The Ramifications Of Bloodbraid Elf In Jund At SCG Dallas

Jund Jadine continued her love of all things Bloodbraid with a Top 8 in Texas last weekend! Today, she gives her updated guide to the deck and some important context to the controversial finish to her match with Jim Davis!

I wasn’t intending on writing about Jund this week, but then I went and
made the elimination rounds at #SCGDFW.


So, Jund aficionados, good news: you get another Jund article. Enjoy it,
because the good news for those who don’t like Jund articles is that we’ll
be back to our regularly scheduled programming next week.

I started playing post-unban Modern about two weeks before #SCGDFW. After
five days of play on Magic Online, I realized it would be borderline
irresponsible to not find a way to attend the Open. My flight wasn’t
finalized until the Thursday before the event. Ryan Overturf said in
Fact or Fiction
that he’d be inclined to take me over the field to win the tournament on
Friday. I ended up losing in the quarterfinals. Not quite the win I was
looking for, but good enough to make both my decision to attend and Ryan’s
prediction look pretty okay.

Bloodbraid Elf changed everything about Jund. I can’t even imagine feeling
confident enough about the Modern format to book a last-minute flight in
the days before Bloodbraid Elf, but the decision to go to Dallas wasn’t
even particularly difficult. Jund is much better than it was just a few
weeks ago, and I couldn’t be happier.

Cascading Deckbuilding Decisions

Here’s the list I ended up registering at Dallas:

I had the awesome opportunity to do a deck tech on-site with Nick Miller,
which you can watch below:

Watch Deck Tech: Jund with
Jadine Klomparens from SCGTour on

We talked about the final build I arrived at and some of the card choices,
but in a bit of an ad hoc fashion. Today I have the opportunity to dive in
to the train of thought that led to this deck from beginning to end, and
I’m going to take it.

The obvious starting point when considering how to adapt Jund to play
Bloodbraid Elf is how many lands to play. Bloodbraid Elf is, after all, a
four-drop, a cost that has historically been the absolute top of Jund’s
curve. Indeed, in recent times before the unbanning, I had been playing a
lot of 23-land Jund decks that didn’t play any card that cost more than
three mana.

Like most of us who play Magic on a “time budget,” I do my best to not
spend my time reinventing the wheel. The first thing I did was go back to
the last time Jund was considered a top-tier deck, when its curve was
higher than it has been in recent months.

Curve-wise, my list from this Invitational was fairly representative of the
Jund decks of the era. 24 lands, two four-drops, and six or seven
three-drops was stock back then. My recollections from playing Jund at that
time are that the deck felt a tad land-light if anything and that the
creature-lands did an excellent job of mitigating flood scenarios.

Playing four four-drops instead of two is a significant increase to the
deck’s curve. Further, Bloodbraid Elf incentivizes us to play more
three-drops, as cascading into a three-drop gives us the most bang for our
proverbial buck. How many more three-drops? Well, ideally we play as many
as we can without becoming unrealistically slow for the format. In my
testing, I decided on eight as the upper bound of what I was comfortable

In any case, with two more four-drops and two more three-drops, I
definitely wanted to play the 25th land, and all the games I played
confirmed that 25 was a good number. The problem, however, is that the Jund
deck plays no card filtering and only Dark Confidant for card draw, and
thus cannot stop itself from drawing too many lands.

Because of this, I decided to play a fifth creature-land in the deck. I
split the three Treetop Village over two Raging Ravine for a couple of
reasons. First, Treetop Village is better at fighting planeswalkers, and I
expected Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Liliana of the Veil to see a lot of
play. Second, the raising of the curve in the Jund deck makes
double-spelling more difficult, which means that you want to spend your
whole turn animating Raging Ravine less often. I can “double-spell” with a
two-drop and a Treetop Village attack with the same mana a Raging Ravine
attack would take, a scenario that comes up frequently.

The last question to ask about the curve is this: where are these extra
three-drops coming from? We’re adding four-drops and we’re adding a land,
so either the one-drops or the two-drops have to give. I opted to cut twos
in spite of wanting an overall higher curve, as early interaction is so
critical in Modern.

Actually, I went further than that. I cut the twos a little harder than
necessary, in favor of a fifth one-drop removal spell. Instead of raising
the curve, I polarized it. Having more one-drops plays well with every
decision made thus far. They make it easier to play your
enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands, they let you double-spell earlier and
more reliably than two-drops would alongside all the threes and fours that
you want to play.

Alright, we’re done talking about the curve. Time to discuss the actual
spells that we’re choosing to play, but first we have to talk about one
more mana-centric thing. There’s a big-picture trend going on in Modern
right now:

Field of Ruin is catching on across all sorts of archetypes, and between
it, Spreading Seas, Stone Rain, and Blood Moon, mana denial is at an
all-time high in Modern. Is Jund supposed to play a basic Mountain to play
around Field of Ruins?

As you can tell from my decklist, my vote is no. Drawing the Mountain is
just too high a cost; it being one of the lands in your opening hand will
either stunt your ability to cast your spells on time or force you to take
a lot of damage from your shocklands, maybe both. Taking damage is a very
real concern, as one of the consequences of raising our curve to support
Bloodbraid Elf is that we should be expecting to take more damage off of
Dark Confidant.

I don’t want to play the Mountain, but I’m also not advocating for simply
crossing our fingers and hoping our mana works out. I made the decision to
limit the red spells I played as much as possible. In the end, aside from
Lightning Bolt and Bloodbraid Elf, the only red card in my main deck was a
single copy of Kolaghan’s Command.

Playing fewer red spells doesn’t just mean we end up with fewer cards
trapped in our hand in the event that we get stranded off red mana. It
means we don’t need red mana as early or as often as we otherwise would,
and thus don’t have to shock ourselves for an untapped dual as often. We
can hold our red sources in hand until we intend to cast a red spell and
guarantee we get an opportunity to cast it.

Besides limiting the quantity of red mana symbols in our deck, the other
factor influencing the spells that made the final cut was what the best
cards to hit off of Bloodbraid Elf were. These two factors collided in an
obvious way when it came to the two-drop slot:

The flex slot spells with converted mana cost two in the Jund shell are
Terminate and Abrupt Decay. Abrupt Decay is a more reliable cascade, as it
has excellent applications against both creature and non-creature decks.
Abrupt Decay also doesn’t cost red mana. The stars aligned on this one.

Being without Terminate means we have a hard time killing the monsters of
the format, notably Gurmag Angler and Reality Smasher. Because of this, I
want two of my three-drops to be Maelstrom Pulse. Again, not a red spell.
Four Liliana of the Veil is mandatory, which leaves us with two slots. I
split them between Liliana, the Last Hope and Kolaghan’s Command, and was
tempted to abandon Kolaghan’s Command entirely.

I said in the deck tech that I’m lower on Kolaghan’s Command than the rest
of the world, but missed the most important reason for why I don’t like it:
it’s hard for it to have two modes that affect the battlefield. When the
two damage can’t kill a creature, Kolaghan’s Command has very limited
immediate impact on the battlefield. Bloodbraid Elf is at its best when its
attacking, and cascade spells that reliably impact the battlefield help it
do this. Hitting a reliable removal spell clears the way, hitting a
creature guarantees we have a blocker. In the end, going down to one copy
of Kolaghan’s Command was an easy call to make.

Note how these decisions are all hanging together. We wanted to raise our
curve to play and maximize Bloodbraid Elf, but we’re worried about taking
too much damage off of Dark Confidant. We decide to polarize our curve and
play more ones and threes and fewer twos to have more effective cascades
while still preserving our ability to interact early and double-spell when
needed. This gives us the ability to let our lands enter the battlefield
tapped more often, which helps with our life total. We cut Terminate as the
red two-drop and don’t need early red nearly as often, which means we can
avoid shocking ourselves to have access to red mana on turn 2. Our
deckbuilding decisions all have a certain logic to them, and are made in
such a way that the logic behind each of them never contradicts.

Would I change anything? There’s always room for improvement, but I was
quite happy with how the deck played all weekend. I want the sixth Fatal
Push, but I’m not at all sure what I would cut for it. The Liliana’s Defeat
in the sideboard was probably too cute; I only sideboarded it in once all
weekend. Those two changes are at the top of my list for future changes, on
top of whatever adaptation is necessary to be best prepared for the
ever-changing Modern metagame.

I want to talk about how Bloodbraid Elf has changed Jund’s approach to many
matchups, but Modern’s too big for me to cover every matchup in the format
so I’m just going to talk about the ones that are the most relevant going
forward. That’s still too many to realistically talk about, so I’m just
going to choose from among those I played against last weekend. Notably, I
did not play the Jund mirror at all during the tournament, so if you want
to read what I think about that matchup, you should check out my
from last week.

VS Collected Company Decks



In the days before Bloodbraid Elf, I hit upon the idea to sideboard out
discard against Collected Company decks in order to better beat them on the
battlefield, and my winrate in these matchups increased dramatically upon
implementation. With Bloodbraid, this plan just got better. Play to the
battlefield, save removal for the creatures that matter, which means not “bolting the bird” most of the time. Use Liliana of the Veil
to weaken the power of Eternal Witness and play to win a game where the
battlefield stalls for a time.

VS Death’s Shadow Decks



There’s a lot of different Death’s Shadow decks out there, but their
matchups with Jund are all very similar. Bloodbraid Elf gives you a lot of
staying power if you can survive that long. Death’s Shadow decks are good
at compressing the game into very few turns. Your goal should be to survive
those early turns. Prioritize killing their threats over nearly everything
else and look to pull ahead with Bloodbraid Elf in the mid-game.

VS Affinity



This matchup has gotten a little worse in the new era, but it’s not
Bloodbraid Elf’s fault. Affinity has always had access to the tools to
fight Jund, and now its pilots know they need to play them. Expect more
Etched Champions. This means we want to keep in more copies of Inquisition
of Kozilek and Liliana of the Veil than we otherwise would, but the matchup
is otherwise the same as it’s always been.

VS Eldrazi Tron



Bloodbraid Elf is a great card here and made this matchup better, but my
exact list made it considerably worse. This is the place where we’re really
missing Terminate. With my list, you need to look to make a 5/6 Tarmogoyf
and use it to stabilize the battlefield. You lean heavily on Liliana of the
Veil to deal with their threats and shouldn’t deploy her when you can’t
defend her from a Reality Smasher if she’s not immediately going to take
out one of their high-impact threats. Two Lightning Bolts stay in to clear
the way of Matter Reshaper so that Liliana’s minus two can do what we need
it to.

VS U/R Gifts Storm



Next up are a trio of decks where Bloodbraid Elf made the matchup worse.
Good storm players will hold their Baral, Chief of Compliance and Goblin
Electromancer until the turn they want to combo, so tapping out is very
dangerous. I still do so on three to cast Liliana of the Veil, as Liliana
of the Veil is our best card in the matchup and we’re reasonably unlikely
to die before our turn 4. The same can’t be said about Bloodbraid Elf or
our turn 5.

VS Ponza



Bloodbraid Elf is a great card for us in this matchup, but it’s a better
card for them. This matchup is very bad when they are successfully Blood
Mooning us and destroying our lands, and very good when they’re not. If you
can force them to play on schedule by killing the Arbor Elves and the
Utopia Sprawls, you’re in a good spot. Never think you can let them cast
Blood Moon, as they will just kill your carefully fetched basics.

The sideboarding here is pretty scant, and that’s because I’m honestly
unsure of what the best angle of attack is. It’s possible we want to lower
our curve by sideboarding out Bloodbraids and play Collective Brutality,
and it’s also possible that we’re supposed to worry about managing to out
midrange them when they don’t land destruction us out of the game. I don’t
have enough experience in the matchup yet to be sure.

VS Infect



This matchup is traditionally hugely in Jund’s favor, and yet I lost to it
twice on the weekend. I played suboptimally in the swiss and had some
unfortunate draws in the quarterfinals, but I’m still confident in saying
the matchup got worse. Not a lot worse, and it’s still a good matchup for
Jund, but it’s definitely not as good as it once was.

Similar to the U/R Gifts Storm matchup, the reason it’s worse is that
tapping out is scary, and new-era Jund is designed to tap out much more
often. Additional bad news includes the fact that Abrupt Decay can’t kill
Inkmoth Nexus and going back to Lightning Bolt means your removal spells
can be pumped over. Our game plan hasn’t changed: go for removal on your
turn or their end step, try to keep them off creatures.

VS Jeskai Control



This is probably my favorite matchup in Modern and Bloodbraid Elf made it
much easier. Bloodbraid is historically good against both Jace, the Mind
Sculptor and counter spells, and Jeskai plays both. Their best card is
Search for Azcanta, and you should discard it whenever possible and never
pass on the chance to Abrupt Decay it before it transforms. Early on, you
want to use your discard to create a hole to resolve Liliana of the Veil
through, and later on, you want to hold it to pave the way for whatever
threat you find. Keep any of your permanents on the battlefield for more
than a turn or two and you will find yourself winning this matchup.

Speaking of Jeskai, I want to close this out by speaking briefly about what
transpired in game 1 of my win-and-in against Jim Davis in round
fifteen. I’m seeing a lot of misinformation spreading around the internet,
and I don’t want the exemplary sportsmanship he demonstrated to be lost in
the shuffle.

On the last turn of the game, I declared an attack with a 5/6 Tarmogoyf and
a 3/3 Scavenging Ooze while Jim was at eleven life. I had access to three
green mana, and there were four creatures remaining in the graveyards, a
question that had been asked by Jim and confirmed by me on the turn
preceding this one. If I ate three of those creatures, my Ooze would be a
6/6 without affecting the power of Tarmogoyf, and my attack would be

During Jim’s last turn, I had calculated that if he had nothing, Jim would
be forced to chump block with Celestial Colonnade on my attack. When he
declared no blocks, I figured he had Path to Exile in hand and I was just
very dead, but knew I had to go for it in case his holdings were burn
spells that he was hoping to win with after I took the conservative line of
not tapping out of green mana.

I went through the motions of activating Scavenging Ooze very quickly. Too
quickly. Jim asked me to back up, as he wanted to think with the last
Scavenging Ooze activation on the stack. In resetting to that game state, I
messed up and dialed the Scavenging Ooze back too far. Jim decided to let
it happen, as the battlefield I was representing was not a lethal attack. I
was confused, but I had been playing too quickly all match and assumed I
messed up my math the turn before and didn’t question it.

After combat was all said and done, Jim played Snapcaster Mage, flashing
back Lightning Bolt to take me down to six life. With Snapcaster Mage and
Celestial Colonnade on the battlefield, he had a lethal attack on his next
turn and I was without cards in hand, so I conceded.

If this game hadn’t been on camera, I would have never realized what
happened. The spotter asked us while we were preparing for game 2 if the
Scavenging Ooze was missing a counter, and it instantly hit both of us how
we messed that one up and how awkward the situation we now found ourselves
in was. I asked for the head judge to come over, who confirmed that the
game had ended, and there was nothing they could do now about our mistake.

This is the correct ruling, and I was prepared to accept that. Jim,
however, was not. He asked if he would be allowed to concede game 1
instead, and then did so.

What Jim did was the classiest thing I have seen in my entire time playing
Magic, and it’s not close. No one would have faulted him had he not
conceded. If he hadn’t asked if he could, no one would have even thought
about the possibility that he might. I certainly wouldn’t have been upset
with him for accepting that win.

Jim’s level of sportsmanship should be held up and applauded by the entire
community. “What would Jim Davis do?” is certainly the question I will be
asking myself in every Magic ethics/sportsmanship spot I find myself in
from here on out.