Jund Guy at GP Pittsburgh — Top 8 in Modern Mayhem

Written by Zach Cramer on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Modern

Jund Guy at GP Pittsburgh — Top 8 in Modern Mayhem

Zach Cramer

Zach is a Northeastern Magic grinder who specializes in eternal formats. When building decks, he has a strong preference to Blue cards, toolboxes and combo decks. With a recent RPTQ finish just short of an invitation, Zach hopes to take his skills to the next level and play on the Pro Tour.

Greetings all! Originally, I was planning on writing this article about UR Eldrazi and my performance in the Standard main event last week. I had played UR Eldrazi for the two weeks leading up to GP Pittsburgh. However, I neither played UR Eldrazi nor did I do very well with my deck of choice, Grixis Control, in the main event. So, I’m going to write about Modern. In the marquis Modern events on Friday and Sunday I was able to Top 8 with the Jund deck I’ve been working on since my poor performance at GP Charlotte.

This is the list was 13-4-3 on the weekend for me. The 3 draws were all intentional.

I was able to beat:

Affinity – 2
Infect
Burn – 2
Jund – 2
UWR Nahiri – 2
Kiki Chord
Living End
Abzan Company
Grixis Control

Losses to:

Tron – 2 (once in the Swiss and again in Top 4)
Merfolk – Which I would say is a favorable matchup for Jund (however, Kira and Spreading Seas, not to mention Master of Waves, are all fairly good against you).
Mardu Tokens (This matchup felt pretty rough, and I’d imagine it to be a little less unfavorable than Tron).

The weekend felt great. I have owned Tarmogoyf for a while now, but, hadn’t sleeved them up for a competitive tournament until the Sunday of GP Charlotte. The great thing about Jund is it’s fine versus the majority of the field, customizable for your own tastes, and very good at rewarding strong play. Today, I’m hoping to break down why I chose the cards that I did and explain what makes Jund so good right now, especially in the wake of SCG Dallas, where Jund came out in force.

The Creatures:

These are the creatures I play in Jund. I believe 4 Tarmogoyf, 2 Scavenging Ooze and 3 Dark Confidant are generally non-negotiable. I’ve seen 3 Bob and 1 Painful Truths main deck, but, I think slamming Bob down is generally better. Scavenging Ooze, on the other hand, receives a lot less respect than it deserves. Scavenging Ooze improves many of your graveyard and aggressive matchups. With 3 in the deck, paired with 2 Kolaghan’s Command, I generally run it out early against the UWR and Grixis Control decks to soften their hand to a Dark Confidant. Ooze just does it all and I’d advise a 4th before cutting the 3rd.

Kalitas is pretty easily the best 4 drop you have access to, in my opinion. Kalitas excels at turning the corner after attacking, without needing to have as many lands as you needed with a card like Olivia Voldaren. I’ll talk more about Kalitas when we get to the removal suite.

The Discard:

(Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek, Duress)

The 3-3 split is made with a concession to Tron and UWR Nahiri Control decks. I love the fact the 6 discard spells give you so much information, which allows you to make the most informed decisions possible when approaching a match. My biggest suggestion would be to hold discard in the middle game until you need to resolve a big threat or are concerned about a damaging spell. Particularly against the control decks, the discard rarely loses its luster. For this reason, I really like the 2 additional Duress in the sideboard. Duress can slot in over Thoughtseize against decks like Burn and come in as additional disruption against Nahiri and Tron.

The Planeswalkers:

Play 4. She’s great. I dislike playing Chandra or Ob Nixilis or Garruk(s) in your board. Liliana is so unique and all her modes are always relevant. She’s easy to shave after board, but, I believe you should play no less than 4 unless you’re under budget restriction. As a side note, I got to ultimate a Liliana targeting myself to put Enchantment (Night of Souls’ Betrayal) and Planeswalker in my yard against a hellbent Affinity opponent to grow my Tarmogoyf to exactly lethal on Friday. Every mode is relevant, always.

The Removal:

Simply put: This is the reason to play Jund. You just get to kill everything. Lightning Bolt is probably the best removal spell in the format. It’s so good that some people even want to play the much worse Seal of Fire to add an additional early removal spell (and because it acts favorably with Kalitas). I believe 2 Terminate, 2 Abrupt Decay, 2 Maelstrom Pulse and 2 Kolaghan’s Command with 1 Slaughter Pact replacing the 3rd Terminate is where I want to be in the future. The spells are all there for a reason and Line Up Theory is vital when anticipating which removal spell to use. The 2 Terminate shine against larger threats and creatures that can regenerate (think Welding Jar). The 2 Abrupt Decay are for pesky creatures and permanents. The 2 Maelstrom Pulse should be saved for bigger cards like Planeswalkers and other spells that can’t be targeted or killed by your other removal. One of the most classic examples would be against Merfolk. Maelstrom Pulse is usually glued to my hand until I see a Master of Waves. The Slaughter Pact is a concession to making my 2 Kalitas as strong as possible, but, I wouldn’t be surprised if I go back to Terminate, as it is rarely bad and always kills the things you want to kill. Finally, Kolaghan’s Command is part removal spell, part discard spell, part recursion spell, and part super-mega-uber value card. Kolaghan’s Command is quite excellent and offers a lot of utility and versatility. It greatly improves your attrition matchups and offers free pre-boarding against a fair portion of the field.

The Lands:

4 Blackcleave Cliffs is another huge reason to play Jund. Having pain-free mana in a format as quick and aggressive as Modern is excellent. Similarly, 3 Raging Ravines has been shaved down from 4 for similar reasons. Raging Ravine is excellent in the attrition matchups and is usually what your Jund mirrors boil down to. The card can take over very quickly. The fetchlands should be spread this way in order to routinely find pain-free black and, more importantly, green mana on time for as little life as possible. There is some contention over whether the 2nd Foothills should be a 4th Bloodstained Mire or not, but, I know that I was always looking for green mana and rarely looking for black mana. 2 Swamps and 1 Forest is simply because you want double black earlier than double green and multiple pain free black sources on turn 1-2 power up our discard package. The shocklands also mimic what I’ve said above and should not be more than 4 in total. Finally, Twilight Mire is not just flashy, it’s vital. An untapped land at all points that helps fix double black or green is perfect for playing Kalitas on Turn 4, animating a Ravine or Turn 5, or acting as a 5th fastland to play a Liliana or 3 or a 2 drop spell in combination with a basic land or a Blackcleave Cliffs. It just does it all and is the perfect one of.

The Sideboard:

If you’ve spent any time with me, you’ll know that my favorite thing in magic, besides one ofs, is probably the Sideboard. And, the Sideboard usually includes a pile of one-ofs. So, it’s actually my favorite thing.

3 Kitchen Finks
3 Fulminator Mage
2 Duress
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Damnation
1 Kozilek’s Return
1 Jund Charm
1 Painful Truths
1 Night of Souls’ Betrayal

Sweepers – Damnation, Kozilek’s Return, Jund Charm, Night of Souls’ Betrayal

The four cards represent the many ways Jund can attack creature decks in the format. Damnation is a must have for big creature decks and is also helpful in the mirror. Dealing with Loxodon Smiters, Knight of the Reliquary, and the like is Damnation’s strong suite. It also kills Thrun, the Last Troll. Besides that, it’s perfectly serviceable against many swarm decks and offers a reset button that I’d never leave without.

Kozilek’s Return and Jund Charm are our instant speed Pyroclasms. With 3 Ooze and 2 Kalitas, not to mention our own Kitchen Finks in the sideboard, I’ve moved away from Anger of the Gods and prefer to “get” my opponent with not one, but, 2 instant speed effects. Jund Charm’s power comes in its versatility, while Kozilek’s Return comes in handy for being Devoid. Read as: Nice Etched Champion and Master of Waves.

Finally, Night of Souls’ Betrayl offers us a constant way to keep pesky x/1s off the board. It’s absolutely lights out against Elves, Infect, and Affinity, while stopping Melira Company from having a Viscera Seer to combo off with. It’s excellent at stopping Master of Waves, Lingering Souls and other “go wide” effects and offers a lot of solid protection after the fact.

Disruption – Duress and Fulminator Mage

Duress is one of my favorite cards. I’ve mentioned most of its applicability above in the discard section, but, it comes in for so many matchups and aides a lot of my sideboard plans.

Fulminator Mage usually looks like “this card is for Tron”, but, it also comes in against Affinity, Scapeshift, Jeskai Nahiri, Infect, Ad Nauseam, Living End, and even the mirror. Fulminator is especially great with Kolaghan’s Command and paired with Duress they offer an excellent speed bump for you to get out ahead with a Tarmogoyf.

Value – Painful Truths and Kitchen Finks

These cards are great. Painful Truths is my mirror trump, but, it also comes in against pretty much any non-aggressive deck as a way to gas back up and keep the threats coming. I’m pretty sure I see Painful Truths more than most of my 2 ofs so I won’t go up to 2, but, if I start seeing it less, I might be tempted to add more. That card is just too fun.

Kitchen Finks is perfect. It blocks well against aggressive decks and acts as the perfect answer to the Burn Matchup and the Mirror. I’d never take less than 3 to an event, and I’m usually tempted to add a 4th.

On Jeskai Nahiri:

One important thing I think all good Jund guides do is present new and unique information on emerging decks. I’d like to address the Jeskai Nahiri matchup, as I think many Jund players approach this matchup incorrectly.

In the past, Jeskai decks and Jund deck have matched up in a knock-down-drag-out fight where Jeskai takes the role of counterspells and sweepers and the Jund deck plays a more aggressive attrition game that is focused on playing bolt-proof threats one at a time and using Liliana to close out the game. I believe, while this matchup is slightly similar, we can longer approach Jeskai Nahiri in the same way. Firstly, the Jeskai deck does not rely on Counterspells, land drops every turn, and multiple Cryptic Commands. Instead, their land counts are down to 24 lands and they’re playing 0-2 copies of Cryptic Command. Because of this, I’ve valued Fulminator Mage more highly in this matchup than I have in the past. Traditionally, Fulminator would be a mechanism for putting through damage, while protecting against Colonnade, but, now, Fulminator Mage serves as a key piece of my single-minded strategy against Jeskai Nahiri: keep them off 4 lands, and most importantly, off Nahiri. I treat Jeskai like a well-insulated combo deck. Very similarly to how I approach the Scapeshift matchup, but, with less regard for counter magic. The Nahiri deck focuses its counter magic on spells to push through and protect a safe Nahiri. Additionally, with Serum Visions and Ancestral Visions often being included in the deck, you don’t have to worry about the last few slots being devoted to soul-crushing sweepers like Supreme Verdict. I’ve generally jammed threats aggressively in this matchup, leaning on Ooze and Dark Confidant for a later game and slamming Tarmogoyfs, Kitchen Finks, and Fulminator Mages quickly. Additionally, the 2 Duress are extremely impressive in this matchup. Once you’re committed to being a beatdown oriented deck, Thoughtseize becomes a slight liability. Duress on Turn 3 is probably the best play. Similar to other combo matchups, I try and hold discard spells for as long as possible. I’ve managed to beat the Nahiri deck every time I’ve faced it since adopting this strategy.

A Word on Deck Customization:

Jund is great. You can template it and construct it in so many different, powerful ways to match your playstyle. My “Jund Box” has so many unique cards in it. From Thrun, to Boil, to Dual Shot, to Pulse of Murasa. I’ve seen Imp’s Mischief and Sin Prodder make their way into other 75s. Jund rewards practice, patience, and sound reasoning, and I’d defend most if not all of the cards I’ve listed above along with many more.

After Ten 8 mans, Four 4 rounders and Three 5+ Round tournaments with this 75, I’ve never done worse than X-1. I’ve recommended this 75 to everyone who asks and I’ll do the same for you. However, I’m ALWAYS open to suggestions and discussion. Jund allows for a solid game of magic even with a less than perfect 75, which lets me focus on some great intricacies of the format. I look forward to hearing more about what sorts of Jund decks you play and why you set up your deck the way you do.

I don’t want to provide a sideboard guide here because I think Jund’s power lies in its adaptability and is very geared towards playstyle. My general advice is to board in 5-8 cards in every matchup and don’t be afraid to cut whole sets of cards, or shave cards that you might consider “uncuttable.” I look forward to comments about the deck and would be happy to go into the finer details about this deck with you below.

See you next time!

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