Kristen takes us through a quick build of Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse. Exploring EDH using primarily lower powered cards with a quick turnaround time and no research can be a refreshing experience.

So, while ordering my singles for Core Set 2021, I managed to pop a foil Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse into my basket for basically pennies. I do love that Collector Boosters drive singles prices down, and I find myself a lot more willing to pick up singles when so many rares are $1-2. Anyway, Jolrael.

Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse

I knew just from a glance that this card had potential. It’s got a pretty clear build-around theme: drawing extra cards each turn gives you 2/2 cat tokens. More than that, it has a payoff. For six mana, you can give your team a huge boost in base power and toughness. Jolrael is built from the new mold of Commanders that have an enabler and a payoff in one card. She also happens to only cost two mana the first time, which is pretty bonkers. I hadn’t intended on building the deck, but I got inspired playing against a friend’s build. Like Travis mentioned in his recent article, the new school of Commanders are kind of in a league of their own; and even playing a previous titan of the format, Meren of Clan Nel Toth, I felt on the back foot from turn 2 onwards until I could draw into my Grave Pact effects.

From that point on, I was convinced that this card could never be bad. Even if I wasn’t running cards like Sylvan Library, Alhammerett’s Archive, Feline Sovereign, or Avenger of Zendikar, I was sure I could make it work. So, I set myself some goals and went about building!

  • I would have to source my cards primarily from my Commander Bulk Box. For context, I tend to keep anything rare, shiny, or playable in a series of sorted binders, and then use a box for anything more niche or underwhelming.
  • I couldn’t run popular Commander staples if I had a reasonable argument for not running them, such as running a less powerful version of an effect.
  • I couldn’t use EDHRec or other sites to research—this would be an offline-only build.
  • My goal was to complete this build as quick as possible. I think in the end it took me about 45 minutes to an hour to get my first draft, fifteen minutes of which was digging through actual bulk for a copy of Thornado.

The Deck


So, my first build was complete. Let’s walk through some of my decision points.

I decided to run 36 lands, as I figured with all of the cycling and card draw it would be reasonable for us to hit our land drops. Within the manabase we have some cycling lands and Reliquary Tower; the only other land that comes in tapped is Oran-Rief, the Vastwood, which is a great way to give our creatures a boost. I ran one copy of Wastes due to the fact I chose to play Endbringer—having access to two colorless mana is important for its card draw ability.

The most expensive card in the deck is Akroma’s Memorial. Though it may seem like I broke one of my goals, I actually think this card is pretty underwhelming in EDH these days. I also still needed another kind of finisher, and this is a great finisher that’s less powerful than say, Craterhoof Behemoth. Speaking of less powerful, one of the main ways I chose to keep the deck lower powered was to mostly drop recursion. Though cards like Regrowth and Eternal Witness are staples in every Green deck, I wanted to the deck to stop short of being so consistent. I opted instead for a single Praetor’s Counsel. With a lot of cycling and cheap cantrips in my build, it made sense to be able to buy it all back. On a similar axis, I picked Wilderness Reclamation over Seedborn Muse; one extra untap is far less egregious.

My overall strategy was to basically be drawing extra cards most turns of the game to keep my grip between 5-7 cards on any given turn. I ended up avoiding bursty draw like Revenge of the Wildspeaker—mostly because all of my copies were in use—and tried to keep the cards coming instead. So, we have creatures like Wall of Blossoms, Skyscanner, and Llanowar Visionary making up a lot of the creature base. In my eyes, having powerful or splashy creatures isn’t necessary for this kind of strategy; often they have extra power and toughness anyways, and so they benefit from Jolrael less, but really we want to be going wide, so playing cheaper creatures is far more optimal. Thanks to our many low curve ways to draw, we can easily trigger Jolrael with Glademuse whilst offering a group hug effect to keep the pressure from simmering over.

I really like Nantuko Cultivator in this deck. It’s a great way to filter through cards, especially when flooding, and benefits from +1/+1 counters when it’s eventually enlarged by Jolrael. Higher on the curve I chose cyclers like Krosan Tusker and Titanoth Rex along with Sandstone Oracle to refill and as an evasive attacker/blocker. Then I went with a wide selection of creatures that either keep cards flowing (Keeper of Fables, Ohran Frostfang), remove things (Qasali Slingers, Kogla, the Titan Ape) or enable our strategy (Nacatl War-Pride, Tendershoot Dryad, Kamahl, Fist of Krosa). Qasali Slingers into Nacatal War-Pride is such a great sequence.

A lot of the rest of the deck kind of built itself—useful spells that either cantrip or cycle. I do have a few interesting picks I’d like to cover, though. First up, Winter Blast. It’s a tap down effect in Green which is pretty unique, and it has the added upside of removing small creatures with flying. It’s perfect to push through damage in the early game to get some utility out of your wide board before you’re ready to Alpha strike, and even late game can remove problematic blockers.

I included Skyscanner and Sandstone Oracle as useful blockers for a reason: we’re going to be run at frequently. These can block flyers, one of the main weaknesses of mono Green decks. Bloodthirsty Blade can ensure we’re not attacked by the scariest creature at the table, and also remove a blocker thanks to that creature being goaded. Alongside this I ran two fogs: Lull, which can cycle, and Obscuring Haze, which is free when Jolrael is in play.

Observations & Upgrades

After a couple of test games, I kinda confirmed my suspicions. Even at a lower power level build, Jolrael is pretty incredible. Though I did miss the heady heights of mass draw in my build—Regal Force being a great, cheap option that I just don’t own—I was able to consistently swing for 60-100 damage on multiple turns. Jolrael is incredibly easy to build around, and I think makes a great budget Commander for mono-green. The upgrade paths for the deck are numerous, and I’m happy enough that I can delve into a few slightly more competitive cards without skyrocketing the overall build.

On the cheaper end of the scale I’m interested in finding room for Masked Admirers, a card that didn’t make my first cut, but I think warrants another look. You tend to have to block a lot playing Jolrael, and it’s a great card to rebuy. I also think Crashing Drawbridge could potentially be great, particularly if we include ways to make masses of tokens. I similarly pulled out Howl of the Night Pack for my first draft, and after playing the deck, I think this card is a potential include. Being able to drop an army of tokens after a wrath seems like a great plan; and there are other cards to consider that play into this too, like Wolfbriar Elemental, Master of the Wild Hunt, and Wolfcaller’s Howl.

I’ve covered wolves before in my budget Renata, Called to the Hunt article, but beyond wolves, and beyond “cantrip-tribal,” I can see Jolrael leaning into either Cats or Elves as a predominant tribe. It would certainly enjoy many of those payoffs if it did.

Two more powerful includes I’m considering are Nissa, Who Shakes the World, and Vivien, Monsters’ Advocate. Nissa does everything the deck wants to do, adding creatures and +1/+1 counters to the board and giving us more mana than we know what to do with. Vivien, on the other hand, allows us to either make tokens, see what our top card is—relevant when we can draw into it—and bring more creatures out of the deck. Planeswalkers in general seem a good bet for this kind of build, given our ability to go wide and protect them.

Snow Cats?!

So there’s one upgrade path I really want to rally behind, and I’ve gone so far as to order a few bits to enable it: Snow.

I put Ohran Viper in the deck mainly as a source of card draw. I’m also running Ohran Frostfang, another snow creature. When leafing through the build, I got curious: was there anything I could do to make Snow happen? After some research, I hit upon a number of cards that would actually be super sweet in the deck.

The main change, of course, is swapping the manabase to Snow-covered Forests, and running Scrying Sheets. Occasionally we might draw an extra card off of this (even if it doesn’t technically draw cards), and it gives us something to do with the mana we hold up for our cantrips. Being able to do this multiple times a turn is potentially excellent, so Rime Tender makes it onto the shortlist too. It can untap any snow permanent, so Boreal Druid is another replacement for our Elvish Mystic, and if we Wild Growth one of our forests, this can ramp us too. Plus, the thought of untapping an Ohran Viper to then block with seems pretty spicy.

There are two more cards in the Snow theme that I’d like to include. The first is Frostwalk Bastion, a creature-land that can freeze down an opposing creature. This is a great effect in this kind of deck, as the loss of blockers can really hamper our opponents. The second is an artifact: Sunstone. By sacrificing a snow-covered land, we can fog, allowing us to turn the gloom of being swung at into a blossoming opportunity.  Whilst we don’t want to lean on this too heavily, I love the onboard trick, and I love that it doesn’t cost a card in hand.

In Closing

There are a bunch of budget options I’d recommend for this deck that I didn’t have at hand: Shefet Monitor & Scavenger Grounds, Regal Force, Ground Seal (which probably replaces my Gaea’s Blessing), Benefactor’s Draught, Provoke, Cryptic Caves, Rending Vines, and Verdant Rebirth.

Obviously you can crank Jolrael up to eleven, too, by adding mass draw, powerful enchantments and Planeswalkers, protection like Heroic Intervention, some of the classic Green payoffs, and even cards like Arachnogenesis, which is a fog that makes a bunch of tokens too. I did briefly consider the idea of running the original Jolrael, Empress of Beasts as a way to threaten other players who might want to boardwipe, but I ultimately decided that verged on unfun for the rest of the table, and with the potential to put me in Iona, Shield of Emeria situations too.

My final build leans into Planeswalkers more as way to generate tokens to go wide, particularly as we’re already running some fog effects. By not running game-ending ultimates, it keeps the power from going into the stratosphere; the ultimates we do have refill our hand, which is exactly what we need. Adding Wild Growth to take advantage of Rime Tender was also a cute upgrade. I’d love to get an Extraplanar Lens in here, especially with the Snow lands, so if I do enjoy the deck a lot I might just do that!

Overall, I really enjoyed the quick-build experience. You can get a lot of data from a quick build, and without over-relying on deckbuilding sites, you’ll find it’s easier to not overthink things, and you’re more likely to try out “less good” cards to test them out. Playing and building in this manner can crucially give you a better idea of the direction you’d like to take a deck too, and that’s something that only really comes from playtesting.

I hope you enjoyed this run through Jolrael today. It’s a deck that can be built at different power levels, but a deck that’s always consistent. A hallmark of phase 3 design, Jolrael gives a strategy, an enabler and a payoff in one card, and I’d be surprised if she didn’t start to appear frequently at Commander tables.

Let me know your thoughts, as ever, on Twitter to continue the discussion.

Based in the UK, Kristen is a lover of both Limited and Commander, and can most often be found championing the Boros Legion when called upon to sit down and shuffle up.

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