When the newest set Khans of Tarkir came out, there were five clans to choose from. They all had different flavors, strengths, and weaknesses; they all had varying levels of aggressive, midrange, and controlling aspects that could suit just about any type of game you wanted to play. For Jamie Parke, Matt Sperling, and now Hall of Famer Paul Rietzl, the “wedge” that was too powerful and explosive to deny was the one whose second syllable also happened to be the first name of our teammate that couldn’t make it this time around: JesKAI
There is a wide variety of creatures and tools to choose from, so let’s take a look at some of the first success stories of the deck and go from there:
Looking at the spells, there isn’t really too much new here with the exception of Jeskai Charm which has 3 modes that are all very valuable and useful depending on the situation. 4 damage to your opponent for 3 mana is already very powerful and something that an aggressive deck is happy to have for the extra added reach. However, sometimes there are situations that arise where the 4 damage isn’t enough. Thankfully we have 2 other options.
One of those options is to put a creature on top of its owner’s library. This is great if you’re looking just to remove a blocker for a turn just to get some damage through with attackers. Also don’t forget the Khans of Tarkir brought back fetchlands, and in a pinch you can respond to your opponent cracking their fetch to search for a land by putting a creature on top and their monster gets shuffled away into the randomness of the remaining cards in their library.
Finally we can make all our creatures +1/+1 and gain lifelink. This works great in racing situations against other aggro decks, works great with Goblin Rabblemaster, and also has synergies with Raise the Alarm if you choose to play that as well.
Another spell from the new set that is extremely powerful here is Dig Through Time. In this particular deck we are casting burn spells and trading creatures in the early game constantly. As such, it’s not uncommon that our graveyard fills up rather quickly and we’re left with only a few spells left in hand. Dig Through Time gives us a perfect tool to fill up the gas tank, and we’re able to do so cheaply via the delve mechanic.
There are a few new creatures to talk about as well. Let’s start with the two-drop: Seeker of the Way. There’s no shortage of noncreature spells in our deck to activate the prowess ability, and that combined with the lifelink it gains allows you to start your games off in an explosive, aggressive way while gaining life that gives you the cushion and time you need to finish off your opponent.
The other new creature featured here is Mantis Rider. It is exactly what this deck is looking for in a three-drop. A hasty 3-power creature that also flies, and while we’re at it we’ll add vigilance.
Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, while a planeswalker, can fill multiple roles in this deck. Sometimes you’ll cast it and immediately -3 loyalty to take out their pesky Courser of Kruphix. Other times, it’s attacking for 4 with flying much like our good friend Stormbreath Dragon.
We made a handful of changes from the original list, and made a metagame decision in Disdainful Stroke:
Vs. Jeskai Mirror
Vs. Green Devotion
Vs. U/B Control
Jadine and Kevin used a core of powerful creatures, a few planeswalkers, and burn spells. The concept is to pressure your opponent with a solid clock, and then finish them off with efficient burn when they spend time trying to deal with your threats. Let’s talk a bit about what cards we omitted from their lists, and our new innovations.
Chandra, Pyromaster – Until the night before the event, we had 1 Chandra in our deck. Many Standard players have fond memories of playing Chandra, immediately killing Lifebane Zombie, and then riding the card advantage to victory. Unfortunately, these days few people play 3+ casting cost 1-toughness creatures. Too often Chandra has a negligible impact on the board before dying.
Magma Jet – The most important creatures to kill in Standard read like a Who’s Who of things that don’t die to Magma Jet: Courser of Kruphix, Sylvan Caryatid, Siege Rhino, Mantis Rider, Polukranos, World Eater, Fleecemane Lion. True, sometimes you will kill a critical Goblin Rabblemaster or Voyaging Satyr and feel like your genius was rewarded. But frequently this will be an overcosted Shock to the face. Not good enough.
This left us room to add a few cards.
Disdainful Stroke – We are long on Disdainful Stroke as a major player in Standard, and have allocated a fair amount of our portfolio to this bet by playing 2 maindeck. For many of the same reasons that Magma Jet is bad, Disdainful Stroke is good. Midrange decks specifically cannot abide having their Siege Rhino, Arbor Colossus, Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, or Hornet Queen countered. We hope this surprise and tempo will give us a few free wins. Basically, they let Mana Leak and Doom Blade rotate out because people who decide to play fatties like Arbor Colossus shouldn’t have their whole turn negated for 2 mana. Well, Disdainful Stroke provides exactly that effect—and for not just Arbor Colossus but also, critically, cards like Sarkhan, Elspeth, Hornet Queen, and Perilous Vault. Standard, for many decks, is about tapping out to play the biggest threats available. Disdainful Stroke will leave these players frustrated, and leave the Jeskai player ahead in tempo.
Stormbreath Dragon – A naturally powerful card that Jadine used in the sideboard, which we have promoted to the starting 60. He frequently hits for 4 before dying, naturally a strong countermeasure vs. planeswalkers, and well-positioned in a format where clan-based decks mean most people have at least some white creatures.
Raise the Alarm – We wanted another proactive play early in the game. It pumps Seeker of the Way, helps us cast Stoke the Flames, and is an incredible silver bullet against all-in style Mardu Aggro. As a one-of, we expect the upside of this card to mitigate the admittedly low power level. We started with 3 of this card, but it was just too poor against the green decks, and we expected green decks to be more popular than aggro decks, so we went down to 1 copy.
End Hostilities – We went all the way to 4 copies here because against the green devotion decks your plan is to transform to a sweepers + fliers + counters + burn deck, and the sweepers element is really the most important one in those post-sideboard games. Anger of the Gods is a nice-to-have sweeper, but when the opposing deck has cards like Polukranos and Arbor Colossus, it’s best to max out on End Hostilities, the bona fide wrath.
8 Scry Lands – We also decided to change the mana base quite a bit. Mystic Monastery is kind of the obvious land to play, but a scry land is actually much better if you can afford it. We determined that you could indeed afford to forego Monastery and just get your scry on.
We recommend this deck if you’re looking for something fast paced, fun, and flexible, and especially if you like the idea of trying your hardest to burn someone out quickly game 1 and then transforming into a control deck with some really powerful instant-speed card drawing and sorcery speed sweepers.
Thank you for reading this introduction to the Jeskai Tempo deck. All three of us, and everyone else at Channel Fireball’s The Pantheon that helped us tune the deck, hopes you enjoy it.
-Jamie Parke, Paul Rietzl, and Matt Sperling