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Jund, Jund, Evolution

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Once again, the topic of the day is Jund.

First, a decklist:

This is the list that I've been testing with, though I feel it's important to note that the lands would be slightly different if I had access to a few extra tickets on Magic Online (-1 Verdant Catacombs, -1 Savage Lands, +1 Twilight Mire, +1 Fire-Lit Thicket). The Green Filter lands are important to turn your Forests into Demigod of Revenge mana. I'm very happy with the rest of the deck, and it is what I would play in Grand Prix: Atlanta if I could make the trek east.

Here, I'll attempt to distill all of my MTGO testing hours into a single piece of writing! I tried to break it down by matchups, but in an effort to avoid repeating the same thing a dozen times, a lot of what applies to one matchup applies to others too. Enjoy πŸ™‚

The Matchups

In no particular order...

Naya Shaman

The Naya decks right now almost all revolve around three key cards: Bloodbraid Elf, Vengevine, and Fauna Shaman. Honorary mention goes to Knight of the Reliquary. A few minor adjustments to my Jund decklist resulted in the Naya matchup going from a bit of a nightmare to something of a good matchup.

1. Thoughtseize is really good at stopping Bloodbraid Elf. I can't emphasize this enough. Bloodbraid Elf is one of the most difficult cards in the format to stop with either removal or countermagic, as it's always going to Cascade into something else (whether it is of any value or not is context-dependent, but I'm obviously rarely happy to see Bloodbraid Elf hit the stack). However, Thoughtseize solves that problem quite elegantly.

2. Your removal is very effective at stopping their gameplan. Jund's combination of efficient 1-for-1 removal and effective X-for-1s means the Naya deck, even with Vengevine backup, is often just going to run out of gas right as you're hitting your Demigod of Revenge stage to finish them off. The most recent change I made to the deck, +2 Terminate for -2 Anathemancer, really helped to shore up this matchup. Not every Naya build plays Sejiri Steppe to protect their Knight of the Reliquary, but always be aware of that possibility. On occasion I'd find myself throwing a Terminate or Shriekmaw at an active Knight and just hoping, but that's just the way it's going to go sometimes. Eventually, Bloodbraid Elf or Demigod of Revenge will take over the game by the time you've spent your removal.

3. Fauna Shaman keeps you from running out of gas. It might seem strange that a deck with access to Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile is so vulnerable to Fauna Shaman, but that's part of why they're forced to play those removal spells to begin with. An active Fauna Shaman is almost always going to end the game in your favor provided the rest of your draw isn't too clunky. Finding up a Shriekmaw is always nice, but more importantly, she fetches Bloodbraid Elf and bins Demigod of Revenge.

4. Demigod of Revenge closes and sometimes steals wins you don't deserve. Always be aware of Path to Exile, but Naya's reliance on Fauna Shaman means that often they don't run any maindeck removal (to assure that Bloodbraid Elf always Cascades into a creature for Vengevine recurrance). Games end very quickly when you can take out chunks of 5, 10, or more life at a time.

Sideboarding*

*First, a note that will apply to all sideboarding guides here: They're just that, guides. Things may change if you see something about their build that is noteworthy, or if you sideboard for game 2 and realize that something is wrong, or you may find yourself making different sideboarding choices whether you're on the play or the draw, or depending on how much time is left in a round. Never take a sideboarding guide from anyone as more than just a guide!

+3 Volcanic Fallout
+1 Deathmark
+1 Thoughtseize
-1 Anathemancer
-4 Putrid Leech

This is one of the creature matchups where Putrid Leech is pretty, well, putrid. Pumping him is always a liability with either White or Red mana open, and Exalted means that Kitchen Finks or Bloodbraid Elf will almost always be able to trade even with pumping. Anathemancer, too, is quite lackluster and borderline useless as anything more than a 1BR 2/2 that Shocks your opponent.

It may seem odd to bring in Volcanic Fallout while leaving in a 2/2 bear in Fauna Shaman, but the games where Volcanic Fallout is good break down into 2 categories:

1. You draw Volcanic Fallout in your opening hand. This way, you can sculpt your gameplan around getting the maximum value out of your sweeper. In this case it's easy to hold back Fauna Shaman, especially given that she's a lot more useful in the mid-late game than in the early-mid game.

2. You draw Volcanic Fallout with a Fauna Shaman on the board, and you're going to be overrun. Well, Fauna Shaman be damned, if you're going to lose the game without casting Fallout then your choice is easy. Take your loss and move on, but be aware that using Fauna Shaman in a "strange" way (attacking with open Green mana, blocking, etc.) can give away your gameplan.

Deathmark is obvious, and it provides a very elegant answer to every creature they play. Cunning Sparkmage is the only one that might escape.

Thoughtseize is Black's best answer to Great Sable Stag in a Jund deck that actually has quite a few ways of dealing with one. Bloodbraid Elf and Kitchen Finks will both trade without Exalted shenanigans, and Lightning Bolt will always take it out.

Mythic Conscription

Most of what applies to Naya above also applies to Mythic, however there are a few key differences.

1. Bloodbraid Elf is no nowhere to be seen. In fact, there's no Cascade spell anywhere in the Mythic deck. Instead, Terminate and Lightning Bolt become extremely important to keep Sovereigns of Lost Alara from making an Eldrazi monster out of a Birds of Paradise.

2. Maelstrom Pulse and Thoughtseize give you plenty of answers to Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Elspeth, Knight Errant. Even a topdecked Planeswalker in the mid game on an empty board isn't game over when you can Cascade into Maelstrom Pulse or draw it naturally (note: in Game 1, there are 25 spells with a Converted Mana Cost of 3-or-less. That means a Bloodbraid Elf will cascade into a 4-of roughly 16% of the time, a 3-of roughly 12% of the time, a 2-of roughly 8% of the time, and your lonely Anathemancer just 4% of the time).

3. Mythic decks almost always have a Sejiri Steppe. Some have two. Almost all have just a single copy.

Sideboarding

This should look relatively familiar.

+1 Thoughtseize
+1 Deathmark
+3 Volcanic Fallout
-1 Anathemancer
-4 Putrid Leech

Additionally, you can sideboard in your Nature's Claim as needed to deal with Eldrazi Conscription, though I would never default to doing so. I don't like sideboarding in situational reactive cards that don't answer the real threats a deck poses. In this case, Nature's Claim on an Eldrazi Conscription just delays one turn before their next attack searches up Conscription #2.

All of your sideboard cards are just a little more valuable here than against Naya. Thoughtseize can stop their god draw with Sovereigns of Lost Alara, Volcanic Fallout now has Birds of Paradise, Noble Hierarch, and newcomer Lotus Cobra to smash, and Deathmark is a welcome sight when you want to cast a creature and kill a freshly-cast Knight of the Reliquary on the same turn. A note on Knight of the Reliquary: always, always, always kill it when it's summoning sick if you can. Your best backup plan is Bloodbraid Elf into removal. An active Knight of the Reliquary is very difficult to deal with.

Wargate, and other iterations of Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

First, the distinction between Wargate and RG Valakut/Scapeshift is mostly just important in determining their creature base and how many Scapeshifts they have access to. Bant or Naya Valakut decks often have fewer Scapeshifts and some number of Knight of the Reliquary (or, the worst, Knight and Bloodbraid Elf. Yuck), although fewer copies of Scapeshift. RG Valakut decks will typically max out on Scapeshift, alongside Primeval Titan and sometimes Bloodbraid Elf as well.

To be blunt, Scapeshift is a pain in the ass. You don't have any way of disrupting it except for Thoughtseize. This is one of the times where saving your Thoughtseize for turn 2, 3, or even 4 (provided you're not playing against Bant and their Counterspells), if you can fit it into your curve, might save you from a drawn Scapeshift to end the game.

There are certain keys for being able to win these, or any Combo matchup:

1. Putrid Leech is your most important card. This card is so important that, if you know you're up against Wargate, it's the first thing I look at when determining whether to mulligan or not. A 5-card hand with Putrid Leech is often going to be better than a 7-card hand without. A hand with 2 Putrid Leeches is going to be almost impossible for some iterations of the Valakut deck to win against at all, especially if it has any support. Ask yourself whether you would keep any of these hands if you knew your opponent was on Wargate:

Or what about this?

Or even this?

Those are all pretty rotten against Wargate, even if they're strong against the field. The problem with a hand like the one above, which has access to both Thoughtseize and Maelstrom Pulse, is that after you take their best card, what kind of a clock do you have them on? These decks play Ponder, Preordain, Cryptic Command, and Wargate, and all of them help them dig deeper for a Prismatic Omen. Once an Omen hits the board, you won't always get a chance to respond with a Maelstrom Pulse before it's game over.

Put another way, do you remember the tail end of Jund's reign in Standard? Many people were cutting Putrid Leech in favor of things like Rampant Growth, Nest Invader, and the like! That was because there were few/no reliable Combo decks with a quick enough clock to be worried about. If the format were all creature-based strategies as they were in Shards of Alara/Zendikar Standard, Putrid Leech would be much less important. As it stands though, it's your first line of defense.

2. Thoughtseize is your second most important card. For obvious reasons, I hope. Thoughtseize protects you from Scapeshift, rips up Cryptic Command, hits Wargate, and is your key to putting them in topdeck mode. Decks like these play very few actual threats; they use cards like Prismatic Omen to turn otherwise innocuous cards (Cultivate? Rampant Growth? Who cares?) into game-enders. This is one of the matchups that made me side with Thoughtseize over Blightning. Blightning is fantastic when dug up with Cascade, but on turn 3 or 4 especially, casting Blightning instead of a recurring threat (like, say, any creature?) when your opponent has more than 2 cards in their hand is asking for trouble.

3. Valakut decks are very good at dealing damage in 3s. Not all life points were created equal. Against many Valakut scenarios, 19 life is much safer than 18. 10 is much safer than 9. Etc. Don't pump a Putrid Leech past one of the critical points (3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18) unless necessary or safe to do so. And "safe" can be deceptively higher than you think it might be. Do the math on what your clock is whether you pump or not and how much damage they can realistically explode for.

Sideboarding

Versus Wargate
+1 Thoughtseize
+3 Great Sable Stag
+2 Deglamer
+1 Nature's Claim
-2 Terminate
-1 Anathemancer
-2 Kitchen Finks

Shriekmaw stays in as a tutorable answer to Knight of the Reliquary and Obstinate Baloth. Kitchen Finks is less important as they typically don't interact with it at all.


Versus RG Scapeshift

+1 Thoughtseize
+2 Deglamer
+1 Nature's Claim
+1 Wurmcoil Engine
-1 Anathemancer
-2 Terminate
-1 Shriekmaw
-1 Fauna Shaman

I may be inclined to cut a Demigod of Revenge before the Shriekmaw to deal with Obstinate Baloth if it shows up in Game 2, but a hasty 5/4 is as swift of a game-ender as almost any in the format. Other creatures of note you may run into would be Bloodbraid Elf or Primeval Titan, so pay close attention to the cards you see to fine-tune your plan. Wurmcoil Engine provides a plan to get out of Valakut range in certain scenarios, and it's an impossible threat for the Valakut deck to kill if you get them on the defensive.

Versus Naya
+1 Thoughtseize
+2 Deglamer
+1 Nature's Claim
-1 Anathemancer
-2 Terminate
-1 Fauna Shaman

This is one of the more difficult matchups to sideboard for. Do they have Knight of the Reliquary? Bloodbraid Elf? Obstinate Baloth? Great Sable Stag? None of your cards, beside Thoughtseize, answers all of those. It's also a very rare deck to find; I've only played against it a handful of times in the wild. How would you sideboard against it? I think I'd rather have the Shriekmaw in my 60 than Wurmcoil Engine here, but I'm not sure about that.

Tempered Steel

As long as you mulligan aggressively enough to not just lose to a turn 3 Tempered Steel, this matchup is not that bad. Midrange decks can typically prey on this style of Aggro with very little reach. Their most important card to watch out for is obviously Tempered Steel, but an untimely Thoughtseize or Tidehollow Sculler could ruin your plans. Before you keep your opening hand, ask yourself: "If my opponent has Thoughtseize, how good is my hand? If my opponent has Tidehollow Sculler, do I have answers?" If you can't answer those sufficiently, ship it back and try again. There's a 46% chance that their opening hand has Thoughtseize and a 46% chance that it has Tidehollow Sculler. Do you really want to run the parlay that they have neither? I didn't think so. Thankfully, the times they have multiples, it may come at the expense of more threatening cards.

Other cards to look out for include Master of Etherium and Steel Overseer. Without removal, either one will end the game or put it out of reach.

Sideboarding

+3 Volcanic Fallout
+2 Deglamer
+1 Nature's Claim
-1 Anathemancer
-4 Putrid Leech
-1 Shriekmaw

This should be relatively obvious, but Volcanic Fallout is really good in this matchup. Postboard, you end up running 7 targeted creature removal spells, 3 targeted artifact & enchantment removal spells, and 3 board sweepers on top of 3 or 4 Thoughtseize. Provided you don't keep a bad hand and/or lose the variance lottery, you should be able to win postboard games at a pretty healthy clip.

A few notes:

1. Tempered Steel changes everything. Who would have thought that giving your whole team +2/+2 would be good? Oh, that's right, everybody. Do everything you can to keep this card off the board.

2. On the play, I would probably board in the 4th Thoughtseize. The two life lost from Thoughtseize can be a liability in any Aggro matchup, but keeping Tempered Steel off the board is just so huge that I would consider taking advantage of going first by boarding in the fourth Thoughtseize for a Fauna Shaman. On the draw, it's just too likely that you'll be on the back foot too much to begin with to afford the extra life too.

3. Shriekmaw is no Doom Blade. Yeah, don't even try casting it. It's not a "may" trigger, and every creature in their deck is an artifact. You'll end up 2-for-1ing yourself and feeling rather silly.

GoblinGuide.dek

Red decks have been vastly underrated in this format, and they've come back with a vengeance over the last two weeks. The heading here is a bit ironic, as the card quality of the Red decks is much higher than anyone was giving them credit for at the beginning of the season. Figure of Destiny isn't much of a problem, but Goblin Guide on Turn 1 can turn into a huge headache with the wrong answers. Here's a hint: Maelstrom Pulse is way too slow.

Kitchen Finks is obviously going to be your all-star, and by extension, so is Fauna Shaman. Fauna Shaman will soak up a removal spell (Lightning Bolt, Burst Lightning, Searing Blaze) no matter what, as the threat of you turning your useless Anathemancers and Putrid Leeches into an endless stream of Ouphes and Bloodbraid Elfs is too dangerous to a Red deck with so little raw card advantage.

A few things to consider about the Red deck's best case scenarios: Hellspark Elemental is worth 6 damage. Hell's Thunder is worth 8 damage. Flame Javelin is worth 4 damage. Plated Geopede can attack for 5 every turn. A Goblin Guide on the play will be worth 2, 4, or 6 damage before you can get an answer in. Searing Blaze will kill of one of your blockers and hit you for 3. God forbid they're playing Bloodbraid Elf too, and you'll need to get really lucky to have a chance. Kitchen Finks often are not enough.

Sideboarding

+1 Obstinate Baloth
+1 Wurmcoil Engine
-1 Anathemancer
-1 Thoughtseize

Some decks play more fleeting threats like Ball Lightning and Hell's Thunder in place of permanents like Boggart Ram-Gang or Plated Geopede. In that case, I'd consider leaving Thoughtseize in (and perhaps even boarding in the 4th - risk aversion is for the weak!), as eating 2 life lost is much better than getting smashed for 6. The versions splashing Green for Bloodbraid Elfare a particular headache; Thoughtseize is the perfect answer to Bloodbraid, but Maelstrom Pulse can sometimes be necessary there too.

This is the one matchup that has me wanting at least one more Obstinate Baloth in the sideboard at the likely expense of Cloudthresher or Wurmcoil Engine.

1. Always remember Searing Blaze. This card is quite ridiculously good if you give it a chance to be. Usually you won't have a choice to play around it though. But if you have the choice of casting a mostly useless Anathemancer on turn 5 into an empty board or holding it back, definitely consider holding it back. If you have Terminate or Lightning Bolt in hand, don't even think about using your mana to cast a pointless 2/2 bear instead!

2. Putrid Leech can be a sneaky backstabber. Don't be too eager to pump your Putrid Leech, even in the early game. If your opponent attacks into you with a Goblin Guide or a Figure of Destiny and untapped lands, block and trade. The only times I would consider pumping my Putrid Leech when a Lightning Bolt will blow you out is if losing your Putrid Leech will lead to the same blowout. Sometimes you just have to try it, but it's never ideal. As you saw above, the Red deck packs a ton of damage into 60 cards. Plated Geopede and Teetering Peaks help to make it an incredibly threat-dense deck as well.

G/W Summoning Trap

I still don't get why people are playing this deck over Mythic Conscription, but it's been putting up extremely solid results over the beginning portion of the Extended season. It's definitely got a ton of explosive power, and it can lead to some of the most frustrating games you'll play in the format. Sometimes the game will come down to whether or not their Summoning Trap or Hideaway hit an Eldrazi or "just" a Primeval Titan or Baneslayer Angel.

A few things to remember:

1. The Trap deck plays the same core of mana creatures as Mythic Conscription. This is a great way to attack the deck, and you can often simply keep them from having 4GG or from having enough attackers to trigger Windbrisk Heights. The same advice applies here as it does with Mythic, although there may be times where you're better off using Maelstrom Pulse to clear out multiple Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarchs instead of a Knight of the Reliquary because of Windbrisk Heights. Use your best judgment there, and the race is on!

2. Always be aware of the possibility for an End of Turn Summoning Trap. How embarrassing would it be to have the game all locked up, lethal damage on the board for your next turn, and to lose it all because you didn't hold back a potential blocker? Or because you got too aggressive with a manland, and Summoning Trap turned up a Baneslayer Angel that smacked you before you could untap and Terminate? Don't be too afraid to look silly holding back a blocker, whether it be in this matchup or, more commonly, against RDW or Bloodbraid Elf. Racing is important, but keeping your life total above 0 is just a little more important. πŸ™‚

Sideboarding

+1 Deathmark
+1 Thoughtseize
+3 Volcanic Fallout
-1 Anathemancer
-4 Putrid Leech

I'll be honest, the last cut is a little tough for me. Putrid Leech is a little better as a blocker here (Great Sable Stag exempted, of course) than it is against Naya or Mythic, but on the other hand, G/W Trap is more likely to be running Path to Exile than either. Cutting the 4th Leech instead of the Fauna Shaman is probably better, and at that point, cutting the 4th Leech in favor of Cloudthresher or Wurmcoil Engine might be even better. Fauna Shaman and Volcanic Fallout are not mutually exclusive, but they can still leave you in an awkward spot together.

On Couldthresher: It's a 7/7 body that blocks Primeval Titan and Baneslayer Angel, kills off Birds of Paradise (or even Spectral Procession tokens, I suppose. With Windbrisk Heights it might be possible!). Too greedy? Maybe.

Faeries

This matchup is actually pretty even in my experience. You'll each win some nail-biters, you'll each lose some blowouts, and you'll be cursing Mistbind Clique in your sleep if you play the matchup too many times. Traditional wisdom says to ride Blightning, Volcanic Fallout, and Great Sable Stag until you just bash their face in. Well, Faeries now plays Wall of Tanglecord, this list is lacking Blightning, and there are only 3 Volcanic Fallouts. What then?

1. Sometimes you're in a position to get blown out by either Cryptic Command or Mistbind Clique and you have to choose which one would be worse. It's turn 4, and you have a Putrid Leech and a Kitchen Finks on board. Your opponent has 4 untapped lands, a Bitterblossom, and a Faerie Rogue token. You have a Bloodbraid Elf in hand. What do you do? Consider the possibilities:

A. You play Bloodbraid Elf precombat. Your opponent casts Cryptic Command, countering your Elf and tapping your team. You're left with your Cascade card as a consolation prize; thanks for playing.

B. You play Bloodbraid Elf postcombat. Your opponent casts Mistbind Clique after you declare your attackers, eat your Kitchen Finks, blocks your Putrid Leech with his token, and steals your second mainphase. Oops.

The answer to this question partly depends on whether Great Sable Stag is in your deck yet or not. Your Bloodbraid Elf Cascades are much more valuable when they can hit Great Sable Stag instead of some random Anathemancer or Lightning Bolt.

The Faeries deck is so hard to play against because, aside from its strong core of synergistic threats, most of its cards have Flash.

2. Don't run yourself into Spellstutter Sprite! If you can force them to cast a Spellstutter Sprite for no upside, it's no small victory. If you can bait one out, do it, but don't let it counter something that would have been irrelevant without it being part of a larger plan. Their cards are powerful enough as it is, there's no reason to play into their strengths too. If my opponent has 1U open, I will typically play around Spellstutter Sprite even if it means walking into Mana Leak. Sometimes you have to choose the lesser of two evils, and an onboard Sprite powers up the next.

Remember that Spellstutter Sprite is a must, not a may, and that it checks on resolution. Lightning Bolt, Terminate, or Volcanic Fallout can crush the bad guy's dreams instead of your own.

3. Don't run yourself into Scion of Oona! This means two things: Remember the possibility of Scion of Oona in race situations, and be very wary of casting targeted removal with 2U untapped.

4. Mutavault can block Great Sable Stag. It's a lot easier than it may sound to have your Great Sable Stag race screwed up because of a topdecked or forgotten Mutavault. Mutavault is one of the darkhorse MVPs of the entire Faeries deck, powering up Spellstutter Sprite, sneaking in damage, chump blocking, and serving as a Mistbind Clique target.

5. Mistbind Clique's "Champion a Faerie" trigger gets chosen on resolution. Sometimes you can use this to your advantage, sometimes your opponent can.

6. Fauna Shaman and Bloodbraid Elf are your most important creatures. Kitchen Finks is deceptively weak here, as the only times the lifegain matters is when you're in an extremely tight race situation. Otherwise, it'll just get chump blocked when necessary and their scant removal (most Faeries lists only play 4-6 removal spells main!) will get pointed elsewhere. Bloodbraid Elf though is your all-star. It provides a hasty threat, allowing it to almost always sneaks through at least something relevant. Fauna Shaman, for her part, finds Bloodbraid Elf. Don't forget about Anathemancer, it's a silver bullet in the deck for a reason and Faeries is one of the prime targets in a race situation. Don't forget that Unearth cannot be countered!

7. If you're careful, Grasp of Darkness is all that can kill Putrid Leech alone. Use this to your advantage.

Sideboarding

+1 Thoughtseize
+3 Volcanic Fallout
+1 Cloudthresher
+3 Great Sable Stag
+2 Deglamer
+1 Wurmcoil Engine
-4 Kitchen Finks
-1 Shriekmaw
-2 Maelstrom Pulse
-4 Lightning Bolt/Putrid Leech**

Wow, what a mess. Just like when you're in the actual games and your opponent could cast any of about a dozen spells to wreck you, so it goes with sideboarding. Are they bringing in Wall of Tanglecord? Well, Putrid Leech gets a lot worse and Lightning Bolt gets a lot better. Do they have Scion of Oona? Terminate and Maelstrom Pulse become so much worse! Deglamer comes in as an answer to Wurmcoil Engine, but it doubles as an Instant-speed answer to Bitterblossom too.

**So, a word of warning before you blindly sideboard out your Lightning Bolts: I'm pretty sure this is unconventional. I don't mind that, and I like the deck that I board into here. Leaving in Terminate gives you answers to Mistbind Clique, and leaving a pair of Maelstrom Pulse is relevant too. The way I see it, you have to board out 4 of your removal spells (Shriekmaw is an easy first), and you have to choose which four. Alternatively, you can board out your Putrid Leeches and play a more controlling game. Depending on your opponent's build, that may be preferable, and you can even have different plans for Games 2 and 3 to keep your opponent guessing for once instead of you.

UW Control

This is one of the tougher matchups you might face. Wall of Omens, Kitchen Finks, Sun Titan, and Baneslayer Angel make up their creature base. Plumeveil can always make a surprise appearance. Jace, the Mind Sculptor shows up in full force too. Leyline of Sanctity can ruin your day, especially postboard, though much less than the Jund decks running 3 or 4 Anathemancer and Blightning.

However, you're not without your own answers. Anathemancer can sneak in for 4+ damage relatively easily, Bloodbraid Elf is as difficult as ever to answer for any Control deck, and Demigod of Revenge provides you some degree of inevitability. The UW deck relies on Day of Judgment and Path to Exile to stop the bleeding long enough to land a Titan or Baneslayer. Use this to your advantage and avoid overextending, and remember that Bloodbraid Elf's haste makes it the perfect card to play after a Day of Judgment.

Sideboarding

+1 Thoughtseize
+1 Anathemancer
+1 Wurmcoil Engine
+1 Deathmark
-X Lightning Bolt
-(4-X) Maelstrom Pulse and/or Terminate

The same caveat applies here with the removal you're boarding out. Sometimes, they'll show you Leyline of Sanctity in Game 2 and you may want to bring Maelstrom Pulse back in. Sometimes you'll see Wurmcoil Engine and Deglamer might have to make an appearance. Either way, neither Lightning Bolt nor Maelstrom Pulse is particularly awesome.

These last two matchups exhibit perfectly the importance of paying attention to what threats your opponent is able to provide and coming up with the best mix of answers for their entire range of threats, not just the ones you're most worried about. For example, Great Sable Stag might seem like an ideal threat against a Blue-based Control deck here, but it's actually quite lacking against a deck with so many White blockers (Wall of Omens, Kitchen Finks, etc.) and Path to Exile.

Another thing to keep in mind: If your opponent is making fundamental errors with regard to a certain aspect of the game, punish him for it! Does he always -1 Jace Beleren without regard for Lightning Bolt? Well, then maybe Lightning Bolt is a better card to leave in and Maelstrom Pulse can sit on the bench. Are you certain that Leyline of Sanctityis coming in? Leave at least one Anathemancer on the bench and maybe a Thoughtseize or two to hedge.

4-Color Control

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Most of what you'll have to deal with from UW Control applies here, although you're unlikely to run into Wall of Omens in a 4CC build these days. You're also much more likely to have to face down a Wurmcoil Engine.

Sideboarding

+3 Great Sable Stag
+1 Thoughtseize
+2 Deglamer
+1 Anathemancer
-2 Terminate
-1 Shriekmaw
-4 Putrid Leech

Putrid Leech is forced to come out against Lightning Bolt, as it ends up being a resilient Grizzly Bear rather than a BG 4/4 far too often. Great Sable Stag gets a chance to shine, although again, Lightning Bolt puts a damper in how relevant it will be if you can land it. Deglamer is forced to come in against Wurmcoil Engine, since even a single hit from Wurmcoil could be enough to put the game out of reach.

4 Color Control is 4 colors for a reason: Lightning Bolt and Volcanic Fallout. Don't let yourself get wrecked by either, and realize that Day of Judgment is always lurking as a possibility too. Play around Cruel Ultimatum to a point, but it's going to wreck you almost every time it gets cast anyway, so you almost have to take that as a loss. Thoughtseize is your best friend here. Anathemancer is a close second.

To give you an idea of how much 4CC is in the format right now, I've probably played 4-5 times as many matches against UW Control as I have 4CC in the Extended queues, PTQs, and Tournament Practice Room. Take my advice here for what it's worth with that in mind. πŸ™‚

Jund

The mirror match is always going to be a coinflip to some degree, but there are ways to get a subtle edge, even against a good or better opponent. First, I'll be perfectly blunt: This decklist is going to be soft to the mirror match if they've devoted any amount of space to beating it. There's no Bituminous Blast, there's no Chameleon Colossus, there's no Master of the Wild Hunt. A crafty opponent may even catch on that you don't have Blightning in the deck.

1. Thoughtseize is your trump to their trumps. Chameleon Colossus is Protection from Black, but only once it has hit the board (and, in case you were wondering, you'll almost always lose if it hits play). Thoughtseize away! Same goes for every single other problem card in the matchup that they could have maindeck or sideboard.

2. Pay attention to their threat base. Most Jund decks are very similar at this point. But not all of them. Some play Boggart Ram-Gang. Some play Sprouting Thrinax. Some play Cunning Sparkmage. Some play Bitterblossom. Different answers are going to be optimal for all of those.

3. Don't let your Putrid Leech get you into an awkward spot. Play around Lightning Bolt especially, but Terminate too. Please, just let it simply trade with a Bloodbraid Elf or a Putrid Leech before you let yourself get blown out by a Lightning Bolt.

4. Don't forget about Maelstrom Pulse. This goes both ways. With shared card bases, your Maelstrom Pulses might end up hitting some of your own guys sometimes. Obviously, a situation like that should only come up very rarely. Otherwise, you'll be better off using it to 1-for-1 something else of theirs instead. Keep in mind that threat diversity, if given the opportunity, helps protect you from opposing Maelstrom Pulses.

Sideboarding

+1 Deathmark
+1 Thoughtseize
+1 Wurmcoil Engine
+3 Great Sable Stag
+1 Obstinate Baloth
-1 Anathemancer
-2 Maelstrom Pulse
-4 Putrid Leech

This is just a starting point. If you see Wurmcoil Engine, you may need to bring in Deglamer. If they don't board out their Putrid Leeches, you may want to cut Shriekmaw. If they're playing Cunning Sparkmage and Fauna Shaman, Volcanic Fallout gets a little more intriguing.

Miscellaneous Creature Decks (Elves, Soldiers, Allies, Shamans, White Weenie, etc.)

These all have pretty similar game & sideboard plans. Something along the lines of:

+3 Volcanic Fallout
+1 Deathmark where appropriate
+1 Wurmcoil Engine where appropriate
+1 Obstinate Baloth where appropriate
-1 Anathemancer
-X Thoughtseize
-Y Putrid Leech

The games end up being fairly straightforward, and most of what I wrote about the Naya Shaman matchup apply to all of these.

Necrotic Ooze

This deck has been making an appearance every once in a while, and I've found it to be a pretty rough matchup. Fulminator Mage and Acidic Slime work their awful wonders on your lands, and staying above 3 (or better yet, 4) lands is almost impossible to their better draws. However, the matchup is winnable, and Thoughtseize helps a lot. Blightning was one of the weakest cards in the deck against them.

I'd board in Deathmark for their Fauna Shamans and Thoughtseize for sure. I haven't gotten in enough test games against the deck to determine whether or not Volcanic Fallout or Great Sable Stag are useful additions; my intuition would suggest no on Fallout and yes on Stag (replacing Kitchen Finks).

On Manlands

I haven't said a word yet about Raging Ravine or Lavaclaw Reaches yet. That's because they deserve their own section, and there are a few fundamental rules I've found to help deal with them that apply in almost every matchup.

1. Manlands are indispensable. I currently have 5 in the deck, and if Lavaclaw Reaches weren't so mediocre, I'd be trying to cram more. Any opening hand with Raging Ravine is just a little bit better than one without, all else equal, and you should be more inclined to mulligan hands without them if the hand is otherwise "meh."

2. Often, you'll have the opportunity to cast another threat or attack with a manland. The correct play obviously depends on the specifics of the scenario, but I've found it almost always correct to play the extra threat first. If they answer it, you still have your manland next turn. If they don't answer it, you now have two (or more!) threats to deal with rather than just one.

3. Raging Ravine is going to eat a Lightning Bolt or a Path to Exile every once in a while. Suck it up and deal with it. Sometimes you'll be able to play around it, but especially if you have two in play, just go ahead and run it in there.

4. Don't forget that they can block, too! Lavaclaw Reaches especially provides a nice surprise blocker in rare circumstances, and Raging Ravine can eat a Great Sable Stag.

Miscellaneous

1. Always fetch a Swamp with your Verdant Catacombs if you can. Even if you have a Filter land, Tectonic Edge can end that dream before you can jump from 4 sources to 5 for Demigod of Revenge.

2. On Turns 2 and 3, should you be casting removal or creatures? Usually, you'll want to be casting removal. When playing other creature decks, Jund typically plays the role of a Control deck in the early turns, and then switches roles to Aggro once board supremacy is achieved. Bloodbraid Elf plays an integral role in that.

3. Don't forget Shriekmaw can be cast for 4B. Getting it into play the old-fashioned way is a sure bet to 2-for-1 in some way.

4. For a 3-color deck, Jund mulligans very well. Make use of that! I'm going to load up a few random hands on MTGO. Ask yourself whether you would keep any of the following hands against an unknown opponent:

This is the kind of hand that I was keeping when learning the deck and getting frustrated when I kept losing close games. The reason? Aside from Lightning Bolt, there's nothing going on until Turn 3 at best, and no creature to hit the board until Turn 5 (or even 6, as there are so many lands that enter the battlefield tapped). So, a mulligan, and I'm looking at:

This hand is better than it looks, but not by much. On the draw it's keepable, on the play I would probably ship it back. Note how every one of the spells in the hand can be cast with any second land that gets offered up, except for a Forest (stranding Terminate).

Okay, now compare this 5-card hand to the 7-card hand. For losing two cards, it's not that much worse. It's definitely keepable, though obviously you'd be at a huge disadvantage.

*note: a few sample hands here had to be removed for technical reasons.

And so on. The first thing you should think of when you open up your hand is not just how your turns are going to go, but also how they're going to interact with your opponent's turns as well.

I won't be able to make the trip to Atlanta this weekend, but best of luck to all of you that will! And here's hoping someone takes it down with Jund. πŸ˜‰

Dylan Lerch
@dtlerch on Twitter
Kinarus on MTGO
The Brewery

9 thoughts on “Jund, Jund, Evolution

  1. Really great, in-depth article. I'm probably going to run Jund at any tournaments I attend, and something like this is very helpful. I don't love so many one-ofs in the sideboard, but the decklist is very good and the article better.

    1. Hi Corbin,

      Thanks πŸ™‚ Regarding the 1-ofs, consider that Cloudthresher is almost like Volcanic Fallout #4, Thoughtseize and Anathemancer supplement the maindeck quantities, and the Nature's Claim is just an attempt to diversify the enchantment destruction slot (as I prefer it to Deglamer except as a nod to Wurmcoil Engine and Sun Titan).

  2. Ok, so a few things. First, putrid leech only ever comes out in the mirror (you usually even leave one or two in there so you can win the kitchen finks war — obviously don't walk yourself into bolt or anything, but leech is one of those cards where all of a sudden you just cast bbe into anathemancer and win) , and all 4 pulses come out because they make for terrible cascades when you both share things, don't kill their manlands, and are underwhelming against demigod. Leech is absolutely amazing against everything else in the meta right now that I can think of. A 2 mana 4/4 is great against faeries as long as you don't pump into a disfigure, and leech also lets you leave in more removal, because turn 2 leech into turn 3 kill their wall attack makes bitterblossom so much worse when they only have 16 life to play with and you are farther ahead on the board than they are. Leech is a key way to pressure GW trap so you can actually kill them after just removing all their creatures. Definitely much better than finks there (also leech doesn't trade with nest invader, where finks gets blocked by him easily if they just need to stall until they find something big). Also, that first 7-card hand is kepable imo. It's not great, but it's keepable, especially on the play. You have a kill spell for an early creature, a multipurpose removal spell that can kill bitterblossom if you're on the play, and 2 great threats in ravine and demigod, along with 2 untapped lands to help you cast him on turn 5 if you draw any other land before then, or even another untapped land turn 5. Anyways, I hope you read all this to make the time I spent typing this up worthwhile.

    1. Hi weise guy,

      Of course I'll read all of it πŸ™‚ One of my goals of writing it to spark quality discussion!

      My problem with Putrid Leech, and the reason why I've been boarding it out in a ton of matchups, is that Great Sable Stag comes in for almost every Green deck. Having a Leech out as a clock against GW Trap, to borrow your example, would be fantastic – if they don't have a Stag! We've only got 4 cards in the deck that can kill a Stag outside of combat (Lightning Bolt), and it ends up turning Putrid Leech into a rather big liability.

      As for against Jund, I'd rather have 2 Pulses in the deck than 2 Leeches, although I would not fault you for leaving in an Anathemancer or two somehow.

      Regarding the first hand, think of it this way: The decklist has 7 2-drops and a whole host of 3-drops, and you drew a hand with 2 removal spells and a 5-drop. Raging Ravine helps, to be sure, but it can only attack on the 5th turn at best, and likely the 6th. The only way this hand is going to be able to win is with a few good draw steps and a slow draw from your opponent. That's the kind of parlay I don't like taking with a deck that can curve out so aggressively instead.

      I agree with you about Faeries, and that's why I take out Lightning Bolt first. πŸ™‚ There is a valid strategy though against Faeries of leaving in your removal, actually boarding into a bunch more removal, and taking out guys like Leech and Finks to play the Control role.

      Thanks for reading πŸ™‚ If there's anything left unaddressed, please comment πŸ™‚ And I make it a point to read everything said here!

      Dylan

      1. About the jund mirror, I never actually want to have pulse in there, because it's a terrible cascade, doesn't kill fauna shaman before it gets active on the draw, sucks against kitchen finks, and is ineffective against demigod.

        About the first hand: if I ever get a slow controlling hand, I play control for that game and just kill their stuff before taking them out with demigod. Just because your deck is aggressive doesn't mean that you will always be the aggro deck in any given game.

        Leech is, again, great against faeries as long as you don't punt and run headlong in a disfigure or agony warp. Against a deck that plays removal spells that don't actually kill a 4/4 and a bunch of 1/1s, 3/1s, and 4/4s leech is great. It doesn't matter that bolts come out "first," all the cards that get boarded out come out, regardless of what order you bring them out in.

        Against the green aggro decks you don't care about stag too much because leech can still be a great blocker and you will eventually win with demigods or burn them out by chaining anathemancers and blightnings (this is also why I like the card, it allows you to put pressure on you opponent's life total even through a board stall). Most of your other creatures can attack through a stag, so even if they are holding you off with a 3/3 you can still win.

    1. Hi Abel,

      Read through Corbin's response below, he answers it perfectly πŸ™‚

      The other consideration is that for 3 mana, playing down an actual threat that requires an answer, especially one like Kitchen Finks that requires multiple answers, may in fact replicate Blightning's effect of costing 2 cards and 3 life, while still creating a board presence.

      When you can do that _and_ add in Thoughtseize, you'll create some major headaches for your opponents.

      Thanks for reading πŸ™‚

  3. @Abel
    Not my deck, so I can't speak positively, but Blightning has lost a lot of value in the format. Decks can pitch Vengevine, Demigod of Revenge, Hellspark Elemental, and so forth. Or they have Necrotic Ooze and you just speed up their game plan. Or they drop Wilt-Lief Liege. And they are usually boarded out anyway due to Obstinate Baloth out of green decks.
    More important than those factors, I think, is simply that it's a different format. When Jund dominated Standard, it was the only deck full of 2-for-1s like Blightning, and it dominated as a result. In Extended, every deck has a number of ways to gain card advantage, so while Blightning is still a 2-for-1, it doesn't affect the board and has a lower number of relevant targets to hit. The larger format is kinder in the card advantage category to non-Jund decks, which makes Blightning worse. Just my $.02.

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