Jund is not just Jund

I just turned off the latest episode of The Proffessors a few minutes in after Anthony complained about the Jund matchup being “random” and flashed Bituminous Blast and Bloodbraid on the screen. While I appreciate Anthony’s production quality, this is one more in a chain of people complaining about Jund on the basis of it being basically braindead to play.
I think it’s the Bituminous Blast that just did it for me this time. Here’s PT San Diego champion Simon Gortzen’s Jund list:

18 Creatures:
Bloodbraid Elf
Broodmate Dragon
Putrid Leech
Siege-Gang Commander
Sprouting Thrinax
15 Spells:
Garruk Wildspeaker
Lightning Bolt
Maelstrom Pulse
Rampant Growth
27 Land:
Dragonskull Summit
Lavaclaw Reaches
Raging Ravine
Rootbound Crag
Savage Lands
Verdant Catacombs
15 Sideboard:
Great Sable Stag
Maelstrom Pulse
Master of the Wild Hunt
Pithing Needle

Notice the absence of Bituminous Blast anywhere in that list. Indeed, Simon’s main deck is relatively “removal light,” running just Bolts and Pulses, where other Jund lists run Terminates and Bituminous Blasts as well. Gortzen also chose to run twenty-seven lands and two copies of Rampant Growth, putting the emphasis on smooth mana progression.
I’m not really surprised by that choice.
As Mike Flores pointed out, Gortzen also made sound strategic choices with how he played his cards, keeping his Blightnings in hand to use as planeswalker removal rather than just autopiloting them out on turn three. You’ll notice this in playing against Jund players as well. When your opponent just runs on autopilot, it’s easy to beat them.
The idea that Jund plays itself, or is just “random,” fundamentally misunderstands how the deck works. In playing against Jund, you should take a page from Nassim Taleb and assume that their Bloodbraids will hit the “worst case” for you. Likewise, in playing Jund, you should assume that your Bloodbraids are likely to be blanks, and plan accordingly.
The complaints about Jund now sound a lot like the complaints during Pro Tour Honolulu about cascade generally. I actually enjoy playing with and against Jund, and I think Simon Gortzen made a tremendous update to the deck and played quite cleverly.
I understand that players get a little bored when there seem to be “only a few” viable deck types in Standard. This is in one sense a product of the size of the card pools. There are just a handful of reasonable decks in Block, more in Standard, many more in Extended, and tremendously more in Legacy. However, it’s also a confluence of other factors such as the fact that not everyone feels like designing and testing a deck, so reasonably stable designs are going to see a lot of play from people who just want to play.
I’d also suggest that the perception that there are just a few dominant decks relies on a very shallow review of the decks, as I alluded to above. Gortzen’s Jund is a significant update on pre-Worldwake Jund. Indeed, it relies critically on new cards from Worldwake, and does not just “autopilot” on the prior Jund plan. As someone who pretty reliably plays novel or semi-novel deck designs, I have a great deal of appreciation for players who can tweak or significantly update a known archetype to deal with a shifting metagame or to accommodate a new set.
It’s only “Jund wins again” if you’re not paying attention. If you’re so inclined, go back to the Pro Tour San Diego coverage and compare the top Standard lists to all the others. There are differences there, and they’re interesting and fun.

Top 32 coverage from the ChannelFireball February 5K

Video coverage of the ChannelFireball February 5K is up. Here’s my match in the top 16 against Tristan Shaun Gregson (of Magic TV fame) playing Boss Naya:

For the record, I didn’t have to die that turn in game two. As I mentioned in my column earlier this week, I literally miscounted my mana and, having done so, made the “aggressive” play that made no sense. Ah, well. It was midnight.
I think these videos turned out quite well. Head over to the ChannelFireball YouTube channel to see videos of several matches from the top 32, including the finals, all with quality narration by Eric Levine.

This week’s In Development, now with liner notes

This week’s In Develoment has gone up, and the subject is Building the Enemy – looking at recent deck lists and figuring out how that should influence our own design choices. It also includes a brief tournament report from a recent County Championship winner in the U.K.
I’ve included some “liner notes” for this week’s In Development in this post. Click through to the extended entry to see my current gauntlet, culled from the Decks of the Week data I talked about in my column.

Continue reading

Front page, below the fold

Thursday’s Daily Deck List at the mothership is the Nayamorphic build that I’ve been talking about over at ChannelFireball.com. If you’d like to learn how the deck came to be, click here, and if you want some advice on building a sideboard to go with it, click here
I’m looking forward to seeing how much uptake this generates (if any). It’s neat, at any rate.