How To Beat Jund

Grand Prix Nashville champion Gerry Thompson provides a few ideas for what to play this weekend at Grand Prix Chicago if you want to beat Jund, the current bad guy of Modern.

In Modern, Jund is the bad guy, and people are going to play it. Modern is a large format and isn’t played very much, so being able to pick up Jund (or Zoo in formats past) and run with it is a nice safety net to have. However, there is a reason that Jund hasn’t been putting up very good results despite its numbers.

Of course, Jund won the Grand Prix in Lyon, as well as put three players into the Top 8 of Pro Tour Return to Ravnica, but as far as straight win percentages, the deck isn’t fairing that well. In short, Jund is little more than a slight favorite in any given matchup. Jund sacrifices not having any truly bad matchups by not having any good ones either. There are no real matchups where Jund pumps the fist at the thought of being paired against them, and nearly every matchup is going to be a grind.

All that said, it can be frustrating to play against Jund since sometimes they just have all the answers. We tend to remember the games where our opponents have seemingly everything and not the ones where they sat around with three dead removal spells in their hand against our creature-less deck.

The easiest way I’ve found to beat Jund is to ignore it. It’s that strategy that led to me having Scapeshift as my backup deck for Pro Tour Return to Ravnica. It might seem like Scapeshift performed poorly at the Pro Tour due in no small part to its bad Jund matchup, but those decks looked like they were built poorly.

Take a look at the list Lee Shi Tian used to make Top 4:

His list was based heavily on using velocity in order to find and resolve Scapeshift, but that concept is outdated and ill-suited for this format. Yes, yes, I know he made Top 8 and that he went 8-1-1 in the Swiss, but that doesn’t mean his deck was great.

That type of Scapeshift deck is incredibly weak to certain things like Sowing Salt, Fulminator Mage, discard, Liliana of the Veil, counterspells, and Blood Moon. Decks like his also have a tough time with faster decks like Affinity and Infect. From what it looked like, Lee is a master, which is the reason why he got so far.

The Reason for Prismatic Omen

First there were the normal Scapeshift decks like Lee’s, then after the shocklands rotated out of Extended, the Japanese reinvented Scapeshift using Prismatic Omen. They had to in order to make Valakut work. Omen also gave them resilience to a lot of hate, a faster clock, and, most importantly, a backup plan.

Since the shocklands have returned, almost everyone seems to have forgotten about Prismatic Omen. After all, you don’t “need” it to combo anymore, so why play it, right? In the face of fast combo decks and fast aggro decks, Omen is the perfect card to solve your Scapeshift needs. Killing on turn 4 is very easy and, barring that, Valakut plus Prismatic Omen will at least kill some creatures and buy you another turn or stabilize you entirely.

One reason people have shied away from Prismatic Omen is probably the fact that Abrupt Decay was recently released. Everyone, myself included, initially thought that Abrupt Decay was going to be a fantastic card for Jund, but that hasn’t been the case. As it turns out, not killing manlands is a pretty big issue regardless of how good the spell is everywhere else.

You can play Scapeshift without Prismatic Omen, but you’d be doing yourself a disservice.

Rampant Growth Theory

Picture you’re playing Wolf Run Ramp (for whatever reason) and your opener has two land, two Rampant Growth, a Primeval Titan, and two other cards—perfect, right? Well, if you don’t naturally play a third land, you’re paying two mana to make your land drop via Rampant Growth. That isn’t efficient, which is why most ramp decks play upward of 27 land.

For Scapeshift to function, it also needs to play a lot of lands. Making your land drops is good, and being flooded is a marginal issue. You need to get to at least seven lands to win with non-Omen Scapeshift builds, so you’d rather be flooded than mana screwed. At least if you’re flooded, you have several live draws as opposed to being stuck on two and drawing dead.

Lee’s deck had several cantrips, but he was mostly hoping to cantrip into acceleration and threats, namely Scapeshift. They could also be used to find lands. Instead of playing cantrips, I like playing more threats, more acceleration, and, most importantly, more land.

The Reason for Wargate

Right now, I don’t see one. If you wanted Prismatic Omen as your centerpiece then Wargate should certainly be a part of your deck, but right now it’s too slow. As it is, Prismatic Omen is simply a complement to Scapeshift’s game plan. Since we can play the requisite number of Mountains to kill them with Scapeshift on its own, we don’t need Prismatic Omen every game.

If the format were more midrange decks, I’d be more willing to build a Wargate/Omen deck rather than a Scapeshift deck. As it is, the format is becoming increasingly faster the more it gets played. In that type of format, Wargate is mostly a bad ramp spell.

How Does Scapeshift Beat Jund?

At Pro Tour Return to Ravnica, Jund won 54% against G/U Scapeshift, 32% against G/R Scapeshift, and went 0-3 versus Wargate Scapeshift. If that tells you anything, it’s that Jund has a tough time against resilient Scapeshift decks. Their go-to answer, Slaughter Games, is nearly ineffective against Scapeshift decks that are prepared for it.

In short, you should sidestep the hate. One option is sideboarding in the Gifts Ungiven / Unburial Rites package. With everyone adopting Deathrite Shaman, that probably isn’t the wisest move. Another is to go with a man plan.

Lee had some Baloths and Cliques and Wurmcoils he could use to transform against Jund, but that isn’t exactly good enough. Typically, Jund will have some sort of removal left in their deck, whether it’s Liliana of the Veil or Lightning Bolt. Even a Tarmogoyf is usually bigger than Obstinate Baloth. If you want to sideboard an impactful creature, might I suggest our old friend Primeval Titan?

Let them Slaughter Games us! What do they name?

Let them Thoughtseize us! We have multiple cards that accelerate and kill them. It might as well be Raven’s Crime, as they should rarely be able to cut us off of a specific resource.

Let them untap with Dark Confidant! Err, well, that one would probably be bad…

The Deck

I’ve tried plenty of things, and if I wanted to smash Jund at Grand Prix Chicago, this is what I’d play:

A few things:

  • The format looks to be a lot faster than this deck can handle, at least from the Grand Prix Lyon results. If you think that’s the case, the Oracles, regardless of how good they are against Jund, will probably have to leave the maindeck.
  • The sideboard Leyline of Sanctity are mostly for Jund but also double as combo hate. Something like Eggs will be able to bounce your Leyline easily (and it doesn’t even stop them from casting Silence!), but it will usually be valuable against Storm. Most Storm players won’t side in Echoing Truth against you. Instead, they’ll try to get you with Empty the Warrens or Pyromancer’s Swath, expecting graveyard hate.
  • Jund is a fine matchup without Leylines, so if you think you should be worried about other things like Affinity or Infect, you should load up on Sudden Shocks.
  • A maindeck Boseiju, Who Shelters All is great against U/W Midrange and Delver variants. Those decks don’t seem very popular, which is why I cut them.
  • I know I said I don’t like Izzet Charm, and that still holds true. However, I do like having some filtering, and Izzet Charm is slightly better than the See Beyond I was playing before.

Unfortunately, decks like Infect and Affinity might be too fast for this type of strategy. To beat those decks, you want either a plethora of removal or a faster combo kill, which is difficult to do with consistency. Cards like Grim Lavamancer are fantastic against those decks. Dismember, Spellskite, and Sudden Shock are insane against Infect but marginal against Affinity. For them, you obviously want stuff like Shatterstorm, Vandalblast, Ancient Grudge, and Shattering Spree.

There are two decks I’d like to try based on those thoughts.

Other Options

Splinter Twin might be the best-positioned deck in Modern right now. At Grand Prix Lyon, the biggest decks on Day 2 were Jund, Infect, and Affinity, and Twin can be tuned to beat those. Jund versus Splinter Twin was 7/10 in Jund’s favor at the Pro Tour, but that could change based on some fine-tuning. Perhaps Mizzium Skin or Blood Moon are worth it maindeck just to fight that matchup.

As I said earlier, cards like Grim Lavamancer and Spellskite can be insane in the right matchups, making Twin an accidental favorite against decks like Infect. Dispel is fantastic against Eggs and Storm too. On top of that, Twin is a rock solid, difficult to disrupt combo deck.

In the past, I absolutely hated Splinter Twin as a deck, mostly because I wasn’t able to play it optimally. Since then, I think I’ve grown as a player. If I were going to Grand Prix Chicago, I’d definitely play a version of Splinter Twin. It’s got game against everything, is naturally good against some popular decks, and is one of those decks that just kills people.

In the same vein, RUG Delver is probably a good choice too.

This list is a little loose, but I like what it’s doing. Cheap removal plus a Gifts engine seems fantastic in this format, but the real thing that made me stand up and take notice was Godo, Bandit Warlord. Patrick Chapin had that guy in one of his Grixis decks, and I was very pleased with how it performed against decks like Jund and Zoo. Jund, in particular, seems like it would have a tough time beating Batterskull.

Typically, the Gifts Ungiven / Unburial Rites combo finds Iona, Shield of Emeria against Jund, but what happens when they already have Liliana of the Veil in play? Some Gifts lists play Lingering Souls to combat this, but that’s a luxury we can’t really afford. There’s already some black mana in the deck, but it’s not a very good card in Modern.

With Godo, you can play around Liliana a little bit. Of course, if they have Lightning Bolt, your Germ dies to the Edict ability, but hopefully you’ve bought enough time to bounce and replay Batterskull.

Peer through Depths could probably be something better, even if it’s just a card that does something. The deck has plenty of filtering already with Faithless Looting and Izzet Charm. There’s probably too many of those too. Granted, the deck needs to trade in dead removal spells in some matchups, but those matchups, such as Storm, are probably very bad game 1 regardless.

The sideboard is kind of wild, but I like what’s going on. Isochron Scepter provides a way to beat aggressive decks when they side in graveyard hate. The Purges help against Jund, specifically Liliana of the Veil, and Dispel is good against most combo decks.

One card I’d like to see in the sideboard is Timely Reinforcements. It might not help you stabilize against Jund by trading with their cards, but it should give you two or three turns. Creating tokens is also relevant against Liliana. Past that, a couple Negates would probably round out my sideboard.

This Gifts deck is “sweet” but is probably not something that has longevity in Modern. Any deck like this is going to be strictly a metagame deck for any given tournament, so don’t be surprised if it pops up and then quickly disappears.


With pro points being less of a factor, airline tickets being expensive, and me being old, I’ve decided to skip Grand Prix Chicago. That said, thinking about how Twin might be the answer had me considering going again. In the end, I came to my senses.

I’d love to see someone beat up Jund with Scapeshift, Splinter Twin, or a crazy Gifts deck though!


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