Duel With Ruel – Jund versus Turboland: The Jund Perspective

Grand Prix GP Columbus July 30-August 1, 2010
Monday, July 19th – Jund is a proven deck, and its strength will be present in the new M11 metagame. Turboland has its strengths, but its longevity has been brought into question. Today, Antoine pits the Old Warhorse against the New Kid, in a battle to see which deck has the most to offer going forward.

M11 is here, but its impact on Standard is still to be determined. The mechanics behind most of the top decks in the M10 field should not change.

This week’s matchup will feature Jund versus Turboland. Jund seems to be less and less popular, and it doesn’t win as much as it used to. This statement can be explained by the following two factors :

– The deck has not improved significantly for a year. It is almost a Block Constructed deck.
– After two years of dominance, the format found answers to the questions the Jund deck asks of it.

Still, the deck is great and, as usual, it’s underrated, as most people think they beat it when they do not.

I will play the following version of Jund, figuring that Shouta Yasooka, who’s making Top 8ing in one event for every two played with the deck, has a strong list in the current metagame:

If people start playing Obstinate Baloth main deck, then Jund might have to keep the Blightning in its sideboard and turn into either a Control deck or an Aggressive build. Otherwise, it shouldn’t evolve with M11.

Oli will run the same Turboland that beat Bant last week:

I do not think that Mana Leak will necessarily be played in the “combo version” of this deck. The deck is synergistic, and that’s what makes it strong. The goal of the deck is still to curve out on every single turn: keeping some mana up to (maybe) counter would mean you lose the tempo, which is of primary importance to the deck. Some kind of “Next Level Turboland” deck might break through, but I guess it will be a control version with All is Dust, as the first one designed by Wafo Tapa.

I think that the matchup should be close as, unlike Mythic Conscription-, Turboland can develop even if you kill his accelerating creatures (Oracle of Mul Daya and Lotus Cobra).

Maindeck Games (15 wins, 9 losses, 62.5% games won)

On the play: 9 wins, 3 losses
On the draw: 6 wins, 6 losses

As I said last week, Turboland is a combo deck. The best way for Jund to fight it will be to become an aggressive deck and kill the opponent before they can abuse Mind Spring or Avenger of Zendikar.

This aggressive game plan works well on the play, where turn 2 Putrid Leech is game over, but it’s harder on the draw. Turboland is a tempo deck, and does it much better when it plays first, as with 13 lands that enter the battlefield tapped, Jund might get off tempo all by itself when drawing first.

The current Jund build is more controlling, so it is sometimes impossible to play creatures on the first turns. Being control in those games, with removal and Blightning, you can slow your opponent down, but it does not work as you end up losing more time than your opponent does. The further the game goes, the less chance you have of winning it.

The deck can handle Avenger of Zendikar by playing Terminate on it when the tokens are still on the stack, so that they will never be bigger than 0/1. Jund can also play Maelstrom Pulse on the tokens, and get rid of the 5/5 easily. Your main concern will be to have built up enough pressure to kill your opponent straight after, or preferably before. With almost no evasion creatures, it is tough to overrun an army of plant tokens, as you rarely have more than three creatures on the board. Broodmate Dragon and Sarkhan the Mad proved to be excellent finishers, even though these two often arrive too late. Too bad there is only one copy of each… I never got to run a turn 5 planeswalker and turn some guy into a dragon, followed by turn 6 Broodmate Dragon, -4 to Sarkhan the Mad, take 13.

Siege-Gang Commander was disappointing. Its sits for too long in your hand, especially when compared to the small impact it has on the game whenever it enters the battlefield.

It is difficult to have answers for Avenger of Zendikar on the turn it arrives, as the removal you have left by this time is often Bituminous Blast, which is totally random if used here.

Even if Turboland does not really need its mana acceleration creatures as it runs Rampant Growth, Explore, and 28 lands, you still need to kill them to slow your opponent down. If you want to keep your removal for Avenger of Zendikar and the plant tokens, which might work out in theory, then Time Warp and Mind Spring will become brutal when associated with huge mana development. In the matchup, Time Warp is just a five-mana Explore, and you never want your opponent to make it an efficient spell. Also, a big Mind Spring (four or more) should always be game over.

The most important card in Turboland is Jace, the Mind Sculptor. As I explained last week, it is the deck’s only way of disrupting the opponent’s game plan, and it offers a great synergy with the whole deck (Oracle of Mul Daya, many ways of shuffling the library…). It also combats a devastating Blightning by adding cards to the hand while keeping the best cards on top, where they are out of reach.

You have to keep in mind that Turboland will try to control the game’s pace with the Blue planeswalker. You absolutely do not want Jace, the Mind Sculptor to bounce your only creature when you do not have Bloodbraid Elf to kill it straight away. It is sometimes tough to know whether you should put a second creature into play or kill a Lotus Cobra or an Oracle of Mul Daya, as Turboland always has a plenty of cards in hand, and you never really know what will show up on the following turn. I sometimes played Spouting Thrinax instead of Putrid Leech (which is just bigger) in order to be able to cast the cheaper creature on the following turn while also playing a removal spell. It is a tough play, as the extra damage might really matter in the end.

Plant tokens from Khalni Garden do not make killing the planeswalker easy. Spending a turn casting a removal spell on a 0/1 guy in order to kill Jace, the Mind Sculptor instead of (re?) casting a creature is a pain in the ass, but you will have to do it, which will result in a huge tempo loss.

You have five cards that are supposed to be pretty good at getting rid of Jace, the Mind Sculptor:

Bloodbraid Elf: The card often hits blanks, as your opponent won’t necessarily have creatures on the board. Still, a 3/2 haste with benefits is good in the aggro mode. It kills the planeswalker easily, especially as it cascades into the three following cards.
Lightning Bolt: As usual, it’s good to finish of the opponent when you are facing 12 plant tokens, or to kill Lotus Cobra or Oracle of Mul Daya. Turboland should mostly Brainstorm with his Jace, the Mind Sculptor, so he at least makes card advantage from it, leaving it on 3 loyalty counters. The +2 ability gets the planeswalker out of burn’s reach; if this scenario, Lightning Bolt will finish it off combined with a creature attack.
Maelstrom Pulse: Spending this on Jace, the Mind Sculptor means you are not killing the plant tokens that will always show up at some point (if they do not, then you win). If you consider that the Blue planeswalker will not have enough impact on the game and only plant tokens would stop you from winning, just leave it on the board. It is good to take risks, but try not to throw a game because you are overconfident and/or reading the game badly.
Blightning: You have to cast all your creatures before the multicolor sorcery and have as much pressure as you can. In this case, it might become a lethal burn spell once your creatures are facing eight plant tokens. You also want to hold it in hand when Jace, the Mind Sculptor enters the battlefield, in order to get rid of it. Again, if your opponent activates the +2 ability, then the card created no momentum loss on your side, and you can even afford to leave it on the table if you read the game well.
-Manlands: I did not even activate one of these (running 6!) in 24 games, as any time I would have done so, even to kill a planeswalker, I would have lost too much tempo. This was what Oli was hoping for (what if he holds a second copy in his hand?). Turboland also runs 4 Tectonic Edge and 4 Khalni Garden, which makes Raging Ravine and Lavaclaw Reaches activations pretty pointless.

Sideboard plan:

-3 Terminate (fine, but probably not necessary, Lightning Bolt will do the job, I do not plan to face any 5/5)
-3 Maelstrom Pulse (tough, but I do not want blanks)
-3 Bituminous Blast (expensive, random, does not kill the right targets)
-1 Spouting Thrinax (Trained Armodon is good enough to keep three copies)
+4 Duress
+4 Goblin Ruinblaster (Tectonic Edge, Khalni Garden, Halimar Depths, haste)
+2 Garruk Wildspeaker (overrun versus tokens)

Pithing Needle is questionable, Turboland relies on Jace, the Mind Sculptor more than any other deck in the format. Still, Misty Rainforest is the only other alternative to name with the artifact, and the fact that you do not want to cascade into it meant it did not make the cut.

The plan will be to optimize Bloodbraid Elf, while having no potential dead card. The disruption won’t come from removal but from Duress and Blightning. With the Goblin Ruinblaster and a lower curve, the deck should be faster and slow the opponent down enough to win at least as much as pre-board.

Sideboarded Games (16 wins, 10 losses, 61.5% games won)

On the play: 9 wins, 4 losses
On the draw: 7 wins, 6 losses

It feels like every game I lost, either Oli had an obscene draw, I was mana screwed, or he made some savage topdecks.

Most of the games in which I had an average draw, Oli found himself in topdeck mode really quickly, as my sideboard was brutal. Some will probably say that sideboarding out the Maelstrom Pulse was bad. It is true that I needed them quite a lot, but I did not want to have circumstantially good cards; I would rather have a card that is worse but a deck that is more stable. Spouting Thrinax was not amazing, but as Oli brought in Narcolepsy, I needed my “early” creatures to be as aggressive as possible.

There is some kind of winning synergy created by the sideboard; the more copies of the three cards you draw, the more your opponent will be in trouble.

Duress + Blightning: it is really easy to force the discard of your whole opponent’s hand; remember that he cannot skip a land drop intentionally to protect his hand. Duress should be played turn 1 when you are on the draw (even if it might handicap you later as you can’t play a land that comes into play tapped) or on turn 2 on the play. If you can force the discard of your opponent’s lone Rampant Growth or Explore, you might already get an edge on the game.

Blightning + Goblin Ruinblaster: You play Blightning on turn 3, he discards a land and a spell, then you Goblin Ruinblaster, and your opponent will be in huge trouble, unlikely to reach the seven lands he needs. More, Blue/Green does not have any dual land, so the Goblin can hinder your opponent from playing one of his two colors. If you have to choose between destroying a Blue or a Green land, if your opponent has one of each, it is good to get the Green one so that he won’t be able to cast accelerators. If he has two of each, opt for the Blue one as he has more UU spells than GG.

Goblin Ruinblaster is an excellent aggro card in the matchup when it is kicked, but when you have nothing else to do on turn 3, and you are going to curve out on the following turns, it is good to cast it for 2R and get some early damage out of it. What would be the point in dying with 3 cards in hand because you chose not to cast them at some point? It also helps the manlands, as with fewer lands in play, Oli could not afford to sacrifice the remaining ones. The few times he had to do so, he was either already in very good shape, or he ended up losing.

The matchup is definitely good for Jund. Considering this, Turboland will necessarily evolve with M11 if it wants to be considered a viable deck. The Flashfreezes were okay but not great (I guess Duress was counterbalancing it). I am not sure that Mana Leak would have changed the outcome of the match, as putting it into the deck would have a cost: destroying its synergy.

Jund is definitely a good deck to play, and it will be until it leaves Standard.

Good luck in your PTQ, Nationals, or holidays!

Antoine Ruel