"I am the one who knocks!" – Thragtusk
If you're anything like me, congratulations.
. . .
I mean *ahem* if you're anything like me, you love Breaking Bad. If not, I don't know how to help you. We could always sit down and watch a few episodes together; I'm sure with my spot-on commentary you'll learn to love one of the greatest shows in all of television history.
Breaking Bad is a show where the fans are obnoxious—almost as bad as Dr. Who fans but not quite as snarky. Yes, I said snarky; we all know that "snark is the idiot's version of wit, and we're being polluted by it." Thank you Will McAvoy. Ah yes—this article will also be polluted by TV references—so settle in for the long haul. To appease a multitude of you, I will also figure out how to sprinkle in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly allusions. I have to cover my bases. Where was I? Oh yeah!
Fans of B.B. have been telling you for years to watch it, and every single time one of them tries to pound it into your head at the water cooler, you argue:
"I'll watch the whole thing on Netflix when it comes out."
"I'm sick of being told to watch it. I'll watch it when I'm ready."
"Shut up about that freaking show."
This is what you tell people, and they look at you like you're a fool. Why wouldn't you want to watch the best show that is on right now? And don't tell me that The Walking Dead is better. Season 2 gave me an aneurism. (Don't mistake that knock for not liking it—season 3 totally redeemed everything.)
I feel the same way about Jund. I tell people to play it all the time. When I get messages asking me what to PTQ with or take to a high-payout tournament, I always hit them with the same response: play Jund.
Jund is Breaking Bad—everyone that isn't playing it (watching it) is doing themselves a disservice.
In honor of my second favorite show of all time returning to air the final episodes of its historic run, I've decided to take a B.B.-themed look at some of the iterations of Jund that are out there, give you the reasons why and why not to play them, and take a Hank Schrader approach and tell you how to beat it.
I give you a Jund Compendium!
Let's take a look at the first form of the Big Bad that you're facing.
Jedi Jund aka Chili P - 38% Purity
"No, no, no! Chili P is my signature!" – Jesse Pinkman
- 2 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
- 4 Huntmaster of the Fells
- 1 Lifebane Zombie
- 2 Scavenging Ooze
- 4 Thragtusk
- 3 Olivia Voldaren
What It Is: Jedi Jund is the reason for at least fifteen Facebook messages I've gotten almost every day for the last two weeks, and with good reason. Across the United States I've heard of people taking down their local tournaments, Game Days, and other events with this version of Jund. What Jedi Jund does well is hit the metagame from an interesting and sometimes more potent angle than ordinary Jund can, but it does so at the expense of a shakier mana base, not to mention a far bigger issue with opposing Lifebane Zombies.
The ability to play cards like Sin Collector and Assemble the Legion blow apart the mirror as well as various U/W/R Flash decks and the slightly less popular U/W Control builds out there now. Blood Baron of Vizkopa should have his name changed to The Truth simply because there are so many decks out there that can't handle him.
Why You Should Play It: If you'd like to play a Jund deck that will often confuse and confound your opponent, this is the deck for you. The sideboard is unorthodox, and against average players you'll be able to generate a ton of free wins due to the reach it gives you. Being a normal Jund deck is awesome, but the white, much like the chili powder, will give you the extra kick to take down your opponent.
Why You Shouldn't Play It: Simply put, this deck used to be awesome because it thrashed the bejesus out the mirror match. Oftentimes if they didn't have a Mizzium Mortars, Blood Baron would do as Hulkamania did in the 80's: run wild. Now Jedi Jund is more like Hulkamania is now: a novelty. Lifebane Zombie is a serious issue for this deck, and two of them on your Blood Baron of Vizkopa and another threat like a Huntmaster of the Fells can pretty much spell disaster for you in a way that you can't even imagine. Now you're essentially playing a normal Jund deck with a much worse mana base, fewer Kessig Wolf Runs, and a lot less hope.
I'm not saying give up on this deck entirely because I'm still winning with it fairly consistently online, but it's hard to justify stretching the deck for an implied power level that might just backfire right in your face. Couple that with Burning Earth being even worse for this deck than normal Jund and you have a product that needs to be refined.
What Would Hank Do? "This deck is like an onion—it makes me cry. You want it to be good, but in the end it's pretty much like a bomb strapped to the head of a drug dealer riding a turtle. It's ready to explode on you in any minute, and that's not always a good thing.
If you wanna beat it, cripple their big spells worse than me after a firefight with two hit men. Jedi Jund relies on landing haymakers, but if it doesn't have hands to punch with, it's pretty much useless. Attacking the mana base is also much harder for it to deal with than normal Jund, so do yourself a favor and start packing those Acidic Slimes in your board again."
When you want to stop durdling around with bush-league stuff, you have to graduate. Like my main man Don Draper says, "Change is neither good nor bad; it simply is."
Lifebane Jund aka Gale Boetticher's Batch - 96% Purity
"I can guarantee you a purity of 96 percent. I'm proud of that figure . . . however . . . " – Gale Boetticher
What It Is: Lifebane Jund takes the normal Jund shell that we all love to play and adds a little something special to it in the form of Lifebane Zombie. While Jedi Jund tries to one up the "mirror match" with a card that is mostly hard to answer, this version plays a card in Lifebane Zombie that straight-up strips the win conditions from the mirror's hand while giving you a 3/1 body with intimidate that can circumvent their Thragtusks and Huntmaster of the Fells.
Aside from that it plays all of the same spells as normal Jund, though it has to shave a little bit from the removal/disruption package to make way for the Zombie. David Hunting, who piloted the deck shown above, was certainly ready to face the mirror all day, with three copies of Underworld Connections in his board along with another Garruk, Primal Hunter to give him the edge in the power department.
Why You Should Play It: Lifebane Jund exists to be tremendous in the mirror match but to still have reach in other matchups as well. Lifebane Zombie is a beating against the standard Jund player and also pulls double duty in other matchups when it strips Ghor-Clan Rampagers and Restoration Angels from the opponent's hand. This deck is excellent at paving the way for its huge spells to land, boasting a very disruptive board for control decks and already solid play against aggressive decks. What it does it does extremely well, and there's something to be said for playing a card like Lifebane Zombie that can just completely invalidate an opponent's keep.
Why You Shouldn't Play It: Playing Lifebane Zombie doesn't make you immune to a lot of strategies. Sometimes it whiffs, and when it does you just paid three mana for a 3/1, which is usually not good enough in this Standard format. Also, you have to lose a few removal spells to make room for it, which can be very, very rough against aggressive decks. The three-to-four spells that you're losing out on are very important in keeping yourself alive against the various G/R decks that are posting excellent results, so it can become a detriment. Lifebane Zombie also doesn't hit red creatures, meaning the loss of up to four removal spells makes you much worse against Thundermaw Hellkite, which is a card you can hardly give up ground to. It's no coincidence that David Hunting was 2-0ed in the semifinals.
What Would Hank Do? "Now this deck is pretty—I'm talking five stars, candles, and a white tablecloth. It's built soundly, ya know? I think the best way to take it down is just to press on with your game plan and not let a pesky 3/1 sneeze in your Cheerios.
If you're a G/R deck, my guess is you should just power through their dinky little speed bump. Sure, you lose a Rampager. No big whoop. Their problem is that with the adding of a creature and the removal of . . . well . . . uh . . . removal that you can just overload them with threats. Save those spells of your own to clean Olivia's clock and everything should be smoooooth sailing. Again, Burning Earth and lightning-fast starts are the best way to overcoming this beast. It's good, but it's no blue—that's for sure. By the way, how much am I getting paid to do this?"
I love this style deck because it tries to one-up the mirror and be more powerful. Sadly, it's only the contender for best version of Jund. My main man Gannicus from Spartacus put it best when he said, "There is only one way to become champion: never effin' lose."
Jund Midrange aka Blue Sky - 99+% Purity
What It Is: There are no gimmicks. There are no cute names or adorable additions in the form of the undead. This Jund deck is exactly what it is meant to be: chemically sound and nearly perfect. William Jensen, who is some kind of freak of nature by the way, makes Top 8 of the Standard Open in Utah on Saturday. He doesn't win? No biggie. He just wins the Sunday tournament instead with the exact same 75. Never mind that Owen Turtenwald took down a 5K in Chicago doing the same thing—just playing a Jund deck.
This version of Jund does what Jund does best—it combines powerful creatures with the best spells in its colors. A lot of people complain that there aren't any real synergies within Jund, but boxing purists didn't kick over tables when Mike Tyson used brute force to become one of the greatest heavyweights of all time; they simply understood that sometimes the total package is more important than the sum of its parts. Jund exceeds at being the ultimate "good stuff" deck, and there are no other decks in the format that can make you feel as helpless as Jund can. If it's good enough for Reid, Owen, and Huey, it should be good enough for you.
Why You Should Play It: "You must find it difficult to rule over millions who want you dead." – Tyrion Lannister
I don't think anyone has summed up Standard quite so well; leave it to The Imp to have a way with words.
You play Jund to win—it's that simple. I do not think it's that black and white, and of course any player with any deck can win on any given day—that's a fact. G/R won Saturday's Open, so clearly there is plenty of room in Standard for other decks, but Jund gives you something unique: options. Jund is the kind of deck that can switch gears at the drop of a hat, and that kind of flexibility is invaluable. One minute they're killing your creatures, and the next you're on the wrong end of a Rakdos's Return depleting your hand. Meanwhile they're flipping Huntmasters, and you're reaching for your nearest bottle of whiskey to drown your sorrows—on the rocks, of course, just the way Mike likes it.
Why You Shouldn't Play It: Right now G/R ala Kibler is running rampant, and Burning Earth can seriously ruin your Christmas. If you're stuck in a metagame where everyone is jamming a set of the four-cost enchantment, Jund becomes a liability for you. Yes, Golgari Charm is a fine way to deal with it, but you may not have your two to combat the three/four copies that they have. Jund can also have a tough time dealing with U/W/R Flash in game 1, and GerryT has commented that he doesn't feel like it's a bad matchup if it's played properly. A bunch of counterspells can keep the important spells from landing, basically giving you free reign to clean up the unimportant ones that you let resolve.
Also, Jund isn't the deck for everyone, and I can't blame people for not wanting to play it. Sometimes people grow irritated with a deck that they see in such abundance, and that's why I'm glad this format is so diverse in that you can play just about anything and do well regardless of what your style is. Jund might be the best deck in the format, but that doesn't mean it can't be beaten and that if you hate it you shouldn't stop trying to crush it.
What Would Hank Do? "I still haven't caught Heisenberg yet—do you really expect me to have an answer for beating a deck that has very few weaknesses?
Also counter their big spells, which is basically just going to leave them with a bunch of awful removal spells against you.
In the end, it's a rock deck. It's meant to be st—wait . . . no. It's not a rock deck. It's a minerals deck."
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If you caught the season premiere of Breaking Bad, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. [Editor's Note: Tread lightly.]
Maybe after reading this you'll decide to pick up the show and watch it—you're only hurting yourself by not doing it. And don't give me any of that "I don't watch TV" nonsense. This is 2013. You're probably reading this from a phone or an iPad. Don't get snarky with me—you remember what I said earlier about snark, right?
Treat Jund the same way. If everyone is telling you to play it, give it a shot. If you don't like it, than at least you can say you gave it a try.
Also, promise me you'll stay away from guys named Ted. I don't need that in my life.
Catch ya on the flip-