Hey everyone. Many of you have heard the news that I am pursuing a job opportunity at Wizards of the Coast as a Developer in R&D. This means that I can no longer play competitive Magic or write for TCGplayer. However, that's not happening for a month and a half and I am still going to provide you with the best content that I can in the time I have left.
Today I'm going to talk about Jeskai and go over a few different ways to build it. I think Jeskai is a solid deck and definitely one of the top decks in the format right now. You have access to the some of the most efficient removal, creatures, and card draw spells. What more could you ask for?
When Khans was first spoiled, I thought that one of two things could happen. Either everyone would play three color wedge decks with lots of lands that come into play tapped and the format would slow way down, or the format would be filled with two color consistent decks that punished the Sluggishness of the three color decks. I was leaning toward the latter to happen because I just could not fathom playing a deck with more than twelve ETB tapped lands. I didn't think that the tri-lands would catch on because scry lands were just better, and therefore three color decks wouldn't really catch on either. I mean, two colors with a splash would be fine, but straight three colors with lots of double colored mana costs like in Abzan and Jeskai seemed like they would be way too hard on the mana.
Of course, I was incorrect in my assumption and three color decks with playsets of tri-lands are now the best decks in Standard. Looking back, it makes sense. In Shards of Alara block Standard, tri-lands were pretty popular and people were playing Vivid lands as well. If it worked then, it makes sense that it would work now.
With the format being slow and mana being so good, there is no reason not to play a three color deck in Standard. You get to play the best spells in your colors and not really worry about mana requirements. When you can find a deck that plays the best cards in its colors and also plays really efficient threats, you have a real winner, and that deck is Jeskai.Jeskai Tempo
This Jeskai list has a few innovations from the lists that were being played at the beginning of the format. What I like about this list is every card either does damage, provides card advantage, or is hard to deal with. We have no do-nothing, "durdly" cards here.
The new additions to this list are Wingmate Roc and Hordeling Outburst. Wingmate Roc is great in this deck. I always felt that if Jeskai got a little behind, it was really hard to catch back up. Jeskai is a deck that needs to win early. Once your Mantis Riders have been dealt with and you're out of burn spells, it's difficult to come back. Of course topdecking burn until your opponent reaches zero life is always an option, but when you're facing down a Siege Rhino or a Pearl Lake Ancient, you don't have that kind of time. Wingmate Roc is a great answer to those kinds of situations. There will be games where you have depleted your resources and maybe have a goblin or cat soldier left over, and Wingmate Roc can either provide defense or put six power on the board.
I've liked Hordeling Outburst ever since Khans was released. There is just no efficient way to deal with all three tokens outside of Anger of the Gods and Drown in Sorrow, and those cards rarely get played main deck. Seeing Hordeling Outburst in Jeskai made me happy. It's the perfect turn three play after a turn two Seeker of the Way, and the best card to play when you know your opponent is holding a Lightning Strike or Hero's Downfall. You never want to play Goblin Rabblemaster or Mantis Rider into untapped mana, but you'll always want to cast Outburst.
The card that really makes this deck tick is Dig Through Time. This Standard format is lacking in good card draw. Divination is sorcery speed, Jace's Ingenuity is expensive, and Steam Augury is random, but Dig Through Time is the perfect spell for this deck. Most decks play situational cards that you don't want to draw all the time. For example, you never want a Sylvan Caryatid on turn seventeen. You probably don't want a Magma Jet that late either. You don't want to draw Dissolve when you need a removal spell. Most decks make up for their situational cards by playing card draw so that you can compensate for those dead cards by producing more cards. However most decks don't want to lose their entire third turn by casting Divination.
That's where Dig Through Time comes in. Dig Through Time allows you to actually choose what cards to put in your hand. Sure, you're only looking at seven cards, but when you play a lot of redundancy in your decks, seven cards is plenty. Many of the cards in Jeskai do the same thing. Whether you need to get some bodies in play or just draw those last couple of burn spells to finish your opponent off, Dig Through Time will help you get there.
Unlike Treasure Cruise in Eternal formats, Dig Through Time is an incredibly fair card. You usually can't cast it until turn four or later, and you have to actively be playing spells to even be able to cast it cheaply. You can't keep a hand with lands and Digs, but you can usually keep a hand with lands and Divinations. I really like that you need to be playing an interactive game of Magic for Dig Through Time to be good.
The above list only plays two copies of Dig Through Time. In a Jeskai Tempo list you really need to maximize on burn spells and proactive cards so I can understand playing only two. Like I said, they are terrible early, but you do always want to draw one. If you are playing against a deck that is looking to slow the game down, like Esper or UB Control, having a third Dig in the sideboard is useful. The pilot of the deck, Kevin Jones, agreed as he chose to play the third Dig as well as other big spells like Narset, Enlightened Master and Keranos, God of Storms.
The creature base is highly efficient. Mantis Rider is effectively Lightning Strikes five through eight. If the Rider hits your opponent one time, you are pretty happy. If he connects twice, you probably can't lose the game. Seeker of the Way is good because it comes down early, attacks for three on turn three, and unless it's turn two, most opponents can't afford to cast a removal spell on it unless they want to lose their turn and give up tempo.
The worst creature in the deck is Goblin Rabblemaster. Don't get me wrong, Rabblemaster is a good dude. The problem with him is everyone is prepared for him. It's really hard to get any value out of a Rabblemaster these days. If you cast him into untapped mana, your opponent will surely have a removal spell. Otherwise, they probably have a creature in play to block the token, and then have a removal spell on their turn. If you and your opponent are both in topdeck mode, Rabblemaster will surely take over the game, and that is enough of a reason to play four copies in your Jeskai deck.
Another thing that is great about the Jeskai Tempo deck is that you really don't need very many cards to win the game. A Jeskai Charm here, a Stoke the Flames there, a hit or two from Mantis Rider, and a few more burn spells is really all you need. Sometimes your opponent will even help you out with their fetches, Mana Confluence, or Thoughtseize. Even a hand that looks atrocious is capable of being a winning draw with this deck.
Flooding out is definitely a problem with Jeskai because you really have nothing to do with extra mana in the late game. Your spells are very cheap and you can get away with three lands in play for most of the game, but you really never need more than six. However, because of the heavy mana requirements of your spells, you have to play a high land count which means that you may flood out if the game goes long. Your goal should be to never get to the late game. This is an aggro deck at heart so you should be trying to win as quickly as possible and very rarely play the control role.Jeskai Control
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about control decks in Standard and I talked in depth about the Jeskai Control deck that Frank and I built. This deck is really not something you see on the Open or GP scene but I think that it's a great deck in Standard and just needs to be explored more. These colors offer something that all control decks want: Removal, card draw, and Counterspells.
What really makes Jeskai Control a great control deck is the two sweepers, Anger of the Gods and End Hostilities. We lost our four mana Wrath when Khans became legal and since then we've had to either not play control decks or play expensive sweepers like Perilous Vault and End Hostilities. What surprised me was that many players forgot about Anger of the Gods. Anger is not a true Wrath but it kills practically everything you need to kill on turn three; Seeker of the Way, Goblin Tokens, Mantis Riders, and mana creatures. It buys you tons of time and is an ideal card for control. What I think scared people away from it was its mana cost. You really don't want to play a RR spell in your base UW control deck, and you usually don't want a sweeper in your red deck. That's a tough spot for Anger of the Gods to be in. When I tried Anger out in Jeskai Control I was beyond impressed. The mana is actually not as bad as it you'd think and it's very reasonable to get RR on turn three. Mystic Monastery and scry lands do a lot in this deck.
The control elements of Jeskai Control are excellent. You have lots of efficient burn and removal and it's pretty easy to control the board. Dissolve and Disdainful Stroke are great support spells and are amazing against midrange. The deck struggles with having the right win conditions. Prognostic Sphinx is great but it does have its weaknesses. When I think of a 3/5 flyer for five, the first thing that comes to mind is "that sounds like a great Limited card, but I would never consider it playable for Constructed." Prognostic Sphinx is a bit different because it has a great attack trigger and it's nearly unkillable. Still, it takes a while to win a game with a 3/5. Elspeth is an ideal win condition, but there are lots of Hero's Downfalls and Utter Ends running around. Pearl Lake Ancient is fine, but sometimes you need to play your win condition before turn fifteen. There really isn't an option that comes down early enough, hits hard, and is unkillable. Oh AEtherling, how I miss you.
Sometimes you will play against a deck that has answers to all of your finishers and you really need another plan to win the game. That's where the transformational sideboard comes in. When necessary your control deck can become a tempo deck with Mantis Riders and Brimaz, King of Oreskos. Some opponents will be completely taken by surprise especially because you played a draw-go game in game one.
Next week I'm going to be recording some videos with one of these Jeskai decks. Which deck would you prefer to see, Tempo or Control? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week!
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