This week, Olivier and I will playtest a matchup that is really interesting: Standard Jund versus White Weenie.
Since Day 1 of Pro Tour: San Diego, people keep telling me how easy it is for their White hordes to bring down the current deck to beat in the format: Jund. I’m very surprised by this statement, and I have always asked what made the games so unbalanced… and they ALL answered “4 White Knight and 4 Kor Firewalker maindeck!” Even with 3 or 4 Brave the Elements to protect them, it seemed a bit unreal to me. From personal experience, and from discussions I had with Wafo-Tapa and Manuel Bucher, I have the feeling that Jund should win in a quite comfortable fashion.
In order to understand why everyone seemed to have such a disagreement on the matchup, I looked at sample decklists from the two contenders, from many events, and saw that there were huge variations between them. Some White Weenie builds play 16 lands (!), while others rock 25. Some are more controlling with Day of Judgment, whereas others are pure aggro. The main difference that should have a huge impact on the games on the Jund side would be the presence (or not) of Garruk Wildspeaker and Master of the Wild Hunt. These two cards are insanely good against the protection guys.
I will be playing Grand Prix: Brussels this coming weekend, and I think that the results from this testing session will help me figure out what the metagame will be there. There were six Jund decks and a Mono Red build in the Top 8 of Grand Prix: Kuala Lumpur; if White Weenie happened to beat both, it would be a smart and obvious choice for many people.
I do not know which version of the White deck Oli will play, and anyway, I do not plan on trying to find a special list to beat him. As I am not a specialist on the Jund build, I chose to run this decklist, which placed first in a Magic Online Premier Event:
The version is a “neutral” build; it’s nothing special, but it’s solid, and it seems that building a version with the average numbers of most-played-cards would look like this.
I still cut a Rootbound Crag for a fourth Raging Ravine from the original decklist.
Also, the deck has no Bituminous Blast at all, and only 2 Deathmark in the sideboard. The version is definitely not the best against White Aggro, and Olivier’s version should be good against Jund. (Why would anyone not play the best version against Jund in the current metagame ?) I expect the games to be difficult, and I expect the sideboarded games to be easier.
In the end, Olivier ran the following White Weenie deck:
Maindeck Games ( 10 wins, 14 losses, 41.6% games won)
On the play: 4 wins, 8 losses
On the draw: 6 wins, 6 losses
Once more, we have an awkward result, as we were tied when I was on the draw and I lost two-thirds of the games on the play. In the long run, I should win a higher percentage of the games than this when I play first. As a reminder, the stats won’t be exactly correct after 24 games, especially if we consider that every different decklist will post different results. Still, that percentage playing first means something.
The games were not very aggressive; I needed to handle all his threats before I could start attacking. Blightning was very efficient, as White Weenie needs to curve out and thus needs lands. Any Brave the Element was annoying, but it allowed me to hit his late-game cards with the discard spell. On the play, I had fewer cards to make sure I could kill his protection creatures, while he had more cards in hand (thus he was Blightning proof), and he had more threats.
The thing that mattered most to influence the outcome of the matches was the protection guys. Whenever I had Lightning Bolt in hand, I would mostly win the games when he played White Knight on turn 2, and I’d lose when Kor Firewalker showed up. Emeria Angel would be harder to kill whenever it followed an Honor of the Pure, and even when I killed it anyway, the two 2/2 flying creatures he picked up in the process would be hard to handle. Conqueror’s Pledge must have been a great disappointment for Oli, as it won only one game and was cast about three times in 24 games!
Steppe Lynx was really annoying, as it was the only aggressive card in both decks. A 4/5 creature for one mana, very often 5/6 thanks to Honor of the Pure, puts a lot early of pressure (what the hell has happened to Magic?!). I would recommend killing it at sorcery speed with Lightning Bolt whenever your opponent has a fetchland up, as a second one showing up during his next turn will guarantee a lot of pain. It is very often good to kill creatures before the White Weenie player draws a Brave the Elements, as that will virtually make his creatures unblockable.
It is really hard to play around Brave the Elements, as the White mages usually play three. That number is too few to play as if he has it in within the first turns. If you do not see a possibility to Blightning it away to protect your removal spells, I would suggest not to take it too much into consideration. More, if you force your opponent to discard it, he will still play it in response, making your Maelstrom Pulse unplayable the same turn.
What I wrote about Oli’s Conqueror’s Pledge was also true for my Siege-Gang Commanders. I only cast the card once, and I lost on the following turn, whereas I thought the card would win a lot of games and would be key spell in the matchup.
Spouting Thrinax was basically a Green plant. It could not attack, it could not block, and the best thing I did with it was to Lightning Bolt it to get three tokens to block a 3/3 Kor Firewalker. This is what you should be looking for with the card: an opportunity to turn it into three Green Saproling tokens. It is really hard to do this, as it does not die to the power of the creature blocking it. Sometimes it kept a Steppe Lynx in defense, but that was rare.
Putrid Leech was as good as usual on turn 2, except that it stayed in defense most of the time to eventually get to the point where I cast a Broodmate Dragon and swing for the win in two or three turns.
It might seem good to race with the Leech, but Kor Firewalker’s gain life ability and multiple tokens or creatures showing up at the same time might screw your plans. When I did not have a clear advantage on the board, I would usually not pump it whenever it attacked. Nowadays, I consider Jund as an aggressive deck, but in this matchup you probably have to go for the control game plan. Slow you opponent down rather than try for a quick kill.
It is really hard to know when to play your removal spells. If you have a Thrinax in hand, you would do better not to kill the Lynx and keep your Lightning Bolt for an upcoming White Knight. The problem is that your opponent might follow with two Fetchlands, and you then start to play your game on nine life. From this point, any aggressive Brave the Elements will kill you. Thus it is usually better to cast it end of turn 2, or as a response to some other spell (Kor Firewalker?)
Maelstrom Pulse is hard to play, as it handles the frightening Planeswalkers (Elspeth, Knight-Errant is a pain), Oblivion Ring, and Conqueror’s Pledge, when you tend to think that you have to kill that annoying Firewalker with it right away. One again, you need to have a game plan; you should know/guess what should happen in the next few turns. This is why I love Blightning. As your opponent has no cards in hand, you know what is left in his deck and the odds for him to draw a certain card and the impact it would have. Then you can play accordingly, take risks or not, and eventually play your cards safely. Oli won many games in which he just topdecked his one Elspeth, Knight-Errant and came back in the game by giving one of his protection guys +3/+3 and flying. Whatever your life is when you stabilize, this Planeswalker is lethal.
I was a touch disappointed with Broodmate Dragon, as it mostly won games that I already had under control, but still, playing three allowed me to have a control strategy. Garruk Wildspeaker provided a lot of green Beasts, and provided some mana a little, but it did not Overrun very often, mostly because it was not really necessary, or it would be killed by fliers before it could fire.
This version of Jund struggles a bit in the maindeck games, where the player who mulliganed lost most of the games. The point was mostly to see if my answers would find legal targets; if they did, I would win, but if they came in the wrong order, I would lose. The latter happened more than the former, which seem logical to me considering the two decklists.
Let’s see how the sideboarded games go.
Sideboarded Games (14 wins, 12 losses, 53.4% games won)
On the play: 8 wins, 5 losses
On the draw: 7 wins, 6 losses
+2 Deathmark (obv)
+2 Great Sable Stag (being Green rocks)
+2 Malakir Bloodwitch (even better than I expected, and I already thought it was great)
+2 Master of the Wild Hunt (play it, untap, win)
+1 Terminate (still kills many guys)
+2 Mind Rot (some more discard to annihilate long game plans or Brave the Elements)
-4 Putrid Leech (Black)
-4 Spouting Thrinax (Black plant)
-3 Broodmate Dragon (Black and a bit too expensive; the game should be settled before it comes into play)
The goal of this sideboard plan will be to decrease the impact of both Devout Lightcaster and Celestial Purge, cards that he probably will board in. This way, Bloodbraid Elf should as well be more efficient by cascading into more removal, discard, and Great Sable Stag, which is still better than revealing a blank such as Spouting Thrinax.
The final results are nice for Oli, as he won the last four games, but on the other hand I have to admit that he had some very bad draws before then. He even won with a mulligan to five.
Siege-Gang Commander kept being disappointing, as it only showed up whenever Oli had a Honor of the Pure on the table. Do not misunderstand me, I still think it is good, but its impact on the games I had it was lower than it should have been. Maybe I should have kept 1 or 2 Broodmate Dragons instead of these, but I do not like that card too much in the current format.
I was surprised to see that the manlands became pretty good after doing a bad job game 1. I had more removal and Oli had more Pro-Black guys, so Raging Ravine would either be a blocker or a game finisher.
Bloodbraid Elf was stupid as usual, as it would either be really good or totally miss; revealing a Deathmark whenever your opponent has 2 Pro-black guys sucks. You have to play it whenever the cards you might reveal will be useful if you have the choice. Otherwise, just opt for the bingo and pray. I actually realized that Jund was okay to play, but I still cannot manage to accept the cascade factor.
I was pretty happy with the cards I sideboarded in, as they made my deck more flexible and less dependent on which color my removal and his protection guys happened to be. Master of the Wild Hunt was excellent, and I would strongly recommend anyone playing Jund to think about having more of these in the sideboard or main deck. Maybe Bituminous Blast changes a lot of things in the matchup, but I doubt it.
I would consider that a basic Mono White deck against a basic Jund deck should be a 50/50 matchup, a result which changes with the cascade skills.
Manuel has written an article about his Jund decklist this week; take a look at it and try it, it is much better than this one against White Weenie, and I saw him winning a lot with it online. I really think that a Jund deck should look like his more than the sample one I played.
See you in Brussels!