Jund In The New Modern

Jund is the best home for Tarmogoyf and Lightning Bolt, and that alone would be reason to play the deck. But there’s even more! Reid Duke provides his take on the deck and why you should play it this PTQ season.

Wild Nacatl may be gone, but Tarmogoyf and Lightning Bolt remain, and they’re no less potent than they were a month ago. Jund is the best home for these cards, and that alone would be enough reason to play the deck. It so happens, however, that it also has access to half a dozen more of the very best cards in Modern. Jund has been a format defining deck in Standard and Extended ever since the printing of Bloodbraid Elf, and post-bannings Modern will be no different.

Role in the Metagame

In uncertain times, look to what’s tried and true. Of all the decks in Modern, Jund is best positioned to fill the void left by Zoo, if such a thing is possible. It so happens that Zoo was a good matchup for Jund before the bannings. Nonetheless, the banning of Wild Nacatl was a great thing for Jund, as it allows it to now fill a different and more important niche in the metagame.

The Jund decks of the World Championships needed to be prepared to play a control role or risk being outdone by the more efficient creatures of Zoo. That meant overloading on removal to survive to the late game and enough card advantage to be guaranteed victory if it could get that far. I experimented with cards like Primal Command, Thrun, the Last Troll, Grave Titan, and Bituminous Blast, which, while useful, can’t match the raw power of the cheap, brutal threats in Modern. With Zoo now less of a problem, Jund has fewer restrictions on it and can get back to the basics.

Jund in new Modern should be an aggro deck. It no longer has to compromise its game plan to beat Zoo. Perhaps more importantly, other decks are less prepared to handle the strategy of efficient creatures backed up by burn.

Being an aggro deck, however, doesn’t mean giving up the things that make Jund great. It’s not as fast as its predecessor, Zoo, but what it lacks in speed it more than makes up for in resilience. Like earlier builds of Jund, my suggested decklist supports an unfair amount of card advantage, a variety of answers, and attacks from many angles at once. The difference is that it now does all that with a low mana curve and the ability to apply a fast clock.

Angles of Attack

Life Total

Just like Zoo, Jund uses powerful creatures and reach in the form of burn. This combination poses a unique challenge because opponents are forced to protect every single point of their life total. Non-red aggressive decks accomplish nothing unless they can get their opponent all the way to zero life. Control and combo players can happily take 17, 18, 19 damage from a White Weenie deck before making their move. Such is not the case with Jund.

An opponent who plans to use a creature sweeper like Wrath of God to stabilize has to worry about manlands like Treetop Village and Raging Ravine, haste creatures like Bloodbraid Elf, and of course, burn—Lightning Bolt and Blightning. Jund can kill out of nowhere, and it can do so right through many of the forms of defense that Modern players rely on.

Liliana of the Veil

As strong as Jund can be at pressuring life total, even opponents at twenty life can’t count themselves safe. I simply can’t say enough good things about Liliana of the Veil. She’s removal, disruption, and a huge threat completely on her own.

It’s a terrifying feeling struggling to survive Jund’s creature onslaught while also watching Liliana tick towards ultimate. Since Jund is full of efficient creatures and removal, it’s unrealistic for a deck less dedicated to aggression to ever kill her by attacking. Consequently, winning the game with her ultimate happens quite often.

Ultimate ability aside, Liliana can still be a one-woman show. As the opponent’s hand size becomes smaller and smaller, Jund’s chances of winning go up and up. With the ability to present such a wide variety of threats along with manlands and removal, a Jund player rarely needs to fear losing to an opponent playing off the top. She also presents a unique dilemma for combo players, as they’re forced to go off before they would normally want to or risk losing their chance completely.

One of the two easiest ways to win with Jund is to follow a turn 3 Liliana with a turn 4 Blightning. Most decks will have no cards left, and all you’ll have to do is answer the small number of threats they were able to land in the first couple of turns.

Noncombat Creatures

Last week I explained my eagerness to play with “glass cannon” creatures now that burn spells are sure to be far less common. There are a handful of creatures that stand out in Modern because of their unique, powerful abilities and their ability to impact the game without attacking and blocking. Jund makes fantastic use of two of the best of them.

Dark Confidant may be the single most powerful card in post-bannings Modern. With no Punishing Fire threatening him and no Wild Nacatls making life loss dangerous, he’s free to completely dominate games. An unanswered Dark Confidant will bury a control player in card advantage and an endless stream of disruption and threats. Against combo, he allows you to draw into your disruption and will help squeeze the life out of your opponent with each passing turn. Finally, in grindy creature mirrors, he provides insurance against mana flood and makes it more likely that you’ll be prepared with answers when you need them.

Dark Confidant, along with his sidekick Grim Lavamancer, are incredible cards in their own right, but they also add an extra element to Jund. Cards like Kitchen Finks, Wall of Omens, and protection creatures are normally very powerful against Jund, but having access to Confidant and Lavamancer means that blocking is often not enough to stop you.

They also put opposing creature decks in a difficult position right from the stage of deckbuilding and sideboarding. Lavamancer and Confidant demand an immediate answer, or they quickly begin providing an irreversible advantage. However, removal spells are generally bad against Jund, as the deck is designed to trade one for one as often as possible. Decks like White Weenie, Bant, and Merfolk become easy matchups when you force them to leave in removal spells and play right into the hands of your attrition deck.

The other one of the two easiest ways to win with Jund is to follow a turn 1 Thoughtseize with a turn 2 Dark Confidant. Strip their answer, and bury them with inexhaustible card advantage.

The Matchups


This is unfavorable game 1 but only slightly. It’s difficult to beat a great draw because four Thoughtseizes are the only disruption that come early enough to stop their fastest kills (turn 4 on the play or turn 3 on the draw). However, if their draw is slow, you have plenty of time to attack the raw number of cards in their hand with Liliana of the Veil and Blightning.

Recalling the “angles of attack” section, think about how you’re planning to win the game, and it will help you sequence your spells properly. If you’re planning to win by emptying their hand, then there’s no rush to play that 1/2 Tarmogoyf right away. However, if you’ve planned out a race to finish them on the dot in two turns, then don’t worry about knocking them from six cards to five with Liliana.

SB: +2 Duress +2 Relic of Progenitus +1 Thorn of Amethyst +2 Maelstrom Pulse -1 Terminate -1 Kitchen Finks -3 Grim Lavamancer -2 Lightning Bolt

Things get much better after sideboarding because drawing even a single copy of Duress or Thorn of Amethyst will buy you time, and being able to attack their graveyard means that emptying their hand is a safe way to lock up the game, since Past in Flames isn’t an issue. Maelstrom Pulse can kill Pyromancer Ascension or Empty the Warrens tokens. Jund ought to be a modest favorite to win the match with this sideboarding plan.

As a side note, Storm is extremely popular on Magic Online right now, to the point that I’ve seen Jund players have great results with the full four Thorn of Amethysts on their sideboards. I recommend that for Magic Online Daily Events but not for a live PTQ. There’s no reason to believe that the live and online Modern metagames will look the same (Storm is relatively inexpensive, and that tends to factor into deck choices more online than in real life). There are no replays to watch in real life, so you can also be caught off guard by a transform sideboard if you overdo it on Storm hate. In particular, watch out for a transform sideboard into Splinter Twin.

Splinter Twin:

Very skill intensive, but I’m happy to be on the Jund side. Their creatures aren’t safe in play because of Liliana’s -2 and Maelstrom Pulse. Therefore, they have to have two cards in their hand in order to threaten their combo. Emptying their hand means winning the game, and it’s a very realistic goal. Liliana is a great tool, yet again.

SB +2 Duress +1 Terminate -2 Maelstrom Pulse -1 Kitchen Finks

Sideboarding doesn’t change things drastically, but it allows you to replace some of your weaker cards. Grim Lavamancer and Lightning Bolt aren’t ideal, but they take Pestermite and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker out of the picture, and if you ever draw them together, you can double-team a Deceiver Exarch.

An important thing to remember is that the opponent won’t know what and how many instant-speed removal spells you play. It could be Terminates, but it could also be Doom Blade or Dismember. Smart bluffing will make things harder on them.

White Weenie:

This is the hardest matchup I’ve encountered, but it’s still very winnable with tight play. Grim Lavamancer is a powerhouse and gives my suggested decklist a leg up over more traditional builds. Between him and Dark Confidant, the White Weenie player will often use Path to Exile on you before you untap for turn 3, which is a huge advantage for Jund.

SB +2 Maelstrom Pulse +1 Terminate +0-2 Ancient Grudge (+1 Kitchen Finks) -4 Thoughtseize (-1 Kitchen Finks)

Ancient Grudge is excellent for killing equipment and Ethersworn Canonist, but don’t bring it in unless you’ve seen those cards. One of the keys to this matchup is being able to empty their hand, as you can’t beat Ranger of Eos, Squadron Hawk, and Proclamation of Rebirth in a fair fight. Aside from that, the only real danger is Spectral Procession, which is why the extra two Maelstrom Pulses are on the sideboard. They also kill Squadron Hawks, equipment, Honor of the Pure, Oblivion Ring, and Leyline of Sanctity.

Jund Mirror:

I hear complaints all the time about the Jund mirror being all luck. I suppose it’s in part because of the power and unpredictability of Bloodbraid Elf. However, in general it’s a very unforgiving and skill-intensive matchup. Everything matters: life total, board presence, card advantage.

Be very careful with your lands, both not to take unnecessary damage and not to miss a beat in terms of tempo. Usually you should kill opposing Dark Confidants on sight, rather than gamble that they’ll deal a lot of damage to their controller.

SB +1 Terminate +1 Obstinate Baloth +3 Kitchen Finks -4 Thoughtseize -1 Maelstrom Pulse

Most games will be grindy and come down to topdecks, so the spot discard has to go. However, Blightning stays because of the potential for a two-for-one and the way it can go to the dome as a finisher.

I recommend treating Jund as an aggro deck, but that doesn’t mean giving up the things that make it great. Being the aggressor means more than suicidally attacking the opponent’s life total. A skilled Jund player can pick apart an opponent—even one at twenty life—through card advantage, disruption, and Liliana of the Veil. That’s something no one’s ever said about Zoo.