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Building Around Jacob Hauken, Inspector


The Wedding at Cana by Paolo Veronese (1562). Kozilek by Jaime Jones.

There are few words on a card more inspiring than the following text:

"...without paying its mana cost."

One might argue that "draw a card" is better, or at the very least a close second, but cheating the casting cost of spells has long been a favorite trick among high powered and competitive commander players. It's what makes cascade so great. It's also what made Narset, Enlightened Master both feared and respected a few years ago when the format was a tad slower and she was stomping her way across high-powered tables.

Today's column is about a mono-Blue commander who might not be on Narset's level, but has both "without paying its mana cost" and "draw a card" written right on it. We might have to jump through a few hoops to try to break today's subject, but break it we will try.

Jacob Hauken, Inspector // Hauken's Insight

This Human Advisor might not pose much of a combat threat, but he'll let me tap him to draw a card and then exile a card from my hand face down. That might not seem like much, but I can transform Jacob and get access to those cards with the legendary enchantment Hauken's Insight.

Hauken's Insight will let me exile the top card of my library face down at the beginning of my upkeep. I can look at those exiled cards at any time. Once during each of my turns I can play a land or cast a spell from among the cards exiled with this permanent without paying its mana cost.

The first thing to remember with Jacob is that the free casting specifies "with this permanent". That means I can't flicker Jacob or his enchantment or I'll lose access to that set of exiled cards. When Jacob transforms, he isn't leaving the battlefield. If he leaves for any reason - when he comes back, either from a flicker or another casting - he'll be a different instance and won't have access to cards exiled by earlier instances of the card. If he gets flickered as Hauken's Insight, he'll come back face-up, so I'll both lose access to his exiled cards and I'll have to pay that hefty 6 mana activation cost again.

The strategy I come to first when I think about building Jacob Hauken is extra turns. In an ideal situation if I can exile a few extra turn spells and transform Jacob into his enchantment side, every extra turn I get will open up another chance to cast a free spell.

If I want this deck to really present a threat I will want to squeeze as much value as possible out of what Jacob brings to the party. That means making big, splashy plays for no mana as often as I can. I could build Leviathans, Krakens and other assorted high mana sea monsters, and I might even consider doing that, but extra turns, when they hit a certain critical mass, can go a long way towards winning games. A free Omniscience would be pretty sweet too, but this line of thinking leaves me with a big question: how would such a deck actually win?

Hauken's Haymakers

This deck is going to run some heavy hitters that should be able to put pressure on your opponents. If I want to be able to play big spells for free, it makes sense to run some pretty big creatures. I'm not limiting myself to mere sea monsters, though Tolarian Kraken is in this first draft.

Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
Void Winnower

I could see building this deck with wall-to-wall Eldrazi and just hoping that your tablemates won't be able to keep up with your big boys. The only issue with that plan is that you're only able to play one of these cards per turn. A free It That Betrays is still great, but I'm also looking to load up on those aforementioned extra turns.

Doing the Twist

I might not be old enough to have been hitting the dance floor when Chubby Checker was inspiring teenagers to gyrate round and round, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to send Jacob Hauken off to take dance lessons. If I can untap him and tap him again and again (and again) I'll be able to dramatically increase the chances that I'm able to dig down to an extra turn spell.

Retreat to Coralhelm
Magewright's Stone

I've loaded up on ways to untap Jacob, with the goal of doing as much of these taps and untaps as possible on the end step before my turn. Even digging down three or four more cards might get me to one of my precious extra turns. If I'm hitting land drops or mana rocks I might just get to the point where I can cast one of them out of my hand and drop an Eldrazi for free so that I can swing with it on my next turn.

Karn's Temporal Sundering
Part the Waterveil

Most of these extra turn spells exile themselves, but there are a few that go into the graveyard and would get shuffled into my library if I'm able to put Kozilek or Ulamog into the bin. The problem with Jacob is that once you've transformed him you lose access to the creature side, so you can't just use Jacob to reach more extra turn spells and then cast them for free, but if you line up enough of them you will get to take a bunch in a row.

The Combo Turn

If I'm lucky, one of the things this deck would love to be able to do is hit the right pieces to combo off. No deck that wants to chain extra turns is going to be that concerned with playing nice, so forgive me for letting this other shoe drop. Our goal is to win, and one way to win is to force my tablemates to concede. It might not come to that, but if I'm able to load up enough extra turns, that might let me gain enough advantage to win.

It came as a surprise to me, but in writing this column I came to the realization that Jacob's winning turn might not even involve using Hauken's Insight.

Deadeye Navigator
Peregrine Drake
Thassa's Ire

I'm never going to want to use Deadeye Navigator to flicker Jacob, but if I'm able to soulbond Deadeye with Peregrine Drake or Great Whale, I should be able to make infinite mana. I could easily see running Isochron Scepter and Dramatic Reversal as well, if I were to increase the number of mana rocks in the deck.

Once I've gone infinite, I can use an enchantment like Thassa's Ire or auras like Pemmin's Aura or Freed from the Real to exile as many cards as I want using Jacob Hauken. I can then pay the mana to transform him and then I can launch into my extra turns.

The problem with this plan is that I need to be careful about my timing. If I've transformed Jacob and then want to use him to exile more cards I'd need to find a way to remove the Insight, play Jacob again and possibly give him haste. That's a lot of hoops to jump through so I may just need to pay attention to how the game is going and try to be careful about how I proceed.

Laboratory Maniac
Thassa's Oracle

As an example, if I'm looking at either Laboratory Maniac or Thassa's Oracle in my hand, I might not ever need to transform Jacob. If I can activate as many times as I want I can win with either of those two obscure bulk rares.

I kid, of course, these are mainstays in EDH and cEDH and it makes zero sense not to run them in a deck that might be able to combo off like this. I like variety, so I'll still want my extra turns and Eldrazi, but I wouldn't blame anyone for just loading up on counterspells, draw, recursion and two of the most reliable wincons in the history of the game.

Dance Hall Days

I must admit that those last two "win the game" cards were late additions to this deck. I was fixated on the turns until I realized that I didn't see an extra turns lock. My original concept required both Jacob and his enchantment side to be out at the same time. With the right clone spell, you could have a copy of Jacob, transform him and then recast the original Jacob and then combo off into an extra turns lock using Beacon of Tomorrows, which shuffles back into your library. That's fun, but also silly when you can just win outright with Lab Man or "Thoracle" when you're already hitting an infinite mana untap combo.

I try to get some games in with these new decks so I can speak to how they played and what I learned about their strengths and shortcomings, but this is one that I haven't shuffled up yet. For that reason, I suspect I've missed some key points, obvious cards and strategies, or just better gameplans than what I was able to put together today.

I am sure Jacob has fringe cEDH potential, but I'm equally sure that I haven't managed to nail that optimal build. This deck has teeth, and has a lot going for it, but will need tuning to work out the kinks. Running more removal to protect myself and so that I can pop Hauken's Insight might turn out to be more important than all those extra turns.

Final Thoughts

My favorite columns are ones where I'm very confident in explaining what my deck is trying to do and how it's going to do it. This list feels very much like an early draft to me. I think it should be a fun and interesting starting point for your own Jacob Hauken deck, but I'm not so sure that there's a single, obvious way you should build your version of this deck.

If you want to combo off, you'll want your Lab Man wincons, but that might mean you'll never bother with Hauken's Insight.

If you want to rebuild the deck with an extra turns lock, you might need those enchantment removal spells and haste enablers so you can get your free extra turn, bounce Jacob, re-cast him and dig for another one.

If you're looking for Eldrazi or if you just want to cheat in Stormtide Leviathan and other scary sea monsters, you might do well to just drop out all the extra turn spells.

These could all be a lot of fun in the right playgroup, at the right table, but I can't tell you which will suit your playstyle best.

If I was able to get you thinking about interesting ways to break Jacob Hauken wide open, or if there are things you think I missed, I'd love to hear about them in the comments. I've built a few commander decks over the years, but I'll be the first to admit that in the rush to bang out a new decklist and column for each upcoming Monday, I'm quite capable of missing things. Tell me what they are!

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

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