Artisan Brewery: Jodah, Epic Archmage

One of the things that defines a player or playgroup is their deckbuilding styles and preferences. As my username implies, I prefer a jankier, or less-than-best, direction when it comes to my Magic decks. In my mono-green Modern deck, for example, I play a handful of ramping Elves, with the end goal of playing Primal Surge, dumping my deck onto the board, and winning with Craterhoof Behemoth. However, I'm not here to talk about Modern; I'm here to talk about Commander. More specifically, a less-than-best variant of Jodah, Archmage Eternal.

My favorite block in Magic is the Champions of Kamigawa block, specifically because of a cycle of cards using the epic mechanic. Each of these five spells is a sorcery with the rules text, "Epic (For the rest of the game, you can't play spells. At the beginning of each of your upkeeps, copy this spell except for its epic ability.)" Taking that ability at face value, it seems to be all downside, and honestly, it mostly is. In fact, EDHREC doesn't even have these listed on the recommended spells for Jodah, and that list isn't exactly short. Take into account that each of these spells costs no less than six mana to play and most players would question why on earth someone would run all five in a single deck. That question will be answered further in the article, but first, let me explain what each of these cards do and how best to use each one in this deck.

Epic Spells

Firstly, we have white's Enduring Ideal, which costs seven mana and lets us get an enchantment from our library and put it directly onto the battlefield. The key here is that it puts any enchantment from your library onto the battlefield, not just an Aura as is normally seen on cards like this. This can allow us to quickly piece together a combo, such as Sanguine Bond and Exquisite Blood (creating an infinite loop of life drain). There aren't many creatures in this deck aside from Jodah, but there are ways to stall for time that can be fetched out, such as Ghostly Prison and Sphere of Safety. But this is just the beginning, and up next is my personal favorite of the five.

The blue spell of this cycle is also the card that requires the least explanation for why it's good. Eternal Dominion costs a whopping TEN mana but allows us to dig through any opponent's library, steal any non-planeswalker permanent card, and put it onto the battlefield under our control. This doesn't have any one, singular way to pilot the deck to an end, as it is solely dependent on what our opponents are running. That said, I can't think of a time I've cast it and not been happy with its results. As stated before, this is one powerhouse of a card upon resolution, and honestly I'm surprised I don't see it in more blue lists overall.

Neverending Torment is the six mana black epic spell, and the weakest of the cycle. It lets us search an opponent's library for a number of cards (equal to our hand size) and exile them. It's definitely not my favorite of the bunch, but in a long game it can certainly have a big impact. When an opponent is gearing up for a combo win and pieces need to be removed, or when they're one combat trick or large spell (ie: Triumph of the Hordes) from finishing the game, Neverending Torment can stop them in their tracks.

Coming in at the red slot is Undying Flames, which is the only epic spell besides Neverending Torment that costs under seven mana. This card takes advantage of the overall high mana curve of the deck (such as Conflux, Sorin, Grim Nemesis, and Garruk, Apex Predator) by exiling from the top of the library and dealing damage based on nonland spells you reveal. As such, it's the only one of these five cards that is directly able to win the game when it resolves.

Finally, we've reached the green epic spell — Endless Swarm. This is a big, beefy spell at eight mana that puts Snake tokens into play equal to the number of cards in our hand. Using a variety of card draw, such as Dictate of Kruphix, and Rites of Flourishing, we could easily be able to build an ever-growing army of Snake friends.

Pieces of the Puzzle

We are still left with a puzzle of questions, including biggest one: how can these five cards function together in this deck? Only Enduring Ideal requires specific cards in our deck in order to function. The rest can win the game independently, regardless of the other cards in our deck. The true trick, however, is being able to cast multiple epic spells at once. In order for the epic's "you can't play spells" to apply, the spell has to actually resolve first. Thus the ruse: we can be cast an epic spell while another is on the stack, chaining multiple epic spells — possibly even all five.

This presents our biggest puzzle piece: the epic spells are all sorceries, meaning we can't normally cast them in response to each other. The answer is direct: cards that give us the ability to circumvent this. There are numerous cards that allow spells to be cast as though they had flash, but there are four that stand out the most. The best of the bunch is definitely Leyline of Anticipation. It's a solid "always on", and it can even start on the battlefield before the first turn is taken, thus giving its advantage from the start. In similar fashion, Hypersonic Dragon and Teferi, Time Raveler both have abilities that doesn't require a mana investment the turn we cast out, while offering additional utility. Alchemist's Refuge is the fourth worthy of consideration, and although it does require an on-turn mana investment, it comes down freely and is much harder to interact with. As long as at least one of these is on the battlefield, we can cast multiple epic spells in succession before passing priority.

The next major issue facing this plan is the mana cost for each of these. They each have a natural cost ranging from six to ten mana. This is where our commander, Jodah's, comes into play. He makes them significantly cheaper, at five mana each. If we rely on Jodah, however, we'll need to limit the number of epic spells we chain — casting all five would require a total of twenty mana, after all. That said, Omniscience and Tamiyo, Field Researcher offer us ways around the mana limitations completely. Both can make spell free to cast , and when partnered with one of the flash enablers, these make chaining the epic spells easy as playing a land.

The third issue is surprisingly the easiest one to solve: getting as many of these spells into hand as possible in order to cast them. This is solved by playing a large amount of tutors, such as Demonic Tutor, Conflux, or Diabolic Revelation . These are definitely the best of the bunch, but we'll need to run as many as we can fit.

Next up is the challenge of surviving long enough to cast the key cards, which is one of the cornerstones of any combo deck. There are numerous ways to protect ourselves, and the pillowfort cards work well here. Ghostly Prison, Sphere of Safety, and Archangel of Tithes all give us a cushion that delays the advance. In an extreme emergency, Teferi's Protection can extricate us completely from the situation and keep us alive. We can also run a decent supply of board sweepers, like Supreme Verdict, and counter magic in order to stop critical mass and unwanted removal.

Finally, we've arrived at the biggest — and arguably the most important — of the obstacles: actually winning. This is where the order of casting these spells (or their upkeep copies) makes the most difference, as some of the resolutions don't make as much impact in the wrong sequence. This is the most important for when you first cast the actual spells, as you can often take opponents out on the first round of resolutions. The optimal order to cast them while holding priority is as follows: Undying Flames, Neverending Torment, Eternal Dominion, Endless Swarm, and lastly Enduring Ideal. This will let them resolve in the reverse order. The best way I've found to resolve them is to use Enduring Ideal to pull Purphoros, God of the Forge, let Endless Swarm create tokens (leading to damage), have Eternal Dominion steal the best permanent from an opponent, remove an opponent's favorite pieces with Neverending Torment, and deal a random amount of damage to the target of our choice. In the event that our opponent's life totals are too high for a quick kill with Purphoros and tokens, Enduring Ideal can also get the Sanguine Bond/Exquisite Blood combo mentioned above.

Filling Out the Deck

Now that we've got all of the key pieces in place, there are still some roles that need to be filled in for the deck to be complete. Firstly, we have to not only accel at getting mana, but also be able to get five colors out in order to take advantage of Jodah's ability and cast our rainbow pile on curve. Cards like Cultivate, Veteran Explorer, and Kodama's Reach help get lands on board at a fast rate, while also finding any missing colors. Chromatic Lantern helps here as well, and putting in Journeyer's Kite and Land Tax allow us to continue to get basics of whichever land type we might need. Classic mana rocks, such as Sol Ring, might not be able to fix colors, but they can still accelerate us towards the bigger spells. We can also look to Smothering Tithe to use our opponent's draws to our mana advantage — or at a minimum slow down their ability to respond to our spells — and Mirari's Wake to get twice the use out of our lands. The other upside of running this much ramp and color fixing is that we can more consistently access the high cost spells, which lets us still play the deck without Jodah, even if it's a bit slower than we'd truly like.

We next need to be able to respond to our opponents threats and tactics while we're building toward our own strategy. Our deck has the advantage of all five colors, so we have access to all of the best removal and control options. Starting with removal, we have several different routes we could take, such as planeswalkers like Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, Nicol Bolas, God-Pharoh, Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God, and Garruk, Apex Predator. Between these four, we have access to removal of every non-land card type, as well as some ability to use our opponent's resources against them. Another good source would be single-use, targeted removal, of which there's no shortage. We might want to consider cards like The Elderspell, as it can not only remove problematic planeswalkers, but bolster our own, Swords to Plowshares to deal with specific creatures, and Return to Dust to handle some artifact or enchantment threats. Another advantage of using cards like thees is that they're likely to draw us less hatred from our opponents, as they don't present a continued threat, and can be used more politically, i.e., "I can get rid of their Phage, the Untouchable, but I need you to promise not to attack me."

Single-use, targeted removal leaves us with a potential problem, however: threats from multiple sides. To combat those, we should look into board sweepers, like the Supreme Verdict mentioned above. One thing we may want to consider is to try to find sweepers that can either multi-task, or have multiple uses, such as Decree of Pain, which gets us a lot of value back in the form of card draw, and Merciless Eviction, which is good at handling every major type of threat. Decree fits well here, as it has an accessible cycling ability, while also offering a massively big play should Jodah be online.

The next way we could take advantage of having access to every color is in card advantage/card selection. When we look to card advantage, we want to consider typical draw spells like Dictate of Kruphix, and Brainstorm, but much like our sweepers we may want to consider card draw that serves more than one purpose when able. Sorin, Grim Nemesis is a great example of this, as it not only allows us to put an extra card in hand each turn, but also helps reduce the life totals of our opponents over time, and also provides removal and a potential alternate win. Some other great examples of this are Rites of Flourishing, which allows us possible ramp, and Rhystic Study, which can help use up our opponent's resources similarly to Smothering Tithe. When we look at possible card selection slots, the options are pretty vast as well, with Sensei's Divining Top and Ponder both being kings of their field.

The Deck

Putting all of this together we have ourselves an epic deck:

Jodah, Epic Archmage
Approximate Total Cost:

Wrapping Up

I realize that this play style may not be for everyone, so I have a handful of suggestions here to consider. First is Paradox Haze, which allows twice the usage of each epic spell. This is a natural choice in Enduring Ideal decks, but requires a bit more upkeep interaction than we're currently running. In that same vein are copy magic spells, such as Expansion//Explosion, Fork, or Swarm Intelligence. Another fun, but completely different, way to take this deck in a different direction is to have Hive Mind on the battlefield. This forces everyone else in the game to resolve each of the epic spells that are cast, thus putting everyone on the same level. The downside to this tactic is that due to the way the stack resolves, the original spells are the last ones to resolve, giving that player's opponents the opportunity to get revenge for being forced into no longer playing their deck.

If we're looking to use any of these changes, we could take some of the redundancy out of the deck. For example, if we're trying to win faster, we could remove one of our sweepers in favor of Paradox Haze, or possibly one or two of the card draw enchantments in favor of some of the copy spells. We could also use Emergence Zone over Alchemist's Refuge, due to the ability of Emergence Zone being cheaper. The downside of that choice is that we are sacrificing the repetitive nature of Alchemist's Refuge, but with the Teferi, Time Raveler, Hypersonic Dragon, and Leyline of Anticipation, it's not an unreasonable trade to make. It all comes down to our preference in deck building, and how we wish to express ourselves. For this list, we'll go with the Refuge in order to have repeatable options in the event that we either can't draw into the others, or they get removed before we're ready to act.

Another consideration is the budget we have access to when building, which definitely affects some of our choices. This is by no means a typical budget build, but it's not a limitless budget one either, which is why we may want to run cards like Countersquall, and Faerie Trickery as opposed to Force of Will or Mana Drain. Most of the budget for this build went to cards that are not as easily replaceable, like Demonic Tutor, Exquisite Blood, and Purphoros, but as with almost all decks, access to more cards allows more options and more chance for improvements.

This deck is not necessarily a simple one to play, but it is my personal favorite. It can win out of nowhere, or it can completely whiff, but I cannot remember a single game I've in which I've used it that I didn't have a blast, and I hope you will as well.

That about sums it up! Thank you for sticking with me this long, and please let me know in the comments what you think!

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