Despite not being qualified, I’ve spent the last few weeks thinking about Standard for Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir. My best friend (in and out of Magic) Chase Kovac qualified for his third Pro Tour via PTQ a couple months ago—and for once I’m in a position to help out as much as possible.

For players who aren’t preparing for the Pro Tour on a team , there is absolutely no substitute for practice. A small group or individual won’t have the resources to exhaustively explore every option, let alone create a multitude of brews and attempts to “break it.” Instead, I think these players are best served by focusing their energy on one or two established and well-positioned decks and making sure they have a solid list and a plan for every matchup.

That said, attending the Open Series event this past weekend I was left without much of a plan with regard to how I could best help Chase prepare. I think we both had a pretty good sense of what he was going to play at the Pro Tour—and instead decided to risk playing something off the beaten path. Chase and I haven’t had many opportunities to work on decks together recently, and to be honest the most fun part of the whole weekend was assembling the deck list on a long 5-hour drive to Syracuse.

The commonly played Jeskai deck in Standard has a bit of an identity crisis, falling in the middle of aggression and control. This may not seem like an issue, but the deck definitely has a problem competing with the other midrange decks that operate at a similar speed but with much more powerful individual cards. Creatures like Siege Rhino and Tasigur are very difficult to answer beyond a few copies of Valorous Stance or Disdainful Stroke, which creates a natural imbalance where your threats are all answered by one of their removal spells, but their threats require two burn spells to deal with. As a result, the Jeskai deck is basically forced to burn other midrange opponents out, rather than play a Dig Through Time control game.

We felt like you need to take Jeskai in one direction to make game one a bit easier. Citadel Siege is an interesting way to do this, it turns every creature into a bonafide threat and allows your smaller guys to contend with things like Siege Rhino without having to kill every creature bigger than a 3/3. Citadel Siege was also part of the “Pack Rat experiment” in which you play the most unbeatable Limited card in Constructed and hope that the power level carries over. While the list I’m about to post definitely had some issues, Citadel Siege carried its weight.

Citadel Siege Jeskai

This version of Jeskai trades the card-drawing of Dig Through Time for a more threat-dense approach with Citadel Siege and Icefall Regent. Icefall Regent is a huge boon against creature decks like Abzan Aggro, RG Monsters, and the mirror, as well as board stall decks like green devotion and Sultai Whip.

While Icefall Regent looks fragile, its “Frost Titan” ability is very valuable. Turns 5-7 in most games of Standard are when most decks begin entering “two-spell” territory, and where many of the games are decided. If a player can both cast a removal spell like Hero’s Downfall and a threat like Siege Rhino in the same turn, they can come out very far ahead on tempo.

Regent both punishes players for leaving up removal with just enough mana to cast it and then forces them to invest a lot of resources into killing it. Often, Regent dying immediately in the opponent’s turn is enough to gain a huge tempo boost. Combine it with Valorous Stance or Gods Willing for protection, and you have an absolute nightmare for someone relying on red or black removal.

Gods Willing plays particularly well with Citadel Siege, because keeping at least one creature in play is so important for this deck. It’s worth noting that you use Valorous Stance in protection mode much more often with this deck than in normal Jeskai, both because of high value targets like Brimaz and Icefall Regent, and because of the Siege.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Compared to normal Jeskai, the Citadel Siege version is better against Red Aggro, the mirror, and Siege Rhino decks. Citadel Siege is a huge threat against both the mirror and Abzan, and Icefall Regent and Brimaz are among the best cards in those respective matchups. Against red aggro, you have more two-drop life link creatures than a normal Jeskai deck, as well as Brimaz and way to protect those creatures. If you ever untap with a lifelink guy and get to land Citadel Siege, the game is basically out of reach.

However, this deck performs worse against control decks, Whip of Erebos decks, and RG. Jeskai’s main plan against control (particularly in game one) is early pressure and then burning them out, usually fueled by Dig Through Time. The lack of card draw is a liability in that matchup, and Citadel Siege isn’t great against Ugin, Perilous Vault, or decks that are prepared to kill every threat individually.

Against RG, having fewer Stoke the Flames means that Stormbreath Dragon is a huge issue, and Brimaz doesn’t line up particularly well against an army of 4/4s. The Whip decks are generally very good at blanking 2/2 ground creatures and Brimaz, so having more of those and fewer Digs hurts in that matchup.

Potential Changes

The biggest oversight in building this deck was playing too few lands. I knew that I wanted more untapped lands to curve out with Siege into Icefall Regent, but the deck also just has more double-colored spells and should’ve played an additional land to help satisfy those requirements and reliably curve out. The second issue is that while Citadel Siege is powerful, it is only good in your good draws and not very good in multiples. 3 copies was certainly too many. Moving forward, I would play something along these lines:

Rending Volley is a sweet sideboard card against Dragonlord Ojutai. They often will sit around with Ojutai untapped until finding a counter to protect it, and Rending Volley can be a huge blowout for those spots.

Sideboarding

Control

Out

In

If the opponent doesn’t have Ojutai, keep 1 Stoke the Flames in for the Rending Volley.

Red Aggro

Out

In

Abzan Aggro

Out

In

Abzan Midrange

Out

In

Green Devotion

Out

In

Jeskai

Out

In

Jeskai Tokens

Out

In

Sultai Whip

Out

In

If you have an affinity for UWR like I do, but are looking for something a bit different, I’d recommend trying Citadel Siege Jeskai. The Siege itself is pretty good, and I can’t sing the praises of Icefall Regent enough. If you expect lots of red aggro or Siege Rhino decks, this version may be the better way to go.

Thanks for reading,

Matt