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26 Decks in a Year, Episode 18: Jund


Let’s get back to basics.

Themes are great, restrictions breed creativity, and building with a purpose is fun. It can be rewarding to do something unexpected or build on an extremely tight budget. No matter who you are, there’s a Commander deck out there with your name on it.

But not every commander deck needs to be so . . . complicated.

Xira Arien

Let’s take this inexpensive Jund commander and surround her with a bunch of good cards. While we’re at it, let’s see if we can abuse that card-draw ability just a bit so we make sure we keep our hand filled with all those great creatures and spells.

Kodama's Reach
Our mana is tough. We have a bunch of bb, some gg, and a little rr. However, because we’re in green, we have access to all the wonderful land-fetching spells that help us smooth out those tough costs. Cultivate, Kodama's Reach, and Peregrination join a team of forty lands to make sure we’re pulling both some extra mana and finding the colors we need. Burnished Hart—which really belongs in just about every Commander deck—and some other land-fetching creatures are also there, including a personal favorite of mine in Ondu Giant. Just be careful when playing Frenzied Tilling, and pick a good target, such as Gaea's Cradle or Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. We’re not trying to ramp like crazy, but an opening hand with a ramp spell is a good way to start, and drawing them later is never bad because, using Xira Arien, we can turn those extra lands into more cards in hand.

Speaking of which, our commander is our primary way of drawing extra cards. Sure, it costs 3 mana each time, but most of the spells we’re playing have a pretty big impact on the game, so it’s okay to reserve our draw for when we don’t have anything else to do. However, to facilitate finding what we need when we need it, we’re running a bunch of ways to untap Xira: the strange Umbral Mantle, the old-school Jandor's Saddlebags, and the amazing Thousand-Year Elixir, among others. Watch for the creatures that do it, too, including the hilariously named Fyndhorn Brownie. We also have the wonderful team of Soul of the Harvest and Harvester of Souls, so we gain cards as creatures enter and leave. For a final burst, Disciple of Bolas is really great to completely refill the hand, especially right before a Wrath effect.

We’re going to win the old fashioned way: with big, awesome creatures. Do opponents have too many creatures? Have an Archfiend of Depravity. Want to smash for some big damage? Try Tyrant's Familiar on for size. Need extra cards? How about a Bloodgift Demon? Nighthowler can grow absurdly large. Soul of Innistrad and Soul of Zendikar are both huge with relevant abilities, especially with all the land drops we’ll be hitting. And Sepulchral Primordial gives us as many guys as there are players.

Dregs of Sorrow
One of the best things about being in three colors is we can answer just about everything. We have plenty of Wraths to take care of creatures—nothing beats a solid Decree of Pain or In Garruk's Wake. We also have some great spot removal such as Putrefy and Dregs of Sorrow. Acidic Slime is fantastic—even better if we put it under Mimic Vat—and Steel Hellkite is among the best ways to deal with a lot of different things, and it’s really amazing when someone has a bunch of tokens.

Then things start becoming really, really fun. As long as we have ways to untap creatures, why not play with more creatures that want to be untapped? Avatar of Woe, Visara the Dreadful, and Royal Assassin all love to be tapped multiple times a turn. Xathrid Gorgon does, too, and untapping King Macar, the Gold-Cursed whenever we want makes him a really nasty threat. Felhide Spiritbinder is fun to untap whenever as well; we untap it, make a copy of something huge, and eat an attacker. Feldon of the Third Path is great to tap a couple of times in a single turn, especially when we can copy a Primordial. Desecration Demon loves to be untapped—even if we can only do it once, it means it will cost our opponents two creatures to keep from being smacked with a flying 6/6. Kazandu Tuskcaller and Rakka Mar join with Bloodline Keeper to make a bunch of different tokens, Cemetery Reaper can make it tough for opposing graveyard strategies, and Ulvenwald Tracker gives us yet another way to manage creatures. And how cool is Aladdin? I’ll take your Sol Ring. And your Caged Sun. Oh, is that Sword of Feast and Famine? Thanks!

We also just have some good stuff. Mimic Vat is great with more than Acidic Slime—try it with Eternal Witness . . . or Sakura-Tribe Elder . . . or Zealous Conscripts—that would be awesome. Dictate of Erebos can make for some blowout plays, but it is also just good to have around, making sure we keep even with everyone else. Trading Post is still doing its best Planeswalker impression, and Beacon of Unrest can bring back our dead toys over and over.

With some more scratch to throw at the deck, the first place to start is with lands. Temples, check lands, even Vivid lands would probably be good choices because the mana really is tough. We simply ran out of money in the budget to improve the mana base. That said, the deck works well, especially with all the Cultivate effects—it would just work more reliably with better lands. After that, Grave Titan and Inferno Titan would both be good adds. Solemn Simulacrum is a good addition to most decks, and this one is no exception. Avenger of Zendikar would be absurd. Staff of Domination would also be excellent in the deck. Protecting Xira with things like Lightning Greaves or Darksteel Plate isn’t unreasonable if your meta is fairly cutthroat.

Sidisi, Undead Vizier
The joy of playing a deck like this is every game will be different, but each time it will have a solid chance of winning. Tutor effects aren’t really needed since there’s no combo to search out, and the randomness of the threats is part of what makes it fun. However, something like Sidisi, Undead Vizier or Rune-Scarred Demon could help just in finding an answer later in the game—sometimes, Acidic Slime is the only thing that will solve a big problem.

Molten Primordial and Soul of Shandalar almost made it in, but the deck was too deep on 6-drops, and some needed to go; these two had the least relevant abilities. However, if you cracked a Molten but not a Sepulchral, just make the swap—heck, that’s true with most of the big creatures. The curve is a bit high, so cut big stuff for other big stuff—drop Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet for Giant Adephage for example—but just run your favorite good cards.

Don’t be too afraid to play out your hand while running this deck. Because Xira can draw us a bunch of cards, we can afford to overextend and put some pressure on the table. Do try to avoid playing Beacon of Unrest into a counterspell of some kind though—that’s disappointing. Better to have it shuffled back for another go. And attack! Winning will happen by attacking with creatures, so get life totals working their way down. When things start getting out of hand, Wrath the board, and start over with superior card advantage.

I’m really curious what suggestions you have for this deck—see anything that shouldn’t be here? What definitely should? Bring your ideas to the party!

Having a theme is great. So is having a plan. But sometimes, it’s fun just to grab seven cards at the beginning of the game and see where it goes.

Total cost: $74.54

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