Dreck Tech! – Battling Jeskai Ascendancy in Standard

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard, Yo! MTG Taps!

Match the number of weeks after rotation with the sentiment! (Answers at the end of the article!)

1)     “_______ is really powerful and I can’t wait to see what the pros do with it!”
    A.  1 Week
2)     “Standard is so stale, I can’t wait until rotation!”
    B.  2 Weeks
3)     “I hope ______ gets banned, its way overpowered.”
    C.  10 Weeks
4)     “I’m so glad ______ rotated, Standard was so stale!”
    D.  32 Weeks
5)     “I can’t believe they didn’t ban ______ its completely broken and warping Standard.”
    E.  33 Weeks
6)     “UGH! _______ is so annoying and I hate playing against it!”
    F.  40 Weeks

 

How many more times are we going to do this to ourselves? Every year, the top decks rotate out of Standard, and are replaced by new top decks for everyone to complain about.  I’ll admit, I’ve been guilty of this line of thinking many times over my long tenure as a slinger of magical crads. The blanks have been filled in with many cards over the years: Psychatog, Bitterblossom, Bloodbraid Elf, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Stoneforge Mystic, Splinter Twin, Pack Rat, Sphinx’s Revelation, Island. We’re always quick to find a bogeyman, some card keeping us from being able to enjoy Magic the way it’s supposed to be. (which always, ALWAYS correlates with our own personal, subjective definition of “fun”)

This year, the card that seems poised to be the belle of the Player Hater’s Ball is Jeskai Ascendancy. Already, people are starting to complain that the card is just too powerful for Standard, and definitely broken in Modern. The usual chorus of “Will it be banned? Should it be banned?” is swelling at kitchen tables around the country. Stephen was so convinced that this card was going to be amazing that he bought 75 copies of it for less than $1 each. (most of those shipped too!) With the Pro Tour coming up this weekend, we’re sure to see this card in all of its combolicious glory. Lots of people are writing articles about this card, so I’m not going to post any decklists containing the card in my article. This week, I’m more interested in addressing the potential fallout from this card’s abuse, and what I think Wizards reaction might be.

First of all, a brief summary of what the deck does:

1)     Play 2 mana dorks

2)     Play Jeskai Ascendancy

3)     Play loads of cheap 1 and 2 mana cantrips, pumping the mana dorks and untapping them to keep the engine going

4)     Attack for loads of damage, or if needed, cast Retraction Helix on one of the dorks while going off to bounce all of their blockers so the attack gets through. (Some versions also run Burning Anger in order to avoid attacking altogether)

The deck has the potential to go off on turn 4 in Standard, and there’s even a version that can win on turn 2 in Modern. This is the kind of combo deck that Wizards has seemingly been trying to avoid for several years. (I think Splinter Twin was the last pure combo deck to exist in Standard.) People seem to be up in arms about it already despite the deck not yet posting a single result in competitive play. The belief seems to be that, if the combo dominates the Pro Tour this weekend, emergency bannings may happen. I couldn’t disagree with this more. That’s not to say that I like the idea of this deck existing in Standard. Decks like this are the exact reason why I avoided Modern for the first couple years of its existence, and I don’t think I’ve tilted harder than I used to playing against the Standard UR Twin deck.

Unfortunately for the doomsayers, precedent does not favor a banning in Standard. In Modern it’s certainly possible since Wizards has taken a pretty tough stance on fast combo decks in that format, but I just don’t see them going against their history of avoiding Standard bannings. The last time they banned a card was in 2011 when they banned Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic. That sounds like a great decision until you realize that this ban took effect in JULY 2011, a full 16 months after these cards were Standard legal, and only 3 months before rotation. It was a very weak stance taken by a company that consistently sides with collectors at the expense of gameplay. All of the other cards I listed above were never banned during their tenure in Standard, despite the cries of many (including yours truly) for them to do so. Interestingly enough, for all the times I thought they should ban something I didn’t think banning Jace and Stoneforge Mystic was necessary so late into the Standard season. These bannings only served to highlight Wizards’ unwillingness to act on these necessary changes until it was far too late. (Even still, Wizards allowed Stoneforge Mystic to be played if the “War of Attrition” event deck, which contained 2 copies of the card, was sleeved up in its entirety. Probably the strangest banning ever.)

So now here we are again, faced with a card that could warp the entire Standard format. There are 3 ways this could end in the near future:

1)     Wizards emergency bans Jeskai Ascendancy

2)     Wizards bans Jeskai Ascendancy during their regular banned/restricted announcement prior to Fate Reforged

3)     Wizards does nothing

If Wizards does #1, there’s nothing to worry about, and we go on living our lives for a week until we find something new to complain about. If Wizards does #2 or #3 (I’d bet heavily on #3 if I were a betting man) we should start looking at some ways to stop it!

The keys to this combo are small creatures, card draw, and a 3 mana enchantment. Therefore, any of the following would disrupt them:

1)     Spot Creature Removal

If we can kill their creatures, we can kill their combo. Red seems to be the best option currently for cheap spot removal, followed by Black.

http://gatherer.wizards.com/Handlers/Image.ashx?multiverseid=383299&type=card Murderous Cut Hero's Downfall

Of course if they get 2 Sylvan Caryatids in play there’s not much we can do. Makes ya miss Devour Flesh, doesn’t it? Figures the one card that made me hate playing Devour Flesh is now the one card I want it for. RW Burn and Mardu Control would be great options to explore for using these spells to deal with the deck, although Red Aggro and Black Aggro could both afford to run a few of these if Jeskai Ascendancy runs rampant.

2)     Mass Creature Removal

If we can kill ALL their creatures, even better. I don’t think End Hostilities is going to cut it though because it’s too expensive.

Anger of the Gods Drown in Sorrow Bile Blight

Yes, I just included a picture of Bile Blight as mass removal. A boy can dream, right? Actually, the one play with Bile Blight that I’ve always wanted to make but has never seemed worthwhile until now is to play some form of GB, and Bile Blight my own Sylvan Caryatid to take out my opponent’s. Pull that one off and level up. Drown in Sorrow unfortunately can’t kill Caryatid either, so it’s not as useful an option as the other 2. Again, RW Burn or Mardu Control seem to be the decks that would best utilize these cards right now.

3)     Enchantment Removal

Most Enchantment removal is only going to come in out of the sideboard, but there are loads of great options once we get to game 2. (hopefully on the draw because we got game 1!)

Erase Naturalize Reclamation Sage

 

I’m hesitant to include Reclamation Sage in this list because I feel as though we want as many of our answers to be Instant speed. However, Chord of Calling effectively gives the Sage Flash, but still might cost too much to make it out in time. Perhaps we can stick Jeskai Ascendancy in a room and play “I Am A God” by Kanye West (feat. God) (I’m serious, go look at the track listing. I’ll wait………….) on repeat until we convince it to become one so we can get maximum value out of Deicide. Abzan decks and Mono Green Devotion (which I think should become GB to accommodate the next tactic on the list) are most likely the best choices to keep Enchantments at bay, although Mardu could also rock the White spells.

4)     Hand Disruption

Would ya look at that? Thoughtseize is one of the good guys for a change! Face turns are almost always met with disapproval in the world of Professional Wrestling (face turn = a bad guy becoming a good guy, probably shouldn’t have even included the reference haha) so it will likely only be a matter of months before Thoughtseize rejoins the Dark Side. Discard spells have always been the bane of a Combo deck’s existence.

Thoughtseize http://24wrestling.sescoops.netdna-cdn.com/24/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/blue-tista.jpg Mardu Charm

 

Right now it seems like Mardu is far and away the best choice for someone who wants to really screw over the Jeskai player in Standard. Thoughtseize and Brain Maggot are also great options for Mono Black Aggro, and even GB Devotion, especially if the deck is running Eidolon of Blossoms.

5)     Counterspells

Obviously, Jeskai Ascendancy can never affect the game if it never resolves.

Dissolve Dissipate Stubborn Denial

 

Could Jeskai Combo be the deck that brings Control back from its brief period of relegation? If so, I think Stubborn Denial is a great sideboard option against a deck that is going to want to get under countermagic and tap out to stick an Ascendancy on the play vs. Control.

6)     Resource Denial

Here’s a strategy I haven’t heard anyone talking about:

Spirit of the Labyrinth Eidolon of Rhetoric

This deck depends upon drawing many cards and casting many spells when going off, and both of these cards stop that plan cold. Retraction Helix can pose a problem for this plan, but they have to have it, and if you can stick multiples of either card it’s pretty rough going for them to recover. GW Aggro or Abzan could be the best home for this pair of hosers.

7)     DEFLECTING PALM

Deflecting Palm

Anyone?

 

So clearly there are multiples options for dealing with this deck. Is the deck format-warping? Maybe a little. Thoughtseize becomes insanely somehow more powerful than it already was, and Control possibly gets to come out of retirement faster than Brett Favre after a few cocktails. Overall, a few adjustments here and there might be necessary to take down the new kid on the block, but as long as you got the right stuff, he shouldn’t be hangin’ tough for too long. Standard is going to be just fine.

bigheadjoe

Yo! MTG Taps!

P.S. I didn’t read this article while I was writing this, and only just discovered it as I was working on writing tonight. However, it seems to be covering a similar subject, so make sure you check out Jeff Hoogland’s article on The Meadery.

P.P.S. HomeStarRunner.com is one of my favorite websites of all time, and after a teaser update on April Fool’s Day has finally returned for the first time in almost 4 years with a NEW #1 JAM. WAUGHMP WAUGHMP I SAY.

P.P.P.S. Didn’t you hate it when you were younger when someone would write you a letter and would write “P.S.S.” after a “P.S.” instead of “P.P.S.” ? That means “Post Script Script” ya dingus.

P.P.P.P.S. Answers: 1) B, 2) F, 3) D, 4) A, 5) E, 6) C

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