Ultra Budget Brews — Jalira, Master Polymorphist

Welcome back to my series, Ultra Budget Brews, where we build an entire commander deck where no card, commander included, costs more than one US dollar. Any longtime commander player can tell you that certain commanders and color combinations often carry very specific stigmas that often have a large impact on the game. If, for example, I see a Maelstrom Wanderer player, I am much more likely to target them than the person playing Tibor and Lumio. I’m also much more likely to target the Sultai player than the Boros player, mostly because I feel bad for the person playing Boros. This might seem obvious, and is probably something that you do without even thinking about it, but it certainly isn’t a bad thing to articulate.

My commander today is mono blue, which carries a pretty heavy stigma. Mono Blue decks typically fall in to one of two camps: combo or counterspell.dec. Thankfully, our commander doesn’t really fit into either of these classifications. Instead, our deck is like an episode of the Wheel of Fortune, but instead of letters, vague clues, modest amounts of money, and commercials for diabetes medicine, you get giant sea critters, doom-heralding robots, and world-consuming aliens. I’ll take that trade.

Wanna See a Magic Trick?

The Pros:

  • She only costs four mana.
  • She has a super cool activated ability, which turns tiny, insignificant critters into huge game ending threats.
  • She is random, which is often exciting and fun, especially when Jalira’s ability hits huge creatures

Sometimes you feel like this…

The Cons:

  • She is easily killed.
  • Winning via commander damage is incredibly unlikely.
  • She can only morph creatures into non-legendary creatures.
  • She is random, which can be obnoxious and utterly frustrating, especially when you hit Augury Owl or Omenspeaker off of Jalira’s ability

…but other times, like this.

The Deck

The typical Jalira deck aims to cheat a Blightsteel Colossus onto the battlefield as quickly as possible. This is done by having the only creatures in the deck be either legendary creatures or the Colossus itself, guaranteeing that you will hit it every single time. Frankly, this is the most effective way to build Jalira. Also, it will probably take all of three games to get really old. It’s sort of like dunking on a kid-sized basketball goal. You might feel like LeBron James, but in reality, you look like Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite.

Don’t be Uncle Rico

Our deck’s plan is fairly straightforward and has a few steps:

Step 1. Hit land drops and ramp with mana rocks
Step 2. Deploy worthless cannon fodder
Step 3. Play Jalira
Step 4. Turn your measley 1/1’s into giant monsters
Step 5. Send forth aforementioned monsters to turn your opponents into mush

Total cost: $31.31.

I should comment here, that though I am using TCGplayer pricing to find the total cost, EDHREC typically gives you a ballpark as to what a card is going for, which saves a ton of time since you don’t have to search your preferred website for every single specific card. It might not be completely on the nose, and with some digging, you may be able to find cards for cheaper than the listed prices, but generally, it’s pretty dang close.

A few notes

  • Our creatures fall in to two distinct groups: enablers and threats. Enablers are the things we want to be sacrificing. If they can have either an ETB or a death trigger, this is preferred as it is extra value. Threats are the things we are wanting to polymorph in to.
  • We also have a number of non-creature spells that either make creature tokens or can be turned into a creature. This is important because it lowers our chances of whiffing on Jalira’s ability.
  • The most difficult part of playing this deck is finding an opening to safely play Jalira. Her ability isn’t exactly cheap and you have to wait an entire turn cycle to use it. Playing her on to a board where you have creatures ready to be sacrificed is very important as Jalira by herself is nothing more than an overcosted 2/2
  • While Jalira is obviously our main plan, there will be a non-zero amount of games in which you simply are casting giant durdle monsters from your hand. Thankfully, this can still get you there.
  • Come up with a catchphrase for when you use Jalira. I tend to use Gob quotes from Arrested Development, but use whatever works. If done correctly, this will instill fear in to the opposition. If done poorly, well, at least it’ll be entertaining

“It’s an illusion, Michael”

Notable Inclusions

Geist Snatch/Summoner’s Bane (14%/16% Synergy)

There are few things better than finding obscure cards you have likely never seen in a game of commander unless you played gobs of Limited of their original sets, and yet, they fit perfectly into your strategy. I mean they are in 102 and 117 decks respectively, out of 128,784 decks. Even correcting for the fact that they can’t be played in every deck legally, that’s still super rare. This interesting factoid aside, counter the scary things your opponents are doing AND give sacrifice fodder? Deal.

Druidic Satchel (13% Synergy)


Blue is notoriously bad at ramping. All the other colors can to some degree, even if it is fairly uncommon (red and black get ritual effects, white has Land Tax, Weathered Wayfinder, etc, and green is, well, green). To overcome this weakness, we have to turn to artifacts, which tend to be more expensive, since they can be played in literally everything, which makes things a bit more difficult for this challenge.

Thankfully cards like Druidic Satchel exist. Either create a token, which you can sacrifice later, put a land in to play, or…um…gain 2 life. Well, 2 out of 3 isn’t bad and the lifegain can matter in some non-zero amount of situations. This card is a bit of a hidden gem whose price, thankfully, reflects the hidden part.

Aetherspouts (17% Synergy)


This is, admittedly, a pet card of mine. My love affair with it began during the M15 prerelease as opponent after opponent would practically sprint head first into this, and has continued to this day where the same thing seems to happen. The amount of tempo granted by Aetherspouts is, frankly, silly. The best part is that pretty much no one sees it coming, and once they’ve been blown out by it a few times, any time you leave up 5 mana, people become very wary about attacking you, hopefully buying you more time to set up your shenanigans.

Synthetic Destiny (18% Synergy)

 

So, sometimes, things go poorly. Like, really poorly. Jalira gets continuously countered, and if she ever does hit the board, she gets blown to bits before you get a chance to use her sweet ability. That’s whereSynthetic Destiny comes in. This little used card is only seen in 261 decks, most of which areEzuri, Claw of Progress, the pre-con that this card was printed in (thanks Pre-con effect!). This instant gives you a way to turn your little folk in to giant dream crushers, even when Jalira isn’t around. It also allows you to dodge boardwipes and come out way ahead.

Omen Machine (Doesn’t appear on Jalira’s Page)

This card is a fairly recent discovery of mine, and I have to say, it has quickly become a favorite. I love changing the rules of the game, particularly when you can make them favor you. Not only do you screw with the person who is trying to draw their entire deck, but you get to cast your giant monsters for free, and it is fairly likely they you are going to have a higher percentage of fun things in your deck.

Notable Exclusions

Sphinx Ambassador (6% Synergy)

This is another underused card, that also happens to be a ton of fun. It’s essentially a repeatable Bribery attached to a 5/5 flying body, so long as you don’t pick their most obvious creature. Games within games can be fun and I have found this one to be particularly enjoyable.

Reef Worm (44% Synergy)

This card is a creature you can repeatedly sacrifice to Jalira for tons of value, eventually turning a tiny 1/1 worm into a 9/9 kraken. The fact that this card is only $2 is kind of surprising to me and if I were to ditch the $1 restriction, this would be one of the first cards I would add in.

Faerie Artisans (46% Synergy)

Passively creates copies of the creatures that your opponents are playing that you can sacrifice. Also, since EDH players tend to love their Enter the Battlefield effects, you are likely to get even more value.

Proteus Staff (33% Synergy)

A repeatable polymorph effect that you can even use on your opponents’ creatures in desperate times. Make sure you remember that it can only be used at sorcery speed.

It That Betrays (33% Synergy)

This is one of the better things to polymorph in to. If you can manage to clone or copy it in some way, say, with Deceiver of Form, so much the better.

Clean-up Step

What do you think of this weeks deck? Any super obvious cards that I missed? Any ideas for commanders that you want to see in future articles? If you had to choose between Pizza Rolls or Bagel Bites, which would you pick (there is only one correct answer to this)? Let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading!

Andrew is a life-long gamer and has been playing Magic since 2013. He works as an ASL interpreter, enjoys running, and sitting on his porch reading, while simultaneously silently judging his neighbors. He lives in Joplin, MO with his wife.