Fournier’s Take: This Jeskai deck beats Tron

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The results are in, and it’s official: Ancient Stirrings is the best card in Modern. The format has shifted once again, and now linear decks that operate outside of the combat step are taking over, shutting down the reactive decks like Jeskai and Mardu that sought to beat up on Hollow One and Humans. However, I’m no Tron sympathizer, and I’m not enough of a brain genius to actually win games with Krark-Clan Ironworks, so I have to rely on having a Jeskai deck that can compete in this world.

Fortunately, I work with a washed up control master, a budget version of Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, one Andrew Van Leeuwen. As the late Travis Woo once said on stream when playing him on Magic Online, “Uhh, that’s a lot of counterspells for an Esper deck.” AVL, as the old guard calls him, was the undisputed king of blue spells in Toronto for a long time and an errant Legacy specialist. He always strayed from the beaten path, as long as there was countermagic hiding in the woods. A career highlight was a sideboard that included two copies of Rewind because it was the only counterspell legal in the format he wasn’t already maxed-out on. For a long while, he was probably the best player to never play a Pro Tour, famously cursed in PTQ Top 8 matches. Then, one day, he was inexplicably handed what basically amounted to a bye in the Top 8 of the first Modern RPTQ, and finally qualified for what was eventually the infamous Eldrazi Pro Tour.

He prepared tirelessly for this tournament by playing Origins draft after Origins draft online — despite the format being Oath of the Gatewatch — and played exactly zero games of Modern before the event. He lost a lot, had a kid, and now nobody remembers him, save those who he berates from behind the counter at his card shop in downtown Toronto. That said, his meticulously curated collection fuels a swath of well-known Toronto players, and he tears through Modern leagues on Magic Online with abandon, always trying obscene new versions of Jeskai, always looking for a new edge.

Today, I present to you the newest technology, hot off the presses. Jeskai can beat Tron, but it involves a pretty crazy decklist.

Daniel Fournier – Jeskai Control

Phew. There’s a lot going on here. Let’s start from the top, with the truly weird manabase. AVL’s always had a way of taking convention and throwing it out the window when it comes to the lands in his control decks. He wants to maximize utility in the long games that he’s always trying to play, and seeking to play coloured sources that minimize his exposure to certain hate cards, like, say, Blood Moon, or Choke if it’s popular for some indiscernible reason. Field of Ruin is doubtlessly a very powerful card, and this manabase takes advantage of it by ensuring that you always have a basic land available to tutor for. Because we’re extremely light on red cards, we can take a little bit longer than other decks to set up a red source on average. This also means that Lightning Helix is going to be better than Lightning Bolt here, as the life-gain will help us catch up when playing it up to a turn later.

Speaking of playing catch up, Ancestral Vision. This manabase has many advantages, but it’s not very synergistic with Search for Azcanta, the card advantage engine of choice these days. It has a low fetchland count and isn’t reliable for casting removal spells on early turns. With that in mind, we probably don’t want to take off the critical turn-two to play Search for Azcanta, and our high count of basic Island lets us easily sneak in a painless Ancestral Vision whenever we feel like it. The powerful suspend spell is also superior in control mirrors, as it doesn’t fall prey to opposing copies of Field of Ruin, and makes us extremely favoured against Thoughtseize decks who suddenly struggle to disrupt our card advantage engines.

There are some other unique spell choices going on here, namely the triumphant return of Mana Leak and Remand. A high counterspell count is very nice facing down a creature-light linear deck metagame, and with a lot of late-game power in the deck, being able to cast your counterspells on early turns off of one of the five colourless lands is rather important. Remand also gives you a significant advantage in control mirrors, as being able to bounce your own spells in response to a counter puts you up a card. You can use this flexibility to set up situations where you can use Mana Leak, even in long games. Remand as a Time Walk is also nice when you have an Ancestral Recall on suspend and you just want to buy time until your unbeatable late game is active. Yeah, this deck is basically playing Vintage.

At this point, I should remind you that this deck is also pretty much a galaxy brain meme. We used to say that only AVL was capable of winning with his lists, but over the years, either his deckbuilding has improved or we’ve all learned how to play dreadfully greedy control lists, and others have found success with his ideas. Playing decks like this is an art form in and of itself. There are no crutches, no training wheels, and each and every decision is one of life or death. Sometimes you’ll have to plan your land-drops turns in advance to set up the least punishing turn to activate a Field of Ruin to fix your mana. Play this deck with the patience of a stone cold killer, but make sure not to run out the clock.

Let’s go over the sideboard plans for a few popular matchups:

Humans:
IN
2 Settle the Wreckage
1 Abrade
1 Izzet Staticaster
OUT
3 Remand
1 Negate

Unfortunately, we’re not able to board-out all of our counterspells for this match-up, so we’re liable to fall prey to Cavern or Vial blanking our cards on occasion. Fortunately, we have Abrades and a lot of Field of Ruin, so we can try and set up eventualities where we can find uses for our cards. They are light on lands, so Mana Leak can be effective even in a long game, so long as we get rid of their Cavern. Settle is a house in this match-up. The first one is always a blow out, and it has the lingering effect of making your opponents play scared afterwards. Unlike Standard players, most Modern players haven’t quite figured out how to play around this powerful instant and tend to give you free value off of it.

Tron:
IN
2 Stony Silence
2 Summary Dismissal
1 Negate
1 Crucible of Worlds
OUT
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Wrath of God
1 Abrade
3 Lightning Helix

Summary Dismissal. Yeah. Let that sink in. Tron’s plan in match-ups like these is to wear you out of counterspells, find a Sanctum of Ugin, then drop a nice big Ulamog, or sometimes an Emrakul. We have a lot of counterspells, draw a lot of cards, slow them down a lot with Field of Ruin, and have a pair of a downright absurd answers to big Eldrazi in our sideboard. Of course, there’s some upside to having weird cards like Summary Dismissal in our decks:


This is a good time to talk about Crucible of Worlds as a win condition. There was a point in Modern, years ago, where AVL would only start ending games with Celestial Colonnade after finding Crucible and eventually killing every single land on the other side of the table. This requires an amount of patience that’s truly absurd, and probably isn’t right at all, but Crucible is more than just a way to recur Field of Ruin against Tron – it’s legitimately our strategy for taking over the game in many match-ups. That’s why there’s a Ghost Quarter in the maindeck.

Hollow One:
IN
2 Settle the Wreckage
1 Abrade
2 Relic of Progenitus
OUT
4 Remand
1 Negate

This plays out pretty similarly to our Humans match-up, except we lean extra hard on Path to Exile and Settle the Wreckage to carry us through. We’re relatively favoured, regardless, so there’s not much of a sideboard package for this matchup.

Krark-Clan Ironworks:
IN
2 Stony Silence
2 Summary Dismissal
1 Negate
1 Abrade
2 Relic of Progenitus
OUT
3 Lightning Helix
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Wrath of God
2 Electrolyze
1 Path to Exile

Engineered Explosives would be poor in this match-up if it wasn’t one of our few answers to a resolved Ghirapur Aether Grid. We have a lot of interactive cards here, but establishing a clock can be a challenge.

Control:
IN
1 Negate
3 Dispel
1 Crucible of Worlds
2 Relic of Progenitus
OUT
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Wrath of God
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Abrade
3 Lightning Helix

A full three copies of Dispel is probably a bit of a reach, but it does tons of work against both control decks and Collected Company, which is always fairly popular. This is a match-up where Crucible of Worlds is quietly the win condition of choice.

Let me know if you’re brave enough to bring this masterpiece to an event, and as always, let me know if you have any questions, comments, concerns, or if I’m canceled. I’d hate to be canceled and not know about it, after all.

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