One of the early Brothers’ War standouts for both Standard and Pioneer is Hajar, Loyal Bodyguard.
If Hajar were a vanilla 3/3 with no ability, then it would not be powerful enough for Pioneer – Zhur-Taa Goblin doesn’t see much play either – but it would be worthy of consideration for Standard. It dodges Cut Down and, unlike Yavimaya Iconoclast, it doesn’t trade for Dennick, Pious Apprentice or a Fable of the Mirror-Breaker token. I would be interested in adding a red-green Watchwolf to a Gruul Aggro deck in Standard.
But the real spice lies in the activated ability, which is emblematic of the “legendary matters” theme that is showing up more and more frequently in major releases. Sacrificing your two-drop to save a bigger legend from removal can easily swing a game. In Standard, protecting Halana and Alena, Partners from Infernal Grasp is a big deal, and the power boost could come in handy as well. In Pioneer, protecting Esika’s Chariot or Skysovereign, Consul Flagship is just as powerful, making Hajar a feasible addition to Gruul Vehicles.
Best of all, Hajar doesn’t just protect a single legend – he protects all of them! In a deck primarily based around legendary creatures, Hajar, Loyal Bodyguard can save your entire board from a sweeper. Or he can break combat when the board gets cluttered. So let’s take a look at legendary-heavy decks where Hajar can shine in particular.
Pioneer Bard Class
1 Grumgully, the Generous 1 Radha, Heart of Keld 1 Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter 1 Klothys, God of Destiny 1 Domri, Chaos Bringer 1 Esika's Chariot 3 Zurgo Bellstriker 3 Targ Nar, Demon-Fang Gnoll 3 Gallia of the Endless Dance 3 Hajar, Loyal Bodyguard 3 Birgi, God of Storytelling/Harnfel, Horn of Bounty 3 Xenagos, the Reveler 3 Domri, Anarch of Bolas 4 Mox Amber 4 Oath of Nissa 4 Bard Class 2 Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance 2 Boseiju, Who Endures 1 Lair of the Hydra 1 Den of the Bugbear 1 Forest (277) 1 Mountain (275) 1 Plaza of Heroes 1 Rockfall Vale 4 Stomping Ground 3 Karplusan Forest 4 Cragcrown Pathway/Timbercrown Pathway Sideboard 1 Jegantha, the Wellspring 4 Rending Volley 2 Klothys, God of Destiny 2 Cindervines 2 Obliterating Bolt 1 Strangle 1 Roast 1 Unlicensed Hearse 1 Hazoret the Fervent
Bard Class has been a fringe deck in Pioneer, but Hajar, Loyal Bodyguard could push it over the top. Hajar has good base stats, a useful ability, the right supertype and the perfect colors, so it almost seems tailor-made for a Bard Class deck.
In terms of deck construction, Hajar means that we can now reach a critical mass of powerful cheap legends without having to run all four-ofs. By moving to a larger spread of three-ofs, we reduce the risk of drawing multiples, which is an important factor in building legendary decks. Besides, Hajar is arguably just better than previously existing options.
Standard Five-Color Jodah
4 Secluded Courtyard 4 Plaza of Heroes 2 Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire 1 Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance 1 Boseiju, Who Endures 1 Otawara, Soaring City 1 Takenuma, Abandoned Mire 2 Sundown Pass 1 Deathcap Glade 1 Fortified Beachhead 1 Brushland 1 Caves of Koilos 1 Battlefield Forge 1 Shivan Reef 2 Spara's Headquarters 2 Jetmir's Garden 1 Ashnod, Flesh Mechanist 1 Harbin, Vanguard Aviator 3 Dennick, Pious Apprentice/Dennick, Pious Apparition 3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben 3 Katilda, Dawnhart Prime 3 Hajar, Loyal Bodyguard 3 Adeline, Resplendent Cathar 2 King Darien XLVIII 1 Jerren, Corrupted Bishop/Ormendahl, the Corrupted 1 Gwenna, Eyes of Gaea 3 Halana and Alena, Partners 1 Ertai Resurrected 2 The Wandering Emperor 4 Jodah, the Unifier 1 March of Otherworldly Light Sideboard 2 Destroy Evil 2 Loran of the Third Path 2 Knockout Blow 2 Soul Partition 2 Unlicensed Hearse 1 Rem Karolus, Stalwart Slayer 1 Baird, Argivian Recruiter 1 The Wandering Emperor 1 Elspeth Resplendent 1 Ertai Resurrected
Five-Color Jodah, which uses Plaza of Heroes and Secluded Courtyard to consistently cast a motley assortment of legendary Humans, has seen a bit of success on the outskirts of Standard. Hajar’s colors are the opposite of Dennick, Pious Apprentice, but since he is a Human, I believe the mana base can still work. And in terms of abilities, he could be a strong addition to the deck.
Other than Hajar, Brothers’ War introduces additional tools for this deck:
- Harbin, Vanguard Aviator is another legendary Human with incredible stats for its cost. When I started playing Magic, three-power, two-mana flyers needed massive drawbacks. Just look at Skittering Skirge, a Constructed all-star back in the days. Nowdays, Harbin shows that three-power, two-mana flyers come with an upside!
- Fortified Beachhead is both an excellent mana fixer and a late-game mana sink. I have 14 Soldiers in the list, including Hajar, which is sufficient. With 14 Soldiers, the hypergeometric probability to have drawn a Soldier in your top eight cards (i.e., turn two on the play) is 90 percent. That’s a good number to strive for. Fortified Beachhead can already be playable with slightly lower numbers, say 10 to 12 Soldiers, but it would enter untapped a bit less reliably in that case. The only downside for this Five-Color Jodah deck is that Fortified Beachhead doesn’t help cast Hajar on turn two, and you can’t run too many non-green, non-red sources; that’s why I only have one copy.
- Ashnod, Flesh Mechanist is a playable one-mana legendary Human creature to cascade into with Jodah. In the past, if you wanted to get value when casting a two-drop, you had to run awkward cards like Eater of Virtue or Errant, Street Artist. Ashnod actually has useful abilities and looks like a big upgrade for this role.
- Gwenna, Eyes of Gaea may be a bit too ambitious, especially since she isn’t a Human, but she could add mana to cast Jodah on turn four, untap and immediately help trigger Jodah’s cascade. The dream is there!
Five-Color Jodah looks awesome to me, and it may even be possible to port a similar five-color legendary Humans strategy over to Pioneer. There is precedent in a recent Pioneer challenge, and it can only get better with Brothers’ War. Given all these possibilities, I’m looking forward to seeing Hajar, Loyal Bodyguard in action!