We are full swing into Core Set 2021 spoiler season, and there is a lot to be excited about in this set. Although I mostly play Standard and Historic these days, the primary thing I am looking for during spoiler season are the new commanders. This set has definitely bought some interesting ones so far, including the return of an amazing character: Jolreal!
This is a character we have not seen in twenty years! That being said, if you are not familiar with this character, I highly recommend you check out this excellent twitter thread by Jay Annelli that details her backstory.
TLDR: Jolrael is a reclusive cat woman. Don't mess with her.
Besides the stunning art, her card design is very interesting. "Whenever you draw your second card" text is usually reserved for blue/red cards, so its interesting to see that specific text land in green. However, Wizards has been pushing more and more card draw into green over the years, so it makes sense they would seek to explore more payoffs in this particular space.
When I wrote my first draft of this article, I didn't even look at her mana cost. When I saw it was two, my esteem of her went way up. Her being only two mana means she will have a much bigger impact throughout the game. You will be able to generate your tokens quicker, and it'll be less of a burden to cast her multiple times in a game.
However, it's her first line of text that draws me to build around her. While green certainly has card draw, Jolrael being mono green means you automatically have throw out the great blue and green cards, like
urban evolution, and
uro, titan of nature's wrath, that serve multiple functions.
Normally, mono green wants to ramp and hit hard. Card draw has always been a way to get you to more resources, but its never been the actual engine that gets green going. I find that interesting.
Jolrael wants you to two do two things: build up your board with creatures and draw enough cards to maximize on her overrun ability. In my opinion, I think her activated ability is something to be ignored for most of the game. More often than not, if you have the mana to play the cards in your hand, its always better to just do that. The ability makes for a potentially sweet alpha strike, especially if you have access to a lot of mana, but otherwise it should probably be ignored.
With all that in mind, here is a brief list of the cards that should make their way into your Jolrael lists! For the sake of all of our wallets, I strove to keep my recommendations budget friendly.
Lifecrafter's Bestiary is a shoe-in for decks that intend to cast creatures, which green is always happy to do. Scrying away bad draws and putting cards in your hand for such a minimal cost is worth it. With Jolrael on the battlefield, this is a solid way to keep your engine rolling and getting you another creature on the battlefield.
The more cat tokens you have been making, the better
Regal Force gets. Lack of good filtering and being weak to board wipes, unless you got lucky with a
Heroic Intervention, are two of green's weaknesses. It needs ways to rebuild or overtake its opponents, which is something this card does well. Depending on your board state, this could also make Jolrael's activated ability even scarier.
Shamanic Revelation and
Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury have similar effects that you want to include.
Zendikar Resurgent is expensive, it's well worth it here. Any card that assists you on multiple fronts (ie
lifecrafter's bestiary) and triggers Jolrael should automatically go in. The deck will surely want to play a ton of creatures, since that is generally where green's card draw comes from. The mana doubling effect is worth it regardless, and when you are ready for that alpha strike, you should have no problem activating it.
There are several other green cards that have the second ability, including
Beast Whisperer. I would play as many of these effects as possible.
Since Jolrael is a token commander, the deck should definitely include cards that double this army.
Second Harvest and
Parallel Lives are both cheaper
Doubling Season alternatives that still get that job done.
It is important to look for ways to take advantage of your Cat tokens and look to prevent your opponents from disrupting your board. 2/2 kitties are (unfortunately) low impact in most normal games. However,
Qasali Slingers acting as your mono green
Aura Shards is exactly what this deck wants to have in its arsenal.
For more suggestions, I recommend taking a look at
Multani, Maro-Sorcerer lists. The deck is one of the few that revolve around green card draw and there are a multitude of payoffs that could be included in Jolrael as well.
Those are my first thoughts on Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse. While I doubt she will have an impact at competitive tables, I can still see her being played at more casual tables.
Cat tribal fans rejoice!