This week, I am playing perhaps the hottest deck in Standard at the moment: Jeskai Planeswalkers. The planeswalker-based strategies are very real contenders in Standard, and it seems that the Jeskai variant is the evolution of the straight white/blue version. Sarkhan the Masterless is a fantastic payoff for putting a bunch of planeswalkers in your deck, allowing for quick, game-ending attacks.

After playing with this deck it is clear that it has a number of close matchups. I was expecting to either run over opponents with planeswalkers, or get run over quickly by the opponent, but that's not always how the games play out. The aggro decks initially seemed like tough matchups for the planeswalker-based decks, but this version has a bunch of good cheap removal spells. Shock and Deafening Clarion really help shore up the early game.

The new three-mana planeswalkers—Narset, Parter of Veils and Teferi, Time Raveler—seem to be the centerpiece to a lot of the planeswalker-focused decks. They really are critical, as getting a planeswalker down on turn three helps you gain both tempo and card advantage. The one planeswalker I'm not convinced on is Saheeli, Sublime Artificer. It has been generally underwhelming for me, and I'm looking to replace it. On the other hand, I'm happy to see one of my favorite planeswalkers here: Karn, Scion of Urza.

The most difficult matchup I played was U/R Phoenix. They have a lot of card advantage, and bringing those Arclight Phoenixes back at a critical point can be tough to overcome. The exiling removal spells in the sideboard do help a little bit. I am hoping to get more matches in against decks playing The Elderspell; in my experience the card isn't actually that backbreaking if you are careful about deploying your planeswalkers. There are a number of decks sideboarding it now, so that is something to watch out for.

Planeswalker-based decks are here to stay. The Jeskai version is probably the most popular variant right now, but there are many other color combinations revolving around planeswalkers finding success, aided by Interplanar Beacon and Mobilized District. I have never been a part of a Standard format quite like this one. Look for players to try to find a way to play more cards like The Immortal Sun and Mass Manipulation to try and combat these strategies.

Seth Manfield

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