To say that I’ve played a lot of Modern recently would be an understatement. I tested for the Pro Tour, a Grand Prix shortly thereafter, and with the unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf, I jumped right back in.
After playing with a variety of Jace decks, and now spending some time on Bloodbraid Elf this week, I’m confident that Bloodbraid Elf is, at least for now, the higher impact card on Modern.
I jumped right into Jund as my first Bloodbraid Elf deck, managed to play 25-30 matches (5 or 6 Leagues), acquiring a 4-1 record in 100% of those Leagues with Jund. I think Jund is currently the best deck in Modern and if I were going to play a Modern tournament this weekend, I’d sleeve up something similar to this:
Note: This is different than the list Team CFB submitted to Team Modern Super League but there were some rules involved that made us change our deck lists a little.
Be warned—I may not have the same reputation as Reid Duke or Brad Nelson (who am I kidding? Everyone thinks I’m Brad anyway), but I do bias towards playing midrange decks and decks with Thoughtseize.
#8: Low Fail Rate
When I talk about a fail rate in Modern, I’m talking about the times the Affinity deck doesn’t draw its Cranial Plating or Arcbound Ravager instead of some mopey 1/1s, or the times that Tron fails to its lands together, or even when Death’s Shadows decks fail to produce a threat until it’s too late in a game. Jund has a high density of threats and interaction so it rarely just sits around and doesn’t do much. Jund doesn’t rely on one specific card or a combination of cards to win—it can win in a variety of ways. When I sleeve up a Jund deck for a Modern tournament I know the number of games where my deck simply won’t function will be very low, and I enjoy making my opponents beat me rather than my deck beating itself.
Sam Pardee once told me that not playing creature decks in Modern is usually a huge mistake. He believes this because of the free wins you get by attacking other decks’ higher fail rates. I think his logic is sound, and I try to follow his advice when it comes to Modern. This same argument is why Eldrazi decks have put up results time and time again. Put creatures onto the battlefield with a minor amount of disruption and you can beat almost anything. Jund is able to get these free wins by interacting in a small way, then piling threat after threat. Casting a turn 1 Thoughtseize can sometimes buy enough time to make that turn-2 Tarmogoyf and turn-4 Bloodbraid Elf go all the way.
#6: Can Play Long/Doesn’t Flood Out
One of the major issues with Death’s Shadow decks is that they tend to flood out. Death’s Shadow wants to get on the board early and play from ahead, and before the unbannings, they were the fair decks of choice in the format. Jund doesn’t have that problem. Liliana of the Veil mitigates flood by giving you the ability to trade your lands for opponent’s spells. Bloodbraid Elf combined with Kolaghan’s Command allows you to use your mana later in the game, and then you have more traditional mana sinks with creaturelands and Scavenging Ooze. Lastly, an unchecked Dark Confidant gives you additional spells to cast. All of these small things make it so Jund can play long games against cards like Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Search for Azcanta, and not fall too far behind them. This is a big reason why I like playing this deck right now. Jund can grind as well as the blue decks, and that’s impressive.
#5: Good Sideboard
Jund is well-known for having a great sideboard, mostly because it has some bad cards game 1 against a lot of decks. For right now, I think it has a good sideboard because you can shore up a lot of its tougher matchups like Burn, Tron, and Dredge by devoting the right sideboard slots. The addition of Collective Brutality since the last time we had Bloodbraid Elf makes this deck so much better. We used to play Duress in the sideboard against combo decks and Burn . Collective Brutality may be a weaker version of Duress against combo, an already good matchup, but it’s exceptionally strong against Burn. With just Collective Brutalities and some Kitchen Finks (and finding both more often with Bloodbraid Elf) you get to take out your Thoughtseizes and Dark Confidants and make huge upgrades. The fact that you don’t need to devote a bunch of cards to fair matchups means that you can focus on big mana, graveyard decks, and add some Ancient Grudges for artifact decks. When your removal is ineffective you can usually swap in your Collective Brutalities and not have any dead cards. I really like how Jund’s sideboard can be configured at the moment.
#4: There’s no “Gotcha” Card
When I show up to a tournament with Affinity and opponent after opponent plays Stony Silence, I know I’m going to have a rough day. When I show up with Tron and my opponent is curving Stone Rain into Crumble to Dust, I know it’s just not going to happen for me today. Even Death’s Shadow variants had trouble against cards like Rest in Peace. Jund doesn’t have any major issues with any particular sideboard cards. Rest in Peace might shut off your Tarmogoyfs and make your Scavenging Oozes worse, but you can still kill them with your Grizzly Bears and a Bloodbraid Elf or Raging Ravine. This week I played B/G Midrange, and I lost twice to Mirran Crusader out of two different decks. There’s not a card like this that Jund is unable to beat. If a deck’s bad against Jund, they’re going to need to do more than add a single card to their sideboard. Playing Jund, you never get the feeling like the one you get after you spend three minutes combo’ing off with Storm only to see your opponent drop a Mindbreak Trap on the table.
#3: Variety of Threats
Jund gets on the board in several ways. Turn-1 Raging Ravine, turn-2 Dark Confidant, turn-3 Liliana, of the Veil. That’s three different threats that require three very different answers. This allows you to continually play out threats against decks like U/W Control that may try and pick off your board with sweepers, or even have a lasting threat through an Oblivion Stone activation. Attacking from this many angles requires your opponent to have a variety of answers or slowly get picked apart by whichever threat happens to stick. This is exacerbated by hand disruption that lets you manipulate their hand so their answers don’t line up well with your threats.
#2: Has Game Against Anything
Thoughtseize decks have a reputation for never having a bad matchup, and that’s relatively true. Any deck can find itself in trouble against turn-1 Thoughtseize, turn-2 Tarmogoyf or Dark Confidant. With the format in flux, playing a deck like this has huge upside. Everyone is trying out new brews with Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Bloodbraid Elf, and you can just bring tried-and-true Jund to the table and make a mess of their inconsistencies. I like to make other players try to figure out how to beat me, not the other way around. With Bloodbraid Elf being the natural foil to Jace, the Mind Sculptor, it would be wise to take the winning side.
#1: Bloodbraid Elf
Bloodbraid Elf is the card I’m most excited about playing in Modern right now. Its ability to apply pressure, produce tempo, and gain card advantage is unmatched in Modern. With sideboard cards at a premium, it’s a way for the Gruul color pair to find them. While I could be wrong that Jund is the absolute best deck in the format right now, I’m fairly confident that if it’s not, then it’s another deck with Bloodbraid Elf.
It’s possible that I’m just beating people trying new things in a low stakes environment, but right now Jund is the best deck in Modern. Change my mind.