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.
Today, we’ll be discussing the Jank of only using cards from a single set. There are two different approaches that one can take for this. The first is to only construct the deck with cards from that specific set. The second is to limit the card pool further and only use the cards found in a single booster box. Today we will make a deck using the first method and cover the second method at a later date. However, this is not just a matter of cramming together a deck and calling it good. You have to carefully select the set you are going to use if you hope to be effective. When it comes to choosing a set, it’s important to realize that not all sets are created equally. Some sets, such as masters or premium sets, are easy to do this with whereas others are much more difficult, such as with Standard sets. The key is finding a set that has a good variety of legendary creatures with multiple colors as well as all the other components that one finds in a commander deck (ramp, removal, etc.). Then it’s important to look at which mana rocks are in the set and the land cycle. The set should also have a good amount of utility spells, such as countering spells, removal and ramp. Once you’ve settled on a set, it’s time to build.
For the set specific Jank, I chose the recent Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths. This set has a slew of legendary creatures including five Apex creatures that have 3-color identities. These are Snapdax, Apex of the Hunt in Mardu (white/red/black), Illuna, Apex of Wishes in Temur (blue/red/green), Nethroi, Apex of Death in Abzan (white/green/black), Vadrok, Apex of Thunder in Jeski (red/white/blue), and Brokkos, Apex of Forever in Sultai (black/green/blue). These are powerful creatures with the mutate mechanic that was introduced in Ikoria. Because of this, and because of the options that a 3-color commander gives, I focused on the Apexes for my commander selection despite the other legendary creature option in the set having the potential to be good commanders (the companions are all legendary creatures for example), Izzet otter aside. After some consideration, I selected Illuna, Apex of Wishes for the commander as Temur is a color combo that I enjoy playing.
Once I had my commander, I had to settle on a strategy for the deck. Since the mutate mechanic is fairly extensive in Ikoria and the commander has mutate, I decided on leaning into this mechanic. Also, although Commander 2020 decks were released alongside Ikoria, I did not use any of these cards in the deck as these belong to C20 and not Ikoria despite these cards having mutate and including some commander staples, such as Sol Ring and Arcane Signet. For this build, I took it a step further than I normally do and only used lands from Ikoria itself as the triomes are an excellent land for three color decks. With this set, I was still able to focus on the normal inclusions that I have in any commander deck: ramp, removal, evasion, and countering spells. The complete deck can be found here and the deck tech video here.
I’ve had a chance to test this deck out a bit, and it performed well against much more finely tuned decks. Furthermore, it was fun to play. This is also the first deck that I have decided to “bling” out by selecting the alternative arts when available and foiling out the deck. I love the alternative arts for Ikoria with the comic and Godzilla style cards. I should note again that not every set can be used for this type of Jankification. Some sets are under powered and some don’t have a wide enough selection of legendary creatures for commander selection. Ikoria is one of the sets that this can be done with whereas something like Theros: Beyond Death wouldn’t work as well if you don’t select the right commander, such as a god, titan or one of the few good uncommon legendary creatures. I cannot stress enough how important commander selection is for this type of build to be successful. For a future Jankmander article, I’ll be taking this a step further and only using the cards pulled from a single box of Double Masters, so be on the lookout for that article.
Thank you for reading and I’ll see you next time on Jankmander with Sona. Have a Great Janking!