Over the last few years the color combination of Black, Green, and Red, also known as Jund, has seen a tremendous amount of play, likely more play than any other combination of three colors (as I am sure many players are aware of). I am not just referring to Modern; in fact I am going to be talking about Jund in today's Standard environment.
Up until now Jund has not been seeing much play. This can be attributed to the surge in popularity of monocolor strategies or the lack of quality mana-fixing. However, I think this could be the time for Jund to see more play in Standard. There certainly are quality removal spells and disruption that the deck has access to, though some might argue that the creatures Jund has to offer are not the same quality as in past Standard formats.
It has only been in the past few weeks that the Jund Midrange deck has emerged, and has been seeing a lot of success. I would argue that Jund Midrange is not a traditional Jund deck, and is more just a hybrid of the original Gruul Midrange archetype. That does not mean that I don't think the splash for black is a bad idea, as the deck finally has all the tools to put together a strong sideboard plan.
Here is the list Philippe Monlevade used to win Grand Prix Buenos Aires this past weekend:
The reason why I say this deck is more like Gruul Midrange with a black splash is that there are only 13 black cards in the 75 and eight of them rest in the sideboard. That being said the black cards give the deck more versatility in some of the more difficult matchups.
It seems that the Midrange archetype is where Courser of Kruphix has found a home. The deck was looking for a way to gain card advantage and life before Born of the Gods, and Courser of Kruphix does both of those quite efficiently. In addition Domri Rade 's best friend is Courser of Kruphix, so Domri Rade can always know whether a creature is on top.
Jund Midrange now has access to more than just Mizzium Mortars as a removal spell. The maindeck Dreadbore and Vraska the Unseen are important additions so as to have ways to deal with both large opposing creatures and planewalkers. The more removal in the deck, the better Reaper of the Wilds becomes, as it means more scrying. With both Courser of Kruphix and Domri Rade in the deck you usually know what the top card is, which makes it easy to know when scrying is important.
The removal in the sideboard is very important. Previously Monoblue Devotion was a very difficult matchup. Not having a way to kill Master of Waves besides Polukranos, World Eater can be quite frustrating. In addition Tidebinder Mage is at its best versus Midrange. Now the Ultimate Prices, Doom Blade, and Golgari Charms can keep Master of Waves in check.
The removal also makes the aggro matchups better. Bringing in an additional seven removal spells is huge against creature based strategies like White Weenie and some versions of Monored. Not only are these removal spells but Golgari Charm can often become Wrath of God, and of course overloading Mizzium Mortars is just as good as it has always been. Worth noting is that before the white decks could use Brave the Elements to prevent an overloaded Mizzium Mortars or Anger of the Gods, but this is not the case with Golgari Charm.
I have found there are many uses for Golgari Charm, so while it can regenerate your team in the face of Supreme Verdict or become a wrath effect, there are quite a few troublesome enchantments besides Underworld Connection and Detention Sphere. Having a good card versus the hexproof aura decks, killing a Whip of Erebos, or taking out Assemble the Legion can be game changing.
For the slower matchups Rakdos's Return is very powerful. What makes Rakdos's Return so good in this deck is the ramp creatures. Being able to cast Rakdos's Return a turn earlier than normal makes all the difference. When playing versus control I like to try and wait until my opponent taps out to cast Rakdos's Return. This can be a blowout when your opponent is tapping out for a planeswalker, which you can kill by redirecting the damage from Rakdos's Return.
I like how Monlevade uses black as a way of filling up some of the holes the deck had. This is also a fun deck to play, and casting the one-of Vraska the Unseen or a sideboarded Bow of Nylea, Sire of Insanity, or Ruric Thar, the Unbowed is a pretty sweet feeling.
As far as the matchup versus Monoblack Devotion, I think that it is close. I like the Jund Midrange side in general, though Lifebane Zombie can be an issue. With the trend moving towards the black decks running four Lifebane Zombies in the main, Jund Midrange becomes slightly worse as a deck choice.
I would now like to talk about a version of Jund that I have been working on, which is more of a traditional version of Jund. This deck is a metagame call, as while it does play some of the traditional Midrange, it relies more on planeswalkers in the late game.
Here is my version of Jund Walkers:
I wanted to build a version of Jund that has game against all of the decks in Standard right now, while also being resilient to Supreme Verdict and Lifebane Zombie. As I lowered the creature count, I kept adding planeswalkers.
There are only 12 creatures in the deck, and four of them are Sylvan Caryatids. Sylvan Caryatid is very important, as it is the only form of ramp, and generally the best play on turn two. The Courser of Kruphix provide much needed lifegain and card advantage, like in Jund Midrange. In this deck the lifegain is even more important to help offset Thoughtseize and Read the Bones. Also since the deck doesn't win the game very quickly having access to lifegain is absolutely necessary against decks like Boros Burn.
I didn't want to play too many high costing green creatures because of the popularity of Lifebane Zombie right now. Right now there are just two Polukranos, World Eaters in the deck. I like Polukranos, World Eater, especially because it has the ability to kill Master of Waves. Sometimes playing this on turn three is just game over if your opponent does not have a removal spell.
Stormbreath Dragon was a relatively easy add because there need to be some creatures that are capable of winning the game on their own in the deck. Since you want to limit the number of green creatures Stormbreath Dragon should be a three or four-of I think.
Okay so let's start to talk about the other win conditions in the deck. A planeswalker that is seeing play in Modern Jund right now is Chandra, Pyromaster. Why can't Chandra, Pyromaster make the transition to Standard? As I have been mentioning Lifebane Zombie has been seeing a lot of play, and Chandra Pyromaster is the perfect answer to that guy. Also with Courser of Kruphix in play, when activating the zero ability of Chandra Pyromaster, you know exactly what you will be able to cast. It is not uncommon that the ultimate ability on Chandra Pyromaster will be used to wipe your opponent's board as there are a variety of different removal spells that can be copied.
My favorite planeswalker in Standard is Vraska the Unseen. Playing it and immediately being able to take out any threat is huge. Remember that Vraska the Unseen is one of the few ways to kill Master of Waves maindeck. I like to try to play Vraska the Unseen when she won't just immediately die on the following attack. By the way, killing your opponent with Assassin Tokens definitely earns some style points.
The last Planeswalker in the deck is Xenagos, the Reveler. With so much removal in the deck you are generally able to stop the opponent from simply killing Xenagos, the Reveler by attacking. Xenagos, the Reveler has proven itself as an effective planeswalker in Standard, and in this deck a steady stream of 2/2's is generally enough to get the job done.
Alright, now for the non-creature spells. I like having one Primeval Bounty, which serves as a win condition and can produce steady card advantage when it sits in play for a few turns. Enchantments are very difficult to deal with right now, and it is pretty hard to lose once you get Primeval Bounty going. I also think having another lifegain effect is important, with all of the burn decks running around.
Rakdos's Return can be a win condition, but like in Jund Midrange is usually a pure value card that sets your opponent very far behind. Right now there is one main and one board. The issue with Rakdos's Return is that it is only good when you are ahead on board, but when you resolve it while ahead the game usually ends shortly after. The other form of discard maindeck is of course Thoughtseize. I should not need to explain Thoughtseize too much, but I did decide to only run three main. The primary reason is that this is not a deck that usually casts Thoughtseize on turn one, and as the game progresses you need to find the time to cast it, while also answering threats on the opponent's side of the board.
Removal Spells have proven their importance in Standard, and right now there are nine in the deck. Personally, I am an Abrupt Decay fan, and would like it to start seeing more play. The card not only answer's creatures, but it takes out Underworld Connections and Detention Sphere. Mizzium Mortars is currently a two-of, and is usually the removal spell I will hold onto the longest, in the hopes of being able to Overload it.
There is an even split between Dreadbore and Hero's Downfall. The main reason the Hero's Downfall are in the deck is not the need to have a removal spell at instant speed. I think that it is important to have a number of ways to kill Master of Waves right now.
Other than the addition of Courser of Kruphix I think that adding another scry land to the deck has really helped with Born of the Gods. Having four more on color scry lands really helps smooth out your draws and helps dig for win conditions later in the game. The other way of scrying is through Read the Bones, which is at its best in this sort of midrange style deck.
Alright lets transition to the sideboard. When first looking at the board there are a lot one and two-ofs. There are definitely advantages to having a board filled with cards that your opponent won't be expecting.
While there aren't board sweepers maindeck, besides overloading Mizzium Mortars, there certainly are in the board. You have access to Anger of the Gods and Drown in Sorrow to hose small creature decks. In addition, there is a Golgari Charm which is good for the same reasons it is in the board of Jund Midrange. Besides the sweepers there are a couple of matchup specific one-for-one removal spells in Doom Blade and Dark Betrayal. I wish there was room for more Doom Blades as I think it is a very good sideboard card right now, with all of the Midrange decks running around.
Lifebane Zombie is a very important card to be aware of right now and there are two in the board right now. Along with Lifebane Zombie there are Mistcutter Hydras for the Monoblue Devotion and control matchups.
Perhaps the most unusual card in the board is the single copy of Trading Post. I have been struggling to beat burn so adding a card that gains you four life a turn seemed like the best sideboard card I could think of for that matchup.Wrapping Up
Jund Midrange has proven itself as a major contender in today's metagame. I think that the Jund Walkers deck is also a good metagame call, and recommend it for anyone looking to try a new midrange style deck. The deck does what Jund decks of past Standard formats have done, and I am certainly considering it for Grand Prix Cincinnati this weekend.
Thank for reading!