Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North
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Jeskai Elite


In this experiment, we ascend to the elite of the Jeskai Way, with arcane thoughts ever on our mind.

Jeskai Ascendancy gives me hopes of again seeing combo in competitive Standard play. It may not make it, but just let me give Wizards of the Coast the benefit of the doubt for a little while. You see, an outlet that lets us repeatedly untap our creatures has a lot of potential, and the Ascendancy even allows us to loot through our library as we cast spells, thus allowing us to find the combo elements we need—this is card filtering and engine material all in one card.

If casting a spell untaps our creatures, let’s assume (as I frequently like to do) that our creatures generated sufficient mana to pay for the spell. And with as many cards that have this ability, let’s also assume that our spell replaces itself. Interestingly, Jeskai Ascendancy has one additional combo-friendly element: It’s also a win condition. Not only does it untap our creatures, but it gives them +1/+1 with each iteration, turning our mana base into a massive threat for our opponents.

The Elite and the Arcane

Some two-card combos just aren’t worth the effort. Elite Arcanist can give us the ability to reuse any instant we imprint on it. Drawing cards is always nice, and it’d be free, so why not Evermind? Evermind has no mana cost, so it can’t be cast normally, but if we cast it without paying its mana cost, it works fine. And since the converted mana cost of a card with a nonexistent mana cost is 0, we don’t have to worry about weird rules nonsense. Just exile the Evermind with Elite Arcanist, tap the Arcanist, and draw a card. And we can do that every turn.

The problem with that sweet two-card combo is that it’s a two-card version of Archivist, which isn’t even a particularly powerful card. However, consider Elite Arcanist, Evermind, and Jeskai Ascendancy.

Jeskai Ascendancy
Elite Arcanist

In this case, we can tap the Arcanist and draw a card, and since the copy of Evermind was a noncreature spell, we can give the Arcanist +1/+1 and untap him. Oh, and we can also loot. Oh, and we can also untap all our other creatures—just in case. All the sudden, we’ve gained the ability to dig through our entire library—looting and/or just drawing—while creating a massive Wizard.

Evermind’s intended use is that it would be spiced onto Arcane spells rather than be cast, but somewhat ironically, its use here with Arcanist actually makes it a prime candidate to be spliced onto. When we’re not comboing off, we can use the Arcanist’s Evermind activations to serve as a catalyst for us to gain other spells’ effects without having to expend cards. Consuming Vortex will allow us to repeatedly bounce opposing threats, Glacial Ray can remove them or whittle our opponents down, and Blessed Breath will protect Elite Arcanist.

Consuming Vortex
Glacial Ray
Blessed Breath

Finally—and we could focus more on the potential of this synergy—if we add a Desperate Ritual to our existing combo, we’ll gain infinite red mana. If we splice the Ritual onto the Arcanist’s Evermind copy, it will cost us 1r but generate rrr. Jeskai Ascendancy will untap Elite Arcanist, and we repeat, though our mana generation will technically be limited by the number of cards in our library. A Devil's Play or Comet Storm would prevent the likelihood of that being relevant, though we could throw in an Elixir of Immortality just to be safe. Our list today won’t run an X spell or an Elixir, and its Desperate Ritual count is only one—to keep the potential—but it’s something to consider. We can also just forego the Evermind here and imprint Desperate Ritual directly onto the Arcanist for infinite mana and a massive Wizard.

Backup Creatures

Coalition Honor Guard
Not surprisingly, the conundrum of the Jeskai Way is finding balance. In the case of deck-building, that balance is between creatures and noncreatures. Prowess is a creature mechanic, and Jeskai Ascendancy greatly rewards us for having creatures in play, but we need noncreature spells to trigger these effects. I could see a tokens-based Jeskai deck being quite interesting, as it could be filled with cards that are both spells and virtual creatures (in the form of token-generating spells), but that’s not for today.

Instead, I opted to make this deck feature Elite Arcanist, and only Coalition Honor Guard makes an appearance to back him up. This Flagbearer is a respectable blocker, and our opponent will have to spend removal on him in order to take out our Arcanist. Let’s hope that buys us the time we need to find the spells we need. (As an alternative to protecting Elite Arcanist, consider Crimson Wisps as a 1-mana, instant, card-draw option for letting us use the Arcanist the turn we cast him—no protection required.)

But wait! Don’t we need mana creatures? Elite Arcanist has the potential to go off with Jeskai Ascendancy using spells other than Evermind—but only if we have mana-generating creatures to pay for those spells. Unfortunately, blue, red, and white aren’t colors exactly known for their creature-based acceleration. I don’t think Sisters of the Flame and Apprentice Wizard are going to cut it today. I considered Mirrodin’s Myr, notably Silver Myr, Iron Myr, and Gold Myr, but these tiny artifact creatures would pull significantly from our spell base, and they would be very fragile elements of our combo.

That said, a 2-mana accelerant would allow us to cast a turn-three Elite Arcanist, thus allowing for the potential of a turn-four win involving Jeskai Ascendancy, Glacial Ray, and Desperate Ritual (or possibly other configurations), but I’m willing to give up that very small potential. But I only dismissed the Myr after realizing our alternative.

What Do Urza’s Legacy and Worldwake Have in Common?

In all my combos that required mana-generating creatures, I don’t recall ever considering self-animating lands. In Jeskai colors—excluding colorless options for color concerns—we have access to Faerie Conclave, Forbidding Watchtower, Ghitu Encampment, and Celestial Colonnade. That last one is a bit expensive to activate on our pinnacle turn, but its impression of a Coastal Tower is much appreciated here, and the Colonnade might actually be the strongest card in our deck (or at least it has the most tournament pedigree).

Faerie Conclave
Ghitu Encampment
Forbidding Watchtower

Forbidding Watchtower is a relevant blocker; incidentally, Ghitu Encampment, with its first strike, is as well. And Faerie Conclave, in a pinch, can stave off an attack from an incoming lethal flyer. But their real purpose here is to animate themselves on the turn we start going off. Even without an Arcanist, the Jeskai Ascendancy will untap them with each spell we cast, and if they’re paying the mana for our spells and we’re looting each time, we’ll be able to cast multiple spells before running out of fuel.

Now, especially given the somewhat expensive animation costs and the dearth of cantrips in our deck, we won’t really be going infinite without an Arcanist. But what we can do is generate multiple pseudo-prowess triggers from the Ascendancy to turn our creatures into real threats with which to take big chunks out of our opponents’ life totals. If we cast, say, three spells, Faerie Conclave will be a 5-power flyer, our Ghitu Encampment will be a 5-power creature with first strike, and our Forbidding Watchtower will be a 4/8—and it can attack despite its Wall-like stature.

Jeskai Ascendancy and Elite Arcanist with Evermind comprise the ideal combo for us in a duel, as it can draw us a ton of cards and one-shot our opponent, but these lands will give us other routes to victory with different configurations of draws.

For example, imagine we have Jeskai Ascendancy, Elite Arcanist with Fire // Ice, and six lands, two of which are our Urza’s Legacy lands. We can pay to animate the lands, and then tap the lands to activate Elite Arcanist for either Fire or Ice. Doing so will untap all three of our creatures and give them all +1/+1. We’ll then either tap something and draw a card or deal 2 damage, divided as we choose. Without interruption, we win the game from there—basically however we choose to do so. We can just burn people out with Fire or tap down all their blockers and hit with a massive Arcanist and his land-creature buddies.

The last couple cards are Eerie Procession and Absorb. Eerie Procession is a sorcery, so we can’t imprint it onto Elite Arcanist, and it doesn’t splice, so we’ll only be able to use each copy once, but it is Arcane, so we can splice onto it. Its real function, though, is just to fetch whatever key Arcane spell we need, which would frequently be Evermind or, in the case we already have Evermind, Glacial Ray. The one-of Desperate Ritual is a fine choice as well.

Absorb is just a solid Counterspell effect, which is always something nice to stick on an Isochron Scepter or an Elite Arcanist, and its 3-life buffer will be nice for keeping us in the game until later.

Eerie Procession
Desperate Ritual

Jeskai Ascendancy was my prerelease promo this past weekend, but I never drew it in a hand I didn’t mulligan. I didn’t have Elite Arcanist or Urza’s Legacy lands in my prerelease pool, though, so what would have been the point?

Whether you’ve been itching to pull out some old Arcane spells, hankering to cast some new Jeskai coolness, or just waiting for a reason to cast Flagbearers again, give this deck a try.

Andrew Wilson


fissionessence at hotmail dot com

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