Inside the Jund Mirror (Videos)

Feature Article from Seth Manfield
Seth Manfield
3/7/2018 11:01:00 AM
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Right now, the deck receiving the most buzz in Modern might actually be Jund. Since the unbanning of Bloodbraid Elf, Jund has gone from a deck that was barely being played to one of the top decks in the format. Looking at last week's results it was by far the most popular archetype at the Magic Online Championship in Seattle, and put two copies into the top four. This deck happens to play a lot of cards that are good cascades with Bloodbraid Elf.

The deck is a typical, old-school midrange strategy. This means that you have game against every deck, but on the flipside the deck isn't running over other decks either. Games come down to trying to maximize the value of every single card in your deck. The sideboard is a mixture of cards that are versatile enough to be brought in regardless of the matchup. It turns out that some of the most intense and interesting games are when playing the mirror, so it is important to know how to approach that matchup.

Lists fluctuate a bit from player to player, but here is the current Jund list I like:

I want to talk about a couple of common thoughts related to the mirror and discuss whether or not I agree with them.

Board Out Discard Spells

A popular theory in midrange mirrors is that discard spells are not good. Many games come down to topdecking, and late in the game a discard spell off the top is not going to be very helpful. Additionally, discard spells are not generally your strongest hits off a cascaded Bloodbraid Elf. Back when I played Owen Turtenwald in the finals of the World Championship I boarded out Thoughtseizes, while he left his in. While that was Standard, it was a similar sort of deck to Jund, and similar theories can carry over to this mirror.

Discard spells feel good when you cast one on turn one, though. While many games do become drawn-out, there is still the potential for you to get run over. An early threat like a Liliana of the Veil still has the potential to take over a game. Stripping a key threat early from the opponent is going to be even more important on the draw, because you must be reactive and answer their threats first, before deploying yours.

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Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card Thoughtseize Magic MTG Card
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This is a good general rule of thumb – when on the draw you want to have more reactive cards in your deck like discard and removal. On the play, you want your deck to be more threat-dense, and my sideboard plans illustrate that. In this particular mirror I like leaving some discard in, but always boarding at least one discard spell out. The information gained from seeing the opponents hand early in the game is very valuable, and helps allow you to know how to sequence your plays.

The other major factor at work here is that this list doesn't include specific sideboard cards that come in for the mirror. All the cards in the sideboard are there because of how versatile they are, and their ability to come in against multiple different decks. Some players actually don't sideboard at all in the mirror for this reason. I'm in the camp of making some small changes. There are not six cards that you have in the sideboard that you want to bring in, so that is another reason not to take out all the discard.

Between Inquisition of Kozilek and Thoughtseize, there are arguments to be made for sideboarding out one or the other. Your life total is an important resource, so the life loss is relevant in this matchup. Thoughtseize can only take one additional card compared to Inquisition of Kozilek, but it is arguably the most important one: Bloodbraid Elf. Personally, I'm currently in the camp of boarding out a copy of each discard spell, since the decision is quite close. Drawing two of either is usually worse than drawing one copy of each.

Always Be Aware of Scavenging Ooze

 Scavenging Ooze
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Scavenging Ooze may not be the most high-impact card in the matchup, but it is a very important one. This is very important; always think about what will happen if your opponent casts a Scavenging Ooze. There are many cards that rely on the graveyard, like Tarmogoyf, Kolaghan's Command and Liliana, the Last Hope. Sometimes it is best to return a creature from your graveyard as soon as there is a good opportunity to do so.

The other important Scavenging Ooze factor is trying to get it out of Lightning Bolt range immediately. This means waiting to play it until you have multiple green-producing lands to spare. Keep in mind when fetching out lands later in the game that excess green sources can be useful because of Scavenging Ooze. You don't want to find yourself in a situation where you and the opponent both have Scavenging Ooze in play but they have more green mana.

Maelstrom Pulse is Bad in the Mirror

Maelstrom Pulse is a pretty controversial card in mirrors. There is no universally accepted opinion on what the best cards in this matchup are. Removal is generally good because you want to be able to answer whatever the opponent throws your way. Pulse also happens to answer a Liliana of the Veil once it has amassed a lot of loyalty. However, if you are playing this card in the mirror, proceed with caution.

I like using Maelstrom Pulse as soon as there is a good opportunity to do so, and not trying to wait around to potentially get a two-for-one. The reason why it's not at its best in the matchup is you are playing the exact same threats as the opponent. It certainly can happen where the card you want to Maelstrom Pulse is also in play on your side of the board, which is why I prefer to board out Maelstrom Pulse.

How to Sideboard

On the Play

-1 Inquisition of Kozilek
-1 Thoughtseize
-2 Maelstrom Pulse

+1 Kitchen Finks
+3 Fulminator Mage

On the Draw

-2 Dark Confidant
-1 Thoughtseize
-1 Maelstrom Pulse

+1 Kitchen Finks

+3 Fulminator Mage

Fulminator Mage is Good in the Mirror

 Fulminator Mage
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This sideboarding strategy is not one that is widely used, but it is the one I like the best. Fulminator Mage is a card that you want to use as essentially a removal spell – it is one of the best ways to answer an opposing creature land. Often, games come down to throwing removal spells at each other and the lands are the only real threats left. Getting rid of a Raging Ravine that already has a counter on it isn't easy. I don't bring in the full four copies of Fulminator Mage because you don't want to have too many three-mana cards, but they are very good.

Boarding out Dark Confidant

Dark Confidant is one of the best cards in the deck, so I can understand why it seems questionable that I board some out – but they match up very poorly on the draw. It doesn't stop your opponent from developing their plan, and they will have access to a ton of removal, so the chances that Dark Confidant sticks on turn two and runs away with the game is quite small. This is pretty similar to Temur Energy mirrors from a few months ago, where players would board out Longtusk Cubs when on the draw.

Other Considerations

Kitchen Finks is a card I have seen in and out of lists. It is definitely good in the mirror, though be aware the opponent can kill it and then with the persist on the stack exile it with a Scavenging Ooze. This card is also nice to have against Burn and control as well. We aren't bringing in that many cards in the mirror, and the games still come down to managing your resources correctly. For instance, you don't want to cast a Bloodbraid Elf if the opponent doesn't have a threat on the board, because then if you cascade into a removal spell it can't be cast.

Always think about what possible cards may come off the cascade. Similarly, choosing what removal spells to play is important. For instance, using a Lightning Bolt on a Dark Confidant early may be a good idea, so you can hold onto that Fatal Push in case a Tarmogoyf hits the battlefield. You don't want to find yourself in a situation where you have a removal spell that can't answer the opponent's threat.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield

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