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Priemer's Primers: Ascending into Legacy

Written by LegitMTG Staff on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Legacy

Jeskai Ascendancy was one of those innocuous junk rares that pop up early in spoiler season that people tend to underestimate. However, since the release of Khans of Tarkir, Ascendancy has proven time and again to be a devastating combo engine, quickly taking the Modern and Standard worlds by storm. In Modern, these decks opted to run mana dorks and endless cantrips to build up a massive creature and Flesh // Blood the opponent to death. However, over the World Championship weekend, a new variety of Ascendancy deck arose in the form of ChannelFireball’s version. This build opted to use Fatestitcher to constantly untap its lands so they can continuously cast cantrips, triggering the Ascendancy and building up either a massive unearthed zombie or a colossal Faerie Conclave. Eschewing excess cantrips in favour of more removal and Dig Through Time, it quickly swept through Day 1 of the World Championship. Within hours noted Vintage master Rich Shay posted a Legacy version of this build on Reddit, and an archetype was born.

This version of the deck is far more powerful than its Modern counterpart, simply by virtue of having better countermagic and cantrips available to you. The deck runs a whopping nineteen spells that draw cards, ensuring that once you get going it becomes incredibly difficult to stop you. As well, rather than relying on Faerie Conclave like the Modern build, this variant runs a set of Young Pyromancer to swarm the opponent. With this Plan B, Jeskai Ascendancy turns any Lightning Bolt or Thought Scour into a mini-Overrun for your Elemental tokens which allows you to close out games much faster than other Young Pyromancer decks in the format.

One thing that this version of the deck really excels at is being both a combo deck and a control deck. Seven maindeck counterspells is more than most decks run these days and is usually enough to not only protect your combo, but hinder the opponent from getting their own game plan in order as well. It should be noted that this is something of a necessity, as this is hardly a fast combo deck by Legacy standards. However, against these faster combos, this permission package does wonders for slowing them down until you’ve reached an even pace. Against slower matchups, you simply outdraw them and sculpt your ideal hands while pushing through damage with your Young Pyromancers. Then, when the time is right and they’ve run out of resources, you can combo off and put the final nail in the coffin. This versatility gives Jeskai Ascendancy more flexibility in a format as diverse as Legacy.


While the sideboard is a little rough given how recent a development it is, the current sideboard packs both proactive and reactive answers for the majority of the format. In the proactive slots, Meddling Mage and Pithing Needle help keep all-in combo decks such as Sneak and Show, ANT, and Painter Stone from using their win conditions. This forces them to find an answer for your hate cards, which buys you plenty of time to set up your combo. As well, Surgical Extraction helps punish these matchups, as well as graveyard-centric decks like Reanimator and Dredge by ripping away a key card from their graveyard. It’s worth noting that should this archetype become more popular, Surgical Extraction will be a key card to fighting the mirror, as Extracting an opponent’s Ascendancy shuts off their ability to combo, as well as hinders their potential to push through damage with tokens. Lastly, Sulfur Elemental aims to keep Death and Taxes in check, as Thalia and Spirit of the Labyrinth are a major headache for this deck. While the deck does have Lightning Bolts in the main, Mother of Runes’ presence makes that plan less reliable. With Sulfur Elemental’s split second, you can eliminate problematic hate bears while they are unable to fight back.

As far as the reactive spells go, the sideboard includes a package of countermagic and removal to fight whatever hate cards that an opponent may side in. Pyroblast is such a good card for fighting opposing countermagic that it is seeing maindeck play in UR Delver, which more than justifies running it in the sideboard. As well, because of the way it’s worded, Pyroblast can also target a non-Blue permanent for no effect other than getting an additional trigger off of Ascendancy. Conversely, as Pyroblast becomes more popular, Hydroblast’s potential skyrockets. For one Blue mana you can counter everything from Burn to Monastery Swiftspear to even Sneak Attacks, and like Pyroblast you can cast it on a non-Red permanent to get extra triggers from Ascendancy.

Wear // Tear does a fantastic job for picking off whatever kind of graveyard hate the opponent may have. Everything from Rest in Peace to Grafdigger”s Cage is fair game, enabling you to maintain your ability to combo off with an unearthed Fatestitcher. Wear // Tear also shuts down other roadblocks that may interfere with your end game of giant tokens, such as Elephant Grass, Ensnaring Bridge, and Ethersworn Canonist. Finally, for slower mobile casino matchups such as Miracles, the deck employs a second copy of Faerie Conclave. Terminus can be a blowout, but consistently poking the opponent for 2 damage each turn can often be enough to win you a slower, grindier game.


As the format shifts toward slower, tempo-based decks like UWR Stoneblade and counter-light UR Delver decks, Jeskai Ascendancy poses quite a conundrum. Against these decks, Ascendancy opts to be an oppressive combo deck, picking off what few threats they have until their resources have been exhausted and they can’t stop the combo. These matches need to have a highly interactive hand to deal with you, but these hands typically don’t have much of a clock to back it up. Stop this clock with a well-placed Bolt or Force of Will, and you will have lots of time to set up while they dig for another threat.

Another fairly good match for Jeskai Ascendancy are slower creature-based decks like Merfolk and Goblins, as they generally don’t have the means to interact with you outside of a few counterspells. They try to put a clock down by playing creature after creature, but through your removal and Pyromancer tokens, you can stall the board out until you can go off.

On the other end of the spectrum, the deck has several awkward matchups. Decks like Dredge, Reanimator, and Sneak and Show can all combo off and lock you out of the game before you can set yourself up, and they also run enough disruption to both protect themselves and hurt you. If you aren’t able to stick one of your hate cards before they can go off, you have to rely on your countermagic to slow them down, but that still isn’t enough to guarantee success. Another awkward matchup for Jeskai Ascendancy is MUD/Stompy. These decks employ various prison cards like Chalice of the Void and Trinisphere to hinder your ability to play multiple spells in a turn. A Chalice on 1 shuts off a staggering 22 cards in your deck, and these archetypes can play it as early as turn 1. As well, Stompy often runs either Blood Moon or Choke, depending on whether it’s mono-Red or mono-Green, which shuts off your mana and makes it difficult for you to cast anything at all. While Wear // Tear helps, only having the two copies often means you need to either mulligan aggressively or cast multiple cantrips to find one before it’s too late.


You should build Jeskai Ascendancy if you’re a fan of either combo decks, control decks, graveyard shenanigans, or Young Pyromancer. There is just so much going on in this deck that there’s a little something for everyone. The deck has so many avenues of attack that you’re never really out of the game, and the abundance of cantrips lets you power through your deck at a blinding pace. If any of that appeals to you, Jeskai Ascendancy is the deck for you!

Twitter: @tylerthefro
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