Updated: Dec 6, 2020
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.
In this installment, we’ll discuss two ways we can build a deck around an art theme. The first is by limiting the cards to a specific artist. This is the easier option of the two as Gatherer (https://gatherer.wizards.com/) has an advanced search option where you can search for card by a particular artist. In this case, I selected Seb McKinnon because I’m a huge fan of his artwork, so I searched for legendary cards he did the artwork for. Two commander options came up in Gatherer, Aminatou, the Fateshifter from C18 and Bladewing the Risen from Iconic Masters.This gives the option of making either an Esper (white-blue-black) or Rakdos (red-black) deck. I then looked at the cards with his art work to see which had the best pool of cards. Based on the number of cards that are in each pool, an Esper deck with Aminatou, the Fateshifter is the best option as the pool has 80 commander legal options to choose from compared to 48 options, which is not enough to construct a deck unless it contained 52 basic lands or if I lessened the Jankstrictions.
Unfortunately, Seb was not an artist for any basic lands, so basic lands will have to be excluded from the Jankstrictions. The next step is to figure out which of the 80 cards work best with each other and construct the deck. There are a few non-basic lands that Seb has done the artwork for, so those were included. I then focused on trying to find synergy among the remaining cards available. Both spirit and zombie creature types had cards that synergized with other spells, so I picked as many of these creatures as possible. There was also some synergy between the vampires, so those were selected as well. I then focused on another possible synergy in cards with graveyard interactions. From there, card draw and removal were added to the deck. The only tutor available was Scheming Symmetry, but given how useful this card is in commander it would have been included even if other tutors were available. Then to help with mana fixing, Springleaf Drum was included. The complete deck can be found here. I haven’t built this deck in paper yet, but since putting it together I’m very tempted to do so.
Another example of an artist-specific deck is this recent deck tech from Booster Therapy (https://youtu.be/blkRnnL2tGA). They also decided to do a deck around Seb McKinnon, but chose Bladewing the Risen with fewer Jankstrictions in favor of more synergy. That deck will definitely perform better than the one I crafted, but that is okay. I tend to go full Jank-mode, but how you chose to make your deck is up to you. Commander, and by extension Jankmander, is all about creativity and self expression. As long as you have fun with your playgroup, that is all that really matters. Booster Therapy's deck looks fun to play and that is what matters most.
The second option for artwork is take a specific feature of artwork and build a deck around that. Examples of this include art where people are sitting, ladies looking left, art with chairs, people with beards or facial hair, or art where everyone is smiling. These decks are a bit harder to assemble as resources like Gatherer or EDHREC (https://edhrec.com/) don’t include options to search by art type. However, one can search for lists of the desired artworks using search engines or try to find other decks with the same art theme. For example, if one were to start building a beard/facial hair deck, then searching might pull up discussion board threads on beard decks or decks that have already been assembled. Another popular theme is chairs, though there are only so many cards with chairs in the artwork. Mitch from The Commander Quarter’s recently described a deck using this theme (https://youtu.be/ZlMxrNIX3W4). Mitch also used another type of Jankstriction by keeping the price under $20 for his deck (there's a reason why Mitch is a legend when it comes to deck building), but we'll talk about budget Jankstrictions in another article. When I built my own chair deck, I used Mitch’s list as a starting point and made some changes, including using Kenrith, the Returned King as my commander instead of Atogatog. A friend of mine also used this Jankstriction recently based on artwork using the “smiling” theme. The deck is atog heavy (atogs are often depicted in art as smiling) with Atogatog as the commander (https://archidekt.com/decks/574448#Always_Smiling). It was his first foray into Jankmander and I think he did a great job.
Building a Jankmander deck based on the art can be a fun and enjoyable experience. The deck likely won’t be powerful, but you’ll have the satisfaction of having built a deck that is fairly restrictive, still functions, and is fun. For a casual format like commander, being able to sit and have a laugh with friends as you stroke your beard while playing your beard deck, show your appreciation for Seb McKinnon with your deck, or smiling while running your smiling deck is what makes the format so popular. Having fun and being creative in your deck building is central to what Jankmander is all about. Thank you for reading and I’ll see you next time on Jankmander with Sona. Have a Great Janking!