A Jund article in 2020? I know, weird, right? Don’t close the tab, though — you’ll want to read this.
If you’ve kept your ear to the ground in Modern recently, you may have heard some whispers that Jund is good again. Those whispers got some validation last weekend when Michael Farrell took down the Star City Games Classic with old reliable.
What happened? What brought people back to Jund? Why is Jund suddenly good again? Let’s take a look at the deck and its place in the current metagame.
The New Tricks
Modern is a, “Well, what have you done for me lately?” kind of format. The newest cards are some of the flashiest and most powerful we’ve seen in recent memory, so it’s easy to ignore the old pillars of the format. Jund is an old dog in Modern, but what new tricks has it picked up?
Over the last year, Jund has had a number of upgrades: Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger, Wrenn and Six, Barren Moor, Nurturing Peatland, Ashiok, Dream Render, Pillage, and Plague Engineer. Seven is a lot of new cards to pick up in a short time frame, so it’s no wonder that we’re seeing a boost in Jund’s performance.
It’s often a running joke that Standard mythic rares get absorbed into Modern Jund, but Kroxa plays an important role in the deck. Jund used to have access to the most powerful cards in Modern, but that’s no longer true. As the decks around Jund got new cards and improved, that gap shrunk significantly, which exposed a real weakness of Jund: closing speed. Jund’s disruption is less effective as games go longer because the top of the opposing library is more powerful than it used to be.
Fortunately, Kroxa can end the game in a hurry. Lava Spiking your opponent while making them discard a card on turn two is powerful, but the real damage comes once Kroxa escapes. A creature that can deny the opponent cards while chunking for nine damage is exactly the kind of card that Jund was missing.
One of the most “Jund” cards printed in a while, Wrenn and Six made a splash in the deck with the release of Modern Horizons. Two-mana spells that are useful in the late game — such as Scavenging Ooze and Dark Confidant — are the bread and butter of Jund. Wrenn and Six interacts with small creatures early, ensures you hit your land drops, and has a devastating ultimate. It’s the perfect fit for Jund.
I’m lumping Barren Moor and Nurturing Peatland together because they both serve the same purpose. Both of these lands provide mana or an extra card, depending on the situation, and that’s valuable in a 24-land deck that’s susceptible to flooding. You can also return either of these lands to your hand with Wrenn and Six; when Jund gets to draw two cards per turn, good things are bound to happen.
The treats from Modern Horizons keep on coming with Plague Engineer. Tribal decks pose problems for Jund, as one-for-one removal spells don’t always line up well against decks trying to go wide. Against decks like Elves and Spirits, this Plague Wind with legs will just slam the door. Additionally, Plague Engineer lines up well against tokens strategies, and is surprisingly effective at dealing with cards like Bloodghast out of graveyard decks.
Ashiok, Dream Render might just be a sideboard card, but it helps Jund in a number of match-ups. It prevents Primeval Titan and Chord of Calling decks from searching up win conditions, and its ability to annihilate graveyards means it can replace narrow cards like Leyline of the Void. You might not always see this War of the Spark uncommon in the board, but Ashiok usually warrants a spot in the 15.
While the previous cards have become Jund staples, Pillage is a more contested pick. Some players prefer Stone Rain, since there’s only one red mana symbol in its casting cost, but doesn’t hit artifacts. Others prefer the classic Fulminator Mage — a 2/2 that can be bought back with Kolaghan’s Command — but that opens up the possibility of Veil of Summer blow-outs. Jund players will need to decide on the right combination of these three spells, but it doesn’t make a ton of sense to mix Stone Rain with Pillage.
Now that we’ve seen all the recent upgrades Jund has received, let’s see how Michael Farrell put them all together to win the SCG Classic in Indianapolis.
4 Bloodbraid Elf
2 Scavenging Ooze
2 Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger
4 Liliana of the Veil
3 Wrenn and Six
2 Assassin’s Trophy
2 Fatal Push
2 Kolaghan’s Command
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Inquisition of Kozilek
1 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Barren Moor
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
1 Blood Crypt
3 Bloodstained Mire
1 Nurturing Peatland
2 Overgrown Tomb
2 Raging Ravine
1 Stomping Ground
4 Verdant Catacombs
1 Wooded Foothills
Thirteen copies of cards printed since May 2019 made their way into Michael’s list. These new cards have given Jund a refreshing face-lift and new ways to attack Modern going forward.
Jund in the Modern Metagame
These new cards are clearly helping Jund win tournaments again, but we’ll need to take a deeper look at the metagame to figure out why. Let’s start with the general unpopularity of Jund’s bad match-ups: Scapeshift, Tron, and Dredge. Scapeshift has taken a back seat to Amulet Titan as the de facto Primeval Titan deck, Dredge struggles against Amulet, and Tron has been missing from the metagame for quite some time.
Speaking of Amulet, Jund players seem to have found a way to make the once-abysmal match-up winnable. It may take 4+ Stone Rain effects and two copies of Ashiok, Dream Render out of the board to do so, but Jund has the sideboard slots to spare. I’d hesitate to call Jund a favorite in these match-ups, but it’s certainly much better than it was a year ago.
Jund has always gone toe-to-toe with the other midrange decks of Modern, and Kroxa just makes that easier. A recursive threat that always generates value is something that other interactive decks will struggle with. Wrenn and Six, Liliana of the Veil, Bloodbraid Elf, and even Huntmaster of the Fells also shine when both players are trying to grind.
Kroxa also excels in the role of “two-drop with relevant text” against combo decks. A sequence of Thoughtseize, Kroxa, and Liliana of the Veil is going to be lights out against many combo decks; they’ll often be down too many cards to go off before Kroxa and Liliana can finish the job.
Jund is also a perennial favorite against creature decks. Discard spells break up an opponent’s curve, Lightning Bolt and Fatal Push keep the battlefield clear, and Tarmogoyf and Scavenging Ooze can hold down the ground or race Humans and Spirits.
Jund ’Em Out
If you’ve been down on Jund recently, I hope I’ve convinced you to give it a second look. If you want to chat about the deck, you can as always find me on Twitter at @RappaciousOne. Until next time, keep Junding!
Michael Rapp is a Modern specialist who favors Thoughtseize decks. Magic sates his desire for competition and constant improvement.