Feature Article – Examining Jund, and Zendikar Sealed Tips

StarCityGames.com 10K Open - Los Angeles

Wednesday, December 23rd – Fan Favorite Gerard Fabiano brings us an article on the strongest deck in the format: the all-conquering Jund. He investigates a few overlooked tactics and strategies for Jund development, before moving on to some Zendikar Sealed tips!

Let’s think about something before I get started. In the past five years, a few major things have changed that, when looking back, seem so obvious. A prime example is that smoking is no longer legal in bars or restaurants, when we’ve know how bad second-hand smoke was for countless years. The funniest part about it? Five years ago, people in restaurants were saying “remember when they allowed smoking on airplanes? Haha!”

Another example is the times you watched America’s Craziest Police Videos, or some similar show. Countless times, you’d see a police officer pull a car over, and walk over heading toward the driver’s side of the car. As he would ask for their license and registration, another car would hit the police officer at speed. Then, finally, after fifty years, they realized there happens to be a window on the passenger side, and started to go over there to avoid the catastrophe that could happen.

In Magic, there has always been a consensus about certain things, such as how many lands should be played in a draft deck (seventeen), or how you should always go first if you win the die roll in Limited. Even when it came to deck building, people would assume that if a deck just won a major tournament, it was the best version of the deck, or even the best deck of the format. For me, I always tried to look for an outside-the-box view, and not fall into the brainwashing traps that many of the other players do. One of the newer players who I can see this with is Conley Woods, who proved he was able to think outside the box and put up solid results over the past year. I managed to catch up with Conley Woods, and he had a minute to take from his busy schedule to say this:

I feel that people overvalue processed information. I understand that when something has been done before and has worked, it establishes a pedigree, but too often players look to these things that are proven to work as the ONLY things that work. Not enough creativity is used in today’s environment, which leads to players missing out on its advantages. The element of surprise and unfamiliarity on your opponent’s part can hold just as many benefits as playing something that is known to work. Player’s tend to have more trouble evaluating unfamiliar situations, which removes them from the comfort zone they developed during testing, which obviously leads to more opportunities for mistakes on their part.

He and I share similar thoughts on this. One of the main advantage to this is that players will not know what to expect out of your deck, which means they will most likely not understand your game plan. Aside from creating a completely new deck, taking a known deck and making changes to it also works. Even if players understand your game plan, they may not know all the cards coming out of it. Take Thomas Maggio, for example, who piloted an unusual version of Jund to a 4th place finish at Iowa States. I will be taking a look at this today.

1 Jund Panorama
4 Forest
1 Arid Mesa
2 Mountain
3 Dragonskull Summit
2 Swamp
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Savage Lands
4 Rootbound Crag

4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Lotus Cobra
4 Siege-Gang Commander
4 Sprouting Thrinax
4 Putrid Leech
2 Master of the Wild Hunt

4 Blightning
3 Lightning Bolt
2 Eldrazi Monument
1 Bituminous Blast
3 Maelstrom Pulse

1 Maelstrom Pulse
3 Malakir Bloodwitch
3 Goblin Ruinblaster
2 Grim Discovery
3 Terminate
3 Jund Charm

It does look like a standard Jund List, but it has a slightly different game plan. There are a few surprise cards here to gain an advantage of surprise against most players, with Eldrazi Monument being the big addition to the deck.

Listed below is a Jund list that performed well at Worlds in Rome; take a look so I can talk about the obvious differences… and the hidden differences.

3 Dragonskull Summit
2 Forest
3 Mountain
2 Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
4 Rootbound Crag
4 Savage Lands
3 Swamp
4 Verdant Catacombs

4 Bloodbraid Elf
2 Broodmate Dragon
2 Master of the Wild Hunt
4 Putrid Leech
4 Sprouting Thrinax

3 Bituminous Blast
4 Blightning
1 Burst Lightning
2 Garruk Wildspeaker
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Maelstrom Pulse
2 Terminate

3 Duress
4 Goblin Ruinblaster
3 Great Sable Stag
2 Jund Charm
1 Maelstrom Pulse
2 Thought Hemorrhage

This was a list that made Top 8 at Worlds; lists like this were very popular throughout Day 1.

One thing Thomas did to his deck was cut the Broodmate Dragons. I feel this is the right call, and it should have been done a while ago. Sure, you are gaining card advantage from the Broodmate as it gives you two dragons for the cost of six mana, but this deck already has card advantage. Between Bloodbraid Elf, Master of the Wild Hunt, Sprouting Thrinax, Bituminous Blast, Blighting, and possibly Maelstrom Pulse, this deck has a massive amount of card advantage. In Magic, card advantage is great, but utilizing a card like Eldrazi Monument, a card that gives you an “I win” scenario, is much more important. It was something this deck has been missing for a while.

Thomas also went with Siege-Gang Commander, which complements the Monument nicely as it gives more guys to be able to attack in the air along with enough guys to use as sacrificial lambs. I also really like the small things, such as the removal of Great Sable Stag from the sideboard. When Jund first appeared at full strength, Fairies was still really popular, and the best weapons you had against them were Volcanic Fallouts and Great Sable Stags. Of course, the metagame changes and people tend not to adapt until it’s too late. Did the pilot of the second deck really think Great Sable Stag was going to be useful at Worlds? It’s garbage verses all of the popular decks. In the Jund mirror it gets blocked by Bloodbraid Elf, or it simply dies to Master of the Wild Hunt’s wolves, or Lighting Bolt.

One other thing you must consider when building your deck for a big tournament is that other players will most likely have whatever “tech” you might think you have, unless you really think outside the box. For example, at Pro Tour: Austin people added Path to Exile and/or Ghost Quarters to their decks to hate against Dark Depths Combo, but it was clear that almost all the Dark Depths players — or at least those that were a threat to beat you anyway – had already figured this out. They had Chalice of the Void, Pithing Needle, and Venser, Shaper Savant, alongside discard to prevent this from happening. So, don’t be lazy and say something like “Yeah, I will just add a few of these cards to my sideboard or main deck, and my match again deck X will then be good.” The people who are playing deck X, or at least the ones that have a good shot of doing well in the tournament, have already though about and tested against whatever card you are adding.

Getting back to Thomas’s different take on Jund… The addition of Lotus Cobra gives the ability to turn Jund into a hyper fast aggro deck, busting out turn 3 Siege-Gang Commanders. Lotus Cobra is just much better than Rampant Growth as it can gain extra mana with fetchlands and serves as an early creature with which to beat down. The one thing I didn’t like about Thomas’s build was the mana breakdown of fetchlands. In all my testing games I decided to cut an Arid Mesa in favor of a Misty Rainforest, as I didn’t like how there were only 2 Mountains to fetch with it; it could sometimes be a dead draw if you’d already drawn both Mountains. This case is rare but it will come up, and since Lotus Cobra can give you the second Red at any time I also feel this justifies this change.

Busting out a turn 3 or 4 Siege-Gang is really nice because it also serves as an answer to Baneslayer Angel, which has become the most dominant card in Standard. That is why the other small change I made to Thomas’s Jund build was the removal of the single Bituminous Blast, in favor of Slave of Bolas. It is more of a surprise card, and something players won’t be expecting. It is good to gain life and destroy a Baneslayer Angel, or to totally surprise a Jund opponent by taking their Sprouting Thrinax, as you will get the tokens at end of turn.

So the final maindeck list is as follows:

Sideboarding for this deck will vary depending on the exact build. I will start with the Jund mirror.

In: 2 Grim Discovery, 3 Goblin Ruinblaster, 3 Malakir Bloodwitch
Out: 2 Siege-Gang Commander, 4 Putrid Leech, 2 Eldrazi Monument

The Grim Discovery will help you gain back some card advantage in the Blighting war. Some of the newer Jund lists will board (or play main deck) Sedraxis Specter. In such cases, you may want to bring in Jund Charm. This can also work out in your favor by “countering” their Grim Discovery as well, or simply by clearing the board.

Next up: Boros and Mono Red.

In: 3 Malakir Bloodwitch, 3 Terminate, 3 Jund Charm
Out: 2 Eldrazi Monument, 2 Siege-Gang Commander, 4 Blightning

Versus the other popular decks, such as Naya, WW, or GW, board accordingly. Terminates, Malakir Bloodwitch, and Jund Charms are all important against Naya and WW. GW will have many different builds, but the Terminates and Malakir Bloodwitches should be good versus all of them.

So there you have it! An old deck with a slightly new twist to it, and proof that changes can be made to popular decks to add an element of surprise. Is this the best deck in Standard? Who knows. Would I play this at the next major StarCityGames.com event, the SCG $10K Open in Los Angeles? Most likely yes… but with a few small changes to the sideboard once I took a look around the room to feel out the metagame.

Finally, I want to take a little time to give some tips on Zendikar Limited, since there are a few more PTQs coming up. Here are some of my thoughts on the format…

1) In this sealed format, I would always choose to draw, regardless of how fast or slow my deck may be. By drawing you gain card advantage, and you are more likely to hit your curve. Not to mention the fact that your opponent will be more likely to mulligan on the play than on the draw. This means you are more likely to keep, since you will have extra draw step.

2) Vampire Lacerator is not good. It is a one-mana creature card, which is bad to begin with. One of the reasons why a three-mana creature card is better than a one-mana creature card is that you are more likely to have it in hand on the turn you want to cast it. Also, late game it’s just so underpowered as a 2/2 that does nothing good, and even early game it can be stopped by a real creature, such a Giant Scorpion or Nissa’s Chosen. This goes for Steppe Lynx too. One of the reasons why you are losing in this format (if you are losing, of course) is most likely because you are playing with these terrible creatures. They only appear good because they are fast. Don’t play these cards in your sealed deck, and you will have a better chance of winning.

3) Adventuring Gear is a mulligan. The card is very bad, and does nothing about 70% of the time. On your opponent’s turn, the only way to activate it is either via Harrow or a fetchland. (If I a missing something here, post it in the forums.) Then, on your turn, you will only have a land and have it be equipped about 60-70% of the time. Once again, this is a good reason why you are losing: because you are playing cards that are bad.

4) You should be playing with Celestial Mantle. When the set first came out, I undervalued this card. However, it’s one of the best undervalued cards of the format, and it should be played.

5) You should not be playing with Eternity Vessel. I thought it was a bomb, but it isn’t good at all. Avoid.

Good luck to everyone in the last few PTQs, and let me know if you guys take my advice, or if you end up playing this version of Jund, or even if the article helped you out in any other way.

That’s all I have to say for now. Happy Holidays, and thanks for reading.