Positive EV – Jund versus Allies: The Ally Perspective

The StarCityGames.com Open Series returns to Atlanta!
Wednesday, April 21st – Manuel Bucher picked up a powerful Naya Allies list and took it to battle against Antoine Ruel’s Jund. He deconstructs their fifty-game battle today, before presenting an intriguing new Standard list called Grixis Discovery…

Today’s matchup of interest will be Jund versus Allies. Since I’ve written about Jund for the past few weeks, Antoine gave me a choice on which deck I wanted to play. I decided that I probably can’t teach a lot more about Jund, but I might be able to say a lot for any other deck when it’s playing against Jund.

The deck list of choice will be the one that our flatmate Alex Rivière piloted to a Top16 result at Grand Prix: Brussels.

This list does not run any manlands, and is built to kill as quickly as possible. Other popular choices in Ally maindecks are Naya Charm and Violent Outburst. Those are not included in the deck, for the full set of Path to Exiles and a pair of Harabaz Druids. I am not sure about the addition of Baneslayer Angel, but I guess the card is too powerful to dismiss in any White deck.

I expect the matchup against Jund to be pretty tough, especially against such a removal-heavy list as the winning build from GP: Brussels.

As a reminder, here’s the decklist Antoine was running:

Preboard Games: 10-14

There are not a lot of decisions you can screw up in the games you play against Jund. There is the usual must-do play: playing around Blightning. Whenever you go down to a few cards in hand, you should already know what you’ll discard to Blightning. It often means that playing around Blightning sees you going down to two cards in hand but generating enough pressure on the board that your opponent can’t possibly cast a Blightning on his next turn, assuming he has options.

Usually, you should play the cheap allies that grow before you play the white Rares — unless you are playing around Blightning. If you start the game with a second turn Oran-Rief Survivalist, it is almost always better to play a freshly drawn Hada Freeblade over Kabira Evangels. Even if your opponent has an annoying threat like Sprouting Thrinax or Putrid Leech, the damage you will be able to force trough with an early-game Kabira Evangel will not be able to match the damage the card is able to force through later on, especially if played on the same turn as Akoum Battlesinger. In addition, if you play your Freeblade later on, it will barely be able to represent a threat against the Jund player, and it’s more or less a dead card.

You often have the choice of either playing Oran-Rief Survivalist or Kazandu Blademaster on the second turn. Playing the Blademaster is almost always the right choice; the only exception is when you draw two copies of one of the two-drops. If you have two copies of one of those, you should almost always be playing the one you have twice first, which will give you additional equity against Maelstrom Pulse. Playing Kazandu Blademaster first usually makes it big enough to fight with Putrid Leeches and Sprouting Thrinax and survive the battle. Also, your manabase will usually support a turn 3 Oran-Rief Survivalist and Hada Freeblade, but might deny you a Blademaster plus a Freeblade.

Bear in mind that if you are playing Bloodbraid Elf, you should keep up a Red mana, if you are able to keep up anything, since this allows you to kick Goblin Bushwhacker if you are unlucky enough to reveal it.

In games where you are able to force through a lot of damage early on but eventually stall, your opponent will usually keep at least two creatures in defence that do not share any colors. When this scenario comes up, it is often right not to play Kabira Evangel until you draw another Ally, which enables you to kill on the same turn. This counts for any other ally… until you draw Kabira Evangel. To make this plan work, you shouldn’t play lands 5-6 or Harabaz Druid (once you don’t need its mana boosting ability anymore), so you are able to discard blanks to Blightning (well, Harabaz Druid is still an Ally, but don’t play it on turn 4 if you already have 4 lands and you don’t need it to pump up your allies).

The Sideboard

+1 Baneslayer Angel
-1 Goblin Bushwhacker

I talked to Alex Rivière on how I should be sideboarding in the matchup. My first thoughts would have been to add Celestial Purge, or at least remove Path to Exile for the two mana instant. I also would have cut the two Harabaz Druid for Dauntless Escorts. But since your opponent is very likely to not show up with Blightning post board, and you now have two Baneslayer Angels, having Harabaz Druid makes a fair amount of sense. Path to Exile gives you additional equity against Maelstrom Pulse. If you have an aggressive draw, Path to Exile’s casting cost difference often makes a real difference, and can be the decider on whether you either win or lose the game.

Goblin Bushwhacker seems like an easy cut, since tempo should not matter as much in post-board game as it did in pre-board ones. Your opponent has more plentiful and cheaper removal to stop your early aggression, and Goblin Bushwhacker will be pretty blank if you don’t draw Ranger of Eos, which should be able to put you in decent shape no matter what.

Postboard Games: 8-18

The post-board games are a lot tougher than the pre-board games, especially against such a removal-heavy list as the one Antoine was playing, which has a ton more removal post-board. Your draw does not matter a lot, assuming it is not the god draw. If your opponent is not screwed or flooded and you have an average draw, winning will be very rare. Playing around Blightning won’t be necessary anymore, as your standard expectation should be that your opponent won’t have any post-board.

This lets you mulligan far more aggressively, since there is no more Blightning that would win the game immediately when you mull down to five or six cards. Curving out is still super important in post-board games, even though your opponent is very likely to have removal for all your early threats. But if you have your first play on turn 3 or 4, your opponent will generate a lot of pressure, and once you are behind it is almost impossible to catch up. Even Bloodbraid Elf is not as good here as it is in other decks, in regard to helping you catch up in games, since the turn you play the Elf you are very likely to be cascading into a Grizzly Bear or Squire, which won’t help you with an immediate comeback.

This is why I would mulligan such a hand, both on the draw and on the play:
1 Jungle Shrine
2 Plains
1 Ancient Ziggurat
1 Forest
1 Baneslayer Angel

It is a pretty decent six-card hand in almost any matchup, but against Jund he will always have a removal spell for your Angel once you don’t have any early threats. In addition, this hand is also unlikely to win against a screwed or flooded opponent, where an aggressive five-card hand can easily win against a bad draw from your opponent

Jund Charm can steal games from you very easily. Once your opponent has Jund mana up on turn 3, you might want to play Kabira Evangel over the small Allies that grow, since you don’t want your opponent to have yet another two- or even three-for-one that takes the tempo too.

Jund Charm is the only new factor in post-board games, and the games you are now playing are very similar to the pre-board games where your opponent has a very removal-heavy draw.

I expect a list with manlands to perform better in this matchup. It might cost you some percentage in pre-board games, but they should have a big impact in post-board games. I think it is right to not run any Naya Charms, since all the abilities don’t seem very exciting in the matchup. Once you are tapping all your opponent’s, guys there is a good chance that you’ve already won or lost anyway. The Regrowth effect is super expensive, while the Lightning Bolt is not the kind of removal you are looking for when facing Putrid Leech and Sprouting Thrinax. I would like to see a pair of Violent Outburst or Join the Ranks in the list, as those cards make it a lot tougher to play for your opponent, and should easily make up for the weaker power level. The most powerful list might have been a good choice as long as people didn’t know what your deck was doing. Now this has changed, and your opponent will play almost perfectly against a straightforward list.

Later this week I will be writing about a deck I am playing with a fair amount of success on Magic Online. The deck has decent results against Jund and UW Control, as well as against any White-based beatdown deck. Sadly it gets completely destroyed by Mono Red Aggro and any Howling Mine deck (seriously… you can save time by just conceding).

This is the deck list:

That’s it for this week, and thanks for reading.

Manu B