Taking a Second Look at Modern Jund
Modern has changed in the five years I’ve been playing and following it, and some decks that used to be on top of the dogpile have found themselves kicked off their perch. As Modern has become more powerful, aggressive, and linear, many of the fair, interactive decks that reigned supreme have gone the way of the dinosaur. Jund is one of these decks that has been pushed out more and more by the changes in the metagame, but Modern Horizons has brought along a good number of new toys that warrant giving this battered archetype a second chance.
Modern Trends: How Did We Get Here?
The most recent Standard set, War of the Spark, brought a slew of format-altering cards to the table. While their impacts have been varied depending on the format, Modern has been largely rocked by the powerful planeswalkers that have slotted into new and existing archetypes. The three biggest culprits, many would say, are Teferi, Time Raveler, Narset, Parter of Veils, and Karn, the Great Creator.
Azorius Control by Do0mSwitch, 1st Place, MTGO Modern Playoffs
|24Lands||16Other Permanents||22Instants and Sorceries|
|3Celestial Colonnade||4Snapcaster Mage||3Cryptic Command|
|4Field of Ruin||1Vendilion Clique||2Force of Negation|
|4Flooded Strand||2Jace, the Mind Sculptor||1Logic Knot|
|2Glacial Fortress||3Narset, Parter of Veils||1Mana Leak|
|2Hallowed Fountain||1Teferi, Hero of Dominaria||4Opt|
|6Island||2Teferi, Time Raveler||4Path to Exile|
|2Plains||1Detention Sphere||1Spell Snare|
|1Polluted Delta||2Surgical Extraction|
|1Wrath of God|
|1Baneslayer Angel||2Celestial Purge||1Disdainful Stroke|
|1Dovin's Veto||1Force of Negation||1Monastery Mentor|
|4Rest in Peace||1Stony Silence||1Supreme Verdict|
|1Timely Reinforcements||1Vendilion Clique|
Mono-G Tron by WarAndMagicTV, 13th Place, MTGO Modern Playoffs
|1Blast Zone||2Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger||4Chromatic Sphere|
|4Forest||2Walking Ballista||4Chromatic Star|
|1Ghost Quarter||2Wurmcoil Engine||4Expedition Map|
|1Sanctum of Ugin||2Oblivion Stone|
|4Urza's Mine||3Relic of Progenitus|
|4Urza's Power Plant||4Karn Liberated|
|4Urza's Tower||4Karn, the Great Creator|
|2Ugin, the Spirit Dragon|
|1Chalice of the Void||1Crucible of Worlds||1Grafdigger's Cage|
|1Mycosynth Lattice||3Nature's Claim||1Oblivion Stone|
|1Sorcerous Spyglass||1Spellskite||2Surgical Extraction|
These planeswalkers, which are sometimes referred to as “cursewalkers” due to their static abilities, have risen to the forefront of the format due to their propensity to completely hose certain strategies while at the same time acting as miniature Howling Mines. Teferi invalidates strategies that rely on playing at instant speed, and Narset shuts down the various cantrips and card-draw effects that enable some of the format’s most powerful plays. Karn is a four-mana Stony Silence that typically comes down sooner than turn four, while also threatening a game-locking combo with Mycosynth Lattice.
There had been rumblings about whether or not these WAR planeswalkers should be banned due to how they warped gameplay, but before any sort of proper furor could be gathered by the community, Modern Horizons was released, and with it, a new Public Enemy Number One
The Avatar-Sized Elephant in the Room
Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis is a card that should never have been printed, and along with the entry of Altar of Dementia into the format, the arisen necropolis has completely shaken up the metagame. In the most recent MTGO Modern Playoffs event that took place on June 22nd, eight out of the top sixteen decks were Hogaak Bridgevine decks in a field prepared for it and packed to the brim with graveyard hate.
Hogaak Bridgevine by JPA93, 4th Place, MTGO Modern Playoffs
|4Blackcleave Cliffs||4Bloodghast||4Bridge from Below|
|3Blood Crypt||4Carrion Feeder||2Darkblast|
|4Bloodstained Mire||4Gravecrawler||4Altar of Dementia|
|2Godless Shrine||4Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis||4Faithless Looting|
|4Polluted Delta||4Insolent Neonate|
|2Flamekin Harbinger||2Ingot Chewer||4Leyline of the Void|
|2Lightning Axe||2Thalia, Guardian of Thraben||3Wispmare|
I’ve had my share of missed shots regarding Modern, but I am quite certain of the eventuality of a ban involving a piece from this deck. While Bridgevine variants have popped up here and there throughout Modern’s history, the core problem of the deck was its inconsistency and its tendency to sputter in the face of any graveyard hate. This is no longer the case - with Altar of Dementia and Hogaak, the deck has not only become extremely consistent, but also can win through a considerable amount of hate. A simple Surgical Extraction will not get the job done, and a turn-two Rest in Peace on the draw may simply not be enough with how explosive many of its draws can be. While the deck is not on the power-level of, say, Eye of Ugin Eldrazi, the strains it puts on the format as a whole will not be ignored by Wizards of the Coast. The word “busted” gets thrown around loosely when it comes to describing decks, cards, and interactions in Magic, but this is one of those cases where the shoe fits: Hogaak Bridgevine is a busted deck.
Adapt and Overcome: A Midrange Story
Now that the setting has been set, we can take a look at Jund Midrange, an archetype that has not particularly benefited from these developments. Jund is not a home for any of the WAR hatewalkers, and the splash damage of graveyard hate being so omnipresent has hurt it in a noticeable way. Additionally, as the format has considerably sped up, Jund has been caught in an awkward spot playing its Raging Ravines tapped and casting Dark Confidant into a sea of aggressive strategies. Despite these fundamental problems, Jund seems to have found a semblance of a footing in this new format with the help of new cards and innovative changes to deckbuilding.
Key Additions and Potential Newcomers
I already wrote about Seasoned Pyromancer several weeks ago, so I’m not going to repeat myself more than I already have. In any case, the general consensus seems to be warming up more and more to the idea of the card being played in Jund, even if one of my readers kindly let me know that he or she didn’t share my level of enthusiasm.
In all seriousness, Pyromancer plays out as a modal spell that can draw cards, filter draws, create bodies, or be pitched for value. Its play pattern in particular works well with our next card, which has turned out to be a game-changer for Jund.
A card shouldn’t do all the things that Wrenn and Six does for two mana, and it’s not until you see the card in play that you begin to see how perfectly it fits into Jund’s overall game plan. Being able to buy back your fetch lands is one thing, but its ability to ping for one damage is versatile in a format full of one-toughness creatures and planeswalkers that end up sitting at one loyalty after a downtick. As if that’s not enough, the card is a win-con on its own, as even a lone Lightning Bolt in the graveyard can be enough once the emblem hits the battlefield. Even if the opponent has a Fatal Push for Jund’s creatures, Wrenn and Six attacks the opponent from such a different angle and demands a completely different answer that it wouldn’t surprise me if Jund lists next year are playing a playset of this card.
Our very own Jamin Kauf spoiled Plague Engineer on his article, and the card is beating in practice. I mentioned in the previous paragraph that Modern is full of one-toughness creatures, and in particular, many of the go-wide strategies employ the largest number of them. Wiping boards, making combat advantageous, and even serving as blocking duty to the deathtouch makes Plague Engineer a card that players may still be sleeping on. It wouldn’t shock me for it to replace Liliana, the Last Hope in the main deck as a one-of because of its utility in the current metagame, and I expect to see a ton of this card moving forward.
I know, I know - I trashed Hexdrinker as one of Modern Horizon’s biggest duds in my previous article, and I’m still not completely sold on the card. However, I’ve seen the one-mana snake pop up in some BG Rock builds over the past week, and it might be the case that this creature deserves a second look. I mentioned that Modern has gotten much faster since the release of the last two Modern-relevant sets, and Hexdrinker doubles as a card that lowers the curve and serves as a mana sink if the game becomes grindy.
At the End of a Storm, There’s a Jund-Colored Sky
I’m going to wrap this up with a list that 5-0’d the MTGO Modern League recently. While I expect the list to change as the metagame ebbs and flows and new cards from M20 are introduced, I think this is a place to start when looking at what a potential Jund Midrange list could look like in today’s Modern. That’s all for this week - thanks for stopping by, and please feel free to share your thoughts on Jund in the comment section below!
Jund Midrange by cmeks, 5-0, MTGO Modern League
|1Ancient Grudge||1Anger of the Gods||1Chandra, Torch of Defiance|
|2Collector Ouphe||3Fulminator Mage||4Leyline of the Void|
|2Plague Engineer||1Weather the Storm|
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