There’s another Magic: The Gathering set, and it’s the big one: the Core 2021 set. This time around, Wizards of the Coast are doing something video game fans will know and love: they’re bringing back a lot of the old favourites. And in our exclusive preview today, one of those favourites is the Zhalfirin legendary druid, Jolrael.
Jolrael’s returning to the Magic coreset as a 1G rare, and it’s a beast of a card. Whenever you draw a second card every turn, Jolrael will automatically put a 2/2 green cat token into play on your behalf. You don’t have to pay for it, you don’t have to tap Jolrael: it just pops out every turn, as long as you can draw a second card.
That card draw helps Jolrael’s ability to close out the game too, with her 4GG instant ability making all creatures under your control the same base power and toughness equal to the amount of cards in your hand. Anyone with +1/+1 counters will still get the benefit of those, so it’s a great way to close out a match.
Even as is, Jolrael combos well with a ton of other cards. If you’re playing a pre-constructed or limited Magic draft, chances are you’re likely to also have access to a Llanowar Visionary, a 2G creature that triggers a card draw as soon as it hits the battlefield.
David Mines, a former Magic captain for Team Australia and top eight Magic Pro Tour finisher, told Kotaku Australia over email that Jolrael arrives at a great time for green decks. “Green has in many ways become the new card advantage colour in the magic wheel and this will definitely play into that. Let’s first look at its impact on limited,” Mines said.
“Overrun effects (the ability to pump your whole team) have always been very powerful in limited and this one is an overrun on a stick. Should your second colour be another card advantage colour like blue I could see many games ending with you just being able to activate the ability turn after turn and completely overwhelm your opponent.”
The Core Set also has plenty of colourless card drawing too, like Mazemind Tome, or the 4-cost Solemn Simulacrum that’s lovingly called “Sad Robot”.
More reliably, there’s planeswalkers like Teferi, Master of Time that fills the role of Jace for this core set, letting you draw an extra card every turn, or Teferi’s Ageless Insight that guarantees you two cards every turn. There’s also the other Teferi, Timeless Voyager who just draws cards every turn with no penalty. The 3GG Elder Gargaroth can draw a card every time it attacks or blocks as well.
Being able to fill the board with 2/2 blockers makes Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse a natural fit for blue/green control decks, potentially like Temur Reclamation, which relies on a lot of counterspells and targeted removal to clear the way. Temur Reclamation was already in a fairly strong spot, given the recent bans and changes to companions kneecapped a lot of the aggressive companion decks. Slower decks in general should have a lot more room to succeed in the new Standard cycle, too.
Mines agreed that the resurgence of Temur Reclamation was good for Jolrael, too. “Playing spells like Opt on your turn will trigger it but a card like Chemisters Insight on your opponents turn will also give you a token,” he said over email. “With the incoming resurgence of a deck like Temur Reclamation I can definitely picture a card like this slotting into the bottom end of that decks curve.”
“2 mana creatures are very powerful as we move further and further back. Creatures like Tarmogoyf are even being pushed out of formats. Is this something that could take their place? Hard to say! But for limited and standard? I think this card could be big game!”
All in all, this year’s Core Set has a lot of old favourites for those who have played Magic over the years. Rewind’s back for free counterspells. Chandra’s doing her thing where she burns everyone to a crisp, again. Liliana’s cycling and board removal is going to be a ton of fun. Also, there’s a mythic featuring a dog and cat that just spawns more 1/1 dogs and cats. Cute.
It’s shaping up to be a blast of a core set. The full set launches on July 3, with the pre-release weekend kicking off from June 26 Australian time along with the Magic: Arena monthly update.