The next ‘last’ three months of Jund

MalakirBloodwitch.jpegObstinateBaloth.jpegKodamaoftheNorthTree.jpeg
Yeah, I’ll explain the images.
This has been a fascinating spoiler season from the perspective of a sometime Jund player. Although I’ve never empathized with the hate against Jund – it’s simultaneously effective and, for the format, budget. I do tend to believe that the biggest hate against Jund comes from players who incorrectly think the archetype is all about “getting lucky” on cascades, instead of, say, planning what your deck will cascade into.
Click through to the extended entry for (much, much) more, including deck lists.


All that aside, we’ve had back-to-back sets with cards that are being touted as the harbingers of Jund’s displacement as the default “dominant” deck.
The first, is, of course, everyone’s favorite recurring elemental:
Vengevine.jpeg
Realistically, I do think Vengevine is a problem for Jund decks, but not on the basis of making Blightning into a bad card. Rather, a creature that keeps becoming unkilled is one way an opponent can overwhelm a Jund deck’s wall of removal. That said, in the current environment most of your opponents won’t be running Vengevines, and even the Vengevine carriers only have four in the deck.
In other words, it still makes sense to keep maindecking Blightning, if you were doing that kind of thing.
Of course, this beast is supposed to be the new Jund killer:
ObstinateBaloth.jpeg
And you know what? Now we’re approaching “might be good to stop maindecking Blightning” territory. Hitting a Vengevine with a Blightning is pesky, as it gives them potential future fuel if you don’t, you know, just kill them first. But hitting a Baloth with anything other than a lethal Blightning is pretty gross. The net impact is that you’ve spent 1BR to give them one life and make them discard one card.
That’s a terrible trade.
So, this means Jund is dead, right?
Well…here’s the thing. Obstinate Baloth is a decent defense against Blightning, but it’s even better in one particular deck.
Right. Jund.
Here’s a reasonable “default” Jund list from the current metagame:
Jund by Smi77y

12 Creatures:
Putrid Leech
Sprouting Thrinax
Bloodbraid Elf
21 Spells:
Lightning Bolt
Terminate
Blightning
Maelstrom Pulse
Bituminous Blast
Sarkhan the Mad
27 Land:
Dragonskull Summit
Forest
Lavaclaw Reaches
Mountain
Raging Ravine
Savage Lands
Swamp
Verdant Catacombs
15 Sideboard:
Doom Blade
Dragon’s Claw
Duress
Goblin Ruinblaster
Malakir Bloodwitch

Twelve creatures, a pile of removal, and four Blightnings.
Here’s the same deck, mildly modified to accommodate the options available to us in Shards – M10 – Zendikar – M11 Standard:
Jund, M11 upgrade

16 Creatures:
Putrid Leech
Sprouting Thrinax
Obstinate Baloth
Bloodbraid Elf
17 Spells:
Lightning Bolt
Terminate
Maelstrom Pulse
Bituminous Blast
Sarkhan the Mad
27 Land:
Dragonskull Summit
Forest
Lavaclaw Reaches
Mountain
Raging Ravine
Savage Lands
Swamp
Verdant Catacombs
15 Sideboard:
Doom Blade
Dragon’s Claw
Goblin Ruinblaster
Blightning
Malakir Bloodwitch

I’m not sure if the Blightnings remain in even as sideboard fodder. Right now, I’m of the opinion that Blightning is mainly for the Jund mirror, which is a super-attrition-fest. If all Blightning decks are going to be running Baloths, well…that makes your own Blightnings incredibly dangerous (to you). Blightning continues to be reasonable against U/W control decks, but we might choose to revert to Duress there instead, with the idea that cherry-picking one specific card is more effective than randomly nailing two and doing some damage.
The change of swapping out Blightning for Baloth actually smooths the deck’s curve out, and gives it more useful action at the four-mana mark. The real take-home, however, is this:
Baloth makes Jund better against burn.
The bane of Jund decks in the past few weeks has been the burn-laden RDW builds that just point Bolts, Bursts, Hellsparks, and Thunders at your head while you fail to have any useful lifegain.
From my moderate testing in the past couple days, I can let you in on the secret that gaining 4 life and a 4/4 body at four mana is tremendous in this matchup, and a Bituminous Blast cascading into a Baloth is, to quote Rich Hagon, filthy.
So, um, yeah. M11 made Jund better. Unless the community has suddenly suffered from a massive cognitive defect, people aren’t going to just give up on Jund.
Also, if you’re thinking this sucker rules out Baloth as a solid defense against RDW:
LeylineofPunishment.jpeg
Well:
MaelstromPulse.jpeg
So there we go.
Wishing for North Side
On July 5th, I wrote this on my twitter feed:
More than kind of wish I could just play Kodama of the North Tree in my Jund deck.
To clarify, for certain match ups I really wanted to have a game-finishing beater that had some form of Shroud and some kind of evasion, to kill off control opponents. You know, like this guy:
KodamaoftheNorthTree.jpeg
Shortly thereafter, I realized that Jund already has its modern-day analog of North Side, in this nice lady:
MalakirBloodwitch.jpeg
I was using Bloodwitches before as a main deck card in my somewhat Vampire-oriented Jund builds, but I think they weren’t a good main deck choice. That said, they’re an awesome sideboard selection, and do exactly what I want, since the point removal and blockers they have to deal with are largely White.
Returning to the main deck, I’ve been thinking about how to fit my decks to my play style. Although the Magic Effectiveness Project is just starting, I think I was on target in figuring out that I’m good at incremental advantage and eking out more turns, so I need to capitalize on that strength. One way to do that is via an explosive finish, such as in Conscription Mythic. Alternately, if I’m playing Jund (as I do on MTGO at the moment), I could try to shoehorn in an explosive finish, or I could simply engineer the deck to not simply contain a core of incremental advantage, but to be a solid pillar of it.
Or, as I wrote in Choosing to Fight Fairer, I wanted to optimize my N-for-1s.
Here’s the Jund list I’ve been running of late:
34N Jund

16 Creatures:
Borderland Ranger
Sprouting Thrinax
Goblin Ruinblaster
Bloodbraid Elf
18 Spells:
Blightning
Maelstrom Pulse
Siege-Gang Commander
Bituminous Blast
Sarkhan the Mad
26 Land:
Raging Ravine
Lavaclaw Reaches
Savage Lands
Rootbound Crag
Verdant Catacombs
Swamp
Mountain
Forest
15 Sideboard:
Doom Blade
Terminate
Necrogenesis
Dragon’s Claw
Jund Charm
Malakir Bloodwitch

This deck makes the assumption that my default pairing will be Jund, with a side helping of RDW and UW. If you look at the main deck, you’ll notice that every spell is an N-for-1.
After putting together the core design and testing it for a bit, I noticed, while sideboarding, that I had no Putrid Leeches. Hunh. Weird, right? I don’t really miss them right now.
The four Rangers are there because I dislike being locked out of colors, or knocked off of five mana. Also, they trade for opposing Bloodbraids, which is nice.
I briefly moved away from the main deck Ruinblasters, but I really do think they open up the option of handing out a tremendous beating to much of the opposing metagame in game one, except for the afore-mentioned RDW.
I continue to advocate quad Pulse – it’s just too useful to do without.
The top of the curve has ten cards at the five-mana mark, featuring a full quad each of Bituminous Blast and Siege-Gang Commander.
This deck fuses my love of incremental advantage with, well, power. As I walk up the curve, I’m gaining anywhere from “some” through to “crippling” advantage with the spells, and I’ve learned to (re)love Bit Blast as a card that always nets me something good.
The casualty, of course, is my inclusion of any planeswalkers beyond Sarkan. I like them a lo, but they are the other, slower kind of incremental advantage, and too much of that undercuts the decks power.
Here are the sideboarding notes, at least until M11 is legal on MTGO:
Jund
No change. The deck is pre-boarded against Jund.
RDW
+Everything
No, seriously. I side in all 15 cards. The only “optional” boarding in here is the Necrogenesis, which is there to convert their Hellsparks and Hell’s Thunders into blockers for me. If the opponent weren’t running these cards, I wouldn’t bring them in.
So which fifteen come out?
-1 Borderland Ranger
-4 Goblin Ruinblaster
-4 Maelstrom Pulse
-4 Siege-Gang Commander
-2 Sarkhan the Mad
The Pulses took me a while to figure out, as “more removal” seems good…but Pulse is slow, and if I’m cascading into something, I’d often rather it be a body or a Blightning.
UW Control
+4 Malakir Bloodwitch
-4 Siege-Gang Commander
Commander can be good, but is also often Day-bait (or Coup-bait, either way) while also being vulnerable to various other point removal options.
Next-Level Bant
+2 Necrogenesis
+2 Jund Charm
-4 Blightning
Necro hits their Vengevines, obviously, and Jund Charm can either sweep their small dorks or clear their graveyard. Blightning is obvious removal fodder here.
Mythic
+2 Doom Blade
+2 Terminate
+2 Jund Charm
+4 Malakir Bloodwitch
-2 Borderland Ranger
-4 Sprouting Thrinax
-4 Siege-Gang Commander
We know the plan here – kill their dudes. Bloodwitch is super-necessary here, as it can block man of their big beaters and swing right past any Baneslayers they might end up with on defense.
Updating
So far, M11 has given Jund the obvious gift of the Baloth. Beyond the big B, there are some options:
Grave Titan – This may play the Broodmate role, although it’s worth considering that Broodmate isn’t even playing the Broodmate role right now.
Leyline of the Void – Instead of Necrogenesis? Maybe, although NecroG is actually a better deal in most of the relevant Standard contexts, since it generates blockers.
Autumn’s Veil – Might return in the Guttural Response role as Mana Leak allows permission again (if it does allow that…).
Sylvan Ranger – Hm. Unlike Borderland Ranger, it doesn’t trade with Bloodbraid. That said, it does come down a turn earlier. I don’t know if the deck needs that, though.
So, mainly, I think I’d want to pop in Baloths, yielding a deck that would look like this:
30N Jund

20 Creatures:
Borderland Ranger
Sprouting Thrinax
Goblin Ruinblaster
Obstinate Baloth
Bloodbraid Elf
14 Spells:
Maelstrom Pulse
Siege-Gang Commander
Bituminous Blast
Sarkhan the Mad
26 Land:
Raging Ravine
Lavaclaw Reaches
Savage Lands
Rootbound Crag
Verdant Catacombs
Swamp
Mountain
Forest
15 Sideboard:
Doom Blade
Terminate
Necrogenesis
Dragon’s Claw
Jund Charm
Malakir Bloodwitch

Note the clever name change, as Baloth is not an N-for-1, although it is very pretty.
I’m happy to just ditch out on Blightning here, as although it is an excellent attrition card in the Jund mirror, I’m not as wedded to it in other pairings.
I’m confident there will be more sophisticated updates for the next few months, especially as other archetypes pop up or make their own changes, but I nothing has bumped Jund out of the role of incredibly solid deck – and I don’t think anything will do that prior to set rotation.