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Budget Commander: Jodah, Archmage Eternal ($44)


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After I finished writing my Firesong and Sunspeaker article, I took to Twitter asking what Dominaria commander I should brew next. I got a ton of different suggestions but to my surprise, nobody suggested Jodah, Archmage Eternal. When I asked why there's no Jodah hype, the most common responses were:

So obviously I need to write an article about him now.

High CMC Tribal

It's true that Jodah, Archmage Eternal is more open-ended than a commander like Firesong and Sunspeaker, where you're told rather explicitely what direction to go in. Yes, that does make Jodah a fine choice to lead a 5C Goodstuff deck like Cromat currently is, if that's a deck you're looking to build. But Jodah's ability can be built around and there's some powerful synergies available if you do so.

Comparing Jodah to Ramos, Dragon Engine is unfair, since they don't necessarily want to be in the same deck. Ramos is an incredibly powerful and explosive source of mana ramp, but to get the most out of Ramos you need to be playing multicolored spells; the more colors, the more payoff. Ramos, Dragon Engine is most often built as a Lucky Charms deck, since most of the best charms are 2-3 colors (e.g. Abzan Charm), but any deck with lots of colored spells will benefit from the dragon. Meanwhile, Jodah, Archmage Eternal doesn't care about colors at all. You could build an entirely Colorless deck if you wanted to, and Jodah can still be useful there while Ramos would not be.

So what cards benefit the most from Jodah, Archmage Eternal? There's a bunch, but the most common and straightforward ones are simply cards with converted mana costs 6 or higher. Since Jodah lets you cast all spells for 5 mana, the higher the spell's cmc, the bigger the discount you're getting when casting it with Jodah; you save 2 mana when casting Diluvian Primordial, 4 mana off Rise of the Dark Realms, and 8 mana off Emrakul, the Promised End! When built around properly, Jodah can be an insane source of ramp!

That's our goal for this version of Jodah, Archmage Eternal. We're building a High CMC Tribal deck. This deck's average card cmc is going to be way higher than any other deck I've written about. We will cover some of the best high cmc spells to include, the various ways to cheat those spells out, and how to tie everything together into a unified deck.

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The Big Guns

Alright, let's start with the high cmc spells that we can cheat out with Jodah, Archmage Adept. Instead of dividing the cards that are over/under $5, I'm just going to lump them all together and later show how you can pick and choose between them to make your deck's overall price be at a range you want. The following is a mess of high cmc cards that I think are sweet to cast and it's most certainly not a complete list:

Or if you prefer seeing a list with all the cmcs and prices:

As you can see, we've got a ton of powerful high cmc spells to cheat out! There are also various subthemes you can build with. You can go Spellslinger with cards like Swarm Intelligence or focus on a more Creature-heavy list with cards like Myojin of Life's Web and Zendikar Resurgent; or maybe you go for a Spirit package with Iname as One and the Myojin? Up to you!

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High CMC Support

There are actually quite a few cards out there that reward us for playing high cmc spells scattered throughout Magic's history. These are some of the best ones I could find:

I'm happy to see that Red is bringing the most value in terms of high cmc support cards! Sunbird's Invocation is a powerhouse in general, but in this deck it becomes insane since we're casting 10+ cmc spells for just 5 mana with Jodah, Archmage Eternal. We also have sweet card draw with cards like Combustible Gearhulk, which our opponents can't refuse because of the implication.

Warning! Timesifter is an amazing card in this deck as you'll end up taking a ton of extra turns with it, however it fundamentally alters the pacing of the game and can really tick off your playgroup. You can watch this Commander Clash where I played this to see how it works. I'd recommend trying it once, since it's a unique and powerful effect, but just know that you might end up cutting the card for the sake of your playgroup's sanity.

 

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Raising Our CMC Higher

Our high cmc support cards only get better as our deck's average cmc goes higher. The problem is that if we load up on just huge cmc spells then we'll struggle to play out our hand in a timely manner. Luckily there are a ton of cards out there with high cmc that we can play without paying their full cmc! Here's some of my favorites:

  • Delve. We don't use our graveyard for too much so it's easy to exile some of them to pay the cost of Dig Through Time.
  • Landcycling. Cards like Sylvan Reclamation provide mana-fixing for the deck early on (very nice for a 5C deck!) and can also be cast with useful effects.
  • Undaunted. Seeds of Renewal only costs 4 mana to cast if you have 3 opponents!
  • Split Cards. The cmc of any split card, including fuse (Catch // Release) and aftermath (Commit // Memory), have total cmc equal to both sides of the card. You can cast Commit for 4 mana or discard it to Mercurial Chemister for 10 damage!
  • Evoke. Ingot Chewer is a fair 1 mana to destroy an artifact, but its cmc is still 5! 

Here are some of my favorite high cmc cards that you can use for way less mana:

 

Casting Our Spells

We'll need to produce lots of mana (and ways to cheat on mana!) if we want to cast our high cmc spells. Jodah, Archmage Eternal is a fine start, but we're still paying 5 mana per spell with him, which is better than paying 10+ but it still ain't cheap. Also Jodah will be hated out immediately by our opponents, and for good reason! So we'll need other methods to cast our spells. Thankfully we have access to all five colors, so literally all the best ramp is available to us!

First on the list is traditional ramp that usually comes in the form of land ramp (e.g. Rampant Growth) and mana rocks (e.g. Darksteel Ingot). Our deck not only wants lots of ramp, but also lots of mana-fixing because Jodah, Archmage Eternal's activation of WUBRG is quite specific. So no to colorless mana rocks like Worn Powerstone, and yes to multicolor mana rocks like Commander's Sphere. The very best of these is definitely Chromatic Lantern, providing both ramp and unparralled mana-fixing for just 3 mana.

Here's a sample of some of my favorite ramp sources. Which end up being the best depends on your budget and the rest of your deck; for example, Nature's Lore and Skyshroud Claim are mediocre if you only run basic Forests, but become some of your best options if you run Forest duals like Stomping Ground.

Of course, ramp is only one way we can cast our spells: the other method is finding ways to cast them for free or put them directly into play! A few of these cards added to your deck is a great way to supplement your ramp package:

You'll notice that some cheat spells work best in a Creature deck (e.g. Selvala's Stampede), while others prefer a noncreature strategy (e.g. Narset, Enlightened Master). Which ends up being good in your deck depends on what style of High CMC Tribal you end up going with.

 

Let's Talk 5C Lands

This question comes up all the time, "Can you make a 5C manabase on a budget?" The answer is yes, absolutely! This topic is worthy of an article in itself, but I'll give a condensed lesson on the topic here since it's important to know about when building a Jodah, Archmage Eternal deck.

The difference between a blinged out 5C manabase versus a budget one is that cheaper manabases are sacrificing some speed and/or some consistency, depending on how you build it. On one extreme, you can build a budget manabase for maximum speed by just playing basic lands; all your lands come into play untapped so you don't lose any speed, but your deck will be very inconsistent because you might not have the right mana to cast the spells in your hand. On the other extreme you can make an incredibly consistent manabase that can effortlessly cast all the spells in your hand, but your deck will be slower because all the best mana-fixing lands on a budget come into play tapped.

Jodah, Archmage Eternal is a very color-intensive commander to get the most out of his ability, so I highly recommend a consistent manabase over a speedy one.

For this mini guide, I'll be referring to these lands:

Cheapest: Trilands, Vivids

This is the classic tried-and-true method to make a 5C manabase on a budget. Your best friends are the 10-card triland cycle (e.g. Crumbling Necropolis) and the 5-card vivid land cycle (e.g. Vivid Crag). Supplement these lands with some versatile cheap fetchlands and a healthy dose of basic lands. Here's an example manabase for Jodah:

36 lands, 4 landcyclers, 11 sources of ramp. I even cut some of the Vivid lands to make room for more basics since we have so many cards that fetch them. Only $12 at the time of writing this article!

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Increasing Speed

Increasing speed without sacrificing too much consistency is difficult to do on a budget for a deck as color-intensive as Jodah, Archmage Eternal. There simply aren't any more cheap lands that provide mana-fixing and enter the battlefield untapped under $1. Not good ones anyway.

If you're willing to upgrade the manabase while still being budget-conscious, the next step is to start swapping your taplands for untapped lands that still mana fix. If you're working with trilands, this usually means picking up a City of Brass, Mana Confluence, and Path of Ancestry and slotting those instead of some trilands/vivids. That's a step forward. But the great leap forward will involve taking out those trilands entirely and embracing dual lands!

Dual lands - lands that have two land types (e.g. Stomping Ground) - are incredibly useful in Commander because there's so many great cards that care about land types. For example, instead of getting a tapped Forest with Rampant Growth, we can get an untapped Breeding Pool with Nature's Lore! Instead of getting a tapped Mountain with Evolving Wilds, we can grab a Taiga with Arid Mesa! We win in both speed and consistency!

Dual lands are by far the best lands, which is why they're so darn expensive - or at least most of them are. There are plenty of cheaper duals to work with though: the battle lands from Battle for Zendikar and the bicycle lands from Amonkhet are quite cheap! We can build around those and really take advantage of them by upgrading our ramp and fetches. Here's a sample around $50:

Using dual lands we now have faster, mana-fixing ramp like Skyshroud Claim, and mana-fixing fetches like the Mirage block fetchlands (Rocky Tar Pit). We also have mana-fixing lands that come into play untapped: the checkland cycle (Sunpetal Grove).

I can keep going but holy moly this article is getting long and I better save the manabase talk for another article!

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And One More Thing: Protection

Jodah, Archmage Eternal is going to get killed a lot. It's simply in your opponent's best interest to remove him from the table so you aren't casting Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre for 5 mana. Thankfully, there are a ton of great cards available to us that make it harder for our opponents to get rid of Jodah. Most options either protect him from targeted removal (Archetype of Endurance), protect him from board wipes (Boros Charm), or simply counter the removal spell (Swan Song). Here's a small sample of protection spells:

It's definitely worth running some protection cards for both Jodah and the rest of your board, but don't go overboard trying to protect Jodah; I recommend building a deck that can function just fine without Jodah ever hitting the table instead of devoting too many slots trying to keep him around. A combination of ~2 answers to targeted removal, ~2 answers to board wipes, and ~2 flexible counterspells is a good starting point.

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Putting It All Together: $44 Jodah Sample

Finally, it's deck list time! Here's a sample deck list I whipped up from all the card suggestions discussed earlier. I playtested it throughout last week and can say with confidence this deck is FUN! Every single card is under $2 USD and the entire deck is only $44 at the time of writing this article:

If your turn 3 or 4 Jodah, Archmage Eternal isn't answered before you untap then it's sad times for your opponents as you drop game-ending bombs on the table for just 5 mana a pop. If Jodah is answered then no worries, we're running a ton of ramp to cast our haymakers the old fashioned way, plus we have tons of ways of other ways to cheat our spells into play.

This deck specializes in two things: killing stuff and drawing cards! We repeatedly wipe the board of all opposing creatures while drawing silly amounts of cards. There's no way we can cast all the cards in our hand so it's fine to chuck some of them to cards like Mercurial Chemister to deal 7+ damage with a discard.

There is no specific card that wins us the game, no combos to speak of here. Our big splashy spells just randomly win the game by themselves; it could be with combat damage thanks to our big beaters like Artisan of Kozilek, or it could be casting doubled Treacherous Terrains with Swarm Intelligence out, then getting it back with Volcanic Vision to cast it again. Whatever works!

You can see gameplay footage of the deck from my stream and you can see it played in a recent Commander ClashThe deck is really, really fun and I'm super happy with how it turned out!

More Expensive Sample Lists

Lots of people ask me for bigger budget lists so here's two more samples. All I'm doing is pulling more expensive options mentioned earlier in the article while maintaining the deck's ratio of mana sources, cheat cards, interaction, etc. You can do this easily as well!

And finally, here's a more expensive Jodah with a revamped manabase that is basically the cheap version of duals + fetches. Then I added a couple more big spells like Omniscience because why not? It's not optimized, I could keep going, but you get the idea.

 

That's All, Folks!

Yikes, this article was a lot longer than I intended! Hope you enjoy this take on Jodah, Archmage Eternal. More Dominaria commanders coming soon! As always, you can reach me in the comments section below, tweet me @BudgetCommander, or email me at tomer@mtggoldfish.com !


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