Recently, I moved out of Roanoke, Virginia, where I've lived for the past six years and spent my entire professional career.

It didn't take long for me to go back.

Roanoke was home to the SCG Winter Con ft. The Invitational last weekend, and I decided to make the trip to test myself across two formats, Modern and Standard, to see if I could take home the grand prize.

I'll spare the details and simply state that I did not take home the Grand Prize. Regardless, I enjoyed my deck selection in both formats and had a genuinely great time, even including getting snowed in with Brad Nelson!, so I consider it a massive success anyway. I also top 64'd for a cool $500, so that didn't hurt either.

In Modern I decided to fall back on my Trusty Machete of late, the Krark-Clan Ironworks Combo strategy, which I played to a 5-3 record.

I've now played KCI in three events, along with playing a lot of it on Magic Online. I was ready to give up the deck after failing to make Day 2 at Grand Prix Atlanta and finishing a mediocre 9-6 at SCG Baltimore. However, as it would turn out, I didn't test any Modern leading into the Invitational and didn't feel comfortable playing many other decks, so I just defaulted to playing KCI again. I can't say this is the best logic behind deck selection, but it also helps that I truly enjoy playing the strategy.

As KCI put two players into the Top 8 of the Invitational – including eventual winner Andrew Jessup – I think it's safe to say that it's still a viable choice, although I believe it to be an exploitable strategy. It's not a deck that I think is a "must-play" choice, because it does struggle to beat a number of cards and decks, but it's still one of Modern's best decks.

I still have no idea if Spine of Ish Sah is worth it. Myr Retriever costs less mana, can help against targeted artifact removal, is part of all the loops that let you draw cards and win with Pyrite Spellbomb and is great against decks that try to attack with big creatures on the ground, like Hollow One or Grixis Death's Shadow. On the flip side, Spine of Ish Sah is an alternate win itself and was legitimately good for me at the event.

I was pretty slow to adopt playing Sai, Master Thopterist in the main, but at this point I am wondering if there should be two or three copies of Sai main. The card overperformed pretty hard as a way to take over a game where you don't find a Krark-Clan Ironworks, and it is also very useful to ensuring you can keep combo'ing off when you do have an Ironworks, by providing lots of mana via Thopters and ways to draw cards as long as you have ways to generate blue mana.

I have a lot more to say about KCI, and perhaps I will write a future article about the deck, however, I mainly wanted to focus this article on another strategy: Standard Jeskai Control. I also went 5-3 with Jeskai in the Invitational, playing the following list.

This is the best deck in Standard. This particular list...probably not. I wouldn't dare to claim that my list is perfectly optimized, but I feel confident saying that Jeskai Control with Treasure Map to power out Niv-Mizzet is the best deck in the format, even if we haven't perfected the exact list yet.

Treasure Map on turn two feels like game over against all but the most aggressive of decks. You get to smooth out your draws, culminating in flipping the Map to both provide you with another land to use on future turns as well as the three Treasures that can be used to power out and protect an early Niv-Mizzet, play and protect a Teferi, cast a giant Expansion // Explosion, or simply be sacrificed to bury your opponent in card advantage.

I didn't like Treasure Map much in previous formats. It felt too slow for the kind of advantage it would provide, but this format is slow enough to where I think it's legitimately one of the most powerful cards you can play, and Niv-Mizzet is disgusting enough to where the payoff is worthwhile. We've reached the point where even Izzet Drake lists are now playing Treasure Map, so it's hard for me to really find an argument against playing the card.

While several card choices like Karn, Sailor of Means and various numbers on a lot of the Counterspells and sideboard slots are certainly up for debate, one card I will not budge on is Justice Strike. I noticed a lot of lists didn't play Justice Strike and a lot of people told me to cut Justice Strike, but to me, that is pure and utter madness. Niv-Mizzet is the most powerful threat in the format and decks are playing four copies of Niv-Mizzet in their friggin main deck! Why would I cut a card that kills Niv-Mizzet for two mana? People want me to replace it with cards that don't kill Niv-Mizzet. I can't cosign that.

Lightning never strikes twice, but Justice still does.

I also like Lava Coil over alternatives like Seal Away mainly for one reason. It's a sorcery, which means that it works with the Nivical Mizzet. This deck is surprisingly light on instants and sorceries thanks to a healthy chunk of planeswalkers, artifacts like Treasure Map and the like. This is largely why cards like Crackling Drake are nowhere to be found. As a result, I like my removal spells to primarily be capable of getting me more value out of Niv-Mizzet. Lava Coil, at the very least, cycles with a Niv-Mizzet in play, even in matchups where it is useless.

I was told before the event by everyone that Karn was bad in the deck. Sadly, I found this out at a point where it was too late for me to change it, so I just played Karn anyway. And to be honest, it actually wasn't too bad, I slammed turn-four Karn a good deal and it did some work. I won a number of games thanks in a large part to the Silver G. himself, Karn, Scion of Urza.

Likewise, I got made fun of for the Sailor of Means. However, I decided that I would put my money where my mouth is and sail it like I mean it, so I registered two copies of those bad boys anyway.

And...fine, everyone was right. Sailor of Means isn't that great. However, I still think it is possibly worth the slot. It's a nice way to ramp into big things, it protects you from Plaguecrafter and The Eldest Reborn, two very potent cards against the strategy, and it's basically an Elvish Visionary for three mana that also ties up one additional mana if you have a flipped Treasure Map. That's some good value.

One thing to keep in mind about playing this deck is that it is often fine to fall behind early because if you ever get to untap with Niv-Mizzet you basically just win on the spot. As a result, you can afford some setup time to get your Maps primed and flipped and so forth, because catching up isn't too difficult when you have a card that draws you tons of cards, deals tons of damage and another card that can give it lifelink.

One thing of note about my list is that I don't play any Dive Down. Instead, I have Negate. Dive Down is better exactly on turn five when you play a turn-two Treasure Map. If you activate the Map on each turn, it will flip on the fifth turn and provide you with seven mana, which is conveniently enough to cast Niv-Mizzet and use Dive Down to protect it. Dive Down is also better against Carnage Tyrant and Ravenous Chupacabra.

However, I tend to prefer Negate, because Negate is basically Dive Down a large amount of the time anyway and has so much added utility in other spots. In games where you don't have a Niv-Mizzet or where it isn't under direct threat of dying, Negate is going to be vastly superior. Negate is also nice with Teferi, as the Teferi +1, untap two lands and hold up Negate line is a powerful one. Mainlining Negate also allows us to have more space in the sideboard, since Negate is a card I would want at least 2-3 copies of in my 75, anyway.

I'm thinking in future versions of the deck, I may end up with a 1/1 split of Negate and Dive Down, which is more in-line with Adrian Sullivan's original version that played a lot of one-ofs.

One card that is not present in my list and that I believe to be quite weak in the format is Disdainful Stroke. Stroke is acceptable against Golgari, even though a good chunk of their deck is three CMC or less, and they are even moving to more of those cards with things like Midnight Reaper and Plaguecrafter. However, it is not very good against Jeskai Control since the card you most want to hit with Disdainful Stroke is Niv-Mizzet, Parun which is inconveniently uncounterable. Other cards that cost more than four CMC that you generally care about countering are things that pretty much all can be hit by Negate. Disdainful Stroke is additionally not good against any other of the big decks in the format. I would leave this one on the sidelines.

Sideboarding with Jeskai

Jeskai Control

+1 Negate
+3 Legion Warboss
+2 Ixalan's Binding

-2 Lava Coil
-3 Deafening Clarion
-1 Settle the Wreckage

If it is a true mirror where they have Treasure Maps and Ixalan's Bindings as well, then I would likely also go -2 Sailor of Means +2 Invoke the Divine. If they have 3-4 Crackling Drakes or Rekindling Phoenix, then I would keep Lava Coil and cut the Sailors.

Golgari Midrange

-2 Syncopate
-1 Justice Strike

+2 Star of Extinction
+1 Cleansing Nova

On the play I would keep one Syncopate and cut the other Justice Strike. Syncopate countering Wildgrowth Walker on the play is pretty good, as that's one of the main ways they can beat you. Spot removal is not great against Golgari, except for Lava Coil, which exiles creatures and deals with the annoying Wildgrowth Walker. The best plan vs. them is to just hit land drops, rely on sweepers to clear out their creatures, try not to die to Carnage Tyrant and then just eventually destroy them with Niv-Mizzet or Teferi. I have found this matchup to be favorable, although not excessively so.

Izzet Drakes

There are two versions of this deck. A control deck with a full set of Enigma and Crackling Drake, maindeck Niv-Mizzet and no Arclight Phoenix, and the more traditional Arclight Phoenix version.

Against 8-Drake version:

-2 Sailor of Means
-3 Deafening Clarion
-1 Settle the Wreckage
-2 Syncopate

+3 Seal Away
+3 Legion Warboss
+2 Ixalan's Binding

Against Arclight Phoenix version:

-2 Sailor of Means
-3 Deafening Clarion
-1 Negate

+1 Lyra Dawnbringer
+2 Ixalan's Binding
+3 Seal Away

These are both great matchups, and largely why I believe Jeskai is the best deck. These decks don't win the Niv-Mizzet war against you and their strategy also struggles to beat your Niv-Mizzets.

Boros Aggro

+3 Seal Away
+1 Lyra Dawnbringer
+1 Cleansing Nova
+2 Invoke the Divine

-2 Karn, Scion of Urza
-2 Syncopate
-2 Ionize
-1 Treasure Map (Draw)
-1 Negate (Play)

This is actually one of the tougher matchups because you rely so heavily on Deafening Clarion and Settle the Wreckage in game one, and they can pivot away from those cards being as devastating in the post-board games. I feel ahead when I'm on the play and decently behind on the draw, so I would put this matchup at probably less than 50%, though I don't have actual numbers to back it up. If you wanted to improve the matchup, I'd have a fourth Clarion in the 75, more Lyra's in the sideboard and Dive Down to protect them from Conclave Tribunal and other answers.

Grixis or Dimir Control ( Disinformation Campaign)

There are so many different ways these decks are built, but they still basically lump into the same thing. They range from being Grixis with Nicol Bolas to being straight Dimir. Some versions have Disinformation Campaign, some do not, etc. At any rate, this is supposed to be a nightmare matchup for Jeskai, but I believe not only is it not a nightmare, Jeskai is actually quite favored.

+3 Legion Warboss
+1 Negate
+2 Ixalan's Binding

-3 Deafening Clarion
-1 Settle the Wreckage
-2 Lava Coil

You can keep Lava Coil if they have both Nicol Bolas and Thief of Sanity, otherwise it's not good enough. These decks rely pretty heavily on The Eldest Reborn and Legion Warboss and Sailor of Means laugh in the face of that card. Ixalan's Binding also embarrasses their deck, shutting out The Eldest Reborn quite nicely. They rely heavily on hand disruption, and Treasure Map punishes that pretty hard.

Justice Strike is a nice answer to both Thief of Sanity and Doom Whisperer, which some versions play, or Nicol Bolas, the Ravager.

That's the bulk of major matchups in Standard right now. Or at the least, those are the decks I play by far the most against personally. At the Invitational I only played three decks in eight rounds, three Golgari (2-1), two Boros (1-1), and three Izzet Drake (2-1). Standard is fun and a lot of different decks are viable, but it's not as wildly diverse as advertised anymore. Diversity is overrated anyway. The lack of diversity does not take away from my enjoyment.

I can't say that this Jeskai deck is my favorite deck to play with. In fact, it's my least favorite deck to play against in this format, so I do feel bad subjecting my opponents to it. Well, not that bad, as I keep piloting it. I'd rather be playing Arclight Phoenix, and I hope I can someday get back to it. In the meantime, I'll keep searching for the best thing to do in Standard, which at the moment appears to be following these Treasure Maps to find the X-0.

The important thing to remember, however, is that regardless of what deck we end up playing, the real treasure is the friends we made along the way.

...Just kidding. The real treasures are the ones we make from Treasure Map and use to cast and protect Niv-Mizzet before we untap and completely destroy our opponent so badly that they will never recover. Friends? With what we're doing to people, we won't have many friends, anymore.