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Khans of Tarkir Limited Set Review – Jeskai

It was brought to my attention that the clans are actually arranged by colors that aren’t just the shared enemy color, so Mardu is actually the red clan, not the white one. Given that, I’m going to use the thematically-correct color where I can, but because I already did white, some of them are going to be off. Jeskai isn’t, though, so let’s get into it.

5.0: The best of the best. (Pack RatUmezawa’s JitteGideon Jura)

4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Polukranos, World EaterHypersonic Dragon)

4.0: Good rare or top tier uncommon. (Phalanx LeaderVitu-Ghazi GuildmageChaos Imps)

3.5: Top tier common or solid uncommon. (Lightning StrikeNimbus NaiadDreg Mangler)

3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Leafcrown DryadEssence Scatter)

2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Borderland MinotaurDead Reveler)

2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Savage SurgeOmenspeakerArmory Guard)

1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Pillarfield OxTenement Crasher)

1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Lost in a LabyrinthPay No Heed)

0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Survey the WreckageCelestial Purge)

0.0: Completely unplayable. (Search the CityPyxis of Pandemonium)

Multicolored

Deflecting Palm

Limited: 2.5

This card probably reads a little better than it actually is. It’s definitely not bad, but preventing 4 damage to you and dealing 4 to your opponent is something that you won’t want in every game. The times when it is good, it will look insane, as you stop their 9/9 outlast monster and kill them, but in a game that is being fought over card advantage, this doesn’t actually net you much. It is nice that it triggers prowess, which does justify most cheap spells in the right deck, and if your deck is set up for racing this can be very brutal. I’d look to play this in tempo decks that care about racing, and not necessarily include it in controlling decks that try to win off card advantage.

Efreet Weaponmaster

Limited: 3.0

It’s pretty hard to get away from good morphs, and Efreet Weaponmaster can set up some insane blowouts. This is one of the cards you will need to take into account when playing against Jeskai, and it can alter combat substantially if there are multiple creatures getting into fights. It is a little expensive, and by itself it ends up being on the pricey side, so don’t go nuts trying to pick these up.

Flying Crane Technique

Limited: 4.0

This is one of the sweetest Overruns I’ve seen in a while. It’s got A+ flavor, can be a blowout on defense or offense (though it is a little expensive to leave up on D), and can easily end up doing tons of damage against an opponent without fliers. You need to make sure you have enough creatures in play to take advantage of this, and they can’t be all small ones, but just a couple medium-sized creatures and we are already talking about 10+ damage.

Highspire Mantis

Limited: 3.5

Even without the trample, a 3/3 flier for four is quite good, and every now and then this will get a couple extra points through.

Jeskai Ascendancy

Limited: 3.5

I look forward to going off with Jeskai Ascendancy, even more so because of how well the two abilities mesh. The longer the game goes, the better your card quality is going to be, and the threat of untapping your whole team at instant speed makes it really tough for your opponents to make profitable attacks and actually end the game. It requires a lot of spells, so if you don’t end up with 8+ in your deck, this could very easily not be good enough. The high rating reflects how good it is when you do get there, even though that won’t always be the case.

Jeskai Charm

Limited: 3.5

Repel plays well in the beginning and middle of the game, and both deal 4 to the opponent and lifelink plus boost your team play well in the late game, so this is a well-rounded Charm (as they pretty much all are). Multiple powerful effects that are good in a variety of distinct situations? I’m sold.

Mantis Rider

Limited: 3.5

This is a little better than Highspire Mantis, but the extra color plus the fact that it isn’t a ton better mean they are going to have to share a rating. It may bug some people that they have the same rating despite the slightly different power level, but so be it. Either way, this card is great, and is a strong reason to play Jeskai, fitting well into both aggressive and defensive decks alike.

Master the Way

Limited: 3.5

Finally, I’m rewarded for just casting Divination on turn three. That might not be the best way to play this, but I like that it is one of many ways to do so, and I plan on mastering them all. It’s pretty tough for this not to deal 2-3 damage, and that plus drawing a card is fine in my book.

Narset, Enlightened Master

Limited: 3.0

I want to give Narset a higher rating, but a six-mana 3/2 that rarely will hit more than one spell (if that) is a little too inconsistent. In decks with 10+ good spells she can be quite good, but you probably shouldn’t take her early and assume you are getting there. Hexproof and first strike does mean she is immune to removal and pairs well with any sort of power boosting effect, so there are clearly combos waiting to be assembled, but Limited bombs don’t come with the caveat “some assembly required.”

Sage of the Inward Eye

Limited: 3.5

Jeskai has both a lot of strong but not insane cards like this and a lot of cards that grant lifelink. It looks like racing situations are where you want to be, and you will have plenty of tools to make sure you win the race once you are there. Sage offers a reasonably-sized flier with a very relevant ability, and as such is almost always going to be a strong card to add to your deck.

Warden of the Eye

Limited: 3.0

I like me an Izzet Chronarch, and this even picks up stray artifacts or even planeswalkers that you might have lying around. I assume almost all Jeskai decks will have at least 4 or more targets to pick up, and this scales up a bit once you start looking at 8+.

Winterflame

Limited: 3.5

A Shock at worst and a huge tempo swing at best, Winterflame is one of the better cards for the Jeskai deck (and any deck that can cast it, really). It’s great in a race, exactly what you want to trigger prowess, and almost guaranteed to let you survive an additional turn even when you are very far behind.

Blue

Blinding Spray

Limited: 3.0

While this is decent, I don’t want to get blinded by the fact that it draws a card. It’s expensive enough to be a little obvious, so I like it much more in an attacking deck that forces the opponent to either block and get destroyed or not block and let you spend your mana developing your board. If you suspiciously pass with five mana up and your opponent opts not to attack, this ends up being a lot worse. I suppose at the very least it will be Fog + draw a card, so it’s hard to imagine this going too wrong.

Cancel

Limited: 2.0

Seeing where Cancel lands is always an interesting part of any new Limited season. In this set, double-blue is way harder than it would be normally, which does impact Cancel significantly. Counterspells really need to be available when you want them, as the window passes quickly, and mana bases won’t necessarily be able to support this. It does seem good against slower decks, but I’m not even convinced that slow, reactive decks are even what you want in this format (which would imply that cards that beat them aren’t particularly necessary).

Clever Impersonator

Limited: 3.5

For Constructed, I love that this can copy planeswalkers. That adds a lot of interesting gameplay to the format, and I look forward to trying it. For Limited, it’s still basically just Clone with some minor additional lines of play, but Clone has always been pretty strong (as long as it gets to Clone the opponent’s cards, that is).

Crippling Chill

Limited: 3.0

I love cards like this. It’s just so cool to get to use your mana to generate a minor effect without costing yourself a card, and the tactical use of cards like this really make games more fun to play. This has the additional bonus of filling your graveyard for delve, triggering prowess, and just being a solid all-around play.

Dig Through Time

Limited: 2.0

The effect here is certainly powerful, but I’m not convinced that you even want this more than a double Edict or a giant monster, and you are only going to have so much fuel in the average game of Limited. I do like delve, because it’s basically mana ramp for powerful effects, I just don’t think you can play all the expensive delve spells without worrying about the accumulated costs. As a big spell, this does scale well if you have some actual bombs in your deck, and I like that it costs enough that only the dedicated delve deck wants to take it early. If you are going to play this, you better mean it.

Disdainful Stroke

Limited: 2.5

I think I’d usually maindeck the first of these, but I’m wary of running multiples in the dark. It definitely hurts that morphs let your opponent play some of their high end without being vulnerable to this, and you can easily play against someone who has morphs as all their expensive spells. Still, the first Disdainful Stroke is likely to be solid, and it’s cheap enough to keep up during the turns where it starts to be good.

Dragon’s Eye Savants

Limited: 3.0

I like walls, free information, and morphs, so obviously I’m a fan of this. Cards like this are exactly what control decks want, and even aggressive ones might be fine with the odd morph here and there.

Embodiment of Spring

Limited: 2.5

This is essentially a gold card, and not one worth playing if either blue or green is a splash. In a base UG deck, it does fix your mana well and provide an early blocker, so I’d grab this pretty early once I was sure I was both colors (which makes it the embodiment of a 6th+-pick in pack one).

Force Away

Limited: 3.5

I don’t care much about the looting part of the card, but I do like Unsummon in a world of expensive monsters. There are enough cards that cost a lot of mana that I think this provides the kind of effect any blue deck wants. It’s great with or against prowess, resets outlast, and can even help cast expensive spells if you are delving.

Glacial Stalker

Limited: 3.0

I keep giving these morphs 3.0 ratings, but that really is the embodiment of morph. I’m hard-pressed to find an on-color morph that I won’t play, and if we are being completely honest I know that there are some off-color ones that are going to make the cut.

Icy Blast

Limited: 3.5

This can be enough of a blowout that I’m happy giving it a 3.5, but keep in mind that this will be worse than Frost Breath a decent amount of the time. I do like that the full effect is on exactly when you want it to be, which is late game when you have a decent force of creatures in play. Tapping down five creatures for two turns is a huge effect, and pretty hard to come back from when you are on the receiving end of it.

Jeskai Elder

Limited: 2.0

Having a saboteur ability plus prowess is pretty nice, as it sets them up for all sorts of tricks. This being a 1/2 for 2 does mean that you actually have to have those tricks for it to be playable, which isn’t going to be every blue deck (or even every Jeskai deck). I once again like cards like this, cards that reward you for going down a certain path but don’t hold a ton of value for people who don’t.

Jeskai Windscout

Limited: 3.0

And then you have Jeskai Windscout, that’s got the stats and cost to be playable in any and every base-blue deck. You wind some you lose some.

Kheru Spellsnatcher

Limited: 3.0

As tantalizing as the prospect of stealing your opponent’s insane spell is, I don’t think this is a windmill slam bomb. It’s both a morph and a Hill Giant, which makes the floor pretty high, but six mana is just so much. I’ll allow that there are matchups and decks where this overperforms, but I still caution against taking this over good removal spells or the like.

Mistfire Weaver

Limited: 3.5

Mistfire Weaver, on the other hand, provides value when cast or when morphed, and at very reasonable cost either way. Countering a removal spell for three mana is very different than stealing one for six, and a 3/1 flier is generally better than a 3/3 groundpounder.

Monastery Flock

Limited: 3.0

Stopping fliers is almost as good as bashing with them, or at least that’s what I tell myself when I hide behind walls and cast Treasure Cruises. A cheap morph cost means that this dodges removal relatively easily, though Dragon’s Eye Savants does make it a little worse. Because the Savants exist, opponents are already going to be wary of pointing damage-based removal at blue morphs, which does limit how often Monastery Flock is going to get value.

Mystic of the Hidden Way

Limited: 3.0

Whether you morph this or just cast it, it provides a clock that’s way too fast for most opponent’s to race, especially when backed up by the hundreds of ways Jeskai has to give its creatures lifelink. The toughness is a little low, so games where you are blocking this doesn’t do all that well, but it’s the perfect card with which to press an offense.

Pearl Lake Ancient

Limited: 3.5

I’m hesitant to give this too high a rating, given that it at its core is just a pile of stats, but the prospect of ambushing attackers plus the resistance to removal makes me think it’s going to be pretty strong. Prowess on a 6/7 isn’t exactly a mondo combo, but hey, might as well bash for 7 every now and then. This has the trappings of a Constructed card more than a Limited powerhouse, as uncounterability and semi-hexproof are more well-suited to a land of 60-card decks.

Quiet Contemplation

Limited: 2.0

This doesn’t quiet fit in every deck, but it can be insane in the decks where it’s good. If you are triggering this even every other turn, it locks down a creature, and in a spell-heavy beatdown deck it makes it incredibly hard to block or race. It’ll be interesting seeing how aggressive Jeskai decks juggle creature counts and spell counts, with cards like this making it very tricky.

Riverwheel Aerialists

Limited: 3.5

Even in a spell-light deck, a 4/5 flier is a pretty big game. This is another card that benefits greatly from lifelink, and I like that it blocks very well even without spell backup, backup it’s unlikely to have the turn it’s cast.

Scaldkin

Limited: 3.0

If you are UR, this is pretty close to a lock to make it in your deck, even if it isn’t the hottest addition. Paying four mana for a 2/2 flier that has the option of turning itself into an expensive Shock isn’t super efficient, but both effects are good enough to justify the card.

Scion of Glaciers

Limited: 3.0

A 2/5 for four is pretty decent to start with, and the ability to move stat points around at will makes attacking and blocking quite difficult for the opponent. This isn’t the flashiest card, but it gets the job done.

Set Adrift

Limited: 3.5

In a deck that can reliably cast this for three or four mana, this is very strong. Even in a deck that isn’t trying particularly hard to fuel it, you will get to cast it for four or five by turn five, and having the ability to cast it for one in the late game is insane. It isn’t hard to generate a mana advantage from this, and it already trades 1-for-1.

Singing Bell Strike

Limited: 2.0

While this is removal, it’s on the risky side for slower decks. Aggro decks will gladly sing its praises, as it’s basically a better version of Oppressive Rays (a card that had its uses), and even midrange or control decks may lean on it in order to have relevant early plays. Eventually you do have to deal with the creature, assuming the game goes long, so don’t load your deck up with these and try and hit the late game.

Stubborn Denial

Limited: 0.5

I like Negate well enough, but a conditional Negate is not really what I’m looking for. I don’t mind sideboarding this in, particularly if I have some decent 4+ power creatures, but I wouldn’t recommend maindecking it.

Taigam’s Scheming

Limited: 1.0

All that scheming and you just end up with a Dark Ritual for delve cards? I suppose you increase your card quality as well, though I don’t think the combination of those two things is really worth an entire card. Maybe the turbo delve deck might need this, but the delve cards aren’t so busted that you want to spend a card to cast them earlier.

Thousand Winds

Limited: 4.0

A Mahamoti Djinn that can randomly Upheaval all of your opponent’s creatures? A thousand times yes. This might not be the hardest card to play around, but if your opponent is not attacking you and you are flipping up a 5/6 flier, that really isn’t that bad. As is always the case with sweet rare morphs, they make your crappy common ones a lot better, as your opponents will be trigger-happy when they know you have a sick rare morph lurking somewhere in your deck. Run out a few Glacial Stalkers and the way should be clear for a big wind-up.

Treasure Cruise

Limited: 4.5

Oops, I accidentally put the average number of Treasure Cruises I plan on playing in the place where the rating goes. I like that this fuels future Cruises (or other delve cards), and think refilling your hand on turn six or seven sounds pretty good to me. In actuality the card is a 2.0, as aggressive decks and decks that aren’t filling the graveyard aren’t really looking to cast a six-mana draw spell, but the effect is undeniably powerful.

Waterwhirl

Limited: 3.5

Six is a fair amount of mana, but I’m willing to give this a whirl. Even at six, you should easily be able to bounce more than six mana’s worth of creatures, and doing so at instant speed can turn the tide in any sort of close game. Blue has a lot of cards that get better when attacking, which is not always where it’s been at in Limited.

Weave Fate

Limited: 2.5

It took until almost the end of the alphabet, but we finally got where we wanted. I do have to admit that this isn’t a card that goes in every deck, but some decks will be glad to play this, even at four mana. As an instant it has synergy with morph, counterspells, and prowess, so there are enough bits of value here for most everyone. Plus, at the end of the day it does draw two cards.

Wetland Sambar

Limited: 2.0

In a land of morphs, the 2-drop is king. Or if not king, at least mostly playable.

Whirlwind Adept

Limited: 1.5

I’m not super interested in a five-drop without morph that can’t block well and doesn’t have impressive stats. Being immune to spells only matters if your opponent wants to kill it to begin with.

Top 5 Blue Commons

5. Treasure Cruise
4. Crippling Chill
3. Mystic of the Hidden Way
2. Jeskai Windscout
1. Force Away

All of these cards minus Treasure Cruise fit right into an aggressive tempo deck, which says a lot about how blue plays. There still looks to be a controlling delve deck lurking about, but given that Jeskai is the blue-based clan (see, I know that now!), base-blue decks are often going to be attacking. Speaking of Treasure Cruise, I put it in the top 5 despite its lower rating than some cards that didn’t make it, and for an actual reason besides “it draws cards.” I think that when Treasure Cruise is good, it’s going to be much better than the random midrange Glacial Stalkers and whatnot, even if it doesn’t make it into every deck like they do. Putting it here reflects that it can be a 3.5 in the right deck, even if it’s unplayable in other decks.

Tomorrow I’ll continue with Sultai, the clan that I hope ends up being the best.

LSV

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