This past weekend we watched the best in the world battle it out in Standard at Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica in one of the most diverse formats Standard has seen in a while. A few of my Team Face to Face Games teammates and I ended up playing a unique Jeskai take on the U/R Drakes archetype that has been floating around.
Today, I’ll be telling you how we arrived at our list.
But first, let’s talk Arclight Phoenix for a minute. Four mana for a 3/2 flying creature with haste might seem unassuming, but the real kick comes from its alternative means of entering the battlefield. One is enough to get value, but two or three often means the game is just over. That is the kind of power we were trying to harness while working on the deck.
This article is mostly going to focus on Standard obviously. However, I should mention that you can play this card in Modern as well. For Standard there’s a few ways to build the deck and we are going to contrast and compare them for you here.
Let’s start with this list:
U/R Drakes (No Electromancers) – Eli Kassis
Chart a Course and Tormenting Voice do not get the cost reduction of Goblin Electromancer in this list — which is a real cost. It makes it way harder to achieve your most bomb-tastic starts with Arclight Phoenix. But, what this list does well however is plays a better drake game. It forgoes those combo-style starts to better maximize these two powerful creatures. With Maximize Velocity and Enigma Drake or Crackling Drake, you can take all the fun out of your opponent’s eyes in an instant. It’s with this list that U/R Drakes really is the new Splinter Twin for a reason.
I would recommend you have a good plan for people bringing in Lava Coils and Seal Away’s in post-board scenarios if you build your deck this way. When your opponent can remove your big flyers easily, this list gets clunky really fast. To combat that strategy you can sift through the deck with lots of cantrips until you Maximize for an instant speed lethal. When sideboarding with this deck, try to keep your core gameplan intact. You need a large number of cantrips and usually only want to board in a few cards for a couple choice matchups.
Next Let’s analyze what this deck looks like with Goblin Electromancers.
U/R Drakes – Eli Kassis
In this version our two mana spells are much more powerful. Goblin Electromancer, while only being a 2/2 for two mana, is surprisingly difficult to deal with in the early stages of the game for a lot of the metagame’s top decks. This version produces a powerful Arclight Phoenix draw on turn three more than any other way you can build the archetype. The draw back is obviously the lack for Enigma Drake. This makes playing a slower and more controlling game plan much harder and severely limits the one-turn-kill potential of the other version.
My personal favorite thing about these builds is that the sideboard cards we get are better. Chemister’s Insight for three mana feels gross and exactly what we want to be doing against a deck like Jeskai Control in post-board situations. Disdainful Stroke also gains a lot of power when we only need to keep up one mana instead of two. In fact, I actively dislike boarding this card in if we do not need to hit something essential, we would rather continue being proactive than adapt to combating what our opponents are trying to do — with the exception of this Electromancer build.
Now, all this in mind, the natural progression is to then find a way to combine the advantages of both of these builds in order to achieve a perfect build of the deck. Our initial build of that deck came from one of our team’s testing partners, Pascal Maynard, who played this list in a Magic Online Championship event:
U/R Drakes – Pascal Maynard
Pascal went 7-1 in the MOCS with this list, not an easy feat. This was even on a GP weekend where many Pro Tour competitors were playing the MOCS so the field was tough.
With this deck you get the best of both worlds — more velocity with Electromancer and more threats. That said, you open yourself up to drawing the wrong half of your deck too often. That’s just the reality of being right in the middle of two plans. So, you’re not going to be able to rely as heavily on your decks consistency, but the capacity for your deck to play on different axis’ and offer different angles of attack increases immensely.
For the Pro Tour the majority of the team and I decided on this archetype after trying all these versions, but we managed to develop the deck one step further. The MOCS showed us that white weenie aggressive decks were on the rise and quite good versus the Arclight strategies we liked.
So this is what we came up with:
Jeskai Drakes – Team Face to Face Games
Obviously, the difference here is that we are splashing Deafening Clarion. Invoke the Divine in the sideboard too. This drastically improved our creature matchups in testing. The interaction between the four-toughness-creatures in our deck and this incredible three-damage-sweeper is just sweet. This is a real gameplan against aggressive decks, whereas in other versions you’re strictly relying on drawing your removal when you need it. There is a small negative interaction between Clarion and Electromancer, but it is the Standard format where things are a little under-powered. We do not get to have our cake and eat it too.
One of the keys with this change is that interaction between Crackling Drake/Enigma Drake and Deafening Clarion. In deckbuilding, you’ve got to think about the way your additions impact the rest of your cards. Sure, adding a card for a specific matchup will improve it, but when it also further enhances other cards in your deck — well now we’re cooking with gas.
Trust me, the first time you wrath their board and give your nine power Enigma Drake lifelink in the process — you’ll know exactly what I mean.
The Invoke the Divine is great for some of the Ixalan’s Binding sideboard plans people brought to combat the small number of threats in this archetype —Seal Away as well. Obviously you also want this card to deal with Azor’s Gateway. And no, I am not biased at all… This change does come at cost though, you’re often shocking yourself with lands and you obviously need to find a white source to cast your Clarion on time. That said, in testing we found that these downsides were worth having a better gameplan against the white decks that ended up dominating the Top 8 of the event.
If you are considering this deck, I’d recommend trying out each version in fact. Find the build that suits your particular play pattern and play to your strengths. If you want to play the “best” version — you’ve got to realize it may not exist. The metagame determines what works best and it is ever-changing.
With each new deck, a new process starts just like this one that our team went through to land on our version. Try to apply these skills to your approach to deckbuilding and you’ll find that you’ll be a leg-up on the competition more often than not.
My teammate, Morgan McLaughlin played the deck to an 11-5 finish. And he, Edgar Magalhaes and I all believe it was a great choice of archetype for the weekend. That said, I believe it could have been even better with a little more work.
But the process is never finished. It’s time to get to tuning for Grand Prix Milwaukee this weekend where some of us will be competing. Let’s see if there’s some more tech for U/R Drakes we can find!