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In the Ghitu


Jhoira of the Ghitu
Welcome back, readers. This week I wasn't particularly inspired by anything, and I don't really have a point to prove. I have a list of decks I'd like to get around to giving the 75% treatment to, and among them was a deck that ruled my local metagame during the early days of EDH. Jhoira of the Ghitu was a deck that was fun, powerful, and maybe a little broken when Commander games were mostly one-on-one and meant to be kind of cutthroat. The game has come a long way since then. The Spikey players who used to Jhoira the night away have all but abandoned Commander to go do Spikey things like play Modern and steal candy from orphans or whatever Spikes do. For whatever reason, despite the deck not getting any worse and actually receiving a few new toys in recent sets, I don't really see anyone sleeving up their pride and Jhoira anymore. Is there a reason?

This took a different course than I'd originally intended. At first, I was going to check out a few lists online to form a general sense of what Jhoira decks were running and try to reconcile all of them, but I think I could talk about Jhoira and still end up learning something about 75% decks as a whole. The more articles in this series I did, the more rules and principles I had to apply to individual cards and decks. They served as guidelines for the build process and helped flag potential problem cards when looking at a full list. I decided to look at a few lists without our list of principles this week to see if there was something qualitative to determining how a deck will work in a group setting. Is a 75% deck kind of like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's definition of pornography? "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it." Let's take a look at some lists and see if we can't figure that out.

The first was a list I found on TappedOut. It was put together by Teemursu. As I'm sure you know, TappedOut is a great resource for Commander decks, and the community there is pretty constructive and positive with its feedback, which is more than I can say for some online communities. If you don't have your decks on there, I would consider it. It's a good way to hear feedback from people or have a list ready to ship someone if he or she wants to see it. That said, I haven't gotten around to putting my own decks up there despite several readers asking, so take my advice with a grain of salt.

Looking at this, I see a bit not to like right away. While big, durdly creatures like Blightsteel Colossus bother some people, they don't bother me. While you're drawing a decent number of cards with this deck, you're not going to have Blightsteel Colossus so often that it's your one path to victory. Even if it is, good luck with that. There are a hundred ways to deal with Blightsteel Colossus. 75% doesn't mean you have to hold hands and sing campfire songs, it means you don't kill people with Laboratory Maniac every game. It's not the creatures you're putting into play that raises alarm bells, not even the Sphinx, which many people hate but which is probably fine.

Time Warp
It's Jokulhaups; Obliterate; Capture of Jingzhou. Heck, maybe even one Time Warp is too many. But if you're going to take extra turns, you incur extra liability and ill will, so be prepared for that. A lot of times in the early game, you're paying 5 mana to take a counter off a suspended guy and play a land, so if you think that's worth it, you essentially played bad Prophet of Kruphix and then sacrificed it. People will deal, even if you play Time Warp into Capture of Jingzhou. You want to spend $100 on Temporal Manipulation? Knock yourself out—it's your party.

It's the mass land destruction that I don't know how to feel about. Should we let it slide? That is pretty much how you win with Jhoira: Suspend Jokulhaups, suspend Blightsteel Colossus, blow up the universe, and have the only nonenchantment permanent in play be your Beater. Commence wins. It's really effective. Could how antisocial that is be the reason I don't see much Jhoira out there? Could it be better in French than in multiplayer because Jhoira automatically engenders ill will on principle, and in French, ill will doesn't matter because the opponent is already trying his or her hardest to kill you?

Would it be tyrannical and maybe a little lazy to categorically say, "Don't run mass LD in 75% decks?" From the comments I received on the Titania article, it was pretty clear that a lot of you feel the same way: spot LD is a good idea, and mass LD is a feel-bad waiting to happen. Would a Jhoira deck even function without it? Maybe I need to look at another decklist.

The second list was one I found on MTG Salvation by Dukdom. It runs a lot fewer of the "questionable" spells, and I think I like that.

The biggest problem I have is, you know, the banned card. Emrakul, the Aeons Torn would be great in this list. That's kind of the problem!

If we replace Emrakul with a legal card, we're left with a manageable amount of mass LD, and the more I think about it, the more I think that this may be the ideal shell for mass LD. You have several factors attenuating the feel-bads:

  • Provided you don't do it just to be a pain but actually have a win strategy, this can wrap the game up. Suspending Kozilek, Butcher of Truth and Blightsteel Colossus and having Jokulhaups go off is usually game. This means you can play another game. Since it's tough to set that up without tutors, you won't do this super-often.
  • People are going to team up to stop you. Provided they aren't malicious about it, this could make for fun and challenging game scenarios. You may have to be political and use your vast array of instants to help people out and build alliances. This isn't something you can really do with Rafiq of the Many, and I think that's a reason I shy away from linear, hated decks like that. Here, you have a reasonable chance of a fun game despite the commander of choice.
  • Opponents have one to four turns to prepare. If they're being ’Haupsed, they can tutor for answers, not play lands, keep Counterspell mana up—something. They can also kill you while the four-turn clock ticks—that is, provided you don't spin the clock down.

I went into this feeling kind of down, like there was never a place for Mass LD in EDH and I think this list of Dukdom's made me realize that there is always a way.

What I Would Keep

Devastation Tide
I would keep a lot of the creatures. Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur is nasty, but if your group won't murder you, go with it. I won't play it in a 75% deck, but I'm not the police. I might add another creature or two because I kind of like to have more than one suspended if your board-clearer is something like Devastation Tide rather than Jokulhaups, and I don't want to run mass card-draw or tutors to ensure that. I want your wins when you set things up perfectly to be roughly 1 ÷ X games—more if it doesn't ensure victory. I want those wins to seem cool, splashy . . . and rare. People will think it's fun if you win that way once. They will not be amused the second time.

I'd keep the instants suite relatively intact, but I'd take out low-impact trash like Force Spike. Counterspells are important, but if you always have one, people will start to want to team up. You'll give them reason enough to do that later.

Finally, the selection and number of wipe spells is probably relatively fine. I like Blasphemous Act a lot. I think Jokulhaups and Devastation Tide are fine choices. I think we may have found a way to run mass LD in a 75% deck after all.

What I Would Lose

Time Stretch
I don't think we need as many Time Warp effects. The ones here cost more mana and less money, both things I am in favor of in a 75% deck. Why run a $100 Temporal Manipulation when you can build a new deck? You can run expensive cards if you want, but I don't think it's worth $100 to have a second Time Warp. These sometimes amount to ways to take a counter off of a suspended permanent, and that wins games, so as long as your turns aren't long and durdly, Time Warps can be less annoying that the Prophet of Kruphix guy doing junk every single upkeep. As "the Prophet of Kruphix guy," I know how annoying that can be to other people, and I try to keep the amount of stuff I do on opponents’ turn to a minimum. I would reevaluate the Time Stretches and such of the deck after some games.

I'd cut the tutors. None of them is great, but even if all you are doing with Merchant Scroll is find a Time Warp to take a counter off a suspended card, people will roll their eyes. We're trying to have those games in which we go off spectacularly be rare. Playing Personal Tutor for Jokulhaups doesn't really accomplish that goal.

All in all, I feel that I would build relatively close to Dukdom's deck. This is bound to be somewhat controversial, and I welcome the debate! What do we think? Is running a small number of mass LD spells with no tutors or mass card-draw and using those spells when we're ready to unsuspend creatures and win acceptable for a 75% deck? Will our playgroup not care how rare it is since even one time is too many? Will we be dogpiled as soon as they see our commander and not live long enough for it to matter? Let's have a debate going in the comments. That does it for me this week. Join me next week, when I'll bend some more of my rules. You won't want to miss it!

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