Frontier: Jund Delirium Primer & Sideboard Guide

Did you ever feel like you should Jund-em-out in Frontier? Well, then you're in luck. Thomas is here to help Turbo-Emrakul your opponents.

Could it be that one of the best decks in the format has been set aside? For a long stretch of time, “Turbo Emrakul,” “Four Horsemen”, and “Jund Delirium” were the consensus best things to be doing in Frontier. Tier one was Emrakul decks on the one side, and predictably, Atarka Red on the other. So, what happened?

Well, there’s a few reasons the deck sees less play today. Like any deck leveraging five drops to curve into the middle-late game, the combo decks have been a real problem for this strategy. As powerful as Goblin Dark-Dwellers and Ishkanah, Grafwidow are, there are plenty of matchups where tapping out for a five drop just leaves you dead. Saheeli—sure, but Marvel in particular pushed a lot of people off of this archetype. Honestly, they were just a full two turns faster than Jund.

The competitive landscape has changed in such a way that Jund could be a great choice again. While the Marvel matchup remains problematic, that deck has largely faded in the face of 4C Saheeli. (Interested in Modern? What are you doing here then). That leaves the omnipresent Cat-Combo as the biggest hurdle for this deck. With aggressive strategies showing up consistently at events, there’s a good reason to take a second look at Emrakul decks.

The goal, of course, is to tighten up against Saheeli without hurting our naturally positive aggresive and midrange matchups. Emrakul is also pretty good at shutting the game down against controlling archetypes as well. As usual, I’ll begin with the roots of the deck, before turning to contemporary lists, and then we’ll see if we can all agree on a reasonable 75 for today’s game.

Origins

Jund Delirium first showed up competitively in the hands of Yoshinori Senshuu at an October 2016 Frontier Challenge in Tokyo. This top 16 list was very different from what Jund would eventually become. If it was a turbo-delirium shell leveraging Satyr Wayfinder, that’s where the similarities end.

Senshuu’s list was aggressive, running cards like Gnarlwood Dryad, Grim Flayer and Goblin Rabblemaster. It even included the Become Immense + Temur Battle Rage combo! There were other variants like this, but the big breakthrough for these strategies came from a series of seemingly innocuous tweets by Joel Larson about a list running Siege Rhino:

Joel famously compared the deck to Death’s Shadow Jund, because of the sheer redundancy of premium threats which early delirium and four copies of Traverse the Ulvenwald gave you. In the games where an early Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is unbeatable, you’ll have eight copies of him counting Traverse the Ulvenwald. Likewise, Larsson’s list effectively has “six” copies of haymakers like Tireless Tracker or Ishkanah, Grafwidow, and “five” copies of Emrakul, the Promised End or Torrential Gearhulk.

While this toolbox approach was novel and allowed you to curve Jace into Tracker into Siege Rhino, the mana wasn’t always great. It also turned out that the strongest play was always the same: get delirium as quickly as possible, and cast an Emrakul on turn six or seven. Even in matchups where this shouldn’t have been enough, it always just was.

Abzan Blue, or 4 Horsemen by Joel Larsson

Lands (23)
Windswept Heath
Flooded Strand
Polluted Delta
Canopy Vista
Blooming Marsh
Prairie Stream
Sunken Hollow
Forest
Island
Plains
Swamp

Creatures (18)
Satyr Wayfinder
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
Tireless Tracker
Siege Rhino
Ishkanah, Grafwidow
Emrakul, the Promised End
Torrential Gearhulk

Instants (8)
Fatal Push
Murderous Cut
Grapple with the Past
Abzan Charm

Sorceries (6)
Traverse the Ulvenwald
Languish

Planeswalker (3)
Liliana, the Last Hope
Enchantments (2)
Silkwrap

Sideboard (15)
Anafenza, the Foremost
Flaying Tendrils
Negate
Tormod’s Crypt
Arashin Cleric
Fatal Push
Duress
Dragonlord Silumgar
Reflector Mage
traverse the ulvenwald artwork
Traverse the Ulvenwald by Vincent Proce

Leading up to the March Showdown, this deck was quite popular. Conventional wisdom quickly decided that the most powerful thing in the format to do was simply to cast an early Emrakul. This forced pilots into a sort of arms race to cast the powerful titan by turn six, while also maintaining a positive matchup against the aggressive decks.

As people began tuning their lists, the shell changed quite a bit. There was an edge to be gained in playing red for Kolaghan’s Command and Goblin Dark Dwellers. Players also began shaving some of the midrange cards—since the end game of Emrakul was the most important thing, you didn’t need cards like Tireless Tracker or Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy anymore. Emrakul just won games; it didn’t matter what had occurred before her, she would find a way. So, the important thing was just to maximize your chances of survival, not to gain incremental advantages early on.

To no ones surprise, Jund Delirium showed up in force at the top tables of the March 1k Showdown.  Three Emrakul decks made the top eight of that event, with Matt Cherkas and Matt Murday both placing in the top 8 with similar builds.

Jund Delirium by Matt Cherkas

Lands (23)
Blooming Marsh
Bloodstained Mire
Wooded Foothills
Smoldering Marsh
Cinder Glade
Llanowar Wastes
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Forest
Swamp
Mountain

Creatures (15)
Satyr Wayfinder
Walking Ballista
Nissa, Vastwood Seer
Goblin Dark-Dwellers
Ishkanah, Grafwidow
Emrakul, the Promised End

Instants (9)
Fatal Push
Grasp of Darkness
Kolaghan’s Command
Unlicensed Disintegration

Sorceries (6)
Languish
Traverse the Ulvenwald
Enchantments (3)
Vessel of Nascency

Planeswalkers (4)
Liliana, the Last Hope
Chandra, Torch of Defiance

Sideboard (15)
Tireless Tracker
Transgress the Mind
To the Slaughter
Reclamation Sage
Radiant Flames
Kolaghan’s Command
Lost Legacy
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
Phyrexian Revoker
Crux of Fate

Notable Cards

Walking Ballista is a flexible card that in a limited number of games is able to win all by itself. It interacts favorably with token strategies, is a chump blocker in a pinch, adds two card types for delirium, and is able to keep 4c Cat from comboing us out. This last bit is particularly important as shoring up the combo matchups is important going forward. The backup plan of casting Ballista for zero is also a nice bonus when you’re short a card type for delirium.

Goblin Dark-Dwellers plays incredibly well with the removal spells, Kolaghan’s Command and Traverse the Ulvenwald. Playing GDD turns Traverse into a removal spell when needed, but it’s also just one of our best top decks in the midgame. That’s because it usually plays as a modal spell which either removes their most important threat, gives us a three for one from K-Command, or puts a you-win-the-game on suspend one (tutors for Emrakul.) The 4/4 menace is relevant too, and can close out some games or threaten planeswalkers.

Ishkanah, Grafwidow stabilizes almost any board. Our main game plan is to survive until we can Traverse for Emrakul,  so cards which stabilize us are quite important. It also gives us 6 power and 11 toughness spread across four bodies for five mana—not the worst rate!

Emrakul, the Promised End wins the game. This card basically wins any game. There are corner cases, but it wins some of those too.

Liliana, the Last Hope is one of the best planeswalkers in the format. In a small number of games we’re able to tick her up to her ultimate and we just win. Normally, though, she’s a value recursion engine along with Kolaghan’s Command, which allows us to get back threats previously milled. Her -2 ability helps fuel delirium, and the fact she’s a planeswalker herself is also another unique card type.

Traverse the Ulvenwald, of course, is one of the big payoffs for a delirium strategy. Early on, this card fixes our mana and allows us to have a higher threat density, later on this tutors for Ishkanah or Emrakul when we’re ready for a finisher.

Updating Jund Delirium

As we mentioned, the list was pretty popular for months, but then started to struggle against the new wave of faster combo decks. It turned out a turn four  arbitrarily-large-cat-combo was faster than a turn six Emrakul. This was born out at the April Showdown and June Showdown, where Emrakul was completely absent from the top eight — instead we find five copies of Copy Cat between the two events.

As Daniel Fournier remarked:

The downtick in delirium decks is a big change from the past two Frontier Showdowns where Emrakul seemed to rearing her powerful head. But, it looks like these Saheeli decks which pad their combo with a high number of planeswalkers and sticky threats were too much to handle for the BG midrange strategies.

Still, others insist the deck is viable. Matt Cherkas went so far as to say he wished he had played it at North American Frontier Champs. Similarly, Matt McTavish recently released his testing notes which included the following Jund Delirium list. While he eventually rejected it for UB Control, it’s interesting to see how other players approach the archetype.

Jund Delirium Test List by Matt McTavish

Lands (23)
Bloodstained Mire
Wooded Foothills
Cinder Glade
Dragonskull Summit
Hissing Quagmire
Rootbound Crag
Smoldering Marsh
Mountain
Swamp
Forest

Creatures (15)
Satyr Wayfinder
Walking Ballista
Goblin Dark-Dwellers
Ishkanah, Grafwidow
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Emrakul, the Promised end

Instants (9)
Fatal Push
Kolaghan’s Command
Grapple with the Past
Murderous Cut

Sorceries (6)
Traverse the Ulvenwald
Sweltering Suns
Enchantments (2)
Vessel of Nascency

Planeswalkers (5)
Liliana, the Last Hope
Liliana, Death’s Majesty

Sideboard (15)
Sorcerous Spyglass
Tireless Tracker
Transgress the Mind
To the Slaughter
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
Infinite Obliteration
Manglehorn
Nissa, Vital force
The Scorpion God
Reclamation Sage

Five Liliana’s is particularly surprising, and more than I’d like to run, but I understand wanting to test out “Liliana Tribal.” It just didn’t feel worth it to me, though. I like the move to Kalitas maindeck and think that’s an important angle of attack in the current metagame. It’s great against Atarka Red and other aggressive strategies, but also stops annoying recursive threats, and if left unchecked is a legitimate win condition.

I understand the desire to run delve cards like Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Murderous Cut, but I’m not sure it’s correct. It’s too punishing in the games we have to delve a critical card type away. Frontier is a fast format and we really want to be casting Emrakul by turns six or seven. For that reason, Cut will normally be a three cost spell, at which point we’d rather play a card like Unlicensed Disintegration, which, importantly, can be flashed back by Goblin Dark-Dwellers.

While Tasigur is one of my favorite cards, we’re just not casting him reliably for one mana. Delve is a real cost in this deck. As a threat, it doesn’t matter if he gets four to eight damage in before Emrakul hits. Emrakul just means we win. So the question is: how good is a three mana 4/5 on defense? The answer is, he’s solid, but I’d rather just have another kill spell, wrath effect, or Kalitas. For every game you can cast him for two without punishment, there’s a game where you have to delve away a critical spell to survive, which is just not a cost we can afford.

Similarly, I understand the draw towards Grapple with the Past, as it’s a more efficient card in the midgame. We just want to get delirium as quickly as possible, though. To that end, four Satyr Wayfinder and three Vessel of Nascency is the most effective package, as the enchantment type matters. In terms of recurring threats, Liliana and K-Command do this while having additional utility elsewhere.

With all of that in mind, here is my current build of Jund Delirium.

Jund Delirium by Thomas Snodgrass

Lands (23)
Wooded Foothills
Bloodstained Mire
Blooming Marsh
Dragonskull Summit
Cinder Glade
Smoldering Marsh
Forest
Mountain
Swamp
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Creatures (15)
Satyr Wayfinder
Walking Ballista
Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
Goblin Dark-Dwellers
Ishkanah, Grafwidow
Emrakul, the Promised End

Instants (10)
Fatal Push
Grasp of Darkness
Kolaghan’s Command
Unlicensed Disintegration
Enchantments (3)
Vessel of Nascency

Sorceries (6)
Traverse the Ulvenwald
Yahenni’s Expertise

Planeswalker (3)
Liliana, the Last Hope

Sideboard (15)
Radiant Flames
Hour of Devastation
Duress
Transgress the Mind
Infinite Obliteration
Sorcerous Spyglass
Tireless Tracker
Manglehorn
Emrakul, the Promised End

Matches and Sideboard Guide

Saheeli Copycat

Competitive builds of Saheeli Copycat are more controlling than ever, so we want to cut our removal for interaction with their planeswalkers and the combo. In game one we have to be very careful not to get killed early, as our lategame of Emrakul will almost always just overpower them. Walking Ballista is helpful and will allow us to tap out for our powerful turn five plays, but be careful, they do run cards like Lightning Strike.

In game two I go more towards Tireless Tracker, which we can play early and gain incremental advantage from. Overall, they’re probably a slight favorite, but our sheer number of sideboard cards give us a real shot here. If they are on a more creature based version, like Todd Cordingley’s list from NA Champs, keep in your copies of Yahenni’s Expertise and Kalitas.

In: +1 Hour of Devastation, +2 Duress, +2 Transgress the Mind, +1 Infinite Obliteration, +2 Sorcerous Spyglass, +2 Tireless Tracker, +1 Emrakul, the Promised End.

Out: -4 Fatal Push, -2 Yahenni’s Expertise, -2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, -2 Ishkanah, Grafwidow, -1 Kolaghan’s Command.

Atarka Red

Atarka Red is not a matchup we’re afraid of. We run two maindeck Kalitas, two Ishakanah, and two Languish—all backed up by early interaction. A positive matchup against one of the format’s best decks is a real appeal to our strategy here. Still, Atarka Red is an incredibly powerful deck and not to be underestimated. We have the tools to win, but have to be careful with the way we use our removal spells. Post-board we bring in Radiant Flames and Duress to make the matchup even better. Cut Vessel and Disintegration, they’re too slow.

Check out our Atarka Red guide too!

In: +3 Radiant Flames, +2 Duress

Out: -3 Vessel of Nascency, -2 Unlicensed Disintegration

Abzan Aggro

Abzan is another favorable matchup. We can bring in a few more answers to Gideon, Ally of Zendikar with Transgress the Mind and Hour of Devastation, and shave cards that interact poorly with their most aggressive draws. This matchup is one of the  strongest draws to the archetype. Abzan struggles to deal with this much early interaction followed up with Emrakul on turn six or seven. The fact we can answer one of their best threats with Fatal Push is a boon.

If they’re boarding into a slower, more planeswalker heavy build, you can consider Sorcerous Spyglass for Gideon, but it’s normally too slow. You can also board in a second Emrakul if you expect them to be on a large number of Transgress the Mind.

In: +1 Hour of Devastation, +2 Transgress the Mind.

Out: -1 Kolaghan’s Command, -2 Vessel of Nascency.

UBx Control

Control is seeing a lot of play recently. Search for Azcanta has looked quite good so far, and people are once again flashing back Dig Through Time with Torrential Gearhulks. With this in mind, I’ve added an extra discard spell to the sideboard, as well as a second Emrakul. We’re a little low on threats game one, but Emrakul is still the best possible card to be playing against control. Allow me to reiterate the point one more time: Emrakul just wins games on her own.

I’ve taken to bringing in Spyglass as an answer to either Jace, Vyrn’s Prodigy or Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin. At times it’s a Stone Rain, or just hits a random sideboard card which is fine too. Depending on the number of Jace’s they’re running, feel free to leave in some number of Fatal Push.

Check out our UB Control guide!

In: +2 Duress, +2 Transgress the Mind, +2 Sorcerous Spyglass, +2 Tireless Tracker, +1 Emrakul, the Promised End.

Out: -4 Fatal Push, -2 Yahenni’s Expertise, -2 Grasp of Darkness, -1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet.

Aetherworks Marvel

This matchup is bad. They’re doing the same thing we are, and they do it faster with more copies of their titans. Our controlling element is useless against them. Things get a little better in game two, as we at least have ways to get them off of Marvel. That said, if you’re in a heavy Marvel metagame you’ll want to make serious adjustments, or just play something else.

In: +2 Duress, +2 Transgress the Mind, +1 Infinite Obliteration, +1 Manglehorn, +2 Sorcerous Spyglass, +2 Tireless Tracker, +1 Emrakul, the Promised End.

Out: -4 Fatal Push, -2 Yahenni’s Expertise, -2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, -2 Unlicensed Disintegration, -1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow.

Combo Elves

This is a good matchup for us, especially in games two and three when we have six board wipes. It’s fine to bring in discard for Collected Company, but I tend to just focus on stopping their early power plays and casting Emrakul as quickly as possible. Look out for Warping Wail in game two, which can be annoying, but not all lists play it as it slows down their goldfish.

Also, make sure you check out our GB Elves guide!

In: +3 Radiant Flames, +1 Hour of Devastation

Out:-3 Vessel of Nascency, -1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow

The Mirror

Our sideboard is fine for the mirror, but if you’re expecting a lot of it, play a second Infinite Obliteration, possibly a third Transgress the Mind and a Tormod’s Crypt effect. The games are all about racing to Emrakul, so do what you can to get there first.

In: +2 Transgress the Mind, +1 Infinite Obliteration +2 Tireless Tracker, +1 Emrakul, the Promised End

Out: -4 Fatal Push, -2 Yahenni’s Expertise

Conclusion

Jund Delirium is a good choice currently in Frontier, in my opinion. It’s a control deck, which can turn the corner as early as turn six, and it wins games out of nowhere. That’s a nice place to be in any format. I was really happy with Yahenni’s Expertise in testing, technology which I borrowed from Simon Tubello. Of course, in some metas you’ll be better off with a simple Languish as Rasmus reminded me often in testing. I think the appeal to this deck is that you have game against everything other than Marvel. With eight sideboard cards for Copycat and one more piece of interaction than Cherkas originally ran, the matchup is improved with the current build. Abzan, Atarka Red and control remain positive matchups, which is where I want to be in Frontier.

Thanks for reading, feel free to follow the rest of the team @mtgdotone and you can keep up with me personally @Nascarfath. I’m always happy to respond to feedback in the comment sections or social media!

Don’t forget to check out all of our other Frontier content!

Thomas Snodgrass

Magic and Twitch enthusiast. Frontier grinder. Frequent caster of Torrential Gear Hulk into Dig Through Time (with counterspell backup.) @Nascarfath on Twitter.

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