What I really would have played at Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar was Jeskai Ascendancy Combo. While I like Coralhelm Ramp, showing up to a tournament with no 1-mana plays is a good way to get run over. Jeskai Ascendancy combo is full of 1-drops with a lean mana curve AND has an easier “infinite” combo!
Unfortunately I did not play in that tournament, and the deck was not there at all. So it’s time to unleash the secret weapon on this Standard season and show the Pro Tour what they missed. Let’s walk through the game plan.
The basic combo is mana dorks plus Jeskai Ascendancy in a deck full of cheap card draw. Each card draw untaps the dorks and acts to replace the mana and cycle through a card. If the list is configured correctly, we draw the whole deck and the dorks themselves become the win condition.
Honored Hierarch has been unfairly hated on. Yes, it’s not as consistent as Birds of Paradise or Noble Hierarch. But it’s more comparable to Delver of Secrets. Here is a 1-mana 1/1 with tremendous upside. We have to work to make this card good, but if we do this card will work wonders.
Stratus Walk is the perfect way to connect with Hierarch that also works well when combo’ing and finishing. Bonus application: Stratus Walk protects Ascendancy from Dromoka’s Command even if they fight the enchanted creature!
Fiery Impulse is not quite Lightning Bolt, but it’s close. It takes down early creatures and clears a path for Honored Hierarch. It helps us chain off when combo’ing, and finish by clearing the board.
Clutch of Currents is another versatile spell to get Honored Hierarch through. The awaken ability is amazing in a longer game, waking up a big dual land to work with Jeskai Ascendancy and clearing out a big flying blocker.
Our last mana dork is Lumbering Falls which, while slow, is big and has hexproof. This card is also great to help us finish as a control deck after sideboard.
Now that we’ve got our mana dorks sorted, the next question is what gas is going to fuel us when combo’ing? Standard is chock-full of options right now. Anticipate and Seek the Wilds work with all of our mana creatures, but Magmatic Insight and Tormenting Voice fuel our graveyard the most, which is very important.
Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise are still not banned in Standard, but they feel like they should be. With all the looting and fetching, these cards can be cast early and give us consistency once the combo gets going.
These big draw spells are also perfect against the spot removal and sweepers that would otherwise plague us. If the opponent wants to play the attrition game, great! We have more draw than they do.
Wooded Foothills is our best land because it plays a turn-1 dork or a turn-1 Fiery Impulse. Curving out is important, as is fetching dual lands, so Evolving Wilds is an inferior budget alternative.
Our fetchlands should start out by fetching a few basics.
Which leads to untapped dual lands. Our mana is great.
Jeskai Ascendancy Combo – Game 1
After combo’ing game 1 we can expect the opponent to go for more disruption, going after our mana creatures and/or Jeskai Ascendancy. This is a perfect situation to next-level metagame them. If we change our threats their “counters” play directly into our hands as 6 Digs/Cruises will win the long game with support from Lumbering Falls.
Especially against red removal, the mana dorks and main combo plan can come out. Instead, we go fast or resilient. Savage Knuckleblade sets a fast clock. Hangarback Walker bogs things down with Jeskai Ascendancy, Stratus Walk, and Dromoka’s Command. Then we have finishers like Dragonlord Ojutai, Noyan Dar, Dragonlord Dromoka, or Narset to go over the top.
A broad selection of counterspells can let us play the aggro-control or pure control game, depending on what the situation calls for.
It’s always good to have access to some life gain. Jaddi Offshoot is a strong option for soaking up a weenie rush from the start.
Neither Jace nor Monastery Mentor directly contribute to the combo starting, continuing, or finishing, so I’m not excited about them in the main deck. From the sideboard they’re weak against most of the cards we expect them to bring in. But both of these cards are insane and lead to broken starts. If you have them, try them, but if you don’t, save yourself the money.
After game 1 we could surprise the opponent by morphing into something like this:
Jeskai Ascendancy Control – Game 2
If the opponent was hoping to Bolt our dorks and win a longer game, they will struggle against a Jeskai control deck. This is only one possible configuration—it depends what they saw, what you saw, what colors they play, and so on. The idea is to counter their counter by presenting a more robust strategy.
Standard Jeskai Ascendancy
I would say this feels like playing Modern or Legacy in Standard, but this deck is actually banned in those formats. Cruise and Dig are even restricted in Vintage! When’s the last time you could play a deck in Standard that is banned in every other format? This just doesn’t happen.
This deck is strong and exciting. It’s lean, resilient, and maneuverable. It plays faux Lightning Bolts and Ancestral Recalls in an otherwise spell poor format. I haven’t been this hot on a Standard deck in ages. If you’ve been looking for some tech to cut up tournaments, this could be it. Stay tuned for the video deck tech and matches coming this Friday!