The Jeskai's the Limit

Posted in Reconstructed on November 4, 2014

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

Welcome to Jeskai Week!

This is the second stop on our worldwide tour around the clans of Tarkir. Buckle up, keep your hands inside the vehicle at all times, and please, don't pet the djinns or efreets. Stick to the path, Red Riding Hood.

Now, if you'll notice, we already took one look at Jeskai when Khans of Tarkir first came out, and in the meantime, a couple of Jeskai decks have risen to be top Standard competitors. So, what's left to do with Jeskai?

Jeskai Charm | Art by Mathias Kollros

Well, there are still plenty of interesting ways to take a Jeskai deck. Today, we're going to take a look at yet another way you can build Jeskai: tokens-centric! Let's take a look at our initial list, courtesy of Lex Taylor:

Lex Taylor's Kung Fu Tokens

Download Arena Decklist

The Battle Plan

Normally with Jeskai, you'd expect to see some Mantis Riders zooming in, or a flurry of burn spells to end the game—but not quite as much with this kind of deck.

It's still aggressive, but in this strategy, you "go wide"—that is, build up a board presence—with tokens, then enhance all of those tokens to make them far more effective than they would be otherwise.

For example, let's look at Hordeling Outburst. Three mana for 3 power isn't all that exciting in Constructed. But if suddenly there's a Dictate of Heliod on the table, you just generated 9 power for three mana. Suddenly you have a three-headed, six-legged, scary conglomerate of creatures! The tokens do a lot more for you in this regard than casting a single individual creature could, since they create a number of creatures that all get pumped by your enchantments.

This is an aggressive deck that can generate a ton of power out of nowhere, with even as much as a single end-step Raise the Alarm letting you crack in for a ton of damage. This decklist is already a pretty good interpretation of a tokens deck, so it's just going to be a matter of tightening up around the edges and focusing on what fits best.

Let's get started, shall we?

Deck Breakdown

It's time to go through the deck card by card and see which cards fit, and which ones don't quite ascend into the deck.

Raise the Alarm

Raise the Alarm is a staple for a deck like this one. It's a two-drop, so it can come down early, and it even has the benefit of being an instant, so you can ambush attackers or play around an End Hostilities. Having cheap, early token makers are important where you can find them, and this is one I definitely want to keep all four of.

Nyx-Fleece Ram

The Ram is a great tool against more aggressive decks. However, here, I'm not sure it's such a great main-deck fit. What is it accomplishing for us? It's neat that it can attack once given benefits from our global pumping effects, but in a deck that aims to be aggressive like this one, I'd rather have something that helps kill our opponents quickly.

To that end, I do think it's important what we add is also a two-drop—this deck is a little lacking for two-drops (which is the gap Nyx-Fleece Ram was trying to fill) and curving out early is important for a deck that wants to be aggressive. I want about five or six more two-drops, and this is a good opportunity to fill up on them.

The first one I'd like to add is Akroan Hoplite. This card fits marvelously into a tokens strategy. On its own, it attacks as a 2/2—nothing too special there. But with some tokens, it quickly grows to smash in for a lot more damage. If you curve this into a Hordeling Outburst or Goblin Rabblemaster, it is attacking for 5 damage on turn four! (Plus, if it's a Rabblemaster, you get in for 3 damage with it on turn three.) I'll take four copies of the Hoplite.

With the last spot remaining, a good fit for this deck is Seeker of the Way. This new Jeskai creature is going to usually be attacking as 3/3 for two with lifelink in this deck—and it can get even larger without too much effort. There's not quite enough room for more than two in this deck, but I'm happy having two.


Goblin Rabblemaster

Goblin Rabblemaster is one of the most popular aggressive creatures in Standard right now—and for good reason. It produces extra creatures quickly, and when the coast is clear it punches through for a ton of damage itself. In this deck, it even combos with Hordeling Outburst to grow large quicker!

This is definitely a four-of card to me. I'm going to up it to four copies.

Hordeling Outburst

The Outburst is a textbook good fit for a deck like this one. It makes three tokens for three mana, and they're even Goblins, so you can reap the rewards with Rabblemaster.

The largest question to me is if these are supposed to be Brimaz, King of Oreskos instead. This deck is already heavy on three-drops, and I think Hordeling Outburst would have to be the card to go to make way for the King; after upping the Rabblemaster count to four, we're already at twelve three-drops. (Also, I don't want to have RR and WW three-drops in my deck if I can avoid it.)

In the end, I'm going to stick with Outburst because of its great synergy with Rabblemaster and because it is better against non-Bile Blight removal. However, I think it's close and you could definitely justify playing Brimaz here if you wanted to.

Triplicate Spirits

While this spell is expensive to cast, convoke actually drastically cheapens this card thanks to the number of tokens this deck creates. You can pretty easily cast this on turn four. Additionally, convoke cards are a natural combo with Jeskai Ascendancy: you tap your creatures to cast them, then immediately untap them with the Ascendancy.

The flying tokens are definitely useful, and this helps to flood the board even quicker. I don't want four copies because you don't really want an opening hand with two or three of these, and I'm happy moving down to three of them in this deck.

Elspeth, Sun's Champion

While one of Standard's premier token making cards, Elspeth, Sun's Champion is also a little expensive to cast. I really want to lower the curve on this deck so it has enough to do early on, and a spell you need six mana to cast is further out of the range of what I'd like to play. Sorry Elspeth, but in this deck you need to die. (...Ooh, sorry—too soon?)

Jeskai Ascendancy

This card has generated a fair amount of buzz in combo decks—but here, it serves a different purpose as a card to help enable your aggression. This will usually pump your team by at least +1/+1, and getting to +2/+2 or higher isn't too tricky.

As I touched on earlier, a real all-star interaction is this card with your convoke spells. Tap your creatures to help cast Triplicate Spirits or Stoke the Flames, and then get the spell for free, loot, and pump all of your creatures to boot! Ascendancy is excellent in this deck, and I'd like to play all four copies.

Stoke the Flames

Stoke the Flames is one of the best burn spells in Standard, and that's made even better in this deck thanks to having so many creatures to help convoke it and Jeskai Ascendancy. I wouldn't want to play any fewer than four copies here.

Jeskai Charm

Not only is Jeskai Charm excellent for setting back your opponent's tempo, not only can it just go to the face for 4 damage, but in a token based strategy it can also pump up your numerous creatures! This is an easy card to keep all four copies of.

Dictate of Heliod

One of the rewards for playing with all of these tokens is that cards like Dictate of Heliod are incredibly effective. This Dictate ends games pretty easily—if you just have five 1/1 tokens, Dictate suddenly turns that into a whopping 15 damage!

While it is on the more expensive end of things, and definitely on the top of the curve, I'd like to move up to three copies. It's one of the best game enders you can have, and it makes every single token producer in your deck a huge threat to help give you resiliency to cards like End Hostilities.

Lightning Strike

While this is a great card in its own right, this deck is tight enough on space that its spells need to be synergistic with the rest of the deck. Stoke the Flames and Jeskai Charm both are—whereas Lightning Strike really isn't. We'll need to strike this card from the decklist.

Spear of Heliod

The global-pumping cards are great for this kind of strategy. However, since this deck already has so many three-drops you want to cast, and you don't want to play this one on turn three quite as much, I'm going to cut Spear of Heliod. I'd rather make room to play, say, the third Dictate I mentioned earlier, which is likely to come down on the same turn as you would ideally be playing Spear but have a much larger impact on the game.

Okay, with all of those changes made, that brings the decklist to:

Gavin Verhey's Jeskai Tokens

Download Arena Decklist

This version tightens up the initial decklist, giving it a better mana curve and enhancing its strongest features.

Of course, there are plenty of directions you can take it. If you don't like the tokens approach, you can try the more-burn route or the heroic version (optionally with the Retraction Helix combo) that has been making rounds recently. The biggest question with this version as-is, I think, is if you want to main-deck Brimaz or not—he's excellent, but he is another three-drop. After you play some, you could certainly consider bringing him onto the team over Triplicate Spirits or Hordeling Outburst—even though he is yet another three-drop.

Regardless, this deck is pretty strong, has some good synergies, and is fun to play. Have fun overtaking your opponents with a Jeskai swarm!

Honorable Mentions

What were some of the Jeskai decks that didn't quite make the article? Let's take a look!

Jaymic Schliesman's Howling Jeskai

Download Arena Decklist

James Mullen's Jeskai Basketball

Download Arena Decklist

Noda Teppei's Double Double Double!

Download Arena Decklist

OklamahoMixer's Ascen-dance!

Download Arena Decklist

Brandon Dauer's Jeskai Heroic

Download Arena Decklist

Dav's Jeskai 'Walkers

Download Arena Decklist

Ryota Nishimura's Skybind Tokens

Download Arena Decklist

FROGUE's Prowess Tempo

Download Arena Decklist

Yuichi Kouide's Boros Touch Blue

Download Arena Decklist

Goodbye Jeskai, Hello Mardu!

This has been a look at Jeskai for Jeskai Week—and in two weeks, it'll be time to take a trip to our next stop on the clan circuit and check out Mardu! Interested in having your deck featured? Check out the submission guidelines for this week below!

Format: Standard
Restrictions: Your deck should be exactly white, black, and red
Deadline: Monday, October 10, at 6 p.m. Pacific Time
Submit all decklists by emailing me at reconstructeddecks@gmail.com.

Decklists should be submitted with YOURNAME's DECKNAME at the top. Underneath should be one card per line, with just a leading number. For example:

12 Mountain
4 Firedrinker Satyr
3 Ash Zealot
4 Lightning Bolt

...and so on. Please don't use anything but a space to separate the card numbers and names—don't write "4x Lightning Bolt," for example. Well-formatted decklists have a much better chance of being read and making it into the column. Poorly formatted decklists are more likely to be ignored. (If I can't read your decklist, I certainly can't talk about it!)

Also, take note that, for this week, please send your decks to reconstructeddecks@gmail.com. There is currently a bug that is causing difficulty with me seeing your decklists sent to my Wizards address.

Hopefully you enjoyed this week's token-heavy take on Jeskai! If you have any comments at all, please send them my way by either sending me a tweet or asking me a question on my Tumblr. I always see all the messages you send me, and it's great to know what you think.

I'll be back next week with a budget look at Khans of Tarkir Standard! If you're trying to play Standard on a budget, you won't want to miss it.

Talk with you again next week!

Gavin

@GavinVerhey
GavInsight

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