This past weekend the Magic: the Gathering World Championship went down in France. ChannelFireball was well represented at the event and I was especially pleased to see them running a Next Level Jeskai Ascendancy variant that used only Faerie Conclave and Fatestitcher as mana dorks for the combo.
The idea is to use the untap effect of Jeskai Ascendancy with creatures that tap for mana. Cast some spells, filter through the deck, grow your team and finish.
The creatures here are a bit different from what was initially considered the standard in Birds of Paradise and Sylvan Caryatid, but now that the best players in the world showed it to be a top strategy I expect many people to jump on board.
If you’ve been following my column at all you know I have been pushing a similar Jeskai Ascendancy deck with the same combo finish. Feels good. But, the TeamCFB deck is a bit different, so if you’re on the fence on it I’m going to explain the comparative advantages and disadvantages of my version.
As of right now I haven’t talked to any of those guys. I’ve read Paulo’s article and I’ve watched LSV play with the deck but I haven’t heard anything from Tom Martell or Josh Utter-Leyton, who I especially want to hear from as the architects of their version.
It starts with a shared preference—a desire to play with the new and the unknown. For one, unexpected is good. But it’s also about having fun doing new things. Repetition gets boring and playing with new cards spices it up. Hence, Jeskai Ascendancy.
From here a few preferences kick in. Do you have a preference for turn-2 possible kills? If that is your sole motivator you probably do want to play green.
But what if your preference is to be resilient? I am in this camp. I don’t want to be vulnerable on turn 1 to the most played card in Modern: Lightning Bolt. I don’t want opponents to be able to tear me apart with sorcery-speed removal. I want to make it difficult for them to interact. I want them to have to respond on my terms, only on the turn that I choose. Hence Fatestitcher and Faerie Conclave.
Do you have a preference for a cleaner mana base? I do. Four colors is a lot to play sometimes. It’s painful and less consistent. Three colors is a lot easier. It makes it easier to fetch for basics, which means more life. And since Lightning Bolt is the most popular card in Modern, more life seems good.
From here the preferences between my version and their version start to diverge. Do you want to have a consistent combo kill? Do you want to combo kill every single game? Play the TeamCFB version. With 4 Faerie Conclave and 4 Fatestitcher all they need to do is find Ascension and they can get it done.
But what if you have a preference for more threat diversity? What if you don’t want to rely exclusively on drawing a 4-of? I’m in this camp. I like to win in different ways—Door to Nothingness, Borborygmos Enraged, Worldfire + Thragtusk, Rakdos’s Return, Snapcaster Mage + Kessig Wolf Run. I like to have options.
This is the biggest difference between our versions. I like 4 Young Pyromancer in the main. It means you don’t have to draw Jeskai Ascendancy and makes it easier to beat Abrupt Decay. Young Pyromancer plays well with all the cards that play well with Jeskai Ascendancy and it plays well with Jeskai Ascendancy.
Obviously Young Pyromancer does die to removal, but it’s meant to be played like a Hordeling Outburst. Drain a removal spell and leave a couple tokens behind. Those tokens buy time and can actually straight-up kill with a Jeskai Ascendancy.
I also like Celestial Colonnade for the same reasons. This creature is much more likely to kill an opponent than a Faerie Conclave because it goes over Lightning Bolt. It does combo kill just the same although it’s slower to get going.
So I have a Cryptic Command in the deck. It’s an insanely good card that works well with the general strategy and means there’s no surprise we can’t beat.
Necessary? 99% of the time no, but if you want security for that 1% its a nice card to have.
Disrupting Shoal is a much stranger choice that is a pet card to many. If you ever played the old Ninja Bear Delver deck (or watched Sam Black Top 4 the first Modern Pro Tour) than you have an idea of how good this can be.
Like Cryptic Command it’s another security blanket. What if the opponent opens with this crazy line? Eh, we can just Disrupting Shoal it. It creates possibilities to beat anything.
Again I want to point out that this is a lot easier to hardcast than Force of Will. Four mana to counter a Goyf, 3 mana to counter a Lightning Bolt. This is something not a lot of people consider with this card but it’s part of the reason why it’s so good.
This is a nice combo that gets around Lightning Bolt but not graveyard hate. Honestly their version is a little bit weak to a card like Rest in Peace. Hate is beatable for sure, but there is a vulnerability.
While I’ve been playing Sleight of Hand they have additional removal in Path to Exile. If I’m going to be playing Disrupting Shoal I need more blue cards I think, but Sleight of Hand does feel like it could be cuttable.
Path to Exile is really interesting. Obviously it’s a great card at removing anything but it does come with a drawback. If you’re planning on combo-ing off in a shorter game that drawback might not come up, but if the plan is to grind out a much longer game Path to Exile becomes a bit more questionable.
It seems to really come down to preference. How do you like to play? What makes you comfortable? These questions can draw players to the same archetype but pull them into distinct camps for play style. Either way it’s nice to have options.
TeamCFB Jeskai Ascendancy
Next Level Jeskai (TWoo)
I still recommend my version for tournament play. One because I think it’s still really good. And two because it offers a style of play that provides long, interesting, interactive matches with multiple victory conditions.
But if you want to combo kill every time the TeamCFB deck looks great too.
I really want to break Painter’s Servant in Modern and last week I wrote about a few possible directions. But this past week I was pointed toward a combination deck that is hilarious, nostalgic, and powerful.
I was. I played it in Standard and Extended. The combo is you play a long control game until you have 9+ mana. Cast Upheaval, float Psychatog, and leave up 1 land for Force Spike if necessary. Next turn swing for lethal.
It turns out it’s possible to recreate that feel with Painter’s Servant.
We also get a few key new cards:
This is my starting point:
Though is this really that much cuter than just casting an end of turn Empty the Pits with counter backup? That’s a brew for another day!
Polymorph/Through the Breach
I’ve spent a lot of time in the past playing various Polymorph Dryad Arbor into Emrakul brews. The idea is that by playing green fetchlands you can consistently have a Polymorph target without having to devote extra cards. Pull it out as a surprise and protect it for one turn and make a 15/15!
We’ve had a few nice printings for this type of strategy.
Oh durr Dig Through Time, yes of course this card is great for any blue combo deck. But Wooded Foothills is actually a big deal for U/R or RUG Polymorph. It’s a way to get that Arbor that’s on-color and doesn’t tip the opponent off about what we’re up to.
Also worth noting that Windswept Heath is a new printing and I’ve never really considered UW or Bant Polymorph, but the cards may be there now.
Last list of the day with a rogue or not-so-rogue BUG Delver list.
I got to thinking about why no one is playing Thoughtseize + Treasure Cruise? This is a must-play combo. Not to mention Abrupt Decay, a format all-star happens to be an amazing main deck card against the new TeamCFB Ascension deck.
So I started building my own version but came across this list from Matteo bubu Falconetti who recently went 7-1 at a Grand Prix Trial.
Check it out:
Personally I like Creeping Tar Pit here but the general strategy seems like it could be good now. And for some reason it’s “rogue.”
Lots of Modern Brews today and likely lots more next week. Any questions about these lists? Anything new and specific you want to see? Any old brews you want to see return for an update with the current environment? Let me know in the comments!