Hello everyone, and welcome back to LegitMTG for another discussion about Modern. I’m your host Scott Campbell, and as promised last week I’m going to discuss one of the hottest decks in Modern. That deck is, of course, Jund.
While Magic: the Gathering currently has a spotlight on Standard (thanks to the previews from Ikoria), that does not mean Modern should be forgotten. Not only has there been a shake up since the last banned & restricted announcement (which saw us losing Mox Opal), but Theros Beyond Death has been making its presence felt in Modern (let alone across the game). Let’s take a look at some early hits.
Heliod, Sun-Crowned has given new life to the “Faux Pod” decks that are Abzan in color, and have adopted Collected Company as their primary card since the banning of Birthing Pod. This has been paired with Walking Ballista to cause an infinite damage plus lifegain loop to win the game. Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath has been a solid pick up for decks that run Primeval Titan, however it’s also showing up in Bant Midrange decks running snow-covered permanents. The lifegain has helped against aggressive strategies (such as Boros Burn), and playing an additional land adds to what these decks are already built to do. Underworld Breach has not only caused a lot of hand-wringing since it was revealed it has spiced up combo decks across all formats of Magic: the Gathering. Fortunately this card was banned in Legacy.
These seem exciting, don’t they? They sure do, but those are not the cards I want to focus on today. The card I want to highlight is the other Elder Giant given to us in Theros Beyond Death.
Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger does everything I want in a card of these colors. It causes the opponent to discard a non-land card, or take 3 damage, and attacks for 6 damage. That’s huge! Imagine the opponent blocking with their smaller creatures in the face of such-…
What? Where am I going to put this card? What deck will this be played in?
Jund of course.
With the addition of Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger we now have a discard spell or effect on each of the first 3 turns.
Having this line of play will help Jund succeed in a field full of decks either playing threats well ahead of the curve (such as Tron, or Primeval Titan), and combat the various Azorius based Control and Tempo decks present in the format. Don’t let the inclusion of Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger in the same deck with Tarmogoyf concern you. With Jund you place so many cards in your graveyard just through the course of playing the game that you can easily have late game turns where you cast the Elder Giant, attack with your creatures, and then use the Elder Giant’s Escape ability to deal the final 3 points of damage as by then your opponent may be out of non-land cards in their hand. Even if they aren’t you just attacked for nearly lethal, and have a 6/6 on the board. Heck there are some turns where you cast Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger, then the next turn cast Kolaghan’s Command to get it back to your hand, and then cast it again the following turn. The opponent’s hand can become empty really fast.
Still not convinced? That’s fine. Let’s break it down a little further.
Why you should play Jund
- You love fair games of Magic: the Gathering. One-for-one removal, discard effects, and attacking.
- Playing a Tarmogoyf with a larger power and toughness is very appealing to you.
- Cascading into free spells with Bloodbraid Elf is something you always want to do. I didn’t help get that card unbanned for it sit on the sidelines now.
Why you don’t want to play Jund
- You don’t like fair decks. That’s fine, and also what’s great about Modern. I have a few unfair decks myself.
- You would rather have a deck that has a larger win percentage. Fair decks are usually called “50/50” or “55/45” decks meaning that they usually win as many matches as they lose. You would rather play a deck that has a 60% or better win rate against most of the known format.
Although I have talked exclusively about the Elder Giant there are other things to notice about Jund lately which could be appealing. Without Mox Opal in the format the artifact decks have been focused to just Urza, Lord High Artificer decks which your normal removal suite should be able to handle. In fact there are other cards you can consider for the main deck during this era of Modern.
Seasoned Pyromancer has been in, and out, of Jund decks since Modern Horizons has been made available. While you normally do not want to discard non-land cards if your removal spells are dead (say Fatal Push against creatures with too high a converted mana cost), then add some power to the board. You may want to cut your top end by shaving a Bloodbraid Elf, which seems like blasphemy, but there’s not a lot of room as if for this card if you run it. Be careful with your build. And you can find ways to apply pressure.
Speaking of ways to apply pressure I have enjoyed playing this card on MTG Arena so much I want to try it here. Sadly this would require shaving a Lightning Bolt, however when a lot of creatures in the format are either under 3 toughness, or over 3 toughness then Lightning Bolt sometimes can be “ok”. This can provide you the early removal you want, and gives you a choice when cascading into it with Bloodbraid Elf. A 4/3 body is nothing to overlook.
Making a lot of these changes may require not running Scavenging Ooze yet we can still provide some maindeck lifelink. Murderous Rider helps you deal with opposing planeswalkers and creatures with an unconditional removal spell, and is a solid attacker with lifelink afterwords. A potent spell however it fights with Liliana of the Veil for the exact same converted mana cost.
Keep in mind with those last two examples that getting these cards back via Kolaghan’s Command you can use them again for both their spell, and creature mode as needed.
With all of these changes to the format it has also caused the sideboard to shift to some degree. It has opened up sideboard slots to help address some of the more challenging matchups, and included a card that echoes all the way back to some of the early years of Magic. In fact let’s start with that one..
How many of you remembered that Pillage was printed in Modern Horizons? Anyone? I’ll be honest, even I forgot. While Stone Rain is less mana intensive you are already moving red into the secondary color spot in the deck making green the splash color. You need double red to escape Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger so this will be easier to cast. It also can deal with problematic artifacts (looking at you Ensnaring Bridge) in matchups where cards like Lightning Bolt need to be moved out of the main deck. Along with being able to play a third Thoughtseize in the main deck Pillage, along with Ashiok, Dream Render, should help improve your matchups against the Big Mana decks in Tron, and Primeval Titan.
There are other sideboard cards I would consider depending on what you encounter at your local Friday Night Magic.
Thrun, the Last Troll can help if you are facing a lot of blue based Control decks. While the regeneration can cause you to use up mana when you would rather cast spells remember that your opponent has to answer your threats. Short of a Terminus (or you being locked out of green mana) this Troll can’t die.
Are your opponents a little too hot to handle? Has Burn turned up the heat? Run a pair of these. You can even use them to block, and with the Persist ability it will come back again. Creatures often are in the graveyard only temporarily when playing Jund. This is also good against Control decks.
Sometimes you need additional enchantment removal. Blood Moon will start showing up again due decks like Tron, and Primeval Titan decks. Why not have a tool against them? If the other abilities on this don’t excite you (or you want to get super spicy) you can even try Seal of Primordium. However don’t discount the -1/-1 ability. Coupled with Plague Engineer you are giving all creatures -2/-2 which can deal with a lot.
Yes. Bitterblossom. No this won’t be good vs Burn based strategies, however it will be a challenge for Control decks to remove. Producing a constant stream of 1/1 evasive threats allows you to deal with Planeswalkers, and block creatures lacking trample. You will also outlast spirit tokens made from Lingering Souls keeping your planeswalkers on the field. If you ever are in a position where you have to discard this your Tarmogoyf now has +2/+2 with just this in the graveyard. That’s pretty strong.
While Jund may not be the flashiest deck it is steadfast in fighting the good fight, playing fair, and providing multiple avenues towards winning. While I do miss Dark Confidant from these lists I feel that the card choices we have now will provide us Jund players better results going forward.
I’ll be reviewing all of the cards in Ikoria I expect to see in Modern. You don’t want to miss it.
Until next time…
TAP MORE MANA!!!
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