An Introduction to Snapcaster Jund


This week, I’m focusing on a single Magic the Gathering deck that you might try at your local FNM, or even consider for the upcoming Standard PTQ season: a spicier version of Jund than you’re probably used to seeing.

What exactly is Snapcaster Jund? Well, it’s quite literally Jund Midrange with Snapcaster Mages. I began with Brad Nelson’s deck that he took to the top four of a Magic Online Premier Event:

Why add another color just for Snapcaster Mage?

I don’t have to tell you that Snapcaster Mage is a good Magic card. But why is it good in Jund?

First of all, the deck is already set up fairly well for Snapcaster Mage. Jund has a wide selection of cheap removal spells that can be flashed back, Kessig Wolf Run to turn the 2/1 body into a late-game threat, and Farseek for mana fixing to make splashing a fourth color trivial.

Snapcaster Mage also makes Huntmaster of the Fells much better. Since you have more things to do at instant speed, you can transform your Huntmaster into a Ravager while still using your mana efficiently. (Grisly Salvage also helps in this regard.) Snapcaster Mage plus the spell you flashback also conveniently flips your Ravager back again. A normal Jund deck has a much harder time flipping Huntmaster without losing tempo or throwing away cards at inopportune moments.

The sideboard cards also gain a lot from being flashed back with Snapcaster Mage. Duress is a cheap, proactive spell that punishes bad keeps and can absolutely cripple your opponent when cast twice. The first Slaughter Games can be used to name a card that you can’t beat in the short term, while the second copy can be used to name a crucial late-game card (Sphinx’s Revelation against Esper and UWR, or Angel of Serenity against Reanimator). You can also use Snapcaster Mage to turn Slaughter Games into sort of a Cabal Therapy.

No Planeswalkers?

Liliana of the Veil and Garruk, Primal Hunter, are typically there to provide the Jund deck with a source of grindy card advantage and resiliency associated with the archetype, but Brad supports the idea that Planeswalkers aren’t good enough in the current Standard environment. When facing decks that play multiple two-drops on turn two or that reanimate Craterhoof Behemoth on turn four, I’m inclined to agree.

Cutting the planeswalkers opens up five to six slots for Snapcaster Mages and Grisly Salvages – a clean swap, considering how the two groups of cards are at odds with each other. Mana costs of 1BB and 2GGG also become more difficult to achieve once you add the fourth color.

Grisly Salvage is not as tremendous in Jund as it is in a full-on graveyard strategy, but it functions much like Thought Scour does to keep the deck flowing and fill the graveyard with spells for Snapcaster Mage. It can also help dig for a specific card at any point in the game, be it a third land, a blue mana source, a creature, or a Kessig Wolf Run.

The first version of the deck that I played looked like this:

Entering the “Win an Uncut Sheet” side event at GP Pittsburgh on Friday, this is what I registered. I expected a lot of Junk Reanimator, so I came prepared with Deathrite Shaman, Syncopate, and Rakdos Charm, in addition to Slaughter Games. I cut a land, since I expected Deathrite Shaman to act as a legitimate mana source when I needed it. I thought that Murder might be a little harder to cast than it would be in a normal Jund list, but I still wanted a solid answer to Obzedat, Ghost Council.

Undying Evil was an experimental addition that’s seen play in some Dark Naya builds, but I soon realized how ridiculous it was after the very first time I cast it in response to a removal spell on my Thragtusk. In fact, it also works extremely well with Huntmaster of the Fells and Snapcaster Mage, and almost nobody expects it. It ended up being great against red decks but poor against Reanimator, since they don’t run much removal, and the removal they do have (Angel of Serenity and Sever the Bloodline) often exiles. Against decks like Jund, UWR, or Esper, when you know they have removal, it’s nice to be able to play a creature and protect it by leaving one mana open.

I ended up going 3-3 after losing to three different aggro decks but beating blue decks rather easily. It seemed clear to me that the deck absolutely needed Bonfire of the Damned to shore up the aggro matchup and to sometimes miraculously pull you out of otherwise unwinnable situations.

To help against aggro, the second round of changes I made was to add in Bonfires and switch back to Vampire Nighthawk instead of Deathrite Shaman, as well as to devote a few more sideboard slots to cards like Pillar of Flame. On Sunday at the GP, I played in the Super Series Standard event and started off 3-0-1 before losing to SCG DC winner David Bauer playing Junk Reanimator.

It was a rather disappointing result for the deck, but I did get a good feel for Snapcaster Jund and would play the following list going forward:

Vs. Naya Blitz, RG Aggro, Experiment Jund

+2 Pillar of Flame, +3 Gloom Surgeon, +1 Bonfire of the Damned

-2 Deathrite Shaman, -1 Olivia Voldaren, -1 Murder, -1 Rakdos’s Return, -1 Syncopate

The aggro matchups are when you’ll be happy not to be playing any slow planeswalkers. Huntmaster, Thragtusk, and Wolf Run are generally enough to win once you stabilize, and I might even shave another Olivia to keep in Murder if I see Hellrider or Thundermaw Hellkite.

Vs. Jund Midrange, Naya Midrange, Wolf Run Bant

+2 Duress, +1 Negate, +2 Acidic Slime, +1 Bonfire of the Damned

-2 Deathrite Shaman, -3 Tragic Slip, -1 Abrupt Decay

This is a broad category of decks, but in any sort of midrange matchup, you want to cut some of the weaker one-for-one removal spells and be ready to deal with additional permanents like more planeswalkers. Duress and Negate also help in the battle over X-spells: Bonfire, Sphinx’s Revelation, and Rakdos’s Return. Acidic Slime kills opposing Kessig Wolf Runs and other sideboard cards such as Witchbane Orb, Assemble the Legion, Detention Sphere, Pithing Needle, Underworld Connections, and Staff of Nin.

Vs. Junk Reanimator

+2 Deathrite Shaman, +2 Slaughter Games, +2 Acidic Slime, +1 Bonfire of the Damned

-4 Huntmaster of the Fells, -1 Tragic Slip, -2 Abrupt Decay

Huntmaster is rather poor in this matchup, since they just go over the top with bigger creatures. Olivia and Deathrite Shaman are the key creatures to dig for with Grisly Salvage. Deathrite Shaman is especially important as a mana source, since they will be Sliming your lands. Slaughter Games will generally name Angel of Serenity or Unburial Rites first, depending on which is more threatening and what is in their graveyard or hand.

Vs. UWR Flash

+2 Deathrite Shaman, +2 Duress, +1 Negate, +2 Slaughter Games

-2 Tragic Slip, -3 Olivia Voldaren, -2 Bonfire of the Damned

Sideboarding will mostly depend on their build. Acidic Slime is a possibility if you sniff out any Assemble the Legions; it’s a poor target for their Azorius Charms and can sometimes attack a shaky manabase. Olivia, on the other hand, does not appreciate getting Azorius Charmed and also gets Searing Speared easily, so I don’t like her in this matchup. The Snapcaster Mage version of Jund is better at responding at instant-speed than normal Jund, so you can kind of play at their pace. Slaughter Games on Sphinx’s Revelation, followed by one or two of their creatures, makes it very difficult for them to kill you.

Vs. Esper Control

+2 Deathrite Shaman, +2 Duress, +1 Negate, +2 Acidic Slime, +2 Slaughter Games

-3 Tragic Slip, -3 Olivia Voldaren, -1 Abrupt Decay, -2 Bonfire of the Damned

Your strategy here is mostly the same as in the UWR Flash matchup, but you definitely want Acidic Slime to target their Witchbane Orbs and Nephalia Drownyards. Overcommitting into a Supreme Verdict is also more of a concern, so finding Kessig Wolf Run should be a priority.

With the Standard format currently being dominated by Junk Reanimator, it’s clear that Jund needs to take some steps to evolve. I think that moving away from planeswalkers and adopting the Snapcaster Mage-Grisly Salvage package is a reasonable plan. Deathrite Shaman is an excellent hate card that, unlike others such as Grafdigger’s Cage and Ground Seal, has a broader function and doesn’t interfere with our own graveyard use.

I want to keep experimenting with the flex spots – Undying Evil and Syncopate can be very good at times, but not as consistent and reliable as the rest of the deck is built to be. It’s possible that there should be another Rakdos’s Return or two in the 75 somewhere; the card Performs well, but you don’t really want to draw more than one.

The deck could also use a better name – Blue Jund? Mage-Jund? Help me out!

Alex Bianchi
Gemmanite on Twitter and MTGO