When Bloodbraid Elf was banned from Modern, many people said that Jund would disappear from the format. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Jund has continued to be a powerful deck in Modern and it does this through two different styles of deck. On the one hand you have Ajani Jund, which is a solid four color deck playing Ajani Vengeant, Path to Exile, and Lingering Souls. The other deck is the more traditional three-color Jund deck, which has taken on Huntmaster of the Fells, a popular card in the Standard format, as its new four-drop of choice. Let’s start by discussing the pros and cons of each build.
This deck revolves around its improved removal package, which includes Path to Exile. Path is a powerful spell in the Modern format, as it costs just one white mana and deals with almost any creature in the format. The big one for Jund is Wurmcoil Engine. When powered out by Tron lands, Wurmcoil resolving is very bad news since it completely shuts down Jund’s offence and forces you to have multiple removal spells in order to answer it fully. This is where Path comes in. Path is able to exile the Wurmcoil, meaning he gets no tokens to replace it, and you can go on the offensive once more.
Another solid argument in favor of Ajani Jund is the bonus it gets against aggressive-style decks. This advantage comes from Ajani Vengeant himself. Ajani can come down and immediately use his minus ability to deal three damage to a creature or player, which can often kill the creature they are attacking you with and gain you three life. This life is relevant as it also helps undo a small amount of damage that has been done to you already. Being four colors, you often deal a large amount of damage to yourself with your lands, so having Ajani to help recover from that is nice. Just as important is that Ajani then provides a target for a burn spell or perhaps even an attack from their creatures since they don’t want you to be able to minus it again.
Thirdly, playing white in this build gives you access to Lingering Souls. Jund traditionally has very few ways to interact with flyers beyond simply killing them. Lingering Souls allows you to produce a large number of flying blockers, or in some cases flying attackers, depending on the match-up. The card was added to the deck first as a way to slow down Affinity and Blitz Infect. It also gave an advantage in the Jund mirror since Jund has had issues with flying creatures as previously mentioned.
The final reason to play Ajani Jund is the ability to play Stony Silence in your sideboard. Stony Silence gives you a cheap way to almost completely shut down what the Affinity Robots deck is trying to do. While traditional Jund plays Shatterstorm for this, it can at times be simply too slow against them if they have a fast enough draw. Therefore, you would much rather have the cheaper answer.
There is one main reason you may be hesitant to play this deck: the four color mana base. While the fixing is clearly good, with access to Ravnica dual lands and Zendikar fetches, it does come at a cost. In order to curve the way you would like, you will often deal four to six damage to yourself off of your lands alone, and that’s not including draws with Thoughtseize or Dark Confidant. This is a concern against any type of aggressive strategy, as you will end up doing their work for them. The other issue with this mana base is its weakness to Blood Moon, which sees a fair amount of play in the Modern format. While you have Deathrite Shaman to help with this, it is something to be aware of when facing any deck you feel could have Blood Moon in its sideboard, like Red Deck Wins, Burn, Affinity, Storm and Splinter Twin.
With the Ajani Jund deck you improve certain match-ups you will frequenly have trouble with playing Classic Jund:
• Tron becomes more manageable because of the Path to Exiles in your main deck, which answer a resolved Wurmcoil early without stopping you from playing threats onto the board. However, there is one main issue when facing Tron once Wurmcoil has been dealt with: Karn Liberated. Karn gains value against Ajani Jund because it can be used to attack your mana and cripple you even more than, perhaps, a Wurmcoil could. I would still say the match-up improves but only by a small percentage.
• Affinity Robots is still a match-up you would like to avoid if at all possible, but with the Stony Silence in the sideboard and Lingering Souls able to block flying threats, the match-up does improve by a reasonable amount. The big thing is to be cautious of how you fetch your lands; keep your life total as high as possible to make it that much harder for them to race you.
The match-ups that Ajani Jund loses some favor in are the following:
• Splinter Twin is normally a very strong match-up for Jund, and in many ways, it still is in this version. However, you are cutting at least one copy of your most powerful spells in the match-up: Abrupt Decay. Being an instant speed answer to any target they might have and which they cannot counter is a huge game changer for Splinter Twin. When you add white to the deck, you have to shave some of this card to fit Path to Exile, which is still fine against Splinter Twin decks, except they can counter it. Also, this deck’s weakness to Blood Moon from the sideboard of Splinter Twin is relevant. You must be careful how you fetch; get basics where possible so that you can draw to your answers to this card.
• Though this deck gains some in creature match-ups, it loses its advantage against burn-based black-red decks and mono-red. These two decks are very fast and do not use many creatures you can interact with, making it harder to stabilize the board. While Ajani still helps, turn four is often too late. Skullcrack is also strong against the Ajani’s life gain. Classic Jund does not have a great match-up versus either of these decks either; however, I feel the advantage of being able to preserve life with basic lands will let you live long enough for cards like Huntmaster of the Fells to make a difference for you.
So now that we have looked closely at the Ajani Jund deck, let’s move on and discuss the more classic Jund deck, which plays most of the same cards it did before the banning of Bloodbraid Elf, but with Huntmaster of the Fells filling that four-drop slot.
The above list is the one I would take to any high-level Modern event. The primary reason I like this version more than Ajani Jund is simply that I find it to be more consistent. I rarely have mana issues in this version since I do not need to worry about finding a fourth color of mana. I also like many of its match-ups in the current Modern field. Let us begin with the pros and cons of Classic Jund.
The main advantage this version has over the four color version is a more consistent mana base. I found that you had to question too often which land you fetched up in the Ajani Jund deck; however, you are generally able to fetch more freely in this version. The big part of that is your ability to get basic lands in situations where you want to preserve your life, as well as to play around cards such as Blood Moon.Huntmaster of the Fells was picked up by Jund after the banning of Bloodbraid Elf. However, I believe this card is one of the stronger cards now in the deck-a bold claim, but one I feel confident making. Huntmaster is very good at dealing with many smaller creatures that you generally don’t want to waste a removal spell on, like Deathrite Shaman (though you should Bolt this creature if you see it on turn one), almost any creature from the Melira Pod deck and most of the GW Hate Bears deck. In testing against the Hate Bears I have found Huntmaster has turned the match-up into Jund’s favor simply because he can kill the majority of creatures the GW deck can lay. This is important because the Hate Bears deck was designed in a world of Jund as a powerful answer to it.
One card some people are not used to seeing in the mainboard of the deck is Thrun, the Last Troll. I have yet to be unhappy drawing Thrun; He is an awesome body that is very tough to answer. In the control match-up, he hits the board and then generally kills quickly since they only play one or two copies of Wrath of God. He is also a regenerating blocker against several creature decks, which they cannot kill with a burn spell. All in all, he is a very powerful card and one I love having access to in game one.
Being only three colors, this deck is able to play more copies of Abrupt Decay in its main board. I’ll stress that this is one of the best removal spells you can have in Modern; it kills a lot of the strongest creatures in the format (Tarmogoyf, Delver of Secrets, Vendilion Clique, Dark Confidant and so on) and also deals with cards like Blood Moon, Liliana of the Veil, and Aether Vial. Plus, as I mentioned before, its uncounterability is huge in the Splinter Twin match-up, as well as in the Delver match-up. All around a very strong card and worth playing many copies of.
The final card worth mentioning is Olivia Voldaren, which has dominated Standard for several months before showing up in the sideboard of Jund. Why? She is very strong in several cases-stealing a Wurmcoil or even an Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, from a Tron player, or something as simple as stealing a Tarmogoyf so yours can attack well. The power of this card is worth noting and is something to be respected.
The cons of this deck are its weak match-ups against some of the more popular decks right now. Those decks are Tron and Affinity Robots. You really need to have a specific series of draws in order to take down these match-ups. While your sideboard provides some help here with Sowing Salt for Tron and Shatterstorm for Affinity Robots, you need to draw these or risk being overrun. Other than that there is little else that playing this deck will cost you.
The match-ups that you want to face on a regular basis are American Control, Splinter Twin, and Delver variants. These are all decks you are favored against:
• For control, Thoughtseize is an awesome card at determining what they can answer, as well as providing information on what you can expect in coming turns. Also, Thrun in the main is very tough for control decks to deal with and could steal game one in a pinch. Liliana of the Veil is also strong here, as it allows you to eat away at their hand and leave them with no way to answer the threats you present.
• As for Delver and Splinter Twin, Abrupt Decay is the killer here. The card is a great answer to both decks, and generally you are able to take control of the game once you have removed their important cards.
The two main match-ups you really need to be careful of are Tron and Affinity Robots:
• As mentioned before, Tron can have very fast draws with an early Wurmcoil Engine and then put the pressure on you to react when you would rather just be attacking. Since Jund is the type of deck that wants to get advantage with one-for-one removal spells, it is tough to defeat Tron since its threats are so resistnant to that kind of gameplay.
• Affinity Robots is tough because it often has draws that race anything you are able to muster. This is mainly due to Archbound Ravager, which invalidates your removal, and Cranial Plating, which will threaten a serious amount of damage very quickly if left unanswered.
These decks are very much midrange style decks; they can take on either an aggressive style or more controlling style, depending on the match-up. If you are the type of player who likes being able to grind out an advantage through hand disruption and one-for-one removal and end the game with efficent creatures then these decks are for you.
That will conclude this examination of two variants of Jund in the Modern format. I hope this will convince you to switch to one of these decks or help you to better play against them. Don’t forget to check out my personal stream on twitch.tv/stoylesmtg, where I feature different Modern and Legacy decks. There will be an article similar to this one coming in the future concerning the Jund decks of Legacy so keep your eyes out for that! Thanks everyone!