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An Intro to Jank

Updated: Apr 18, 2020

With the new companion mechanic being introduced to the Ikoria set it feels like Wizards is trying to get commander players into standard. However, this made me think about how no one really talks about how to construct a jank deck. Part of it is the fact that what is considered jank is different for each individual. Some may consider spells or abilities that are outside the color pie as jank while others consider cards rarely played part of this category. Different themes maybe considered as well as tribal themes (vampires, slivers, angels) are known but other tribal (artist, chair, stairs) are considered jank. Anyone can create these decks but depending on what you want to build there are different approaches on how to research and find cards you can use. For this I will be using my own experiences and decks to discuss what some of the different types of janky ideas you can have and how I approached building them.

What's your jank?

You need to have a goal for your jank deck. This allows you to stay focused when researching cards. Sorry [Ugin, the Spirit Dragon] from Fate Reforged as I can't use you but I can use the one from the War of the Spark mythic edition as he looks to the right of the card and not left. Another problem if you don't have a gial is you tend to find lots (and I mean LOTS!) of cards that you've never seen before and want to add into existing decks or even make an entire new one. You will find these and get new ideas and forget about what you were originally trying to do. Have a goal and stick with it. Knowing what you want to build also helps in narrowing down the search for what you want. No one wants to look through over twenty thousand cards to make just one deck (though I've come close). In my opinion there are 3 kinds of jank decks. Themed, specific cards and rules. Themed decks are what you see such as all the artwork is by one specific artist. The entire deck does not have to follow this theme as there are things like chair tribal where all spells must contain a chair in the artwork. In the end the majority of the deck is based around the theme. If you are starting off and only have a handful of cards not following the theme that's ok as one good thing about Wizards is that they keep making sets so there's always possibilities in the future.

Specific card jank decks are just that. Only a few specific cards are considered jank while the rest are considered normal. My [Masako the Humorless] deck is considered this as I run the deck with vehicles and Masako let's me block when creatures are tapped. Most people find it wonderful how I can combine and old mechanic with a newer one. However, that's not the jank part. It's the fact that I will combine this strategy with the creature ability "Banding". *** Rule for Banding *** Actual rule from Wizards: Too long and complicated which is why they stopped using it. My short version: A creature with the ability combines with another and act as one creature. I choose combat damage. Evasion won't work unless both have it. The End. I only have around 15 "Banding" cards but people consider this a jank deck because I use this ability when defending as I'm able to crew a vehile and band them together to defend and split the damage or focus all the damage to one creature. This is especially annoying if you use trample as "Banding" lets me choose to put all the damage into the creature and have none trample over. Another example is if the majority of your cards either have or grant protection. Ever use [Flickering Ward] on an opponents creature to remove all their enchantments and return it back to your hand to do it again? Or perhaps you're playing in Orzhov colors and you block with a [Black Knight] with protection from white and cast {Purelace] on your opponents creature to prevent the damage. Weird card interactions is the name of the game. By the way, the card [Mind Bomb] with the new [Rielle, the Everwise] from Ikora is hilarious.

Rule based decks have restrictions created for no other reason but fun. You can let people know the rule ahead of time or just have them figure it out slowly as you play. Either way it doesn't take away from the fun experience. I have a deck called, "Please Play Islands" where all creatures have "Islandhome" (can't attack an opponent unless they have an island) and my rule is I can't touch your lands (hence the name). This is my own rule that I came up with. No one forced this on me and it's a really silly rule but I stick with it as that's what I wanted to do. There are win conditions such as [Altar of Dementia] or [Surestrike Trident] as I feel having win conditions makes me want to try harder to go for the win. Using the gatherer card database. Wizards card database is one of the best resources for searching cards in each format based on the criteria we want. The key here is to learn how to use it effectively. If you wanted to search up all the artwork made by a particular artist for the commander format you can use gatherer to find each card this way. Goto the "Advanced Search", under "Format" select "Commander" and 'Add', under "Artist" enter in the artist name and 'Add', then search. Now you have a list of cards created by that artist. Hopefully it's that simple for your concept. Other times you will have to refine your search such as finding all the cards that don't contain the colors white, blue and green in order to get all the cards that can be used in Rakdos colors (including artifacts). Maybe you want to find all the cards that let you "draw" but not include "cycle" or "madness". Finding spells with specific abilities, names, casting cost, etc is much easier when you specify your conditions to eliminate those you are not interested in. There will be times where the search won't be able to narrow down your results such as the case with objects found in artwork but use this resource to your advantage and experiment searching up silly things to get use to it.

You need to have patience. Putting together such weird concepts can be time consuming (you will see some of my examples at the end) but it also requires patience to improve the deck. Unlike your other decks that you first put together that might be a power level between 5-7 right away. Decks with weird themes can be under-powered when first constructed which is why many consider jank decks to be a power level 1-2. Just like my previous blog post on improving your deck the same applies to this. You need to keep playing it to find what works and what doesn't and slowly you can improve the quality. After all, there's only so many artifacts that produce mana where someone has jazz hands. My book tribal deck when first constructed was around a minus 3 power level. It was really bad. However, I stuck with it and slowly the cards would change out for others, the mana curve would lower, I was able to aquire some high priced pieces of cardboard and now it can go up against precons and win games. Not bad for playing it at least once a night on friday's for over a year and testing to see what works and doesn't and the fact that it also became a wizard tribal at the same time (that's right, 2 tribes for the price of 1). It took time and dedication to get the power of the deck up as I learned how to react to different board states with new cards as this doesn't happen over-night. It's ok to scrap your idea. Some ideas are better in theory but when you try to put the theme together it just won't work. I had an idea when Oathbreaker was always being mentioned and we tried it out. Typical me, I wanted to see what I could come up with and I decided to make it a game of chess. It was based around [Kaya, Bane of the Dead] as the commander for both sides and the signature spells [Wrath of God] and [Damnation]. The goal was to make a chess game but the problem I encountered was that there were not enough spells that could be used without breaking the balance. Having knights that have protection from the other color makes the game very one sided. Looking for enough vanilla creatures on both sides was very difficult even when artifact creatures were included. The difference between [Holy Strength] and [Unholy Strength] was huge when you actually sat down and tested a few games. Countless hours were spent working on modifying the spells used for both sides but it would always be very one sided once certain spells were used. I ended up shelving the concept until Wizards prints more sets and I get a larger pool of cards to choose from in order to complete these two decks.

Examples of my jank decks.

Here I introduce to you one of my many jank themes to demonstrate what can be done when you put time and dedication to making these silly but fun decks. This is what I call my MTG's color studies. I wanted to make a school theme for all the colors that could come together but at the same time also make the theme different for each one either using the name, artwork, etc. Each of these have different power levels so that I'm able to pull any of them out at anytime to play agaist different skill levels. White (Art Class),_Sun_Crowned_Artist_-_Artist_Singleton This is based around each card having a different artist drawing including the lands. To make this deck I first went through all the [Plains] in each set and wrote down the names of each artist once. From there I picked a commander and selected cards I wanted to include. If a card featured an artist that already appeared on the list of other spells I would look for other printings of the card or do the same for the other card to see if someone else did artwork for that spell. I would also remove the name from the list I created when writing all the names down from looking up all the [Plains] cards if I didn't do that already. Blue (Literature Class),_Master_in_Literature This is based around all spells having books, papers and scrolls in the artwork. My first jank deck. I started this by going on gatherer and finding all the blue and colorless cards that were legal in commander. Then going through each card for each set printed I would look at the artwork and see if there was anything that was related to the theme (much like playing Where's Waldo for +5000 cards). If there was I would write the name of the card and the set it was in. From there I would construct the deck and had other cards that I would put in if certain cards were not working out. Of all the decks mentioned here this was the most time consuming but also my favorite. Black (Ethics Class),_Thran_Physician,_Ethics_Studies This is based around all spells must having the word sacrifice in the rules text. One of the easier decks to research. Using gatherer I was able to find all black and colorless cards legal in commander that contained the text "sacrifice". Wrote them down and constructed the deck around this theme. Red (Science Class),_Dreadhorde_Champion_Scientist This is based around all the spells containing the word "ion" in the name. Another easier deck to research as the search was based around the name containing the word "ion" that were legal in commander and were red or colorless. These were written down and constructed a deck around this theme. Green (Music Class) This is based around all the cards having an actual real song title. By far the most annoying deck I've spent time to make. Originally I wanted to base this around the artwork like my book tribal but there were not enough cards containing instruments to make a deck. Instead I searched for all the commander legal green and colorless cards and for each one I searched the internet to see if the card name was also the title of a song. When I play this deck I have and extra cast trigger where I actually name the artist, album and year the song first came out. No I don't sing the song as some are only instrumental and other are heavy metal and my voice dies within 5 turns if I did this. I hope this inspires a number of you to give a chance to making a jank deck or helps you to do research and come up with creative ideas of what can be done.

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