Historic Jund Citadel Deep Dive

Bolas's Citadel Art by Jonas De Ro
Bolas's Citadel Art by Jonas De Ro

Today isn’t just any ordinary day folks. With the help of DND: Forgotten Realms and a little boost from Jumpstart: Historic Horizons, the time as finally come for the one true ruler of Historic to take their rightful place on the tier 1 throne. That’s right everyone, Jund Citadel is back and ready to make players hate Mayhem Devil even more than they already do! Jund Citadel is my highest win rate deck in Historic at the moment, and this is the list I have had the most success with so far:

Updated Jund Citadel 

Creatures (30)
4
Gilded Goose
4
Llanowar Elves
4
Blood Artist
4
Priest of Forgotten Gods
4
Prosperous Innkeeper
4
Mayhem Devil
4
Woe Strider
2
Yawgmoth, Thran Physician
Spells (4)
4
Collected Company
Artifacts (4)
4
Bolas's Citadel
Lands (22)
4
Blightstep Pathway
3
Blooming Marsh
4
Darkbore Pathway
4
Overgrown Tomb
2
Phyrexian Tower
4
Stomping Ground
1
Swamp
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
3
Fatal Push
2
Inquisition of Kozilek
3
Noxious Grasp
2
Scavenging Ooze
3
Reclamation Sage
2
Korvold, Fae-Cursed King

Jund Citadel might look similar to Jund Company decks from the past, but the game plan is entirely different. You aren’t an aggro deck; you’re primarily a combo deck with a solid beatdown plan as backup. You have two main gameplans, with the main one being ramping to a Bolas’s Citadel and then whipping through the top of your deck with Woe Strider until you find a Blood Artist or Mayhem Devil. At that point, you can drain/ping the opponent to death with either Woe Strider or a Bolas’s Citadel activation. The other game plan is to quickly build up a huge board by ramping and casting Collected Company. At that point you’re able to dominate the board with Mayhem Devil, Blood Artist, and Yawgmoth, Thran Physician while you beat down with random creatures. Nearly every card in the deck synergizes incredibly well together.

Bolas’s Citadel is the backbone of the deck. Having a six mana card that often wins the game the turn it comes down is pretty busted, even by Historic standards. You have to build the deck entirely around it, but trust me when I say that the juice is worth the squeeze in this situation. Due to the deck being filled with ramp creatures like Gilded Goose, Llanowar Elves, Prosperous Innkeeper, and Priest of the Forgotten Gods, you’re able to get Bolas’s Citadel down early while your life total is still high. You’re also still  able to abuse Citadel even against aggressive decks that put tremendous pressure on your life total because the deck is filled to the brim with cards that gain life. Gilded Goose and Prosperous Innkeeper do double duty by being ramp and a source life gain, and Blood Artist allows you to chain off the top with Woe Strider while draining your opponent to death.

Before I get into the individual card choices, I wanted to bring up the list by Martin Juza that mine is based off of:

Martin Juza Jund Citadel 

Creatures (30)
4
Gilded Goose
4
Llanowar Elves
2
Shambling Ghast
4
Blood Artist
4
Priest of Forgotten Gods
4
Prosperous Innkeeper
4
Mayhem Devil
4
Woe Strider
Spells (4)
4
Collected Company
Artifacts (4)
4
Bolas's Citadel
Lands (22)
4
Blightstep Pathway
1
Blood Crypt
4
Blooming Marsh
4
Darkbore Pathway
4
Overgrown Tomb
2
Phyrexian Tower
3
Stomping Ground
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
2
Fatal Push
2
Inquisition of Kozilek
2
Noxious Grasp
3
Scavenging Ooze
3
Reclamation Sage
1
Witch's Vengeance
2
Vraska, Golgari Queen

As we all know, Martin is a crazy good player and deck builder, so starting with his list could only be so bad. My list is incredibly close to his, but it has a few key differences:

Main Deck

-1 Blooming Marsh
+1 Swamp

This is a pretty simple change but also hugely relevant. Most Jeskai Control, UW Control, and Jeskai Creativity decks feature some number of Field of Ruin, which is absolutely backbreaking if you don’t play any basics. The one Swamp is simply a hedge for Field of Ruin, and in addition to that, I only wanted to play 3 Blooming Marsh since you want almost all of your lands to be untapped in the late game so that you have no issue casting Bolas’s Citadel. I’m also still up in the air on the land count. I want to play 23, but I also want to keep my Collected Company count and my odds of going off with Citadel as high as possible.

-2 Shambling Ghast
+2 Yawgmoth, Thran Physician

This is a more recent and experimental change of mine, but it has felt great so far. Right off the bat, Shambling Ghast has felt pretty anemic, even in a deck like this that is built to abuse the card. It really only shines with Phyrexian Tower and Priest of Forgotten Gods, but otherwise it’s the last card I want to draw in the late game while also feeling nearly useless against decks where Brave the Stench has no good targets.

Yawgmoth is pretty insane in Modern, so there’s no doubt that it is powerful enough for Historic. I like Yawgmoth because it’s another heavy hitting source of card advantage for the deck. The main issue with Jund Citadel in the past was that you pretty much did nothing when you didn’t find Collected Company, Mayhem Devil, or Bolas’s Citadel. Yawgmoth helps alleviate this by being an additional powerful and synergistic late game card. By turning useless mana creatures in the late game into cards is huge in this sort of strategy because it gives you more resources and outs to draw Collected Company and Bolas’s Citadel, which are your best cards. Not being shut off by Grafdigger’s Cage while also being disgusting against any sort of creature deck is also a huge point in Yawgmoth’s favor.

Sideboard Changes

-2 Vraska, Golgari Queen
+2 Korvold, Fae-Cursed King

I really love Vraska, but it’s time to face the music; she’s just way too weak to make it in Historic. It’s great to have extra answers to a pesky Grafdigger’s Cage, but at that point I would rather just kill my opponent with Korvold, Fae-Cursed King. The ramp and loads of sacrifice outlets makes Korvold nearly as good here as it would be in traditional Jund Food. Vraska also becomes a lot better when you’re playing Midnight Reaper or Cauldron Familiar.

-1 Witch’s Vengeance
+1 Noxious Grasp

This deck is already pretty great versus random tribal decks like Elves or Goblins, so Witch’s Vengeance feels pretty unnecessary. I wanted to bring up adding a third Noxious Grasp to the board because it is of the utmost importance that this deck has adequate answers to Serra’s Emissary and Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite post board. Emissary is unbeatable if it lives since your Mayhem Devil, Blood Artist and literally every other creature in your deck becomes useless once she comes down.

The same goes with Elesh Norn, who has been the bane of small creature decks for almost a decade. Noxious Grasp gives a much needed out to them while still being great verses that Selesnya Scurry Oak combo deck and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.

Card choices, their uses, and when to board them in or out

Mayhem Devil Art by Dmitry Burmak
Mayhem Devil Art by Dmitry Burmak

The metagame is incredibly turbulent right now because of the release of Jumpstart: Historic Horizons, so I’m going to go over more broad situations and strategies where you do and don’t want certain cards. For starters, I want to discuss Bolas’s Citadel, Woe Strider, Mayhem Devil, and Collected Company and explain why they are the most important cards in the deck and why it is essential that you play four of each.

Bolas’s Citadel: Playing less than four of this card shows a misunderstanding of what the deck is trying to accomplish. Hitting a Citadel is so important that the only thing that I’m constantly at odds with is how many lands to play. Having too many makes it easier to land Citadel, but also easier to whiff if you hit a pocket of lands and don’t have a Woe Strider out.

Obviously Citadel can be awkward against Prismari Command and aggressive decks, but that’s when you can just board it out! Mono Red, Gruul, Mono Black aggro, and pretty much any low to the ground aggressive deck is where you’ll trim 1-3 Citadels. You’re able to easily go over the top of these decks and outrace them with Mayhem Devil and Blood Artist.  I never go lower than one though because it is incredibly rare when you’ll be disappointed when you only see one in a game.

A big mistake people make with this deck is boarding out Citadel too much, but keep in mind that these aggressive decks get slower post board because they’re often bringing in more removal and other forms of interaction to deal with your Priest of the Forgotten Gods and Mayhem Devils. Them slowing down gives you the perfect opportunity to outmaneuver them though and slam an early Citadel while Magma Spray and Fatal Push are rotting in their hand!

Mayhem Devil: An absolutely disgusting card and pretty much the only reason that there is red in the deck. Playing sacrifice without Mayhem Devil will always be a mistake and this unicycling fiend is more than worth the extra shock lands and pathways. In my opinion, never, ever cut Mayhem Devil.

Woe Strider: It combos with Citadel and the rest of the deck, helps you find Collected Company and Mayhem Devil, makes use of the graveyard in attrition based games… Woe Strider is the swiss army knife of sacrifice strategies and I would never play less than four in a deck like this. Don’t cut this fellow in post board games either!

Collected Company: Helps build that crucial critical mass of creatures! It’s so great that it warrants the exclusion of powerful cards like Claim the Firstborn and the cat/oven combo. It’s also hard to go to less than 26 hits post board, which means that you’ll only trim Collected Company against opponents with a bunch of Grafdigger’s Cage.

The solid role fillers and their purpose

Llanowar Elves: Everyone knows how scary it is to see a turn one Elf in Historic. I trim Llanowar Elves against decks that have lots of discard, board wipes, or Goblin Chainwhirler

Prosperous Innkeeper: An all-star addition from DND: Forgotten Realms. This trusty halfling makes it so easy to keep going with Bolas’s Citadel while also increasing the odds of you having a turn three Collected Company or turn four Bolas’s Citadel. Acting as two permanents for Citadel is just the cherry on top. I usually only cut Innkeeper against decks like Jeskai Creativity or Azorious Control, where you’re not being pressured or under much of a rush to land an early Citadel. Decks with Memory Lapse also make Treasure producers significantly worse.

Gilded Goose: More or less the same reasoning as Prosperous Innkeeper. Gilded Goose helps you keep Citadel going in the late game too since paying four mana to gain three every turn becomes easy when all of your spells off Citadel are free. Same board planning with Innkeeper and Goose.

Blood Artist: Helps you combo off as well as being a massive source of damage when combined with cards like Priest of the Forgotten Gods and Woe Strider. I see many lists playing less than four Blood Artist, which could be right if there’s tons of control around, but at the moment I like four because the format is so open and the card synergizes so well in a creature heavy, sacrifice based shell like this. If your opponent has little to no creatures or a bunch of Goblin Chainwhirlers, then board out Blood Artist. 

Priest of Forgotten Gods: A staple in nearly every sacrifice deck. It helps to ramp towards Citadel as well as being disgusting against any sort of creature deck when combined with Mayhem Devil. I usually trim Priest when I’m boarding out early creatures like Gilded Goose and Blood Artist.

Two Phyrexian Tower and Eight pathways: Phyrexian Tower is the best land in the deck, but being legendary makes it hard to justify playing more than two. It enables your broken starts like turn two Collected Company and turn three Citadel. Playing eight black pathways is great because they act as a black source for Citadel that doesn’t cut into your life total like shock lands do. Your life total is an important resource with this deck, so you want to have your mana base be as painless as possible.

Sideboard Guide

Reclamation Sage Art by Clint Cearley
Reclamation Sage Art by Clint Cearley

Fatal Push: A great catch-all removal spell since Revolt is so easy to trigger in this deck. Killing Mayhem Devil, Scurry Oak, and Kor Spiritdancer is just too important, so bring it in against decks with key creatures like these. Mayhem Devil in particular is gross because it is a major threat that also stops Jund Citadel from executing its game plan.

Reclamation Sage: Grafdigger’s Cage shuts off so many cards in this deck, so you need some way to interact with it that’s also a creature for Collected Company and your sacrifice effects.

Inquisition of Kozilek: Indomitable Creativity, Anger of the Gods, Kor Spiritdancer, and Prismari Command are a huge pain for this deck. Since most of the cards we care about cost three or less, Inquisition of Kozilek becomes a way better choice than Thoughtseize or Duress.

Scavenging Ooze: Graveyard hate than can found off Collected Company is fantastic. Gaining life and being a huge threat even in the face of Grafdigger’s Cage also make’s it a really versatile board card that’s boarded in often. There’s a lot of Delirium based decks that are relying on Unholy Heat as removal, so play an Ooze and crush them!

Here’s a quick sideboard plan to get you by against some of the current top decks of the format:

Gruul Aggro

OUTIN
-4 Bolas’s Citadel+3 Fatal Push
-1 Phyrexian Tower+3 Noxious Grasp
-2 Llanowar Elves+2 Korvold, Fae Cursed King
-1 Prosperous Innkeeper

Jeskai Creativity

OUTIN
-3 Gilded Goose+2 Inquisition of Kozilek
-2 Yawgmoth, Thran Physician+3 Noxious Grasp,

Jund Food

OUTIN
-2 Blood Artist+3 Reclamation Sage
-2 Priest of the Forgotten Gods+2 Fatal Push
-1 Yawgmoth, Thran Physician

Azorious Control

OUTIN
-4 Gilded Goose+2 Inquisition of Kozilek
-4 Blood Artist+3 Reclamation Sage
-1 Priest of the Forgotten Gods+2 Noxious Grasp
+2 Korvold, Fae Cursed King

I really like where Jund Citadel is currently positioned. You beat up on most creature decks and go over the top of most slow, controlling decks. I would hold off on playing Jund Citadel if you keep running into Jeskai Creativity though. While the matchup isn’t insanely unfavored, I haven’t liked it since Serra’s Emissary and Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite are such difficult win conditions for this deck to overcome.

Prismari Command and Anger the Gods are also fantastic pieces of interaction against this deck, so it can be frustrating to face an opponent with 3-4 of them in their 75. Grafdigger’s Cage is the other major kryptonite of this deck, but that can always be beaten if you build your deck properly and board with it in mind. Hopefully this guide is helpful and you enjoy the pleasure of comboing your opponent on turn three with Bolas’s Citadel!

Thanks for Reading!

Chris Kvartek

While Chris Kvartek technically kicked off his career in 2012, he burst onto the scene in 2019 like few before him. With an early season Top Finish at Mythic Championship II and narrow miss for his second at Mythic Championship IV, Kvartek earned invitations to two more Mythic Championships through online qualifiers. He secured his second Top Finish of the season at Mythic Championship VII, and now this rising star must prove he can stay among the elite of professional Magic.

9 Responses

  1. jungliemonkey says:

    I’ve been looking for a good guide on this deck – thank you!

  2. Sweee says:

    You’re wrong about blood artist, it can kill opponent with emissary on the battlefield

    • Chris Kvartek says:

      The blood artist can’t target the opponent if they call pro creatures with Serra’s emissary. You’re forced to target yourself and stay at the same life

  3. Assfiesta says:

    Yawgmoth is easily my favorite new card to historic, and absolutely rules. But would you consider chitterfang in his place? It definitely makes the deck less interactive in favor of making more tokens for a combo finish. He also plays nicer with company, and if I’m not mistaken should make squirrels from the treasure and food tokens

    • Chris Kvartek says:

      I tried Chatterfang but there were just too many games where it wouldn’t trigger consistently. I think you need cat/oven if you want to make good use out of chatterfang

  4. Delk says:

    Unable to access deck list

  5. FurionStorm says:

    I don’t think Inquisition is a better choice than Thoughtseize. Since the matchups you want to side in discard spells are the ones where you don’t care about your life total, I think that playing Thoughtseize is still the better choice. I happens that they don’t have any target for Inquisition in their hand and I think it’s vital to hit a Teferi or another big target that Inquisition would miss.
    Other than that, it’s a great guide and I’m looking forward to try the list on the ladder!