Jund Emissary Aggro

As promised, today Ari has a primer for you on the Experiment Jund deck that he played at Pro Tour Gatecrash. Give it a try at #SCGVEGAS or #SCGKY this weekend!

As I mentioned last week, Emanuel Sutor and I were the only two members of my Pro Tour testing team who played our Burning-Tree Emissary / Mogg Flunkies Jund Aggro deck. We went 7-3 and 8-1-1 in the Constructed portion of Pro Tour Gatecrash, and while neither of us performed well at Grand Prix Quebec City with the same deck, it performed reasonably well in the hands of others. This is our most recent list of the deck.

Why This List Is Good

This is the Jund Aggro list with the highest nut draw potential. You have the most aggressive one-drops, Burning-Tree Emissary with the most high impact two-drops to cast off of it, and a mana curve that comes to a dead stop at four.

This list also manages to slot in resilience alongside aggression. Most of your creatures are 3/3s and survive Pillar of Flame, Rolling Temblor, Wolf tokens, Huntmaster flips, Snapcaster Mage blocks, and Bonfire of the Damned for less than seven mana. Dreg Mangler is worth about an extra half a card when it dies, and Falkenrath Aristocrat is borderline unkillable.

Your sideboard in this list breaks any kind of aggro or low-end midrange (i.e., Eric Froehlich’s Naya deck from Montreal). Olivia Voldaren and Wolfir Silverheart are huge trumps that hit hard to match your other aggressive cards.

Why All Jund Aggro Is Good

Similar to midrange Jund, there is a huge spectrum of cards you can play in an aggressive Jund deck to match any metagame. Every maindeck curve position has a number of awesome contenders that you can pick and choose from, and the sideboard options are very deep.

Of any aggro deck, you have the best removal. White aggressive decks need to pay three for a permanent answer to Boros Reckoner; you have Dreadbore and Abrupt Decay at two mana. Your removal is also absurdly flexible. Searing Spear goes to the face, Dreadbore kills almost any threat (exceptions include Entreat the Angels), and Abrupt Decay takes down obnoxious cards like Blind Obedience and Detention Sphere even against decks with no creatures to target.

Haste is a powerful mechanic, and a large chunk of your creatures have it. Strangleroot Geist, Flinthoof Boar, Dreg Mangler, Hellrider, Falkenrath Aristocrat, and Thundermaw Hellkite are all fine options. Worth noting is that unlike the Mono-Red options, all of these cards are fine without haste against Blind Obedience. While a Lightning Mauler or Ash Zealot is somewhat embarrassing against that card, Flinthoof Boar is still a Watchwolf, Falkenrath Aristocrat is still a near unkillable flier, and Hellrider still immediately does damage.

The Maindeck

4 Experiment One, 4 Flinthoof Boar

Across all lists of Jund Aggro I can imagine being good, these are the only cards I expect to remain constant. Even then, there might be a world where you don’t want Experiment One, but I find that highly unlikely.

A couple notes:

One of the reasons Experiment One is so good in this deck is that most of your other creatures evolve it to a 3/3. As I mentioned above, this is a huge size point in this format. If you want to build a new deck with Experiment One, determining how often it gets to a 3/3 is a major point to consider. That isn’t to say some decks don’t want a one-mana 2/2, but it’s very easy to overestimate Experiment One’s power in a deck based on prior experiences with the card. Also, any Experiment One deck needs ten ways to cast the card on turn 1, if not eleven or more. Jund is definitely skirting the low end here.

The minimum number of Mountains for Flinthoof Boar is probably ten in most decks, but the first list of this deck got away with nine because of how Burning-Tree Emissary makes any two-drop follow up good enough even if it’s just another Grizzly Bear. After playing one event with the deck, we determined the mana was good enough to slot in the second basic Mountain, and even with that change the biggest issues the deck had with mana were related to come into play tapped lands.

3 Dreg Mangler

This card is standard to most Jund Aggro lists, but I can see that changing. 3/3 haste for three mana is a solid enough rate that most of the time there won’t be anything better, but there’s a reason we didn’t run four. The card is still a three-drop without a massive board impact, and finding room for the appropriate number of two-drops, powerful four-drops, and removal is much more important.

Also worth noting: the scavenge ability does not come up very frequently, but it does enough work here and there to not be irrelevant. Five is a lot of mana for three power, but as a free card it’s a decent deal. Common uses are upgrading a 2/2 to an unbeatable 5/5 in aggro mirrors after a bunch of trades, upgrading a 2/2 into a reasonable 5/5 clock in the semi-late game against control, and occasionally playing the role of a burn spell with Falkenrath Aristocrat to shove the counters through.

4 Rakdos Cackler, 4 Burning-Tree Emissary, 4 Mogg Flunkies

These cards represent the hyperaggressive package that gives you consistent nut draws. Most Jund Aggro lists have the usual Experiment One, Flinthoof Boar, Dreg Mangler curve out, but you have many more draws that are equally unbeatable on the play. Cackler can replace Experiment One in any curve, you have the triple one-drop draws that Mono-Red Aggro always loved, and Burning-Tree Emissary gives you even more lines where attacking for eight on turn 3 is expected.

They are also clumped together since they are they are often boarded out together. In a few matchups, the 2/2 bodies of Cackler and Emissary can turn into liabilities if the game stretches on into a topdeck war of 3/3s. Without these cards, Mogg Flunkies becomes quite bad. When you switch into the high end Olivia and Silverheart package, this is what comes out. Emissary can stay in when the 2/2 body trades against aggro or if the extra removal isn’t good, but Cackler is your worst creature and Mogg Flunkies is the next to go if you are worried about an excessive amount of removal (midrange Jund) or having to block (aggro mirrors).

0 Gore-house Chain Walker, 0 Strangleroot Geist, 0 Lightning Mauler

The question people have asked me the most about this list is, “Why Mogg Flunkies?” The short version: 3/3 is much bigger than 3/2 in this format. While Mogg Flunkies certainly has an unappealing drawback, the deck has so many early creatures and haste guys that it’s rarely an issue. I’ve had many opponents overestimate their ability to turn off a Flunkies and spend removal on my Rakdos Cacklers and Burning-Tree Emissaries only to die when my Flunkies wins the game as a 3/3.

Strangleroot Geist is not only uncastable off Emissary mana, but the 2/1 half of the card is barely worth anything. As I’ve mentioned a ton, 3/3 is the typical creature size in this format, meaning your Strangleroot Geist’s first half is usually just chumping for a turn. After that, it’s still a 3/2, and I’ve already listed a ton of reasons why 3/3 is better than 3/2.

Lightning Mauler is another fine card, but the ability to give another creature haste is much worse when all of your guys already have it. A large reason it was playable in Mono-Red Aggro pre-Gatecrash was that your three-drop of choice really benefited from the soulbond; in this deck, your three-drop is Dreg Mangler. In future versions, I can imagine this changing, especially as I think that Pyreheart Wolf could easily be an awesome inclusion. That said, the jump down to 2/1 is even bigger because your two-drop now straight up dies to Augur of Bolas, which was the most played small creature in the top performing Pro Tour decks.

0 Deathrite Shaman

This deck wants to attack. I don’t want to spend my time and mana to potentially make up the damage difference between this card and a Rakdos Cackler. If you expect longer games, this card is fine, but this deck doesn’t expect or want that.

You also crush the graveyard decks as is. The worst matchup for Human Reanimator is fast aggro, and Jund is in the top tier as far as speed is concerned. You can lose the games where they have the absolute best possible draws and Mulches, but most of the time they are more than a full turn too slow (sorry Lucas Siow, Fog won’t cut it).

4 Falkenrath Aristocrat, 0 Hellrider

Hellrider is slightly more aggressive than Aristocrat, but both are very good at killing people. It’s not like a four-power flying haste creature for four isn’t above the curve for aggressive guys.

The main thing Aristocrat provides is resiliency. The bulk of your deck is already 3/3 creatures, and Hellrider often has an issue where he comes down and wins a game you were already winning or is equally as brick walled as the rest of your board. He provides some extra damage in those cases, which may or may not be enough, but he just attacks from the same angle people are already trying to fight you on.

Aristocrat offers the deck completely new lines. When facing down Thragtusk, Boros Reckoner, and other ground blockers, Aristocrat powers through for multiple hits. It straight up eats Restoration Angels. It’s a big threat that lives through a Supreme Verdict. Your opponent can’t Searing Spear or Murder. Aristocrat just doesn’t stop bashing. Ever.

Another marginal consideration is that RR is actually a bit harder to make than RB. Not by much and I currently don’t want to crunch the numbers, but my guess is it’s a few percentage points different. You can adjust the mana for this, but in the end that makes it much harder to cast your other spells.

That’s not to say there aren’t worlds where Hellrider is a much better card. Against Azorius Charm, Hellrider does guaranteed damage. The big decider is Lingering Souls, which makes Falkenrath Aristocrat a joke while doing very little to Hellrider. Curse of Death’s Hold is in theory another reason to play Hellrider, but the rest of your deck is quite good against that card. If a future metagame exists where Hellrider is a better call, I would not be surprised, but for now I still think Aristocrat is the way to go.

0 Thundermaw Hellkite

In Mono-Red Aggro, Thundermaw Hellkite was a card that I only played because the deck was lacking that game breaking effect at times. This list has Falkenrath Aristocrat, allowing you to forgo the hard to cast five-mana spell and play 22 lands.

Again, things may change. If Lingering Souls is an issue and the deck moves to Hellrider, I can see Thundermaw Hellkite becoming awesome again.

2 Searing Spear, 3 Dreadbore, 2 Abrupt Decay

Most aggressive decks can only afford to play five or six spells, but because your removal is so good and are rarely dead cards, you can stretch a little to play up to eight.

The current split is biased towards Boros Reckoner. I wanted a minimum of five maindeck answers to that card, and this deck has that. Dreadbore takes up three slots because killing Olivia Voldaren, Restoration Angel, and planeswalkers is important, but Abrupt Decay has a lot of utility and should not be ignored. The current split allows for a lot of good sideboarding to take place against specific control builds where you can select your answers more precisely to potentially hit Blind Obedience or Tamiyo, the Moon Sage. The Dreadbore / Abrupt Decay split also makes casting double removal a bit easier against aggro, as the deck does run basic Forests to play Experiment One that can’t cast double Dreadbore but can help make GRBB to cast Dreadbore and Decay.

Despite being quite awkward against Boros Reckoner, Searing Spear does enough to deserve a couple slots. It still kills Hellrider before combat, it still goes to the face on occasion, and it’s the only removal spell you can cast off of Emissary mana. There are often times you wish you were playing all Searing Spears, but until Boros Reckoner is no longer a major player I can’t justify moving towards more of this card. Admittedly, I played against zero Reckoners in six rounds at Grand Prix Quebec City, so that time may be sooner than you think.

4 Ghor-Clan Rampager

This is your other way to cheat upwards on the “noncreature” spell count. I cut down to three of this card for Grand Prix Quebec City and regretted doing so. This card is all around awesome in this deck, both pushing damage through otherwise good blockers and providing a huge threat when necessary.

It is also your one good answer to Restoration Angel. Falkenrath Aristocrat is good at fighting against the 3/4, but the rest of your deck isn’t great against it. When your opponent flashes in an Angel to block, Rampager is a two-mana removal spell for it.

There are definitely stipulations on where you can play this card. You need a deck where the pump spell is actually very good, which usually means your deck has to be very aggressive. A lot of the bigger Jund Aggro decks I tried did not want this card since they simply didn’t apply enough pressure early to make the bloodrush worth it.

0 Rancor

Some of our earlier pre-Pro Tour lists of this deck had around two copies of this card, and it was always decent. I want to try this card again and think it could be very good. We ended up cutting it because it wasn’t a creature or removal spell in order to have the most linear list possible, but that could easily be a poor choice as the other decks get better at combating 3/3s. It’s worth noting that this card is not great in most aggro mirrors since it doesn’t actually trade for anything, but it does help race and lets your random 2/2s trade up, so it isn’t terrible.

The Mana

Twelve Ravnica duals is obvious. You are an aggressive deck with very specific mana requirements; you can’t really cut corners here.

The four basics round out the counts for turn 1 green sources for Experiment One and Mountains for Flinthoof Boar.

The six M10 / Innistrad duals aren’t a precisely tested split, but they balance the numbers. This list has fourteen green sources, fourteen red sources, and twelve black sources, which sounds about right when you count the numbers.

There simply isn’t room for ability lands. If you went up to 23, you could get away with one Kessig Wolf Run, but that’s the minimum.

Cavern of Souls just isn’t lined up for this deck. I considered one as another way to cast a turn 1 Experiment One, but Dreadbore, Abrupt Decay, and Ghor-Clan Rampager’s bloodrush demand that you have all colored mana for spells. In a future metagame with fewer Reckoners and more Lingering Souls where you want Hellrider, I can see a couple copies making their way in. That deck would have less Dreadbore / Decay, and Cavern on Devil would line up for Cackler and Hellrider. Of course, at that point you probably would be close to two colors and might not want black mana at all.

The Sideboard

3 Olivia Voldaren, 3 Wolfir Silverheart, 1 Kessig Wolf Run

Inspired by the Zac HillZvi MowshowitzSam Black Zombies deck from Grand Prix Atlantic City, this is your go big plan. Against midrange Naya, other aggro, and sometimes midrange Jund, you swap out your small guys for these trumps.

Playing with Olivia post-board often has me wondering why I don’t maindeck the card. I realize it’s because I’m trying to maximize the nut draws game 1, but this card is way too good. It takes over games in a way few other cards can, let alone any other four-drop. I would say the coolest part of the card is that Olivia is an answer to their Olivia, but that means that you didn’t just get to kill them with your copy. Just play smart with the card. If you have things stolen against an Azorius Charm deck, consider not attacking with it. If you have it as a 3/3 against a Searing Spear deck with two mana open, you may want to play around Spear by not activating it until you have two shots up.

Wolfir Silverheart is similarly awesome. You are still an aggressive deck even when you board in the midrange cards, and Silverheart is still a giant semi-hasted threat. Unlike Thundermaw Hellkite, he also hangs around to block. Three might be excessive, but you don’t have to do a lot to convince me to play this card right now.

The Kessig Wolf Run is your 23rd land to make up for the shift in your mana curve these cards create. It also incidentally helps push Silverheart over the top of a Boros Reckoner. It might be better off as a Dragonskull Summit to support Olivia Voldaren.

1 Tragic Slip, 1 Searing Spear, 1 Dreadbore

Vampire Nighthawk turned out to be awkward to cast and a bit slow, so this is your extra removal against aggro. Tragic Slip is something I’m not sure of, but actually killing an Aristocrat is very relevant and playing two removal spells on turn 3 is quite relevant in aggro mirrors. We had two in Quebec City, but we also had the third Searing Spear in the maindeck instead of the board. Dreadbore is your sixth answer to Boros Reckoner against those decks, and Searing Spear is just generally better than Abrupt Decay or Dreadbore at times.

2 Domri Rade

Similar to Olivia, I’m often not sure why I don’t maindeck this card. It’s good against pretty much everything. Versus control and midrange, it’s a stream of threats and eventually a game ending threat itself at ultimate. Versus aggro, it’s a removal spell that threatens to kill again if they don’t attack it. It does take some setup and timing to play, but this card is way more powerful than current event results suggest.

3 Duress

You need something against the heavy control decks. Slaughter Games is a little slow, and you don’t have the tools midrange Jund has that forces control to have Sphinx’s Revelation or die. Rakdos’s Return doesn’t have a good rate until X=3, and five mana is a bit outside your range.

That leaves Duress. It still hits Revelation when you want to, takes a Supreme Verdict when you are going to kill them, and unlike Slaughter Games should never miss. Just be aware of timing on this spell. Sometimes you want to play it on turn 1 because you won’t have the mana later, but often the ability to see two more cards that could be a Supreme Verdict means you should wait until the last second pre-Wrath to fire it off.


Your best matchups are aggro mirrors and smaller midrange, where not only are you fine game 1 but your sideboard carries you the rest of the way. Against most of these decks, you board in everything but Duress for the small creature package, but against some of the more 2/2 heavy Mono-Red Aggro lists, you tend to sideline some Domri Rade (clunky) and Aristocrats (4/1 doesn’t block well) and leave in some Emissaries to keep pace with them. In all of these matchups, casting Ghor-Clan Rampager is quite common.

You are reasonably ahead against control, but the matchups are definitely losable. Esper is generally the best of these decks to play against, followed by Wolf Run Bant and U/W/R Flash. The Centaur Healers and Thragtusks of Bant seem like they would be difficult, but that deck is soft to Aristocrat and tends to have less removal and sweepers for your super aggressive starts backed by removal.

Against Esper, you shift around removal and Rampagers to fit in Domri Rades and Duresses. Keep in mind that Rampager is often deceptively good since they may have Restoration Angels. Against U/W/R, some Mogg Flunkies and Cacklers tend to leave to keep in removal for Boros Reckoners. Against Bant, you may want some of your midrange elements because Olivia and Silverheart both force a Wrath from their side.

You can basically ignore the Angel of Glory’s Rise decks. You are too fast for them game 1, and their only current board plan that might beat you involves them boarding into a midrange G/W/B deck. Often your best option is to board minimally if at all.

Midrange Jund is your trickiest matchup, but not one I would call out as definitively bad. I usually board out Cacklers, some Flunkies, and Abrupt Decays to upgrade removal and fit in the big creatures, but it’s reasonable to move back to the all-in aggro plan on the play. Your game 1 plan is even better against the non-Arbor Elf list that doesn’t have the full set of Bonfire of the Damned, so consider that when making decisions for games 2 and 3.

What Happened in Quebec / Why This Deck Might Not Be Good

This deck is much better on the play than the draw. This isn’t to say it can’t win games on the draw since its cards are powerful enough to do so, but a lot of your closer matchups heavily hinge on the die roll. At the Pro Tour, this was less noticeable because decks were less optimized to handle your free win draws. In the future, I expect that while your nuts draws will easily win a large number of games, that number will decrease a reasonable amount.

You deck also has a lack of good mana sinks and has four-drops, meaning you are more prone to mana flood and screw than you would like. Again, your cards are powerful enough that it often doesn’t matter, but in Quebec I lost a few close matchups to a couple turns of missing my fourth land drop or some runner lands when I was looking for spells. You just have to accept this as part of the deck if you want to play it.

This list is heavily designed for a metagame focused on Boros Reckoner. If that doesn’t apply in the real world, a lot of deckbuilding decisions change.

Overall, I think Jund Aggro is still an awesome deck in Standard, but it isn’t dominant in any way despite putting up great results. In this format, nothing really is. There are a ton of small decisions to make in building every deck, game play is quite interesting without falling into the overly long Thragtusk stalls Return to Ravnica Standard was known for at first, and there are many viable deck choices. There are also very few decks with extremely skewed matchups (with the exception of Human Reanimator); most matches are legitimately close. If you build and play properly, almost anything you want to play can be viable. Even Giant Growth.