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Jem Lightfoote, Sky Explorer in Commander

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Outlaws of Thunder Junction has given us a lot of exciting new commanders. Today's column is going to dive into one that might be a little less powerful but I'm hoping it will still give me enough to work with to brew up something fun. Today I'll be exploring a 3/3 Human Scout with flying, vigilance and an interesting party trick.

Jem Lightfoote, Sky Explorer

If Jem Lightfoote, Sky Explorer is on the battlefield, at the beginning of my end step if I haven't cast a spell from my hand this turn I'll draw a card. I like to say the three most powerful words in Magic are "draw a card" but if you're looking for a card-drawing powerhouse, this isn't it. Jem only triggers once on my end step, and she has a pretty serious restriction to allow me to draw that extra card. I simply have to not cast a spell from my hand during that turn.

While I like to draw cards as much as the next player, I also like to cast spells when I play Commander. The single most common way players cast spells is the old-fashioned way: from their hands. Fortunately, there are ways to get around that restriction, but most of them won't make this deck simpler or easier to play.

Key Mechanics

Magic: the Gathering has put a lot of keywords and mechanics onto their cards over the years. Many are simple, like Jem's flying and vigilance. Some are a bit more complicated, and the ones I'm going to focus on today are definitely more complicated. They will allow me to cast spells out of exile so that I'm able to play spells on my turn while avoiding casting them from my hand.

Aeon Chronicler
Alrund's Epiphany
Horned Loch-Whale

The first keyword to look for is suspend. You can pay the suspend cost of a card with suspend to put it into exile with a set number of time counters on it. Many cards with suspend will give you something when you remove a time counter. Aeon Chronicler will have you draw a card, though the more time counters on a card with suspend, the longer it will be before the last time counter is removed. They get removed on your upkeep and when the last counter is taken off, the card is cast without paying its mana cost.

A more recent approach to casting spells from exile is foretell, which was introduced in Kaldheim. You can pay two mana to exile a card with foretell face-down and then on a future turn you can pay the foretell cost to cast it out of exile. It's nice that you aren't telegraphing your future spells like you do with Suspend, which puts them into exile face up. Some spells with foretell will give you an extra benefit, but most just cost a little less.

A third way to set yourself up to cast a spell out of exile is to play spells with an adventure mode. These cards have a split text box where the spell on the left side is an instant or sorcery and the spell on the right side is a permanent. In order to avoid playing spells on my turn, I've only included adventure cards in blue and white that have an instant speed mode. I'll play the instant on an opponent's turn and then play the creature on my turn so I can get my end of turn card draw from Jem.

Alms Collector
Leyline of Anticipation
Emergence Zone

If I want to avoid casting spells on my turn, there are only so many keywords I can turn to before I start looking at playing a boatload of instants. Instants are good, but in blue and white they aren't good at giving me blockers. For that I'm going to lean on creatures with flash, which can be cast at instant speed. Alms Collector is a great response to someone who is poised to draw a ton of cards. With it in play, if an opponent would draw two or more cards, instead each of us will draw a card. It has flash, so I can cast it with an opponent's big draw spell on the stack.

If I've got Leyline of Anticipation or Vedalken Orrery in play, I'll be able to cast any spell at instant speed. There are other ways to do this in Azorius colors, but I'm just including these two classics. If I've got Leyline of Anticipation in my opening hand I won't even need to cast it - I can just start the game with it in play. I do have one land that can let me cast spells as though they had flash. Emergence Zone isn't a land I have played with that often, but I've seen it used to great effect by my opponents and there's no reason to think it might not come in handy in this deck.

Flying Under the Radar

My early game is where I'm going to have to play out any mana rocks I'm lucky enough to start with. They're all two mana, with the exception of Sol Ring, which only costs one, and Lotus Bloom, which has suspend. I expect I may find myself suspending and foretelling cards in the early game with less of a focus on getting Gem out as early as possible.

This deck is something of an experiment in seeing how much this focus on extra card draw can bring value to a game. I'm not bullish on Jem Lightfoot being able to hang in high powered games - she feels like a low to mid powered commander, depending upon how much you focus on wincons and how much you're willing to just doof around and have fun.

Playing suspend cards can telegraph your play. If someone decides they're especially scared of Deep-Sea Kraken, or some other card with suspend, you might have a hard time if they focus all of their attacks on you. Your board will probably develop a little more slowly on average, and while card draw might help with land drops and pulling into answers, this list isn't digging for a combo or a singular, game winning play.

Decks that aren't obsessed with finding their wincon can be a lot of fun to play, but they will generally play at lower power levels. You probably won't be perceived as the threat so you should fly under the radar and be able to get your cast-from-exile / card draw plan to work for a while. You have enough interaction that you should be able to stay alive, but this isn't really a control deck or an aggro deck. It's a slightly unfocused casual deck meant to explore what Jem brings to the game.

Jem and the Draw-lograms

I have a longstanding habit of thinking of EDH decks as falling into two basic categories: decks that know exactly how they are going to try to win games, and decks that do a thing and "hope for the best." The former category absolutely includes combo decks and most high-powered decks. Knowing how you are going to try to win may not mean that you will reliably "get there" but it's important when playing at higher powered tables.

Decks that "hope for the best" are more often lower in power. Today's deck is a deck that definitely wants to "do a thing." That thing is to draw cards with Jem's ability, and one extra card per turn probably won't single-handedly win you a game. The reason you're only hoping for the best is that I'm not running any combo or card that is likely to win the game on its own. That makes it harder but for many players, more interesting and fun. You aren't digging for combo to win, or a Moonshaker Cavalry so you can launch into an alpha strike. You may be in a position to counter someone else's wincon or bounce an alpha strike back into the attacker's library. Lower-powered EDH isn't for everyone, but if you enjoy a challenge it can be a lot of fun.

While I don't think Jem has a high ceiling in terms of power, I do think there are ways to tune her up if you're interested in playing at higher power levels. You might drop out some of the weaker suspend, foretell, and adventure cards, and focus on drawing into ways to play at instant speed. You could throw in Raff Capashen, Ship's Mage and Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir. Raff has flash and will let you cast historic spells as though they had flash. Teferi also has flash, will give your creature spells flash, and will force your opponents to play at sorcery speed. Pair this new approach with a more focused wincon and you'll be ready to play at mid powered tables. Pushing up into high powered play might find you thinking about switching to another commander, and that's OK. Sometimes moving up in power requires more dramatic changes than just tweaking cards in the 99 of the deck.

If you wanted to tune this list down you could drop out cards like Cyclonic Rift, but this is already a very budget friendly build. I expect you could bring it down to under $50 or even under $30 and still have a very playable low-powered deck. I would keep the focus on suspend, foretell and adventure as I think will make for a different and fun play experience. If you find that having too many triggers to keep track of to be a headache, or you have to keep checking to see what cards you have exiled with foretell, you might want to shift the deck's focus a bit. You could focus on only one of those keywords to make things simpler.

Final Thoughts

It's possible that I have underplayed how much this deck will force you to pay attention to upkeep triggers and remember which cards you have in exile. I personally don't love decks that require you to stay that focused when playing Commander. I don't mind a complicated game every now and then, but I also love decks that have a very straightforward approach.

With my Lathliss, Dragon Queen deck, I play dragons, I attack with dragons, and that's about it. It's a powerful deck and is one I can play without a lot of stress or worry. If someone lucks into a well-timed Whiptongue Hydra, I might lose my board, but it's not like I was going to be able to Stifle its enter-the-battlefield trigger.

With a commander like Jem, you're in colors that provide for dramatically more options, and when you're given incentives to play on your opponents' turns, you may often find yourself wondering if you kept the right mana up, played the right instant, or cast the right spell out of exile.

Whether you push Jem up in power or you keep her as a more casual deck, this should be a challenging deck and one that will make you work to keep track of all of your options and everything you have available to you. If you're careful you might even draw an extra card on the end step every now and then.

That's all I've got for today. Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week!

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