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Everything I Know About Jund Sacrifice In Core Set 2021 Standard

When did Jund Sacrifice get so good in Standard? Ari Lax offers a quick history lesson along with his latest list and sideboarding guide!

Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, illustrated by Wisnu Tan

It was easy to miss it. There were a ton of competing narratives, it was never the widely known best deck, and it was never something new and fresh.

But Jund Sacrifice got good in Ikoria Standard, and it got really dang good with the release of Core Set 2021.

Jund Sacrifice Is a Combo Deck

I’m always a historian when it comes to Magic, and when it comes to understanding Jund Sacrifice, the history of the deck helps a ton to understand what has changed.


The first Jund Sacrifice decks in the Throne of Eldraine era were just some cards with good interactions all stacked on top of each other. You would make profitable plays every turn with some interaction and eventually run away with the game like a midrange engine deck.


During the Ikoria Companion Era, Yuuki Ichikawa added Bolas’s Citadel to the deck as a way to combo out over the top of Yorion Jeskai Lukka. The deck was fine but not quite there against the full-power Yorion decks, but once those were banned out of existence it was a fine choice that put up reasonable results in the Players Tour Online events.


And with Core Set 2021, we see that last change get optimized. Bolas’s Citadel isn’t the core of the deck every game, but the idea of it has become what Jund Sacrifice is about.

Jund Sacrifice is a combo deck, not an engine deck. Big thanks to the Allied Strategies podcast for putting this into words and just unlocking the way you need to approach each match.

You have a bunch of combos in your deck that can each unilaterally dominate in a different game state or matchup. They vary in how many cards you need to set them up, and sometimes different cards can fill in for each other, including a couple that are basically one-card combos, but you end relatively few games in any way other than some dominating interaction that you knew would be game-ending from the start.

The one-card combos, the part that really only became a focus in the Ikoria-era, drive the Core Set 2021 additions to the deck. Both Bolas’s Citadel and Korvold, Fae-Cursed King technically require more cards to go all the way off, but since both cards dig to find more cards and so many different cards create that full-blown combo, it’s close enough.

There are cards that cost five or six mana, and that’s a sizeable chunk. Unlike the Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath decks, your combo isn’t just lands plus a permanent. You need other nonland permanents at some point for the full monty, but you need those plus land drops. The key addition of Core Set 2021 was a pair of nonland permanents that provided mana, replacement cards, and just raw usable cardboard. It doesn’t seem like Solemn Simulacrum or Llanowar Visionary is actually a combo with any other card in your deck, but when the combo is “cast this single expensive card,” they’re basically Dark Ritual.

If you want to know why I prefer Jund Sacrifice to Rakdos Sacrifice, it falls into this category. It isn’t just Jund Sacrifice that’s pulling off these one-card combos; all the other successful decks in Core Set 2021 Standard are based around single-card mistakes that take over every aspect of a game. When Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath; Nissa, Who Shakes the World; Nightpack Ambusher; or anything from War of the Spark to Theros Beyond Death takes over a game, does damage come close to mattering? Only if you also have some busted card that could deal the first fifteen damage but needed help with the last five.

In Jund Sacrifice, all these less broken filler cards serve the purpose of maximizing your broken cards and filtering your way into more of them. In Rakdos Sacrifice, they’re stupid creatures that don’t do any of that. Maybe you could get some scrappy beats on in a format without the London Mulligan and without open decklists, but that’s not how things are played right now. Maybe you hate it, because I sure do, but that doesn’t change match results.

Also, good joke trying to play Dreadhorde Butcher into Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse or Scavenging Ooze or Arboreal Grazer. Turn 2 attacks aren’t free these days.

The List


For the lists optimizing their high-end, the maindeck is fairly stock. None of the lands or four-of cards should be a shock, so let’s briefly cover the two-ofs scattered across the deck.

We already discussed why these cards are good in the deck, but there are diminishing returns past the first copy each game. Solemn Simulacrum is the better card of the two since it finds black mana and can die profitably, but it’s clunky when you don’t have Gilded Goose and a huge pain off Citadel.

These are traditional engines for the the Rakdos and Jund Sacrifice decks that just don’t quite stack up in the full combo approach. There’s a bit of each of them showing up, but not a ton of any one card.

Too much of the equity of Claim the Firstborn is tied up in small-ball interactions where it’s a removal spell with upside, not a game-winner, and it only stands out as the most proactive way to clear an opposing Mayhem Devil or other similar threat.

Priest of Forgotten Gods is a good card, but just not in the right spot today. It is a game-breaking card, but it leans heavily on the bad filler to work. Since our deck isn’t loaded up with Gutterbones, Priest is sacrificing real resources. Priest is also weak against all the same cards that make Dreadhorde Butcher weak, since you want them to sacrifice Uro and not Arboreal Grazer or a Cat. It’s cool to use the mana to ramp into Korvold or Citadel, but it’s less reliable and no faster than casting Llanowar Visionary.

Woe Strider is less exciting without large numbers of the prior two cards, but it’s good enough with Bolas’s Citadel, both as a way to scry away lands and as two permanents when you count to ten for a Mayhem Devil plus Bolas’s Citadel sacrifice kill. A 3/2 that comes with a scry is still fine at finding your way to high-cost cards and land drops, and Woe Strider can stitch together some Cauldron Familiar plus Trail of Crumbs scenarios as a low-key three-card combo against more attrition-centric games.

Building your deck to be more focused on cantrip-ramp and powerful single permanents comes with the bonus of being able to play interactive cards and not have your draws crumble because of them. Scavenging Ooze and the currently absent Murderous Rider are playing the same role as Claim the Firstborn: they break open certain games, but are baseline fine and not actively blank when you start doing your other more powerful stuff. Ooze has just enough broad value against the format and is just efficient enough as a spare body that it’s a benign inclusion, while Murderous Rider is on the inefficient outside looking in.

Sideboarding

Your baseline play in every matchup is the same. Identify the pseudo-combo you’re building to, and then every turn do the thing that lines that up as best as possible. When in doubt, put raw material on the battlefield since that fuels most of the end-games.

VS Bant Control/Ramp:

One of the reasons I selected Jund Sacrifice is the deck lines up well against Bant. With the exception of their eight-drop threats, your threats and setups are more powerful than theirs up the curve. You lose the games where they get one of their lower-cost threats uncontested by your setups, or if they get to their eight-drops without dying to the Cat-Oven cleanup crew that survives Ugin, the Spirit Dragon.

Basically, keep good hands and don’t keep bad ones. You can kill them with multiple Mayhem Devils, a big threat, an early Cat-Oven-Devil setup with an out to Uro, or even by assembling one of these in the mid-game with Trail of Crumbs and one-drops.

Now is a great time to mention that Scavenging Ooze isn’t a big deal for Jund Sacrifice. It can make you miss a couple of Witch’s Oven loops, but if you just don’t let your Cauldron Familiar hit the graveyard at a bad time, what does it even do? They have to leave up more green mana than you have spare Food tokens to even exile your Familiar on a sacrifice the turn you do move in on it. Your end-games are all bigger than a single Ooze, so just play to not die to the attacks and eventually you will beat it.

Out:

In:

I don’t want to fight Bant by spending mana to not make tangible progress. Cards like Agonizing Remorse just set you up to get Jorael’ed under your curve-out. I just want to shove overpowered cards at them until they fail to beat them, all while using my low-end to pick apart their attempts to gain ground.

There’s room for flexiblity here. None of the cards you’re taking out are terrible, but they aren’t inherently game-breaking. Trail of Crumbs is notably still good but overkill in multiples, and Scavenging Ooze can be much better if they diverge from their early-drops and lean too hard on Uro. Maybe you want a Murderous Rider over a Noxious Grasp to hedge against a Shark token, or maybe they’re sideboarding up on Disdainful Stroke or some other way to punish a full set of Bolas’s Citadel. If they’re fully loaded on Hydroid Krasis, Claim the Firstborn is back to being a good card again.

Just don’t mangle the core of your deck and stick to plays that are good mana parity and you will be fine.

VS Sultai Midrange/Ramp:

This is a much less important matchup than Bant right now, but it’s important to highlight the contrast in that this matchup is a nightmare. Casualties of War is just too much, attacking basically all of your setups at once. It hits your mana for future whammies, cleans out Witch’s Oven or a failed Bolas’s Citadel, and takes a creature along for the ride.

The Sultai decks are better-built to exploit a sweeper than the Bant decks. Bant has Jolraels and Scavenging Oozes that sit under a sweeper, and their Nissa lands die to Shatter the Sky. With basically every relevant creature in Jund Sacrifice having an odd cost, you aren’t getting any of those fringe benefits.

Thought Erasure also plays a role. All the cards Bant is trying to remove with Elspeth Conquers Death provide significant immediate value for Jund Sacrifice. Getting your mana on the exchange is much less relevant than stranding you with fewer resources, which is then amplified by Casualties of War or Extinction Event. You can beat an Uro if you have half a setup hanging out and a turn to complete it, but not if you have almost nothing.

Out:

In:

Here I’m fine with going for Agonizing Remorse, trying to pluck a key piece from their hand, and hoping bad draws on their side carry you the rest of the way to a win. Getting lucky with discard in mediocre matchups has been my career bread-and-butter for a decade. I’m not stopping now.

Trail of Crumbs isn’t horrible here, but it’s also a liability against Casualties of War, and with fewer cogs sticking around, your late-game looks less promising against theirs.

Murderous Rider is a hope and a prayer that if they land a Nissa in a normal game you can get bailed out.

VS Jund Sacrifice

The mirror is about two things: Mayhem Devil, and some big stupid card. Don’t let them control Mayhem Devil, and cast your big stupid card first.

Out:

In:

There’s such a thing as too many big stupid cards, though, especially when it comes to Bolas’s Citadel. On the draw, I think the decision between the third copy and another Eliminate or Llanowar Visionary is close, but I always err on the side of more whammies.

As I said before, Scavenging Ooze is not a critical card against Jund Sacrifice. What is critical is ensuring Mayhem Devil dies, because that card does actually prevent you from executing any of your primary gameplans. The other stuff is just trimming on cards that are fine, but not inherently game-breaking.

I also don’t love directly fighting over their artifacts. Citadel is best beat by hitting them in the face since it locks in value, and Witch’s Oven is not the card that kills you.

VS Rakdos Sacrifice

Imagine a mirror, but they don’t have big whammies and can only win if they get Mayhem Devil for a crucial portion of the game.

One other key way to lose is let your Mayhem Devil get Claim the Firstborn’ed. Try to keep a Witch’s Oven open to prevent this play. This can come up in Jund Sacrifice mirrors and is worth considering there, but Rakdos has more Claims, more things to leverage burst damage, and fewer other ways to win the game that you need to risk exposure to this line to beat.

Out:

In:

Scavenging Ooze here is significantly better, since the small advantages it accrues crush their beatdown and chip damage plans. You don’t have to kill Korvold, so Eliminate is just better than a Swift End that gets countered by a sacrifice in response.

Remember it everywhere else too, but Fabled Passage as a sacrifice trigger is a resource. When needing to clear smaller creatures, it’s one of the best ways to boost a Mayhem Devil.

VS Temur Reclamation

With minimal disruption, your Game 1 plan is “be fast.” Multiple Mayhem Devils or an accelerated whammy is a must-have to win. Just hope you land your threat a full turn ahead of their Wilderness Reclamation, and then it’s easy enough to kill them first.

Out:

In:

Game 2 is closer thanks to your disruption. Agonizing Remorse cleanly handling Uro is a huge upside relative to Duress, and you’re much less worried about maximizing plays than Rakdos, so the second mana matters little. On the flip side, I’ve opted for Thrashing Brontodon over Return to Nature or Cindervines, since if I can brawl with a card and not lose it to Scorching Dragonfire, I will gladly take it.

There’s some dancing around their copies of Negate or Aether Gust with the high-end threat you lean towards. Look at their decklist and bias appropriately.

Sometimes I mix it up with a removal spell for their Nightpack Ambusher or other threats. Don’t go too hard on this unless you believe they have cut their Wilderness Reclamations.

VS Mono-Black Aggro

Last week’s hotness that underperformed, and the reason I added Eliminate to the deck. Mayhem Devil can crush their early starts, but you need ways to beat flying Rotting Regisaurs. Lean on Gilded Goose as a chump blocker, Korvold as the easiest way to win, and Claim the Firstborn.

Out:

In:

Kill their stuff, get an engine going, and kill them or everything they control. All aggro matchups are the same. Scavenging Ooze isn’t inherently game-breaking, but it and Thrashing Brontodon help mitigate Demonic Embrace. The Solemn Simulacrum / Bolas’s Citadel is vulnerable when getting attacked, so it’s a clean cut.

VS Mono-Green Aggro

This is a very similar matchup to Mono-Black Aggro, but they are worse at breaking through later and better at breaking through Mayhem Devil setups early. Korvold is king, and plan around Questing Beast or Gemrazer on a Stonecoil Serpent as their breakthrough wins.

Out:

In:

You get even more removal in this matchup, and you definitely need it. The two threats I mentioned before can’t be Eliminated or Claimed, so you should save the Noxious Grasps for them if given the choice.

The Typical Ari Caveat

If this sideboard guide seems negatively slanted, that’s because I care about the ways I could lose in each matchup.

Jund Sacrifice has become a fundamentally good deck. That means the default assumption is you are doing powerful enough things to win when your opponent doesn’t execute a specific plan.

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