Commander Deep Dive: Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain
Artificial Intelligence, or A.I., have long been a subject of contention in our culture and in the scientific community. When the subject of A.I. is brought up to the average person, the first thought you will hear from most is somewhere between the Terminator series’s Skynet and Marvel’s Avenger’s Ultron. These two pop culture juggernauts are cautionary tales of how bad it can be when artificial intelligence takes a negative turn.
In reality, if we proceed in the correct manner, artificial intelligence can help catapult humankind into a whole new world of technology and knowledge. The belief that A.I. will become self aware and take over all technological systems is a real concern that all scientists and engineers involved with it need to be cognitive of. Regardless of that possible outcome, artificial intelligence can and will be a vital aspect of the future of the human race; the capacity of that vitality remains to be seen.
“Never send a human to do a machine’s job.” - Agent Smith, The Matrix Trilogy
This deep dive is going to be a little different from the previous two. The current build of Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain was not a creation of my own. Daniel Oney (@oneymtg) was the originator of this configuration of the powerful Commander. I will be conducting an interview of sorts to learn more about this type of deck and what goes into the process of arriving at the well oiled machine.
Why chose an artifacts theme and not a general Historic theme?
We mostly focus on artifacts due to the natural lower curve of artifacts we have to use. We also have access to more cost reducers that are based around artifacts that help dump our hand. Historic cards can be powerful, but a more legendary or historic build is just significantly weaker than focusing on artifacts.
This is the reason for this inquiry. Unlike many Commanders out there, there’s really only two paths that you can take with Jhoira; Historic or Artifacts. Sure, you can mix the two, but that creates a less cohesive game plan in the deck. I am very interested in trying out a Historic build for Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain to see how differently the two strategies play out. That being said, the power of the cost reduction that is commonplace in the artifact card type is far too powerful to pass up. As Oney stated above, this is the reasoning for the choice that this decks focus would be. Some examples of these types of reduction effects are Shards of Alara’s Etherium Sculptor and Kaladesh’s Foundry Inspector. Jhoira’s Familiar is also in this class of cards, but it also reduces the various other historic spells, primarily Legendary creatures, that we have in the deck as well.
While making our artifacts cheaper is integral to this strategy, having a low curve of artifacts is just as essential. Free mana sources are perfect for this purpose. The word Mox has had a storied history through the lifetime of Magic and we get to implement two of those powerful cards in this deck. Mox Opal and Mox Amber are two of the more recent additions to the Moxen family, but they are just as powerful as one would expect. Since we are an artifact centric deck, Mox Opal is always turned on by at least turn two and we also play enough Legendary creatures to ensure that Mox Amber is able to provide us with mana. In tandem with our aforementioned cost reducers, mainstays such as Sol Ring, Arcane Signet and Izzet Signet can be free to play or at least produce more mana in reference to their cost. To round out the nonland mana producers in this deck, we have Talisman of Creativity, Prismatic Lense, Chromatic Lantern and Gilded Lotus. I didn’t include these with the previous mana rocks because of higher cost or loss of life. Not that we’re necessarily concerned about our life total.
“I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle.” - T800 Model 101, Terminator Series
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of this deck and examine all of the important parts, I want to touch on an interesting trait of this deck. As you will read below, this deck has very few non-vital cards or flex slots. This almost gives a Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain deck the characteristic of a machine in and of itself. It is quite poetic.
What are the integral pieces of the deck that may not be readily apparent?
You could almost deem every piece of this deck essential. But the reducers are what make the deck work as a whole. Even one reducer on the field can make the game so much more fluid for a jhoira player. Underworld Breach is the only recursion we have access to. This is the best card in the deck aside from the commander. While not entirely essential to win, it makes winning a lot easier if you get to the late game.
So where does this leave us when it comes to upgrading or altering the deck? I feel that it changes nothing. If one wants to change the list and try different cards, that is the beauty of Commander and Magic in general.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the bandwidth to go through each card in the deck and talk about their importance, but I will hit on a few. Let’s take a look at the specific card that Oney mentioned in his response. Underworld Breach is a recent release, coming from Theros Beyond Death, and has already made an impact on the Pioneer and Modern formats. The power level of this card is apparent, but somehow even more-so in this deck. Through the use of Underworld Breach, you can cast cards such as Whir of Invention and Paradoxical Outcome, and those are just some of the more powerful cards that end up in your graveyard upon resolution. Many of the more irreplaceable effects in the list can still be cast from our graveyard with the effect of the powerful enchantment.
Next up is Krark-Clan Ironworks, or KCI, yet another card that has been banned in recent years. If you are familiar with this card when it was the boogeyman of Modern, then most of my following words won’t be a surprise. This card can propel you from an innocuous boardstate to the endgame with very little additional requirements. Krark-Clan Ironworks allows you to sacrifice artifacts to produce two generic mana, this is important for two reasons. One, this deck is eight to eight five percent artifacts; meaning that we will always have fodder to sacrifice for more mana. Two, since the mana that is produced by Ironworks is generic mana, we can cast more of the artifacts in our list using said mana. This process is sent into overdrive if you already have Saheeli, Sublime Artificer, Sai, Master Thopterist or Mirrodin Besieged on the field when you begin to cast artifacts. Both of those cards produce tokens, Servos and Thopters and Myrs respectively, that are artifacts as well; in turn freely creating more fuel for Krark-Clan Ironworks.
“...sooner or later you’re going to realize, just as I did, there’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” - Morpheus, The Matrix Trilogy
Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain is the focus of this deck; it is the Commander of course. This does not mean that we are left without options if she is dealt with. A true mark of a powerful and successful Commander deck is having the ability to remain competitive with you Commander being on the battlefield. I’m not including the Commanders that have the Eminence ability is this though, that’s a different discussion all together. Jhoira falls into this class of Commanders.
In the event that Jhoira is dealt with, what are other ways you would plan to win the game with?
We can utilize a couple of other ways to win. Reckless Fireweaver while providing minimal damage can help close out a game. Mirrodin Besieged is another back up plan, but requires some set up. The Scrap Trawler combo is in the deck as well. While it may be a long and tedious process it gets the job done. Our last outlet is straight beat down, but this really is a last resort.
Where to begin? The Scrap Trawler combo is, again, familiar to those of you who have played modern. So that is where we’ll begin. The combo consists of Scrap Trawler, Myr Retriever, Krark-Clan Ironworks and any other artifact, preferably a mana producing artifact. There are multiple different permutations of the combo, for example. KCI, Sai, Master Thopterist, Scrap Trawler and Myr Retriever are one of the ways to formulate the combo. Scrap Trawler and Myr Retriever can sacrifice to return each other. Normally you would lose mana on this exchange, but the Thopters produced by Sai have you covered. There are too many different lines that allow you to combo off with these cards, so here is a link if you would like to explore it further. https://bit.ly/3hVDqW3
Secondly, working our way backwards through the initial paragraph, is Mirrodin Besieged. When this enchantment was released with Modern Horizons it gave artifact based decks an extremely powerful tool. Upon entering the battlefield, you choose Mirrodin or Phyrexian. Right now we are concerned with the Phyrexian choice. This corrupted choice states that “At the beginning of your end step, draw a card, then discard a card. Then if there are fifteen or more artifact cards in your graveyard, target opponent loses the game”. This, again, does require more set up than a few of the other ways to end the game; but can be quite effective when planned accordingly. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be fifteen artifacts with different names or something of that sort.
2016’s Kaladesh block was an artifact centric block, taking place on a work where technology was weaved into every facet of the inhabitants lives. It’s no surprise that there are a fair number of cards from the two sets that comprise the block. That brings us to the common, Reckless Fireweaver, our own artifact-based pinger. I know what you’re thinking, “Can we really win a game of Commander by dealing one damage at a time to our opponents?” The honest answer is that it is unlikely without some help or cooperation from the other players at the table. I’m talking about self inflicted damage for the most part, not the political aspect of the format. However, much like the majority of this deck, Reckless Fireweaver does get infinitely better when you are looping artifacts through the previously covered Scrap Trawler combo. If this scenario comes together, machine gunning your opponents is elementary at that point.
Lastly, another Kaladesh artifact, Aetherflux Reservoir. Speaking of ways to blast your opponents into oblivion, this is the “BFG” of this deck. The trigger of Aetherflux Reservoir is reminiscent of the Storm mechanic. Through casting spells you gain life incrementally and once you reach a certain threshold, more than fifty life; you can start playing life to deal fifty damage to an opponent and rise and repeat. This process is made so much easier with our Commander, Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain, on the battlefield. One more thing, if this is your chosen route to victory, Grapeshot can also be used to finish off a couple opponents as well if the Storm count gets high enough.
Our last ditch effort to achieve victory, when all other avenues have been cut off, is to become the beatdown at the table. This deck has the ability to churn out tokens at an impressive rate, so we can go wide if that suits the predicament we find ourselves in. Urza, Lord High Artificer creates a Construct token that varies in size depending on the amount of artifacts we control. Metalwork Colossus is another large, recursive beater that can become relevant in this line of action as well. This is not what this deck is designed for so only resort to this if it is the only option you have left.