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Owen’s a Win – Jund Evolution

I have been on a Jund kick lately—more so than normal. I’ve been practicing hard for the WMCQ in Chicago this weekend, and after my success at the SCG Open in Somerset with Jund I figured I would just stick to my guns. My confidence with the deck has only continued to grow as I’ve seen other players copy my list from that tournament almost card for card and perform well.

I looked at some PTQ deck lists and saw Andy Boswell win with the deck in New Jersey, facing a stone mirror in the finals—and another copy of the deck made the Top 4. 3 out of the top 4 lists in that 150-person PTQ were Jund and all remarkably similar—insane. I also noticed that Christina Smith won her local State Championship with Jund, and the list she used was 72 of the 75 cards I used. In my practice with the deck online, I feel a little silly that I haven’t wanted to change many cards—either because the deck is totally awesome and nothing needs to be changed, or I am stubborn with my card choices:

[deck]Main Deck
4 Farseek
2 Cavern of Souls
4 Stomping Ground
3 Olivia Voldaren
2 Kessig Wolf Run
2 Garruk, Primal Hunter
2 Mizzium Mortars
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
4 Thragtusk
2 Rakdos Keyrune
4 Rootbound Crag
2 Sire of Insanity
2 Ground Seal
4 Overgrown Tomb
1 Rakdos’s Return
4 Blood Crypt
1 Dreadbore
2 Putrefy
1 Dragonskull Summit
1 Abrupt Decay
4 Woodland Cemetery
2 Tragic Slip
3 Bonfire of the Damned
Sideboard
1 Duress
2 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Mizzium Mortars
1 Deadbridge Chant
1 Ground Seal
2 Liliana of the Veil
2 Vraska the Unseen
1 Rakdos’s Return
3 Pillar of Flame
1 Tragic Slip[/deck]

This list should be familiar if you follow my articles. The first change I’ve made to the deck is -1 [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card], +1 [card]Rakdos Keyrune[/card]. These days, [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] just isn’t that good. It’s by far the worst card in the deck for the mirror match because it matches up so poorly against [card]Thragtusk[/card] and [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card], and you’re unlikely to slam it and kill a [card]Olivia Voldaren[/card].

It also is weak at draining your opponent of resources. Against an aggro deck, you’re happy to get the edict, and against control you can just sit on it and make them discard every turn. However, against Jund, it will never take over the game—often because it costs you a card to have it and you’re trading 1-for-1 every time you activate it, so it can be very hard to pull ahead. It often feels like you’re doing everything in your power to make this Liliana scary, when they can just attack it and [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card] past your blockers, or [card]Bonfire of the Damned[/card], or [card]Abrupt Decay[/card] it.

Liliana is also possibly the worst card ever against Junk Reanimator. You live in constant fear of [card]Angel of Serenity[/card] + [card]Unburial Rites[/card], and one of your purest outs to that is just hope they have an Angel stranded in their hand. The edict ability will come up very infrequently against Junk as well. I played a match the other day against an Esper player who had [card]Lingering Souls[/card] and [card]Sorin, Lord of Innistrad[/card] in his deck, and I didn’t even want to sideboard in my other Lilianas.

How bad is a card that you put in your sideboard solely for control and yet you don’t even want it against some control decks? I continue to run two in my sideboard—I could be wrong about its effectiveness against some control decks, and it’s simply the best possible card you can play to beat Bant Hexproof. The last tournament I faced Bant Hexproof, my opponent cast a [card]Nevermore[/card] and named Liliana.

[card]Rakdos Keyrune[/card], on the other hand, is totally awesome. Everything it does it does very well—I was skeptical of playing one to begin with, but I can recall times in old Standard, playing against this bad boy out of Jund, and I would usually have to go way out of my way to deal with it. [card]Rakdos Keyrune[/card]’s most obvious purpose is to accelerate, and that’s just great. I always hear people say that Jund is a deck that plays out vastly differently whether it has a turn two [card]Farseek[/card] or not, and they’re dead on. [card]Farseek[/card] is the best card in the deck, and the single card you want in your opening hand most, regardless of matchup.

[card]Rakdos Keyrune[/card] acts as a sort of additional [card]Farseek[/card]. As long as you aren’t using it to cast a turn three [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card], all things considered it’s actually a lot better than a [card]Farseek[/card] if you’re using it to cast something like a [card]Sire of Insanity[/card]. What would you rather have post-[card]Apocalypse[/card]? A [card]Blood Crypt[/card] or a 3/1 first-striking Blood Crypt?

You don’t necessarily need a turn two [card]Farseek[/card] when the best cards you can ramp into are [card]Thragtusk[/card], [card]Vraska the Unseen[/card], [card]Garruk, Primal Hunter[/card], [card]Rakdos’s Return[/card], and [card]Sire of Insanity[/card]. I like that [card]Rakdos Keyrune[/card] can provide one red or black mana the turn you cast it, this is very important against aggro because it allows you to develop your board and still use a [card]Pillar of Flame[/card] or a [card]Tragic Slip[/card] the turn you cast it.

Lastly, I like [card]Rakdos Keyrune[/card] because a 3/1 first strike that does not die to [card]Mizzium Mortars[/card] or [card]Bonfire of the Damned[/card] is absurdly powerful in the Jund mirror. First strike is excellent with [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card] and completely blanks an opponent’s [card]Kessig Wolf Run[/card], while making combat a nightmare for [card]Thragtusk[/card]s and [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card]. Obviously, Olivia and flipped Huntmasters can deal with this, but when both decks have as much spot removal as they do, this is simple to sidestep. It’s weak to [card]Putrefy[/card], but that card is great no matter what, and they can’t [card]Putrefy[/card] everything, right?

The final change I made was to cut a [card]Tragic Slip[/card] from the sideboard for a [card]Pillar of Flame[/card], and I do this for fear of [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card].

I also want to take a moment to talk about how the new legendary rules changes affect Jund. There are obvious new changes to how planeswalkers work. If I control a Liliana I can -2 it and cast a new Liliana from my hand and put only the one with fewer loyalty into my graveyard and move on with life.

This doesn’t really change the deckbuilding approach much, except that if offers a new play you can make. I don’t envision this coming up very often. The examples that came to mind right away are that you can no longer get shut out of having Garruk in play simply by your opponent resolving his first—this was usually a very bad position to be in anyway, but at least now you can try to get back in the game with your own Garruk.

The biggest impact will be on [card]Olivia Voldaren[/card]. Previously, one of the best ways to remove your opponent’s Olivia was to just cast your own, and now there is a new interesting dynamic, because both players can control Olivia at the same time, but whoever gains control of the other players Olivia (for only five total mana because it starts out as a Vampire) will be able to choose that as the one to discard to the graveyard. So, if we both have Olivia I can spend 5 mana and destroy yours by gaining control of it, but if you respond by gaining control of mine it will die first. So be careful, you basically can’t tap out to cast Olivia against an Olivia because they just take it and it dies.

Now I want to go over some sample hands I’ve come across that presented interesting mulligan decisions. This first one was asked on Twitter:

[draft]Overgrown Tomb
Stomping Ground
Dragonskull Summit
Kessig Wolf Run
Rootbound Crag
Liliana of the Veil
Tragic Slip[/draft]

This was on the play against an unknown deck. I would keep this hand because it has a very focused solid plan against both fast aggro and dedicated control. There is quite a lot that can go wrong here, like if our opponent goes [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card] into [card]Ash Zealot[/card] we are in a bit of a hole, but there is an equal likelihood that he goes [card]Stromkirk Noble[/card] into either nothing or a creature that dies to Liliana. Against control I would keep six lands [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] though I really wouldn’t be fond of my hand. This hand is a snap-mulligan against Jund though, since Liliana is bad and the hand just does nothing, you effectively concede to a [card]Thragtusk[/card].

[draft]Blood Crypt
Blood Crypt
Dragonskull Summit
Kessig Wolf Run
Rakdos Keyrune
Thragtusk
sire of Insanity[/draft]

I kept this hand on the play against a UWR control deck. I liked this hand—even though it was lacking in green mana, I had time to draw into it, because nothing important happens in the first three turns of that matchup. My hand had acceleration and [card]Sire of Insanity[/card], with a card that might force my opponent to tap out, allowing me to resolve it. There are very few cards in my deck that aren’t green lands or spells that can help me, like [card]Duress[/card], [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card], or [card]Rakdos’s Return[/card]. I will admit that this particular keep is a bit speculative, but I like it and would keep again. Spoiler Alert: I kept and drew [card]Woodland Cemetery[/card] as my first draw step.

[draft]Stomping Ground
Overgrown Tomb
Rootbound Crag
Blood Crypt
Huntmaster of the Fells
Thragtusk
Olivia Voldaren[/draft]

This hand is horrible. I would never keep this against any deck except the mirror match, where I would keep it on the play and I would think for a very long time before deciding what to do with it on the draw. Against fast aggro, reanimator, and control, this hand is just super slow and not even very good once you actually start casting spells. This is a prime example of what not to do with Jund, and probably the biggest mistake I see people make.

[draft]Overgrown Tomb
Cavern of Souls
Farseek
Putrefy
Dreadbore
Sire of Insanity[/draft]

With any other card.

I would keep this hand no matter my final card. It isn’t a perfect hand, but it has all the necessary tools needed to win and it has a [card]Farseek[/card]. The mana isn’t great and there is no clear strategy for the mid- to late game, but it’s okay to keep speculative hands sometimes, because many of your cards are interchangeable. With this hand, you aren’t saying to yourself, “well I need to draw [card]Farseek[/card].” Instead, you want to draw basically any lands or [card]Thragtusk[/card]/[card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card].

I hope this helped give some insight onto the new Standard environment alongside things to look for when sideboarding and in potential opening hands.

Owen Turtenwald
qazwsxedcrfvtgbyhnuj on Magic Online
OwenTweetenwald on Twitter

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