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Unicorns Bounce?

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I'll admit it, when Jumpstart first came out, I took a deep breath. With the pandemic it felt like Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, the Ikoria Commander decks, and Core Set 2021 all just came out. I felt flooded by the new cards coming out and my limited ability to play any of them just makes it all seem like one large set of cards that is being revealed that I haven't played with yet. I wasn't looking forward to even more cards!

Then I started looking through Jumpstart and saw this glorious card.

Emiel the Blessed

Emiel is a 4/4 for four mana that gives your creatures +1/+1 counters, and flickers your enter the battlefield creatures! And it gives a benefit when you flicker your other Unicorns, which means Unicorn decks are coming!

Okay, admittedly, Unicorn decks aren't actually on the way. Unicorns are a pretty paltry creature type for Magic. If you are trying to go down that path, then I offer all the best to you because you have chosen a tough road to hoe.

However, setting aside the Unicorn theme, Emiel is still amazing! While some enter the battlefield triggers aren't worth three mana, there are plenty of ways to reduce that cost. Emiel will inevitably draw comparisons to another horned creature, Roon of the Hidden Realm. I'm not going to spend a lot of time comparing them, but the fact that Emiel can activate repeatedly in a single turn without needing help to get untapped is going to make the decks a little different.

The real trick is the mana sink. In addition to casting spells, the deck wants three or four mana to flicker and add +1/+1 counters. This is a deck that will always have a way to use up the mana you have and leave you wishing you had more. Your ramp package with this deck is going to have to be considerable. Farhaven Elf can be a rock star with this deck.

So rather than give you a decklist that is going to be similar to Roon (and that article is coming soon enough), I thought I would go after my feeling that all of these cards are from the same set. I challenged myself to come up with a deck made entirely of Jumpstart cards. I knew right off that I didn't want to even try to build for Commander as it would involve picking almost all of the green and white cards in Jumpstart. Instead I opted to see what I could build for my 60-card casual meta.

Let's check this one out!


Blessed Sanctuary
Blessed Sanctuary is the obvious addition. With Emiel bouncing creatures, we are getting bonus 2/2 Unicorns! Admittedly, the tokens will never get the two +1/+1 counters from Emiel, but it makes paying the three mana a lot easier to take! I would likely pay three mana just to get the Unicorns! This card made me want to include Divine Visitation, but it isn't in Jumpstart, so we'll set it aside for inclusion in a Commander deck down the road.

Preventing all noncombat damage that would be dealt to you and creatures you control is huge as well. Red decks get neutered pretty hard by this and combat damage tricks that add a couple of damage to mess things up are eliminated too. Affectionate Indrik is one of the ways the deck has to remove our opponent's creatures and getting to fight opponent's creatures when they can't damage you back means that you can go after their deathtouch creatures without fear. It means that you can target their big creatures, doing four damage, then flickering the Indrik again to do four more damage!

Anyone who has flickered Meteor Golem understands why that creature is in the deck. Three mana is a small price to pay to destroy problematic planeswalkers and other pesky permanents. And if we had enough mana to cast it the previous turn, then we have enough mana to flicker it twice. This can eliminate a lot of threats very quickly and force our opponents to deal with it quickly

Selvala, Heart of the Wilds
Selvala, Heart of the Wilds just seems like an auto-include for this deck! I don't necessarily think that the creatures in this deck are going to give us many opportunities to draw cards with Selvala as they generally aren't that big, they are big enough, and will get plenty bigger with all the +1/+1 counters floating around with this deck, to offer up a lot of mana. It will be rare when tapping Selvala doesn't give enough mana to activate Emiel and pay the extra green mana for the counter.

Any deck that features creatures flickering onto the battlefield should include Cathars' Crusade if it can, and the Crusade is part of Jumpstart. Cathars' Crusade means that the Unicorn tokens are going to get huge. It means Rishkar, Peema Renegade will allow every creature to tap for mana. All those Unicorn tokens can tap out to let the Meteor Golem flicker one more time to get rid of the last blocker or destroy an opponent's Propaganda.

Cathars' Crusade just makes everything far more painful for your opponents. If we attack an opponent with three creatures and they block one of them we can choose to flicker the bounced creature to take it out of combat, and make the other two creatures that much bigger. We can even flicker it multiple times to really ramp up the pain. We can flicker a different creature if we just want to kill off the blocking creature.

Armorcraft Judge was another great find that fits perfectly with this deck. With Emiel flickering and giving out +1/+1 counters, Armorcraft Judge is going to draw cards all the time. And this is only going to get better with Cathars' Crusade. In most games I expect the Judge to draw three cards when it enters the battlefield. Spending three mana to draw three cards at instant speed is a great option. Spending three mana, then three mana and drawing six cards and adding two +1/+1 counters to all of your creatures is going to be backbreaking!

Silhana Wayfinder
Silhana Wayfinder is a quiet star for this deck. For two mana it sets up the top of the library. For three mana it does it every turn after that. Given that all but nine cards are creatures or lands, it is going to find something every time. It improves the quality of every draw. We are going to love spending three at the end of our opponent's turn to pick the best option in the top four cards, turn after turn.

I thought about including four copies of Wall of Blossoms as it costs less than Soul of the Harvest, but they each offer something a little different. The Wall can come down early and offer some security from random hits. We will never worry about when to flicker the Wall since it can't attack, so doing it on the main phase before combat is a non-issue. Soul of the Harvest may not enter the fray early on, but when it gets there it makes Selvala better, it draws cards when we flicker it, and it has trample built in to allow us to swing through blockers. What I particularly like is opponents who forget that the tapped Soul of the Harvest can be flickered and return to the battlefield in an instant, drawing us a card, and entering the battlefield untapped, allowing us to surprise block with what everyone else will see as a way to get through attacks.

Momentous Fall may seem a little off for the deck, but not only does it let you draw cards against a creature that is about to die, but you also gain some life too. I like having a few tricks in hand as well. I don't want everything to revolve around Emiel and lines of play that are all there on the board for all of my opponents to see.

One of the cards that didn't quite make the cut is Mentor of the Meek. While there are a few creatures that can make it work, most are a little too big. Blessed Sanctuary made it a very tough cut, but there were enough other ways to draw cards.

Awakener Druid was another card that I thought might make it. I pictured us turning one of our Forests into a 4/5 creature at the end of our opponent's turn and seeing it swing in for serious damage. I also liked the idea of turning an opponent's Forest into a 4/5 creature, then fighting it with the Affectionate Indrik with the Blessed Sanctuary on the battlefield. In the end, it looked cool but it was going to happen so infrequently, that I decided it wouldn't make the cut.

Jumpstart is loaded with all sorts of goodies. I could have built a deck with Emiel adding any other color and had plenty of fun with it. The cards in the set offer so many new interesting builds as well as great additions to the decks we already have. I hope you'll all find that special goodie for your deck in your next pack of Jumpstart!

Bruce Richard

@manaburned

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