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.
When building a deck, some commanders just aren’t that great. Other commanders have developed into a meme and are often spoken of as a joke. Among these, Yargle, Glutton of Urborg is arguably the most commonly joked about commander. But is Yargle completely terrible? In this article, we’ll attempt to address this in a bit of a unique way and we have a special guest helping out, so prepare for a good Yargling.
When I started planning for this article, I had an interesting idea on how to approach this commander. What happens when the budget changes for the deck? Will the same types of strategies be used? Will there be any variations on the strategy. So I decided on three decks with three different budgets: under $25, $100 and an unlimited budget. But if I made all three decks, that wouldn’t make much sense for what I was trying to accomplish. Luckily, Brett with Booster Therapy was on board to help me build a Yargle deck for a $100 budget. I then developed the deck lists for the <$25 and unlimited budget decks. The question was then how well did the three different decks line up strategy wise?
When I approached the <$25 deck, I knew I had to maximize the play value of every card in the deck. Since Yargle is a beefy 9/3 Frog Spirit, I settled on an approach to boost the damage that Yargle was causing and to make every point of damage count. I had two main ways to do this, voltron equipment/enchantments and infect (yes, I went the infect route with Yargle and yes, I know I'm a bad person for that). I also included some spells to boost the damage done by Yargle. There are a lot of budget equipment cards to pop on Yargle, so I had a bit of a hard time narrowing it down to just a few, but I settled on an array of equipment cards. There are only so many cards to give infect and although I spent a significant chunk of my budget for the deck on Grafted Exoskeleton, I also introduced infect with other cards such as Phyresis. Some of the enchantments I included also served to help make Yargle larger, such as Eternal Thirst. I also included instant spells like Lash of Thorns and Howl From Beyond to make Yargle even bigger.
It's not enough to pump Yargle because of potential blockers, so I also added in evasion to ensure that Yargle could attack without being blocked. This was done with cards like Fear, Rogue’s Passage and Prowler’s Helm. Since Yargle is already at a CMC of 5, I also included recursion and regeneration so that they wouldn’t be lost if killed or exiled. This was done with cards like Kaya’s Ghostform, Thrull Retainer and Blessing of Leeches. Also, because of the high CMC for Yargle I included some budget ramp options, such as Palladium Myr, Walking Atlas, and various mana rocks like Mana Geode, Altar of the Pantheon, Khalani Gem, Ur-Golem’s Eye and Sisay’s Ring. I also included Brass Squire to reduce the cost of equipping Yargle as a further way to smooth things out. I then needed to make sure I had card draw options so cards like Rogue’s Gloves were particularly useful since one of my strategies was to make Yargle unblockable. I also included Wishclaw Talisman for tutoring and politicking in the game, which is a wonderful budget option for this. I then included a healthy amount of removal, which mono-black excels at, with cards like Murder, Bake into a Pie, and Walk the Plank. Finally to round out the deck, I included some creatures that would be useful, such as Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Squelching Leeches, and Josu Vess, Lich Knight. The final deck list can be found here and the deck tech here.
Brett went a slightly different route with his $100 build. He also went the Voltron/Infect route, but he had a healthier ramp package so recursion was not essential. Evasion was not a focus either, except for Demonic Embrace to make Yargle a flying frog spirit demon, which is delightful. However, the deck did include board wipes and ways to benefit from said board wipes with Bontu’s Last Reckoning, Dead of Winter, and Thrilling Encore. The deck certainly has a different flavor and would play differently than the <$25 deck I built, but it looks like a fun deck to pilot. The deck list can be found here and the deck tech here. I really can’t wait to pull this out with my playgroup.
But what happens if there is no upper limit on the budget for Yargle? How gross can we make that deck? For this, I leaned even heavier into the Voltron, Infect, Ramp and Tutor aspects of the deck I built previously. The various named swords were included with the deck as were intense mana rocks and a wide package of tutors. Infect was added with similar cards as before with the addition of Glistening Oil and Tainted Strike. I also included utility artifacts to proliferate, such as Contagion Engine and Throne of Geth, and additional creatures to pose a threat, such as Blightsteel Colossus and Grave Titan. I don’t have this deck built fully in paper yet, but this is going to be a long term goal of mine. The deck list can be found here.
So how do these decks play? The only one that I’ve had a chance to play with so far is the <$25 deck that I built. However, I did win one of the games I ran the deck in. A combination of the removal options (I made Admiral Beckett Walk the Plank, which was a complete flavor win) and the surprise pumping of Yargle proved useful (I swung for 19 commander damage from Yargle in one turn using Howl From Beyond). It was still close at the end of the game, but I managed to pull an answer out of the deck at the last minute and win. It likely helped that most people tend to underestimate what Yargle can do and the deck was kind of sneaky. Honestly, I had a blast playing that deck and it’s definitely one I’m going to keep in my play rotation. I may just end up with a few more Yargle decks so that my playgroup won’t know which flavor of Yargle is on the menu, which is perfect because I bought 93 copies of Yargle for Yargle Day (Oh god! Why did I buy 93 copies of Yargle?!?).
So what does all of this mean? Some commanders just aren’t going to be as playable as commander was not around at the beginning of MTG. But even the so called meme commanders can be built in a way to play in casual games and hold their own. Yargle most likely won’t ever be a competitive deck no matter the budget, but it’s the kind of deck you can have fun with in a casual setting and catch your playgroup off guard. People just don't expect to be Yargled.
Thank you for reading and I’ll see you next time on Jankmander with Sona. Have a Great Janking!