Jaya, Fiery Negotiator– Dominaria United
Date Reviewed: September 12, 2022
Commander [EDH]: 3.75
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
In hindsight, it’s funny how abruptly we went from “it’s too bad there’ll never be cards for pre-Mending planeswalkers” to “which pre-Mending planeswalker will we get next?”. The answer seems to be “more than you might guess” – and not all of them even have the planeswalker card type. You might spot one or two famous names if you look at Dominaria United‘s extras and Commander cards.
I think it’s cool that the 90s’ most popular planeswalker is now part of the four-ability club, and also that it’s the most Jaya Ballard-ish thing possible to use fire as a negotiating tool. She has a similar issue to some versions of Chandra we’ve seen, where her abilities don’t seem to have as much of a “story” as some planeswalkers do, rather being a collection of typically red abilities that read somewhat random at first glance. Still, if you look at them for long enough, her +1, -1, and -2 abilities seem to suggest some kind of “wide red” deck The +1 might be for adding to the ranks without spending extra cards, with the -2 helping clear the table for (also during) herd attacks. And her -1 helps with that strategy’s typical weakness of running out of cards – it’s not as efficient as your standard blue card drawing, but it’s closer than you might guess. Aggressive red deck are always popular, and I think she’s a good card for such things and maybe others besides.
Commander [EDH]: 3.5
Four mana, four abilities? Jaya’s third (and final, probably) proper planeswalker card is an interesting set of abilities all in all, so let’s get to it.
The first thing I notice is that Jaya has a weird amount of anti-synergy to her abilities at times. Not that they clash, per se, but she seems to be trying to thread the needle between going wide and just throwing massive spells out. Her +1 and -2 synergize somewhat, making friends and then using them to enable a surprise bit of removal. The +1 seems like it’s most at home in a spellslinger deck (to make more threats), but her -2 plays best in decks that go wide. Her ultimate is in a similar boat as her +1, playing well in a spellslinger deck (as burninating thrice is always a good game plan), but it only copies red instants and sorceries.
More universally useful, and the main draw of Jaya, is her -1, which is a tweak of the impulse draw red oft gets. You only get one of the two cards you see…but it’s functionally card draw and filtering in a color that sometimes struggles with it, and that’s massive. Even if her main goal is to spam her -1, four mana to effectively draw four in red is reason enough for her to see play.
I might be a bit down on Jaya, but I do think she’s pretty good overall. She just has a bit of weirdness in how her abilities play off of each other. That said, she’s a pretty potent piece in the gameplan most red decks want to employ, and her farewell is a fitting enough one.
Limited: 4.5 (worth drafting around to make shine)
Commander [EDH]: 4 (unlikely to really shine in Commander, but not a liability, and even has room to make waves in the right shell)
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