of the metagame and how to switch roles when playing the deck. Jund doesn't have any favorable or unfavorable matchups, you always have the chance to win but you have to earn it. If all that appeals to you Jund may be a good deck for you.

How does the deck look like?

Creatures (14-15)

Dark Confidant is a card that if it stays in play it generates incredible card advantage. Your opponent will start frantically looking for an answer. Confidant's ability costs us life but life is a resource as any other, be it cards or mana. An unchecked Dark Confidant on turn 2 just wins games. Sometimes it means that we will be forced to kill our own Dark Confidant because it threatens to kill us but everything comes with a cost. A Jund player willingly pays it. 'Greatness, at any cost' as the flavor text on Dark Confidant says.

Tarmogoyf is the best efficient attacker in Magic and this is the deck that wants to run 4 of them. On turn 1 you often play a discard spell which feeds the Tarmogoyf. With a land in the graveyard, sorcery and another card type Tarmogoyf becomes 3/4 on turn 2 for 2 mana. That's a good start against many decks. While the card can die to Fatal Push it is played in a deck where there is a high density of creatures being a big threat.

Scavenging Ooze can grow and it can also eat cards in a graveyard which is a very potent ability in current Modern. Many decks are graveyard based and many decks also rely on cards in a graveyard. It makes opponent's Kolaghan's Command or Snapcaster Mage way worse. I can easily see Jund decks featuring 3 copies of this card. If your opponent deals with Tarmogoyfs and Dark Confidants that game Ooze can become huge and difficult to get rid of.

 

Bloodbraid Elf is the reason why I decided to write this article. It costs four mana and for that we have a 3/2 Haste body plus a spell we cascade into. This deck won't probably run any more cards with cmc 4 or higher. We want this card to be as efficient as it can get which also means that we should keep our Bloodbraid Elves in our hand until the card we would cascade into can impact the board. Cascading into a removal spell when there are no creatures in play is not that great.

Removal (10-12)

Lightning Bolt was and is still one of the premier removal spells in Modern. It can hit the opponent or a Planeswalker which makes it more versatile, unfortunately it has a hard time killing a big Tarmogoyf or Scavenging Ooze.

That is where Fatal Push comes in. The new very solid removal that can destroy a cmc 2 (or 4 with Revolt) creature. This deck has no problems with Revolt so it can run more copies of the card - even four. The question is what to cut. Is cutting Lightning Bolt ok? So far I cut Abrupt Decay which cannot hit creaturelands unlike Fatal Push.

Terminate is another removal Jund can play. We need various removal spells that can hit certain cards and Terminate is a card I decided to play when it became clear that Abrupt Decay is not as universal in Modern as it could possibly be. You may think that Fatal Push kills anything, it doesn't and for that it's good to run few more cards that can. There are times when you will face a 5 drop (Reality Smasher) or a creature that can be regenerated (often Arcbound Ravager when the Affinity player also has access to Welding Jar). Another spell we can see from time to time is Dreadbore. It is a sorcery speed unconditional removal which can also hit Planeswalkers. I like being able to play my removal spells at instant speed and usually have a Thoughtseize around to deal with Planeswalkers. Note that Bloodbraid Elf is very good at killing them.

The last slot is often filled with a singleton copy of Abrupt Decay or Maelstrom Pulse or both. These cards can hit many relevant cards but are not the ideal cards in general.

Discard (6-7)

 

 

One of the reasons why Jund has a game against many different decks is that it runs higher amount of discard. This way, game 1, it can deal with threats it can't normally deal or slow the opponent down to find the right answer or land Liliana to discard the rest of the opponent's cards. The discard spells that Jund runs are Thoughtseize that can for one black mana and 2 life discard any nonland card. Inquisition of Kozilek is card that is becoming more and more popular in both Legacy and Modern because the number of cards with CMC4 and higher is lower. It often plays the same role. The usual number of discard spells is 6-7. Against fair decks we often board some or all of these out but against control decks or combo decks we often need as many discard spells as possible and thus there are usually 2 more discard spell slots in the sideboard. It used to be Duress, but after the printing of Collective Brutality, we can choose that instead. It is a versatile card that is very good in other matchups as well (for example Red Deck Wins of Affinity).

 

Other noncreature spells (7-8)

A very important card in Jund decks is Liliana of the Veil. It is a card that works as a removal spell and win condition. Against certain decks playing it on turn 3 is pretty much good game. In other cases it can deal with creatures we can't interact in other way. It allows us to control the game and create value. Against some decks the card is not that good (for example Affinity or token based decks) but I can't imagine Jund not running 4 copies of this card.

Another card that is integral part of Jund decks is Kolaghan's Command. All its modes are relevant and come handy and simply create even more value. After an opponent finally gets rid of that Tarmogoyf and is in top deck more this card can bring the Goyf back and discard the opponent's drawn card. Dealing 2 damage can kill opposing Liliana, a utility creature or go to the dome. You can even target yourself to make Tarmogoyf bigger. It is rare but I've won games by targeting myself with discard.

One more card that sees play relatively often is Liliana, the Last Hope. It can kill some creatures, render some useless as attackers, it brings creatures back from the graveyard and also can become a win condition. So far I'm not really sure if the card is good enough to be included main deck, but it is a possibility now that the Planeswalker Legendary rule works differently.

Mana base (24-25)

Jund needs a very efficient mana base in order to play its spells and for that it needs to run a high number of fetchlands (8-9) and several shocklands (2 Overgrown Tomb, 1 Blood Crypt, 1 Stomping Ground). Verdant Catacombs is the most valuable fetchland because it allows one to fetch for basic Forest or Swamp while the other fetchlands can fetch only one of these (mostly Swamp). Basic lands also save some life and protect us from Blood Moon or other similar effects. One needs 1 green source to cast Tarmogoyf/Scavenging Ooze but needs double black for Liliana of the Veil. The decks also run certain amount of fastlands. Before Kaladesh we could only run 4 Blackcleave Cliffs but now the deck can also run Blooming Marsh. Since it is the red splash that we often need fast (to cast Lightning Bolt) we are more likely not to play many Blooming Marshes. The deck also features creaturelands. There are usually Raging Ravine that not only fix our mana but are also a good creature that can grow on its own. The first activation and attack makes it a 4/4 creature. Some players though also like to have access to a cheaper activation creatureland which is Treetop Village. The card is very good but unfortunately not being able to fix mana is a very big downside. The usual amount of Treetop Villages is one or zero. Similarly some players chose to play one of Twilight Mire to help them with their mana. Double black is needed for Liliana of the Veil but in general we also need as much green mana as we can get for Scavenging Ooze.

Jund usually has the means to deal with Blood Moon but sometimes there is nothing you can do. A basic off the top is the only thing that helps.

Sideboard

One of the strengths of BGx decks are their sideboards. We can board out dead cards and put very strong cards in our decks for post-board games. We can in theory put cards in several categories - lifegain (Kitchen Finks, Collective Brutality), land destruction (Fulminator Mage), discard (Collective Brutality, Thoughtseize), artifact/enchantment hate (Ancient Grudge/Natural State), graveyard hate (Grafdigger's Cage, Nihil Spellbomb), board wipe (Anger of the Gods, Kozilek's Return), value cards. Somehow we need to come up with a good mix of 15 cards that will allows us to get an edge against decks we can encounter at a certain point of metagame. Metagames tend to shift so even the main deck can be tweaked accordingly.

One thing to note is that with Bloodbraid Elf unbanned our sideboards can be more efficient and we will also see more often the cards we bring in thanks to Bloodbraid Elf's Cascade ability. This also means that we should use that to our advantage and not run cards that cost 4 or more.

In a world where Jund will be very popular we should also devise a plan how to beat the mirror. Based on what type of a Jund player we encounter we can have different sideboard plans. Often we may need 1-2 value cards in our sideboards. That card can be Kitchen Finks or Kolaghan's Command which we might have included in our sideboards already so there may not be need for additional cards. Navigating through a mirror match is the most important if you want to do well with Jund. Figuring out how to gain an edge is important. This can vary from opponent to opponent so one needs to learn how to recognize the styles of play (for example I'm more of a control player, for others value is more important, some are a little bit more reckless and try to be on the aggressive side of things). Based on this you will know which role to take during the match and also what cards to sideboard to help you in that role.

What do I mean with the best deck?

When I was looking for a Modern deck I could possibly play after Splinter Twin got banned I had several criteria the deck had to fulfill to some extent (the deck did not need to be a top tier deck). It needed to have relatively flat win percentage with skill being the deciding factor in which way the games would go. I also needed a deck that wouldn't screw me up. Many decks have a single game plan and when that goes south the game just ends. I can't play decks like that and that is one of the reasons I tend to play control or midrange decks. The deck also needed to be complex in terms of being able to take different roles and attack other decks from different angles. I had to be the one in control to dictate the tempo.

When I played with Jund lately I realized that Jund actually perfectly fits this description. While thinking about it I discovered even more upsides for playing Jund. Here they are.

One of the advantages of Jund is that it has the most flat win percentage out of all decks in Modern. It has a game against aggressive decks where it is favored. It can beat control and it can even deal with combos. Not many decks are capable of that. They often have a really good matchups, even ones and very bad ones. Jund has some matchups that seem pretty bad (Living End, Bogles) but during a big event it probably won't ran in those very often.

Living End is problematic and FAST!

The deck is also consistent. Not in terms of seeing the same cards at the time you need but rather being able to consistently provide you with cards that you can play and use them to win the game or stall long enough to draw the cards you need. The deck won't leave you completely powerless if you draw the 'wrong' cards. You are not likely to die because your deck would simply laugh at you, providing you with cards you don't need (be it the combination of cards of the deck or mana flood. For example if you play Bogles and have a hand full of Auras but can't draw a creature). This is one of the reasons I just can't play some decks. I like to be in control of the game and deck, not be at the mercy of my deck. Jund can win games with different kinds of threats like Tarmogoyf (efficient beater), turn 2 Dark Confidant (insane card advantage), Liliana of the Veil (game over for combo and control decks) or Raging Ravine (mirror) in very long games which makes it resilient - Jund is difficult to hate out or attack with a single strategy.

Jund is unlikely to flood out because it is often able to efficiently use its lands be it for casting cards like Bloodbraid Elf, animating Raging Ravine or discarding them to Liliana of the Veil.

Jund is also said to be very good thanks to its sideboard. I didn't realize that until I played with Shardless BUG in Legacy which was very good because of this. Jund has dead cards against many decks but post-board it can play cards that are very powerful and good against those decks (see in Shardless BUG you often board out permission to board in impactful cards, similarly Jund often doesn't need its discard cards). One of the cards that I can see shine is Collective Brutality even though I may just like the card too much. When I was playing Junk I often needed some kind of Lightning Bolt effect, another cheap removal spell or life gain before I could cast a Siege Rhino. When Collective Brutality came out, it was immediate auto-include and it did exactly what I needed. For Jund the card is also very versatile and it does exactly what the deck needs. Can you imagine how devastating the card is when played against RDW or Affinity? It is also a card that can be put in the deck when you don't have cards to board in but have cards that need to go out. I used to have 2 slots dedicated to a card like this and never could come up with a good card. It often ended up to be Huntmaster of the Fells and Rakdos or Golgari Charm because these cards were also giving me the possibility to board them in against specific decks but could randomly prove to be good against decks I didn't expect. In a mirror match, bringing more value was always good - Huntmaster of the Fells is a good card. Even Golgari Charm's regenerate creatures ability often won me games.

Since Jund is practically a collection of good cards that allow you to interact with the opponent in different ways, it is also very difficult to disrupt it. For example when I was trying to come up with reasonable version of Grixis Control I realized that most of my cards rely very heavily on my graveyard. Since Dredge, Living End and Death's Shadow were very popular at that moment I often faced Rest in Peace and my deck suddenly became a 2/1 beatdown with inefficient spells and low-threat density. With Jund you won't experience that. Rarely you will lose to a single card or combination of sideboard cards that could wreck you. The cards that come to mind are Blood Moon and Leyline of Sanctity which were also the reasons why I often played Golgari Charm in my sideboard.

Affinity often used to board in Blood Moon against the greedy mana base decks - Jund in particular. When I was on Ajundi (Jund splashing White for Lingering Souls and Ajani Vengeant) it seemed as a really good plan. Too bad that my opening hand contained 3 basic lands, Ancient Grudge, Rakdos Charm and Ajani. I wasn't sure about that hand but it worked out nicely!

 

I talked about advantages of playing Jund and what makes it a good deck. There are also disadvantages to playing Jund though. Jund's most biggest disadvantage comes from what I wrote above. The deck doesn't really have any good matchups nor bad matchups. Jund is relatively good at different things but does not excel in them. While playing this deck isn't difficult (see anyone can pick up the deck and have decent results with it), being able to make the 45% or 55% win percentages go over 60% and even more it requires a good understanding of the game. Each win has to be won and skill is something that will decide if you will win those matches or not. One needs to assume a certain role and change it when needed. To have consistently good results with Jund one needs to know the metagame well and play accordingly well.

Another disadvantage is that the deck can make you lose a lot of life and sometimes it can result in us losing the game. Good life resource management is needed in order to play this deck and finding the right balance is sometimes difficult. We have to accept the fact that rarely our Confidant will kill us.

One more thing I would label as disadvantage is Junk (a green-black-white midrange deck). It is Jund's brother. Both decks are BGx Midrange decks and each has its pros and cons. If Junk would become more common it is a not good decision to show up at a tournament with Jund. Lingering Souls are one of the best cards against Jund.

The price tag (It's been a while since I last wrote a 4-digit price) of this deck is not something many people would like to see. Jund used to be the best deck but also the most expensive deck. No matter how good Jund will turn out to be, it will still be one of the most expensive decks in Modern.

In the end I don't find these disadvantages that disadvantageous because they give us room to make up for them (with the exception of the price of the deck). That is luxury in the world of Magic. One of the reasons why I am very glad Jund is back is because this is an interactive deck by nature. Interaction in Magic and especially in Modern was quite rare lately and for that reason I'm glad we got the chance to play an interactive deck and remind ourselves and our opponents that we can interact. In my opinion it makes the game more interesting and more fun to play. I'm grateful that Wizards of the Coast unbanned Bloodbraid Elf and Jace, the Mind Sculptor because the cards can be played in various interactive decks which will make Modern more diverse in that regard.

I can't tell you if this will become the best deck as it used to be in the past before the banning of Deathrite Shaman but I can tell you that this deck is the real deal. If your criteria for a good deck are similar to mine, it can become the best deck for you too.

May you Cascade into cards you need!

Thanks for reading!
S'Tsung (stsung on Magic Online, stsungjp on Twitter)

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