Weird Harvest – Hot for Teacher

 

Greetings jank enthusiasts and aspiring jank mages! Welcome back to Weird Harvest for our third reader request in a row. This is by far my favorite thing to do. Seriously, keep these requests coming because I have never had more fun writing this column as when I’m brewing your requests. I can’t thank you all enough for them. This time we have a request from Nathan Liebgott. Nathan requested that we brew up Jaya Ballard, Task Mage because he found one in his collection. He posited that she seemed good for a Madness style deck. I certainly think he’s on to something. Let’s take a quick look at what she brings to the table.

This is exactly the kind of commander that makes me want to build a mono-colored deck. There’s just so much going on here that I almost don’t know what part I like more. Red usually seems like the unwanted step-child of the format. Bad jokes aside, there is some serious value packed into this commander, but we can’t get too caught up in all her value. We must also consider her issues. I feel like there’s a life lesson to be learned there somewhere.

Pros:

Oprah Level Value: Do you like activated abilities? Look under your chair because you’re getting THREE OF THEM! Stop screaming, I haven’t even told you what they are yet. Oh well, you can read. Each requires a discard and a mana cost. Each ability increases in said cost while escalating their impact. This is some seriously good stuff.

Grounded Cost: Three mana on a mono-colored commander is fantastic. It’s low enough to hit consistently on curve, if not ahead of curve, across an average of games. While others may be hiccupping and missing land drops only to watch their strategy set back, we’ll be well on our way to the finish line.

Repeatable Mass Damage: Being able to spam 6 damage per turn is nothing to overlook. This can kill several competent, and common, threats in the format. Cards like Steel Hellkite and Wurmcoil Engine come to mind because they are both colorless and powerful, which causes them to appear frequently. We destroy both, simultaneously, while taking others with them. What’s not to like?

Cons:

Restricted Mono Color: Red is likely the hardest mono color to build in EDH, that is if you aren’t named Krenko, Mob Boss or Purphoros, God of the Forge. There’s some solid creature and artifact removal, but everything else is pretty much lacking.

Narrow Abilities: While we do get a solid mix of activated abilities, they are a bit narrow in focus. We’re either destroying something blue or dealing damage to a target. One of those is rather restricted while the other two seem to be a bit more situational.

Discard Based: Like a lot of cards in our color, we must discard to get something worthwhile. We can march toward victory, but we’ll be leaving a trail of missed opportunities in our wake. Sometimes that’s going to be the opposite of awesome.

Watching the futile efforts of your enemies is just one reason to play red.

Full disclosure, I was absolutely stumped on how to approach this build. Red has always been my weakest color by far. It certainly didn’t help that our commander had such a quirky mix of abilities. After much deliberation I settled on taking full advantage of our discard-based abilities. Red has quite a few cards that are creatures that are adept at coming back from the graveyard. It just so happens that I’ve always wanted to tinker with their mechanic as well. By now I’m sure you’ve guessed it, but if not, I’m talking about the Phoenix tribe. Now these recursive creatures have typically been panned as horrible, and in most instances, they are. Recursive 2/2’s and 3/3’s are fantastic for one on one games, but in multiplayer EDH they tend to be less than stellar. For Jaya’s ability, they are fantastic because they keep coming back. This makes up for our lack of raw card advantage that we get from being mono-red. Here’s a look at the pile of ash that I chose.

That’s right losers! We’re going to take our janky Jaya and our four flappy birds and we’re going to lock this win down! This is what we would be saying if we had another 95 cards. I wonder what we could do to round out our idea. We’ll certainly need some more discard synergy, but more importantly we need to work on another theme so that we aren’t putting all our eggs in one basket. Scratch that, we just need to slow the game down and make life miserable for our opponents. That should give us time to get our game plan online. Does anyone know any good red hate cards?

By now you’re likely wondering why we aren’t going on and on about untap abilities to make absolute abuse of our activated abilities. Because we aren’t blue, that’s why. All jokes aside, we are seriously limited outside of artifacts to accomplish this. I feel like it’s best to focus more on other things, like what our color does right. We wouldn’t be a mono-red deck if we weren’t leaving a molten path of destruction, would we?

We don’t really go all in on one strategy, as that would be fragile and linear. Instead we leverage a punisher strategy while laying waste to the battlefield, only to watch our fliers rise from the ashes. After we wreak enough havoc we can bring Jaya into the fight and begin laying down the pain provided we leave one of our recursion pieces in our hand. We’ve got a healthy amount of loot mechanics in the deck, so we should have a somewhat reasonable time seeing a chunk of our deck.

I normally go through the numbers and talk statistics to make myself sound smart, but honestly, there’s not much need in a mono-color deck to explain such things. Sometimes it really is as simple as 36-40 lands and a solid game plan. That’s all for this week. I hope everyone enjoyed this request as much as I did. I can’t get enough of these reader requests. If you have a request, feel free to shout it out in the comments below. If you have any ideas or suggestions for this deck, feel free to list them as well. Until next time, keep it janky.

 

Chris is a mild mannered IT administrator by day, and a janky Magic player by night. He ran a private M:tG blog in a former life until he woke up one day and thought it was a good idea to post his articles where someone might actually read them.