This entry is part 9 of 13 in the series (Vexing) Devil's Advocate

378127_10150441621792624_1477312954_nI wasn’t a drinker – not anymore, anyway. Too many stupid drunken stunts quickly taught me that alcohol was not a chemical compound that I should be paired with. But right now, I was wondering if there was anything I could find nearby that was stronger than the whiskey stashed in my desk’s bottom drawer.

“What are you thinking?” A coy voice brought me out of my thoughts and back into the reality of my comfortable (if a little cramped) office.

“Hmm?” I looked up from my desk and into the familiar face of Jhoira of the Ghitu. It had been almost a year since we had met under friendly circumstances. Since last July, we had only ever seen each other from opposing sides of a battlefield.

We had spent time on the same battlefield before then too, but that had always been side by side. Summoning eldrazi together, devastating entire armies (and landscapes) with massive shows of force, countering our opponent’s best spells. Just the memories sent a rush of satisfaction coursing through me. I shook it off with a concerted effort. I had spent a lot of time, on a lot of battlefields, with a lot of generals.

But you never forget your first.

“I asked what you were thinking?” Jhoira smiled at me.

“I was wondering if I could make a cocktail out of pure grain alcohol and antifreeze. And how much of that I would have to consume for this situation to become palatable.” I responded with a wry smirk.

What is it about redhead's that always gets me?

What is it about redheads that always gets me?

Jhoira’s smile only expanded. “You haven’t changed,” she replied. “Just like old times.”

My smirk disappeared in an instant. “Don’t do that,” I spit out, maybe a little harsher than I needed too.

Her face fell. I could see her trying to maintain composure, but there was hurt in her eyes.

“Dammit,” I growled under my breath, turning away from her and standing up by my lone office window. It was still hard to see her in pain, even after this long. And I knew she was, and not just because of me – she was one of the most reviled generals in EDH.

I took a few deep breathes before turning back to face her. “I won’t fight alongside you again. I won’t use Apocalypse spells, and I won’t wield blue mana. Never again.”

I looked into her eyes again and saw the trepidation there, and the pain. But I also saw a glimmer of hope. She knew what I was going to say next. 

“But I’ll take the case.”

Better drink up, Eric.

Better drink up, Eric.

In the past, I have taken a unique approach to defending all the generals that I feel are too powerful. With Maelstrom Wanderer, I explained how much fun he is for whomever is piloting him. With Zur the Enchanter, I showed how that general can compensate for some difficulties inherent in the format. With this one, I am going to be taking another new approach. I am going to be taking you guys on a player’s personal journey with Jhoira of the Ghitu, because tonight the player we are defending… Is me.

Pull up a chair, guys and gals, and let me tell you how I started playing EDH.

In My Client’s Defence…

When I was reintroduced to Magic (I played as a little kid but fell off right after Ravnica), I started off with sealed and draft before my friend convinced me that the fun of multiplayer EDH was my style. I was a new player (who was very much a Timmy), so the only way I really knew how to win was by having a creature who was bigger and badder than my opponent’s. Green decks didn’t sneak out my eldrazi fast enough (as a fan of both huge creatures and H.P. Lovecraft, I love the eldrazi more than almost any other tribe), so my first deck was Braids, Conjurer Adept.

I know I said I wouldn't play blue, but she is a really nice girl...

I know I said I wouldn’t play blue, but she’s a really nice girl…

Braids was fun, but the fact that she let my opponents get something for free before myself meant that I was perpetually fighting an uphill battle. Someone would get value out of her, then kill her before I could. I was all right with that for a while, thinking that it was just the cost of playing such a high risk/high reward style. Then one day, while on a Gatherer search, I found Jhoira of the Ghitu.

“She is one of the most dreaded generals in EDH,” was my friend’s response to my declaration that I would build her. “People play her, suspend a Blightsteel Colossus, then cast something like Jokulhaups and blow everyone back to zero before it comes in. You won’t make any friends with her.”

I told him that all I wanted to do was play big fatties for cheap. I convinced him (and myself) that I wouldn’t play any Apocalypse effects, and built Jhoira for a test drive.

And you know what? She was everything I ever dreamed. She let me cheat in my foil Darksteel Colossus (my prize bomb at the time) and swing for double digits. The joy I found in paying two mana for an eleven cost bruiser is hard to overstate, and for the first time I had an EDH deck that I kept together and tweaked instead of tossing and building a new one from scratch.

Admit it, you wish you could play him too.

Admit it, you wish you could play him too.

I started my upgrades with the eldrazi titans. I got back into Magic just after the Zendikar block wrapped up, and these guys caught my eye immediately. I had just never seen a creature so… Big. It felt like I was suddenly able to play with Godzilla, or those totally-not-Godzilla-please-don’t-sue-us monsters from Pacific Rim.

I loved being able to play my kaiju, but suddenly I started getting dogpiled in games. As it turns out, other players are terrified of you being able to sneak in an Ulamog a few turns before they can handle it. Who knew?

So I slotted in blue good-stuff support, like Hinder, Jace, the Mind sculptor, and Brainstorm. It helped a lot, but it wasn’t quite enough to let me handle three fellow nerds out to castrate me with their cardboard (Oof, that is a hell of a mental image).

I needed a solution to stem the hate coming at me, and around that time the same friend who warned me about Jhoira bought me a Jokulhaups. He told me that he knew I would eventually play it, so he’d get it for me for whenever I caved. Until then, I could just leave it in my binder to tease me.

I inevitably slotted it into my deck, and the day after I also picked up a Devastation, Apocalypse, and Obliterate, so I could run a full package. Let it never be said that I do anything by half measure.

Damn straight man, you preach!

Damn straight, man. Preach!

So how did I feel after the first time I blew up the world with the Cloverfield monster suspended? Was I wracked with guilt? Did I stare into the downcast faces of my opponents and feel an upwelling of sympathy for my fallen foes? Or regret for my deviant behaviour?

F#%^. No. I felt like Superman on cocaine. I was playing a deck where a good eighty percent of it was cards that would completely define the game if they resolved. After being the new guy at the table for months, I was now winning consistently. But more satisfyingly, after being the guy who wasn’t a danger to anyone for my entire EDH career, I was now the guy at the table who was impossible to ignore.

Some people hate it when the table treats them like a threat. Turns out I kind of got off on it.

And I got off on playing such a high impact deck. On any given turn I could drop a creature or cast a spell that would completely redefine the direction the game was taking, cards with massive effects that made everyone else stop what they were doing and take notice. I felt like I was playing archenemy without the help of a archenemy deck, and still winning. And say what you want about Doctor Doom, but being that guy is really frigging fun.

That chalice is filled with his opponent's salty, delicious tears.

That chalice is filled with his opponent’s salty, delicious tears.

It got to the point that every time my deck came out my opponents would groan and whine, and that’s when I noticed something. They would all complain while we were shuffling, then they would target me immediately, and throw everything they could at me. But despite all that, one fact didn’t change.

I was winning. A lot. In fact, when I lost I didn’t feel like it was because my opponents had better decks or strategies, it was usually just fluke luck. Not only did my opponent have to have an answer to my threat, but I had to not have a counter spell or a back up plan. My win percentage was in the eighties or nineties.

And suddenly, winning wasn’t fun anymore. It was too easy; the combination of massive creatures, board wipes that answered everything, and counter spells that stopped my opponents dead was just too much. There was no satisfaction in playing a deck that was so stacked against everyone who wasn’t me.

Right around this time I was eyeing spoilers for M13, and I saw the reveal of Omniscience. It was the first time I ever saw a card revealed and desperately wished it hadn’t been printed. It was too powerful (and frankly, it was too dumb and blunt for a blue card) for me to feel comfortable playing it. And yet it was perfectly designed for Jhoira, seemingly tailor made for the deck. I didn’t want to play it, but I couldn’t ignore it either. My deck would always be a little incomplete without its inclusion. It was the Jokulhaups scenario all over again.

And my deck had already escalated so far past what I originally planned. It was supposed to be my giant monsters deck. It was never intended to turn into a doomsday clock for my opponents, and I certainly never thought that I would be pouring money like fetch lands or Force of Will into it. But it isn’t the road to heaven that’s paved with good intentions. And a scary competitive deck was where I ended up, regardless of where I started.

So I did the only thing that felt right to me. I disassembled Jhoira. I felt like Tony Stark destroying his own suits when I did it, but I did it anyways.

I love them, but I have to blow them up.

I love them, but I have to blow them all the way the f#%^ up!.

I stripped the deck, I sold my high price blue spells (Force of Will, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, etc) and used the funds to buy the cards for a Wort, Boggart Auntie goblin deck. I also made two promises to myself: the first was that I would never again make a deck that won so often and easily, and the second was that I wouldn’t play blue anymore.

My Wort deck eventually changed to Lyzolda, the Blood Witch, a deck that I love and continue to play with. But despite my best efforts, I have never been able to recreate that high-impact feeling of playing Jhoira. Even talking about it now is making me want to remake her. My most recent effort is a Ruric Thar aggro deck filled with lots of ramp and burn, but I doubt it will be able to approach the feeling of blowing away the entire board or dropping a Kozilek, Butcher of Truth on turn five.

Some people see a disaster, I see a job well done.

Some people see a disaster, I see a job well done.

There is something to what Alfred said about some people just wanting to watch the world burn. I was once sitting on a stack of Cthulhu-style monsters and world ending spells that I could drop almost at will, and I don’t think you could find a more pure power trip anywhere in Magic. I have played lots of fun decks, but I still haven’t been able to find anything else that even approaches the high I got from that. And make no mistake my friends, no matter what I say about never playing blue again, I still miss that deck like hell.

Kryptonite Rings and Silver Bullets

Luckily for the rest of you, my time spent piloting Jhoira means that I have seen pretty much every strategy used against her. And I’m here to tell you what works and what doesn’t.

"Did somebody call for reinforcements?"

Hey, I think I’ve seen this guy before…

Yes, Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir makes another appearance to back us up against a strong general. It’s ironic that he is Jhoira’s ally in the books, because he completely shuts down her suspend ability. Similarly, you can use a well timed Orim’s chant, Silence, or Aurelia’s Fury to shut down a suspend before it resolves, leaving the card trapped in limbo with the unborn babies and people who didn’t believe in the right invisible man.

Another great way to stop Jhoira is to use discard effects like Mind Twist or Hymn to Tourach to strip away at her hand before she can suspend anything. No cards in hand, no Ulamog to suspend. And if you’re in black anyway, remember to run Reanimate. If you happen to hit their Consecrated Sphinx with some discard, you want to be able to use it yourself.

Oh I'm sorry, did you want to use that card? Too bad, my zombie! MY ZOMBIE!

Oh I’m sorry, did you want to use that card? Too bad, my zombie! MY ZOMBIE!

Two last pieces of advice. If your opponent has mana open for a suspend, do not waste spot removal on Jhoira. One strategy I used before was to bluff that I had cards to suspend in order to force my opponents to expend their spot removal blasting Jhoira, so they wouldn’t have it when they needed to use it on a really big beastie. And take the same approach to dealing with Apocalypse effects as you do with land destruction: if you prevent them from getting cards suspended or building a (future) board position, then they will have no good reason to blow up the world.

Lastly, never stop being on guard against a Jhoira deck. The reason I loved her was because she could take a game in a single turn without any warning, and if she lasts until the late game she will be able to just straight cast any cards she would have had to suspend before. And Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre is a scary guy no matter when he enters the battlefield.

We, the Jury, Find the Defendant…

Jhoira is a deck that gives people headaches, there’s no denying that. But try not to blame someone for playing her, because she has a unique ability that you can’t get anywhere else. And while she may not be the most diplomatic general, she is the absolutely the last word in cards that make you feel like a overpowered supervillain. And sometimes, being (or beating) that guy is really damn fun.

C'mon, you know you secretly love this guy.

C’mon, you know you secretly love this guy.

“Thank you, Eric. That was nice,” Jhoira said quietly as she headed for the door to my office.

“No problem. We won’t be fighting together again, but I do owe you for back in the day. I learned a lot because of you. And we did have some good times,” I replied, leaning back in my chair and watching her go with a fair bit of fondness.

She stiffened at that, and stopped right at the door. She turned to me, looked up and said, “Eric, I owe you too. So I have to warn you. It’s about Omniscience – it’s going to come for you.”

I just smirked back. “Let ’em. I’ve faced it before, I can do it again. No sweat.”

She headed out the door and smiled sadly back at me. “Eric, you don’t get it. It won’t be that kind of fight. It’s gotten word about what you’ve been doing, and it won’t be coming to challenge you. It will be coming to hire you.”

She turned outside my doorway, leaving me in stunned silence. Though if you guys know me by now, then you know that doesn’t last. I’m pretty sure Jhoira was walking out of the building slowly, so she probably heard it when I cracked.

“MOTHERF#%^ER!!!!!”

Why!? Why would someone think this was a good idea!?

Dun Dun DUNNNN!!

You can get in contact with Eric in the comments below or through his email, ericbonvie@gmail.com. You can also find him on the newfangled Twitter thing, @ThatBonvieGuy. Lastly, tune in to next week’s Commandercast to hear his dulcet tones talking about threesomes. No, seriously though. Check it out if you don’t believe me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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