The Way of the Jeskai

Posted in Reconstructed on September 16, 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.

Khans of Tarkir is finally here!

It's my favorite time of the year, as the old block rotates out of Standard and the landscape of the format drastically changes. And this year in particular I've been eagerly anticipating the changeover, as Khans and its clans take the spotlight, highlighting gold color combinations that have never been the focus before.

Something to keep in mind about Khans of Tarkir is that each clan's identity might be a little different than what you're used to when you think of that wedge. Some of them fit into existing paradigms, but some take a little experimentation.

Jeskai tends to be one of the latter.

Jeskai Ascendancy | Art by Dan Scott

When you think of blue, red, and white, often you think of a control deck. But history is a burden to deck building sometimes, and here on Tarkir those colors tend to be a bit more aggressive. While there are some good control cards in those colors, the core of Jeskai is using creatures and spells in tandem to deal as much damage as possible (as prowess hints at).

So, today I want to walk you through exactly what one of these more aggressive Jeskai decks might look like. Ready? Let's take a look at this one, sent in by Tyler Vaughan:

Tyler Vaughan's Jeskai Controlled Burn

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The Battle Plan

This deck has plenty of ways to kill off creatures—but it is far from a control deck.

Filled to the brim with direct-damage spells, most often this deck will actually be lobbing burn at your opponent's face! There are plenty of strong burn spells available in Standard, and this deck takes advantage of those while splashing in some of what white and blue have to offer. While this deck as-is is pretty low on blue and white cards, the ones it does have certainly make an impact.

Now, keep in mind the decklists for this week were sent in with only a small number of cards revealed—Tyler was missing some crucial elements we'll be sure to add in. Jeskai is full of efficient creatures and spells that would be a great fit here. Remember: the best burn spells are creatures that keep getting through.

The key to making modifications here is to keep the aggressive, tempo feel of this deck in mind. It wants to kill you quickly, but it has a few more tricks up its sleeve than just a burn deck. With the right build, it can play both offense and defense—something few burn decks can claim. But rather than blather on about how it works, let's get into making modifications!

Deck Breakdown

What in this deck fits into Jeskai and what would be better left along the path? Let's go through the deck card by card and see!

Generator Servant

This card carries some big dreams here, serving up the prospect off fueling you into a hasted Sphinx or Narset. I'll make no argument against the strength of that plan: it's powerful.

However, it's also inconsistent. This deck isn't going to play that many creatures, and I don't really want to clog my deck up with these 2/1s that only work sometimes if I draw certain cards. Plus, I'm going to be adding in some more mana-efficient cards and don't necessarily want the creatures this is turboing into in the first place. Instead of having to use this to combo with my five-drop, I'd rather just play an awesome hasted five-drop and not require the Servant to get there. Servant can go.

In its spot, I'd like to add in some other creatures that are just naturally good on their own and I'm happy to draw: Mantis Rider and Brimaz, King of Oreskos. They're both powerful creatures at their cost that will deal plenty of damage and don't need another card to make them good. I'm happy just slamming either one of those on turn three to help kick off my clock.

But what about the two-drop slot Servant filled? Well, I have that covered too: Jeskai Elder helps kick off the deck early, evening out your draws. Have too many lands? Elder can turn those into spells. Need to hit your fifth land drop? Elder can help you plan ahead so you have it. And blocking one is a risky proposition, since prowess means your opponent is often unsure if you can build it up or not.

Prognostic Sphinx

This is definitely in the upper echelon of my favorite creatures of all time to attack with. With that said, at five mana in a blue, red, and white deck, I would rather have something with haste that can get in right away.

Like, say, Sarkhan!

Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker is certainly one of the most powerful cards in Khans of Tarkir. With the ability to both swing in for 4 damage on turn five or also blast troublesome creatures into the ground, Sarkhan doesn't mess around. Threatening that ultimate is even pretty scary in a deck like this. Five is about I want to top out with a deck like this one, and Sarkhan is the card I want to do it with.

Narset, Enlightened Master

Narset's ability is certainly strong in this deck. However, she is a bit more expensive to cast than I would like: topping out at five for Sarkhan is about where I want to be in this deck. Narset is a fine card, but not what I'm looking for here.

Howl of the Horde

Howl offers a very spicy package: if you attacked this turn, you can turn one of your spells into something truly crazy. This deck will often be attacking, meaning the raid is easy to turn on. However, the easy part to miss on this card is that you still have to pay the mana cost of this card in addition to the spell you're forking. Once you hit five mana you can do this on something like a Lightning Strike...but I'd rather just have this be something good on its own.

The Direct Damage

Ah, the eternal question: which direct-damage spells to play?

I can tell you that, before we even get to these cards, I definitely want 4 Jeskai Charm. It can go upstairs for 4 points of damage, be a gigantic tempo play on your opponent, or even pump your guys in a pinch. So what other burn spells might be getting moved around for this?

Lightning Strike is a stable fit to me, as 3 damage for two mana is the going rate these days, and Strike is both clean and efficient.

Stoke the Flames is next up. It's pretty easy to fire this off for two or three mana in this deck, especially considering both Mantis Rider and Brimaz have vigilance. (And Brimaz even makes a token to help pay for Stoke!) I am going to lower it down to three copies just to cut out the number of pricier spells in the deck, but in general I think Stoke is good.

Magma Jet is next on the list. I already have a pretty full tableau of direct damage, but Magma Jet is fairly strong and helps control my draws. I'm happy playing all four.

Magma Spray, while good in some matchups and excellent as a one-mana spell to trigger Jeskai Elder's prowess, can't go to the dome and isn't quite what I want here. It's a sideboard card to consider—but I'm fine excluding it from the main deck.

The same can be said about Spite of Mogis. There are matchups where I would sideboard it in—against green creature decks—but it's weak in enough matchups that I'd rather cut it.

There's one more card I want to play: Deflecting Palm.

You don't want a lot of them, but Palm can be absolutely perfect at the right time. By playing two you force a wary opponent to play around it, if he or she sees it at all, and it can deal some pretty huge chunks of damage.

Dissolve

I like countermagic plenty, but three-mana counterspells don't have a strong place in this deck. You could play some cheaper ones if you really wanted, but I would rather keep this deck's spells proactive. This card can dissolve out of the decklist.

Chandra, Pyromaster

Chandra is excellent in this deck. She deals damage, helps Brimaz and Jeskai Elder get through, and also serves you up cards. She's essentially a must-deal-with threat from your opponent's side of the board. I'd actually like to add one more. I don't want to clog my hand up with expensive Planeswalkers, but I'm certainly happy with three Chandras.

Elspeth, Sun's Champion

Elspeth is plenty powerful—make no mistake about it. However, I'm looking to top out at five mana and don't want to draw any more cards that are difficult to cast early. Elspeth can go.

With all of those changes made, that brings the deck to:

Gavin Verhey's The Path of Damage

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Honorable Mentions

Was that not quite your style? Are you on the hunt for more post-Khans decklists? Well, take a look at many of the honorable mentions from this week!

Bryan Mohr's Suicide Black Devotion

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Eli's Simic Surprise

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Sebastiano Masi's Bear-Punchers

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Zach's Jeskai Wartime

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Austin B's Naya Superfriends

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Brandon Dauer's Sultai Walkers

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Brandon Dauer's Devotionball

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Mark Ian Alloso's Jeskai Control

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Brian Geddes's Mardu Midrange

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Sakane Kiyoaki's Goblin-Wave Tactics

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Johan Borbye's Pit Control

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Sandman's Abzan Constellation

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Duey's Mardu Goblins of Urd

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Dai Kasahara's 5-Color Morph

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Entrenched in Tarkir

Ah, the first look at a reader's deck in post-Khans of Tarkir Standard is in the books! But it certainly won't be the last look. It's a brand-new format to explore, so let's keep the Standard suggestions flowing!

Format: Khans of Tarkir Standard
Restrictions: None!
Deadline: September 22, 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:

YOURNAME'S DECKLIST

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.

I hope you enjoyed this take on Tarkir! If you align yourself with the Jeskai, perhaps try and find some of the cards for it at this weekend's Prerelease. If you have any feedback on this article at all, be sure to send me a tweet or ask me a question on Tumblr and I'll be sure to take a look!

I'll be back next week with another look at Standard. Talk to you then, and have a great Khans of Tarkir Prerelease this weekend!

Gavin
@GavinVerhey
GavInsight

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