Reflecting Ruel – Jund versus Pyromancer’s Ascension: The Ascension Perspective

Wednesday, August 25th – Earlier this week, Antoine Ruel threw Jund at Oli’s Ascension deck. Today, the combo player from the Hall of Fame has his say on the matchup.

Today, Antoine and I are testing Jund against Pyromancer’s Ascension.

I’ll be running the combo deck. My build is the latest version by Guillaume Matignon.

On the other side of the table, Antoine will be running Guido Roccoli’s Jund.

Maindeck Games (13-11, 54.2% wins)

On the play: 6-6
On the draw: 7-5

The most important thing that determines the outcome of the matchup is if they can resolve an early Putrid Leech. If the 2/2 resolves, you’ll have much less time (one to three turns, usually) to set up your combo. As they have around a 40-45% chance of having it, and as you will be able to counter it 25-30% of the time (when you have Mana Leak and are on the play; remember, your odds are higher as you have Preordain and Ponder), you will face it about one game out of three.

In the games we played, Antoine resolved the Leech on turn 2 in about 50% of the games, which was clearly excessive. However, it didn’t affect the score that much as, to compensate for his insane numbers of Leeches drawn, he found very few Maelstrom Pulses.

How to Play the Matchup:

– Against Putrid Leech: They probably won’t pump it, but it is still often worth keeping a Red mana open to dissuade them from doing so. Just keep in mind that an open Red mana should save you two life. However, when they have double Leech. they won’t mind, as in any circumstance they will be able to hit for a minimum of four, as they will pump their second Leech if you kill the first.

– Against Blightning: In the early game, you can’t really play around it. Just remember that a card you discard will be a card that can trigger Pyromancer Ascension. Let’s take a simple example. You have Preordain, Ponder, and Island in hand, and they cast Blightning while you have one Ponder in your graveyard but no Preordain. It is better to discard the scrying draw spell, so that when you eventually draw Ascension, the next Preordain you draw will be more efficient.

– Against Pulse: In theory, it would be good to wait for the mid- or late-game before you cast your enchantment so you can start copying on the same turn. But you don’t really want to do that, because slowrolling will end up in painful Blightnings, and because you can’t really afford to take that much time. The simplest option is to play Pyromancer Ascension pretty early in the game. Not on turn 2, usually, as it is better to keep the mana open for Mana Leak or to play a draw spell you don’t already have in the graveyard. Make the enchantment on turn 3 or 4. Also, as they have a lot of lands which enter the battlefield tapped, Mana Leak will often be efficient until turn 6 or 7, if not a little longer.

Only once did I manage to slowroll the enchantment and go off on the turn on which I played it. But it was a very peculiar case, as Antoine was not drawing a thing and was holding five cards for the whole game (most likely removal, including Pulse), while the only things I had were a pair of Time Warps and Pyromancer Ascension in hand, with six lands on the table. I decided it was wiser to wait for 3 or 4 turns and expose myself to a topdecked Blightning than to jump into his Vindicate. In this rare situation, holding the enchantment is definitely the right choice.

In this match-up, game 1 is decent enough. It may be slightly negative (I should probably win between 40% and 45% of the games), but you still have good chance. However, if the opponent doesn’t know the match-up and/or plays badly and pumps his Leech every time, the match-up goes to 50-50, if not higher, in your favor.


When you are running a combo deck, the problem is that there are usually only a few cards you can afford to take out. If you have a transformational sideboard, things are different, but that’s another story. Indeed, the deck we’re dealing with today does have such a board strategy, but it doesn’t concern this match-up. Therefore, you will only bring in the 4 Spreading Seas. Not only are you a combo deck, you’re one which needs four copies of each spell it is playing, so you can’t really afford a “-1, -1, -1, -1” strategy. As Call to Mind had little to no impact in the first games, I decided to take both copies out. Next, the only three cards I would consider cutting were 1 Time Warp, and 1 or 2 of Burst Lightnings and Lightning Bolts.

As my burn hadn’t done much in the first 26 games but intimidate Leeches (which Antoine wouldn’t have pumped anyway), I decided to keep the Time Warp and to reduce the burn spells to six.

So, what burn to cut? Both cards have pretty much the same power level. Burst Lightning with kicker can kill Putrid Leech, but Lightning Bolt can easily deal with Raging Ravine. But before considering if one is better than the other, the question I should ask is this: is it better to run four of one and two of the other, split them three and three?

To be honest, I have absolutely no idea. If someone who is better at math than I am could answer in the forums, I’d be really curious to know. I went with the three and three split, as both cards are equally good.

4 Spreading Seas

2 Call to Mind
1 Burst Lightning
1 Lightning Bolt

Postboard Games 8-18 (30.8% wins)

On the play: 3-10
On the draw: 5-8

As always when facing Jund, you feel the match-up is close pre-board, only to realize his sideboard is a lot stronger than yours. Duress and Prophetic Prism hurt a lot, while Spreading Seas won one game and was maybe relevant in another three or four.

The card is not nearly as good as it seems. It may be a cantrip, but it is not a sorcery, and therefore not a card which helps the combo. It is very often off tempo on the draw. Antoine did keep drawing an insane amount of Putrid Leeches, making it definitely less effective, but he also had Prophetic Prism, with the sole use of annihilating my enchantment’s effect. As the card was decent on the play but just bad on the draw, I decided to eventually leave it out when Antoine was playing first. Instead, I was simply running the maindeck version in those games. The results on the draw were pretty similar with both versions, but I’m pretty sure this was the way to go.

As for the games themselves, the result seemed a little severe, but not by much. 9-17 or 10-16 may have been more accurate, but these are still pretty bad results.

As for playing itself, the only thing which really changes is the way you should be playing around Duress.

When you cast Ponder or Preordain, keep in mind that your best cards should remain on top of your library. It may be a Time Warp, or an Ascension of course, but may also include all the cards he will be glad to know you have, so he can play around them (such as the removal spells and Mana Leak).

Options to Improve the Match-Up

I’ve been thinking about this a great deal, and to be honest I didn’t come up anything that convinced me. As Jund is not powerful as it used to be, and therefore not as popular in the current field, I’d recommend still running this version, except maybe for Spreading Seas (which you can cut for something more useful in another match-up). And anyway, in a match-up which is 50-50 main deck and 33-67 postboard, you’ll still take one match out of three, which is still pretty decent.

For people who would like to give Ascension a try, I’d highly recommend trying the version with which Tobias Grafensteiner accessed German National Top 8. The use of Polymorph after sideboard gives a more reliable kill option in this match-up, and it will be more surprising to your opponents who are now a little more familiar with the vanilla version of the strategy.

Have a great week!

Olivier Ruel