I am very, very excited to write this article. I have been obsessing over Modern. Magic: the Gathering brewing has been especially fun for me this past week.
There are some new, crazy, powerful cards, and all I can say is I’m happy for some fresh air. Some change. Things had been stagnant for a while and now, finally, things are going to happen.
I feel nothing but positive about the new developments. I only see good coming out of this. If cards get banned later, great. I want to be a part of that.
But right now, I’m brewing like crazy.
Level One Jeskai Ascendancy
Most of you have heard of Jeskai Ascendancy by now. This card is good and a stock deck has already emerged from the community to abuse it.
The goal is to accelerate out a quick Ascendancy, chains draw spells to loot through the deck while untapping for more mana, before eventually killing them with an attack or Flesh // Blood.
This deck is extremely fast, with consistent turn 3 kills when undisrupted, and lots of draw to brute force through disruption if necessary.
The level-one Jeskai Ascendancy deck has already established itself as one of the top decks in the format, winning preliminary Modern tournaments and putting up Magic Online results.
Questions emerge. Is this the new deck to play? Is this the deck to play next month at GP Madrid? Is this deck unbeatable? Can the format adapt?
The Jeskai Ascendancy Metagame
Is Level One Jeskai Ascendancy a great deck?
Is it beatable?
This deck may warp the metagame but if people really want to beat it, they can and they will. The near future may be a hostile time.
(picture by Sam Black)
But perhaps the deck is most vulnerable at its mana:
Sylvan Caryatid has hexproof, but the rest of these guys get fried by Lightning Bolt and other popular red burn spells.
Which brings us to the uber-pushed Blue/Red Delver decks that are naturally strong against Jeskai Ascendancy.
Things can and will get ugly and the level one Jeskai Ascendancy decks don’t have much to offer in response. They have no interaction outside of Glittering Wish. They have to hope. Against a prepared field, that might not be good enough.
So, in this Jeskai Ascendancy metagame, Jeskai Ascendancy may not be good. Maybe we will see a variety of less targeted blue decks rise to the top: Delver, UWR, Scapeshift with Dig Through Time, Splinter Twin with Dig Through Time.
I’m already preparing ahead for this time. Not with a faster, “better” Jeskai Ascendancy deck, but a Jeskai Ascendancy deck tuned for a particular play style for a particular metagame.
Next Level Jeskai Ascendancy
I’m working on a build of Jeskai Ascendancy that is built for the metagame. It is built to be more interactive, more resilient, trickier to play against. It is not meant to be faster or consistently fast.
There are pros and cons. Against an opponent who is unprepared to interact with you before turn 3 Level One Jeskai Ascendancy is the way to go. But if your opponent is prepared to start interacting on turn 1, Next Level Jeskai Ascendancy gives you a better set of tools to play a long, interactive game.
First of all, we’re not playing Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch. These are great cards that make the deck fast but they are vulnerable to the removal spells in every single deck. I don’t see these cards as essential pieces of the deck and without them we can become invulnerable to removal spells, forcing them to rot in the opponent’s hand.
Sylvan Caryatid has hexproof so I’m happy to play with it. We can combo off with Jeskai Ascendancy without ever exposing ourselves to a Lightning Bolt. Of course, Sylvan Caryatid can’t attack for the kill, but we can find ways to finish the game.
In addition to Sylvan Caryatid, I’m playing a pair of Fatestitcher. This card can be pitched to a Jeskai Ascendancy and come back with haste to win out of nowhere. This card can clear blockers for the finish as well.
While this card is totally invulnerable to sorcery speed removal, it can be caught by a Lightning Bolt, but only on a pivotal turn that we choose. When the opponent fights on our terms, they will be bottlenecked on mana, and may be unable to use the removal that is clogged in their hand.
Faerie Conclave is a bit slow, but it can combo off nicely with Jeskai Ascendancy. Animate it for 2 mana and go nuts. Almost everything in the deck can be cast from a blue mana, and we have Fatestitcher, Simian Spirit Guide, and Manamorphose to access other colors if necessary.
I’m also playing with Dryad Arbor. While green mana doesn’t cast most of the spells, we can put green mana to use so Dryad Arbor is a nice supplement. Dryad Arbor can be invulnerable to sorcery speed removal like Faerie Conclave if we wait until end of turn to find it with a Misty Rainforest.
Between Sylvan Caryatid, Fatestitcher, Faerie Conclave, and Dryad Arbor, we can consistently make a hard-to-kill mana guy.
For me, Disrupting Shoal is now the big draw of the deck. We’ve shaved most of the non-blue spells from the deck and can now access this 0-mana disruption spell.
Disrupting Shoal can break up an opponent’s combo in the first couple turns of the game or be used to force through our own combo. We are already planning on bottlenecking the opponent’s mana and this is a way to make a big turn out of nowhere.
I imagine playing in a big Modern tournament and I wouldn’t want to play a deck without disruption. Disrupting Shoal happens to be exceptional in this deck and I’d have a hard time playing a version without.
Izzet Charm is fantastic in this deck. It kills hate bears, fights counterwars, disrupts combo, and loots as part of our combo. It is an extremely versatile card that gives this deck tons of game against random hate.
Cryptic Command is just a great spell that we happen to have the mana to support. I’m interested in playing 1 copy to remove Ensnaring Bridge and Worship and it happens to be a 4 for Disrupting Shoal.
With Disrupting Shoal, Izzet Charm, and Cryptic Command in my main deck I would be happy to play Magic against anything.
You may be wondering if Glittering Wish is in this deck. It’s not. Glittering Wish is a fantastic Magic card that lends tons of consistency to Level One Jeskai Ascendancy but the card is mana hungry and not blue.
This deck has less mana to play with and is looking to leave up mana to interact. It wants everything to be blue, so Glittering Wish just doesn’t really fit here.
Fantastic card, but not for this deck.
These are the cyclers I’m running. Only the best.
I’m much more interested in 4 Thought Scour because this card pushes our delve card draw.
Dig Through Time is pretty necessary in this deck for finding Jeskai Ascendancy because we don’t play Glittering Wish.
Dig plays nicely with our other instants, as the opponent doesn’t know if we’re leaving up mana to interact or advance our hand, and it’s especially great in post-sideboard games that hinge on specific questions and answers.
While Treasure Cruise is a great card, Dig Through Time is a bit better in this version of the deck. It’s a trickier card with more decisions, and that sounds perfect for our deck.
Finally we have the mana base, which is 17 lands, 1 Dryad Arbor, and 1 Simian Spirit Guide.
Simian Spirit Guide is a great card that has been great in a variety of great decks that have shared very little in common besides using red mana. The Guide is just good and it works well in this deck.
Simian Spirit Guide into turn 1 Sylvan Caryatid or Simian Spirit Guide into Jeskai Ascendancy can give us some fast starts and fast wins.
More than anything, SSG is an extremely tricky card. It plays well against opponents who expect you to have certain mana on certain turns. It plays well against cards like Spell Pierce and Mana Leak and plays fantastically with Izzet Charm.
Now that we’ve talked about the maindeck card choices let’s take a look at the full 75:
Next Level Jeskai Ascendancy
Next Level Jeskai Ascendancy Sideboard
We need to talk sideboard to understand the full picture of the deck.
First of all, we get basically a regular sideboard. Our board isn’t watered down with Wish targets so can devote the full 15 slots to various proactive/interactive cards to shift the game how we please.
While these cards aren’t a combo, they both allow the pilot to alter the deck’s plan significantly.
Pyroclasm allows the deck to play interactive board control. Pyroclasm has been one of the hottest sideboard cards in Modern and it’s even hotter now that delve semi-hoses Tarmogoyf.
Let’s take a look at that Sam Black picture again:
I’m not exactly sure what Sam is playing but I want to cast Pyroclasm on that board. It’s just amazing.
On the other hand, Young Pyromancer allows the pilot to shift into a deck that doesn’t need to draw Jeskai Ascendancy. I am much less concerned about not having Glittering Wish if my game plan can be to sneak in a quick Young Pyromancer and protect it with Disrupting Shoal.
That is a strategy that could juke the hell out of opponent’s who took out all their sorcery speed spot removal. Young Pyromancer is primed to run amok.
The rest of our sideboard consists of the best general interactive 1-, 2-, and 3-mana spells available in Modern to adjust our deck for the matchup or opponent
For details, stay tuned for the videos coming out this week that show off the sideboard, and if there’s enough demand I may revisit this deck next week with in-depth sideboard plans.
Thoughts on Playing Next Level Jeskai Ascendancy
This deck is both good and fun to play. It’s interactive. It creates long games full of pivotal moments and difficult decisions. It is interactive and ready to be interacted with.
It isn’t as fast as Level One Jeskai, but if those decks are highly targeted by removal and specific hosers it doesn’t matter. Speed may matter in solitaire but I’m interested in a deck that can maneuver through long tournaments.
Next Level Jeskai Ascendancy is that deck. Or, it could be. If you’re interested, reach out to me and I’m happy to share as I develop it further. Again, videos of the deck are coming soon so there will be more strategy revealed there.