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Those Magic Changes


Narrow Escape
Things did not go well on Paliano. Who would’ve thought Grenzo and his Goblin hoards wouldn’t take kindly to a stranger wandering into their midst and wanting to join their raids. Crazy, right? I barely got out of there before countless tiny hands succeeded in pinning me down and turning me into their latest act of defiance to the crown. I planeswalked to the first place that popped into my head, panicking the entire time.

The jungle around me when I gained awareness of my surroundings was a bit of a surprise. I’d hoped to end up in Thune, but it seemed I had planeswalked directly to the Kalonian Wilds instead. I hadn’t quite mapped Shandalar out in my mind yet, and I travelled under quite a bit of duress, so the mistake wasn’t unexpected. What was unexpected, however, was the voice that came from behind me as I got out of the bush I’d landed in.

“You don’t look like you belong here.” A woman called out, nearly knocking me back over in surprise. There weren’t many travelers in the Kalonian Wilds after all. I gathered myself and turned around to find a woman of average height, wearing leather armor and brandishing a glowing, blue magic in her hands.

“Not so hasty, friend,” I said. “No need to threaten me with shapeshifting magic.”

Kalonian Hydra
She regarded me with slight fascination, though she didn’t lower her hands an inch. She held them at the ready, prepared to transform me into a frog, bird, or some other manner of small defenseless animal. “I’ll be the judge of that.” She smiled. “There aren’t many foolish enough to venture into the Kalonian Wilds, though perhaps you’ve gotten lost and need a hand finding your way back to civilization. You’ve been attacked by the looks of your cloak.”

My cloak had several tears in it from the Goblins’ sharp claws grabbing after me as I fled the Fiora. “Yes, I accidentally ventured too far into the Wilds and was attacked. Could you help me find my way to nearest town?” I didn’t expect her to believe me, but I didn’t need her to. I just needed her to not trust me so she would leave and I could planeswalk to somewhere less life-threatening.

She lowered her hands suddenly. “Well, of course friend. I couldn’t just leave you out here in with no way to defend yourself. Let’s travel together.” She walked up to me, putting a gentle hand on my shoulder and urging me forward.

“Do you mind if I ask your name?” This wasn’t ideal. I’d wanted to be left by myself, a strange, cloaked figure in the forest, but this woman insisted on guiding me back to town. I could’ve fought her, but I knew I wouldn’t stand much of a chance against here polymorphic magic.

“You can call me, Jalira.”

And that was the last thing she said before I was staring up at her from the ground as a frog. Not an ideal turn of events to be sure.

Welcome back to Chroma Commander, the series where I take a Mono-Color Commander I think is interesting and build a deck around it. Usually, I like to pick Legendary creatures that do something out of the ordinary or have a unique, build-around quality. Gonti’s ability to steal and cast your opponents spells is most definitely a Black ability, but Black didn’t really have a Commander that would let you focus your deck around casting your opponents’ spells before Gonti came along. Grenzo, took a defined strategy of token production and aggression and added an additional element in being able to manipulate combat in your favor and “draw” extra cards. The common theme is I like picking Commanders that do something their respective colors don’t focus on often. Which brings us to this week’s list, where I’ll be tackling Mono-Blue.

I feel like Mono-Blue raises a lot of eyebrows whenever it shows up at the table. The first thing that comes to mind is a deck full of counterspells and card draw, probably helmed by Talrand, Sky Summoner. I don’t necessarily have anything against that type of deck, it just doesn’t hold my interest. To me, Commander is about doing big things, and a deck like Talrand is death by a thousand cuts in comparison. Luckily, there’s a Legendary creature that is very capable of going big. Say hello to Jalira, Master Polymorphist!

Jalira, Master Polymorphist

There are probably multiple ways you could build around Jalira, but I really like the idea of making tokens or other small creatures and then turning them into monsters. Blue has no shortage of large sphinxes, krakens, whales, and other beasties to change our small fry into, and this deck will most definitely lend itself to big, splashy plays. So, let’s get to the list:

Those Magic Changes ? Commander | Robert Burrows

So, the idea for this deck is to get some small creatures into play and then use Jalira’s ability to turn them into much larger creatures or more valuable creatures. Sure, we could use just any small creature, but this is Commander! We can’t just sacrifice anything! We need to be getting value out of Jalira’s sacrifices, as it was prophesized in the days of yore. Take the following, for example:

Solemn Simulacrum
Filigree Familiar

Chasm Skulker
Hangarback Walker
Reef Worm

All of these creatures give us value when we sacrifice them to Jalira’s ability, and that is one of the ways we get ahead of our opponents when it seems like we’re just trading one creature for another, random creature off the top of our deck. Solemn Simulacrum and Filigree Familiar both draw us a card when they die, not to mention the value they give us when they enter the battlefield in the first place. And while a card is all well and good, Chasm Skulker, Hangarback Walker, and Reef Worm gives us more creatures when they give up the ghost. Sacrificing a bulky Chasm Skulker will give us fodder for Jalira’s ability for many turns to come.

Chancellor of the Spires
Speaking of Jalira’s ability, which creatures are we trying to Polymorph into? Jalira doesn’t allow us to Polymorph into Legendary creatures, which means the Eldrazi Titans are out as far as I’m concerned. So what does that leave us? Well, that’s a silly question seeing as Blue is home to some of the largest creatures outside of Green, not to mention what Colorless monstrosities we have access to. Let’s start with the sky. Chancellor of the Spires is a sizable body with an ETB trigger than can get us some serious value depending on what our opponents have done over the course of the game. I don’t know if keeping it in your opening hand is worth the mill trigger, but we’ll get to that a little later. Next up is Diluvian Primordial. Much like Chancellor of the Spires, the Primordial lets us cast spells from our opponents' graveyards. If you follow Jason Alt’s 75% theory at all, he’s a huge fan of cards that scale with the power level of our opponents’ decks. Stuff like Diluvian Primordial and Chancellor are beefy fliers on their own, but their ETB effects are only as powerful as the spells in our opponents’ graveyards. I feel like the value we get there is more than fair, and more than a little bit fun if we Polymorph into one at instant speed.

Wrapping up our air force is Sphinx of Uthuun, Consecrated Sphinx, and Steel Hellkite. I will never forget about Steel Hellkite again, I swear to all that is holy and colorless. Sphinx of Uthuun is your classic giant card advantage plus beatstick, and I love including it in basically any Blue EDH deck. There may be better sources of card advantage *cough* Consecrated Sphinx *cough* but they aren’t attached to 5/5 flier, now are they?

Darksteel Colossus
The ground and the sea are just as important, so let’s venture into those heretofore uncharted waters. Colossal Whale. It’s a big whale that can eat a creature each time it attacks, exiling it until they deal with the whale. Not the most secure way to deal with threats, but it’s a nice way of locking troublesome creatures away for the time being. Phyrexian Ingester serves as removal and a threat, getting around indestructability by exiling its target rather than destroying it. Darksteel Colossus is my compromise in regards to including Blightsteel Colossus. I thought about it, and I just don’t know how fun Blightsteel Colossus is in Commander. Don’t get me wrong, I love the one-shot robot and Infect has always been a favorite mechanic of mine (I started playing just before Scars of Mirrodin was released after all). I just don’t think it's fun to end someone’s game out of nowhere because the rules for infect are not adjusted for Commander’s increased life totals. That being said, I may change my mind in the future and I won’t tell you not to slot it in if you want to.

Moving on, we’ve got Frost Titan. Frosty the Snowman lets you tap down a problem permanent and can keep it tapped down whenever it attacks. Need to keep your opponent from going off with that Gaea's Cradle? Want to keep your opponents from looping artifacts with Academy Ruins? You don’t have to tap lands, there just aren’t a lot of effects that let you tap lands in addition to other things, so it’s worth pointing out that the card says “tap target permanent.” Now we’ve got Myr Battlesphere. It’s big and it makes sac fodder when it enters the battlefield. Not to mention we can get it back with Academy Ruins, which is totally in the deck. In a similar vein, we’ve got Wurmcoil Engine because of course we have Wurmcoil Engine. That card is just so value it’s hard to justify not including it if you have any laying around. Then there’s Artisan of Kozilek which can re-buy one of our other giant creatures if they’re dealt with through the course of the game.

Tidal Force
Next up is Oblivion Sower, with its ability to possibly ramp us a little when it enters the battlefield. It’s important to take advantage of what ramp we’re afforded in colors that aren’t Green, and Oblivion Sower is a sizable body in addition to being a sometimes ramp spell. I’m still on the fence about including it, but I’d air on the side of trying it out until it either proves itself or crashes and burns. Rounding us out in the big beefy creatures category are Tidal Force and Scourge of Fleets. Scourge of Fleets is your big bounce spell on stick, which is how Blue kind of stays afloat since it doesn’t have many wrath effects (don’t worry Nevinyrral's Disk, I haven’t forgotten you). Tidal Force is interesting in that it allows us to control the make-up of the board by tapping or untapping a permanent at the beginning of each turn. I like the idea of tapping Jalira for her ability on someone else’s turn, then untapping her on the next person’s turn only to use her ability again. Seems pretty cool to me.

There are some various other value creatures in there like Mulldrifter, Draining Whelk (a personal favorite of mine), and newcomer Faerie Artisans. Faerie Artisans actually leads really well into talking about token producers. I’ve mentioned Chasm Skulker and that ilk of creatures that make tokens when they die, but there are a few othe repeatable token producers I’m including. Nuisance Engine, Sarpadian Empires, Vol. VII, and Trading Post all produce tokens (with Trading Post providing much more utility than just making goats). These artifacts will help us create the fodder we need to keep Jalira churning out monsters. Thopter Spy Network can give us a steady stream of Thopters, provided we have at least one artifact to turn the stream on initially. Vedalken Shackles also serves as fodder generator of sorts given our opponents generously provide us with creatures to steal. These repeatable sources of tokens are important to the game plan, and also give us some sticking power should the board get cleared with a Wrath of God effect.

Synthetic Destiny
Now, this is where things get a little more interesting. Activating Jalira is like rolling dice. You know what creatures could come up, but you don’t know which one will show up or whether it’s right for the current situation. Luckily, we have some recourse for that. Sensei's Divining Top and Soothsaying allow us to rearrange the top cards of our library, giving us a modicum of control over what Jalira will bring to the party. Scroll Rack and Brainstorm let us throw creatures from our hand on top of our library in response to anything our opponents are doing, which can be a huge advantage if a monster is just sitting in our hand when we don’t have the mana to cast it. That kind of flexibility mitigates some of the randomness inherent in playing a card like Jalira without stacking the odds entirely in our favor.

Wrapping things up is the section where I talk about weird or noteworthy inclusions that don’t fit the major categorical themes of the deck. Proteus Staff is Jalira 2.0 for the times when Jalira becomes too expensive to cast from the command zone or we just want to have a duplicate of her ability. Not to mention, Proteus Staff can be used on our opponents creatures too. Thousand-Year Elixir lets us tap Jalira immediately when she comes into play, and lets us untap her for 1 and use her ability again if need be. Synthetic Destiny is an instant-speed Mass Polymorph that can save our board presence from a wrath effect or upgrade a board of tokens into actual creatures at an inconvenient time for your opponents. We have the deck’s suite of counterspells, because this is a Blue deck and we need counterspells of some variety: Cryptic Command, Desertion, and Insidious Will. Desertion heads off a small suite of spells that let us borrow threats from other players which includes Bribery, Clone Legion, Clever Impersonator, and Phyrexian Metamorph. I just want to try out Clone Legion. It seems like such a cool effect and I’ll probably end up cutting it eventually, but for now it stays and does neat stuff. Likewise, I’m including Mind's Dilation as another big flashy effect that lets us play our opponents’ spells. Then we have Deceiver of Form, which is a giant creature that can make our other creatures into giant creatures if we have a beater on the top of our library. With the ways we have to keep big creatures on top of library, Deceiver could make a small number of tokens into something much larger. Plus, the card is just weird and I think it’s worth trying out for a little while at the very least.

Finish the deck off with some mana rocks and the “Wrath” effects that Blue has to offer, and you’ve got a deck! Quick note on the “Wrath” effects. Blue offers the beautiful Cyclonic Rift as a catchall eject button for your opponents non-land permanents, but there are some other options that only punish people who try to get aggressive with you. Stuff like Aetherspouts and Aetherize gives you outs to aggressive players trying to put pressure on you without messing with the rest of the board, which is a nice option to have when you’re trying to play a political game.

Okay. That’s it, I swear. I hope you like what I had to offer with Jalira, Master Polymorphist. If you have any questions or suggestions, leave a comment below or find me on Twitter @ironmanphoenix. Seeya next week!

Take a look at the other articles in the series:

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