"Sometimes you just Jund them and then you win."
This was the phrase I kept repeating a couple weekends ago to my friends as I took down the Cardboard Classics PPTQ with the deck I’d been playing and writing about all season — Jund.
Here’s the list I played:
The deck just “Junds” people. Jokes aside this is a huge reason that I keep running it back week after week. Jund is part of a special class of fair decks that have this capacity for unique nut-draw sequences that leave your opponent wondering how they can ever win. Starts like: “Thoughtseize, Tarmogoyf, kill-your-guy, Tarmogoyf, Tarmogoyf” can essentially end games on the spot against any matchup which is a huge incentive to play a deck that can also just operate at such a high level against the field when it’s not seeing it’s best draws. In a format filled with linear decks that can win on Turn 4 this is what keeps me coming back to Jund. Unlike the Grixis, Abzan and Jeskai decks that also inhabit the “fair deck” category of the format — you can just Jund them.
Hall of Fame pro Luis Scott-Vargas recently used this same logic as his justification for selecting Bant Company as his Standard deck of choice for Pro Tour Eldritch Moon — which he Top 8’d. He said the deck was average against the field but that it could just “Bant” them with two-drop into Spell Queller or Reflector Mage and then a Collected Company on four.
If you’ve paid any attention at all to Modern as of late the cards above will look like business as usual with the exception of a couple specific choices which we’ll go over later; but first, I’d like to go over some of the key new matchups in Modern and my approach to them as both were decks I had to beat to win this past weekend. The format isn’t changing quickly, but knowing how to sideboard and what the right lines of play are against these “flavour of the week” decks can mean the difference between x-2 and a win.
The Dredge Menace
The prominence of Dredge has certainly not been good for Jund. That deck renders a large portion of your deck textless and, outside of Scavenging Ooze, your Game 1 matchup is abysmal to say the least. As with all Dredge decks, though, sideboard hate has a pronounced impact on the matchup. The key here is what hate you play and how versatile it can be in other matchups.
In the above list I played a Nihil Spellbomb and a Grafdigger's Cage to go along with a Jund Charm. The logic here is that Cage specifically targets Dredge but is less versatile, while Spellbomb cantrips and Jund Charm obviously has a lot more utility. Spellbomb has the added benefit of being good enough to bring out the board against decks like Grixis and Jeskai to shut off a Snapcaster Mage while Cage, interacting poorly with your own Kitchen Finks, isn’t good enough to justify bringing it in. If you suspect Dredge to be a bigger part of your metagame I’d suggest more Cages or three Leyline of the Voids.
On this note, it’s important to remember that a lot of Jund’s “favoured” matchups rely on how powerful your sideboard is. If you start cutting role-player versatile sideboard cards like Kitchen Finks for more graveyard hate, you are losing general percentage points against the field; unless, of course, that field is highly saturated with graveyard decks.
BantEldrazi, and also Thoughtseize
This is another strategy that’s been on the rise lately and was a deck I beat twice during my PPTQ win. This is a classic 50/50 Jund matchup that will almost always be decided by tight play and sideboard cards.
Quite frankly, Thoughtseize is just so good in Modern right now and is key here. Jund lists have waffled back forth between two-to-four copies since Modern’s beginning, but if there’s any sort of breakthrough I’ve made in building Jund decks recently it’s including four Thoughtseizes in the 75. BantEldrazi is no exception to my new “Thoughtseize is broken” mantra. It slows them down on the play and takes their biggest threats on the draw while Inquisition of Kozilek is laughably worse in the matchup.
One of the keys to beating BantEldrazi is hitting your premium two-drops. You’re often going to need to take a Thought-Knot Seer or Reality Smasher attack on the chin while your Tarmogoyf grows or your Dark Confidant draws you cards. Having your two-drop moving into the mid-game is essential as your top-decks become better and you look to stabilize. This is not a matchup where you can just keep removal and land and expect to win; you have to be looking for hands that can compete on board with your mulligan decisions.
One of the most important ideological improvements to make as someone playing BGx decks in Modern is knowing when it’s time to win. It sounds simple, but I often see players playing passively and protecting their life total against low-percentage draws from their opponent rather than turning the corner and putting the pressure on. Generally playing around small percentage outs is a logical fallacy, as limiting draw steps by killing them will likely shrink your opponent's chance to win at a faster rate.
With Jund, your deck is designed to turn the corner. You’re not playing with Counterspells and your overarching strategy is supposed to be proactive. Given you have no way to lock out draw steps sans Kolaghan's Command it is almost always in your best interest to take aggressive lines when they’re available. Of course this is a judgement thing but in general you should be winning your games quickly and trying to avoid the late game. Don’t miss those “end-step; bolt you; untap; activate Raging Ravine” moments because you’re worried about controlling the board.
This is not an easy improvement to make as it’s a matter of macro decision-making rather than the conventional card-to-card micro decisions you’re used to. While it’s always important to pay attention to small micro interactions and how one card will work with another, when playing decks like Jund, macro decisions and evaluations such as who the beatdown is, who has the inevitability, and when it’s time to turn those Tarmogoyfs sideways are often just as important.
Ob Nixilis Reignited- This was the result of me wanting a card specifically for the Jund mirror going into the event. I wasn’t happy with Painful Truths overall in testing, as you want cards that provide an incremental advantage but also affect the board. As long as you’re able to maneuver it around creature lands I believe this is a sweet option for the mirror that also excels against Grixis and Jeskai decks that are playing less Remands and Cryptic Commands than ever right now.
I also boarded it in both matches against BantEldrazi as a result of them often operating with one large threat in play. It’s also a way to kill a Reality Smasher without having to pitch a card to it’s triggered ability.
Collective Brutality- This is one card I was unsure of going into the event; in retrospect, I should have played it in the spot Duress took up in my sideboard. I always play a Duress as an extra discard spell in order to have an extra card to bring in against Burn. This gives Jund yet another overtly flexible sideboard slot that will come in against Burn, spell-based combo decks, infect and other small creature decks. It’s likely Brutality will show up in almost every BGx deck you see somewhere in the 75 going forward.
On Grim Flayer
I will likely not be playing Grim Flayer in the near future, but do think it’s a reasonable way to build your deck. Operating with more copies of Tarmogoyf is sweet and Jund is always looking for more card selection. Unfortunately, I think Dark Confidant is far too important to your overarching plan against the linear non-creature decks of the format.
If the format cycles into a place where the various blue/red archetypes of Modern are on top of the format I think the extra robust threats that dodge Lightning Bolt,which Grim Flayer adds, would be great. But for now I just think the deck building requirements are too high.
All this said I think there is a much stronger argument for playing it in Abzan, which conventionally doesn’t play Dark Confidant, wants to rely on bigger threats and has Lingering Souls to spill into your yard.
Another option — which I will be exploring — is experimenting with a very low to the ground main deck featuring four copies of Dark Confidant, Grim Flayer and Tarmogoyf and cutting a land. This puts far more pressure on your sideboard but allows your main deck to operate with a lot of redundancy.