Bending The Mana Curve With Jeleva

Bennie crosses the next new Commander 2013 legend off his list with this Commander deck built around Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge. Check it out!

Okay, just two-ish more new legends from Commander 2013 need to get the Bennie treatment, and not a bit too soon considering we’ve got another set releasing soon with Born of the Gods, no doubt featuring several new legends to build Commander decks around. You can find links to the previous ones I’ve done at the bottom of the column. When I asked for the vote, the next one on the to-do list was Prossh, Skyraider of Kher, so this week . . . we’re not doing Prossh, Skyraider of Kher. Don’t worry Dragon fans—I’ve got a real good reason for skipping him this week. Prossh enthusiasts should mark their calendars to come back to my column right here on StarCityGames.com in two weeks—Friday, January 31st—and all will be made clear. ‘Til then, can’t tell ya.

So we’re moving on to Jeleva this week!

Yeah, it’s a little scary out here. If Esper is a bit outside of my comfort zone, Grixis is downright alien. Still, I find Jeleva, Nephalia’s Scourge to actually be right up my alley—a creature chock full of utility if you build your deck right. I actually played the Jeleva preconstructed deck and did not have a very good experience with it at all, especially since I was playing against other precons. I kept missing with her comes-into-play triggered ability, exiling no relevant instants or sorceries.

Given how small Jeleva is and that you’ve got to send her into the red zone to get something productive done, you better make sure you’re exiling some bomb-tastic cards! Since you can’t count on your opponents stuffing their decks with awesome targets, you need to count on yourself. If you happen to flip something sweet from their deck, that’s just icing on the cake.

Bend But Don’t Break

As I started pondering what a deck might look like that’s really tooled to take advantage of Jeleva, I realized that the bigger the spells you get to cast for free, the better value you’re getting from her. Jeleva has two strikes against her in multiplayer Magic—she’ll instantly annoy the entire table as you exile cards from their decks that they’d be much more interested in casting, and she’ll also scare the crap out of the table when they realize the sort of shenanigans you might be able to pull off. You really have to make her count.

So we want big spells. No, bigger than that. Even bigger. Keep going—I’m talking the instant and sorcery equivalents of krakens and dreadnoughts for jewelry big. Yeah, those sorts of spells!

Of course, when we go down that path, we run into a bit of a problem. If you’ve followed my writings on Commander, one thing you know is that even though the format is all about throwing big haymakers I still adhere pretty closely to a decent mana curve. In fact, one of the reasons I love this format so much is that very tension between wanting to go big and the need to make sure your deck still functions like a Magic deck should. That means being able to develop your board in the early game and interact in the midgame. If you’re playing enough haymaker spells to make Jeleva worthwhile, what happens when you keep drawing them rather than exiling them with Jeleva?

Suspension Of Disbelief

This naturally led me down the path to spells with suspend. If I draw these cards, I can simply go ahead and play them with suspend early in the game and get the value from them a bit down the road (assuming I’m still alive). I can "count" these cards as costed for their suspend cost when fleshing out my mana curve like so:

I know Arc Blade and company aren’t exactly exciting, but I figured having some recurring utility wouldn’t be a bad thing, especially the bounce of Reality Strobe.

Searching the card database for cards with suspend naturally led me to Jhoira Of The Ghitu, who actually wants similar spells as Jeleva and can provide a nice outlet for big haymaker spells you draw rather than exile.

Of course, if we’re monkeying around with suspend, Clockspinning becomes an attractive option, giving you the ability to pull a card from suspend at instant speed much sooner than your opponents expect. If you exile Clockspinning or other buyback spells with Jeleva and cast one from exile with her attack trigger, you can pay the buyback cost to put it back in its owner’s hand. I pulled this from the FAQ on Hellcarver Demon:

If you cast a card "without paying its mana cost," you can’t pay any alternative costs. On the other hand, if the card has optional additional costs (such as kicker or multikicker), you may pay those when you cast the card. If the card has mandatory additional costs (such as Momentous Fall does), you must pay those when you cast the card.

Important to keep this in mind when playing Jeleva, especially that second sentence which applies to buyback. Of course, remember that if you pay the buyback cost for a spell one of your opponents exiled, it will go back to his or her hand, not your own. This could be politically advantageous if you cast Shattering Pulse to break up someone’s killer combo and then buy it back so the owner of the card can cast it to take out another of their artifacts.

Remember that Clockspinning can be helpful even if you don’t have anything with suspend for knocking counters off permanents. *cough*planeswalkers*cough*


Cryptic Command, Bribery, Hatred, Hellfire, Tsabo’s Decree, Stolen Identity, Blast of Genius, Blatant Thievery, Cruel Ultimatum, Spelltwine, Hex, Knowledge Exploitation, Army Of The Damned, Denying Wind, Plague Wind

It’s actually a little tricky selecting the big spells you want to play with Jeleva. Since you’re casting it when she’s attacking, there are some spells that you won’t get much mileage from—counterspells are a prime example outside of Cryptic Command. You also probably don’t want to cast Damnation and kill off Jeleva before she even gets a chance to connect, which is why Hellfire, Hex and Plague Wind work much better.

I like Bribery and Stolen Identity as ways to let Jeleva put some creatures into play for some much-needed defense. Hatred I thought might be an interesting way to give the deck some reach. For the investment of twenty life, you can kill someone with commander damage if Jeleva isn’t being blocked. It’s risky, but hey—we’re playing Grixis here! No pain, no gain.

Extra! Extra!

Strionic Resonator, Aggravated Assault, Relentless Assault, Seize the Day, Savage Beating, Time Warp, Timesifter, Hellkite Charger, Hellcarver Demon, Fury Of The Horde, Chancellor Of The Spires, Temporal Mastery, Beacon of Tomorrows, Time Stretch

Looking for more ways to push Jeleva’s abilities, I naturally thought of Striotic Resonator, with which you can double her comes-into-play trigger and her attack triggers. Since we’ve got red in the mix, we have quite a few ways to get an extra attack step during the turn, letting us dip into the exile pool twice. Of course, since we’re playing blue, why limit ourselves to just an extra attack step? Let’s get a whole extra turn or two!

Now, it pains me to be "that guy" and go nuts with Time Walk effects, but if I’m going to go Grixis and I’m going to play a scary legend as my commander, I might as well go big on the power scale. You know, if I’m going to wear a demon-skinned jacket and reek of brimstone, I might as well get downright evil! This will be the sort of deck you break out when someone’s wrecking everyone’s fun and you want to fight fire with fire. I think Timesifter could be particularly brutal in this deck with such a high average casting cost.

Speaking of evil, check out Hellcarver Demon. Yeah, that ol’ Rico Suave guy sure is tempting. I’ve wanted to play him in a Commander deck for a while, and I’ve actually slipped him in a deck or two over the years but never got to cast him, much less attack with him. Talk about risky! And yet if any deck is going to be worth the risk of pitching your hand and sacrificing all other permanents for the chance to win the game in the next six cards, it’s this one!

Stacking The Deck

Vampiric Tutor, Mystical Tutor, Brainstorm, Mystic Speculation, Telling Time, Lim-Dul’s Vault, Scroll Rack, Survivor Of The Unseen, Insidious Dreams

Of course, this being Magic we don’t necessarily have to play Jeleva or Hellcarver Demon totally risky—there are plenty of ways to stack the deck and make sure the right spell for the job is just awaiting for exile. Even Survivor Of The Unseen can do a little work as an anemic Brainstorm on a stick, though if you’ve got Jace, the Mindculptor available by all means slide it into the deck!

Jeleva, Nephalia's Scourge
Bennie Smith
Test deck on 01-21-2014
Magic Card Back

I hope you enjoyed my detour into Grixis land. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below, and remember if you bring something less than fun to my Commander table, you might not like what you get next game. *queue evil laughter*

Take care,


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