Splash Green for Korvold
We’ve had a version of Jund Sacrifice for what feels like years now. We’ve seen versions built around the food mechanic from Throne of Eldraine, versions leveraging Bolas's Citadel, and now a version that takes the entirety of Rakdos Sacrifice and adds in a single, monstrous threat to turn the deck into Jund.
Along with the many powerful cards that have eaten bans in various formats, Throne of Eldraine also gave us one of the most effective sacrifice payoffs in Korvold, Fae-Cursed King. This powerful dragon has always synergized beautifully with other sacrifice effects, but now we’ve found a way to max out the power level of an already strong deck by adding in a top-end finisher to close the game out of nowhere.
While the rest of the deck looks and operates exactly as Rakdos Sacrifice does traditionally, there are also some changes to the main deck spells that have been a great boon to this deck in dealing with Mono Green Devotion and other potentially difficult matchups. While this deck sometimes feels like just sticking two powerful things together and hoping that the power level carries the deck, it really comes together to form a cohesive and destructive deck that can win from many disadvantageous positions.
So, let’s dive right into this latest take on Jund Sacrifice and see if Korvold is enough to continue the uptick of Rakdos-based sacrifice decks in Pioneer.
Many of the creatures in this deck have found homes in various Rakdos shells before this and will continue to find presumed success until something major changes. Since its printing, Cauldron Familiar has been part of an annoying two-card combo that single handedly shuts down creature decks without trample. If you have been playing Magic at all since Throne of Eldraine, I suspect you have been on your fair share of cat-oven games where these one-drops seemingly make your entire deck inert. While the gain and drain are nice, cat also gives you an inevitability thanks to scaling with additional Oven, and most decks have a hard time interacting with your cat if properly protected.
Next up we have Bloodtithe Harvester. This powerful vampire fills a nice role in this deck as a powerful two-drop that can serve as removal, looting thanks to blood, and as an early clock in matchups like Lotus Field where you just need to get them dead. Much like when Rakdos Midrange pivots to a more aggressive start, Bloodtithe Harvester is a major part of why these Rakdos and Jund decks can play an early aggressive gameplan.
One of the more interesting adaptations in taking this deck from Rakdos to Jund is that you can play Priest of Forgotten Gods as a card generation engine, a threat, and as removal. While this card has seen plenty of play in the past, generally it leveraged the various 1/1 creatures from Oni-Cult Anvil. Now, you are leveraging your opponents’ creatures thanks to Claim the Firstborn and Kari Zev's Expertise to feed your Priest and devastate your opponents board state.
Along with the various Rakdos Sacrifice cards that came over fully intact, Mayhem Devil serves as a great late game threat, early game removal, and is a big part of why sacrifice decks currently exist. Without Mayhem Devil, it would be much harder to close out games as Devil gives you a means to win outside of combat, something very important for matchups like Mono Green Devotion.
Finally, we have Korvold Fae-Cursed King. This massive threat can takeover the game instantly and warps the game state into a game of ‘Can your opponent answer this?’ If the answer is no, they will certainly die quickly. Even if they can answer it, if you can set up a situation where you do one cycle of the cat-oven combo or leverage other sacrifice elements, you can get value well beyond what the opponent can hope to gain.
If you manage to draw two or three cards, even if they remove Korvold, that’s a lot of value instantly generated in a deck that wants to churn through resources. You can also leverage the trigger on Korvold’s attack to sacrifice stolen creatures for even more value. Granted then they won’t deal damage, but that seems like a fine trade for the benefit of stealing their creature and you drawing a card.
We have a trio of spells in this deck, two of which do similar effects and one that helps smooth out your draws and generate value. Claim the Firstborn and Kari Zev's Expertise both act as threaten effects that can steal opposing creatures. Once these creatures are stolen, they can get in chip damage, get sacrificed to various effects, or generate food to help recur your graveyard cats.
These threaten effects are especially effective against decks like Mono Green Devotion and are a major reason this deck has seen so much success lately after originally folding hard to Karn, the Great Creator. While the bonus spell attached to Kari Zev's Expertise certainly provides good value, the real benefit of playing copies five and six of this effect double up as you can steal cards like Cavalier of Thrones that otherwise would dodge Claim the Firstborn.
Finally, we have Adventures of the Forgotten Realm’s all-star common in Deadly Dispute. This powerful card draw spells allows you to sacrifice a creature or artifact to make a treasure and draw two cards. This deck manages to make plenty of disposable artifacts thanks to blood tokens, treasure tokens, and food tokens, meaning you never have to look too far to get value out of Deadly Dispute. Add in the threaten effects and you can steal an opponent’s creature, attack, sacrifice it for two cards and a treasure, and leave their board state in shambles compared to the advantage you just generated.
While this deck focuses primarily on the creatures, the spells work perfectly in-synch to help the creatures finish the game and are easy cards to side out in matchups where the opponent is looking to win without creatures as the main win-condition.
Planeswalkers, Artifacts, and Enchantments
There’s one of each type in this main deck and each works to supplement the creatures and spells mentioned above.Witch's Ovenhas been a staple of Standard and Pioneer since its printing thanks to Cauldron Familiar. Cat oven has earned bans, won championships, and remained a frustratingly good two-card combo in Pioneer. Add in the ability to blank removal spells, especially the likes of Stomp, and make bonus artifacts to sacrifice, this oven does a ton of work in most matchups.
Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is the all-star card in so many decks. While we just had the printing of Liliana of the Veil, before that, the de facto best card in any midrange deck had to be Fable and that remains true here as well. Making a multitude of permanents, ramping into early Korvold, and filtering through your cards in hand all work to smooth out this deck and maximize your early starts. While this deck generally revolves around synergy, Korvold and Fable are examples of this deck leveraging raw power to keep up with the format at large.
Finally, we have Ob Nixilis, the Adversary. This Planeswalker sparked plenty of discussion when it was spoiled, but since then it has struggled to find a good home that can leverage its various abilities. This deck allows you to sacrifice opposing creatures for casualty, making it a nice sacrifice outlet while also punishing opposing players’ life total and resources. While not an overwhelming powerful card in every matchup, in matchups that want to go into the late game, having two or more Obs can easily end the game.
Matchup Feel: Favorable
Matchup Approach: One of the main reasons to play a Rakdos-based sacrifice deck is that you can generate repeated value and nullify many of the tools of Rakdos Midrange. While normally, Rakdos Midrange tends to lean on the power of its two-for-ones, Jund Sacrifice can keep up with the value and has cards like Korvold, Fae-Cursed King that can single handedly out grind Rakdos Midrange if left unchecked.
The value of cat-oven, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, and Claim the Firstborn all help to make this an enjoyable matchup and something that Rakdos Midrange players decidedly want to avoid, and you want to see as often as possible.
Matchup Feel: Close, but favorable
Matchup Approach: This matchup can be tough if they manage to get a creature out of range of your Mayhem Devils or if they can protect against your Fatal Pushes. While you have a massive advantage if the game goes late, it can be difficult to interact with their creatures in this deck since you don’t have a ton of removal. Ideally, you can steal their large creatures and bludgeon them with them.
This matchup also gets much better if you can stick a cat-oven combo and dodge Portable Hole. If you manage that, it can be very tough for them to get through for any damage outside of Invigorated Rampage. Try to use your removal when they can’t proactively punish you with a Gods Willing or other spells. Think of Heroic in the same vein as old Modern Infect, wanting to always use removal on their end step so even if they have a spell, you don’t take the added damage and then you can untap and hopefully steal or answer the creature for good.
|+4 Thoughtseize||-4 |
|+1 Go Blank||-2 Kari Zev's Expertise|
|+2 Ob Nixilis, the Adversary||-1 Priest of Forgotten Gods|
Matchup Feel: Favorable, though there are some tough cards post-board
Matchup Approach: Having infinite value thanks to cat-oven, Korvold, and Fable alongside Ob Nixilis, the Adversary gives you plenty of tools to get under Azorius and apply pressure from what feels like ten different axis. If you can manage to stick your powerful anti-control threats, you just must be careful of cards like Farewell sweeping up the board and all your extra permanents.
This is a matchup where you will usually win through pinging and draining more so than attacking, especially since Azorius decks run The Wandering Emperor, March of Otherworldly Light, and Shark Typhoon that make it tough to get in for lethal attacks.
Play for your cat-oven combo alongside Mayhem Devil and leverage your creature lands after wrath effects.
|+4 Thoughtseize||-1 Ob Nixilis, the Adversary|
|+1 Go Blank||-2Kari Zev's Expertise|
|+4 Leyline of the Void||-2 Priest of Forgotten Gods|
|-4 Claim the Firstborn|
Matchup Feel: Difficult, but much better post-board
Matchup Approach: You aren’t fast enough to deal with Greasefang. Bluntly put, this is the real reason you need to come prepared with a glut of anti-graveyard cards. Leyline of the Void also goes up in value in this matchup since the current builds are running Abrupt Decay and Witherbloom Command to deal with these style of effects and Leyline dodges them both.
This doesn’t mean that just slamming a Leyline is enough, but it can drastically slow down Greasefang to the point that you can set up a nice Mayhem Devil lock to keep them from ever getting an uncontested Greasefang to combat.
Leverage your ability to clear their hand and graveyard to make it very uncomfortable for your opponent and remember that thanks to Boseiju, Who Endures, it is best to try and end the game quickly against Greasefang, even when it feels like you have the late game advantages thanks to your various engines.
|+4 Leyline of the Void||-1 Ob Nixilis, the Adversary|
|+1 Go Blank||-3 Priest of Forgotten Gods|
|-1 Korvold, Fae-Cursed King|
Matchup Feel: Difficult, but much better post-board
Matchup Approach: This matchup gets a lot better post-board thanks to your anti-Greasefang tech in Leyline of the Void. While Arclight can bounce Leyline with Otawara, turning off recursive Arclight Phoenixes alongside delve spells means you can set up your mid to late game engines without them decimating you with early tempo.
While the two-drops can still be an issue, unlike in most creature-centric matchups, you can steal their creatures and kill them with them. This makes it dangerous to over-stack up your Ledger Shredders or flipping your Thing in the Ice since there are six main deck ways for you to steal those threats and many more to sacrifice them afterwards.
If you can contain their two-drops and find a Leyline, this matchup becomes much more manageable, though you do need to avoid cards like Crackling Drake flying over top of you post-board. Korvold can do a good job of trading off for Drakes, but you’d much rather have the Korvold if possible, so consider not trading if possible if your life total isn’t in immediate danger.
Matchup Feel: Favorable
Matchup Approach: Mono Red falls into the category of creature-based deck and those are generally unhappy to run into cat-oven alongside Mayhem Devil. Once you add in the extra removal and Ob Nixilis for life gain, it becomes increasingly difficult for Mono Red to kill you. The biggest thing you can do in this matchup is protecting your Cauldron Familiar. If ever they can interact with your cat and your graveyard, or you suspect they can, you need to make sure it doesn’t get exiled as the infinite blocking and bonus life are big reasons for this matchup being favorable.
The other major reason is that you have a big dragon that red has a terribly tough time answering. While some builds are running Burning Hands, it’s a tough sell to board that card in against a deck that only runs four green creatures and Korvold can even get out of range quickly if you have a cat-oven loop ready once Korvold enters the battlefield.
Mono Green Devotion
Matchup Feel: Unfavored, though the threaten effects help a lot.
Matchup Approach: This matchup has gotten much closer thanks to the shift in builds of Jund Sacrifice. Korvold Fae-Cursed King is a killing machine, able to generally kill after one or two swings max, immediately pressuring opposing boards. In addition, Claim the Firstborn and Kari Zev’s Expertise pair nicely with Witch’s Oven, Deadly Dispute, and Ob Nixilis, the Adversary to help clear the path of any blockers, hit back for some damage, and potentially take away precious resources from Mono Green.
You will need a fast start to take over this game and if it is backed up by a few threaten effects, that’s the recipe for success in this matchup. Try not to keep hands that don’t have ways to kill off or steal elves early, especially on the draw, and leverage your ability to steal Old-Growth Trolls to make the death trigger inert. Mayhem Devil is another nice tool that can keep the board clear until you are able to take over in the mid to late game.
Beware though, with Storm the Festival and the various Planeswalkers, if you don’t end the game quickly, Mono Green can easily start to come back.
Mono White Humans
+4 Fatal Push
Matchup Feel: Favorable
Matchup Approach: Cat-oven is a tough thing for creature decks to overcome. Add in various other creatures that can trade, Mayhem Devil, and removal out of the sideboard and it is tough to enjoy this matchup from the Mono White side. While Brave the Elements can help to sneak your creatures through for lethal, you need to proactively keep their creatures off the board so that you only have one or two threats to deal with at any time.
Try to leverage your threaten effects to race in close situations, especially when you also have a sacrifice engine ready to get full value. In this matchup, taking something like Adeline, Resplendent Cathar can be a huge overall swing to combat. Overall, you win the late game, assuming you can protect your Mayhem Devils from their Brutal Cathars and periodic removal spells, but Mono White’s lack of hard removal does make it more likely you can get your Mayhem Devil machinegun ready to fire down on all these humans.
Mono Blue Spirits
+4 Fatal Push,
Matchup Feel: Close. You have no clean answers to fliers, but Mayhem Devil can win the game solo.
Matchup Approach: Your goal is to kill early creatures and set up a lock with Mayhem Devil and cat-oven. If you can keep the board clear through Fatal Push and Mayhem Devil, it is very tough for them to ever kill you. The times you lose this matchup are when they curve early fliers into counterspells, and you aren’t afforded enough time or tempo to bob and weave through their offense.
Leverage your bursts of damage thanks to stealing their creatures, but unlike most creature-based matchups, these spirits are so small and insignificant without other spirits, so it can be tough to get full value on you threaten effects. The one nice part about it is that often these threaten effects will eat counterspells that needed to be saved for Korvold, which can take over the air and allow you to out value Mono Blue Spirits easily. The only downside being that thanks to Korvold being green, they could over-board and bring in Aether Gust for you and it wouldn’t be terrible, so consider that as a possibility when trying to stick a Korvold onto the board.
Tips and Tricks
· While it can be tempting to recur your cat on your opponent’s end-step, often you want to wait until your oven is untapped to ensure their removal is blanked.
· When Reflection of Kiki-Jiji tokens die at end step, they are sacrificed, triggering Devil and Korvold.
· Mayhem Devil sees all things sacrificed to Priest of Forgotten Gods, even if it is sacrificed while paying costs. This allows you to get two sacrifice pings and the lose two life when activating Priest.
· With only 8 non-treasure green sources, always try to get one Pathway onto green when you can as you only ever need a single green to cast Korvold.
· There’s no priority pass once Kari Zev's Expertise starts resolving and when you get to cast your two-drop or less for free. This means you can steal an opposing creature and deadly dispute it for free with no chance for the opponent to interact with their creature once the Expertise resolves.
· Mayhem Devil nets the life off Ob Nixilis, the Adversary’s plus ability. While the life isn’t always relevant, being able to get the life without using the minus ability can help keep your Ob Nixilis Planeswalkers healthier.
· You can activate your creature lands multiple times to stack their abilities, such as making extra goblins with Den of the Bugbear. This can come up in the late game, especially with Den.
· Korvold draws a card and gets a +1/+1 counter each time you sacrifice a permanent. Use this to your advantage and set up situations where you can get multiple sacrifices in a row so that if your opponent is relying on red-based removal, it becomes impossible to kill this dragon, especially for any level of good value. Also, you can refill your hand nicely in response to removal on your dragon and that helps you to keep up against decks that can kill off your mighty dragon.
There you have it, the latest style of Jund Sacrifice leveraging the powerful base of Rakdos Sacrifice and pairing it with Korvold Fae-Cursed King alongside eight Pathways to facilitate this splash. While much closer to traditional Rakdos Sacrifice decks compared to earlier Jund Sacrifice decks, this feels like the final style build of Jund Sacrifice until we have some new set shakeups.
Don’t underestimate this deck or the power of cards like Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Korvold, or Mayhem Devil in a format where often creatures need to attack to get you dead. Add in your favorable matchups against many top tier decks, and this deck looks poised to stay as a contender for quite some time.
Thanks for reading and be sure to stay safe out there!