Jund Must Die!

If you want to beat Jund at your next Standard event, consider playing one of two-time SCG Invitational Top 8 competitor Brian Braun-Duin’s suggestions.

Jund is the enemy. Jund is the traitor in your camp. Jund is the assassin stabbing your back. Jund is the end boss. Jund is the monster that comes out of nowhere and one shots you. Jund is the enormously buff guy dual-wielding semiautomatics who casually smokes a cigar and laughs when he sees you. Jund is in control.

Jund is your father’s disapproving look. Jund is stubbing your toe on your doorstep. Jund is accidentally hitting your kneecap at your desk at work. Jund is spilling honey mustard on your favorite pants. Jund is filing your taxes. Jund is honking your horn at the driver in front of you who pulls out just in time for you to miss the green light. Jund is an inconvenience.

Jund is everywhere. Jund is ubiquitous. Jund is a popular green, black, and red midrange deck featuring powerful cards all the way up the curve, a high ratio of two-for-ones, and a bevy of backbreaking answers to any threat you can muster. Jund is the deck your opponent is playing.

Repeat after me:

“I will not Jund. Jund is the tournament killer. Jund is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face Jund.”

Sometimes it’s right to be the bad guy. Sometimes the right play is to simply strike down all who would dare stand against your might. Sometimes it’s correct to make your opponent regret the exact moment they decided to do anything but play the best deck each and every time you so much as tap a land for mana. Sometimes you should make your opponent fear you.

But not always. Every bad guy needs a good guy. Someone must stand up against the dominant force and say: “Not today. Not on my watch. Your reign of terror ends now.”

Today I want to share a few decks that I’ve been playing recently. They all offer something different, but they all present threats that can be tough for Jund to beat.

That’s not to say that Jund can’t beat these cards or these decks. Jund wouldn’t be the top dog if it had any glaring weaknesses. I’ll still take my odds against Jund though. Bring on Jund. Let’s beat Jund.

Deck #1: The Land Continues To Burn

Last weekend I had the pleasure of playing in Game Day at my local store, which just so happens to also be a place you might be familiar with: the Star City Game Center. I won’t brag, but I may or may not have defeated SCG’s own Bradley J.Q. Nelson in an epic finals game 3, where Brad gained well over 50 life, in order to take home the playmat and all the bragging rights. A small knighting ceremony later and I was crowned Game Day Champion. Yeah, I guess I did brag. Just a little bit. So sue me.

As Marius Cholewa informed me, I managed to figure out exactly how to break the Game Day format. You just play the card that’s on the playmat. In this case, that card was Chandra, Pyromaster. Chandra didn’t impress me too much with the pyro aspect, but she made up for that entirely by being a complete master.

I decided to do battle with everyone’s favorite gum/archetype hybrid: Big Red. I refer to the deck as Mono-Red Control personally, but I’m sure someone will correct me in the comments as to the exact differences between the two archetypes. As far as I’m concerned, they are the exact same thing. In other words, this is a mono-red deck that’s not trying to kill you on turn 4. Instead, it tries to tap out and deal a single point of damage to you on turn 4. Count me in.

Here is the list I played:

This was the first time I have ever played a mono-red deck in a sanctioned event. It was definitely an interesting change of pace. Instead of gaining life by casting Unburial Rites on my Thragtusks over and over again, I was . . . uh . . . Zealous Conscripting a Tree of Redemption so I could gain a much-needed twelve life. Old habits die hard.

The only change I’d make moving forward is to add the fourth Mutavault to the maindeck. The games I lost typically involved me stalling on three lands. That’s to be expected in a 25-land deck that tries to cast five-drops with no deck manipulation. The 26th land, and a strong utility land at that, will certainly go a long way to alleviate that problem. I would likely cut a Shock to make space.

What Does It Offer Against Jund?

Burning Earth. Jund doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo that Burning Earth is a thing that can happen. Let’s punish their greed and punish it in game 1. They have no way to remove a Burning Earth that sticks, and it’s a ticking time bomb. Much like Forced Fruition in Lorwyn block Limited, they can only cast so many spells the rest of the game before it’s time to tell them “yeehhh deaaaaaaaad.” They better hope those spells are pretty damn good.

Jund’s plan against Burning Earth thus far has mostly been to win game 1 and just hope they don’t draw it in both post-board games. If we smack them up in game 1 with the card, that strategy becomes much worse.

What’s The Benefit To This Strategy?

Chandra, Pyromaster. The original version of this deck didn’t have Chandra and instead played Hellrider. The more I played with it, the more I began to hate Hellrider. I got into so many situations where I was tanking on whether to suicide Hellrider in for one point of damage just to set up burn spells a few turns later. That’s not where I wanted to be.

I replaced a Hellrider with Chandra.

A few games later, I had four Chandras in the deck.

A few more games and it was pretty clear that Chandra was actually just the best card in the deck. Chandra picks off a lot of creatures that you want dead but you’d rather not use burn spells on. Chandra is difficult for most opponents to remove. Chandra augments your burn spells by adding that last point you need to finish off a creature. In grindy games, you pull ahead by virtue of having a free Phyrexian Arena in play every turn. The incidental damage her +1 provides actually presents a reasonable threat in a grindy game. Her 0 gives you the tools to make the game go long.

For all purposes, her ultimate barely exists in this deck. That’s unfortunate since I’ve had Chandra at seven or more counters a staggeringly high amount of times.

I also love that this deck actually has a fairly versatile sideboard, which is surprising for a mono-red deck. I typically think of a mono-red deck just having a sideboard full of different burn spells that are sometimes upgrades on the ones in the maindeck, but in this case cards like Ratchet Bomb, Possibility Storm[/author]“][author name="Possibility Storm"]Possibility Storm[/author], and Zealous Conscripts offer a number of unique effects for varying matchups.

Here’s an example of what Possibility Storm[/author]“][author name="Possibility Storm"]Possibility Storm[/author] can do. I cast Possibility Storm[/author]“][author name="Possibility Storm"]Possibility Storm[/author] against a U/W Control opponent. He had seven cards in hand and at least ten lands in play, yet it somehow miraculously resolved. The following turn, he cast Sphinx’s Revelation. He flipped cards until he hit another Sphinx’s Revelation. It did nothing. He then followed it up with a Pithing Needle for my Chandra. He flipped through his entire deck and didn’t have another artifact to find. It did nothing. This prompted him to type in chat “I hate you. I hate that card.” He probably wasn’t a huge fan of my Boros Reckoner morphing into a Thundermaw Hellkite, either, but then again I guess that’s just one possibility.

What Are The Drawbacks To This Strategy?

Five toughness. Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice; Thundermaw Hellkite; Advent of the Wurm. These are all problematic cards that can be tough to overcome. Surprisingly enough, Trostani is actually the easiest of these to beat. You wouldn’t expect that from a mono-red deck, but Trostani is slow enough to give you time to set up a few burn spells to pick her off. Advent of the Wurm and Thundermaw Hellkite, on the other hand, don’t exactly give you that kind of setup time.

The plan against Thundermaw Hellkite is to try to race them and hopefully play yours first. The plan against Advent of the Wurm is for your opponent to not draw it or to have Ratchet Bomb in a post-board game.

The other drawback is that sometimes you just play against cards you can’t beat. Without access to other colors, mono-red has a definite vulnerability to certain cards.

For example, in the first ten or so matches I played with the deck, I only lost a few. One of them was to Predator Ooze out of a mono-green deck. I realized quickly I couldn’t beat that card. Another loss was also to Predator Ooze out of a nearly mono-green deck. Why was it nearly mono-green? Well, he had white for Unflinching Courage to put on said Predator Ooze.

“Scoop em up.”

Deck #2: Junk DeseCrats

On Sunday, I was half paying attention to the coverage of the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Salt Lake City as I battled in a Standard Premier Event on Magic Online.

There was one thing that came on coverage that caused me to sit up and take notice though.

I saw Jeremy Crawley, who ended up making the Top 8, playing a version of Junk Aristocrats on camera with Desecration Demon. Having Desecrated a number of opponents in Return to Ravnica Block Constructed, I have a special love for this big guy. He may seem scary, but deep down he’s a softie.

Desecration Demon persecutes your opponent by forcing them to make a decision between letting you take out a giant chunk of their life total and going into the Abyss to avoid that very thing from happening. Generally speaking, when they start having to sacrifice to appease the giant Demon every turn, it doesn’t end particularly well for them, especially if Blood Artist gets into the mix.

The downside, of course, is that sometimes your opponent has a few Doomed Travelers and a Lingering Souls and suddenly Desecration Demon turns into an Abysmal Persecutor. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen too often.

After a lot of tweaking and a moderate amount of twerking, I’ve arrived at the following list. I’m sure this list can certainly be improved a good deal from here, but it’s the best I’ve got right now.

What Does It Offer Against Jund?

Resiliency. It offers the same basic game plan Junk Aristocrats has had against Jund where your cards are very resilient to their removal, pressuring them into a position where they are forced to play a bunch of Bonfires or stick an Olivia Voldaren you can’t kill in order to be able to win. Since you generally don’t have to remove their other creatures, six removal spells should be enough to take care of dear Olivia.

You also have cards like Desecration Demon and Robert Zedat that demand an immediate removal spell or will end the game in a hurry. The combination of plinking away at them with Cartel Aristocrats and Lingering Souls along with the ability to also go big and take huge chunks out of their precious life really puts them in a bind.

What’s The Benefit To This Strategy?

Resiliency. This version of Aristocrats lacks the explosive power that churning out 5/5 Demons on turn 3 can provide, but instead you gain the ability to beat a number of cards that are otherwise nearly unbeatable. Do you think Desecration Demon gives even a single . . . consideration . . . toward Curse of Death’s Hold? Rest in Peace? Give me a break. Obzedat spends half his time in the exile zone already.

I have had Rest in Peace cast against me a few times on Magic Online while playing this deck. I found that quite surprising, as I thought Scavenging Ooze replaced that card in the format. Despite that, I managed to win two out the three games where the RIP Department managed to go active.

I didn’t remove the Rest in Peace. I just attacked them with Desecration Demon.

With decks like Naya Blitz and other hyperaggressive lists falling out of favor for more resilient decks like G/R Aggro, the need for cards like Young Wolf has decreased a lot. That opens up room for more individually powerful threats.

What Are The Drawbacks To This Strategy?

The deck still suffers the same drawbacks it always has, namely struggling to cast spells in a timely fashion due to drawing the wrong mix of lands or simply drawing too many of the wrong synergy-laced cards (I’m talking about you, Doomed Traveler and Blood Artist) and flooding out. And while this version boasts a much stronger game against hate cards like Rest in Peace and Curse of Death’s Hold, I’d still rather not have to play against them.

Deck #3: Junk Reanimator

Did you honestly think I’d leave Junk Reanimator out in the cold? With William Jensen win in Salt Lake City featuring a Jund list that doesn’t play any Lifebane Zombies, I expect that Jund players will start to gravitate in that direction. While I honestly believe that Huey’s version is a better Jund deck than the lists with Lifebane Zombie, it also turns out to be very good news for diehard Reanimators. Lifebane Zombie is a tough card to beat, especially in combination with Scavenging Ooze. I had turned to Liliana of the Veil as a solution to both, but it may not be necessary moving forward.

However, Jund without Lifebane Zombie just so happens to be a pretty good matchup for Junk Reanimator. A pretty damn good matchup indeed.

What Does It Offer Against Jund?

A better grindy game plan. Thanks to Scavenging Ooze pushing cards like Putrefy into the maindeck and a newfound champion in Shadowborn Demon, you don’t really lose to Olivia Voldaren very often anymore. As a result, it’s fairly easy to set up games where both players aren’t really getting anywhere as they trade Tusks and Beasts back and forth, yet you have Unburial Rites, or Obzedat, or Angel of Serenity to pull far ahead when the dust settles.

What’s The Benefit To This Strategy?

The benefits to playing Junk Reanimator are the same as they’ve always been. Unburial Rites and Grisly Salvage are powerful cards, especially when you get to play them in a shell along with Thragtusk and Restoration Angel, which aren’t exactly slouches themselves.

While Junk Reanimator has been a dominant force in Standard for a long time, it’s actually what I would consider to be a “metagame deck.” That’s not to say that you can only play the deck in certain friendly metagames, but more to say that the success of Junk Reanimator hinges a lot on what metagame you build your list to beat. If aggressive decks are all the rage, then you need to dust off those Trostanis, Tree of Redemptions, Fiend Hunters, and Centaur Healers. If U/W/R Flash is reigning king, get Sin Collector and Obzedat in the game.

What this means is that if you build your deck to beat one section of the metagame and you play against that section, you are going to absolutely grind them into dust with your never-ending stream of powerful cards coming into play over and over and over again. Thragtusk. Thragtusk. Unburial Rites targeting Thragtusk. Restoration Angel targeting Thragtusk. “I’ll go to 37 and make a Beast.”

If you play against the wrong section, though, things don’t work out so well. “I guess I’ll . . . uh . . . I guess I’ll Acidic Slime that Rootbound Crag. Your turn. Oh, just a second Hellrider, nothing too scary there. It’s not like I was already dead on board or anything. Has the judge even brought our results slip yet?”

What Are The Drawbacks To This Strategy?

People are maindecking four copies of the best hate card in the format against you in Lifebane Zombie. While I don’t think Scavenging Ooze is enough to get worked up over, it can definitely also pose a problem in combination with other cards. If your opponent wants to beat you, they probably can. There are enough people right now who still want to beat Junk Reanimator.

There are also decks, such as G/W Elves and Bant Hexproof, that are simply atrocious matchups no matter how you slice it. Neither of those decks is particularly popular right now, but it only takes facing either of them once or twice to ruin a tournament. These decks are both solvable matchups, but they attack from such a unique angle that it’s hard to find cards that fight these decks and aren’t also completely useless against the field as a whole. It’s often better to just ignore those matchups and pray you don’t face them.

Jund, on the other hand, is not a matchup you can simply avoid and hope to not face. You’re going to face it. I recommend giving these decks a whirl. See which ones you like, and see if you can’t start turning the tide against the Jund menace.

Jund is the enemy.

Jund is going down.

Thanks for reading,

Brian Braun-Duin
BBD on Magic Online