A few weeks ago Joseph Scalco made Top 32 of an Open Series event in Edison with a Jeskai Tokens deck. Since then the metagame has become much more defined. I've been working on the deck and today I'd like to share my updated list, along with some matchup advice against the three top decks in the field.
Then if you are planning to attend the TCGplayer 50K Championship this weekend (or any other competitive tournament in the future), I have a few simple tips to practice that may increase your chances of doing well.
Let's start with my updated Jeskai Tokens list:
The changes I made from Joseph's list include:
-2 Brimaz, King of Oreskos
-1 Goblin Rabblemaster
-2 Defiant Strike
-1 Spear of Heliod
-3 Triplicate Spirits
+3 Wingmate Roc
+4 Lightning Strike
Let's talk about these changes and why they improve the deck's matchups against the top decks in the format.
Versus Jeskai Wins
The biggest change was cutting some threats to make room for Lightning Strikes. Mantis Rider is a big problem for the deck because it blocks all our attackers, attacks past all our blockers, and gets us into burn range before we can kill the opponent. Lightning Strike is a necessary evil in order to have a favorable matchup against Mantis Rider decks.
As long as you have the answer for their Mantis Rider, the rest of our cards match up favorably against their cards.
Hordeling Outburst is a nightmare for them since the only card they could conceivably run that answers it efficiently is Arc Lightning, and most lists don't even run that card (and if they do, it's 1 or 2 copies in the sideboard only).
Jeskai Ascendancy is also a big problem because it filters our draws to make every card we draw potent. It also pumps our creatures, making them all must answer threats individually, even if they are just soldier or Goblin Tokens. Eventually they run out of gas, even if they are casting Dig Through Time, and we overwhelm them.
Wingmate Roc is yet another card they have trouble beating unless they have Disdainful Stroke or Nullify, two cards which are generally not very useful against us except against the Roc. And if you strongly suspect they have the counter, just discard the Roc to the Ascendancy and find something they can't counter.
Our Jeskai Charms are better than theirs too because the lifelink mode comes into play frequently and creates a huge life point swing when we have tokens and an ascendancy out.
Overall the matchup is certainly favorable, at least pre-board. Post-board it depends what plan they are on and whether you have correctly adjusted. For instance, if they bring in Erase for our Jeskai Ascendancy, or they leave in Nullify for our Wingmate Roc, it's possible that all their cards line up perfectly to defeat our cards. If we instead correctly anticipate their plan, we can leave them stranded with a bunch of dead cards in their hand.
It is also worth noting that it is generally better to save your Lightning Strike for the Goblin Rabblemaster or Mantis Rider instead of using it on a Seeker of the Way. Seeker is a semi-tough card to race, but we can make up the lost ground later in the game with the lifelink mode on Jeskai Charm. Mantis Rider and Goblin Rabblemaster are much harder to recover from. If you have a second Lightning Strike in hand, you can burn the first one on their Seeker during their end step. The key is to avoid relinquishing initiative if at all possible. You never want to be the one playing catchup.
Versus Abzan Midrange
The second biggest change was cutting Triplicate Spirits for Wingmate Roc. The Roc is outstanding against Abzan or any other deck relying on planeswalkers and ground creatures.
Regular Jeskai decks are typically about even, maybe a slight underdog against Abzan Midrange. Jeskai Tokens, however, is a pretty big favorite. Game 1 we are a big favorite (even if we lose the die roll and are on the draw) since they have few ways to keep up with our tempo. Unless they draw a pile of Rhinos, they'll easily get burned out before they can turn the game around.
Post-board it is pretty even since they bring in Drown in Sorrow and Bile Blight as ways to buy time to set up. Wingmate Roc is still a huge beating against them and Dig Through Time allows us to find ways to finish the game.
In theory, a couple Counterspells would go a long way in this matchup. The post-board games often play out as us casting threats and them responding with answers. Then once they get to 4-7 mana they start casting Siege Rhino, Ajani, Mentor of Heroes, and Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Every counter would then become a Time Walk and keep them from stabilizing. In practice, that is not how things play out. instead we tap out for threats and they respond with answers. Then we run out of threats and counter their planeswalker. Then they play another one the follow turn and beat us with it. If that counter were instead a threat or a way to get our threats through, then it would increase our chances of winning.
Suspension Field is better suited for our game plan in this matchup. It will grant us the Time Walk we were hoping to gain from the Counterspell without requiring us to preemptively leave mana untapped. For instance, they tap out for Courser of Kruphix or Siege Rhino and we spend half our turn getting rid of it and the other half increasing our pressure. If we already have a Jeskai Ascendancy in play, the Suspension Field will trigger the ascendancy too, thus making the game very difficult for the opponent to come back from (unlike the counter, which only triggers it on the opponent's turn and thus doesn't provide us a free anthem effect for our attack phase).
Abzan Charm is another card that it generally pretty terrible against us. If they have three mana open and let us proceed to combat without killing our Goblin Rabblemaster, then that probably means they're holding Abzan Charm. Just attack with the tokens in that spot and cast another spell, forcing them to use the "lose 2 life to draw 2 cards" mode (or waste the turn doing nothing). The only other card in the deck that the charm can kill is half of a Wingmate Roc.
Versus Mardu Midrange
This matchup is pretty close because both decks are essentially trying to do the same thing. We each want to flood the board with tokens while stopping the opponent from doing whatever they're trying to do to stop us.
Goblin Rabblemaster can be problematic if we don't have the Lightning Strike, just as in in the Jeskai matchup. Against Jeskai it is sometimes correct to use Stoke the Flames to kill their Goblin Rabblemaster (or Mantis Rider) instead of Lightning Strike. This is because Lightning Strike kills all of the same threats that Stoke the Flames kills (unless they play Brimaz), and so mana efficiency is often more important that that fourth damage. Against Mardu, however, you definitely want to use the Lightning Strike first and save Stoke the Flames for Butcher of the Horde.
While this matchup is close, we are better against them than a traditional Jeskai deck. We can answer their Hordeling Outburst with our own Hordeling Outburst. Mantis Rider is generally not very good in this matchup since they have so many good instant speed answers to it (Lightning Strike, Crackling Doom, Murderous Cut (and sometimes Stoke the Flames). Hence our cards matchup a lot better against Mardu than most other Jeskai decks do.
Suspension Field is good against Butcher of the Horde but is useless against everything else (unlike against Abzan where you have Courser of Kruphix and Siege Rhino as targets). So I would not bring it in for this matchup. Instead I prefer Devouring Light and Disdainful Stroke. The Stroke stops their Butcher of the Horde in addition to Wingmate Roc, Sorin, Solemn Visitor, and Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker. Devouring Light stops Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, Butcher of the Horde, or Goblin Rabblemaster. So allowing them to get a free block in is well-worth the added flexibility, not to mention the surprise factor when they think it's safe to start sacrificing all their animals to Butcher of the Horde.
Overall, Jeskai Tokens attacks from a slightly different angle than the Jeskai decks we've been seeing thus far. It is not only less expected but also matches up better against most of the top decks. With the few innovations I've made to Scalco's list, will it be enough to win the TCGplayer 50K Max Point Championship in Indy this weekend?
If you're going to the 50K Championship this weekend or you plan to attend any other competitive event in the near future, I have a few non-strategy recommendations for you. In light of the recent Open Series events that are currently under investigation, now is as good a time as any to share these tips with you.
Three tips to prevent your opponent from gaining an unfair advantage
These tips are intended to be applied at PTQs, Opens, Grand Prix, Pro Tours, and any other competitive event with a substantial prize pool. It is my hope that (eventually) these preventative measures become universally adopted. Until then, here are three simple things you can do to prevent your opponents from gaining an unfair advantage against you in competitive tournaments.
- Do not allow your opponent to see your cards while shuffling. As you present your deck after shuffling, remind the opponent to shuffle your deck with the cards facing away from the direction they are looking. As was demonstrated in the past and again recently, it doesn't take much for an opponent to stack 7 non-land cards to the top of your deck so that you have to mulligan. Even if the opponent is not stacking your deck, a momentary glance at the bottom card will at least clue them in on what deck you are playing and therefore inform their mulligan decision. Being staunch about this will prevent you from being cheated.
- Don't get slow-played out. If your opponent is not playing at a pace where the match will finish before time is called, then politely request them to increase their speed of play. If they continue playing too slowly, then call a judge to watch for slow play. If you do not do this early in a match, it may be too late and you'll end up with a tie instead of a win. Stalling is intentionally slow playing and carries much more severe penalties. Slow play is still against the rules though, and if you don't enforce it on your opponents, then you should expect to be drawn out of tournaments more often than those who do enforce the slow play rule on their opponents.
- Make the opponent pay mana for their spells. Often people will shortcut casting spells, especially during your end step when it is obvious which lands they are tapping to cast their spell. This seems innocent enough on the surface, but it provides an easy opportunity to angle shoot. For instance, what if they point their Magma Jet at your Seeking of the Way during your end step, forgetting that you cast a spell earlier in the turn to trigger prowess? If they haven't tapped mana for the spell yet, then they can make a case to the judge that they were still deciding whether to cast the spell (and the judge will often side with them unless you can prove that such a shortcut has already been demonstrated previously in the match). So unless you plan on allowing your opponent free take backs when they make a mistake, don't let them shortcut in this way. Spells cost mana to cast. Once costs have been paid, there is no going back. If you are lax about this point, then you can expect at some point to get bitten by it.
Do you have any other tips to add to this list?
Which of the four decks in this article do you like best?
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