Thirst For Knowledge – Jund: Taking On All Comers

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Tuesday, April 27th – Yes, I know what you’re thinking: “not another article about Jund!” Unfortunately, Jund has warped Standard so much that with every new set release literally the only thing most of us care about is whether or not Jund will be knocked off its throne. That being said, has Rise of the Eldrazi finally done it? I’m not sure yet, but I will say that Jund itself will need to work much harder for its wins now more than ever.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking: “not another article about Jund!” Unfortunately, Jund has warped Standard so much that with every new set release literally the only thing most of us care about is whether or not Jund will be knocked off its throne. That being said, has Rise of the Eldrazi finally done it? I’m not sure yet, but I will say that Jund itself will need to work much harder for its wins now more than ever.

The primary reason that Jund’s work is now cut out for it is simply due to Vengevine. Yes, Wall of Omens is amazing against Jund (as well as all the other creature-based decks in the format), but at the end of the day Vengevine goes a long way in doing what really needed to be done: nerfing Blightning.

It’s not as though Blightning is suddenly bad. You’re still going to be hit by it and end up pitching your two best cards, and you definitely won’t always have Vengevine in your hand. Moreover, most times when you discard a Vengevine or two, you just might not every be able to find a second creature to cast in order to throw them back into play. A dead Vengevine isn’t that awesome when it stays dead, no?

A long story short, Naya gets to seriously abuse Vengevine. You know that by now, and you’ve no doubt seen what happens when you combine it with Kor Skyfisher per the suggestion of LSV and Chapin. And yes, I concede that Vengevine will always just be better in a deck packing Ranger of Eos and Bloodbraid Elf, but I wouldn’t count Jund out just yet. I’m going to try playing Devil’s Advocate here, since I have actually grown fairly fond of Jund over the last few months.

Naya decks will now have a built-in immunity to Blightning (well, sometimes — again, they have to have it in their hand when you cast the spell), and they can sideboard into cards like Wall of Omens if they feel like it. This doesn’t bode well for our friends Putrid Leech and Sprouting Thrinax, but I’m not convinced that Jund should just roll over and die. Before I go on, let’s take a look at what type of a Jund deck most people are running in their gauntlets for Grand Prix DC:

Your lists may not look exactly like this, but this the kind of Jund we’re used to. While I don’t really know if this needs to change that drastically, it is important to note that Jund does have options. The most obvious of them, though, is using its own hate card itself: Vengevine.

If the Jund deck wants to play its own Vengevines, it is important to weigh the pros and cons. If we want to get back our Vengevines, we’re going to need to either get lucky with Bloodbraid Elves or slow roll creatures in the midgame. Now, don’t get me wrong: there are actually many times (in the mirror, particularly) where I will be pretty defensive the first few turns and play Terminates and Doom Blades or maybe a Blightning, and then start laying threats. Some hands you open with Jund just naturally take that route, and those are the hands that can best utilize Vengevine. If you’ve got one in your hand, either they will Blightning it out of your hand or you can play it on turn 4 as a beater/huge blocker and have it die the old fashioned way. In these situations, it is easy to see how we can effortlessly get it back and gain some card advantage, as we’re undoubtedly holding onto a Thrinax and Leech or something at that point.

Still, that isn’t really enough. Our creatures are expensive, and often we can’t cast two in a turn even if we have them. What we would need, then, are simply more creatures. Jund has lots of powerful spells, certainly, but we don’t need as many if we play more threats that help us utilize the recursion element of our 4/3s. I propose something like this, maybe:

Clearly inspired somewhat by Manuel Bucher Master Jund, this version of the deck eschews some of the removal in the deck for more creatures, including some creatures that function in similar ways to the old spells (Borderland Ranger as Rampant Growth, etc). Master of the Wild Hunt gets the general nod over Siege-Gang Commander because of its mana cost, but I’m not sure if that’s correct yet or not. The noncreature spells are generally just trimmed down, with a Bolt getting a cut over a Terminate since it can’t deal with a Wall of Omens all on its own.

This version of the deck is certainly a bit different to play than a typical Jund list, but it can certainly work. The important thing to keep in mind when playing with Vengevine, though, is not to be afraid to cast creatures because you want to “freecast” Vengevine. By this, I mean that you shouldn’t be holding that Putrid Leech as the only card in your hand for three turns hoping that you draw a Thrinax off the top to help you get two creatures off in a turn, especially when you could be blocking/beating with the Leech instead.

Tip #2 for playing with this card in Jund is to sometimes just ignore the graveyard ability. I mean, since when would Jund not be psyched to be casting 4/3 haste creatures for four mana? He’s large enough to take down any of the deck’s creatures in the mirror, and he can add a lot of damage to an alpha strike if you rip him off the top. His body makes him vulnerable to Bolt, sure, but that’s the part where his graveyard trigger does come into play. No matter how you slice it, it’s a decent card for Jund.

Like I said, I’m not sure if this is the best way to utilize Vengevine in Jund, but since my classes are now officially over for the semester I’m sure I’ll find out very soon. In the meantime, though, I do have some other general ideas for Jund as it evolves to stop all comers.

First of all, Goblin Ruinblaster is a card that we all tend to take for granted in the sideboard of the deck, but how often do we consider playing him maindeck? I mean, I’ll admit he’s pretty awkward as a creature himself, but his body isn’t that bad, and against most of the field his kicker is good enough to put you significantly far ahead. UW Tap Out tends to get a fair number of hands where they are mostly immune to him, but there are lots of times where keeping them off Martial Coup mana for just one more turn is more than enough to take a game. He’s fine against Mythic, and even against Naya he can blow up Wildwoods. Since Jund is such a large part of the meta, playing pre-boarded against the mirror for the upcoming PTQs doesn’t sound like such an awful idea. I know the fear is that he can be a do-nothing against decks like Mono Red, but I’m not so sure we can beat their deck game 1 anyway.

Speaking of Mono Red, if the deck takes off as a Tier 1 strategy then Jund will need to take steps to defend against it. Dragon’s Claw is a fine way to do that, but it might not be good enough. I’ve been pondering the idea of Momentous Fall as a tool against that deck, and with Vengevine it might actually be a realistic option. Fall is easily at its best when played in response to a removal spell, but even just as an end-of-turn play it’s pretty fair. Even if you’re just pumping a Leech (and effectively only gaining two life), four cards and some free life is pretty ridiculous. Binning a Thrinax is even sicker, since he replaces himself and you still get plenty out of the transaction. Even sacrificing a Bloodbraid Elf is fine, so I’m really thinking that Fall could be a great sideboard card against red decks.

In addition, it should be said that Doom Blade is better than ever. It still helps out a great deal against the red deck, and if the white decks are as popular as they probably should be (Student of Warfare is really good), then killing Kor Firewalkers is a job that Bolt and Terminate just can’t do. And, should those same decks adopt Hyena Umbra to slap on their Firewalkers (I very much endorse that idea), then having more instant-speed removal is very crucial. Deathmark simply is no longer a realistic option, as killing Leech just isn’t that great anymore.

Next we have a card that we’re all far too familiar with by now: Anathemancer. While it’s true that UW plays lots of basics these days, lots of decks do not. Anathemancer could easily make a comeback as the go-to card for the mirror, and a way to provide lots of reach versus the control decks, even while under an Iona lock. He’s nowhere near where he was a year ago, but for the life of me I can’t see why he wouldn’t make an appearance this summer on the PTQ circuit.

The last card I want to talk about, though, is Thought Hemorrhage. This card has seen plenty of play off and on, but now might be a good time to see it get some use again. Whether it’s stripping Polymorph decks of their namesake, pulling Jaces and Baneslayers out of UW decks, or even ripping the aforementioned Anathemancers out of the mirror, Hemorrhage is still a versatile and useful weapon that Jund has access to that most decks just don’t. The really interesting use, though? Extracting Vengevines from Naya’s deck, since otherwise I could see the late game becoming an absolute nightmare for Jund. I mean, it was never a “bad” card by any means, as even naming something like Broodmate or Bloodbraid Elf has its uses, but now I think we have a legitimate reason to play two or three in our sideboards again. Of all the cards I’ve suggested for Jund, I feel that this one might have the most lasting appeal.

In summary, keep these cards in mind when building and playing with Jund in the coming weeks:

Vengevine (in the Jund deck)
– Maindeck Goblin Ruinblaster
Momentous Fall
Doom Blade over Deathmark
Thought Hemorrhage

Over the course of the next week I want to jump into the idea of refreshing some older archetypes, specifically White Weenie, since that deck could potentially be very sweet. I’m also going to take a look at a Kor Skyfisher + Vengevine + Momentous Fall engine, which also could turn out to be fairly efficient. Between now and then, though, give a few different versions of Jund a whirl. The first list in this article is probably all you need to worry about for testing against Jund, but if you’re interested in playing with it this tournament season then I recommend being a bit open-minded about the deck and trying some new things.

Before I head out, though, I’ll leave you with my Sealed pool from the Release event (where I again made Top 8):

1 Champion’s Drake
2 Knight of Cliffhaven
1 Halimar Wavewatch
1 Venerated Teacher
1 Wall of Omens
1 Skywatcher Adept
1 Caravan Escort
1 Dawnglare Invoker
1 Frostwind Invoker
1 Totem-Guide Hartebeest
1 Hedron-Field Purists
1 Ikiral Outrider

1 See Beyond
2 Guard Duty
2 Narcolepsy
1 Domestication
1 Eldrazi Conscription
1 Mammoth Umbra
1 Crab Umbra
1 All Is Dust

8 Plains
9 Island

Look at the number of tutor targets I had for the Hartebeest: a total of 8! And one was a Control Magic, while another was an insane +10/+10 aura! The fact I had all of my removal in a tutor suite was just ridiculous, and Hedron-Field Purists was one of my MVPs all day (I had to ruin a guy’s day when I had him reread the card after he attacked into me with his 18 Soldier tokens from Nomads’ Assembly). All Is Dust is obviously a bomb, and Venerated Teacher was just superb in my deck. I played the Crab Umbra primarily out of fear of Dawnglare Invoker, and it saved me from the card twice during the Swiss. Ikiral Outrider, though, is just utterly terrible, and I will likely never play it again. Dawnglare Invoker, however, won me a large number of my games. The best common, without any doubt whatsoever. It’s so unbalanced in Sealed that I almost want to vomit, but it doesn’t make me adore this format any less. I’m still very impressed, and am having a great time with it.

Until next time…

Chris Jobin
Team RIW
Shinjutsei on MTGO