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Building Jorn, God of Winter

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Winter Landscape by Caspar David Friedrich (1811).

Chillerpillar by Suzanne Helmigh.

A few years back I threw together a Heidar, Rimewind Master deck and while it was fun enough, I haven't been drawn to want to play it that often. It had a lot of control elements but other than swinging with a Rimefeather Owl, it didn't have any really solid wincons. It was mostly an experiment in building a snow themed deck and if you're a regular reader you know how my experiment decks often go. It wasn't exactly a world beater. It ran the Dramatic Scepter combo but I didn't build the deck to go hard after that combo and I didn't play it that often.

When Kaldheim was released I made a mental note to keep an eye out for possible upgrades or ways to make Heidar more fun or more powerful. I ended up opening a few booster packs and soon had an assortment of possible upgrade paths for the list.

Heidar is Mono-Blue, so moving the deck over to Svella, Ice Shaper, who is Red-Green, was a non-starter. Moritte of the Frost, in Blue-Green and Narfi, Betrayer King, in Blue-Black were both tempting, but when I realized what I had available to me in the Sultai legendary Jorn, God of Winter, the decision became an easy one.

This legendary Snow creature is a 3/3 with the ability to untap each snow permanent I control when he attacks. This is a Bear Umbra "on a stick" that also gives my snow creatures pseudo-vigilance and which will untap any spare snow artifacts I might have lying around. It's a 3-color commander that cares about going all in on snow permanents and I couldn't be happier. If you know anything about my deck-building habits, you know I love to go relatively all in on something, even at the cost of a deck's power level.

S'no Problem

Not only can I run Heidar, Rimewind Master in my Jorn deck, I can run Moritte and Narfi as well!

Heidar, Rimewind Master
Moritte of the Frost
Narfi, Betrayer King

Heidar isn't a snow creature so he won't untap when Jorn attacks, but his ability to bounce any permanent to its owner's hand is dependent upon having at least four snow permanents. We'll always have that, so chances are good Heidar will be able to help keep planeswalkers from ulting, keep targetable threats from hitting us, or even bounce our own permanents to either protect them or let us get an extra enter-the-battlefield trigger.

Moritte is a pretty big deal, and is strong enough that he could easily lead his own deck. He can enter as a copy of any kind of permanent I control, and if he's a creature he'll get two extra +1/+1 counters. This deck has plenty of good targets and with Heidar on the field I can bounce Moritte and re-cast him to switch to make him a copy of something else.

Narfi, Betrayer King cares about zombies and snow creatures. I had considered reworking Heidar to be a zombie deck, but I didn't see a snow deck as much as a zombie deck waiting for me down that path. Narfi is in this list because his anthem effect is nice and the fact that I can bring him back is particularly helpful. I'll often have extra mana available with my snow-covered lands untapping from Jorn's attack trigger so it will be good to have another way to use that mana.

Keeping Jorn Alive

Attacking with Jorn is what I'm going to want to do, but Jorn has a key drawback. He's simply not a problem for most opponents to deal with. Most opponents will have blockers that can just kill him if I decide to send Jorn into battle. My plan isn't to win by commander damage, so my hope is that if I make him unblockable or give him some sort of evasion, my opponents won't worry about the occasional 3 damage sent their way. I'll spread it around and I won't often find myself pumping him up enough to be too scary.

Aqueous Form
Whispersilk Cloak
Dryad's Favor

I'm running an assortment of enchantments and equipment. There are loads of low mana auras in Blue to make a creature unblockable. Aqueous Form will let me scry, Aether Tunnel will give it +1/+0. Traveler's Cloak replaces itself and gives the enchanted creature a landwalk ability. Cloak of Mists keeps things simple, just making the enchanted creature unblockable. I'm also running Whispersilk Cloak, Executioner's Hood, Prowler's Helm, and Cliffhaven Kitesail. Equipment makes sense as I'll occasionally have a big creature that I want to get through my opponents' blockers.

Dryad's Favor is a cheap little aura that gives the enchanted creature Forestwalk. It's in my list because I had a foil, and I want to emphasize that what matters isn't that you're running the BEST ways to make Jorn unblockable. What matters is that you run enough of them so you are likely to draw into at least one. You really want to be able to use Jorn's untap ability and you can't be re-casting him every other turn because he's getting killed in action. Also, the foil Forestwalk is super sweet looking. This is a deck I'm building in paper and I simply wanted to run that foil.

If you have Trailblazer's Boots, Dauthi Embrace, Darksteel Plate, or other ways to make Jorn able to survive combat, feel free to run what you have.

Before we look at snow permanents, it's worth noting that I could see building a voltron Jorn deck. You want to attack with him every turn. I am choosing to keep Jorn as a 3/3 and I'm hoping that if I spread the damage around my opponents won't be too bothered by the occasional attack. Loading him up with enough stuff to make him truly threatening does make a lot of sense, but that deck would have less of a focus on snow permanents and more "voltron goodstuff". If you're into voltron decks that try to win through commander damage, I do think Jorn could be a fun challenge to build around.

Snow Matters

Between the few sets that have had either a snow theme or a snow subtheme, we've now got a decent number of snow cards that fulfill the basic needs of a commander deck. Why run snow cards over regular EDH staples? Well, you know what they say...

When in Nome (Alaska), do as the.... Nomans do?

Bad jokes aside, these cards care very much about the number of snow permanents you've got so it's a case where running all Snow lands and lots of snow creatures and artifacts will make these cards quite playable. Snow removal comes in a number of forms and I'm not talking shovels and plows.

Blizzard Brawl
Dead of Winter
Priest of the Haunted Edge

Blizzard Brawl will let you fight one of your creatures against an opponent's creature and if you have three or more snow permanents it will get +1/+0 and indestructible until end of turn. Dead of Winter will often end up being a one-sided boardwipe, since you'll have a lot of snow permanents and your snow creatures won't be affected. Priest of the Haunted Edge will tap and sacrifice itself to give target creature -X/-X until end of turn, where X is the number of snow lands you control.

Winter's Rest
Blood on the Snow
Blessing of Frost

Winter's Rest and Blood on the Snow are also in the list. The former is a cute little aura that will tap down the creature it enchants. I'll always have another snow permanent, so the enchanted creature probably won't ever untap. The latter can either wipe the board of creatures of planeswalkers and then recur a creature or planeswalker from my graveyard to the battlefield with a CMC equal to or less than the amount of snow mana I spent to cast Blood on the Snow.

I've even got some card draw with a snow flavor in Blessing of Frost. This sorcery will have me put +1/+1 counters among any number of creatures I control equal to the amount of snow mana spent to cast it. Then I draw a card for each creature I control with power 4 or greater.

Snow Monsters

I've also got some pretty sweet creatures, some of which care about how many snow permanents I'm running.

Chillerpillar
Icebreaker Kraken
Marit Lage's Slumber

Chillerpillar is a 3/3 insect with Monstrosity 2. For a whopping 6 mana, I can put two +1/+1 counters on it and it gains flying. A 5/5 flyer might not seem like much, but there are times when having a blocker in the air can be a game changer. Also, it's a giant wooly snow caterpillar that turns into a mini-Mothra! Chillerpillar has to be in today's list for its name and flavor alone, and with Jorn's untap trigger untapping our snow lands and snow artifacts we should be able to pay that Monstrosity cost easily enough.

Icebreaker Kraken, at 12 CMC, might seem unplayable outside of a deck like Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow, but chances are good we'll often pay six or less mana for this 8/8 Kraken. I can't see returning three snow lands to my hand so that I can bounce and re-cast this Kraken, but it does have a sweet enter-the-battlefield trigger. Icebreaker Kraken will make target opponent's artifacts and creatures not untap during that player's next untap step.

Marit Lage's Slumber joins the land Dark Depths in this list as two ways to create the legendary 20/20 flying, indestructible, black Avatar creature token Marit Lage. It's not at all hard to get ten snow permanents with this Jorn deck. If I have to use Dark Depths, I can either use those Jorn untap triggers to help pay extra mana or I can just play my Thespian's Stage and do it the old fashioned way. You make Thespian's Stage into a copy of Dark Depths, you sacrifice the latter to the legend rule and then you sacrifice the former to the trigger that gives you that giant 20/20 monstrosity.

Spirit of the Aldergard
Abominable Treefolk
Rimefeather Owl

Our last three creatures are unlikely to become 20/20 threats, but they should all pull their weight in today's list. Spirit of the Aldergard is a 0/4 Bear Spirit that grabs you a snow land from your library and gets +1/+0 for each other snow permanent you control. At 4 toughness it might not survive combat, so it's a good thing I'm running so many ways to make a creature unblockable.

Abominable Treefolk is a four-mana Treefolk with trample that taps an opponent's creature and that creature won't untap during its controller's next untap step. This Groot wannabe has a power and toughness equal to the number of snow permanents you control, so there's a good chance it will be upward of 8 or more power in your average game. For 4 mana, that's a fantastic threat and it isn't legendary so you could use Moritte or Littjara Mirrorlake to make copies of it.

Rimefeather Owl might be my favorite owl ever (apologies to Baleful Strix). This bird has a power and toughness equal to the number of snow permanents in play, so if you're at a table with multiple snow decks it could get really huge. Not only does it fly, it also has the ability to put ice counters on permanents to give them the snow subtype. That means you can set up your non-snow permanents to be snow and to untap with Jorn's trigger! This deck is all in on snow cards, but this Owl makes me seriously think about going back and adding a suite of creature tutors, counterspells and some ways to give him hexproof just to keep him safe.

Jorn Synergy

There are a lot of snow permanents beyond just lands that I'll be happy to untap when Jorn goes to combat. Some provide a minor advantage and some are just great.

Coldsteel Heart
Replicating Ring
Icebind Pillar

Snow mana rocks are as good as snow-covered lands in terms of Jorn's untap ability. This deck is likely to find itself looking for places to put mana if my early testing is any indication. I'm skeptical that I'll ever get my extra copies of Replicating Ring but I'm willing to play it for a while anyways. It will untap with a Jorn attack trigger, so that in itself makes it better than a Manalith in this deck.

Mana rocks might not be exciting, but Icebind Pillar is. This snow artifact can tap for the cost of one snow mana to tap target artifact or creature. This means that with Jorn on the field, you can safely attack someone with two targetable creatures that are bigger than Jorn. You use Icebind Pillar to tap one, untap as you attack and tap down the other, leaving your opponent without their best blockers. Even if you're not ready to swing a Abominable Treefolk or Rimefeather Owl for some serious damage, sometimes opening an opponent up for someone else to attack will help you survive a little longer. They might not appreciate you messing with their lines of defense, but the complicated politics of a Commander game sometimes require a little messing around with an opponent's board.

Sculptor of Winter
Frost Augur
Pilfering Hawk

Sculptor of Winter taps to untap target snow land, effectively acting like a mana dork in both our first and second main phases if we get to untap it with a Jorn trigger. I'm also running Boreal Druid, which might only make 1 colorless mana, but actually is a snow mana dork. Frost Augur will tap for the cost of one snow mana to let me check the top card of my library and draw it if it's a snow card. With 100% of my basic lands being snow lands and so many snow permanents and snow spells, I'm likely to be drawing two cards with this guy fairly often. Pilfering Hawk will always draw me cards, and I'll be able to do it twice if Jorn untaps him, but I'll also have to discard each time.

Hailstorm Valkyrie
Grim Draugr
Icehide Troll

It's worth noting that there are a few cards in this list that might not tap, but which are still very synergistic with Jorn. Hailstorm Valkyrie, Grim Draugr, and Icehide Troll all let me pour mana into them to pump them up. I can either pump them or play other spells in my first main phase, attack with Jorn and one of these guys and when my lands untap with Jorn's trigger I can push more mana into them before damage resolves. If "firebreathing" is what we call Red pump abilities, does that mean these creatures have "snowbreathing"? I don't know, but I like having a place to put the extra mana I'll be able to make after my Jorn untap trigger.

The Decklist

My decision to lean so heavily toward snow permanents definitely pushes this list down out of being a high powered build. I'm OK with that, though I know I'll run into a few tables with this deck where I'm unable to keep up, don't have enough interaction, or can't stop a combo win. These things happen, but I don't want to drop out a dozen fun snow cards in favor of "better" cards that would turn this into just another Sultai deck.

Jorn Snow Tribal | Commander | Stephen Johnson


If you wanted to tune this deck up, you'd likely start with the mana base. Beyond that, I expect that playing a combo or two and a whole lot more removal would be your next step. I'm well aware of how important Abrupt Decay, Assassin's Trophy, and all the variants of Naturalize can be in a high powered meta to stop someone from just hitting a combo and winning. My list isn't tuned up to play at those tables.

Know your meta. Know your power levels, and build your Jorn deck accordingly. I'd play this at any table, and over time I will probably tweak it here and there based on how games play out, but I sure wouldn't expect to be able to keep up with high powered or stop a combo deck.

Early Results

I'm happy to be able to say that I have played an earlier draft of this deck. It's a mid-powered build suitable for casual tables.

I played a few games with it, and I noticed that I was generally able to get Jorn out and swing with him, but I struggled to find something to do with all my extra mana. I didn't happen to pull into anything that would draw me cards, but a few games is a small sample size.

I was able to use Icebind Pillar to great effect in two of those games, both opening up an opponent for someone else to go after and using it politically, threatening to tap a creature down if it was going to be headed at me. I wasn't really the threat at that point in that game, but I find it fun to try to leverage my board and see what I can do to affect the ebb and flow of a multiplayer game. Reminding someone that I can tap down and mess with an opponent's plans is sometimes just enough to get them to not want to send attackers my way.

The deck actually won a game, but like most casual EDH victories, it was as much from skill, politics and a bit of luck as it was a result of the deck's power level.

I was correct that nobody would care about me swinging a 3/3 around, and I had a few turns where an opponent just let me hit them so I could untap and try to keep up with the better, faster decks at the table. I did use one of my unblockable auras in one of the games, but in another my beautiful shiny foil Dryad's Favor was a dead card - nobody had any forests, not even the player who was on Atraxa and could have played a forest.

My win came not on the back of one Abominable Treefolk, not two Abominable Treefolk, but THREE. I used Littjara Mirrorlake to make a token copy, but before doing so, I used my Thespians' Stage to make a second Littjara Mirrorlake so I could do it again. I'm pretty sure I actually played out Moritte of the Frost as a copy of Abominable Treefolk as well, but I never had four on the field at the same time. They were all over 10 power and had a few opponents a bit nervous I'd send them their way.

My luck came in the form of having two tablemates who both had to leave and who had a vested interest in killing each other. One of them was on a strong Edgar Markov deck and the other was new and was borrowing my Lathliss, Dragon Queen deck. For most of the game we were stuck under a Dueling Grounds, only able to attack or block with one creature.

The Atraxa player, who had played the Dueling Grounds, played and missed a Pact of Negation upkeep payment, so they were suddenly out of the game when the Edgar Markov player realized the error. I wasn't the threat even with my multiple Treefolk, each of which was over 10 power. The Dragons player probably had the game, but they were very new and decided to send everything at the Edgar Markov player. Their attack was met with a Teferi's Protection, which was countered with Tibalt's Trickery - a new addition to the deck I had just put in.

With the Edgar player and the Atraxa player out, I was able to swing my giant treefolk at the Lathliss player for the win.

This deck has been improved since that outing but it was nice to see that I was able to pilot it to a slightly lucky victory early on. Clearly, it's not high powered but it is able to mount a pretty strong attack if things play out right. I'd like to say that I was able to charm, talk and/or weasel my way to the win, but the reality is that I told the Lathliss player multiple times over multiple turns that I had no blockers for her Dragons and she could probably kill me if she wanted to. At the time, I wasn't the problem at the table, she let me live, and in the end the Lathliss player left the door open for me to grab the win. I'm pretty sure she just wanted to kill the Edgar Markov player and was perfectly happy having done that. They also had to get going.

Commander games can be strange sometimes, but I'm definitely going to be keeping Jorn together. I've got a collection of over 20 decks and I've got lots of them categorized in various ways. I've got a goblins deck in Muxus, Goblin Grandee. My Lathliss, Dragon Queen deck is my Dragons deck. My Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord is my fringe cEDH elfball deck. I've got a rube goldberg device built into my Ramos, Dragon Engine deck. I've got a landfall / land creatures deck in my relatively new Aesi, Tyrant of Gyre Strait build. You get the idea. They've each got a place and while they aren't all equally strong, the ones that fill a "role" like the decks I've listed here might change or even get a new commander but I'll always have a deck for that particular slot. I'll always have an elf deck. I'll always have a goblin deck.

Jorn is my new snow deck. I have a feeling that for as long as I play Commander, I'll always have a snow deck and I expect it will be led by Jorn for quite some time.

Final Thoughts

If you've got a better answer for what to do with a commander who untaps all of your snow permanents, and that answer has no resemblance to today's list - please comment.

I'd love to hear what craziness you are getting up to with your Jorn build. Just because I wasn't able to uncover the next great snow combo cEDH Jorn deck doesn't mean it isn't out there. Bear Umbra is a very powerful aura and having something like that effect on your commander should be highly abusable.

I'm not sure what I'll be moving to next, but our push to get Kaldheim content out to you is ongoing. Keep your eye on CoolStuffInc.com's articles page for new and exciting articles with interesting builds on all of the new Kaldheim legendary creatures.

That's all I've got for today. Thanks for reading and I'll be back soon!

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