Jund: It's Magically Delicious

Posted in Top Decks on December 4, 2008

By Mike Flores

Michael Flores is the author of Deckade and The Official Miser's Guide; the designer of numerous State, Regional, Grand Prix, National, and Pro Tour–winning decks; and the onetime editor-in-chief of The Magic Dojo. He'd claim allegiance to Dimir (if such a Guild existed)… but instead will just shrug "Simic."

When I think of a "Jund" Week, I think of the theme coming from two different paths. On the one hand, I think of the actual Jund Shard and the cards and mechanics from Shards of Alara that define that shard specifically ... and from the other, I think of the black, green, and red decks of times past that have been played to important finishes before there was ever any specifically defined shard. Let's deal with the second first.

The most interesting Jund-ish decks of note that I can think of are all Extended decks. Some of them are very important! All of the ones I am going to talk about today are significant and/or had sweeping things to say about deck design or the environments in which they existed, combining black, green, and red all.

Kai Budde's Red Rock

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Almost every tournament player has a certain black and green image that comes to mind when you string together the words "The" and "Rock" ... They think of the deck that Sol Malka and Jeroen Remie love, that Michael Pustilnik put on the map, that has been heavily adopted and widely reviled at the same time, Extended in and Extended out.

But did you know that the great Kai Budde decided to run a variation on The Rock to a money finish in a 2002 European Grand Prix? Look closely ... This was before players had any inkling of a Bloodstained Mire, let alone a Stomping Ground ... but Kai, ever ahead of the curve, was already bending the rules and splashing red in his Rock.

The Rock has been a pillar of the Extended format since at least 2001, the good cards mid-range deck of choice. In a sense, The Rock is the opposite of Jund. Jund's central color is Red, the color of impulsive action, rage, and aggression.

The Rock, on balance, is a series of scalpels. The Rock has numerous efficient methods of interacting with the opponent's cards and strategy... It can break up a combo deck's sequencing with Duress and Cabal Therapy, sweep a score of weenie Goblins with Pernicious Deed, or run around Counterspells with Treetop Village and even Vampiric Tutor (read any of the old tournament reports when the true masters get their Vampiric Tutors to resolve under the "I'll just counter whatever he got" trick and destroy the opposing blue mage with Dust Bowl) ... but in a sense that also makes The Rock the epitome of a deck that has to draw the right cards in the right matches.

Vampiric Tutor
Dust Bowl

The Rock can smash, yes, but it doesn't just smash, and it doesn't focus on smashing. While traditional versions leaned heavily on Pernicious Deed for its catch-all board control, each response was measured, and card choices specific. Look at Kai's defining inclusion of Terminate; this was an attempt to improve the ponderous Rock deck's defensive deck speed, and a potentially important defensive weapon against large creatures, such as opposing Spiritmongers.

If you say "Jund" to me, I think Broodmate Dragon (roar by the way) ... But conversely The Rock proper was often criticized for being relatively light on threats. Kai's version up there is striving, six years unstuck in time, to make me a liar, leering across the years with its fair count of Ravenous Baloths and Spiritmongers.

Kai's Terminates—complete with the conscious red splash off of Karplusan Forest and Yavimaya Elder—makes for a fine "Jund" deck (or at least Jund colors) ... and the rest of the 71 make for a fine model of The Rock. This is a center deck. It has some good creatures, some disruption, and some control elements (full on four Pernicious Deeds); ultimately, it can do everything, but nothing particularly particularly better than a specialist.

The following two Jund-colored Extended decks go to extremes in extremely disparate directions.

Josh Sandler's Aggro Flow

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Kai's deck could Vampiric Tutor for a Dust Bowl, but no one would mistake it for a mana control deck. It had some big Beasts for late Stage Two "end game threat,s" but only the most naïve first-time tournament players would mistake it for an attack deck.

The Aggro Flow deck (now defunct due to multiple set rotations) evolved The Rock into a faster, more aggressive, extremely disruptive machine.

Destructive Flow

First, there was the acceleration .... Josh Sandler played six one-mana accelerators (fifty percent up from classic Malka); all involved could tap for black mana. So why Elves of Deep Shadow over Llanowar Elves (especially when the original / latter doesn't cost you a life point)? Because any first turn that can produce an Elves or Birds can automatically make green—it's implied—but the deck might need that first black. On top of the mana-producing creatures, Josh had a trio of Chrome Moxes.

The deck had an overall lower curve, (largely) topping up on three, instead of going up to five mana for Spiritmonger or churning through mana turn after turn for Genesis action. No, the Aggro Flow deck would start on a Birds of Paradise and follow immediately into a Troll Ascetic, or tap for that black for a Duress, and drop Dark Confidant with the goal of playing more and more cheap cards every turn.

All the accelerators, mana Elves or Moxes, were set up, of course, to help play a Destructive Flow on the second turn. Aggro Flow didn't want the opponent to be able to play at all. The goal was to flat-out mana-screw the opponent and wave goodbye.

While Aggro Flow lacked the Pernicious Deeds that were The Rock proper's hallmark (increasingly poor with all those mana creatures, Moxes, and equipment) it preserved the spirit of flexible removal and reaction with Putrefy main and side, Smother, and the various board-affecting abilities attached to its equipment.

Kenji Tsumura's Assault Loam

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Of the various true Jund-colored descendents of The Rock, Assault Loam was probably the most powerful and successful. Where Aggro Flow was a disruptive beatdown deck, Assault Loam was a board control strategy with numerous combo-like endgame strategies that could win the game seemingly out of nowhere.

The core of this deck was of course Life from the Loam. With all kinds of Onslaught duals and cycling lands filling the graveyard with lands, Life from the Loam had ample targets to generate card advantage. Unlike most Life from the Loam decks that had to ride cycling lands for actual card advantage, transforming Life from the Loam into a kind of sequential, slow, yet ultimately inexorable Fathom Trawl, Assault Loam could actually utilize lands in hand with Seismic Assault or lands in the graveyard with Terravore.

Life from the Loam
Seismic Assault

Either of these cards could win the game very quickly. If you think about it, Seismic Assault has no mana activation cost beyond its initial , and accumulating ten lands in hand is about as easy as it gets for this deck, especially since the deck could use the same three lands over and over again if need be.

Terravore worked just dandily with Devastating Dreams, riding both players' lands in both players' graveyards for its awesome size. Again, Life from the Loam was perfect in this deck, allowing it to recover from Devastating Dreams (though this would not be a common need given the deck's ability to end the game within a turn or two), as well as fill its own hand with chaff to toss to the card to begin with.

Devastating Dreams

While this version of the Assault Loam deck did not play main-deck Pernicious Deed—or any Pernicious Deed at all—the spirit of flexible answers was alive and well with its Burning Wish toolbox. Any of several different sideboard sorceries, from the skill-testing Cabal Therapy to the show-stopping Shattering Spree, were available for exactly the job at hand. Burning Wish served as Life from the Loam numbers 4–7 as well, of course.

Terminate, Destructive Flow, and Burning Wish are all gone from Extended now thanks to recent rotations. What does that say about the Jund colors?

Well, we can't really talk about Jund without talking about its signature mechanic, devour. I initially picked Caldera Hellion as the best of the devour cards, but interestingly, three different devour creatures made the Top 8 of the most recent Extended Pro Tour, three cards with radically different functions, even when played in ultimately similar deck strategies.

Predator Dragon

Tomoharu Saito's Dragon-Elves

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Predator Dragon

Predator Dragon is of course the devouring kill card in this version of the Berlin Elves deck. In this deck, an Elves player can accumulate a large number of Elves and Insects, and then tap them to produce a large Chord of Calling. The aforementioned Chord goes and finds a Predator Dragon, who then devours a certain number of Elves and Insects and lethally attacks immediately, that turn.

Why is Predator Dragon Magically delicious? This is a simple and elegant way to win in a deck that is good at playing a lot of creatures and finding a particular creature. Even though it is red, actually drawing Predator Dragon isn't that bad .... The majority of games that it would matter, a Birchlore Rangers or two would be able to provide all the red required to put this finisher from hand to board where it could snack, then attack.

Tar Fiend

Matej Zatlkaj's Dragon-Elves

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Tar Fiend

Yes Zatlkaj had Predator Dragon also ... but the focus, this time, is on Tar Fiend.

Tar Fiend found its way into a couple of Elves sideboards. This devour-endowed creature might look a little dangerous to a conservative tournament player, but look again. Devour occurs as the creature comes into play ... not as an additional cost to a card. Therefore once you start sacrificing little guys... the window for the opponent to have countered your spell should have already passed. Chord of Calling for Tar Fiend is quite effective, therefore, against a specific minority of Extended opponents.

Why is Tar Fiend Magically delicious? This card is simply a fine combo breaker. It is like an eraser for all future pages of the opponent's dear diary. What can they do with no hand, when you will be untapping with a huge black animal on your side? A reasonable clock versus an empty hand. Better, much better, than it looks at first glance.


Luis Scott-Vargas

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Three looks at Elves, three very different devour creatures. The champion went for yet another devour card, rounding out the shard's third color with a card very reminiscent of Verdant Force.

Why is Mycoloth Magically delicious? Because as a sideboard swap, this card is exactly what you want against some opponents. Think about it. They are all set up to stop your storm kill. They are chock-full of anti-combo. But you come at them with a Jamie Wakefield opening instead. Can the same deck that is set up to break up the speediest of Grapeshot + Eternal Witness sequences—possibly with some kind of teeny weenie creature kill—going to be able to deal with a plus-sized Best Fatty Ever Printed-looking token machine? Possibly. But probably not. This card is a little bit of gamble, a little bit of investment, a tiny turn of the transformation ... and all big win.


What is more ironic? The actual preexisting Jund-colored Extended decks being not-that-Jund-at-all in terms of their outlook and play, or the fact that the Elves deck actually set up to play Thoughtseize wasn't the one with the black devour creature? Fight! Like Jund decks!

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