Welcome to Jankmander with Sona. What is Jankmander you might ask? Jankmander is a type of deck building that uses self-imposed limitations, aka Jank, in building commander decks. In this series, I’ll take you through my process of deck building and how I honor the limitations of Jank. I also hope to address the idea that just because a deck is Jankified, that it can’t be focused or optimized.
There are some things to keep in mind when building a deck.
Commander is a format that uses a legendary creature to command your forces against another mage who has their own commander. Unless a planeswalker card specifically states that it can be a commander, you’ll have to get permission from your playgroup to use one as your commander (Rule 0 in commander is to always discuss expectations about the game with the group you are playing with prior to beginning a game). Then you’ll make a deck with 99 other cards where each other card may only be used once with the exception of basic lands. Also, the color identity (the mana symbols found on the card in the casting and abilities) must match those found on your commander. For example, if your commander has the casting/ability symbols for blue, red and green you can’t use any cards with black or white mana symbols. Hybrid cards also count for both colors for color identity, so you wouldn’t be able to use something like Footlight Fiend in a mono red deck (the casting cost is either red or black mana aka Rakdos). However, this has the same caveat as before that if you want to run a hybrid card in a mono color deck you need to discuss it with your playgroup. You can’t assume that most playgroups will automatically be okay with this, so communication is key for any game.
Today’s article is going to be different to say the least. I came up with the idea for the article as part of the 31 Days of Christmas after I was asked to participate. Part of this involves giving away a gift to someone in the community and since what I do is make Janky decks, I decided on that. But the question is what kind of Janky deck should I do? I could go for art or a theme, but that didn’t feel like it was enough for the 31 DoC since that is meant for content creators to thank the community that supports them. Then an idea hit me as I was discussing a potential alter for the commander with MSJ Alters: What if I told a story?
My family celebrates the Christmas holiday after Scandinavian traditions (my grandmother’s dad was from Sweden and some of those traditions have been passed on). For example, we celebrate Yule on Christmas Eve rather than the next day and part of that involves telling stories about the holiday. It is from that tradition that I found the inspiration to tell a Yule story with the deck I was building. Every card in the deck not only has a connection to the story, but helps tells it. This type of Jank isn’t necessarily guided by what theme the deck is but how the cards help tell the story. The deck list can be found here and the Jankmander video here. I will now tell the story of Borborygmos and how he found himself fighting a monster on the Eve of the Winter Solstice in a strange land.
Borborygmos was not happy. Ever since that upstart boy had taken his place over the Gruul Clans, only to be cut down by the undead that served that thrice cursed dragon Nicol Bolas, Borborygmos’s life was in upheaval. After that boy had been killed, the Clans begged him to lead them back into battle. If the trouble had stopped there, Borborygmos would have been content. However, others in the Clans would not stop challenging him. After that boy had bested him, he no longer commanded the respect of the others and that continued after retaking the mantle of leadership. Another one of these upstart children wanted to battle him in the morning despite besting dozens of similar challenges with ease.
He spent the evening wandering listlessly around his cave, bothered by the indignity of having to face yet another unworthy opponent who thought him weak despite only being bested by someone as unique as Domri. As he finally lay down to wait for morning, his mind wandered. Was Domri right about wild spaces on Ravnica being overrun by civilization due to the negligence of Borborygmos? Borborygmos had done his best to protect those spaces when he led the Clans and even now as Niv Mizzet led the Guilds as the living Guildpact, Borborygmos tried to push back. But how could he protect the wild and prepare for the Razeboar when he had to fend off impudent children that pestered him like gnats? Eventually he closed his eye and drifted off to sleep.
The cold woke him. Disoriented, he saw he was no longer in his cave on Ravnica but that didn’t help him understand where he was. Did he somehow end up in the arctic region of the plane? No, that doesn’t make sense as that journey takes weeks and he would have woken up before arriving. What trickery had brought him here? Who was to blame? His mind raced as he tried to understand what had happened and he nearly missed the Wood Elves who were walking towards him.
“Greetings, champion. We have called you here to save us. We must complete the Rites of Spring by the end of the Winter Solstice or winter will continue forever.” the wood elves pleaded.
“Uhhhh.” stammered Borborygmos, clearly confused. “What was happening?” he asked himself.
The elves shook their heads and said “The journey has left you disoriented. We had to Unravel the Aether to bring you here and it is not without cost.”
This didn’t make things any clearer for Borborygmos. “Why have you taken me from my home?” demanded Borborygmos, clearly Enraged.
“Forgive us,” pleaded the elves. “We had no other choice. We must complete the rites of spring before the end of the solstice or the whole plane will be left in an ice age. We tried to complete the rite ourselves, but the Ohran Frostfang slew many of us.”
Their terrified look at the mention of this frostfang gave Borborygmos pause. Was this finally a worthy foe and not some upstart gnat that was beneath him? “Tell me about this frostfang,” Borborygmos commanded.
“It is a snake that thrives in the snow, using it to trap unwary victims to feast upon them.” said the elves. “As it thrives in the cold, and the rite brings the spring, we can only assume the frostfang is stopping the rite so that the cold remains.”
Resigned to the role thrust upon him yet again, Borborygmos asked “what must I do?” “You must take the ingredients for the rite to our kindred in the Highland Weald,” the elves responded. “We must warn you, the frostfang has many goblins that do its bidding.”
“Goblins are no match for me,” responded Borborygmos coldly.
“We meant no offense,” the elves cried. “We only wanted you to know the dangers we found as we tried to complete the rite.”
Borborygmos made a noncommittal noise in his throat. “What do I get if I do this for you?” he asked curtly.
“Once the ingredients are delivered, we will return you to the time and place that we took you from,” the elves said with hope in their eyes.
“Give me the stuff so that I can get this over with,” he responded.
One of the elves sprinted off into the woods. It returned quickly with a Bag of Holding emblazoned with the Gruul Signet. “Now this is more like it,” thought Borborygmos. “What am I delivering?” he asked.
“These,” said one of the elves, showing him a bundle of branches. “We have extra just in case.”
“STICKS? YOU BROUGHT ME HERE FOR STICKS?” shouted Borborygmos.
“Please,” one of the elves pleaded. “These are no ordinary twigs. They contain potent magic that the Groundskeeper Cultivates specifically for the rite. Without them, we could not maintain the wilds here and they would fall to ruin.”
For some reason, when the elf mentioned the wilds, Borborygmos’s rage evaporated. Maybe this Return to Nature was exactly the thing to ease his mind and allow him to deal with the constant pests plaguing him. “Where do I go and who do I take these to?” he asked.
“Go Into the North, head past the Firewild Borderpost. There you will find the Dryad Greenseeker. He will tell you where to go,” one of the elves said calmly.
Borborygmos then turned to head Into the Wilds.
He turned to go on his Journey of Discovery when one of the elves said “Wait!” The elf rushed to Borborygmos. “Take this with you, it will help you on your quest.” The elf handed him Arcum's Astrolabe.
“What is this?” Borborygmos asked. “It will help provide you with mana in the Snow-Covered Mountains and Forests,” The elf explained. Borborygmos took the astrolabe and offered his thanks. He then turned and began his journey again.
The further he went, the colder it became until eventually he saw falling snowflakes. Eventually he found the Firewild Borderpost. “Hello?” he called out. “Is anyone here?”
“I am here,” the Greenseeker said. “How can I help one such as yourself?”
“I have been sent to deliver these to the druids so that the Rite of Spring can be completed,” he said, feeling buoyed by the compliment. “I was told that you can tell me where I need to go.”
“Indeed I can,” the Greenseeker replied. But first, I have a gift to aid you on your journey. The Greenseeker handed Borborygmos a Khalni Gem. “This gem will help you when all feels lost; keep it near you.”
Borborygmos grunted and placed the gem into his trusty pouch. “Where do I go next?” he asked.
“Head north until you reach the Snow Fortress. The Barbarian Guides there will point you towards the druids you must reach. Be wary though, the wilds are full of goblins and all manner of wild creatures. Follow the path north and don’t Explore the wilds off that path.”
Borborygmos made a non-committal noise and started heading further north into the Highland Keald. As he traveled, the terrain became more and more snow covered until he had to fight through the snow. Eventually, he came to a great fortress in the snow. An arrow struck the ground right in front of him.
“That’s far enough,” a voice shouted. “Are you a friend or do you serve that serpent?”
“I was sent by the Wood Elves and the Dryad Greenseeker to help complete the Rite of Spring,” Borborygmos proclaimed, drawing himself to his full height.
The gates of the fortress creaked open and he was greeted by a band of barbarians. Borborygmos strode towards them. An elf followed the barbarians, cowering in fear. “This Springbloom Druid is one of the elves that remains to receive the ingredients for the Rite of Spring,” a tall barbarian stated. “They fled here after being attacked by an Ohran Yeti sent by that cold serpent. You must guide them back to their home which is just over the hill so they can complete the rite.”
“What else lurks in this region?” Borborygmos asked.
“Keep an eye out for beasts such as the Conifer Wurm, the Frostweb Spider, and the Karplusan Wolverine. The serpent also has goblins that do their bidding to keep this accursed winter in place.”
“I do not fear goblins,” Borborygmos stated flatly, thinking of the goblins he has faced on Ravnica. “I fear no beast of the wild, either.”
“Very well,” the Barbarian Guides stated. “Past this point, there is no defined path. We can help guide you to the Springbloom Druid’s home and guard them while you seek out the other two remaining elves. However, the Whiteout will disorient you and you will be lost without help. Take this with you.” A barbarian handed Borborygmos Arcum’s Weathervane. “It will help you keep to the true path.”
“Let’s get this over with,” Borborygmos stated as he was growing weary of this talk when action was needed. A barbarian led a couple of Wooly Mammoths out of the fortress and they departed as a group.
Eventually, the group reached the druid’s home. Borborygmos reached into his Bag of Holding and handed the Springbloom Druid several sticks. “I hope you know what to do with these and my time isn’t being wasted,” Borborygmos said curtly. “Where do I go from here?”
“Seek the Horizon and head towards the Frostwalk Bastion. On the way you will meet the Rime Tender. From there head deeper until you reach a glacier and you will find the Boreal Druid. Once you have found the druid, have them begin the ritual immediately before that cursed serpent can attack.”
Borborygmos was eager to complete the task, so he bid the barbarians goodbye and strode forcefully towards the direction the weathervane pointed him. The views were breathtaking and the further he strode into the wild, the more are peace his mind felt. He could almost feel the power of this wild space, something that was difficult on Ravnica. Perhaps he should lead the clans to a place like this, if any remained on the plane. Then again, he had no idea where he was or if he was even on Ravnica anymore. The breaking of a branch snapped him out of his thoughts. He cautiously looked around to see what was there. A Karplusan Wolverine came striding out of the woods, but it froze when it saw Borborygmos. Borborygmos quickly snatched a small boulder off the ground and threw it at the wolverine. The wolverine retreated in fear. “That will teach them,” Borborygmos thought to himself.
Just as suddenly, he was attacked. The goblin came out of nowhere and slid down the hill swiftly on skis as if it were a Goblin Ski Patrol. Another goblin attacked him while armored in the snow as if it were some kind of Goblin Snowman. “What kind of nonsense is this?” Borborygmos demanded. He swiftly dispatched the two goblins only to see more goblins pouring out of the woods to attack. Many were gliding down the hill on skis. As the goblins attacked, he became more and more enraged. “Who were these vermin to attack him like this? Had he done something terrible previously that he was now Reaping the Past?” The ground and trees around Borborygmos became his weapons. He quickly dispatched the goblin horde as they attacked until only one remained. His blood still boiling, Borborygmos dispatched the remaining foe in a fit of rage using the very earth to slay the goblin.
A quiet voice said, “I’ve never seen anything like that. You slew them as if they were nothing.”
“Who’s there?” Borborygmos demanded. “Show yourself.”
A druid slowly came out of the woods and Borborygmos calmed down. “Are you the Rime Tender?” Borborygmos asked.
“I am,” the druid said. “Are you going to slay me? I cannot stand before one such as yourself.”
“The Wood Elves sent me to bring you the ingredients for the Rite of Spring,” Borborygmos stated. The druid began to weep and fell to their knees. Borborygmos didn’t know what to make of this show of emotion.
“Thank you M’Lord,” the druid said after regaining their composure. “Those goblins chased me from my home and were going to slay me to prevent the rite from being completed.” “Come,” said Borborygmos. “They will harass you no more.” They then travelled the short distance to the Rime Tender’s home
“I cannot repay you,” the druid said. Borborygmos just handed the druid the sticks for the rite. “It does not matter. I cannot go home until I complete this task. Once I leave, begin the preparations for the Rites of Spring. I will find the last druid before the day's end.”
Borborygmos then strode out of the hut and towards the Frostwalk Bastion. He travelled further and further until he saw a glacier appear in the distance. With the end in sight, he was spurned onward. As he approached the glacier, he saw a hut and a lone figure outside. Borborygmos rushed forward, all caution thrown aside with his goal in sight. The figure waved frantically and it was only when it was too late that Borborygmos realized what it meant. The Ohran Frostfang struck without warning. The only thing that saved Borborygmos from that initial attack was his years of combat experience that caused him to dart out of the way at the last second.
The frostfang hissed in anger and struck again and again. Borborygmos fought but gradually felt himself begin to weaken. The color then started to fade from the world as the frostfang's venom coursed through his veins. Was he going to die in this forsaken land? What would happen to the clans? Would the city finally overtake the remaining wild spaces? Borborygmos sank to the ground until he was lying in a heap. As Borborygmos lay dying, he fumbled in his sack for an answer. Then he remembered what the Dryad Greenseeker had said as his fist closed around the Khalni Gem. Suddenly the world snapped back into focus and Borborygmos felt as though he was Wrapped in Vigor. As he breathed, he could feel the power of the wilds surge into his body. No, he was not going to die here.
The frostfang recoiled in surprise. Borborygmos began to tear chunks out of the surrounding snow-covered mountains and limbs off the snow-covered trees. He then hurled these with his full fury at the frostfang. Before the frostfang could retreat it was buried in rubble until it moved no more. The Boreal Druid ran to Borborygmos. “I can’t believe that you slew it!” the druid exclaimed. “It had chased me and nearly got me until you arrived to distract it. Then I saw it bite you. Its venom kills all the frostfang would bite,” the druid explained.
“Here,” Borborygmos said, handing the druid the final ingredients. “We must complete the rite.” The druid took the offered sticks and led the way to their hut. The Boreal Druid immediately began the rite. Finally they sighed and said, “it is done.”
“That was it?” Borborygmos asked, perplexed. “I thought there would be some sort of magical sign that the spell was cast.”
“It will come in time, the effects are gradual,” the druid explained. “You have saved us, so you have our thanks. Just head back to the Wood Elves and they will return you.”
Borborygmos grunted and began the trek back. As he passed by the glacier, he felt a [Glacial] Revelation dawn on him. The wilds had helped protect him as he fought the frostfang. He had to fight for the wilds of Ravnica. The clans needed to stop the infighting and unite against the real enemy, the encroachment of civilization and all its evils. This revelation added a spring to his steps and before he knew it, he was back at the village of the Wood Elves. The excitement was palpable. The many druids and elves he had met along the way greeted him by hailing him a hero. “We can never repay you for what you have done for us, but we can offer you this feast,” the Wood Elves said. They then threw a feast in his honor with suckling pig, mounds of mushrooms and roast vegetables, and best of all, barrels of mead. With his belly full of good food and mead, Borborygmos had a hard time keeping his eyes open. He heard murmurs as he drifted off to sleep.
He awoke with a start. As his eye began to focus, he saw he was back in his cave. Was it all a dream? What he had seen was beyond his Wildest Dreams, yet here he was in his home. He looked out of the cave and saw the sun rising. He would have to face another challenge, but after that he was resolved to unite the clans to push back against the creep of civilization. As he got ready, he failed to notice the Bag of Holding emblazoned with the Gruul Signet beside his bed. As he strode out of his cave, he also did not notice the Snake Umbra that had enveloped him since he had bested the frostfang. It no longer mattered to Borborygmos if what had happened was real or not. He was reconnected with the wilds and had a mission to complete. The Wilds of Ravnica had their champion again.
This is just one example of how you can use your deck to tell a story. With this type of deckbuilding, you are only limited by your creativity and imagination. Hopefully, you enjoyed this story and are motivated to build your own story telling deck. Congratulations again to the winner and Happy Holidays! Thank you all for reading and I’ll see you next time on Jankmander with Sona. Have a Great Janking!