Some things never change. Others change all the time. Modern is one that’s constantly in flux. New decks come out, old ones change in popularity, set releases shake things up, and updates to the banned list can turn the format on its head. Something that will never change is that I’ll always try to make Jund work through it all.
We Jund players don’t have it easy like we used to. Bloodbraid Elf and Deathrite Shaman are long gone, and other archetypes have grown more powerful while Jund has stayed fundamentally the same. On top of all of that, Big Mana decks are enjoying a peak in popularity, and Tarmogoyf decks get splash hate from everyone gunning for Death’s Shadow.
But what I love most about Jund is its ability to fight through the bad times. It’s customizable, and can be made to beat just about anything after sideboarding. The small number of cards that are scary to play against can usually be managed by Thoughtseize and a healthy mix of removal spells.
What’s Special About Jund?
Jund is built in the same shell as Abzan and G/B Rock. It lacks the flashy kills of the Death’s Shadow decks, and doesn’t do much that Modern players haven’t seen before. But the red cards do have a lot to offer.
Jund is the best of the black midrange decks at beating opposing creature decks. Most of the red cards are either removal spells: Lightning Bolt, Terminate, Kolaghan’s Command, Ancient Grudge; or they’re creatures that help you kill other creatures: Grim Lavamancer, Huntmaster of the Fells, Olivia Voldaren, etc. If you expect a field full of Collected Company and Humans, Jund should be one of the first decks you turn to.
There’s some subtlety to why Jund works so well, and you might not see the whole picture simply by glancing at the list of spells.
For starters, the mana base works better than it does for other 3-color combinations. Raging Ravine is a potent creatureland, and Blackcleave Cliffs lets you cast your cheap spells reliably with no life loss. Since your tertiary color is red, you can omit a basic Mountain and still operate just fine under a Blood Moon.
Moreover, a wide range of efficient removal is exactly what black midrange wants. So are threats like Olivia Voldaren that double as answer cards. Your goal is to trade off resources as much as possible, and be left with the last threat standing. Lightning Bolt has always been one of the best cards to pair with Dark Confidant, due to its efficiency and utility.
The same subtlety that makes Path to Exile a great card in U/W Control but a mediocre card in Abzan makes Jund one of the most appealing versions of black midrange.
The Deck List
A lot of my opinions about the Jund deck list haven’t changed since this article from last year. Instead, I’ll focus on the cards that have changed in value recently, or otherwise merit some discussion.
Blood Moon does not belong in Jund, at least not without changing the deck substantially. For one thing, having a Blood Moon on the battlefield hurts Jund a lot since the deck can’t use colorless mana (or excess red) particularly well, and because creaturelands are important to its game plan. Secondly, you want Fulminator Mage in your sideboard for a wide range of matchups, and it fights for the same slot as Blood Moon.
Fulminator Mage is a hate card against Tron and Valakut, but it can come in for a ton of matchups ranging from U/W Control to Affinity to combo decks. It’s important to have plenty of “marginal upgrade”-type cards in your sideboard because there are matchups where you have a lot of cards to sideboard out. You don’t want to be forced to leave in Fatal Push against U/W Control just to kill Celestial Colonnade when Fulminator Mage can do the job so much better.
Similarly, you wouldn’t expect Fulminator Mage to be good against Burn, Infect, or Storm Combo, but sometimes it’s better than whatever else you have for your 60th card. When playing with Blood Moons instead of Fulminators, I actually lost a game against Burn where I would have won if I’d been able to upgrade my Dark Confidant, Maelstrom Pulse, and Liliana, the Last Hope into Gray Ogres! (As a side note, Fulminator Mage goes up in value when you have Liliana, the Last Hope in your deck.)
You can always toss Fulminator Mage into your deck as a marginal card, which is something you can’t do with Blood Moon. You really have to commit to Blood Moon because it forces you to build your deck and sequence your lands in an inconvenient way in order to support it.
The jury is still out on Goblin Rabblemaster. I think it’s an okay card, and you’re not making a mistake to play with it or to leave it out. In the end, it comes down to a question of philosophy. I feel best when I have a defensive card like Kitchen Finks or an answer card like Grim Lavamancer in that slot since I feel that it gives me more control over the game. If you’re a player that prefers to smell blood and go for the win quickly, then Thoughtseize–Thoughtseize–Rabblemaster is a sequence that you’ll love.
The new addition that has really impressed me is Hazoret the Fervent. Some decks really struggle to remove her, and even against Path to Exile decks, she’s still a threat that you can add to the board without fear of Supreme Verdict. The haste ability lets you get value right away, and the discard ability helps you win when things drag out. She’s a natural pairing with discard spells and Liliana of the Veil. I loved her as a 1-of, and I’d even consider trying a second copy.
Similarly, I’m a huge fan of a singleton Liliana, the Last Hope. Liliana of the Veil has always been a slam-dunk and I won’t consider playing less than 4. But with the change to the planeswalker legend rule, you get to expand your Liliana team with no fear. Having both in play at the same time is as good as it sounds.
I mentioned Thrun, the Last Troll when I discussed Abzan. It’s probably the best card against the Celestial Colonnade decks. I mentioned Ancient Grudge when I discussed Traverse Shadow. It has skyrocketed in value due to the popularity of Lantern Control. It also never hurts to pick up extra percentage points against Affinity.
Jund represents the pinnacle of 1-for-1 trading and potent threats. The goal is to dismantle the opponent, generate some card advantage via Liliana, Raging Ravine, or Kolaghan’s Command, and win by sticking a Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant, or Scavenging Ooze. It’s very good at its job.
Unfortunately, it’s a bit lacking in dedicated card advantage, and has neither Lingering Souls nor Snapcaster Mage. Consequently, it’s an underdog against similar decks that have access to these cards. If the opponent has a sufficient number of answers for Jund’s threats, then you’ll inevitably play some games where you struggle to put together an offense.
Relative to other black midrange decks, the small creature matchups tend to be better while the grindy and non-interactive matchups tend to be worse.
Collected Company, Humans, Hatebears, Infect. These matchups are the reason to choose Jund. Your removal is brutally efficient, and when paired with something like Dark Confidant or Grim Lavamancer, you can utterly dismantle small creature decks.
Affinity and Lantern. In my opinion, Jund is also the best of the black midrange decks in both of these matchups. The red removal and artifact hate (notably Ancient Grudge) go a long way. Additionally, Jund often plays some number of cards that can win through an Ensnaring Bridge such as Hazoret the Fervent or Chandra, Torch of Defiance.
Storm. Storm is a good matchup for all black midrange decks, but Jund is probably the one where the matchup is the least lopsided. Jund has a slower clock, and an excess of creature removal can be a liability against certain draws.
Burn. Blackcleave Cliffs and extra 1-mana removal give you a fighting chance at beating even their best draws. Collective Brutality paired with either Kitchen Finks or Huntmaster of the Fells can allow you to crush this matchup after sideboard if you’re willing to gun for it.
Fair (Close to Even) Matchups
Dredge. My recommended deck list has 3 main-deck Scavenging Oozes and four pieces of graveyard hate in the sideboard. This configuration can beat Dredge, but the matchup is very challenging if you skimp on hate.
Celestial Colonnade decks. This matchup isn’t as bad as it is for the Death’s Shadow decks, but it’s also not as good as it is for Abzan. An excess of removal can be a liability (more so against U/W than against Jeskai), but landing a quick Liliana still gives you a great chance to win.
Other black midrange decks. I believe that Jund is favored over Traverse Shadow, but a slight underdog against Grixis Shadow and Abzan due to how good Snapcaster Mage and Lingering Souls are in attrition battles.
Tron and Valakut. These have always been bad matchups. Jund’s clock is a bit too slow, and these decks can topdeck well after you tear their hands apart.
Living End. This is one of my least-favorite matchups to play. Grafdigger’s Cage is one of the best graveyard hate options because of its dual application against Collected Company. Unfortunately, it does nothing against Living End.
As much as I love the deck, I don’t think I can recommend Jund right now. It’s simply not the right time for it. It’s relatively low on raw power, and it’s not strong enough against the big mana decks, control decks, or in the midrange mirrors. Keep it on the shelf until Humans and Collected Company rise in popularity.
As I said at the start, Jund is a remarkably resilient and well-balanced deck. When I name something as a “bad matchup,” it’s probably closer to a 45% matchup than a 25% matchup. If you want to keep fighting the good fight, you can do so, but Jund won’t give you many easy wins.
As someone who loves the archetype, but who is also on the lookout for what will give me the best chance to win, I’ll be more likely to choose Abzan or Death’s Shadow for my next Modern tournament.