Under the Radar: Ceci n’est pas une Jund deck [Modern]

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pipe

In 1929, René Magritte painted this picture. Magritte was a surrealist who used paintings to challenge people’s views about the world, and their own perception.

Is it a pipe though?

The famous pipe. How people reproached me for it! And yet, could you stuff my pipe? No, it’s just a representation, is it not? So if I had written on my picture “This is a pipe,” I’d have been lying!” – René Magritte

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Why does Jund continue to put up results in such numbers in Modern?

Because it does 3 things well:

1) Card quality. This deck plays a mix of the best threats, answers and disruption available in 3 different colours. If they have a non-land card in their hand, you should be somewhat worried. In terms of card evaluation, every card in their deck is a 7, 8, 9 or 10 (on a 10 point scale)

2) Disruption. Jund doesn’t let you play your game the way you want. Jund attacks your hand, your graveyard, and the board with their removal. If they have traded one for one and there’s nothing left on the board, the deck kills you with their lands.

3) A clock. If you don’t have answers, they can put the game away quickly. This is something that often gets overlooked, but is extremely relevant. If you strip your opponent of all their resources, they can still draw 1-2-3 perfect cards in that situation and your winning board becomes a losing one. After you achieve board control, you need to finish quickly in Modern, especially with all the unfair decks running around that can kill you on the spot.

Additionally, Modern, which is a “turn 4 format”, is slow enough that Jund can deploy all of its threats by turn 4 most games, and that’s with disruption.

So, what beats Jund?

Ah, a different time – Jace, the Mind Sculptor was not banned yet. (Not as broken with Bolt and Bloodbraid in the format)

Brad Nelson went something like 12-0 against Jund that weekend. But that was Standard Jund.

Can this be adapted to Modern? Or was Jace, the Mind Sculptor the captain who was holding the team together?

Interestingly, both the decks I just listed beat Owen Turtenwald playing Jund on Day 2 of a Grand Prix. #random

This deck has some really, really good matchups (Jund springs to mind, I think he was like 7-1 against Jund on the weekend) and some really, really bad ones.

Modern is a wide open format, with a variety of decks attacking on different axes. RG Tron will play three lands, then a Karn Liberated and all of a sudden you can’t win. Splinter Twin decks kill you on turn 4 with a million fliers. Birthing Pod decks can tutor up ways to gain a million life or deal you a million damage, as well as a million fliers (Restoration Angel). You can be dead on turn 3 to a bunch of little artifact dorks that on their own aren’t very impressive but due to Cranial Plating and Arcbound Ravager hit very, very hard. And that’s if you’re not just taking Lightning Bolt (and equivalent) to the face 7 times. A bunch of stupid lands can kill you with enters-the-battlefield triggers (Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle).

When choosing what deck to play in Modern, you need to answer the question: “What do you want to beat?”. Every deck has a good match-up, and a bad match-up.

Or – you can do what Jund does.

Ceci n’est pas une Jund deck.

*This is not the list I top 4’ed with, but the updated version I did play to a top 8. I have made a couple of changes, most notably removing the Wall of Omens for Mana Leak and removing Jace, Architect of Thought and adding the Snapcaster Mage package.

So, does it do what Jund does?

1) Card quality. Path to Exile is the best unconditional creature removal spell in the format. Snapcaster Mage is the mayor of Value-town. The deputy mayor of that town is Restoration Angel. Elspeth and Gideon are hard-to-answer planeswalkers, 2 of white’s best. Vendilion Clique is just about never a dead card, and Sphinx’s Revelation feels so unfair every time it resolves. Also, some decks scoop to Batterskull. Supreme Verdict is so good in Modern right now, and people have stopped playing around it! Lingering Souls is good enough that Jund was splashing white for it.

2) Disruption. Aside from the cards already mentioned (Path, Vendilion, Verdict), Spreading Seas does an incredible job of ruining your opponent’s plan. Not to mention that as people are forced to play more lands to gain access to their colours (there are a lot of non-blue decks running around), it turns on Tectonic Edge. You need not fear opposing creature-lands with this deck, and there are a surprising number of decks that run those lands. Mana Leak slows down the opponent, as does the additional counter-magic out of the sideboard.

3) A clock. After the board is controlled, Gideon, Elspeth, Batterskull and Celestial Colonnade hit very hard. Aggro decks often will not care about taking damage from their lands in the early game (correctly, since they are trying to win the early game) and this means 2 attack phases are often enough.

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Every deck I decide to play needs to have a satisfying answer to these 7 questions, which I have termed the “Simple Seven”:

  • What is this deck’s plan against Aggro?

  • What is this deck’s plan against Combo?

  • What is this deck’s plan against Control?

  • What does this deck offer that isn’t currently available in another deck?

  • What’s the best deck in the format, and is the match-up favourable?

  • What’s the most likely deck to be played, and is the match-up favourable?

  • How do you beat the Red deck?

What is this deck’s plan against Aggro?

In the early game – stall, stall, stall. Use any cards available to slow down the opponent’s clock, your draws will be better than theirs going long, if you’re still alive. In the mid-game, look to stabilize the board by gaining card advantage with either Verdict, Snapcaster, or planeswalkers. In the late game, play around what you can afford to play around – don’t take any damage you can avoid and try and keep creatures off the opponent’s board.

What is this deck’s plan against Combo?

Don’t tap out past turn 3 unless you have information about their hand (Vendilion). Counterspells are worth their weight in gold. Spreading Seas actually does good work here in some matchups as you may be able to keep Twin off double red and RG Tron off Tron pieces (Scapeshift usually doesn’t care about Spreading Seas but it can slow them down a little if they’re light on green) which allows Tectonic Edge to shine. The flash creatures are your clock here. It gets much, much better out of the sideboard, especially with Stony Silence being quite strong against RG Tron.

What is this deck’s plan against Control?

Resolve a planeswalker, and win the land battle with Spreading Seas. Play as much as possible on the opponent’s turn. This is a reasonable match-up but you need to draw lands. If this deck gets mana-screwed against control, you’re likely to lose. This also gets better after board but is a very grindy match-up. Watch out for Electrolyze as it is incredibly strong against this deck if you don’t play around it.

What does this deck offer that isn’t available in another deck?

This deck is the best UW deck in terms of disruption (that’s why I termed it UW Jund). Spreading Seas, Elspeth, Knight-Errant and Vendilion Clique are under-played and are very, very good. Plus, Lingering Souls makes it difficult to play around Supreme Verdict and it randomly wins games. This deck also should beat Jund every time with average draws on either side.

What’s the best deck in the format, and is the match-up favourable?

Assuming Jund is the best deck in the format, it is extremely favourable.

What’s the most likely deck to be played, and is the match-up favourable?

This is an interesting question to answer. What is the most likely deck to be played? I would say the most likely deck is a combination of Jund, ramp combo (RG tron and Scapeshift) and fast aggro (Affinity and mono-red/red-green). Jund is a very good match-up, fast aggro is favourable and ramp combo is unfavourable game one and reasonable games two and three.

How do you beat the red deck?

Game one is ok, it depends on how your draw matches up with theirs. If they have a creature heavy draw, you should be favoured. If they have a spell heavy draw, and you have Mana Leak, Batterskull, Vendilion Clique and Snapcaster Mage so this deck can get there. But it gets much better after board, with 4 Negate, 1 Dispel, 2 Spellskite, 2 Timely Reinforcements and 1 Glen Elendra Archmage coming in. I don’t mind this match-up.

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Ceci n’est pas un Jund deck.

This deck gets to play like Jund does, and it beats Jund. Who could ask for anything more?

Thanks for reading!

Johnathan

fightingmongoose on Magic Online

@JohnMBent on twitter

BONUS! A brief tournament report

This past weekend, Kyle Ryc, Dan Lanthier and I attended a PTQ in an out-of-the way location: Thunder Bay.

Picture A

Driving time (one way): 17.5 hours.

This isn’t as crazy as it sounds. Kyle Ryc was the head judge for this event and PTQs need either a Level 3 or strong Level 3 candidate to run them, which meant the tournament organizer David Laderoute was paying for his gas and part of his hotel, which then became our gas and hotel. The only cost was time. My current job, working with a contracting company to design an electrical controller for an induction generator, is flexible enough that I had the time.

Plus – we assumed it would be a small event, with very few “professional grinders” in attendance. We were willing to go the distance to be there.

Turns out Thunder Bay is only 6 hours away from Minneapolis, MN, home of Gold level Pro Mathias Hunt. He was in attendance.

Before I go over my 6 rounds of Swiss and glorious quarterfinals exit (first PTQ I’ve ever been at with 6 rounds), I want to stop and shout out The GameShelf, the store that organized and ran the event. David Laderoute was a very friendly guy who seemed to genuinely care about his community. He put up a lot of prize for the event, I suspect he only broke even with just under 60 attendees. The Thunder Bay locals seemed very excited to get their first PTQ, and I’m very glad they got one. (Thanks, Wizards!) Everyone there was super friendly, and I saw a couple of people there that I had seen once before, at the last Nationals in Toronto 2 years ago. It is clear that it is a real Magic community, the only things they’re missing are larger events on which to hone their skills and refine their craft. A new market ripe for growth if I ever saw one. I hope they get more PTQs in the future, even if it’s once every 3 seasons (once a year). We played in a Masonic Lodge, which was very nice, spacious enough to accommodate over 100 players and had a very clearly visible round clock (something which is often underrated). The judge staff was excellent (just Kyle). Hilariously, the PTQ winner was a member of the Masons. Coincidence?

YES.

Round 1 vs BR Burn

Game one he wins, I would have needed another turn or two to stabilize. I died as he used his last card to kill me the turn before I could cast Batterskull, though I was on the draw.

Game 2 isn’t close, I draw the perfect mix of spells. Every Lava Spike meets with a Negate, every creature takes a Path to Exile.

Game 3 is close, but only because I am stupid. He opens with some burn spells, and a Goblin Guide that I Path to Exile, after it has revealed that the top card of my library is a Snapcaster Mage He plays Deathrite Shaman on turn 3 with me at 14 life.

Timely Reinforcements, you’re the man! Back to 20, and I get 3 dudes! Now all I have to do is Snapcaster Mage the Timely…

Shit.

Yes, I cracked a fetchland, and the Snapcaster is somewhere in the deck. That was my best line to win the game, and I threw it away. It didn’t mean I was dead without the Snapcaster, just that I had the game locked up if I had it.

Next draw step: Snapcaster.

Then, for some reason, my opponent uses Deathrite at end of turn targeting not the Timely, but the Path. I snap it back removing the Deathrite, and he’s never really in the game after that. I end up at 7 life or so, which, while not comfortable, is not the worst.

1-0, 2-1

Round 2 vs. Mono-Blue Tron

My lack of preparation catches up with me, since I have a rough idea of what Mono-Blue Tron wants to do but don’t know the exact list. Game one I play around Karn Liberated in error, since it wasn’t in his 75. This results in me being slightly more timid where really I need to kill him quickly. Game one takes 30 minutes, it ends up with him at 2 life and me in a Mindslaver lock. I made him play out 2 turns to make sure he successfully knew how to keep me in the lock.

Game 2 I bring in all my counterspells, and I beat him on the stack. My creatures mostly have flash, my spells are cheaper (Negate is SOOO GOOD in Modern right now) and he dies somewhat quickly.

Game 3 is more of the same. I have Vendilion and Snapcaster, plus I can keep him off Tron pretty easily. Tron decks can’t really play a fair game against my deck. He Repeals my Spreading Seas twice, since he’s digging for relevant spells pretty hard. I kill him on turn 1 of time.

2-0, 4-2

Round 3 vs RUW Splinter Twin, piloted by…. Mathias Hunt.

Crap.

I had hoped to avoid Hunt until the draw rounds.

Also, we promptly get deck checked.

No mistakes.

Game 1 I mull to 5, seeing 13 non-land cards in my 7 and 6 card hands. I get mana screwed and Mathias is able to take his time. I have disruption, and can provide some resistance in the form of Gideon Jura, but he has Cryptic Command to bounce him and kills me.

Game 2 I draw really well. I get to Vendilion Clique to attack his hand, and have Snapcaster Mage with all the counter spells. I win.

Game 3 is one of the more interesting games all tournament. I Mana Leak his Wall of Omens, then at the end of his turn 4 I play Vendilion Clique, and so does he in response. He sees my hand, which is not great. It has a Sphinx’s Revelation and a Path to Exile, and 3 lands. He takes the Sphinx’s, which I agree with, certainly. The card I draw to replace it is my singleton Disenchant (pretty good in this match-up). I think for a little about whether I go after my hand to dig, but it doesn’t seem very good since I have 2 answers to Splinter Twin and one answer to Kiki Jiki, Mirror Breaker. I strip a creature away from his hand, but I see a Splinter Twin there, and I know one is incoming. I draw a Snapcaster Mage and this allows me to Snap back the Mana Leak, and I’d prefer to do that now than on his fundamental turn where my mana will be much more constrained.

Then I manage to resolve my trump for this matchup: Glen Elendra Archmage. I am hitting for 4 a turn at this point, but then he kills the Archmage with I think an Izzet Charm. Then he bounces it at end of turn, and goes for it. He puts a Village Bell Ringer into play at end of turn and goes for the combo. I try to Path, he plays Dispel putting him out of mana for the turn, since I’ve been using my Tectonic Edges aggressively to keep him off red. I have Disenchant for Splinter Twin, then I resolve Glen Elendra Archmage again and kill him.

There was an opportunity earlier in the game for him to use his Relic of Progenitus to stop the Persist trigger on Glen Elendra Archmage, but I don’t think he saw it (or maybe he didn’t have the mana that turn, I don’t remember exactly).

whew!

3-0, 6-3

Round 4 vs. BW tokens

My opponent is 3 minutes and 22 seconds late to his seat and receives a game loss.

Game 2 he’s on the play with no sideboarding. This game takes longer than I would have thought. Essentially I have to ultimate Elspeth, Knight Errant, play through 3 Tidehollow Sculler, 3 Lingering Souls and a bunch of anthem effects (Honor of the Pure, Intangible Virtue), but Gideon Jura and Supreme Verdict pull their weight, not to mention the number of cards I drew off Sphinx’s Revelation.

4-0, 8-3

Round 5 vs. Jund (eventual winner)

There are 3 4-0’s, and we are two of them.

Intentional Draw

Unfortunately for them, the two sharks in the room are paired (Mathias and Dan). Mathias wins, knocking Dan out.

4-0-1

Round 6 vs. Jund

My opponent here is 5-0. He wants to draw.

Looking back, I should have played here. The play/draw rule strongly rewards finishing high in the Swiss rounds. But I wanted to go eat, and I knew I would finish higher than all the 4-1-1’s at 4-0-2. So I drew. We played out a game 1 (so I could see his list, it was a 75 card mirror of the other Jund player’s and I wanted information going into the top 8) and I won. sigh.

Intentional Draw

4-0-2

Interestingly, Mathias ended up drawing into 8th. If I had played out my 6th round and won, I would have faced him in the quarters (although his breakers would have been slightly better with me winning, but whatever)

Top 8 match vs. UG Infect

I feel like this is an ok match-up, especially after board

Game 1 I promptly mulligan to 5. I have an answer, but he has Vines of Vastwood.

Game 2 I keep a 7, with Gideon Jura. This matchup is one of the reasons I like this card. I resolve Gideon Jura on 6 poison then never again take a hit, and Gideon doesn’t die. Once his creatures are gone, Gideon and Celestial Colonnade close the game quickly.

Game 3

I AM A DONKEY

I can’t remember in the last little while any play I’ve been more ashamed of than the one I make on turn 3 / turn 4 of this match.

He goes turn one no play, turn 2 Gladecover Scout with one green available.

At this point he may as well have stood up with a loudspeaker and announced “I HAVE VINES OF VASTWOOD IN MY HAND”, or a card like Apostle’s Blessing. The only other possibility was that he just drew the Gladecover Scout, and had another 2 drop (like Ichorclaw Myr that he was saving, to play around Supreme Verdict. I actually boarded one of these cards out in favour of lower costed answers, like Spell Pierce, Dispel, Negate, since sometimes you don’t get to untap on turn 4, especially on the draw, plus Inkmoth Nexus can still kill you if you tap out. It might be correct to go to 4 Verdicts after board, I have so little experience against this deck.

On my turn 2 I tapped out for Spreading Seas, cutting his access to green in half. His version was playing Cathedral of War and all of his dangerous cards are green, so at this point he had a forest and a functional Island. Turn 3 he plays a Pendelhaven, plays 2 copies of Might of Old Krosa and hits me for 9, essentially putting me at 1 life (9 poison).

On my turn 3 I have the choice to Path his creature, since he only has colourless open, but if he has Apostle’s Blessing I die on the spot since I wouldn’t have the mana to play Lingering Souls. I play Lingering Souls. He attacks in and I block with a token. He uses Pendelhaven to save his creature. He plays Inkmoth Nexus and passes the turn

On my turn 4 I flash back Lingering Souls and use Tectonic Edge to kill his Inkmoth Nexus. FIRST MISTAKE – this should have been done on his turn, after he had used up a mana to activate Inkmoth. If he hadn’t activated Inkmoth I could have chumped and untapped into Gideon and won the game.

He attacks in again. I have 3 tokens. SECOND MISTAKE, THE BIGGEST ONE – I triple block.

Why do I do this? Truthfully, I don’t know. Here’s what I suspected would happen:

He uses Pendelhaven to make his dude bigger. Then he plays another creature post combat, which likely costs 2 mana, and maybe a land, though probably not.

He has 3 cards in hand, I know one is Vines. I suspect one of them is a land.

Here’s what did happen:

He plays Giant Growth. This is literally the only single card that kills me here, other than Mutagenic Growth and I could have very easily played around it. SHOULD have played around it. If he had Might of Old Krosa or Groundswell(no landfall this turn) I don’t die here because he needs to tap both the Pendelhaven and another green source to have his creature survive and then I Path it.

Sitting in my hand, saying “Put me in coach, I’m ready!”, is Gideon Jura. The correct play, and it’s not close, is to chump block with one token, he’d likely Pendelhaven. Then, even if he still has another creature, he has to have a removal spell to kill me. Untap, cast Gideon, then win the game.

As it was I drew a second Gideon and could do nothing on my turn 4 other than try and Path the creature. Sure enough, he had the Vines, and a single green to cast it. Like everyone (including me) watching that game knew all along.

So, in conclusion: Good Deck, Bad Player.

As it happened, a stock Jund list (with Lingering Souls) won the PTQ. So yeah, with all the things that Jund is doing, it seems to be working.

Thanks for reading this far. I had a really good time on the weekend. Thanks to all the Thunder Bay dudes who were very welcoming and a big thanks again to Dave Laderoute.

Play this Deck.

Hit me up for sideboarding guidelines. This deck boards a lot of cards in and out.

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