Two Bodies For Two Mana: How To Use Jadar, Ghoulcaller Of Nephalia

World Champion PVDDR offers early thoughts on how to use Innistrad: Midnight Hunt preview Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia in the upcoming Standard format.

Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia
Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia, illustrated by DZO

Right now, Innistrad: Midnight Hunt is still in its infancy, which means that it’s hard to predict the power level of many of the cards that rely on synergies to work. However, some cards just have so much potential that they’re worth paying attention to and thinking about, even if they need some more support from the new set to truly shine. The card I’m previewing today has an element of that — it can be slotted into some decks right now, but will likely be at its best once we get to see the entire set. That said, it can work in so many different ways that I would be shocked if there simply wasn’t support for any of it.

That card is Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia.

Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia

At first glance, Jadar might be a bit unexciting. After all, two bodies for two mana is nothing new and we’ve had several iterations of it ranging from Raise the Alarm to Forbidden Friendship

Raise the Alarm Dragon Fodder Forbidden Friendship

Some of those have seen Constructed play; Raise the Alarm, for example, has appeared in both white aggro decks and Winota, Joiner of Forces builds. However, Jadar is probably the best iteration of this effect that we’ve ever had. Why?

  • Jadar is a much better aggressive card. First, it adds an extra power to the battlefield — assuming your opponent isn’t blocking, attacking for three instead of attacking for two is a huge difference. Second, its token is relentless. The token it creates cannot block (which is definitely a downside if you want to, well, block), but it is also, for all intents and purposes, an immortal attacker. If you have a traditional 2/2 Zombie and it’s blocked by a 2/2, that’s it. It trades and you’re done. With Jadar, you simply create another Zombie to replace it at the end of the turn.
  • Jadar is black. White and red are aggressive colors, but they usually do not have a lot of uses for random bodies other than pumping them and attacking. Black is the sacrifice color, which means a “random 1/1” or a “random 2/2” in black is never just a body.
  • Jadar can provide many more sacrifice, enters-the-battlefield, or leaves-the-battlefield triggers. As an attacker, your 2/2 Zombie is just a 2/2 — it dies and you create it again — but the most impressive thing about Jadar is that it can singlehandedly provide you with triggers for the rest of the game. Imagine, for example, you have Prosperous Innkeeper. With Jadar, you’re guaranteed to get your one life every turn of the game (you simply have to attack with your token to renew it, whether they block it or not). The same is true for death triggers (such as Bastion of Remembrance — that’s rotating out, but we’ve seen this type of card several times before, so I imagine we will again) and, most importantly, for sacrifice triggers. This is how I’ll use Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia in decks today.
  • Jadar is a good coven enabler. Coven is a new ability in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt that gives you a bonus if you have three creatures with different powers, and by itself Jadar produces both a one and a two. The jury remains out on whether coven cards are actually good, but having one cheap card that produces two-thirds of your requirements by itself is probably a good thing. 

Of course, Jadar is not all upside compared to those other cards. For one, it’s worse on defense, and then it’s also legendary, so multiple copies will be much worse. On top of that, it’s easy to handle with spot removal. Raise the Alarm demands two Shocks to be dealt with, but if they just Shock Jadar immediately, you never even get your Zombie (and, if you do, it’ll go away after you attack without being replenished). Still, I believe the pros far outweigh the cons here.

The card I’m most excited to pair with Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia right off the bat is another Innistrad: Midnight Hunt card preview — Champion of the Perished. It curves naturally into it, and even though it doesn’t allow you to attack for two immediately (since Jadar itself is not a Zombie and you only get the Zombie at the end of the turn), it guarantees that Champion of the Perished will never stop growing, as you’re getting at least one Zombie in each of your turns.

Champion of the Perished

Coming up with an exact decklist for a Zombies deck will be hard, as the bulk of the tribe likely will be in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt and we have just started the previews (this is one of the “we need to wait for the synergy” moments), but there’s likely to be a Zombies deck (the existence of Champion of the Perished hints very strongly at it), and if a Zombies deck exists it will almost certainly include both Champion of the Perished and Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia. Right now, here are the reasonable Zombies we’re working with:

Dungeon Crawler Narfi, Betrayer King Wight

Shambling Ghast Sepulcher Ghoul Ebondeath, Dracolich

Some of those are basically just stats with the Zombie creature type, but given enough synergies, they can definitely make the deck. For example I don’t plan on completing any dungeons, but I might still be willing to play a two-power, one-mana Zombie depending on what else we see from the card file. 

Another aspect of Jadar is that he provides infinite sacrifice fodder, which is why being black makes him a better-than-average version of this effect. By itself Jadar offers two sacrifices, which can already be reasonable, but then it also makes it so that the first sacrifice cost you pay each turn is free of charge, and that’s definitely something we can abuse. 

First, this means Jadar should be right at home in any deck playing the “sacrifice draw spells” trio of Village Rites, Deadly Dispute, and Plumb the Forbidden. Having Jadar on the battlefield means the drawback on all those spells basically disappears for the rest of the game. 

Village Rites Deadly Dispute Plumb the Forbidden

This means it has a reasonable chance of slotting into what’s already my favorite Standard 2022 deck (though this doesn’t mean it’s the best Standard 2022 deck), Mardu Sacrifice. In Mardu Sacrifice, Jadar can singlehandedly fuel all your card drawing spells while also producing two bodies for Awaken the Blood Avatar. If we see absolutely no support for the Zombies element in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, this will probably be the best use for Jadar.

Here’s a sample list:

Skullport Merchant is my new addition here. This is a three-color deck that wants both acceleration and fixing, and also one that has uses for sacrifice effects and that can have expendable bodies, so the card is already reasonable here, but the synergy with Jadar is what pushes it over the top for me; if you have those two on the battlefield, you can simply sacrifice the Zombie token every turn to draw a card. This isn’t a broken combo or anything, but it feels worth trying out to me given that I believe the Merchant is so close on its own in this deck, and it can very well win you the game in a stalled battlefield.

Aside from Skullport Merchant, this deck isn’t maxing on sacrifice effects (you could play tons more if you wanted), but Jadar helps fuel Deadly Dispute, Awaken the Blood Avatar, Village Rites, and the Necrotic Fumes from the sideboard (which you access with Eyetwitch). This deck can kill out of nowhere with Awaken the Blood Avatar and Goldspan Dragon, so the ability to get in for four or six points of damage early on with an immortal Zombie should not be underestimated.

Jadar’s one-token-per-turn ability is good at fueling sacrifice costs such as Village Rites, but it’s even better at paying recurring costs. With Jadar around, for example, it’s very easy to attack every turn with something like Daemogoth Titan.

Pyre of Heroes

One interesting recurrent sacrifice ability that has some potential with Jadar is Pyre of Heroes. If you have Jadar out, you can sacrifice its token to search for Champion of the Perished. Jadar will then immediately trigger, making that a 2/2, and next turn you can sacrifice that to get another Champion of the Perished, which will pump your previous one.

Right now, the chain is a bit weak — there are some gaps in it and it would be much improved if we had a one-cost Zombie Wizard to chain into Jadar — but it’s interesting to think about and I like that it gives you a way to get rid of extra Jadars (such as chaining them into a one-of Demon’s Disciple, another card that works exceedingly well with it).

Overall, I’m not quite sure where Jadar will land — we have to wait for the entirety of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt for that — but I see tons of potential in it, first as a Zombie tribal card and also as the perfect card for any deck looking to sacrifice cheap creatures. I’m optimistic that we will have the support for at least one of these decks, if not both, over Jadar’s tenure in Standard, so I’ll keep an eye on it, even if it’s not immediately strong.