Jeskai Harbinger with Gerry Thompson

Posted in Event Coverage on May 22, 2016

By Meghan Wolff

Meghan is one half of the Good Luck High Five podcast and an adjunct professor at Tolarian Community College. She loves Limited, likes Modern, and dips her toes into each Standard season. She's decidedly blue and is the #1 hater of Siege Rhino in the Multiverse.

We can't say for sure what Nahiri is bringing to Innistrad, but in Modern she's certainly the harbinger of a new menace - or perhaps an old menace with a new face. Either way, this parallel is getting more and more apt.

Alongside the unbanning of Ancestral Vision, Nahiri, the Harbinger is breathing life into a new set of Jeskai-colored decks that walk the line between control and tempo.

“It's control-ish,” said Gerry Thompson, who played Jeskai Harbinger for the Modern portion of the MOCS last weekend. “I liken it more to a tempo deck. It's pretty similar to Splinter Twin, where you control the game for a little bit and then try to protect your Nahiri, and that's it.”

After a Top 4 finish in the MOCS, Thompson is playing the deck again this weekend.

Gerry Thompson

“I think it's good,” he said. “I like blue control when it's viable, and so far that's been tough to do in Modern. But I think Nahiri wraps it all up and gives you this win condition that's both hard to deal with and wins very quickly.”

Jeskai Harbinger has a suite of powerful and flexible one-mana spells that help both fend off aggressive strategies and draw towards the deck's four copies of Nahiri.

“I use things like Spell Snare, Path to Exile, and Lightning Bolt to keep the board clear,” Thompson said. “I have Serum Visions and Ancestral Vision to draw cards and make sure I hit my lands drops and find the right pieces that I need for each match-up. It's all meant as a tool to buy time to play Nahiri and then hopefully keep the board clear and protect it.”

In addition to making a home for the newly introduced (or re-introduced) Nahiri and Ancestral Visions, it also makes use of what Thompson considers an underutilized blue staple.

Serum Visions was a card that most Jeskai decks didn't play with because they wanted to play a bunch of lands and a lot of expensive, powerful cards. This deck is leaner and Serum Visions helps you do that. I only have 23 lands in my deck, and that's pretty low for a blue control deck in Modern.”

While the core of the deck is similar across a variety of builds, Thompson's version of Jeskai Harbinger deviates slightly from the early norm.

“I have Timely Reinforcements in the main - it goes to that game plan of protecting Nahiri. It gives you a life buffer, it gives you three bodies, and I think that card is very important. I think if people played with the deck more they would figure that out too. It was nice because I didn't actually play very many games before the MOCS last weekend, but basically all the things I thought were true ended up being true, like the Timely Reinforcements main deck. It was nice to get that affirmation.”

Jeskai Harbinger's efficient main deck removal spells give it an edge versus many creature-based decks. In Thompson's opinion, having access to Path to Exile and Lightning Bolt to kill early threats makes the deck viable. These same spells, however, are a drawback against some of the format's creature-less combos.

“Most of the time you can keep your head above water against things like Elves - the things that are a little bit slower,” Thompson said. “But if they're Affinity or Infect, sometimes they get under you. Even if you have a bunch of one-mana spells, sometimes it's not good enough. Any sort of combo deck that is not creature-based is pretty bad, just because you have all these dead cards.”

Like Blue-Red and and Jeskai tempo and control decks of the past, Jeskai Harbinger is demanding and decision-intensive,and this is the primary challenge for players looking to do well with it. Whether you're on the play or the draw, starting at turn one you have options ranging from playing a tapped land to suspending an Ancestral Vision to leaving up Spell Snare, Path to Exile, or Lightning Bolt, and the decision depends on both your hand and what your opponent is playing.

“It's kind of hard to play, but it's a lot of fun,” Thompson said. “If you have a lot of practice sequencing your spells - like if you've played Splinter Twin or even a Delver deck at some point - then I think you should be right at home with this deck. But otherwise you need to get some reps in and make sure that you're playing it pretty well because it's not very forgiving. You win a lot of games by inches.”

Gerry Thompson's Jeskai Harbinger - Grand Prix Charlotte

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