The rise of Jund Midrange poses a difficult challenge for Monoblack Devotion. The Jund Midrange deck is full of powerful threats that are capable of winning the game on their own, particularly Stormbreath Dragon and Polukranos, World Eater. Even more difficult to handle are the planeswalkers Domri Rade and Xenagos, the Reveler. These planeswalkers attack the Monoblack deck in various ways. The card advantage they generate poses a problem for the attrition strategy of Monoblack Devotion. The planeswalkers may also generate tempo, which can put the black deck on the back foot. In order to get a better grasp on the matchup, today I set out on a mission to combat Jund Midrange and learn the intricacies of the matchup.
The following videos are games of me playing against a friend who has found success with Jund Midrange, along with videos of me playing against the deck in Daily Event rounds. I break down some of the more difficult or interesting decisions. Following the matches I share some takeaways and a guide on how to sideboard. Enjoy!
Here's the updated decklist I used:
I've added two Pithing Needle to the sideboard. This card is excellent against planeswalkers, and it can preempt them before they ever generate an advantage.
Moving forward, I'd cut both Pharika's Cure for a Bile Blight and either a Doom Blade or another Bile Blight. This better hedges against Pack Rat in the mirror, and Bile Blight is stronger than Pharika's Cure against aggressive decks without burn spells. An additional Doom Blade would help the matchups against Jund Midrange and Monoblue Devotion.
A representative Jund Midrange list:
Monoblack Devotion vs. Jund Midrange
In the video I discuss the trade-off between taking Elvish Mystic versus Sylvan Caryatid. The only downside to taking the Elvish Mystic is him gaining more life from Devour Flesh otherwise, but in this situation it's irrelevant. It's essentially always correct to take the 1-drop accelerant rather than the two-drop accelerant because it's a better tempo play. If he draws another two-drop, such Scavenging Ooze or another Sylvan Caryatid, I get punished severely.
In this game it seems it was actually correct to simply take his Courser of Kruphix. Given the texture of my hand, which included two Underworld Connections, I was set up to play the long game and one-for-one his threats by fighting an attrition battle. Courser of Kruphix helps him in this fight, so I should have side-stepped his acceleration and attacked his card advantage engine.
I untap on turn three with a Pack Rat, but I'm holding two Lifebane Zombie. It seems correct for me to just play a Lifebane Zombie here. I have two copies, along with a Desecration Demon, so Pack Rat is not necessary. Given that Pack Rat can be shut down by his threats, going for Lifebane Zombie attacks him on two angles. It's also evasive, making it stronger against Xenagos, the Reveler. The only real way for him to punish this line is Chandra, Pyromaster, but because I am on the play it would not be a blowout. If he does have the planeswalker forthcoming, I can simply change gears the next turn and make another Pack Rat, or simply play the Desecration Demon.
On his turn four, when I Hero's Downfall his Courser of Kruphix, given that he does not have a land on top I should just allow him to move through his turn, and even take the damage if he attacks. This way if he plays a bigger threat, I can use my removal spell on that. In this particular game I would have been able to destroy his Domri Rade and put myself into a better position.
This game was very interesting because he had plenty of interaction against my multiple Pithing Needle. It put me into an awkward position where he had a lot of options. This was a case where Duress would have been likely better than Pithing Needle, and at the least it's certainly a great supplement to the Pithing Needle plan. I will be bringing in Duress against Jund Midrange in the future.
On turn four I should have played Underworld Connections rather than passing the turn. The loss of tempo made it a bit awkward for me going forward in the game. My line plays around one of his potential plays, but in the end him +1ing Domri Rade is not a huge deal, and my Underworld Connections can keep up with it. I can simply Hero's Downfall the following turn.
Duress is a lot better than I gave it credit for in these games. The Jund Midrange deck tends to sideboard in many noncreature spells, and they must cut creatures in order to fit them. For example, against Black Devotion Brad Nelson advocated sideboarding out three Courser of Kruphix and two Ghor-Clan Rampager, bringing in five non-creatures to replace them. On the draw he advocated removing an Elvish Mystic and a Forest for two additional non-creature spells, which would actually put the spell count for Duress higher than the creature count! In this case it's easy to see why Duress would be useful. Duress is especially powerful because it removes the most troublesome cards, particularly the planeswalkers. It also takes removal spells for the all-important Desecration Demon or reduces their outs to an early Pack Rat.
Here's how I would sideboard going forward:
On the Play
+3 Doom Blade+2 Duress+2 Pithing Needle+1 Lifebane Zombie
-3 Devour Flesh-1 Bile Blight-2 Nightveil Specter-2 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
On the Draw
+3 Doom Blade+3 Duress+2 Pithing Needle+1 Lifebane Zombie
-1 Bile Blight-2 Nightveil Specter-4 Pack Rat-2 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
On the play, Monoblack has a clear advantage by being aggressive. Pack Rat is much harder to deal with, Domri Rade is far worse at removing Lifebane Zombie, and their creatures are more likely to be met with removal for a tempo loss. Press the advantage and seek to end the game quickly.
When Monoblack is on the draw, Jund Midrange has the initiative and plays the role of aggressor. Pack Rat is much more vulnerable to Domri Rade and other removal, while Lifebane Zombie is worse for removing their creatures. Overload on creature removal and discard, and play the control role.
On the draw I'd also be willing to surprise my opponent by simply leaving in Pack Rat and leaving out Devour Flesh entirely, sideboarding similarly to being on the play. This may be a way to take advantage of their reduced aggression, leaving mana creatures stranded and picking off their threats. This is also a stronger plan against Rakdos's Return.
In the end, Monoblack has an unfavorable matchup against Jund Midrange, but it's entirely winnable. I am interested in hearing from players with experience on either side of the matchup, including details about the maindeck configuration, sideboard cards, general strategy, tactical tips, or anything else about the matchup.
Until next time,