As a farmer in real life, I love getting the most out of my land. The idea that I can do the same in Magic is naturally appealing. This is a primer on my Jund Depths deck, so I'll explain the utility of the cards chosen for the 75. The second half of the article explains my plan of action against varied decks of the Legacy metagame. Since the deck is complicated and contains many “fun of's,” this article is a bit lengthy. But, if you want to be able to use Jund Depths to attack the Legacy format, this article is essential as this deck does not play itself. Conventional wisdom regarding land decks, combo decks, or control decks does not apply. Welcome to my magical farm.
I want a toolbox!
The reason we love Legacy is also the most frustrating aspect - the amazing diversity of the format. Since I started playing Legacy, I knew I wanted to play a toolbox deck - something that could present the perfect answer to every situation. Jund Depths is my best, though imperfect, attempt to build a toolbox deck that has the consistency and tools to handle the spectacular diversity of the Legacy format.
I don't want creatures!
Not having many (or any) creatures is an advantage in Legacy. This gives your opponent not only dead cards, but worse cards (hello True-Name Nemesis). So what can you do when you don't have creatures? Tabernacle and Smallpox seem good.
At a competitive event, opponents will usually not have the time or knowledge to understand your rogue deck, even after seeing a decklist. This may lead to opponents making incorrect sideboarding decisions, bad keeps, and poor plays.
Not a combo-deck
I refuse to play a deck that is shattered by Force of Will or graveyard hate. I don't want have to pack in my cards simply because my opponent happens to have some of the most populous cards in the format.
The above decision tree led me to my current Legacy build since I was unable to build something that had an adequate toolbox for every matchup. Thankfully most combo decks are actually turn 2 decks and they do provide at least the first turn as a window for disruption. Without further ado, here is the list.
Playing a three-color deck with eight important double-black spells requires a special manabase, especially when we want to have as many fetchlands as possible. Seven fetches is the most the deck can afford to run given the need to have duals and utility lands. The second Bayou is required because Bayou is the most important land, and it will often be lost to Wasteland or my own Smallpox. One each of Taiga and Badlands is enough. In all eleven rounds I never needed to search for a dual that I could not find.
Urborg, Tomb of Yagmoth does triple duty: besides tapping for mana itself, it makes getting to double black easy no matter what your other lands are and it allows Dark Depths, Maze of Ith, fetchlands, and Tabernacle to tap for mana. Tabernacle + Urborg is like playing a free Wasteland against an opponent who controls a creature.
Mox Diamond allows me to interact with fast combo decks, combats Blood Moon, fixes mana and has little downside. The discarded land is often picked up later by Loam or is just not relevant to the early stages of the game. Later in the game it can usually be cycled with Faithless Looting, or protect a more meaningful piece of cardboard from Smallpox or Liliana.
The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale is merely good against some decks and game-breaking against others. (Did you know turn 1 Pithing Needle + turn 2 Tabernacle beats Oops, All Spells?) If your opponent needs to have more than one creature in play, Tabernacle is an all-star. Against decks that ride to victory one creature at a time, Tabernacle is unexciting but probably not bad enough to be boarded out.
Maze of Ith can stop anything from Etched Champion to Batterskull with the added bonus of not actually removing their creature. This forces them to pay more for Tabernacle and prevents the rebuy of Batterskull from mattering. Also keeping a guy in play can be helpful if you want to cast a Smallpox.
Bojuka Bog provides comprehensive graveyard hate in a land. The downside of maindecking a land that enters the battlefield tapped is more than made up for by the matches it wins.
Karakas does more work than may be expected. Bouncing Thalia, Guardian of Thraben (and Squee, Goblin Nabob) is a real play. Karakas of course shines the most against legendary monsters like Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and Griselbrand, but it has other applications.
Thespian's Stage has more game than I ever thought it would. Since this card taps for mana, it's easy to justify including three in my 30-land deck. Cards I copied with it during last weekend's SCG Indy Open include Wasteland, Maze of Ith, Horizon Canopy, Grove of the Burnwillows, and last but not least…
This card replaced Batterskull as my go-to win condition with the printing of Thespian's Stage. While using the Stage-Depths interaction to cheat out a 20/20 indestructible flyer is the predominant mode, the card also (for a mere thirty mana) can create a Marit Lage token without the other half of the combo. Don't laugh... it actually happens.
Any land in the deck can be found with a Crop Rotation, Entomb + Loam, or just random dredging. There is a better than 50% chance that I can have any one land from my deck on the battlefield by the end of my second turn. In addition, all the lands can be used by Mox Diamond, Raven's Crime, Smallpox, or Crop Rotation. (I sided in my extra Tabernacle and Maze against ANT just to have more lands for Mox Diamond and Raven's Crime)
About half of my opponents had to read Entomb just to see if it can search for any card. (It does.) Punishing Fire, Raven's Crime, and Nether Spirit are the most common Entomb targets in the maindeck. Entomb can of course also find Loam, any land, or Squee. Post-board, Entomb often becomes insanely good: we add on the ability to find Ancient Grudge, Coffin Purge, Ray of Revelation or Phyrexian Ingester.
Punishing Fire shines as the second-best card advantage engine in the deck, in addition to being a reusable Shock. The ability to discard Punishing Fire to Faithless Looting, Liliana, or Smallpox nets us cards over the long game and creates the deck's inevitability from an otherwise stalled board. This is the card that forced me to build this deck in Jund rather than just play B/G.
Nether Spirit is the reigning champion for dealing with Tarmogoyf and Nimble Mongoose. Nether Spirit is a one-mana commitment with Entomb and is free when discarded or dredged. Nether Spirit creates a great tempo advantage against decks which rely on Daze/Spell Pierce for disruption.
Life from the Loam is an obvious four-of. The card has powerful synergies in a land-based deck, yet it is not essential to win any particular game. I often win games using Punishing Fire, Liliana, or Squee as my main source of card advantage. That said, paying 1G for a dredge-able Ancestral Vision is pretty good. Lands in my hand can be discarded to Faithless Looting, Liliana, Smallpox, or Raven's Crime. In each case, a land from Loam can be as good as the cards on top of my deck or from my opponent's hand. This deck is not supposed to dredge and cast Loam every turn unless you are on the Raven's Crime plan. If I have a land drop and know what I want to do with my mana, I usually prefer to draw a card rather than dredge it.
Squee isn't as powerful as the other creatures featuring a comma in their name, but it's the work Squee does behind the scenes that makes him part of my starting lineup. Entomb puts Squee right into your hand, which is ironically where he loves to go and where you want him least. Squee is a card advantage engine. I will Entomb for Squee when I have a hand with some copies of Faithless Looting and Smallpox, just to get the most value out of each of them. Squee is also capable of blocking every turn.
Faithless Looting provides some card selection. The R mode is great against unfair decks where I need to dig quickly to find specific cards. The 2R flashback mode provides card selection (if not advantage) later in the game.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor, I'ma let you finish, but Liliana of the Veil is the greatest planeswalker of all time. If you can untap with this card, your opponent will almost always lose the game. If the Liliana is sure to survive the next turn I prefer to use the +1 ability. For example, if my board is two Maze of Iths and my opponent has a Goyf, I will +1 the Liliana.
Smallpox is a card you want to resolve and is almost never moved to the sideboard. Even though the card does destroy creatures, it still has some game against combo decks that play land. Smallpox creates enormous value since I can often recur both the land I sacrifice and the card I discard.
Sphere of Resistance shines against combo.
The third Crop Rotation comes in if any particular land is game-breaking or I want to make Marit Lage quickly.
Innocent Blood is a particularly good against tempo decks.
Against “fair” decks, Jund Depths attempts to be the ultimate control deck. It could be called Liliana Control or Smallpox Control. Dark Depths is simply the best and most-efficient win condition for a Loam deck, and it also has the benefit of stealing a game in a pinch.
Mana denial is not the main plan. The goal of the deck is to get the opponent hellbent without you yourself dying. Only then are we comfortable sacrificing two lands to summon Marit Lage. Since Jund Depths can destroy as many nonbasic lands as it has land drops, the opponent will easily beat a Wasteland lock if they simply play a land each turn and present a few threats. Worse, by not developing my own mana, I become vulnerable to cards like Daze, Stifle, and Spell Pierce. Therefore, getting a Loam engine going is not the primary strategy. Loam ensures that I make each land drop, defends against opposing Wastelands, and provides cards for me to discard. Loaming for Wasteland is not something I want to do while I am taking damage. On camera, several times I Entombed Punishing Fire or Nether Spirit though I still didn't have access to Loam. That's the reason why.
Against “unfair” decks, format awareness is critical. You really have to read articles and follow the Legacy metagame to stay on top of what broken plays are being utilized. Usually we want to use Raven's Crime to destroy the “unfair” deck's hand. At the same time, we may need access to graveyard hate, Karakas, Tabernacle, or have to make Marit Lage as quickly as possible. If a combo deck does not go off by turn 3, they're going to have a bad time as the deck is surprisingly efficient at getting its Raven's Crime engine online.
Let's begin by covering the RUG Delver matchup and use that as the basis for addressing other aggro/tempo decks. I consider this matchup slightly favorable.
Playing against RUG requires constant awareness of Daze, Stifle, your life total, and Surgical Extraction in post-sideboard games. If possible, don't allow an opponent to trade a Daze or Spell Pierce for a Smallpox or Liliana. If you can, craft your game to cast those spells with enough open mana, then use the remaining mana to cast Faithless Looting, Punishing Fire, Loam, or return Punishing Fire. If they don't have any threats out, then simply play a land and pass.
Be aware that Stifle is a card. It can attack fetchlands and Liliana's -2. If they can get ahead on lands, you will be forced to play into every Daze and Spell Pierce and probably lose. Fortunately, I run over 50% more lands and have Life from the Loam.
Entombing for Nether Spirit is a priority. Delver dies to all our removal and is covered by Maze of Ith, and Nether Spirit can block everything else. In post-board games, keep an extra Grove of the Burnwillows up while returning Punishing Fire when possible, though Punishing Fire is not critical in this matchup. Some lists may run Tormod's Crypt. To play around Crypt, simply try to not have Loam, Nether Spirit, or Punishing Fire simultaneously vulnerable.
This deck has moved its threats up a little lately on the mana curve. Nimble Mongoose has become Stoneforge Mystic and Tarmogoyf has become True-Name Nemesis. That makes UWR slower and hence a much easier match, especially pre-board. The post-board games are heavily influenced by Rest in Peace.
The post-board plan is mostly designed to mitigate the damage of Rest in Peace as opposed to answering it. So, why not just destroy Rest in Peace? Because once Rest in Peace is cast, it will hit the table and it will exile your graveyard; most of the damage is done regardless of whether it stays in play. Now you could make like Steamflogger Boss and re-“assemble a Contraption,” or you can win with Marit Lage. The deck is perfectly capable of controlling the game with Liliana and one-for-one removal.
Playing against U/W/R Delver requires judicious management of our removal suite. Punishing Fire answers Delver, Stoneforge, and potentially Batterskull. True-Name Nemesis is the only “must Edict” creature in the deck, yet the $50 Trained Armodon is more likely to be exiled to Force of Will than actually cast in this matchup. Since U/W/R is less aggressive, we can strategically absorb some damage to develop our mana and gain resilience against their permission. Punishing Fire is the removal of choice and ideally we will cast Liliana and +1 her. An opponent who can rebuy Batterskull's germ token has a huge advantage, giving us another reason to make Marit Lage. Playing Crop Rotation against Force of Will can be dangerous, so we either hold Crop Rotation to respond to a Wasteland or cast it when our mana has fully developed, usually past four mana.
BUG Delver & Shardless BUG
Both are very favorable matchups, with the version including Delver being slightly more dangerous. We board for this matchup exactly as we did RUG Delver:
BUG lists have a bit more diversity than other tempo lists. Baleful Strix, Tombstalker, True-Name Nemesis, Dark Confidant, and Vendilion Clique all have the potential to show up. When the math is done, however, 57% of all BUG Delver and 68% of all Shardless BUG creatures die to one application of Punishing Fire, making Punishing Fire huge in the matchup. In addition, many BUG lists play 2-5 copies of Liliana or Jace, which are likewise vulnerable to recurring burn spells.
BUG decks often pack Surgical Extraction. WE MUST PROTECT THIS HOUSE! Even if you have to take some extra damage, protect Punishing Fire by holding up an extra Grove of the Burnwillows, especially when first Entombing the card. That said, we would probably still win the match if our Punishing Fire was removed. Deathrite Shaman does attack the graveyard, so it can be worthwhile to delay cracking fetches and playing Mox Diamonds until we are ready to cast Life from the Loam. Also, it's critical to not main phase Marit Lage against decks with Liliana and/or Jace.
Death and Taxes
One of the most favorable pre-board matchups in the history of pre-board matchups. Post-board, things get complicated since Death and Taxes is white and has access to Rest in Peace, but it also runs Aether Vial, Flickerwhisp, Aven Mindcensor, and Swords to Plowshares to disrupt our efforts to make Marit Lage. Because Death and Taxes is not blue, it doesn't have Ponder or Brainstorm; so we could either use our RUG Delver or our UWR Delver board, or we could use the favorability of the matchup to do a bit of both.
This plan involves holding up an Entomb for when Rest in Peace's trigger in on the stack. Then we Entomb Ray of Revelation and destroy Rest In Peace so that our future graveyard can remain an extension of our hand.
I would call this category, “Nonblue fair decks without Rest in Peace.” This board plan can be tweaked based on what we see. The basic point is this: we don't need Marit Lage against fair non-Rest in Peace decks but we're also not facing countermagic. Depending on the particular builds, these matchups can be very favorable or unfavorable if the opponents have many “must edict” creatures and their own card advantage engines. If you feel the matchup is unfavorable, you can go all-in on the Dark Depths plan, in which case we simply trade Squee and Raven's Crime for Crop Rotation and Exploration. In another case, where the opponent has access to their own Loam, the Exploration should go in.
Against these decks, Crop Rotation is a freeroll. We can Rotate into anything on the same turn we fetch, play Mox Diamonds, and cast Loam, which mitigates disruption from Deathrite Shaman. Tabernacle combined with mana denial or Punishing Fire is critical because these decks play significantly more threatening creatures than Delver decks. We have to be able to restrict the numbers of creatures they can keep by using Tabernacle and land destruction or mow them all down with Punishing Fire and edict effects. As I mentioned during the BUG breakdown, it is important to protect Punishing Fire and be ready for Tormod's Crypt by not exposing all your graveyard cards at once. Against Affinity, we need Maze of Ith and mana denial (only because we could lose to Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas).
I have not tested against Elves running all four Gaea's Cradle. I'm sure that helps their game. Elves can be slow enough to just lose to Marit Lage, but they also lack countermagic, are very vulnerable to Tabernacle and Punishing Fire, and can't break a Liliana or Punishing Fire lock.
Make Elves walk under the clock tower at a grassy knoll during their first upkeep. Then assemble Punishing Fire or find Urborg for the always-classy turn 3 Liliana. With Tabernacle out, +1 Liliana is best so long as she survives. Their main out is Natural Order. Yet with Tabernacle out, it cost five mana just to summon a 6/6 Craterhoof.
This covers decks using some combination of Helm of Obedience, Counterbalance, Sensei's Divining Top, Swords to Plowshares, Rest in Peace, Entreat the Angels, and countermagic. They don't, however, tap their lands to play threats on their main phase. These matchups are quite unfavorable.
Our plan is to attack their hand and mana (if possible) and/or make Marit Lage. Using the Raven's Crime + Loam engine we can potentially empty their hand before they assemble a win condition or a lock of some sort. If they do cast Counterbalance or Rest in Peace, we will cash in our Crop Rotations for combo pieces and attempt to steal the game with Marit Lage. We still have a Punishing Fire, Karakas, and Maze of Ith to deal with their creatures and planeswalkers if necessary.
Ad Nauseam Tendrils
A tough match, but one that can be won. I was able to pull out the win in the semifinals of SCG Indy when I faced it, and the coverage for that match can be found here.
ANT does lean on playing some lands, so we will use Smallpox and Wasteland whenever possible. The main plan is to attack their hand with Raven's Crime. Secondarily, be aware how the deck uses the graveyard. Holding up Crop Rotation for Bojuka Bog or an Entomb for Coffin Purge can be game-breaking. I would recommend learning and flipping an ANT deck a few times in the presence of an experienced pilot. Once you understand how the deck works, you'll be much better at breaking it.
This is probably a 50/50 match.
This is a very intricate match. Generally, we want to play Smallpox as soon as possible if we have another edict effect, or move to set up Raven's Crime. We want to tax their resources so that they don't have Force of Will backup when they Show a monster. Forcing them to cast Sneak Attack without enough mana to activate it is also good. Having a Pithing Needle ready to name Griselbrand is important. Since we don't have any blue mana, most Sneak and Show players will cast Show and Tell as soon as they can. Often Sneak and Show will side in Blood Moon to answer Karakas, which we can answer with Ray of Revelation and Entomb. I still value Liliana in this deck as a method of answering monsters and attacking an opponent's hand. Though Sneak and Show runs Daze, don't play around it unless you are casting Crop Rotation.
This match is a bit better than Show and Tell since my deck has more answers and the Phyrexian Ingestor strategy is more effective at interacting with parts of their plan.
Just a few tips on this rather straightforward matchup: When your opponent cast Exhume, you cast Entomb and get Phyrexian Ingester, which proceeds to eat their guy and become enormous. I would suggest casting Pithing Needle for Griselbrand on turn 1 if you have one in your opening hand.
I had considered this match a freeroll until Dredge players started running Griselbrand and Flamekin Zealot again. This version is much more explosive, though perhaps more vulnerable to Deathrite Shaman in general.
Tabernacle + Wasteland can almost beat Dredge by themselves, unless they can Dread Return Flamekin Zealot, at which point I need to be ready with Bojuka Bog or Coffin Purge. In the coming weeks, I'll refine my approach to Dredge, but this is what I have now.
This match is surprisingly decent, about 50/50.
A fast High Tide combo requires Candelabra of Tawnos and my deck has eight post-board cards to neutralize a Candelabra, including the four Entombs. This will often push them back to turn 4. By this time, we need to have put them down to one card in hand or resolved a Smallpox. From there, it's a question of who can combo first. As they approach six lands, they have the possibility of just drawing and casting Time Spiral and winning the game from there.
Belcher/Oops, All Spells
Belcher is the more favorable matchup since Empty the Warrens is a very sketchy plan against Tabernacle. The deck has no card selection and must naturally draw a Goblin Charbelcher. You really want to hold Entomb for Ancient Grudge until they attempt to combo, they will often play the Belcher and not have the mana to activate it or sometimes cast Lion's Eye Diamond to protect it from a discard effect. Other times they will make Goblins and we need to Entomb for a Tabernacle to fetch with Loam.
Oops, All Spells can be beat with a single piece of graveyard hate. Wait until they grind their deck, then they will cast Dread Return targeting Angel of Glory's Rise and you can exile it with Crop Rotation for Bojuka Bog or Entomb for Coffin Purge. They also lose to Sphere of Resistance; Pithing Needle naming Azami, Lady of Scrolls followed by Tabernacle; or many activations of Raven's Crime.
And that about does it! If you know all the ins and outs of Jund Depths you can have a respectable game against just about everything. The deck is incredibly fun to play, and I'm glad I was able to present it to you today. Good luck, but more importantly, have fun!