Bob’s been working out
"Hey what are you playing tonight at the IQ?" asks a friend.
"Jund." I reply as if that was even a question.
He looks puzzled, "I thought you got the cards for that Mardu deck?"
The concept people fail to understand is that Jund is not a color combination or deck (okay, it is, but keep reading), it’s a way of life. You don’t choose the Jund life, the Jund life chooses you. Regardless of what colors my deck contain, I will be playing Jund. The colors in the following deck just so happen to be red, white and black but make no mistake, it is a Jund deck.
This is my slightly modified version of Paul Rietzl and Ben Stark’s Mardu list from Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch. Paul Rietzl finished the Modern portion with 22 points (7-2-1) and Ben Stark finished the Modern portion with 21 (7-3). They made some metagame decisions specifically for the expected Pro Tour meta and with the inevitable Eldrazi banning I’ve changed it slightly with that in mind. If you want to read Paul Rietzl article on the deck you can check that out here. When you’re done, come back and we’ll talk about this deck.
My only maindeck change was cutting 1 Path to Exile for the second Terminate. I’m mainly just hedging my bets here. Many times I’m needlessly giving my opponent a land off Path to Exile or pathing something in a matchup where it’s awkward like Heritage Druid against Elves. Also, I cut the Ajani Vengeant for a Pia and Kiran Nalaar. Paul Rietzl noted this was a card choice to combat big mana decks like Scapeshift and Eldrazi. In testing, Ajani was too often a 4 mana Lightning Helix for the meta I’m expecting.
My main changes have been to the sideboard, cutting the second Ajani Vengeant for a Chandra, Pyromaster. I trimmed the Timely Reinforcements for an Engineered Explosives after noticing a weak Merfolk matchup and decent Burn matchup. I also swapped the Rest in Peaces for Nihil Spellbombs. While Spellbombs are not as hard graveyard hate, they at least cycle, can come in versus Snapcaster decks where Rest in Peace would be too much, doesn’t weaken your Lingering Souls, and is more synergistic with Abbot and Bob.
Just Play Jund
Whenever the discussion of a deck similar to Jund comes up, the immediate question on everyone’s mind is "why should you play this over Jund?" Six months ago my answer would have been "because you can’t afford Tarmogoyf and because the deck is fun." While I still echo those same sentiments, the meta has changed with the Twin banning and it will change again with the confirmed Eldrazi banning. So why Mardu? Mardu is what you get when you cross Abzan and UWr Control. You get the powerful removal suite you find in most UWr Control decks in Lightning Bolt, Lightning Helix, Path to Exile as well as the added bonus of Kolaghan’s Command and Terminate. You get the same disruption suite you find in BGx decks in Liliana and discard spells. Alright, sounds perfect right? Well I wouldn’t be truthful if I told you Mardu was all upside compared to Jund.
No Tarmogoyf? No Problem.
While I will not argue that Mardu is a better deck than Jund, I am truly under the belief that Mardu is better than Jund right now. Jund is best when Tarmogoyf is at its best, and it isn’t right now and it won’t be in 2 weeks. When the expected meta after the Eldrazi banning is looking to be a solid representation of Infect, Burn, Affinity and a spattering of other decks like Tron, Merfolk, Abzan Company, and Jund, you’re not really going to need Tarmogoyf in a lot of those matchups. You’re almost certainly trimming Tarmogoyfs against Merfolk, Infect, and Affinity and you no longer need it against Twin. To summarize my point, there are very few decks in the format where you want the fast clock Tarmogoyf provides. You will almost always be on the defensive against the previously mentioned decks and when you finally stabilize against Infect, Affinity or any other aggressive deck, you’ve already won. Don’t believe me? As much as it pains me to say it as an avid Jund aficionado, Mardu is just poised to be better suited for the post-banning meta. Let’s break down some of the common matchups for the possible upcoming metagame.
Thopter Sword/Ancestral Vision Decks
Jund obvious has interaction with the Thopter Sword combo, but UW Control decks are not something Jund loves to see. I breakdown the matchup a bit more in a later section, but I wanted to specifically address these newly unbanned cards here. Mardu has Kolaghan’s Kommand to fight the Thopter Sword combo in the main, just like Jund. But Mardu gets incredibly powerful sideboard cards like Rest in Peace and Stony Silence. Lingering Souls is also a killer on any blue control deck. They’re either forced to 1 for 1 it with a Supreme Verdict, or let you slowly chip away until they’re within Burn range. Drawing 3 cards off Ancestral Vision is great, but when those 3 cards just end up being Snapcaster, Bolt, and another Ancestral Vision, you’re still dead to my 6 Lingering Souls tokens. Ancestral Vision and Thopter Foundry without the combo are also both horrible topdecks. I’m always glad to win the topdeck war against my opponent. I think this unbanning spells trouble for Jund, but Mardu has the tools to fight it much better.
Jund and Mardu both have reasonable Affinity matchups. The big problem cards in the matchup are Arcbound Ravager laughing at your spot removal, and Etched Champion with its True-Name Nemesis impersonation.
You’ll find a similar base removal suite in both decks with the difference being Jund’s addition of the great catch-all removal spell Abrupt Decay and Mardu’s powerhouse card Lingering Souls. The power of each is very dependent on what draw the Affinity player presents but when I already have an abundance of spot removal, I have to give the edge to Lingering Souls simply because it acts as pseudo-removal and a clock.
Sideboard wise, Mardu has the edge. Stony Silence, there’s really not much more to be said.
Again I have to give the edge to Mardu in this matchup. All of your creatures, sans Abbot unless you get to the late game, do something against them. Dark Confidant digs for removal, Grim Lavamancer does an excellent .50 BMG impression, Pia thopters (also sometimes found in Jund) can block Etched Champion and has been called the "red Lingering Souls," finally the miser maindeck Fulminator can hit Inkmoth Nexus in a pinch. Tarmogoyf is largely a dead card in the matchup simply because racing Infect is rarely an option on the table and it doesn’t block 2/3s of their creatures. I’m never happy to see Tarmogoyf in my opening hand against Infect.
Moving on, you have more spot removal than Jund, and you have Lingering Souls. Sideboard wise, Zealous Persecution is also an all-star and has the potential for unseen blowouts.
This matchup isn’t even close and is definitely heavily in Mardu’s favor when compared to Jund.
I’d have to put this matchup at about even. Jund presents a fast clock with Tarmogoyf and definitely has the potential to race Burn. You can also incrementally gain life with Scavenging Ooze very easily through Skullcrack effects, if you can sneak it under a Searing Blaze. Mardu has a slow clock, but supplements that weakness with 4 Shambling Vent and 3 Lightning Helix with the potential for 4 after sideboarding.
None of those compare to the power of Lingering Souls in the matchup. Mardu has plenty of removal for whatever creatures Jund throws at it and can sit pretty behind its onslaught of spirit tokens. Your Lilianas will also remain live in the matchup while there’s will be fairly weak against Lingering Souls.
This is one of the few matchups where Tarmogoyf shines. Your best line against Tron as Jund is Thoughtseize ➡ Goyf/Dark Confidant, followed up by more discard, and Fulminators after board. Lightning Bolt can also give you the reach you need if you get in a few licks (assuming Lhurgoyfs have tongues) with Tarmogoyf and they stabilize.
Mardu doesn’t have Tarmogoyf, but what it does have is more burn and Stony Silence along with the aforementioned Fulminator Mages. Path to Exile can also cleanly answer Wurmcoil Engine if that’s the finisher they happen to draw instead of Karn Liberated or Ugin. You also have the ability to do a reasonable Burn deck impression after sideboard with 4 Lightning Bolt, 4 Lightning Helix, 2 Kolaghan’s Command while keeping them off balance with Stony Silence, Fulminator Mage and Crumble to Dust.
I’d have to put this matchup slightly in Jund’s favor simply because of the power of Tarmogoyf. My biggest concern is Tron upping the number of Relic of Progenitus they play in their 75 again after the banning to help weaken your Tarmogoyfs. Regardless, the matchup was already bad and I don’t think it affects the decision to give Mardu a try.
Lingering… wait for it… Souls. While the matchup largely depends on the list the UW Control player is running, be it a more midrange type build with Kitchen Finks or draw-go with finishers like Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, Lingering Souls is an all-star in the control matchup. If I have to decide between Tarmogoyf and Bolt or Lingering Souls and Bolt, it’s an easy choice.
Scavenging Ooze is working overtime in this matchup and is a big reason to wish you were playing Jund. However, Mardu can cleanly answer Kitchen Finks and Voice of Resurgence and has a couple more spot removal spells when compared to Jund. Lingering Souls can also help you grind through Collected Companies and keep any persisted Kitchen Finks you couldn’t cleanly answer at bay.
A big problem for the matchup is the lack of good blockers for Mardu. The extra removal will come in handy as all of their creatures can profitably trade with yours.
Overall I put this matchup about even between Jund and Mardu, perhaps a slight edge to Jund because of the power of Scavenging Ooze and the blocking power of Tarmogoyf over clean removal spells like Path to Exile.
(The only notes I want to make on this matchup is the power of Path to Exile being able to kill Master of Waves.) The two main ways I lose this matchup as Jund are to a Master of Waves I can’t kill, and to incremental beats after they lock me out with multiple Spreading Seas. While Mardu doesn’t help with the Spreading Seas problem, it’s nice to have more than 1 Maelstrom Pulse in the 75 to kill a Master of Waves. Sometimes, Maelstrom Pulse isn’t even good enough as they’ll vial in the master at the end of your turn and untap and be able to kill you with it.
Final Matchup Thoughts
When the post ban meta is looking to a lot like the pre-Twin ban meta, I’d rather be on Mardu. The most common decks in the format are likely to be Infect, Affinity, Burn and Jund where Mardu is much more favored compared to Jund.
If your local FNM meta is not indicative of the meta at large, then Mardu may not be the choice for you, even if it is a fun deck. For SCG Opens and larger events where the meta will shape up to be a more competitive field, I will be sleeving up Mardu for the foreseeable future. Mardu ‘em out isn’t quite as catchy as Jund ‘em out, but I’ll make do.
As mentioned, this is a similar list to Paul Rietzl and Ben Stark’s deck for Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch. I highly recommend you check out Paul Rietzl’s article over it if you didn’t listen to me earlier when I said to read it.
You can also message me on Reddit at /u/Freemantic or find me streaming the deck on Twitch at twitch.tv/greatnessatanycost if you want more information on the deck!
As Paul Rietzl said in his article "I hope you enjoy trying this deck out. And remember, you want the original Ravnica Dark Confidant." You’re also going to want to get the original Ravnica Lightning Helix.
A Quick Note
I initially wrote this article before the bannings and an unbanning of both Ancestral Vision and Sword of the Meek was not something I expected; I don’t think anyone expected it. The meta could shape up to be entirely different with Thopter Sword pushing Infect and Burn into lower tiers of the meta. I think Mardu has the tools to fight the draw power of Ancestral Vision and the Thopter Sword combo. That said, I’m not so sure how Mardu will stack up in comparison to Jund anymore. Lingering Souls and Mardu in general fights well against the blue control decks where I imagine Sword and Ancestral Visions will slot into post unban. Maybe Sword of the Meek turns out to be another Golgari Grave-Troll or Bitterblossom, maybe we get a blue summer. This is a whole new world to explore, anythings possible.