There are only a few things consistent about modern, and the existence of Jund is one of them. Jund has seen its ups and downs, from the printing of Deathrite Shaman and Abrupt Decay to the eventual banning of both Deathrite Shaman and Bloodbraid Elf. They just can’t keep it down.
The early versions of modern Jund were inclusive of Blightning, because one of the best feelings in Magic (or worst, depending on which side of the table you’re on) is Cascading into a Blightning and attacking for 3.
After Bloodbraid Elf was banned, most Jund lists replaced them with some number of Huntmaster of the Fells or Olivia Voldaren, and it continued to dominate. It was eventually realized that the card pushing Jund over the top wasn’t Bloodbraid Elf. It was Deathrite Shaman. After the banning of Deathrite Shaman, Jund remained a played archetype, but it was nothing like what it once was. Perhaps the only thing keeping the archetype breathing was its favorable matchup against Splinter Twin decks, which were a large percentage of the field.
Splinter Twin was also eventually banned (because this is Modern, and this is how it works), so afterwards, there was really no reason for Jund to see much play. That didn’t stop people from trying. Every once in a while, you’d see a Jund deck do decent in a Star City Games Classic. It’s possible the printing of Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet helped the somewhat dead archetype return, but the deck still felt like it was lacking something.
Now things look a lot less grim (or perhaps more).
Jund by Austin Matthews
Grim Flayer is the two drop threat that Jund has needed for a long time (Putrid Leech does NOT count). As a consistent 4/4, it gives you a way to apply early pressure to close out games when there exists a fear of being combo’d out. It can pressure planeswalkers and attack through chump blockers. The most important thing Grim Flayer does for Jund is set up its draws. Jund has never had an efficient method of card selection, so having it on a 4/4 body is extremely relevant. The earlier versions of Grim Jund essentially replaced Dark Confidant with Grim Flayer, but they actually work best together. Being able to control what Bob flips can mitigate the life loss while also ensuring the extra cards drawn are impactful. Most Jund lists were already playing a single copy of Seal of Fire, because it was a way to set up for a turn 4 Kalitas and zombie play and also grows Tarmogoyf. Seal of Fire, being an enchantment, also makes it significantly easier to hit Delirium, so I made sure to leave the copy in when I adopted Grim Flayer. I’ve seen some people add Mishra’s Bauble and/or Tarfire to their deck for this cause, as well, but I found them to be a bit of an overkill.
Abzan has recently seen a resurgence in modern, and that has typically been a matchup that Jund would prefer to avoid because of Lingering Souls. That’s not the case anymore. Grim Flayer helps in that regard by being able to attack through the tokens, but the real tool Jund now has to fight off the swarm of 1/1s is Liliana, the Last Hope. Liliana’s plus ability, which gives -2/-1 to a creature is a great and efficient way of picking the tokens off, which Jund has always had problems with if Maelstrom Pulse wasn’t in their hand. It also helps manage the board against opposing Dark Confidants, Voice of Resurgences, or Goblin Guides. Liliana’s minus ability is likely the best part about this card, though. Being able to get back a Dark Confidant while simultaneously filling up the graveyard for Delirium or Tarmogoyf is powerful. A common play to make on turn three with an empty board and no cards in your graveyard is ticking her down to try and accrue instant value. Finding a creature to bring back would be nice, but even if you don’t hit, it helps get Delirium for future Grim Flayers and forces your opponent to answer her, because she does get out of hand fast.
Does this mean that Liliana, the Last Hope should replace Liliana of the Veil?
Liliana of the Veil is still one of, if not the best, planeswalker ever printed and forces your opponent to play a completely different game even if she isn’t on the battlefield. Liliana, the Last Hope simply gives you game in scenarios where Liliana of the Veil wouldn’t. For instance, Liliana of the Veil is particularly weak against Lingering Souls, where Liliana, the Last Hope shines.
I opted to cut one copy of Liliana of the Veil to help make room for two copies of the Last Hope, and this split has felt correct, not to mention that upping the number of planeswalkers in the main deck is one more way to help with Delirium.
Going from the more traditional versions of Jund to this leaner, more threat-dense version has given us the possibility of cutting a land. The traditional versions typically played 24 or 25 lands, but I settled at 23. With us now having nothing over three mana and having a whopping 14 two drops, we have less of a need to get more than three lands out in any given game. One of the reasons Jund has traditionally been so good is because of the creature lands, such as Raging Ravine or Lavaclaw Reaches, but cutting a land means we’re getting to the five lands necessary to activate Ravine a lesser number of times. In Richmond, I played 3 Raging Ravine and 0 Treetop Village (or Lavaclaw Reaches), but I could see an argument for moving down to 2 Ravine and adding a Treetop.
It’s also possible that we want more fast lands in the deck to ensure we’re getting our threats out early enough. Gerry Thompson posted a list very similar to mine that played 2 copies of Copperline Gorge. The manabase will definitely end up changing some with the inclusion of the enemy fast lands coming out in Kaladesh, but Blackcleave Cliffs producing both black and red helps enable both early discard and Lightning Bolt, so it will likely remain the best fast land for Jund.
For now, I don’t think we’re hurting ourselves too much by having 3 tapped lands.
Collective Brutality is a card that Michael Majors has been claiming to be a great tool for Jund and/or Abzan, but I’ve been somewhat unimpressed with it as a main deck card. I tested it a bit before Richmond and found myself not ever finding positions where more than one mode would be very relevant.
Plus, we’re playing Jund. All our cards are good, so discarding them seems sub-optimal.
I have, however, thought the card was pretty great versus Burn or Burning-Tree Emissary decks. Being able to turn an extra land and a Dark Confidant into a removal spell, Duress, or lifegain is backbreaking for them.
There are a few options I could see going forward with Jund. I currently prefer the leaner and grimmer version with 23 lands and no 4 drops, but could understand wanting to keep in a Kalitas and the 24th land. Should you choose to do that, I think the best cuts would be the 4th Grim Flayer and the Kolaghan’s Command. I’ve found that Kolaghan’s Command is less good when we have other recurring ways to get back creatures in Liliana, the Last Hope, so I’d suggest cutting it completely. It’s good versus Affinity, but that deck isn’t as popular right now, plus there are plenty of good sideboard options for them. I played the Dreadbore for fear of Nahiri, the Harbinger decks, but overestimated how popular they would be. I likely would cut the Dreadbore for another Terminate or a Slaughter Pact. Gerry’s version played 4 Terminates and 0 Abrupt Decays, so that’s another route you could take with your removal suite. Throughout the tournament, I found myself boarding in Grim Lavamancer in almost every matchup. With the new ways to fill your graveyard via Grim Flayer and Liliana, the Last Hope, you run out of cards to exile much less frequently. I’d suggest just playing a copy main. Brad Nelson played a single copy of Kozilek’s Return in his sideboard at Worlds, and boy did I wish I have it when my Affinity opponent had 3 Etched Champions on the field. Liliana, the Last Hope is a card you just want to draw multiple copies of every game against Abzan, so I’d add another to board.
With all that said, here is the iteration I’ll be playing going forward:
I’ll be Junding people this weekend at a PPTQ and will likely register this 75. Be sure to comment and tell me how bad my deck is. You can also find me on Twitter (@AwsumAwstun) where I post pictures of my dogs and occasionally talk about Magic.
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