For a many years the straight RG build of Lands, sometimes called Combo Lands, was standard. Indeed, playing any other colors was more or less unheard of in large events. This all changed as new cards entered the metagame in 2019. Wrenn & Six, in particular, required Lands players to answer it with something more than just Punishing Fire. Abrupt Decay was a natural choice. Thus, the first major innovation since the RG Combo Lands lists was born: the black splash for Abrupt Decay. This, together with Leyline of the Void in the sideboard, as a way of dealing with opposing graveyards, made adding a light black splash quite appealing.
However, Wrenn and Six wasn’t the only reason for the move towards black for Abrupt Decay. In fact, reinforcing the black splash and pushing RG Lands even further into a RGb (Jund) colour pairing, were the cards like Dreadhorde Arcanist, and Oko, Thief of Crowns. Both of these were must-answer threats that the classic RG Lands deck could not deal with effectively. Force of Negation, as an often maindecked tool that could deal with Punishing Fire, was a final nail in the RG coffin, and it became necessary to diversify our removal suite. Thus, black continues to be played as a splash colour of choice even after Wrenn and Six’s banning on Novermber 18th, 2019.
Abrupt Decay has since been a staple in some Lands builds, allowing for the quick and painless removal of otherwise troublesome cards like Knight of the Reliquary and Monastery Mentor, as well as a way to remove graveyard hate like Rest in Peace in post side-board games. The card is an all star in many matchups, thanks to its catch-all nature.
The black splash however, was not only for Abrupt Decay. Dreadhorde Arcanist and Wrenn and Six, having become both enemy number one in a metagame dominated by RUG delver, also encouraged the adoption of Leyline of the Void. Leyline’s “uncounterable” put into play ability ensures no graveyard recursion from either Arcanist or Wrenn, as well as keeping Tarmogoyfs somewhat small.
This brings us to the first evolution, albeit small, to the archetype, the RBG/Jund build. Arguably as popular as the classic RG build nowadays, Jund aka Dark Lands makes a small black splash for Abrupt Decay in the maindeck and Leyline of the Void in the sideboard plus access to general purpose black sideboard cards, including but not limited to Surgical Extraction and Plague Engineer.
Splashing black has been an interesting option for a long time, since it gives access to card advantage engines like Dark Confidant (nearly without drawback in a deck with such few spells). So perhaps suprisingly, Confidant is not commonly played in Dark Lands. Instead, the following list of cards are what is usually played today:
Often regarded as one of the best removal spells ever printed, Abrupt Decay cleanly and effortlessly answers a host of permanents that cannot be easily removed through damage (like Knight of the Reliquary, Tarmogoyf or Oko, Thief of Crowns) all without fear of being countered. A surgically precise tool to remove the smorgasbord of “must kill” permanents 2019 has brought to Magic as a whole, it improves our Delver matchup, as it is a surefire way to remove troublesome permanents even through countermagic. As a side bonus, it can also remove graveyard hate cards like Rest In Peace or non basic land hate like Back to Basics or Blood Moon. However, its inability to be recurred can make dredging Loam worse, especially when looking for answers. Thanks to this, it is often ideal in openers given that it also seeks to answer threats generally played the first couple turns of the game. In decks that play a black splash, generally 2-3 copies are played between the maindeck and the sideboard, accompanying 1-2 copies of Punishing Fire.
Verdict: Play 2-3 copies if played.
The black splash gives us some alternatives over Gamble in looking for Loams. Entomb is somewhat narrower, as we cannot use it to find some non recursive spells like Exploration or Crop Rotation. Still, it still has incredible synergy with a large majority of our deck. An instant speed tutor, it allows us to play a more reactive game in certain matchups, and this is especially important in post-sideboard games. While comparable to Gamble, usually the latter is favoured, as tutoring to hand can often be game-winning in certain matchups where specific hate is needed as soon as possible.
Verdict: Play 2-3
The sideboard choices are where the choice to play black really shines, as we get to play many powerful effects not available to straight RG builds of Lands. That said, note that he following cards are merely potential options in black. They are not to be played all together, but a mix and match of cards and their respective quantities, developed through playtesting and personal preference depending on playstyle, is heartily encouraged. I have only listed a suggested amount of copies as a mere suggestion; final numbers and card distribution are wholly up to the pilot’s taste.
Leyline of the Void
A no brainer, as it completely turns off the graveyard for free, provided it is present in openers. With the London Mulligan, finding it in the initial has never been easier, and it is an obvious sideboard choice against decks like Bx Reanimator, ANT and Dredge/Hogaak in addition the the Delver decks playing Dreadhorde Arcanist and/or Gurmag Angler, or any deck (Stryfo Pile being a good example) that seeks to leverage the graveyard for value.
Leyline of the Void is also a decent choice against Knight of the Reliquary decks like Maverick and 4C/5C Loam as well as a natural choice in the mirror. Coupled with Abrupt Decay, it improves several matchups (Delver being the main one) considerably while making our hardest matchup, Sneak and Show, worse, thanks to the number of sideboard slots it requires to make it worthwhile. Usually played in 4 copies.
Surgical Extraction is another form of graveyard hate, but instead of completely removing the graveyard, it removes a single target from the graveyard and library, at instant speed, and is “free.” A great choice in the faster graveyard matchups like Bx Reanimator, it is bad in the face of Delver and decks that seek to use the graveyard as a resource rather than a combo element. Still, its flexibility merits consideration. It can be very good in the Lands mirror, though good players will play around it. Usually played in 1-2 copies.
This infamous card is the bane of many tribal and white weenie strategies, from Elves to Goblins to even Death and Taxes, and walks the fine line between “exceptionally powerful” and “format-warping.” This card is mainly responsible for the drop-off of the aforementioned decks (except Death and Taxes, to which it still is very unkind) and, when played in the Wrenn and Six era, all but spelled certain death for small creature strategies. Plague Engineer, is still enjoying considerable play today, as it is almost always a 2 for 1. It is one reason that Stoneblade decks are enjoying less play as well, as it kills their most efficient beater, True- Name-Nemesis. A great card for dealing with Dreadhorde Arcanist as well, since Arcanist’s ability is rendered null by the loss in power. As if this was not enough, Engineer also almost always trades up quite effectively and can sometimes completely stonewall opponents’ creatures. A very good choice for the modern Legacy meta, especially in creature/tribal heavy metagames. You will want at least 2 copies if you choose to run this card in order to ensure its availability early when it is needed.
Dark Confidant, affectionately titled ”Bob” after its designer Bob Maher, is a multiformat staple and definitely worthy of consideration in a deck whose average converted mana cost is around 0.7 or 0.8. The card serves as a source of card advantage independent of the graveyard, while also offering a decent means of clocking our opponent and eventually reducing their life total to 0.
Confidant is already played to great effect in 4C Loam, whose abundance of lands (usually around 27) means that life loss from the extra cards is relatively low. This is even more true of Lands as we have a lower mana curve. The card had fallen out of favour in the Wrenn and Six era and still has not enjoyed much of a resurgence, however it shines in control heavy metas.
Works wonders alongside Sylvan Library, as one can fix their draws as to essentially never lose life off of Bob. A good sideboard choice for the Jund flavour of Lands. Because it is particularly explosive in the opener, one wants to play about 2-3 copies in the board to maximize the chance of having one early in the game.
The best one mana discard spell ever printed, Thoughtseize is another potent tool that the black splash offers. The lifeloss is generally insignificant, and it is a great card in combo heavy metas, allowing us to strip essential combo pieces from opponent’s hands without any problems. The card used to be a format staple, but black discard spells overall have seen less play since the printing of Veil of Summer. Thoughtseize remains quite strong, however, and is a definite sideboard option worth considering. Usually 2 or 3 copies are played when Thoughtseize is chosen as a combo-fighting tool.
Ashiok, Dream Render
While certainly not the most powerful planeswalker to ever see print, War of the Spark’s Ashiok, Dream Render is still a phenomenal card when taking into account the number of decks that like to search their library. Add in its recursive, albeit slow, graveyard hate, and you have the perfect combination for a sideboard card, even if it can be somewhat narrow at times. From Green Sun’s Zenith to fetch-lands to Crop Rotation to even Recruiter of the Guard and Primeval Titan, Ashiok shuts it all off. However it is preferable in matchups where the graveyard is a source of value, but not against combo decks like Reanimator, where it is far too slow. Played alongside other graveyard hate like Surgical Extraction, Ashiok definitely rounds out the sideboard well. Usually found in 2-3 copies when it is played.
Sample Jund Deck and Hands
Most of the choices indicated above are stock and essentially no-brainers in black’s share of the colour pie. Naturally other options are possible, but I have chosen to list the most common ones. With this in mind, let’s take a look at a sample list and a couple openers to see how the black splash changes the texture of our hand.
Now we will look at a couple sample hands; we assume all hands to be on the play unless specifically indicated:
This hand is very close to being good, however it lacks a third land to fully take advantage of the situation it finds itself in. On the draw it’s a solid keep; I’d keep it on the play generally in slower matchups, however in the blind it could be a tad risky. Lets take a look at a potential mulligan/potential mulligans.
This hand is terrible; no acceleration, no answer, and just the Abrupt Decay. An easy hand to throw back.
This hand is slow, but it has an engine. On a mulligan to 5 I’d keep, because going to lower is risky, as our hands need a certain ”density” in order to make them good. I’d put back a Loam and a Port here.
This hand is pretty good. Once again we lack acceleration, but we can easily get it with Gamble if necessary, or, simply play out a slower game. I see this as a keep, though there are better 6 card hands (like the one below), so let’s take a look at a potential mulligan.
This hand is solid. We have our engine in Life from the Loam, Crop Rotation to tutor the land best for the matchup, and Punishing Fire for creature decks. Put back Loam, as it’s redundant here, and play out Exploration first.
At the time of writing, Jund or Dark Lands is probably the premier version of Lands, or at least the spiritual successor to the classic RG lists of the past. It has the same core strategy, uses many of the same cards, and just finds room for Abrupt Decay as a light splash to help answer some threats that have recently risen to the fore in the modern Legacy metagame. Other versions of Lands will differ more substantially from the RG playstyle as they add more diverse engines and threats; Jund Lands adds only a little more flexible removal. That said, these other versions of Lands have a lot to offer, and we hope you will take the time to explore them as well. This concludes the Jund portion of the primer.