What is the main draw to playing Jeskai Black for me? Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is pretty great—I feel like I write this almost every day. Beyond that, it would have to be Mantis Rider. It’s just such an efficient little beater that requires an answer immediately in a world where there isn’t much that does. So what happens when others advocate removing Mantis Rider from Jeskai Black?
Well, blasphemy, for one. Todd Anderson has been pushing for a Jeskai deck that has 0 copies of Mantis Rider in the 75. He followed that up with a Top 8 finish at a SCG Standard Open, so maybe there’s some merit here to take a closer look.
Dig Through Time is completely busted. Anyone who didn’t know that was made painfully aware as the card continued to see bans and restrictions in every format. Playing 4 in any deck is appealing, but does it make sense in Jeskai Black? If you can make it work, chaining Dig Through Times is excellent, but this list doesn’t do anything extra to get cards into the graveyard, simply replacing the Tasigur, the Golden Fangs with the more powerful, yet less threatening, delve spell.
So no Mantis Rider and no Tasigur, the Golden Fang means that we are down a number of threats. What does this deck actually use to win? Well, the card advantage of Dig helps, and both Kolaghan’s Command and Ojutai’s Command offer powerful 2-for-1s that can help keep threats live, but there isn’t much to win with here. The deck relies heavily on Dragonmaster Outcast. This is an effective tool against a number of decks, but you’re going to be leaning hard on your Utter Ends when you run into the decks featuring lots of Silkwraps, Stasis Snares, or Quarantine Fields. Not to mention the potential for Complete Disregard and Horribly Awry. The only other creature in the deck (besides Jace, of course) is Soulfire Grand Master, which is not a threat that too many decks actually mind being in play.
So, in the end, what do I think of this deck? I think it’s a really poor version of Esper Dragons. Crackling Doom is a powerful card, but a more controlling deck with 4 Digs would rather have the gain 4 life than have the deal 2 damage anyways. Fiery Impulse is really nice, but it stretches your mana dramatically and is dead in many matchups (albeit fantastic in others). Relying on Dragonmaster Outcast and Soulfire Grand Master to win games vs. Dragonlord Ojutai and Dragonlord Silumgar is not my first choice, as despite being cheaper, they actually don’t do anything until later in the game. The nail in the coffin for me is having pretty bad mana vs. having access to Shambling Vents and Haven of the Spirit Dragon as “manlands” in Esper Dragons.
That being said, Todd has had real success with this deck and here I am theorizing. What do you think about cutting Mantis Rider from Jeskai? Could this be the future of the format’s once dominant top deck or will we continue to see a rise in Esper Control decks?