A couple weeks ago, I covered a multitude of awesome Nahiri, the Harbinger decks in Modern. With Eldritch Moon being released and the PT ongoing, it’s the perfect time to look at Modern a little more in-depth. Jeskai has always been a solid deck, but it had major flaws. The biggest was how hard it could be to turn the corner. You can rely on Colonnades and burn spells, but it requires long games, longer rounds, and for things to go your way. You also give your opponent more time to get back into the game than other decks in the format.
Nahiri, the Harbinger completely changes that. It’s already a reasonable card without the combo. It can deal with problematic permanents, including a creature that attacked while you didn’t want to use removal. This is huge in a control deck that’s trying to answer everything. Most importantly, it will help you rummage through your deck, find valuable cards, and win the game in one fell swoop with Emrakul, the Aeons Torn.
Another nice combo when you’re discarding cards to Nahiri is the ability to get them back as needed. Snapcaster Mage may be the best card in all of Modern. A 2/1 flash creature for 2 is actually decent even for simply blocking the Goblin Guides and Dark Confidants of the world, but getting that critical 2-for-1 (at a minimum) is what makes this one of the best creatures of all time.
When building your Jeskai deck, there are a number of directions you can go. There’s a plethora of awesome spells available in Modern, especially in these colors. The starting point is still going to be 4 copies of both Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile, letting you interact for a single mana to make sure you don’t fall behind against the fast and powerful creatures in the format.
Nahiri can come down and kill a creature that you haven’t had the chance to deal with yet, but a clear board before you start ticking up is even better. Once you get into that position, it’s nearly impossible to lose. Your Nahiri will help to insure that you continue to find the correct answers, and Snapcaster Mage’s will serve as both a removal spell and a blocker to keep Nahiri around.
Serum Visions sure does look mediocre. It wasn’t long ago that we had Preordain and Ponder legal even in Standard, let alone Eternal formats. Both received the ax thanks to their overwhelming power, so Serum Visions will have to do. It will help set up your draws, and while it’s underpowered, combining to turn Snapcaster Mage into a reasonable 3-mana card draw creature puts it over the top. You can reduce your land count a little thanks to the presence of 4 copies of Serum Visions, but when you compare it to a card like Ancestral Vision, it’s clear that it’s the Snapcaster Mage combo that makes this the go-to.
The selection of countermagic is always tough for decks like this. The issue with Remand, and why it is far from a slam-dunk 4-of in a deck like this is because it serves best as a tempo card. Remand won’t stop your opponent’s game-winning spell from resolving eventually, but rather for a turn, so you need a way to take advantage of that turn. Luckily, in a deck looking to resolve Nahiri on an empty board, that’s perfect. Getting Remand flooded would leave you too far behind against aggressive decks, and the card loses tons of value on the draw, but a couple copies will help serve as Time Walks to get to Nahiri mana.
The most useful counter in Modern, and the one that you will basically never see fewer than 2 copies of in a deck like this, is Spell Snare. So many of the important cards cost exactly 2. Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant, Snapcaster Mage, and more. Responding to your opponent’s powerful turn-2 play despite being on the draw is a huge part of blue’s success.
Spell Snare is also one of the best targets for a Snapcaster Mage thanks to its incredibly low cost.
The rest of the counter suite is hotly debated. Mana Leak and Cryptic Command are the most popular options, but it’s far from inconceivable for a deck to play 0 copies of one of these cards. Mana Leak is one of the best counters in the format, especially since you tend to care less about cheaper spells resolving in the later portions of the game. The issue with Leak is that it plays poorly with your own Path to Exiles. Path is such a big part of your game plan, and also one of the spells you target the most with Snapcasters, that your opponents will have plenty of extra lands in play. With so many of the important plays in Modern being 1-2 mana, Leak is often trading down, and becoming dead even sooner than you want thanks to your own removal spells.
Cryptic Command offers raw power, but at a high cost. Spending 4 mana on any card is far from painless, especially when you have Nahiris in your deck. Most blue decks want 1-2 Cryptics, chaining them with Snapcaster to thwart a pair of attacks and keep digging deeper is occasionally your only path to victory.
Most of the removal suite is tied up in your 4 Paths and 4 Bolts, but there’s still some room for interaction. Your win conditions don’t take up very many slots thanks to the power of Nahiri. From here, you should fill in the gaps on your curve.
Lightning Helix is an important weapon against the most aggressive decks, but it doesn’t do too much outside of those matchups. Burn is burn, which is always good, and you can finish off an opponent with your lands and Snapcasters every now and then. The life buffer is a boon against Burn, Zoo, and Affinity, but the extra mana and color is a huge downgrade from Lightning Bolt.
Electrolyze is starting to get a bit on the expensive side. Still, this is going to be one of your best weapons against Affinity and Infect, but it’s also a great draw against control decks since you can cycle it for value.
This particular list runs some 1-ofs that you may not see often. Supreme Verdict is an awesome sweeper that will still get the job done against the aggro decks that have some countermagic, like Merfolk. Sweepers like this aren’t common in the main deck for Jeskai decks, as they tend to have Anger of the Gods or nothing, so this should catch your opponent off-guard.
Tamiyo, the Moon Sage is another win condition and removal spell. Spending 5 mana on anything is a ton in Modern, but locking down a problematic creature or land is pretty insane. Ultimating Tamiyo means infinite card draw and burn, so the game will be over.
There are a number of utility lands in Modern, and Ghost Quarter, Tectonic Edge, and Desolate Lighthouse all warrant consideration. There should be plenty of fetchlands and duals/basics to fix your colors and play around Blood Moon. The one key land for Jeskai decks, however, is Celestial Colonnade. Games that aren’t won with planeswalkers tend to finish thanks to your flying lands.
Francis Cellona, 9th place at GP LOS ANGELES
This is the exact style of deck that pros love to play. Lots of interactions, lots of choices, and a powerful way to win the game. If you’re a beginner, this can sound daunting, but I really do think this is the type of deck almost any player can pick up and do some good things with. Just understand that you’re going to want to keep the board as clear as possible. Cast your spells to progress this game plan. Sequencing your lands, knowing what to rummage, and when to save your counters is the challenge, but a little experience will go a long way. The sideboard options are near infinite. There’s so much potential in the Jeskai colors, and that’s a big selling point to playing the colors.
Vendilion Clique can come in versus a multitude of decks. There are a number of control, combo, and ramp decks in the format where cards like Electrolyze, Lightning Bolt, Lightning Helix, and potentially Path to Exile need to come out. You might want to keep some amount of burn to finish your opponent off, but you can’t draw too much of it. Clique will replace it as a quick clock, especially when your opponents are shorter on removal spells, while helping to disrupt their game plan.
Anger of the Gods one of your top tools against decks where Remand and Mana Leak are weakest. If they can cast their creatures and deal damage under Remand, simply board them out and answer the flooded board. Against Zoo, Infect, and Affinity, this is your trump card.
Timely Reinforcements serves a similar function to Anger of the Gods, and is your best card against a burn opponent. Timely’s 3 creatures protecting a Nahiri can be incredible even in matchups that aren’t the fastest creature decks.
Dispel is the cheapest form of interaction against noncreatures. This is critical against fast decks with tons of instants, such as Burn and Infect, but also in blue mirrors.
Crumble to Dust is for Tron and Tron alone. You can use it as a slow land destruction spell, but it’s not really practical. You shouldn’t be overly concerned with opposing Colonnades, and so while people will sometimes board theirs in here, I don’t agree with it. Take out an Urza’s land since you can’t really beat their train of huge spells, especially Karn that can take out your lands and Nahiris.
Izzet Staticaster is awesome against decks like Infect and Affinity, even more so than many other cards, because of how powerful it is against Inkmoth Nexus. Being coincidentally insane against token strategies or Empty the Warrens out of Storm is just a bonus.
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion can be a win condition in slower matchups while also stopping decks that create a bunch of big creatures. It can totally shut down a deck like Living End or Bogles depending on their board states, but it’s slow.
Rest in Peace is insane against decks like Living End and Goryo’s Vengeance. It would also be a solid tool against decks playing Tarmogoyf and Snapcaster Mage, except that you’re playing Snapcaster and it’s one of the best cards in your deck. This limits the utility of Rest in Peace, so board it in only when it’s a complete game-winner.
There are some other cards that didn’t make the cut here but warrant serious consideration in my book. At the top of the list is Wear//Tear. Effective against Affinity’s artifacts, Bogles’ enchantments, and Blood Moon, I love the utility of this split card.
Engineered Explosives is one of your best tools against Bogles to wipe out enchantments and creatures all at once. It has a similar impact against Infect and Affinity. That it is useful against the unexpected like Zoo or tokens has me higher on Explosives than Staticaster.
Rest in Peace may be the best against opposing graveyard strategies, but it’s really weak with your own Snapcasters. Relic of Progenitus may be better. You can cycle it at a key time, but you can also hold off and load up your own graveyard. Leaving up a mana to threaten using the Relic, however, is a huge downside.
If you’re looking for another tool against control/combo decks to try to win quickly, I suggest Geist of Saint Traft. It threatens to win the game on turn 6 with the help of any burn spell, any shock land, or even just some fetches. That is an extremely quick clock for something that many opponents will have no interaction for, so it’s worth considering if that’s what you’re expecting to face. Modern is such a wide open format. I’ve discussed a bunch of awesome Nahiri decks, but they’re just a handful of the dozens and dozens of viable strategies. Having a versatile deck with an interactive game plans is a start, but choosing the right sideboard cards is critical. The Jeskai colors offer so many options of excellent sideboard cards that selecting the right 15 is nearly impossible, but a fun exercise to try. Is Jeskai Nahiri the best deck in Modern. It has lots of play, lots of interaction, and can combine effective interaction with a quick way to win the game. I love what it brings to the table. What’s your optimal build of Jeskai Nahiri? Where do you stand on the powerful Ancestral Vision? Is there a sideboard card you’ve tried and loved? Sound off in the comments!