My early days after discovering Commander were bumpy. Not until the announcement of Magic the Gathering: Commander aka “Commander 2011” would most of my friends who played Magic get into the format. That’s when I started exploring the possibilities available with 40 extra cards in my deck. My biggest cringe of that period was just how bad the decks I built were, which is saying something because I still build filthy casual Commander decks. While I had done some exploration of Ertai, the Corrupted in the early months of 2011, it wouldn’t be until after buying the Ghave, Guru of Spores deck that I would get a better feel with how a Commander deck might be built proportionally.

That exploration eventually led to Jhoira of the Ghitu. Looking back, it makes me uncomfortable how lazily I netdecked it. Easily 70% of the non-land cards were taken from stock lists, and the other 30% were just not complementary to what the rest of the deck wanted to do. Now with almost seven years removed from that soulless deck, a better deck construction sensibility and every set from Innistrad forward now available, I want to return to Jhoira and figure out what I might do.

Jhoira of the Ghitu

Like a lot of people, I am very excited by the new Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain coming to us out of Dominaria. But at this point, I don’t know that I have a lot of insight on the powerful new general that hasn’t been mentioned by other writers. So let’s focus on Jhoira 1.0.

As I wrote about late last year, Jhoira as a deck was as a problem child in the early days of my Commander career. Now I think she is rather benign compared to some of the other Izzet decks, or other big creature or spell decks. My love for Eldrazi is very well documented, and I think they certainly have a place with Jhoira—especially the new titans, because you cast spells coming off suspend. Additional inclusions like Desolation Twin, Elder Deep-Fiend, or Oblivion Sower can overwhelm the rest of the table with more worrisome spells than they will know what to do with, while also supplying an effect that can’t simply be countered.

Where there is some room for growth is in the package of cards that interact well with the cheating of mana cost through suspend. While creatures like Inkwell Leviathan or spells like Decree of Annihilation are very popular with Jhoira, I will be highlighting the cache of cards that have been printed since Innistrad block, the point where I dropped off with Jhoira. I don’t plan to stray too far from being a Braids, Conjurer Adept that includes red, casting big spells and manipulating time counters to have the spells land earlier than expected or in a different sequence than the table might see coming.

Suspended Animations

Jhoira 1.0 is admittedly a very parasitic general in one respect: she plays well with the entire history of Magic, but her ways of interacting with suspend are limited to Time Spiral block and only a handful of cards. I think Fury Charm, Jhoira’s Timebug, Rift Elemental, Clockspinning, and Paradox Haze remain important for that reason, but we have a lot of room to explore. The natural thing to do is build a deck that maximizes on spells to suspend with our general. But we will need to keep in mind ways to ramp, or at least ensure that we will have consistent mana development. This can come in the form of mana rocks like Darksteel Ingot and Manalith, but I also subscribe to the school of thought that repeatable card draw like Compulsion or Bident of Thassa can be mana smoothing as well.

I have always been a fan of Time Warp effects. Part the Waterveil, Temporal Trespass, and Karn’s Temporal Sundering can all serve a purpose for this deck without it becoming too much like Narset, Enlightened Master. I especially like the ability to harness the awaken mechanic if we generate enough mana to cast Part the Waterveil for its awaken cost, making the mana ramp that much more important.

Once we have the right suite of ramp and Time Warp effects, the groundwork is in place to maximize on powerful spells we can suspend. In the past few years we have seen worthwhile creatures like Sphinx of the Final Word, Molten Primordial, and most recently Combustible Gearhulk and Torrential Gearhulk. From a spell standpoint, Overflowing Insight, Star of Extinction, and Saheeli’s Artistry are all spells which I have had an attachment to over the last year that I believe will also work very well in this deck.

Borrowing Good Ideas

One of the other desirable thing about Jhoira’s suspension ability is that with open-ended spells, you can decide what you’re getting as the spell resolves instead of committing to something right away. By playing copy effects like Clever Impersonator, Supplant Form, or Stolen Identity we will both deter opponents from playing their best permanents for a few extra turns, or benefit from players who think they can handle it. Add to that the ability to double up spells with Swarm Intelligence and your battlefield can grow with the power level of the rest of the game.

We don’t need to simply copy other permanents either. In the style of the aforementioned Molten Primordial, we can steal other players’ stuff as well. Suspending Mob Rule leaves us open to deciding which mode we’ll choose later on. Both Kefnet’s Last Word and In Bolas’ Clutches are good to cast from hand or as a looming threat in exile. Expropriate can leave the table debating what the do next as early as turn nine. I also think that Etali, Primal Storm will find a place in this deck, as it is another way we can play spells for cheaper, from our deck and our opponents’ in this case.

Rube Goldberg Machines

Normally, I wouldn’t consider myself an advocate of storm decks. But with Jhoira we do need a solid endgame. The ability to string together red ritual spells invokes the spirit of the archetype without exclusively using the storm mechanic. With the right chain of rituals, we build towards Blue Sun’s Zenith, set up a big play with an end-of-turn Commune with Lava, or use pet card of the column, Illuminate. The upside being that because half a dozen or more of the mana we will be channeling into the spell comes to us for free we will have the ability to still interact with players looking to be killjoys, by having mana open for counter-magic.

Lastly, I wanted to discuss a few suites of cards that are not exclusively good in a Jhoira of the Ghitu deck, but can be taken advantage of in this color identity. While a little unconventional for this deck, having access to Mindmoil and Arjun, the Shifting Flame means that we can take advantage of the free spells being cast at the beginning of our turns to secretly be a deck that looks to win through Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind or Psychosis Crawler. I have looked at Disrupt Decorum for much of the last year and wanted to play it in every red deck I could; but if we do in fact look to summon our Blightsteel Colossus or Slinn Voda, the Rising Deep, we’ll have an open shot at an alpha strike. When all is said and done, we cap off the game with an overloaded Mizzix’s Mastery to recur all the spells we’ve cast, because deep down this deck is not looking to maintain friendships.

Jhoira of the Ghitu will always hold a special place in my heart as a early memory of my Commander career. Looking back now I laugh at how poorly-constructed the deck was, how different my deck building sensibilities were back then, and how different Commander as a format is a solid six or seven years later. That line of thinking is easily a story for another day.

I want to dive back into decks I enjoyed during my formative years with the format more in the future, but next week I plan to discuss Aryel, Knight of Windgrace or Jodah, Archmage Eternal if I can find the inspiration. But my readers, what deck from your beginnings would you want to rebuild with everything you know now? What card did you completely overlook? Or what has come out more recently that would have been an all-star? Let me know. Until next time all.

Ryan Sainio is a Graphic Designer who writes about EDH, the story of Magic and the EDH community in his down time. He has been playing Magic: The Gathering since 7th Edition in 2002 and values flavorful and fun gameplay over competitively optimized decks.
Pet Deck – Shattergang Eldrazi

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