Friday 10 March 2017
Card Spotlight: Umezawa's Jitte
So it is time for me to take a bit of a dump on a card that is widely regarded as the best equipment in the game. Broadly equipment is weaker than it used to be, or creatures are good enough on their own generally now that they don't tend to need equipment. Despite the decline of equipment power many people I cube with still think Jitte is an auto include in any list with creatures in it and one of the best first picks you can make in cube. As for first picking the card it is fine, it is a powerful spell that a lot of decks struggle against and it keeps you open. I have no objection to first picking it but I don't have any where near the love for the card as most other people.
Jitte is undoutably a very powerful card. it gives loads of options that colours often don't have access to elsewhere, and makes combat pretty much always favourable. Jitte is also quite a big risk when you play it and that is what people underestimate. It is a risk in several ways that I think is best illustrated with an example. It was suggested as a pick in a rotisserie we are doing. Although early in the draft there are five blue players of seven. This will make creature combat a lot less common in the games. While Jitte doesn't do nothing if they have no creatures it is a really awful card. The comparison I made was to a 2 mana 4/4 with echo for 2 and the "can't attack or block alone" clause found on Mogg Flunkies. Now Mogg Flunkes used to be in my cube but things have gotten a bit more potent that that kind of thing. The card I describe isn't awful but it isn't great either. Four mana for a vanilla 4/4 with a drawback isn't good even if you can attack with it on turn three. When that drawback can blank the card easily with bounce, removal or even just tapping of some other threat then it is just a liability. Taking those kinds of risk for a vanilla 4/4 make is much more obvious how weak it is in its worst matchups. Jitte itself is obviously huge in the creature based combat matches however the risks are exactly the same. It is not just a 4/4 echo Mogg Flunky you are taking a risk on in those matchups and so the risk reward ration gets a lot more favourable but you still get blown out pretty hard with a two for one tempo swing as it were by tap, bounce or removal options. Win big or lose big is the game with Jitte and that is only when it is against creatures. I am all about consistency, I don't want to take big risks, I want to build decks that can win games without having to risk blowouts and this is very easy to do these days. Jitte is fine, it will greatly improve a weak deck. It will dominate any even game where you both have some stuff to do. It is a good card to include as a specific solution but it is not just an auto include whenever you find you have a reasonable creature count.
Jitte is also far more beatable than people credit it for. It is always a hard fight if you don't have an answer for it and plan to win with dorks but it is absolutely a winnable one. I think that sense of uphill struggle and impending defeat makes Jitte seem better than it is. It is pretty well countered by dorks that can sacrifice at instant speed. Wonders like Tribe Elder are vast tempo swings against the Jitte. Even when you don't have answers or good counter cards you can still very much beat a Jitte. The game is very different once you accept the Jitte is there to stay, you have to play an odd kind of tempo game. All your things now need to be re-evaluated. A once bomb card might now just be "remove a counter or two from Jitte". This is fine, it doesn't mean the game is over. What you have to do is focus on a specific area in which your opponent is weak and force them to play the game you want. If they are low on guys then trade as much as possible, you might be trading a pair of good three drops for a two drop and that may seem like a classic route to losing but it can absolutely be the thing to do when there is a Jitte involved. If they are tight on mana you hit that side of things, try and force situations where they want to re-equip Jitte all the time and waste a load of mana in doing so. If they are low on life then try and force the Jitte into being used as a life gain tool by threatening their life total. Often you will need to punish several of these areas at once to take down a Jitte in a fair fight but I rarely see people bother. After they take the first horrendous looking trade they just kind of give up the fight.
It is critical to remember that Jitte doesn't do anything on its own, you still need other cards to do things with your Jitte. If you have five guys and they have only two then you can trade two for one on both and still have the threats. If you negate the Jitte in this way your 2 for 4 is more of a 3 for 4. Playing Jitte with a low creature count is asking for trouble. It is really hard to get full value out of a Jitte when you have to be precious about the couple of dorks you presently have. A trade in combat and a removal spell and suddenly you Jitte is dead weight until you find another dork.
Play Jitte in creature heavy decks that lack fat threats, small creature removal or lifegain. In those places it is great, well worthy of a first pick card. Be more cautious about playing Jitte in other places. Most importantly, don't give up when you are facing a Jitte. There is a high chance your opponent has built wrong with their Jitte. Instant removal and creatures you can sac off at instant speed are great against the Jitte but you can beat it without them or direct removal for it in a creature on creature game far more easily than people realize. When creatures where bad back when Jitte was printed the card was oppressively over powered. Now that creatures are all pretty nuts in the cube the Jitte is just a fine card.