THE JESKAI WAY

Posted in PRO TOUR KHANS OF TARKIR - COVERAGE - EVENTS on October 11, 2014

By Corbin Hosler

Step 1: Cast Narset, Enlightened Master.

Step 2: Turn it sideways.

Step 3: Profit.


In a nutshell, that's the Jeskai way. The creatures power the spells, the spells power the creatures (thanks to prowess), and everything powers down the opponent's life total.

Jeskai is a color combination typically exemplified by efficient decks that combine efficient red and white removal with blue counterspells and a few creatures to tie it all together. And in Khans of Tarkir, you get exactly what you expect. From the Flying Crane Technique that usually ends the game on the spot to the Warden of the Eye that brings it back if things go awry, Jeskai manages the mingling of creatures, instants and sorceries better than any other clan on Tarkir could dream of.

It's a combination that is perfectly encapsulated in the Jeskai mechanic, prowess. Creatures with the prowess ability are granted +1/+1 when their owner casts a non-creature spell, and that means things can get out of control quickly. Balancing creatures with other spells can be tricky, but it's absolutely deadly when it all comes together.

A Jeskai deck in Khans of Tarkir draft is very flexible. It can play an aggressive route with removal and counterspells to pump up the prowess creatures while disrupting the opponent, or take a more controlling stance and rely on a few powerful creatures to go the distance while hiding behind flexible morphs like Dragon's Eye Savants and Monastery Flock and a host of instants and sorceries.

Jeskai is not without some signature spells in Limited. Winterflame is a popular one for the flexibility it offers, and Efreet Weaponmaster is one of the most powerful common morphs in the set. It wins combat against most cards that unmorph for five or less mana, and it allows another creature to trade up thanks to its power-granting ability.

Jeskai is also unique in that it offers some interesting "build-around-me" cards that other clans can't match. It's hard to have more fun in Draft than with a strong Quiet Contemplation or Goblinslide deck, and the existence of those archetypes is a testament to the depth of the format.

Then there's the game-breaking rares. Flying Crane Technique is the most well-known, but Dragon-Style Twins and Sage of the Inward Eye get the job done as well. Mantis Rider may not be as immediately game-breaking as those spells, but it is one of the best cards in the clan, with three of the four undefeated Jeskai decks from Day One sporting the hasty flier.

If Mantis Rider is powerful treat in Limited, it's an absolute powerhouse in Constructed. It forms the backbone of the Jeskai Aggro deck that has performed consistently well since the debut of Khans of Tarkir in Standard.

Perhaps one of the Jeskai's most recognizable and defining cards, Mantis Rider has been a powerhouse in both Standard and Limited this weekend.

The deck is something of an enigma that defies any traditional label. It's not a tempo deck, though it can sometimes play out that way. It plays a ton of direct damage red spells, yet it's not exactly a Burn deck. The beauty of the Jeskai deck is that it can adapt to fill whatever role is needed, whether that's to pressure a Control opponent with threats or control the board against an aggressive opponent. Thanks to flexible spells like Jeskai Charm, it's easy for the deck to move back and forth between whatever role is necessary.

And while it's technically a Sultai card, Dig Through Time has been a staple of the Jeskai deck this weekend. It fills a vital need for the deck, giving it the card advantage it needs to compete with the Control decks around the room while also providing the spell that allows Jeskai to fully pull ahead of the aggressive decks.

One of the players most invested in the archetype is your 2013 Magic World Champion Shahar Shenhar, who tested other decks before the Pro Tour but came back to Jeskai because of the options it allowed.

"There's a lot of interaction with your opponent, and it allows you to plan out plays around what your opponent is doing," he explained. "It really doesn't have any truly bad match-ups. The green decks aren't easy, but it's definitely winnable. Really, this just fits my play-style."

2013 Magic World Champion Shahar Shenhar is one of many representatives of the Jeskai Way this weekend in Standard.


Moving on from the typical Jeskai deck, there's another card in the clan that must be talked about. It's received possibly more attention than any other card in the set, and with good reason, even if it flew a little under the radar when it premiered.

Jeskai Ascendancy has been making a couple of waves in multiple formats, and Standard is no exception.

When the card debuted, most people didn't know what to make of it. Slowly, we came to understand the potential the card offers in conjunction with creatures that can tap for a special ability. In Modern it makes for a fearsome deck thanks to the plethora of mana-producing creatures like Birds of Paradise, allowing it to draw through its entire deck thanks to one-mana selection spells like Serum Visions before finishing off the opponent with Grapeshot or Flesh and Blood.

In Standard, the popular combo has been to target a creature with Retraction Helix, then use it to bounce a zero-mana spell such as Astral Cornucopia or Ornithopter and trigger the Jeskai Ascendancy to restart the process. This allows the deck's pilot to draw through their entire deck to find a win condition, typically Altar of the Brood.

It's pretty rare to have a combo deck find any success in Standard, but a number of players across the room, including Hall of Famer Luis Scott-Vargas, are trying their hand at the deck and finding some success.

"It's got a really good match-up against some of the field," said two-time Grand Prix Top 8 competitor Dan Jordan, who spent a fair amount of time testing the deck in the week leading up to the Pro Tour before settling on a different deck. "But it can be inconsistent. When you play a combo deck and you 'go off,' you want to be sure you're always going to win. But Ascendancy can sometimes just brick and lose to itself. It's a high variance deck, but it's powerful. If it gets the right match-ups I wouldn't be surprised to see it go 10-0 this weekend."

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