Positive EV – Next Level Bant versus Jund: The Jund Perspective

The StarCityGames.com Open Series comes to St. Louis!Thursday, June 17th – Earlier this week, Antoine Ruel took us through the Next Level Bant side of the NLB versus Jund matchup. Today, his comrade Manuel Bucher shares his insights from the Jund side of the table. Can the new deck on the block take down the one-time king of the metagame? Read on to find out!

This week’s matchup is one of the more interesting ones in Standard, and likely one you are facing more often if you’re piloting either one of these decks: Jund versus Next Level Bant. As usual, I will be representing the Jund side of the matchup. While checking for the Jund version I wanted to play for the testing session, I found one almost immediately when I checked the Top 8 lists from Grand Prix: Manila.

Before playing the games, I didn’t want to change anything in the decklist. I am not fully convinced by the Doom Blade over the extra Deathmark in the sideboard. The Duresses seem mediocre as well, but since the deck’s creator called it his MVP, I think the card has to be reasonable. As usual, I am a big fan of Master of the Wild Hunt, and I am happy to see a list using the full playset. In the current metagame, I also like the use of Bituminous Blast (which is pretty usual) and the absence of both Siege-Gang Commander and Broodmate Dragon. Sarkhan the Mad is really good in the Jund mirror, but he was mediocre in every other matchup I’ve played thus far. As it’s the very best card, by far, in the mirror, I don’t think you can avoid playing it. I like the way how this list is fighting Spreading Seas and Goblin Ruinblasters by running a lot of lands and the full set of man lands.

Antoine was running the following list:

I expect the matchup to be very close. NLB gives Jund a really tough time, and with a lot of other Jund lists I wouldn’t be as optimistic as I am with the one I am running for these games. Vengevine is by far the biggest threat NLB has to offer, and I think that I win the majority of games where NLB just declines to draw one of the hasted guy. When he draws one copy, I only think I win a low number of games. The light at the end of the tunnel is the absence of good sideboard cards for Bant versus Jund. There are simply some updates for good removal, but there is no threat that is hard to handle coming in, and I would be much more afraid if there were extra copies of Sphinx of Lost Truths in the sideboard to even out the lack of Jace, the Mind Sculptor in post-board games, used to dig for Vengevine.

The Preboard Games (4-8 on the play, 8-4 on the draw)

I can’t really explain the reasons behind why the results are better on the draw and a lot worse when playing first. I still would choose to play first every single time I am playing the matchup, as casting turn 2 Putrid Leeches is just very unfair.

You should try to be the aggressor in the matchup, as all his Planeswalkers and Vengevines are a lot worse in defense than they are when they are on the attack. Both Noble Hierarch and Birds of Paradise are the major targets for your removal. Any other target is simply not as good a target for removal than these, pretty much at any stage of the game. Casting turn 2 Putrid Leech should be what you want to do in every single game, but if you are on the draw I would prefer to kill a mana accelerator, giving you an extra turn. The NLB deck really starts casting its best cards at four mana, and the later your opponent reaches that point, the better it is for you.

Don’t try to kill Vengevine in combat (with a removal spell) the turn your opponent casts it, especially if your opponent still has a mana source for the turn. A post-combat Birds of Paradise means he doesn’t lose any tempo, and he gains card advantage. Bituminous Blast is most often used at the end of turn, but if you’re facing a Celestial Colonnade, the situation comes up where you want to kill it at the beginning of combat, as if he’s low-ish on mana, your opponent can’t cast Bant Charm on the Blast and attack you with the Serra Angel.

While on the offensive, attacking into Vengevine is scary, but you should keep in mind that the cards that bring back Vengevine have a hard time killing your attackers, and keeping the pressure is very important. Once you go into defensive mode, the game gets a lot harder, but sometimes it can’t be avoided.

I wouldn’t cast Blightning in the early stages of the game. Often your opponent wants to cast Vengevine as soon as possible, and Blightning becomes very effective after your opponent casts his first Vengevine. In addition, this is often the time your opponent starts casting Planeswalkers, giving the Blightning an extra option for possible card advantage.

The Sideboard:

+2 Pithing Needle
+2 Doom Blade
+2 Master of the Wild Hunt
-4 Blightning
-2 Terminate

I tried several sideboard options with the deck. At first I tried a more controlling plan with the playset of Duress, boarding out Sarkhan the Mad. Cascading into Duress was really bad every single time. A lot of the games also take a very long time, and once you draw Duress in the latter stage of the game, or (as mentioned) you cascade into it, you just lose a card as your opponent won’t ever keep a non-creature card in his hand.

I boarded in Deathmark instead of Doom Blade, but the instant speed actually mattered a lot in this matchup, so I switched to the instant speed removal spell after a few of the games.

Terminate is just a little bit worse than Doom Blade, for casting cost reasons, but since your opponent’s only targets for your removal spells are Noble Hierarch, Celestial Colonnade, and early Birds of Paradise, you don’t want to be overloading on removal.

I boarded out Blightning since the situations where it is very good just won’t come up very often, and you often have to be scared of your opponents discarding Vengevine.

The Postboard Games (4-9 on the play, 7-6 on the draw)

I lost every single game where I played Duress. It was bad for the reasons above, even though I also wanted to use it to protect my Master of the Wild Hunt.

Pithing Needle is mediocre at best. Most players board out Planeswalkers against Jund, so you have fewer targets in postboard games. Needle is also a very bad cascade, and your opponent can screw you by simply removing the Needle while you build upon its effect. There were only three cards I would ever name in the postboard games: Elspeth, Knight-Errant; Celestial Colonnade; and Misty Rainforest. These three are ranked by the number of times I actually named the card.

In some of the games you can just drop the Needle early and name Elspeth, since it’s the only card you really want to shut down. Against not so careful opponents (or opponents that press F6 on Magic Online), you can drop the Needle when your opponent has just played a Misty Rainforest. With a hand where you don’t fear Elspeth, you can simply name the fetchland on the first turn.

The major problem in postboard games is the lack of a plan against Vengevine (aside from Master of the Wild Hunt). Again, you will lose the majority of games against a single Vengevine, and it is almost impossible to win against multiple copies of the card.

The postboard games don’t change as much, and the testing results not being even is mostly due variance (and my boarding of Duress in the first few games). Both decks get slightly better, but there are no cards that really change the matchup.

If I am playing Jund on Magic Online or future live tournaments , I would definitely have some solutions to the card in my sideboard — something like Necrogenesis or Relic of Progenitus — while I would remove Pithing Needle from a list where I already have four main deck Maelstrom Pulse.

Consuming Vapors is another card that seems good in this particular matchup, as the NLB player has so many guys you actually don’t want to kill. Consuming Vapors will often give you a two-for-one against cards like Wall of Omens, which hurt your aggressive strategy a lot but don’t demand premium removal options

After playing the games, I wouldn’t play the main deck any differently. It was both effective and powerful.

I would build the sideboard a lot differently, with something like this in mind:

2 Relic of Progenitus
1 Necrogenesis
2 Consuming Vapors
1 Master of the Wild Hunt
2 Mind Rot
1 Sarkhan the Mad

2 Doom Blade
1 Forked Bolt
3 Duress

The sideboard is a mix from YuChen Liu and Yuuta Takahashi’s list, with the addition of solutions to fight Vengevine. Since I didn’t board in Deathmark against a deck with Noble Hierarch, I just removed that card from the sideboard completely. With Consuming Vapors in the sideboard, and a solution to Vengevine, I don’t think you want to be running the full set of Master of the Wild Hunt (yes, I said it…), and I could even see myself cutting the third one from the sideboard.

If you don’t want to play with Necrogenesis or Relic of Progenitus, I would suggest you run some Malakir Bloodwitches. The card is not very good on defense, since it doesn’t deal with Vengevine, but when attacking, your opponent can’t block it too often (there are only the 2 Birds of Paradise), and they won’t have any access to removal that actually kills the card.

The matchup is pretty complicated, as it can generate a fair amount of complex board situations, and I would suggest that if you are playing Jund or NLB, focus on this matchup while testing.

I wouldn’t run Goblin Ruinblaster in the current metagame. It just isn’t as good as it was in the Jund mirror anymore, since the deck focuses a lot more on early drops than on Broodmate Dragons nowadays. This makes the card only really good against Planeswalkers and UW Control. In both these matchups, I would expect Duress to be better than the Goblin.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading!

Manu B