It’s Friday — the day before the TCG Player State Championships.
You have no idea what to play. (Let’s face it, this is the reason you’re even reading my article to begin with.)
You may just happen to be in luck.
Then again, you may just happen to hate everything I’m going to say (even if most of it is true) simply because my title includes the word “Jund”.
The Evil Empire
I’ve spent the better half of the past two weeks (the last three days in particular) trying to figure out what deck I wanted to bring to States. The current Standard metagame is extremely volatile, mainly due to decks being designed to punish opponents who stumble; Burning-Tree Emissary offers some of the most aggressive starts we’ve seen in recent Magic. Spending time constructing your manabase to set up for your more powerful cards? Sorry … Burning-Tree has already killed you.
Acidic Slime shenanigans destroy players who keep iffy hands where they need to draw lands. Angel of Serenity likes to appear quickly and completely destroy your board development. Even if she doesn’t show up before she should, Restoration Angel is probably getting in your way to ensure that Serenity will hit the board.
And don’t even get me started on Geist of Saint Voltron.
What I’m getting at is that because we’re in this boat together, we need to pick a deck that doesn’t stumble. This also means we need to pick a deck that mulligans well. One way to stumble is play something high-variance such as Bant Auras and mulligan yourself to death.
We need to avoid this, but first we need to have another small discussion.
Don’t Sweat Percentages
I find that a lot of people tend to get hung up on “matchups.” Oh, Deck A has a 60/40 percentage against Deck B, so I should play it. Actually, you shouldn’t. This is because while Deck A may have a 60/40 percentage against Deck B, it has a 30/70 percentage against Deck C. The current Standard metagame has a vast array of decks for players to choose from, and right now it doesn’t appear to be comprised of two or three main decks, but more like four or five. This makes having really strong matchups against specific decks and weak ones against others a liability.
In a format this volatile you really want to be playing the 50/50 decks. Coin-flips are better for you in matches because it’s a real dice roll when it comes to what you actually get paired against.
Getting back to it, we need to avoid stumbling, while also having nearly even matchups across the field. Where does this lead us? Well, I hate to say it, but as the ship’s captain it is my duty.
Boys and girls, we’re landing on Jund.
This Isn’t Your Father’s Jund
OK … stop that moaning right now. I know, I know; Jund is boring. The questions is, Would you rather play a boring but safe deck and win, or a fun but unstable deck and lose? I know where my loyalties lie — #winning. Besides, Jund isn’t even that boring anymore. It actually has a lot of play lines, courtesy of some added tools from Dragon’s Maze and a little old-fashioned ingenuity.
Standard Jund by Jason Clark
A few weekends ago at the StarCityGames Open Series in Somerset, Owen Turtenwald piloted a list that Reid Duke built to the finals of the event, where he lost to Chris VanMeter playing Junk Rites. This deck is what I’ve based my list on. The manabase is extremely solid and I have found zero flaws with it while testing.
Fueling The Fire
The biggest new toy Jund got from Dragon’s Maze is Sire of Insanity. This card is very aptly named. Most games where I’ve resolved a Sire are easy wins. As Jund, you are set up to win a war of attrition with your opponent until both decks are in a position where they’re relying on topdecks. At this point, Jund is favored. Its cards are so individually powerful that most of its draws outclass any other deck in the field. It is very hard to say this about a deck such as UWR Midrange/Flash. Geist of Saint Traft or Restoration Angel may be solid cards, but they are no match alone for a Sire of Insanity that’s often being followed up by Olivia Voldaren or viable removal. Sire is probably one of the top two cards in the entire deck.
The other card that draws me to this deck because of its raw power is Kessig Wolf Run. This card will simply let you win in situations that you otherwise shouldn’t. When you’re in this war of attrition, Kessig Wolf Run suddenly turns every creature you play into a giant threat; even the lowliest 2/2 wolf token becomes a force that has to be answered. It’s also very effective at pushing damage onto planeswalkers when they show up.
The lack of Rakdos’s Return in the maindeck may raise a few eyebrows, but to be completely honest, a lot of the time Sire of Insanity is just better in the situation where you wanted Return anyway. There’s still a copy in the board for when you get the mirror matchup. There’s also a fourth Sire in the board; the card is the stone-cold nut draw in matchups against blue decks, and I always want to have an extra in case they manage to stop my first one.
The removal suite is one of the better ones I’ve played. The dichotomy in the modes (and costs) of Mizzium Mortars goes a long way toward smoothing out your draws; the early game brings a slower Flame Slash, while later in the game it’s part of a full-on Flame Wave. The 2/3 split between Mortars and Bonfire of the Damned is spot-on; you have enough mass removal to likely be able to draw it against the decks where you want it, yet you still have enough spot removal spells for the main attrition game.
Rakdos Keyrune was a card I was unsure of at first. Losing Arbor Elf to play more threats hurts you a bit, especially when you’re trying to power out a Sire of Insanity. Keyrune then becomes a necessity to help you get to that point. It has the added bonus of becoming another threat later in the game, and also happens to block Flinthoof Boar really well. I like it as a singleton.
Board To Death
The last card I really want to discuss is the last slot in my sideboard. I’m a player that likes a bunch of singles and doubles in my board because it lets me play more powerful yet more specific cards. I debated for a while what other sweet one-ofs I’d want to run; Slaughter Games is one of those love/hate cards that could fit, for example, but I’m typically on the “hate” side in this case. In testing, I felt comfortable enough against everything that I just didn’t need it.
I considered Acidic Slime, but for the most part it felt underwhelming as a singleton, because you typically need multiples of it to really punish opponents.
That’s about when Jarvis Yu suggested Gaze of Granite.
Gaze is a sweet utility spell that is really good against two decks. The first is Bant Auras; most players won’t have a lot of ways to interact with the Aura decks, but this one does. In the mainboard, you have three Bonfires, one Liliana of the Veil, and if the game goes long enough, your Mizzium Mortars. Clearing their threats and landing your own is typically game over. For that matchup, you board in a Gaze and two more Lilianas as effective ways to put a stop to their plans.
We also bring Gaze in against Burning-Tree Emissary decks. A lot of their creatures have converted mana costs of three or fewer. Some well played spot removal and a Huntmaster of the Fells or Thragtusk followed by a Gaze for three and you’re probably all set.
If you expect more aggro in your area but dislike the mana cost of Gaze of Granite, the other option is the fourth Bonfire of the Damned. The cost between a non-miracle Bonfire and a Gaze are close against aggro decks, and the Bonfire is just leagues better. Mizzium Mortars is probably a better call if you expect more midrange decks to be present; however, with a current rise in GWx token strategies (mostly because of Advent of the Wurm) I like the idea of Gazing for zero and wiping an opponent’s board clear.
You Can’t Please Everyone …
Now, there are still some of you that just don’t want to play Jund regardless of my suggestion and opinions. I understand if Jund just isn’t your thing; it definitely wasn’t the first deck I tried. As an apology for forcing you to read through all the Jund talk, I’ll leave you with two other decks I tried but just couldn’t get to where I personally wanted them to be. Maybe you’ll figure them out. In the meantime, I’ll be bringing people to #Jundstice.
UWR Midrange by Jason Clark
Naya Midrange by Jason Clark
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