I fucking love Jund.
In fact, right now, as I write this, I’m shuffling my modern Jund deck. It’s not double sleeved. It’s in beat-to-shit Casthavens. And I am just jamming it into itself, and drawing sevens with it, and loving the Inquisition into Bob. The beta Lightning Bolts. My Tarmogoyfs.
It’s BGx midrange, it’s Modern, and I love it. Verdant fucking Catacombs.
And I’m here to tell you—after all the practice games, all the stupid little tournaments played, the small adjustments, theory, and tuning that I’ve done for my optimal list to Jund—all of you who have commited to a Modern deck, quite simply. Take your seventy-five and throw it away.
That’s right. Take the deck, and throw it away. Deep into the darkest deck box in your not-inconsequential stack of Magic cards. Just throw it in there, and find another deck which is the exact opposite of your favorite deck’s strategy. No. Don’t go from Jund to Grixis. Don’t go from Grixis to Blue/White.
What I want to tell you all is that, if you love playing Modern, and you’ve put the time into the format but can’t quite seem to get there with your deck choice, or find yourself constantly wavering between the same style of decks—if you want to get better at what you play in Modern, do yourself a favor and play the deck you love to hate.
After weeks of pondering how to move forward with my most invested eternal format, and having expressed my discontent over why the format had begun to feel stale, I had just finished playing Jund at one of my LGS’s to a standard 2-1 finish when a friend suggested over drinks I play his infect deck. Those who know my decks outside of Jund in the past year will know that aside from trying Splinter Twin there have been a lot of black-based attrition decks.
Infect was at the top of my list entitled ‘Decks I’d Play Were I Ever to Play Aggressive Decks’ alongside Burn and Merfolk. And I hate playing aggressive decks. Not that I think they’re somehow in any way worse than midrange, or combo, or control. I just hate the idea that I have to put all my eggs in the early game basket. That I lack inevitability. That I don’t have the answer, and am stuck merely presenting the question.
Now, wait. To all my aggressively inclined readers, you’re probably saying something like, “What’s wrong with presenting the questions? There are no wrong questions, only wrong answers.” I speak for myself when I say, how it’s felt for me over the past year, is having the correct answer has felt powerful. Having the correct answer has made me feel stronger, sometimes even smarter, than my opponent. Having the answer, to control what my opponent asks, has felt better. And until recently, I almost believed this to be true. It took a year of investment into limited and subsequently getting beaten up in small Modern tournaments and PPTQs before I reevaluated what it is I needed to tap into to start growing outside my self-confined box.
Sitting there, under the dim light of the underground Sake bar in the East Village among a roaring mid-week crowd, I said, let’s try it. Let’s ask some fucking questions.
As I sat down for my first round, I was in near uncontrollable fits of giddiness. The night would be quick, a simple four round weekly get-together of modern enthusiasts. The beer in my belly began to take hold of my courage and as I slammed my turn one Glistener Elf on the play, I stupidly said to my opponent, “You’re at ten. Go.”
I played against Burn, Splinter Twin, Merfolk, and Grixis Faeries. The rounds, except the last one against Bitterblossom, were each over before I would normally be settling into them with slower decks. Just playing the deck enraptured me. I was thinking on an entirely different plane, the puzzle the deck asked me to put together so stimulating and new. I had a fair amount of turn three kills, which was great. But let’s get under why I felt so utterly thrilled.
The psychological pressure I put onto my opponents caused them to play suboptimally. Even more than when playing Splinter Twin. Twin gave me a taste of that pleasurable feeling of twisting your opponent into making a bad play, time walking themselves, overextending. I watched it happen from the other side of the table, and knowing full well what my opponents were up to gave me a huge edge. I didn’t need Gitaxian Probe to know when I could die, when they could have something. It was as if I was playing both decks. Which may sound weird, impossible. But I had my read, and I was always right.
I asked the questions, and forced my opponent to have the right answer at the right time. Often, I would engineer situations where the answer didn’t matter anymore. Asking my opponent to stop me was unexpectedly powerful. Again, different from Splinter Twin, because I wasn’t hovering as a control deck that had a conbo finish. I was a purely linear aggressive deck, and my game plan was unabashedly simple. Can you stop this? And since I knew what my opponents wanted to do, the answer was often, “No.”
I signed the final match slip, and was undefeated. A simple four round weekly get-together of modern enthusiasts, bested. I gave my friend back the deck, said thanks, and got a drink down the street with teammate and friend of Hipsters Li.
Sure, the deck was a blast to play locally, but would I bring it to a Grand Prix? To an SCG Open? My snap answer was no, but the more I thought about it, with some practice that gained me intimacy, I actually might. If I was going to the RPTQ this weekend I would strongly consider bringing Infect. Here is the list.
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Glistener Elf
4 Blighted Agent
1 Ichorclaw Myr
1 Dryad Arbor
4 Vines of Vastwood
4 Might of Old Krosa
3 Become Immense
1 Mutagenic Growth
4 Gitaxian Probe
2 Apostle's Blessing
1 Distortion Strike
2 Spell Pierce
1 Wild Defiance
1 Twisted Image
3 Verdant Catacombs
3 Wooded Foothills
3 Misty Rainforest
4 Inkmoth Nexus
2 Breeding Pool
1 Viridian Corrupter
1 Carrion Call
3 Nature's Claim
1 Wild Defiance
2 Relic of Progenitus
2 Twisted Image
1 Grafdigger's Cage
I’m going to continue getting reps with the deck and make adjustments, but first I gotta get a set of Inkmoth Nexi. I had so much fun playing it, it would behoove me to invest in it.
So do me a favor, modern lovers, and play a deck that’s the opposite of what you like to play. Kill your darlings. Kill your heroes. Learn the game from all the angles, and you just might find yourself knowing the game a little better.
Derek Gallen lives and writes in Brooklyn, New York.