The right way to build Esper Control

I’m here to tell you that Esper Control is the best deck in Standard.

A couple weeks back at the StarCityGames Open in Richmond I managed to 11-4 the Open with Esper, good enough for Top 16. Going forward, Esper can adjust to beat anything and it’s for that reason I think it is, and will remain to be on top of the metagame.

[Deck Title= Top 16, SCG Richmond, Esper Control – Jonathan Rosum]
[Spells]
3 Absorb
2 Dovin’s Veto
1 Liliana, Dreadhorde General
2 Narset, Parter of Veils
1 Cry of the Carnarium
3 Kaya’s Wrath
3 Chemister’s Insight
4 Thought Erasure
2 Cast Down
4 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
1 Moment of Craving
2 Search for Azcanta
3 Vraska’s Contempt
3 Mortify
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Godless Shrine
4 Watery Grave
1 Swamp
1 Island
4 Isolated Chapel
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Hallowed Fountain
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Dovin’s Veto
1 Enter the God-Eternals
1 Despark
3 Teferi, Time Raveler
2 Cry of the Carnarium
1 Moment of Craving
3 Hostage Taker
3 Duress
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

During the previous Standard format, I wasn’t high on Esper Control. I honestly just thought it wasn’t good, and it certainly wasn’t positioned well. But, War of the Spark has added some great tools for Esper, and it starts with these busted three mana planeswalkers: [Card]Narset, Parter of Veils[/Card] and [Card]Teferi, Time Raveler[/Card]. Last format your game plan against the Simic Nexus deck was atrocious and the format was incredibly hostile towards Esper (Nexus, White Aggro, Gruul Aggro). Then, your few good matchups became a lot worse when everybody had a plan post-board for [Card]Thief of Sanity[/Card] and [Card]Hostage Taker[/Card].

Now that’s all changed.

Teferi and Narset have given the deck an actual plan versus the deck people were claiming was broken for Week 1 Standard — Simic Nexus, while also being a useful tool against the rest of the format. Both walkers have incredible static effects that render the instant speed Nexus game plan obsolete. [Card]Teferi, Hero of Dominaria[/Card] is once again on top.

Narset, Parter of Veils: I was incredibly high on this card going into the weekend and let me tell you that Narset did NOT disappoint. In testing, I often referred to her in jest as [Card]Dig Through Time[/Card] and although that may be a little hyperbolic, the similarities are hard to ignore in practice. The only issue with the card is that you don’t always have the luxury of slamming it on an empty board like you do with Teferi. That said, in testing I’ve found that even an [Card]Impulse[/Card] that gains you three life is good enough a lot of the time. And the upside in slower matchups is just so powerful.

Narset’s static ability is best in the Esper Control mirror and against Simic Nexus where it just completely bricks opposing [Card]Chemister’s Insight[/Card]s and Teferis. Sultai and Bant decks will probably continue to rise in popularity and as these decks get more and more popular, you’ll notice that their primary catch up mechanic in [Card]Hydroid Krasis[/Card] is just absolutely COLDED by Narset.

Teferi, Time Raveler: [Card]Teferi, Time Raveler[/Card] did not make the cut in my maindeck this weekend but that doesn’t mean that this planeswalker doesn’t do stupid-powerful things. Teferi was a three-of in my sideboard and was an absolute nightmare for all my Esper Control and Simic Nexus opponents to deal with. Turns out, forcing your opponent to jam at sorcery speed is pretty powerful. Teferi lines up very well with your game plan of “answer everything to safely deploy Teferi, Hero of Dominaria” and it is just absolutely backbreaking in the blue matchups.

Dovin’s Veto: This is the biggest upgrade this archetype got — [Card]Negate[/Card] with upside. It doesn’t look flashy, but it most certainly has changed how games are played both with and against Esper Control. The threat of [Card]Dovin’s Veto[/Card] basically makes it impossible for decks to be able to just resolve their problematic non-creature threat against open mana. They can’t just add blue to their deck and force through their spells like Sultai used to. We now have a “say no” button, and that’s always something control decks are in the market for.

An unlikely cut:

Now I know what you all want me to talk about, and I think I saved the most interesting point about my deck list from the Open for last, and that is my decision to play ZERO [Card]Thief of Sanity[/Card]. I’ve always had a love and hate relationship with Thief and the reason it’s now cuttable is due to the printing of both Narset and Teferi. These two are the new card advantage engine you need post-board and I think it’s time to move past the 2/2 flier for more stable threats.

In testing, I found that Narset and Teferi did most of the heavy lifting in the blue matchups and that getting Thief going post-board was a high variance plan. With these new sticky cheap walkers, we no longer have to rely on the snowbally-yet-vulnerable three mana flyer.

My Game Plan:

With Richmond behind me and the Standard Open in Syracuse just days away, where does Esper Control go from here? There are several changes that I want to address from the list that I played this past weekend:

Oath of Kaya: I greatly underestimated the power of [Card]Oath of Kaya[/Card] at first glance. Against the aggressive strategies it’s obviously a house and I supremely undervalued the interaction of [Card]Oath of Kaya[/Card] and [Card]Teferi, Time Raveler[/Card]. [Card]Oath of Kaya[/Card], [Card]Teferi, Time Raveler[/Card] and [Card]Teferi, Hero of Dominaria[/Card] is an actual win condition versus Nexus which helps smooth out your work.

Liliana, Dreadhorde General: Sadly [Card]Liliana, Dreadhorde General[/Card] was the biggest SLOP of my Top 16 weekend. Liliana is a very powerful threat and it has been compared to [Card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/Card] even in the eyes of strong players like my friends Oliver Tomajko and Kazu Negri. But, the sad truth of the matter is that the format is currently in a spot where there are effectively no Sultai, Bant, or Gruul creature decks where she shines. In their place, stand a field full of decks that make it impossible to tap-out for her.

Vona, Butcher of Magan: I’ve registered this card in the past in Esper Control and been happy with it. But, it’s something that I just shelved completely after the printing of [Card]Hallowed Fountain[/Card] allowed the deck to reliably cast [Card]Lyra Dawnbringer[/Card]. Vona in current Esper is an inspiration from Edgar Magalhães and I believe it was a great inclusion in Week 1 of the format. The prevalence of [Card]Teferi, Time Raveler[/Card] currently makes me very skeptical of playing Vona against Esper or Bant Midrange so I think that I will be moving to [Card]Lyra Dawnbringer[/Card] to have the best threat against Mono-Red and White Weenie.

Dreadhorde Invasion: This is my new post-board win condition that I’ve loved in testing this week. This card is inspired by Arne Huscenbeth and Oliver Tomajko who were both off the [Card]Thief of Sanity[/Card] plan in Richmond in favour of this two-mana enchantment. It’s important to note just how lean this card is. It gets under a lot of the interaction ([Card]Cast Down[/Card], [Card]Oath of Kaya[/Card], [Card]Kraul Harpooner[/Card], [Card]Arboreal Grazer[/Card]) that people leave in out of respect for Thief in the Esper Control mirror and against Simic Nexus which I love. It’s more or less a brick against green decks, but if the midrange matchups remain flavours of Esper, this card is nice.

With all the changes that I just mentioned, here is what my current Esper Control list looks like right now:

[Deck Title=  Esper Control – Jonathan Rosum]
[Spells]
4 Thought Erasure
4 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
3 Dovin’s Veto
3 Chemister’s Insight
3 Vraska’s Contempt
2 Cast Down
2 Search for Azcanta
2 Absorb
2 Cry of the Carnarium
2 Mortify
2 Oath of Kaya
2 Teferi, Time Raveler
2 Kaya’s Wrath
1 Moment of Craving
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Godless Shrine
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Isolated Chapel
4 Watery Grave
1 Island
1 Swamp
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
3 Dreadhorde Invasion
2 Duress
2 Narset, Parter of Veils
2 Hostage Taker
2 Lyra Dawnbringer
1 Moment of Craving
1 The Elderspell
1 Cry of the Carnarium
1 Teferi, Time Raveler
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Sideboarding:

Mono-Red Aggro:

  • -3 [Card]Chemister’s Insight[/Card]
  • -2 [Card]Kaya’s Wrath[/Card]
  • -1 [Card]Dovin’s Veto[/Card]
  • -1 [Card]Thought Erasure[/Card]
  • +2 [Card]Duress[/Card]
  • +2 [Card]Lyra Dawnrbinger[/Card]
  • +1 [Card]Moment of Craving[/Card]
  • +1 [Card]Cry of the Carnarium[/Card]
  • +1 [Card]Teferi, Time Raveler[/Card]

I sideboard a lot differently in this matchup than other Esper Control players. Basically, I often find [Card]Kaya’s Wrath[/Card] to be a trap and I just want to try and make my post-board configuration as lean as possible. I think Wrath is a lot worse in this matchup then both [Card]Cry of the Carnarium[/Card] and [Card]Lyra Dawnbringer[/Card] is a nice upgrade from the Vona I registered in Richmond.

Be careful with the ratio of card draw to discard spells you leave in your deck. Having six discard and zero Chemister’s is a really easy way to run out of gas.

Simic Nexus:

  • -3 [Card]Vraska’s Contempt[/Card]
  • -2 [Card]Cast Down[/Card]
  • -2 [Card]Cry of the Carnarium[/Card]
  • -1 [Card]Moment of Craving[/Card]
  • -1 [Card]Kaya’s Wrath[/Card]
  • +3 [Card]Dreadhorde Invasion[/Card]
  • +2 [Card]Duress[/Card]
  • +2 [Card]Narset, Parter of Veils[/Card]
  • +1 [Card]The Elderspell[/Card]
  • +1 [Card]Teferi, Time Raveler[/Card]

Sideboarding in this matchup can be quite tricky if you don’t know your opponents 75. Team Lotus Box brought a Simic Nexus list to SCG Richmond that sideboarded several copies of [Card]Carnage Tyrant[/Card] which is why leave in one copy of [Card]Kaya’s Wrath[/Card] as a hedge. [Card]Dreadhorde Invasion[/Card] is a hard hitter in this matchup along with [Card]Narset, Parter of Veils[/Card] and the third copy of [Card]Teferi, Time Raveler[/Card].

Esper Control:

  • -2 [Card]Cast Down[/Card]
  • -2 [Card]Cry of the Carnarium[/Card]
  • -2 [Card]Kaya’s Wrath[/Card]
  • -1 [Card]Moment of Craving[/Card]
  • -1 [Card]Mortify[/Card]
  • -1 [Card]Vraska’s Contempt[/Card]
  • +3 [Card]Dreadhorde Invasion[/Card]
  • +2 [Card]Duress[/Card]
  • +2 [Card]Narset, Parter of Veils[/Card]
  • +1 [Card]The Elderspell[/Card]
  • +1 [Card]Teferi, Time Raveler[/Card]

With the addition of [Card]Oath of Kaya[/Card], we can cut [Card]Cast Down[/Card] in this matchup comfortably while respecting [Card]Thief of Sanity[/Card] and the three mana walkers. This is the second matchup where [Card]Dreadhorde Invasion[/Card] is the nuts. [Card]Mortify[/Card] is an odd cut but I have been respecting Thief, Teferi and Narset more than I’m respecting the one or two copies of [Card]Search for Azcanta[/Card].

White Aggro:

  • -4 [Card]Thought Erasure[/Card]
  • -2 [Card]Dovin’s Veto[/Card]
  • -2 [Card]Absorb[/Card]
  • +2 [Card]Cry of the Carnarium[/Card]
  • +2 [Card]Hostage Taker[/Card]
  • +2 [Card]Lyra Dawnbringer[/Card]
  • +1 [Card]Moment of Craving[/Card]
  • +1 [Card]Teferi, Time Raveler[/Card]

In this matchup you want to cut all your [Card]Thought Erasure[/Card]s, [Card]Absorb[/Card]s and [Card]Dovin’s Veto[/Card]s and just turn into a tap-out control deck that leverages the power of your sideboard. The sideboard for this matchup conveniently is quite nice and you have a ton of bombs that are quite hard for White Weenie to beat. [Card]Teferi, Time Raveler[/Card] is the most interesting card in this matchup, and I found that it is quite nice to just blink a [Card]History of Benalia[/Card] token while also just shutting off their relevant interaction post-board. [Card]Hostage Taker[/Card] and [Card]Lyra Dawnbringer[/Card] are both game winners in this matchup.

Esper Midrange:

  • -2 [Card]Absorb[/Card]
  • -2 [Card]Mortify[/Card]
  • -2 [Card]Kaya’s Wrath[/Card]
  • +2 [Card]Narset, Parter of Veils[/Card]
  • +2 [Card]Hostage Taker[/Card]
  • +1 [Card]The Elderspell[/Card]
  • +1 [Card]Cry of the Carnarium[/Card]

Once again I’m trying to become a tap-out deck as much as possible with just the three [Card]Dovin’s Veto[/Card] because Teferi shuts off your counter magic so well. [Card]The Elderspell[/Card] is quite nice in this matchup as their deck is comprised of 7-11 planeswalkers and it can just be an absolute blowout that climbs you back into the game.

Sultai Midrange:

  • -2 [Card]Cry of the Carnarium[/Card]
  • -2 [Card]Mortify[/Card]
  • -1 [Card]Moment of Craving[/Card]
  • +2 [Card]Narset, Parter of Veils[/Card]
  • +2 [Card]Hostage Taker[/Card]
  • +1 [Card]Teferi, Time Raveler[/Card]

Pretty similar sideboarding to how it was last format in the classic fight of Esper Control versus Sultai Midrange. Sultai and Bant Midrange are the two matchups where you miss [Card]Thief of Sanity[/Card] the most, but I do think that [Card]Hostage Taker[/Card] mitigates the loss well. [Card]Oath of Kaya[/Card] isn’t the flashiest card to leave in, but it can be used to finish off a low [Card]Vivien Reid[/Card] while also just padding your life total if they have an aggressive [Card]Merfolk Branchwalker[/Card] into [Card]Jadelight Ranger[/Card] draws. It is important to note that [Card]Narset, Parter of Veils[/Card] is quite good in this matchup as it shuts off their best grinding mechanism, [Card]Hydroid Krasis[/Card].

Bant Oketra:

  • -2 [Card]Absorb[/Card]
  • -2 [Card]Cry of the Carnarium[/Card]
  • -1 [Card]Moment of Craving[/Card]
  • -1 [Card]Mortify[/Card]
  • +2 [Card]Narset, Parter of Veils[/Card]
  • +2 [Card]Hostage Taker[/Card]
  • +1 [Card]The Elderspell[/Card]
  • +1 [Card]Teferi, Time Raveler[/Card]

I know that cutting [Card]Absorb[/Card] in this matchup makes us weaker to [Card]God-Eternal Oketra[/Card]. That said, [Card]Absorb[/Card] is a huge liability against their [Card]Teferi, Time Raveler[/Card], [Card]Vivien, Champion of Justice[/Card] draws. The difference between this matchup and Sultai is that our own small Teferis just completely blank their flash game and I’ve found that Esper Control is much better at operating on the tap-out axis than they are.

Esper Control is the best deck in current Standard. [Card]Teferi, Hero of Dominaria[/Card] just is an incredibly powerful Magic card and the supporting cast around Teferi is also quite stellar. If you’ve got a Standard tournament this weekend there is not doubt in my mind that this is what you should be playing!

Vehicles are good again

Don’t look now, but Vehicles are good in Standard again.

A couple weekends back I made the Top 8 of the Team Open in Baltimore with W/B Vehicles. I was fortunate enough to do a deck tech with Nick Miller if you want some extra info after you finish reading.

I’ve built a lot of my reputation on the SCG Tour as a Modern player. But I just had to Standard, because of this deck: B/W Vehicles.

5th Place, StarCity Games Baltimore Open, Jonathan Rosum – B/W Vehicles

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Scrapheap Scrounger
2 Walking Ballista
4 Knight of Malice
4 Toolcraft Exemplar
2 Lyra Dawnbringer
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
2 Gideon of the Trials
4 Karn, Scion of Urza
4 Heart of Kiran
3 Fatal Push
3 Cast Out
4 History of Benalia
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Concealed Courtyard
3 Ifnir Deadlands
4 Isolated Chapel
1 Scavenger Grounds
1 Shefet Dunes
8 Plains
3 Swamp
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Treasure Map
2 Angel of Sanctions
1 Settle the Wreckage
2 Doomfall
3 Duress
1 Fragmentize
2 Fumigate
2 Golden Demise
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Throughout testing that week, Lotus Box team member Zan Syed and friend Julian John were talking about how much they were winning on Magic Online with the deck. I’m pretty sure by Wednesday, Zan had five 5-0s with the deck and a bunch of 4-1s so I had to give the deck a spin. I swapped formats with my teammate for the weekend, Kazu Negri and it was time to play some Standard.

The deck’s main appeal comes from the fact that it is an aggressive deck that attacks the format from a position it wasn’t prepared for. Going into the weekend, we thought that a bunch of teams were going to bring some U/W variant to the Open, followed by a smattering of other creature decks that include: Mono-Red, G/B Constrictor and maybe some of the mirror.

The core cards:

Heart of Kiran and Knight of Malice: Going into the week, it was very apparent that the U/W strategies were very powerful and punishing a slower format. That said, their early-game removal being Seal Away made them lackluster at best trying to answer these awkward-to-deal with-permanents. [Card]Heart of Kiran[/Card] and [Card]Knight of Malice[/Card] both respectfully evade [Card]Seal Away[/Card] and by the time your opponent can answer them — their likely way behind.

History of Benalia: You will be probably hearing this a lot, but this card is absolutely messed up. The card just puts your opponent under an unreal amount of pressure and isn’t particularly easy to answer. It effectively allows you to play both the aggressive game plan and the controlling plan after sideboard and it does everything that you’d want a three-mana card to do.

Karn, Scion of Urza: The biggest winner from Dominaria: [Card]Karn, Scion of Urza[/Card] can and will win you plenty of games by itself. All three of his abilities are very good in this deck. Don’t be afraid to use your Karn to make multiple constructs as they can often become 3/3s and 4/4s and put your opponent under an enormous amount of pressure. Please don’t register any less than four copies of this card when playing W/B Vehicles.

Tech slots:

Gideon of the Trials: Gideon was very impressive all week. It’s very good against the bevy of creatures that this format has to offer (other than [Card]Knight of Malice[/Card], which can sometimes be awkward), and isn’t the worst card against U/W Control. It requires them to either answer your cards on your first main phase, or you threaten to deal them a solid chunk turn after turn. I liked having the second copy a lot. Having this multi-faceted threat when you morph into a more controlling deck after-board is important to that plan.

Treasure Map: I would recommend exploring different options when playing this deck in the future. I think that an effect like this is critical in the sideboard plan, but Treasure Map can sometimes be slow and clunky. I tried Arguel’s Blood Fast and it wasn’t much better, but I’m interested to see what comes out of GP Birmingham and how the W/B Vehicles decks sideboard adapts and finds new card advantage options going forward.

Angel of Sanctions: Part of me wishes I played this card in my main deck, it’s honestly unstoppable in a format that is defined by playing to the board like this one is. Angel of Sanctions’ threatening it’s pseudo-flashback makes it hard for the opponent to just flat-out kill it, and Vraska’s Contempt isn’t actively the norm in this format like it used to be. It also has some cute little synergy with [Card]Lyra Dawnbringer[/Card], so don’t forget to play her pre-combat if you want to attack with your Angel of Sanctions!

Sideboard guide:

Let’s talk about how to sideboard with this deck!

U/W Approach
Out: 3 [Card]Fatal Push[/Card], 2 [Card]Lyra Dawnbringer[/Card], 2 [Card]Gideon of the Trials[/Card], 1 [Card]Walking Ballista[/Card]
In: 3 [Card]Duress[/Card], 2 [Card]Treasure Map[/Card], 2 [Card]Doomfall[/Card], 1 [Card]Fragmentize[/Card]

This is one of the few match-ups that I feel as though your deck configuration and game-plan doesn’t change after sideboarding. You are the aggressor in this match-up, and it’s very easily to capitalize on U/Ws stumbles in the early game and use your resilient creatures to get aggressive early. This bridges the gap into a turn that you can reliably resolve [Card]History of Benalia[/Card] or  [Card]Karn, Scion of Urza[/Card] and ride it to victory.

Mono-Red Aggro
Out: 4 [Card]Toolcraft Exemplar[/Card], 3 [Card]Scrapheap Scrounger[/Card]
In: 2 [Card]Doomfall[/Card], 2 [Card]Golden Demise[/Card], 2 [Card]Angel of Sanctions[/Card], 1 [Card]Settle the Wreckage[/Card]

This is a match-up where you just want to sideboard into a control deck. You’re just trying to bridge the game into the mid-game where you can either win with [Card]Lyra Dawnbringer[/Card] or [Card]Angel of Sanctions[/Card] their win condition and ride the game home from there. It’s very easily to stabilize the game with cards like [Card]History of Benalia[/Card] so I would recommend keeping hands that either are chock full of Fatal Pushes or just ensuring that you won’t get ran over.

W/B Vehicles Mirror
Out: 4 [Card]Toolcraft Exemplar[/Card], 4 [Card]Scrapheap Scrounger[/Card]
In: 2 [Card]Doomfall[/Card],2 [Card]Treasure Map[/Card], 2 [Card]Angel of Sanctions[/Card], 1 [Card]Fragmentize[/Card], 1 [Card]Settle the Wreckage[/Card]

Sideboarding in the mirror often depends on how you feel your opponent is going to board. I generally assume that most opponents are just trying to go over the top of me and I’ve found that the best way of doing that is by cutting all the aggressive creatures.

It is very possible that your opponent will try to be aggressive on the play, so I wouldn’t mind boarding in Golden Demise and not boarding in my Doomfalls if I felt as though my opponent was going to leave if Toolcraft and Scrapheap Scrounger. I was boarding in [Card]Duress[/Card] over [Card]Doomfall[/Card] all weekend, but in retrospect I think I’d swap that. The angels are just the most important creatures in the mirror and you can maneuver the board to snag them with a Doomfall.

G/B Constrictor
Out: 4 [Card]Toolcraft Exemplar[/Card], 4 [Card]Scrapheap Scrounger[/Card], 1 [Card]Walking Ballista[/Card]
In: 2 [Card]Doomfall[/Card], 2 [Card]Treasure Map[/Card], 2 [Card]Fumigate[/Card], 2 [Card]Angel of Sanctions[/Card], 1 [Card]Settle the Wreckage[/Card]

Green creature decks are the exact match-ups in which you most want to transition into your control game plan as your Toolcraft + Scrapheap beat down plan is just embarassing against them. Your post-board plan however excels in these kinds of match-ups and can punish un-expecting opponents and allow you to leverage the power of your Vehicles and Planeswalkers with wrath-effects.

Moving forward:

I feel as though this deck can be tuned to attack the format in the direction of its choosing.

I would like to explore maindeck copies of Angel of Sanctions as that card comes in so frequently and is very awkward and difficult for most of the decks in the format to beat. I feel as though if Heart of Kiran and Karn, Scion of Urza continue to be dominant cards, then W/B Vehicles is the place to be. I’d recommend keeping the transformational sideboard plan, but I would explore other cards such as Skysoverign, Consul’s Flagship and Liliana Death’s Majesty in the five-drop slot, as both of these cards shine in creature heavy formats.

Vehicles are great again!

Sequencing with Humans

Hello everybody! I’m back again to talk about sequencing with Humans. I’m not sure if there will ever be a better time to write an article on this given that Steve Locke just won Grand Prix Phoenix with the deck! The decklist I’ll be using is the one that I used to 5-0 a league the other day on Magic Online:

Jonathan Rosum- 5C Humans

[deck]
[Creatures]
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Kitesail Freebooter
4 Meddling Mage
4 Thalias Lieutenant
4 Mantis Rider
4 Reflector Mage
3 Phantasmal Image
3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
2 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
1 Mirran Crusader
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Aether Vial
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Ancient Ziggurat
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Unclaimed Territory
4 Horizon Canopy
2 Reflecting Pool
1 Plains
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Grafdiggers Cage
2 Dire Fleet Daredevil
2 Gaddock Teeg
2 Dismember
2 Izzet Staticaster
2 Sin Collector
2 Hostage Taker
1 Mirran Crusader
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

We won’t be touching on the sideboard in this article, it’s just there for a reference to the entire list for those of you who would want the full list! I will be splitting this article into three sections, some turn-one scenarios, and the functionality of both your two and three-drops in Humans.

Turn One:

I had ended my previous article with two different turn-one scenarios, one relying heavily on Aether Vial while the other was a Champion of the Parish and Noble Hierarch hand. I do find that the decision of what to play can be quite tricky as they all are powerful first turn plays. These scenarios will hopefully be able to provide you with some context on how to sequence your turn ones!

Turn one to three are probably the most important turns for the Humans deck. When evaluating your opener, you need to look at your hand as a progression, if your hand doesn’t have multiple efficient plays that allow you to snowball the board, I would probably mulligan that hand. For the sake of being as viewer friendly as possible we will assume that I’m on the play unless stated otherwise.

What Is My Turn One?

This hand is very powerful but quite tricky, I would for sure lead with Cavern of Souls into Champion of the Parish. This hand is great at pressuring your opponent’s life total while also having a disruptive element in Freebooter. I do think that Noble Hierarch into Champion of the Parish and Kitesail Freebooter is a powerful play. However, I have no clue what my opponent is playing at this point and this is a very good Champion of the Parish hand that has you attacking for five on turn-two, with the possibility of going Kitesail Freebooter into Mantis Rider on turn three.

What Is My Turn One?

This hand really showcases the power of Aether Vial in these decks. This goes from okay to very good solely because of Aether Vial. Even if you miss your land on turn two you still have the possibility of double-spelling on turn three. You could replace one of the two-drops with a second land and I would still end up leading on Aether Vial with this hand.

What Is My Turn One?

Now this is a Noble Hierarch hand. The difference between the first hand and this one is one less Noble Hierarch which makes the difference. With this hand we are looking to set up a powerful turn two of Champion of the Parish into Thalia, Guardian of Thraben.

These three scenarios all showcase the variety of tricky hands you can get with Humans and which one-drop I’d play. The hands are easily identifiable and I would say playing turn-one Champion of the Parish actually comes up the least. I really only cast turn one Champion if I have no other one-drop or my hand continues two other one-mana creatures. These little sequencing plays are what separate close games that you lose, from those that you win. It’s that extra little bit of damage or disruption that allows you to eek out games with Humans. Which is why it’s so important to make sure your sequencing is on point.

The Aether Vial and Noble Hierarch hands are the ones that come up the most and just by identifying the progression of your hand you should be able to figure out which one-drop to play!

Sequencing Your Two-Drops

Now that we got the ones out of the way let’s take a look at the bevy of two-drops that the Humans deck has access to and how you should go about sequencing them. Thalia’s Lieutenant and Phantasmal Image both an exception to the logic that they are all great by themselves. However, they are two of the more synergistic cards that allow you to put an unrelenting amount of pressure on your opponent. With these twos, you are always looking to put a lot of pressure on your opponent through disruption first, then damage. Your Meddling Mages, Thalias and Freebooters are what separate your deck from conventional aggro decks. So use your ones and threes to put on the pressure, and rely on your twos to slow them down.

 

 

 

 

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is for sure the one that will end up coming down first most of the time. It will make your opponents plays the next several turns infinitely more clunky which will allow you to further advance your board without much disruption.

Kitesail Freebooter and Meddling Mage are their own two card combination that can strip your opponents hand. I generally try to avoid just jamming Kitesail Freebooter into open mana as you want to make your opponent answer it on their turn or you strip them of a valuable piece of interaction/combo piece.

 

 

 

 

 

Meddling Mage serves a similar role to Freebooter while also having additional uses. Meddling Mage is very clearly a house against the combo decks of the format and naming things like Krark-Clan Ironworks and Grapeshot can be lights out all on its own. The thing about Meddling Mage that I find trips the most people up is “what do I name in the dark?”

This is another deep topic as Meddling Mage has so many names in a majority of the match-ups in Modern and having an extensive amount of format knowledge is critical in ensuring you have an impactful Meddling Mage. I’ve made a list of some of the more important names in critical match-ups for you here:

Jund: Lightning Bolt, Bloodbraid Elf, Liliana of the Veil
Burn: Searing Blaze, Lightning Helix, Boros Charm
R/G Eldrazi: Lightning Bolt, Thought-Knot Seer, Bloodbraid Elf
Tron: Oblivion Stone, Ugin the Spirit Dragon, Walking Ballista
Jeskai: Lightning Bolt, Snapcaster Mage, Supreme Verdict
Storm: Grapeshot, Gifts Ungiven, Past in Flames
Ponza: Blood Moon, Lightning Bolt, Inferno Titan
Bogles: Daybreak Coronet, Rancor, Path to Exile
Hollow One: Gurmag Angler, Hollow One, Lightning Bolt
(Note: This list is just tentative and Is often scenario based on which is correct, these are just the most popular names that will come up the most in blind Meddling Mage situations.)

 

 

 

 

 

Wrapping up the two-drops we have Thalia’s Lieutenant and Phantasmal Image. These two round out the curve and are best played on a two spell turn in order to maximize their impact. Multiple Thalia’s Lieutenant is one of the deck’s most common aggressive routes to victory, and the card is what allows you to push through board-stalls while also beating your opponent into the ground. Phantasmal Image is another card that is best used after you have played a majority of your spells and is best paired with Thalia’s Lieutenant, Mantis Rider and Reflector Mage. Phantasmal Image is often the final “nail in the coffin” and is just a second copy of the best creature you have in play.

The End of the Curve

 

 

 

 

 

Reflector Mage, Mirran Crusader and Pia and Kiran Nalaar are all very good in the midrange match-ups while also are awkward to deal with threats overall. I would consider Mantis Rider separately because regardless of match-up, it’s just evasive and hits hard when paired with a Noble Hierarch or Thalia’s Lieutenant.

In the heavy removal matchups, I often try to sequence Mantis Riders on turns where I’m guaranteed to get at least one hit in. This requires the opponent to find an answer for it immediately or face another hit/ possibility of Phantasmal Image. The curve toppers are very powerful in the Humans deck and are what gives the deck the tools to end the game quickly and present awkward to deal with threats.

Closing

I have greatly enjoyed playing Humans in Modern because I truly feel that you have the perfect amount of pressure and disruption to be well-positioned against a majority of the Modern metagame. I would recommend trying Humans out if you are the type of individual who enjoys turning creatures sideways while also interacting with your opponent. I will be at StarCityGames Cincinnati this week for the Team Open and I’m very excited to be able to play some more Modern. I hope this article was able to help you in some way and let me know in the comments what you want to see from me next! Until next time!

Why Humans is still good

This past weekend I attended the StarCityGames.com Open in Texas. I registered Jund in the main event and sadly missed the cut for Day Two at 6-3. I believe that I played well all day. However, there were some spots in one match where I think I could’ve won if I managed my resources better and potentially have 7-2’d into Day Two. I was bummed about my performance and was skeptical about running the deck back in the Modern Classic. Jund is very powerful, but after getting bodied by Humans I wanted to investigate playing ole faithful.

My Lotus Box teammate Zan Syed had the complete 75 on him and he decided to play the Standard Classic to practice for SCG Cincinnati where we’ll be teammates. This the list I used to Top 8 the Modern Classic at SCGDFW.

Jonathan Rosum, 7th Place, StarCityGames Modern Classic- 5C Humans

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Kitesail Freebooter
2 Thraben Inspector
4 Thalias Lieutenant
4 Reflector Mage
2 Pia and Kiran Nalaar
4 Mantis Rider
3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4 Champion of the Parish
2 Phantasmal Image
4 Ancient Ziggurat
4 Noble Hierarch
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Aether Vial
[/Spells]
[Lands]
1 Plains
4 Meddling Mage
2 Reflecting Pool
4 Horizon Canopy
4 Cavern of Souls
4 Unclaimed Territory
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
2 Dire Fleet Daredevil
2 Hostage Taker
2 Xathrid Necromancer
2 Izzet Staticaster
2 Grafdiggers Cage
2 Dismember
2 Gaddock Teeg
1 Auriok Champion
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Why Humans?

I know what you’re all thinking, and I said the exact same thing when I saw Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf get unbanned and that was — “Humans is dead.” That statement is far from the truth, and I honestly think the inclusion of these cards in the format made Humans better. The sad reality is that Jace, the Mind Sculptor decks aren’t very good at attacking the format and are clunky piles. The Jeskai and Grixis decks that are all removal into Jace aren’t well equipped to fight against a majority of the format. The three colour blue control decks don’t have a configuration that’s good against the grindy decks like Jund/Pyromancer while also not being able to fight decks like Ponza and Tron which makes Jeskai/Grixis not a very appealing choices.

The Jund match-up I think got better with the inclusion of Bloodbraid Elf. The Jund decks have been skimping on creature removal spells and relying more on discard. Discard is just fine against Humans, but the deck has a lot of powerful top-decks and is naturally very resilient to cards like Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek. Bloodbraid Elf also isn’t very good against Human strategies and it makes the Jund deck clunkier than it once was.

Humans has also been known for having a good Storm match-up which is the go-to combo deck of the format on the SCG circuit. It also has game against decks like B/R Hollow One, Ponza, Tron and Eldrazi Tron which makes Humans a very strong contender in the Modern format. Let’s talk about some of the more interesting cards in the deck!

 

 

 

 

 

2 Thraben Inspector: This is basically a concession to the grindy match-ups of the format while also serving as an addition one-drop. Humans is a deck looking to curve-out and bury the opponent and having another one-drop that also generates advantage later at an efficient rate is very good. It can also still be a threat that needs to be answered when paired with Thalia’s Lieutenant and Noble Hierarch.

 

 

 

 

 

2 Phantasmal Image: I was always a huge fan of having four Phantasmal Image in the main deck of Humans when I won the Team Open in Dallas a few months ago. It was always your best card and allowed you to have some complex two-spell turns. The issue with Phantasmal Image is that it does put a tax on your mana and is weak to opposing discard. Phantasmal Image is a card that you always want to draw when you are at parody, but sacrifices had to be made to make the grindy match-ups better like Jund. I would explore trying to play three copies of this card in Humans while being able to keep the “grind” package of Thraben Inspector and Pia and Kiran Nalaar.

 

 

 

 

 

2 Pia and Kiran Nalaar: This card is an absolute house against Jund and Jeskai while also being one of the better top-decks in the late stages of the game. The thopters are very relevant against any creature decks and it will turn the tide of most races. Pia and Kiran Nalaar forces you to have to play Reflecting Pool, which I’ve found to be just better than Seachrome Coast in a majority of situations, while still allowing you to play non-human sideboard options.

 

 

 

 

 

2 Gaddock Teeg: Gaddock Teeg is effectively your “I win” card against Tron. If you are able to Meddling Mage Oblivion Stone and have Gaddock Teeg you force your opponent to draw either Dismember or Fatal Push (G/B Tron) or they will die in a few turns. Gaddock Teeg is very good because of how fast your clock is, and the additional turns it buys against Tron and other big mana decks are usually lights out.

 

 

 

 

 

2 Dire Fleet Daredevil: This is probably the best sideboard option against Jund/any black midrange deck. It being an automatic two-for-one makes it very appealing against these grindy decks while also being able to use their own spells against them. Flashing back a discard spell or a powerful spell like Kolaghan’s Command is within the realm of possibilities and is key to winning the match-up. I would like to explore an additional copy of this card in the sideboard as it really does put in work.

 

 

 

 

 

2 Hostage Taker: This may seem like an over-costed Vithian Renegades, but I think that Renegades is often mediocre. Hostage Taker is a versatile card that not only comes in against Affinity but comes in against Tron, Jund and Lantern as well. The versatility of this card can’t be overstated, and the additional mana requirement is worth the cost.

Tips/ Tricks

  • If you cast Thalia’s Lieutenant with a Aether Vial in play and have a creature with the requisite converted mana cost, you can use Aether Vial to vial in a creature with the Thalia’s Lieutenant trigger on the stack which would put a counter on both creatures.
  • If you have multiple Thalia’s Lieutenant triggers on the stack, the best way of making sure that you don’t miss any trigger is by backtracking through the loop and starting with the first Thalia’s Lieutenant and ending with the last Thalia’s Lieutenant. The first Lieutenant and every other creature will get 2 +1/+1 counters and the last Lieutenant will only get one.
  • You can Hostage Taker your own creature to get multiple triggers off your Thalia’s Lieutenants and Reflector Mages while being able to save your creature from a removal spell. This is only relevant with Aether Vial but it can come up.

Make sure you evaluate the board state when thinking of a Meddling Mage name. I recommend scouring through decklists and having a bunch of reps with Humans as blind Meddling Mages will come up a lot and information of all the common archetypes in Modern is very key.

Examples of this include:

  • Goblin Lore when my B/R Hollow One opponent didn’t cast Looting or Inquiry
  • Ensnaring Bridge against Lantern Control
  • Lightning Bolt against Jund
  • Ugin, the Spirit Dragon against Tron

Meddling Mage for sure is the trickiest card to use correctly and knowing what to name in the dark can very easily be the difference between a win and a loss.

Sequencing

This is the easiest thing to mess up when playing Humans. I want to go over a few opening hands and what you are looking for in certain scenarios.

Game One, in the dark on the play

What’s your Turn One?

Answer: This is an easy one, you should play Aether Vial and pass the turn as your hand is mana-light. You have a good curve into one-drop, one-drop and the potential of double-spelling your opponent out of the game if you draw lands.

Game One, in the dark on the play

What’s your Turn One?

Answer: Cavern of Souls into Champion of the Parish. Noble Hierarch into Mantis Rider is for sure a good curve, however having multiple Champions makes it infinitely more appealing to just go triple one-drop as your first three spells of the game. This has the potential to completely dumpster your opponent with a turn-four lethal. If the second champion was another two or three-drop, I would lead on Noble Hierarch to give you the option of turn-two Mantis Rider or turn-two Champion into a two-drop.

I could write an entire article about sequencing with the Humans deck. But, the turn-ones are the most important to get right and I just wanted to give all of you a taste of what these hands can look like. I plan on continuing to test Humans in prep for SCG Cincinnati and seeing what the next week brings.

Until next time!  

 

My week testing: from Jeskai to Jund

Hello everybody! I’m back again with another article, this time talking about my testing process for the upcoming StarCityGames Modern Open in Dallas this weekend. I can’t believe I’m actually going to say this, but I have put down my Jace, the Mind Sculptors and have picked up some Bloodbraid Elfs.

Throughout the week, I was constantly getting demolished with Jeskai Control and I couldn’t actively figure out what was going on. After missing cash in multiple leagues I sat down and put some thought into it.

What’s wrong with Jeskai?

The metagame is extremely hostile to Jace. This might seem like a given, but the format is either absurdly aggressive or people are ready to grind with you. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is extremely powerful when uncontested, but when Bloodbraid Elf is running around everywhere, being 100% reactive isn’t where you want to be.

You aren’t the best Jace deck

It honestly pains me to say this but playing against other Jace decks with Jeskai feels miserable. If you ever draw the wrong half of your deck you will just lose immediately. Grixis and U/W are just much better equipped to out-grind you in the later portions of the game. The biggest blow is for sure Spreading Seas and Field of Ruin. These cards have an absolute field-day with Jeskai and can be very hard to beat.

You will lose if you stumble

This might seem like a given for most decks in Modern and might seem pointless to bring up. But it’s specifically true with Jeskai, where you need to curve interaction without missing a beat. I think that the lack of having four Cryptic Commands is the main reason that this issue is relevant. The Jund decks were easy to out-grind and you were able to play your fourth land untapped with very little to worry about. Being “forced” (by Jace) to go down on the number of Cryptic Commands made it a lot harder for Jeskai to be able to bridge the gap from the mid-game to the end-game. Jeskai is still just an amalgamation of medium cards that must line-up well with your opponent, and it is very easy to lose when your opponents cards are more efficient than yours as well as better at accruing value.

I do think that there is a great Jace, the Mind Sculptor deck that has yet to be discovered. But, I think that Jeskai Control needs a lot more tuning before it’s able to compete with the rest of the format as it stands.

I was pretty disappointed earlier this week, I thought Jeskai Control would perform a lot better than it did. Luckily, after chatting with ManaDeprived Editor Keith Capstick earlier this week, I decided to try the “boogieman” of the current Modern format — Jund.

Jonathan Rosum- Jund

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Dark Confidant
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Bloodbraid Elf
3 Scavenging Ooze
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Liliana of the Veil
3 Inquisition of Kozilek
3 Thoughtseize
2 Fatal Push
2 Lightning Bolt
2 Kolaghans Command
2 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Abrupt Decay
1 Dreadbore
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
4 Verdant Catacomb
3 Bloodstained Mire
3 Raging Ravine
2 Overgrown Tomb
1 Blooming Marsh
1 Blood Crypt
1 Stomping Ground
1 Twilight Mire
2 Forest
2 Swamp
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
4 Fulminator Mage
3 Collective Brutality
2 Kitchen Finks
1 Grafdiggers Cage
1 Abrupt Decay
1 Kolaghans Command
1 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Damnation
1 Hazoret the Fervent
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

The very obvious appeal to playing Jund is that you have access to Bloodbraid Elf. Bloodbraid Elf adds the top-end back to the very powerful midrange deck. I have played several leagues with the deck this week and it honestly feels great, you have efficient disruption, good threats, and extremely powerful hits off Bloodbraid Elf like Kolaghan’s Command and Liliana of the Veil. Let’s talk about some of the specifics!

4 Bloodbraid Elf

 

 

 

 

 

This isn’t exactly unique, and more of an automatic include, but I can’t express enough what this card does to the archetype. It makes you so much more favoured in all the grindy match-ups while also being pretty versatile against linear decks. It allows you to be aggressive while also allowing you to effectively “bury” your opponent in your cards.

I could honestly write an entire article about what Bloodbraid Elf adds to Jund. Make no mistake, there are plenty of wrong times to cast Bloodbraid Elf; but generally, if you can evaluate what would be horrendous hits, and play from there you will very rarely ever only wind up with a 3/2 with haste and nothing else to show.

4 Liliana of the Veil 

 

 

 

 

 

This might be the most impactful card in the Jund mirror other than Bloodbraid Elf. Being able to resolve Liliana on an empty board or immediately edicting their only threat is something that strikes true fear in the hearts of other midrange players. Liliana of the Veil generally requires an immediate answer, and being able to double edict somebody is almost guarantying a victory granted that you have some form of pressure.

Liliana of the Veil is an absurdly powerful magic card, but don’t be afraid to just not use her discard ability if your hand is filled with good cards. The most common mistake I see players make is upticking her when there is actively no need to. Not using her and keeping a grip of good cards is for sure more commanding than discarding a good card gaining a loyalty counter.

2 Liliana, the Last Hope (1 MD/ 1 SB)

 

 

 

 

 

I have been absurdly impressed with Liliana, the Last Hope, and I would recommend playing at least two in your 75. The card might seem anemic in the sense that it’s very comparable to Kolaghan’s Command, however, it really shines in grindy match-ups.

In the Jund/Jeskai match-up, it acts as a Raise Dead that has the potential to kill opposing Dark Confidants and Snapcaster Mages and is a must answer threat.

It also provides some versatility to your 75. It’s effective at creating board-tension in creature match-ups and mowing down threats against small creature decks like Elves, Merfolk and Death & Taxes.

1 Dreadbore 

 

 

 

 

 

This for sure is a card that has been underappreciated. The most common question I’ve been getting is, “why is Dreadbore better than Terminate?” The answer I have for that question is that it quite honestly depends on what you expect to play against.

Dreadbore is for sure much better in a world populated by Liliana of the Veil and Jace, the Mind Sculptor and also being just a very efficient answer to creatures like Gurmag Angler and Tarmogoyf. Dreadbore doesn’t interact with opposing creature-lands very well, however, being able to answer a very problematic permanent for two mana is nothing to scoff at.

4 Fulminator Mage

 

 

 

 

 

This might seem like an absurdly high number of Fulminator Mages, but it serves a purpose. Jund still has a horrific Tron matchup and having the potential to blow up a land or two to completely slow them down is the way Jund needs to approach the matchup in order to have a chance at winning.

3 Collective Brutality

 

 

 

 

 

This is mostly a concession to Burn and to the Collected Company decks of the format while also being good against a variety of the midrange decks that are heavily spell-based (Mardu Pyromancer for example). The card is extremely versatile, and can be a hay-maker against some of your closest match-ups.

Brutality also helps you blend your 60 card maindeck and 15 card sideboard into one cohesive 75. This card often comes in for dead cards in match-ups as just a nice bonus option. This is obviously not the reason to put it in your deck, but is a huge upside.

1 Hazoret the Fervent

 

 

 

 

 

The last card that I want to go into detail about is Hazoret the Fervent. I have explored several potential options in this slot and none have performed as well as Hazoret. Hazoret can close the game very quickly while serving as a form of reach that is difficult to answer. Hazoret comes in a lot and will often win you the game when you draw her, and I would recommend exploring Jund decks that have the potential of playing two within the 75.

Closing Thoughts

The most important I’ve learnt this week is to not be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone. I always say that the key to Modern is knowing your deck inside and out, but, that doesn’t mean that you are always forced into playing that deck. I’d always like to play the deck I’m most comfortable with in Modern, however, exploring your options and devoting time into trying something new can make a difference.

It’s only Wednesday night and I’m very excited for this upcoming weekend. I will be continuing to test Jund throughout the week and seeing what I can do to be as comfortable as I can for the upcoming weekend. #SCGDFW is certainly going to be a very interesting tournament, and I’m looking forward to casting some Bloodbraid Elfs!

Until next time!

Jeskai Control at Grand Prix Toronto

Hello all!

For those of you who don’t know who I am my name is Jonathan Rosum and I’m sponsored by Team Lotus Box and am a frequent SCGTour grinder in the United States. This past weekend I sadly lost my win-and-in for Top 8 of Grand Prix Toronto and ended the tournament in 11th Place with Jeskai Control.

If you had asked me what deck I was going to register at Grand Prix Toronto while I was boarding my plane on Friday, my answer would’ve been 5C Humans. I have been known for being a huge Humans advocate in Modern and it was the deck I was “most comfortable” with heading into the tournament. I was playing Jeskai Control all week because I thought it was a good metagame call heading into the tournament, however, I was only able to play five leagues with it on Magic Online and I didn’t feel like that was enough. I landed in Toronto and met up with my group of Benjamin Nikolich and Luke Purcell (who eventually Top 4’d the tournament with a similar Jeskai Control list) and I was easily convinced to play Jeskai just by chatting with them.

This is the list that I played in Grand Prix Toronto:

Jeskai Control, 11th Place, GP Toronto – Jonathan Rosum

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Snapcaster Mage
1 Torrential Gearhulk
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Cryptic Command
2 Electrolyze
1 Sphinxs Revelation
2 Supreme Verdict
3 Lightning Bolt
3 Lightning Helix
3 Logic Knot
1 Nahiri, the Harbinger
1 Negate
4 Path to Exile
2 Search for Azcanta
1 Secure the Wastes
4 Serum Visions
[/Spells]
[Lands]
2 Steam Vents
2 Sulfur Falls
1 Plains
1 Sacred Foundry
4 Scalding Tarn
1 Field of Ruin
4 Flooded Strand
1 Glacial Fortress
2 Hallowed Fountain
3 Island
3 Celestial Colonnade
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
1 Celestial Purge
1 Detention Sphere
3 Dispel
1 Elspeth, Suns Champion
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Izzet Staticaster
1 Negate
2 Runed Halo
1 Supreme Verdict
2 Vendilion Clique
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

The Tournament

Day 1 of the tournament went relatively smoothly and I played against five fair decks (Burn, Burn, U/W Control, Grixis Death’s Shadowand Lantern Control) and Storm to end the day with a record of 7-1. I lost playing for 8-0 against Burn in a close match. I was content with my play for the day and felt like Jeskai was well-positioned in the event.

Nikolich, Purcell and I were talking at dinner about how our day went and we had a combined record of 15-3 (21-3 if you count the 6 byes we had in total). I can’t seem to recall many of my matches specifically, however I do remember activating a lot of Azcanta’s and winning those games decisively.

Day 2 was quite honestly a roller-coaster of emotions. I managed to start the day off with 4 wins against Jeskai, Humans, Bogles, Bogles (against the eventual champion of Dan Ward) and then saw myself paired versus Burn. I honestly think that Burn is a good match-up for Jeskai even though I lost to it twice in the tournament and I was unable to overcome my mulligan to five in Round 14. I was then paired against R/B Hollow One and won a nail-biter game-three to put myself at 12-2. I was called to the feature match area and the nightmare situation occurred — I was paired against Grishoalbrand. I lost quite handily in a match where I could’ve done some minor things differently, but I think I was heavily favoured to lose as he had multiple Pact of Negations in his deck.

Standings go up and I see myself in 11th Place with a 12-3 record, which was good enough for some cash and 3 Pro Points. If you had told me that I was going to Top 16 this Grand Prix before the tournament I would’ve snapped it off immediately and I would’ve been perfectly content with that, it just stings going from 11-1 to 12-3 and missing Top 8. But, sometimes that’s just what happens!

Now, let’s move in to some of the specific cards that I registered:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Search for Azcanta // Azcanta, the Sunken Ruins: This is how you win most of your games against the fair decks in Modern. A flipped Azcanta is effectively close to unbeatable against other fair decks and it’s what allows you to pull ahead rather quickly in the late game. The two cards that you can find off Azcanta that will effectively end the game on the spot are Secure the Wastes and Sphinx’s Revelation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nahiri the Harbinger: Nahiri is another card that is very strong against the fair decks in Modern. Nahiri can also be considered a “win-condition” in a sense that it lets you get two uses off a Torrential Gearhulk while also being a planeswalker that has high loyalty. It obviously also provides some versatility in the deck, giving you the ability to answer a few problem-permanents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Logic Knot: This card has been gaining a lot of stock in Modern and I quite frankly believe that it is much better than Mana Leak and Remand. It’s as close to Counterspell as we will probably ever get in Modern.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Runed Halo: This is more of a “niche” sideboard card that is very good against your bad match-ups in Modern, while also being playable against decks that rely on a single threat to beat you. Remember that if your opponent has an Eidolon of the Great Revel in play and you cast Runed Halo on Eidolon of the Great Revel then you effectively forced your opponent to use a burn spell on their Eidolon or be locked under it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dispel: This card might seem intuitive, but it allows you to fight U/W/x mirrors and decks like Storm/Burn while being mana-efficient. This is a concept that I learned from Nikolich and I do believe that blue decks sideboarding multiple Dispel will become the norm, especially in a format that is going to revolve around Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Field of Ruin: This is a card that will probably always vary in numbers depending on what you expect each specific weekend. I could see playing a second copy if you expect a lot of Search for Azcanta’s or Tron Lands. It is a very powerful effect that doesn’t destroy your mana like Ghost Quarter would.

I would honestly run back the same 75 if I had a Modern event this weekend as I feel that the list is quite tuned and has all the tools you need to have game against a majority of the format. The deck is very good against the field if you expect people who are trying to play cards like Thoughtseize, Champion of the Parish or Cryptic Command and less good if you expect people to be playing Tron lands, Prized Amalgams and Slippery Bogles.

The biggest problem that I encountered was transitioning from to a control deck in Modern. There is a difference between playing smart and playing too patient, but I found that being too aggressive is also a quick way to lose. You will always have late game inevitably because of how your deck is constructed and you should play for that long game and not try to play the aggressor unless you have the game locked-up. Mis-evaluating your role is a pretty quick way to lose with a deck like this.

Moving Forward

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Modern has been completely shaken up by the B&R announcement this past Monday. Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf were both unbanned and I will be trying hard to find the best Jace deck.

My initial reaction to the unban was quite negative and only time will tell if the card defines Modern in an unhealthy manner. That being said this is where I’m planning on starting on Magic Online this week:

Jeskai Control – Jonathan Rosum

[Deck]
[Creatures]
4 Snapcaster Mage
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
4 Serum Visions
4 Path to Exile
3 Lightning Bolt
3 Lightning Helix
3 Logic Knot
3 Cryptic Command
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Search for Azcanta
2 Electrolyze
2 Supreme Verdict
1 Spell Snare
1 Negate
1 Sphinxs Revelation
[/Spells]
[Lands]
4x Flooded Strand
4x Scalding Tarn
3x Celestial Colonnade
2x Hallowed Fountain
2x Steam Vents
2x Sulfur Falls
1x Sacred Foundry
1x Glacial Fortress
1x Field of Ruin
3x Island
1x Plains
[/Lands]
[Sideboard]
3 Dispel
2 Runed Halo
2 Vendilion Clique
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Celestial Purge
1 Negate
1 Izzet Staticaster
1 Detention Sphere
1 Wear//Tear
1 Supreme Verdict
1 Elspeth, Suns Champion
[/Sideboard]
[/Deck]

Overall, I had a great weekend at Grand Prix Toronto and I feel as though the deck is in a great spot in the current Modern metagame. Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf will most likely make the format more of a midrange fest and that would be a good world for Jeskai Control to live in.

Thank you for tuning in to read my first article here and I wish you all good luck in your future events!

Want to try out Jeskai in Modern and win some big prizes? Come on out to our facetofacegames.com Open+ 5k at Seneca College in Toronto on March. 3!