Jenara Gets Serious

If I could change one thing about her, I'd make her cost 1 more and give her vigilance. Wait, that's two. Whatever.

For those curious about the deck I’m talking about, you can see it here.

Jenara is without a doubt, my favorite deck.  It’s also my most powerful, yes, but the deck is just so rewarding to play that the power is more of a perk than a feature.  There are so many rich interactions between all of the ETB creatures and bounce outlets, and the suite of tutors gives you access to a whole toolbox full of cards capable of handling almost every threat.  It just gives you this sense of confidence, knowing you can handle just about anything your opponents can throw at you.  Of course, as much fun as it is to play, it’s also the one that inspires the biggest groans when I bring it out at the table.  I’ve tried a couple times to tone down the power level to something a little less soul-crushing, but my efforts didn’t really make it any less powerful, they just slowed the deck down.

So I’ve given up.  If Jenara is going to be an unholy terror, then so be it.  Up to a point, that is.  I’m still sticking to my usual deckbuilding standards: no mass land destruction, no infinite combos, and no broken mana acceleration (save everyone’s favorite, Sol Ring).  In other words, I want to make the deck as strong as possible without breaking the game or denying my opponents access to their resources.  EDH is at its most fun for me when I’m responding to my opponents’ plays and coming out the stronger for it.  Granted, this means that Jenara will never really measure up to a tuned first-tier general like Zur or Arcum, but that’s okay.  Not only are those kind of decks largely absent in my meta, they’re not particularly fun to play with or against anyway.

So, before we get into the nitty gritty of what’s in and what’s out, let’s go over exactly what Jenara is.  Jenara is a deck that uses repeatable bounce and blink effects to abuse ETB effects to generate a steady flow of card advantage and disruption throughout the mid to late game.  Bouncing creatures and repeatable blink isn’t particularly cheap, so the deck also has a ton of mana acceleration and doublers to fuel its shenanigans.  The massive amounts of mana it can create also makes Jenara an extremely potent threat in the late game.  The changes I’ve made have focused on making the deck more focused consistent and explosive, forcing other decks to respond to it instead of sitting back and controlling the board until it can begin to get lethal hits with Jenara in.

What’s in:

[card]Sword of Feast and Famine[/card]: When I decided to go all-in on Jenara, this was the first card I thought of.  I’ve stayed away from equipment thus far in this deck because it doesn’t synergize with ETB effects, but the extra mana that the sword provides is exactly what this deck needs.  Also, being able to make plays, untap, and then leave up mana for instant speed effects during opponents’ turns is incredibly powerful at times.

[card]Birthing Pod[/card]: I’ve played this in the cube a couple times, and every time I’ve had it on the battlefield I’ve been extremely impressed with what it’s been able to do.  It does have a drawback in that it forces you to pay a little more attention to the CMCs of your creatures to ensure you’ll always have a good chain, though, which brings me to my next three cards.

[card]Nevermaker[/card]: Jenara has always been light on 4 drop creatures, and Nevermaker fills in that slot nicely while also having an extremely powerful ability.  While just sticking something on top of an opponent’s deck can be extremely frustrating for them, the deck’s sources of instant-speed bounce and blink allow you to pull off stunts like triggering the Nevermaker in response to an opponent’s shuffle effect.  Pretty savage on a general, and quite excellent on everything else.

[card]Solemn Simulacrum[/card]: I’m not the biggest fan of the sad robot, especially in green decks, but it does go quite well with the Pod.  That said, I’m seriously considering using Slithermuse instead as another way to keep my hand full.

[card]Wood Elves[/card]: Not the most exciting card, but it ramps and provides a 3-drop body to feed to Birthing Pod.  It also can pick up a Sword in a pinch.

[card]Avenger of Zendikar[/card]: It’s the go-to finisher for just about every deck running green nowadays, and I’ve resisted putting it in the deck for a long while now due to its it’s power level.  No more.  I want to be able to decisively end games, and this is a card that will do it.

[card]Snapcaster Mage[/card]: It may seem strange that I haven’t put Tiago in my flagship deck yet, but the fact that it forces you to exile the spell you flash back with it has always seemed so painful in a deck that focuses on reusing its resources over and over.  My time cubing has showed me just how powerful and flexible it can be, though, which means that exile be damned, it’s going in.

[card]Green Sun’s Zenith[/card]: Speaking of flexible cards, the Zenith’s absence until now may strike some people as odd or even a bit silly.  I left it out to make more room for ETB creatures and tone down the power level of the deck, but now that I’ve discarded such illusions, it’s time to bring it back in.

[card]Dryad Arbor[/card]: Yes, it’s the world’s worst forest, but if you’re running GSZ, you need to run this card, full stop.

What’s out:

[card]Sunblast Angel[/card]: Having a repeatable wrath ETB effect is nice, but I’ve found that it usually just picks off a creature here or there.  In EDH, if an opponent’s entire team is tapped, a lot of the time it’s because they’re swinging in for the win.  Without a way to reliably flash this in mid-combat, it just isn’t worth a slot.

[card]Survival of the Fittest[/card]: It’s an incredibly powerful card, don’t get me wrong.  It draws a huge amount of hate, though, and without an infinite [card]Reveillark[/card]/[card]Karmic Guide[/card] combo or mass reanimator shenanigans to synergize with it, the card is merely good.  Birthing Pod works better with the deck’s themes.

[card]Spitting Image[/card]: It’s a fantastic card, but six mana is quite a lot to make a clone in a deck that is largely constrained by how much mana it has available.  The deck also really doesn’t need Retrace to recur it’s spells.  I’d rather have land in play than in my graveyard, anyway.

[card]Pithing Needle[/card]: This one hurt, let me tell you.  But Jenara isn’t exactly lacking for answers, and this is a slot that could be better spent elsewhere.

[card]Praetor’s Counsel[/card]: It’s a potentially game-winning card, but eight mana is a lot to ask, especially in a deck that has no trouble recurring cards from its graveyard, anyway.

[card]Hornet Queen[/card]: In my older, more toned down versions of the deck, this was a fantastic defensive card.  With the deck’s new, more offensive bias, Hornet queen doesn’t really have quite as much to offer.

[card]Stonecloaker[/card]: I have some wonderful Stonecloaker memories (especially ones involving [card]Venser, the Sojourner[/card]), but as graveyard hate it’s expensive, and as a bounce outlet it doesn’t do enough.

[card]Tezzeret the Seeker[/card]: I love Tezzeret to death, but in this deck he’s just a glorified artifact tutor.  That’s pretty good, but not essential enough to keep him in.

[card]Windbrisk Heights[/card]: Don’t get me wrong, I love me some hideaway lands.  This deck rarely attacks with more than one or two creatures, though, so you run into situations where you’re forced to make bad attacks in order to cast the spell under your land.  Yes, you can occasionally get value off of it, but in the end I don’t think it’s a good fit for the deck.

As it stands, the deck still has one weakpoint – aside from stealing or copying an opponent’s life-gaining creatures, it has no way to gain life.  I’m a little torn on what to do about this.  Part of me wants to leave that weakness in as the deck’s Persian flaw, and part of me wants to add a card like [card]Loxodon Warhammer[/card] or [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card].

What do you people think?  Should I add lifegain?  If so, what should I add, and what should I take out?  Are there any other cards you think I’m overlooking?

13 comments to Jenara Gets Serious

  • Rob

    Wurmcoil over the hammer, in my opinion- It awesome synergy with the Pod. I’m also a fan of Sylvan Library in anything that runs Green- (I know you’ve already got the Top in there and that works with Trinket Mage, but the extra card draw in a pinch is killer.)

    • Coda

      Eh, the synergy with wurmcoil isn’t that strong, given that I don’t have any 1 drops to tutor for. Sylvan Library is nice, too, but you really want some lifegain in your deck if you plan on using it aggressively. I just can’t see what I’d cut for it. I do think slithermuse is probably better than the sad robot here, though.

  • samwise

    im kind of surprised that youre not running lightning greaves or swiftfoot boots. this seems like a deck that would love some haste and shroud.

    • Coda

      I’ve thought about it, but I’ve run into two problems with them. One, this deck is incredibly tight on slots, and I’m not sure what I’d take out for them and the [card]Stoneforge Mystic[/card] that I’d put in to find them and the sword. The list of cards that I’d like to put in this deck is almost as long as the deck itself. The other thing is, by the time Jenara gets pulled out as a finisher, I usually have a [card]Seedborn Muse[/card] and some other way to protect Jenara, like [card]Privileged Position[/card], [card]Glen Elendra Archmage[/card], or [card]Venser, Shaper Savant[/card] + instant speed bounce.

      There definitely is a case to be made to move the deck in a more equipment-oriented, voltronish direction, but I like having Jenara as a backup threat more than having her as the main event. Plan A is angel/titan/elemental beats backed up by massive disruption. Plan B is the Jenara one-shot.

  • KaipaLin

    I second the Slithermuse choice; it’s always been surprisingly good for me. As an additional thought for life-gain options, Behemoth Sledge might do well; I don’t know whether you’d prioritize the extra power over the increased chances of surviving combat.

    But overall, when you’re playing more aggressively, you ironically may want to buffer your life total with lifelink effects moreso than if you’re playing in a reactive manner. You’re going to be orienting your decisions toward removing your opponents from the game rather than stopping them from removing you, so making their job harder with some incidental life-gain can make the difference between getting there and falling just a few paces behind.

    • Coda

      Alright, you might have convinced me. Having a way to counteract burn decks like Heartless Hidetsugu seems extremely useful, and the trample should be nice in helping a pumped Jenara overwhelm chump blockers. Behemoth Sledge seems just better than the warhammer in decks that can run it, too. The thing is, if I run a sledge, I’m probably also going to want to run Stoneforge to tutor it and the sword up. And once you have a stoneforge in a blink deck, you really ought to have more than two targets, so I might as well add Swiftfoot Boots.

      That leaves three slots I need to free up. Hm. This is always the hardest part.

  • samwise

    i would consider batterskull over the behemoth sledge in this deck. especially because it looks like you’re planning on using stoneforge to get it, and stoneforge is just silly with batterskull.

  • CrazyPierre

    One guy in our LGS runs a Jenara deck that’s a holy terror. Everything from Primal COmmand+Witness for recursion shenangians to mass equip. We had a game last week where he swung for around 18-20 on turn four or five but he had an insane draw. The best thing I can say about Jenara is at least she isn’t Rafiq…but she’s quite strong.

  • CrazyPierre

    Meant the blue command, I is tired. 🙁

  • Coda

    So it’s been a while, and overall, the changes have definitely made the deck leaner and quite a bit more powerful. But now I’m considering a couple more cards for possible inclusion:

    [card]Mystic Snake[/card]/[card]Draining Whelk[/card]: The value is just fantastic, and they make for a soft lock when [card]Seedborn Muse[/card] and [card]Crystal Shard[/card] are doing their thing. Draining Whelk is also a pretty powerful beater.

    [card]Sword of Light and Shadow[/card]: More recursion is always good, and giving Jenara protection from most spot removal is pretty great when I start sinking a bunch of mana into her. Plus, I’ve got a foil copy. Gotta show off that bling.

    Cards I’m not pleased with:

    [card]Dryad Arbor[/card]: Ramping into this on T1 with GSZ is great, but holy crap is it annoying to have one of your lands die when someone casts a sweeper.

    [card]Mimic Vat[/card]: I love it to death, but I just never seem to draw this thing, and when I do, it never sticks around. The synergy with [card]Birthing Pod[/card] is just so good, though!

    [card]Day of Judgment[/card]: After losing a game due to the lack of a “no regeneration” clause, I finally traded for a foily full art [card]Wrath of God[/card]. Eat that, [card]Yavimaya Hollow[/card].

  • Steve

    So now that Avacyn Restored is out, and there are lots of new bounce cards with which to play, how have you updated your deck?

  • Kratos

    You might add Batterskull For Lifegain.

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