The Future of Dark Confidant and Modern Jund
- Hans Davidson
Midrange decks are built with the metagame in mind and are thus highly customizable. Regardless, even the most customizable of these decks still play core cards that are integral to the deck’s gameplan. Very rarely, in a non-rotating format such as Modern, does a new card come along that displaces the current best-in-slot card for a midrange deck. With the printing of Wrenn and Six in Modern Horizons, I believe that Dark Confidant has found himself as the odd man out after years of being a Jund mainstay.
Card Advantage, at Any Cost
Dark Confidant's traditional role in Jund Midrange is the must-remove two-drop that would accrue card advantage if left alone. In combo-based match-ups, Confidant helped pressure the opponent and draw the necessary interaction to disrupt the opponent. In midrange matchups, he sat back and drew the cards to mitigate the +1 ability of Liliana of the Veil. In creature-based matchups that weren't against aggressive strategies, Dark Confidant drew into the removal necessary to help keep the board clear.
There's a reason that Dark Confidant's flavor text is iconic: "Greatness, at any cost," means that there will be matchups where he is not a card you want to see in your hand. Against Humans and Burn, for example, the card will oftentimes seem to be playing for the other team. Because of this drawback, Jund lists have historically played anything from two to four copies of Dark Confidant depending on the metagame and how high the mana curve of the deck was - in particular, how many copies of Bloodbraid Elf were in the main deck.
Here's a sample list from the winner of Redbull Untapped Qualifiers in Brussel from July:
Jund Midrange by Andon de Smet, 1st place
|1Surgical Extraction||1Ancient Grudge||2Collector Ouphe|
|1Weather the Storm||1Anger of the Gods||1Ashiok, Dream Render|
|2Fulminator Mage||1Plague Engineer||1Chandra, Torch of Defiance|
|1Damnation||3Leyline of the Void|
This particular iteration of Jund only runs three Dark Confidants - in fact, there's another auspicious two-drop that boasts as many slots as the Confidants...
For those who have been following the price trends of Modern Horizon's cards, one card sticks out for its explosive price spike: Wrenn and Six. The demand for the card has been largely come from the Legacy community, which has embraced the union between Wrenn and Six and Wasteland. For Modern, there's been more of a trepidation in finding a home for the card. Initial Jund lists started with two, have moved up to three, and yet there's a reluctance to make the jump of playing a full playset, partly due to two reasons: price and Dark Confidant. Wrenn and Six is no longer the fifteen-euro pick-up that it was during presale, and it's understandable that players are reluctant to drop 70 euros for that last copy if they already shelled out a fortune for the first three. Additionally, there's the matter of Dark Confidant, another two-drop that seemingly does a similar job as Wrenn and a card that people already own. Dark Confidant itself isn't a cheap card, either, and there may be a reluctance of letting go of something so expensive that has been a Jund mainstay for years. Dark Confidant, however, is no Wrenn and Six, and players would be mistaken to think that it is similar to Wrenn and Six.
As mentioned earlier, Dark Confidant is a card-engine that, left unchecked, takes over the game, but the card is by no means perfect. The card has some glaring weaknesses, which are particularly damaging in the current metagame. The biggest strike that the card has going against it is simply its rate - a two-mana 2/1 creature is something that can be easily dealt with, whether it be by Lightning Bolt, Fatal Push, or Lava Dart. Even worse, the body matches up poorly against opposing Wrenn and Six that can ping it with the minus ability, and the fact that it's a creature opens it up to being bounced by effects from Teferi, Time Raveler and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. The card's position in the metagame is also not one to envy, as aggressive decks in the form of the reworked Hogaak Dredgevine Aggro, Mono-Red Phoenix, and Five-Color Humans make the card a life-total liability in these matchups. Adding fuel to the fire, Burn has also been seeing a big resurgence lately due to the addition of Sunbaked Canyon. While the flavor text of Dark Confidant does say, "at any cost," losing a majority of matchups isn't a price worth paying.
Wrenn and Six, on the other hand, solves many of the problems that plague Dark Confidant. Planeswalkers are a notoriously difficult card-type to deal with. One that can come down on turn two demands immediate attention, yet the solution is not quite simple. Using a removal spell such as Abrupt Decay nets the player who cast Wrenn and Six and used the first ability a card, while the planeswalker comes down early enough that most decks don't have creatures on the battlefield ready to attack it. Furthermore, Wrenn "draws" a card similar to Dark Confidant, except that the card that Wrenn draws is guaranteed to be a land and costs no (or one, if you get a fetchland back) life. Being able to consistently ensure land drops, all the while avoiding life loss off of an untimely Bloodbraid Elf flip, makes the card much better in aggressive matchups. Finally, Wrenn and Six immediately generates value the turn it comes into play. Regrowthing a land is perfectly fine, but if an opponent has a creature with one toughness or a planeswalker on one loyalty, Wrenn can accrue value by dealing a point of damage to them. The flexibility with which Wrenn creates card advantage makes the card that much better than Dark Confidant, even if Wrenn can't attack or block.
The question, then, becomes: how many copies of Wrenn and Six should Jund be playing?
Wrenn and Six … Times Four?
Wrenn and Six is an upgrade to Dark Confidant in almost every case for Jund, and there's currently very little reason to be playing Confidant other than for nostalgia's sake. Wrenn replaces the two-drop spot that Dark Confidant occupied as the more dynamic card-engine, which in turn opens up the archetype to more variants. I would currently advocate for four copies in the main deck, and I would also like to share some promising deck-lists that share this departure from playing Dark Confidant.
Jund Midrange by MTGO user Butakov, Modern MOCS (6-2), July 14, 2019
|4Blackcleave Cliffs||2Scavenging Ooze||4Wrenn and Six|
|1Blood Crypt||4Tarmogoyf||4Liliana of the Veil|
|3Bloodstained Mire||1Plague Engineer||2Inquisition of Kozilek|
|1Forest||3Seasoned Pyromancer||4Lightning Bolt|
|1Nurturing Peatland||4Assassin's Trophy|
|2Overgrown Tomb||2Kolaghan's Command|
|1Engineered Explosives||4Nihil Spellbomb||1Surgical Extraction|
|2Ancient Grudge||2Collector Ouphe||2Fulminator Mage|
|2Plague Engineer||1Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet|
The biggest aspect that stands out from renowned MTGO grinder Butakov's list is the playset of Bloodbraid Elf in conjunction with the four copies of Wrenn and Six. Historically in Modern, Jund has generally played a 4:3 or a 3:4 split between Confidant and Bloodbraid due to how painful flipping a BBE could be from the Confidant trigger. Taking out the Confidants and replacing them with Wrenn, however, solves this issue entirely; in fact, Wrenn ensuring land drops increases the likelihood of Bloodbraid Elf being cast. Notably, as one of the ways to alleviate the problem of multiple Wrenn and Six being stuck in hand, Butakov played three copies of Seasoned Pyromancer.
Jund Midrange by MTGO user aspiringspike, Modern MOCS (6-2), July 14, 2019
|2Collective Brutality||2Collector Ouphe||2Damping Sphere|
|1Choke||2Plague Engineer||2Tireless Tracker|
|4Leyline of the Void|
Another list with a different twist to the typical Jund configuartion, this Jund Superfriends by MTGO user aspiringspike (who notably streams this deck here) plays the bare minimum of creatures to maximize the three copies of Wrenn and Six along with two copies of Chandra, Acolyte of Flame. Chandra synergizes with Wrenn by speeding her up to her ultimate, and a spell-heavy configuration makes the deck a much more grindy and control-oriented deck than any versions with Dark Confidant could ever be.
In conclusion, I believe the era of Dark Confidant in Jund is coming to a close. Wrenn and Six delivers a much more fluid tool at the two-mana spot, and her inclusion allows Jund to be customized more flexibly to reflect that. Do you agree or disagree? Let me hear your thoughts on the matter in the comment section below, and I'll see you next time!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.