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Jeskai Lukka and How to Attack It

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Hey everyone!

I've been continuing on the Arena grind. Building new decks is interesting when you begin by not having access to every card in the stock list. Jeskai Lukka is the top dog in Standard so it seemed natural to attempt to build it.

Here's my current list:


Building this deck was a bandwagon move. The deck was clearly gaining momentum over the last few weeks. I can't grind up the ladder without facing Jeskai Lukka at least once.

The Arena ladder is great at self-correcting for decks that are winning too much. As Yorion decks got more popular I also saw more aggressive decks that can win before Lukka comes down to steal powerful permanents.

The aggressive decks are having a great time as the worst matchup, Cat Oven, gets run over by Jeskai Lukka. In fact, I played a couple games with Rakdos Cat Oven and it felt demoralizing to keep many hands with a Yorion staring at me at the top of the screen.

One of the main deviations I have made was to add three Scorching Dragonfire to the maindeck. Omen of the Forge was very mediocre for me because it only hits planeswalkers for two damage against control decks. There are also many early creatures with higher toughness the Omen misses. The best example of this is Flourishing Fox on the draw against Boros Cycling. I also ran into the fox getting too big on the draw with Deafening Clarion.

From the stock Jeskai Lukka list I cut an Elspeth Conquers Death, Elspeth, Sun's Nemesis, and Agent of Treachery to make room for Scorching Dragonfires. I only really like Elspeth Conquers Death in Hallowed Fountain mirrors so it was moved to the sideboard. The fourth Agent isn't needed in most games and drawing them doesn't feel good. Elspeth, Sun's Nemesis performed well, but I just want more cheap spells. I have exiled an Elspeth, Sun's Nemesis with Scorching Dragonfire and it felt great.

Glass Casket gets the nod in the sideboard over Scorching Dragonfire because I don't need that much flexibility. It doesn't have to hit planeswalkers like Game 1. I want the caskets against Cat Oven, Mono-Red, Mono-Green, and Boros Cycling. Since Lukka is such a prominent piece of the metagame I wouldn't consider maindecking Glass Casket.

Since I didn't have all the rares to initially build the deck I got Castle Ardenvale last. It's nice to always have a creature to turn into Agent of Treachery, but I rarely find myself wanting it which makes four copies too many. I have found some games of the mirror match come down to extra 1/1s pressuring planeswalkers, but those aren't regular occurrences. Extra basic lands have been better so I get additional mana sources that enter the battlefield untapped.

Temple of Epiphany has earned the full playset because it pairs very well with Plains, Castle Ardenvale, and The Birth of Meletis. White mana is abundant and this helps balance things out.

I'm not a fan of the Dream Trawlers in the sideboard. I prefer keeping plan A with Agent of Treachery, but adding more interaction that makes life gain less important after board. Red decks can go over the top, but Trawler is very good versus Cat Oven. That doesn't matter too much to me as it feels like my best matchup. Once I have activated Lukka the game isn't difficult, but surviving that long is challenging.

I tried many different decks to fight Jeskai Lukka and have been largely unsuccessful. The mirror match can be pretty wild and that is enough to have many players steer clear of the archetype. I felt very unconfident in the mirror as there are some strange interactions that come up, but it just requires some practice. After losing the first three I have won the last eight mirrors in a row.

Here are some things I've learned about the deck:

The Birth of Meletis is the best 2-drop in the deck. It provides a creature for Lukka, acts as a roadblock against aggro, and finds an untapped land. I rarely blink it out with Yorion because it reaches chapter three too soon. It never gets boarded out.

Fires of Invention is strange in the mirror. After sideboard it prevents you from playing countermagic. This is mitigated if you begin by playing draw-go and save the fires for a big turn. If you slam it early you run the risk of the opponent resolving Lukka and putting Agent of Treachery on the battlefield to steal the fires. This is even worse because the opponent can then cast Yorion and blink out the Agent to steal a land and threaten another Agent next turn. For this reason I like to keep two; it's still a very powerful spell that plays a specific role.

I also ran into an awkward situation where I used Lukka's ability on Agent of Treachery. Don't do this! Lukka only puts creatures with a higher mana cost on the battlefield and there aren't any 8-drops.

Elspeth Conquers Death is very strong in the mirror. The best players take advantage of chapter two by forcing through a spell when it's more expensive to fight back with countermagic. It took me a few rounds to get the hang of chapter two being relevant in the mirror. This sometimes means exiling their ECD with your own a turn early because if you wait until the last minute it's seven mana.

Mythos of Illuna is very strong in midrange slugfests. I will almost always play two since midrange will be present in some form.

Here's how I board in the mirror:

Moving forward I think it's valuable to tweak your Lukka list to fight aggressive decks. It has high power so it's a good choice even when everyone knows it is public enemy number one. Practice can drastically improve your mirror match, but aggressive decks will kill you sometimes and there isn't much to be done about it.

I've seen many articles writing about decks that beat Lukka. I think all the big decks have been written about this way. The decks that remain in this metagame have the ability to take down Lukka, but are less powerful in the abstract. This is the case of how articles portray the best deck in every format.

My advice here is to play a deck that ignores the hate and has a naturally good matchup against Jeskai Lukka. Don't play a deck that simply has a pile of cards to sideboard because that doesn't work. This means play something aggressive or play Jeskai Lukka. Wilderness Reclamation decks aren't a bad call either as they are good at playing control after board against aggro. It can also go over the top of Lukka without playing too many clunky spells.

I don't want to play a midrange deck that attempts to go over the top of Jeskai Lukka because that means sacrificing your aggro matchup further. If you want to beat Lukka with midrange then the mirror is your best option.

Red Obosh

The last time I wrote about Standard, Mono-Red was my top deck. There was some discussion about the article on Twitter and Obosh Red was mentioned. I was intrigued and now the deck is widely known as a great strategy in Standard. It doesn't crush Jeskai Lukka, but at least fights an honest fight.


There isn't much novel about the deck, but I wanted to discuss it because I have trusted it to get me wins on the ladder each day to earn daily rewards.

I tried Skewer the Critics because it deals six damage with Obosh on the battlefield. In the end it wasn't consistent enough to warrant the inclusion. The two damage spells, Shock and Stomp, were much better against creature decks. Obosh would never survive a full turn because of Elspeth Conquers Death.

Phoenix of Ash was a late inclusion for me that is now stock. It's mana intensive so I don't want to draw multiples, but it's good against removal decks. I didn't want to invest rare wildcards, but I now don't regret the decision.

I already had experience with many of these Red cards thanks to RDW. Tin Street Dodger and Heraldic Banner are two new cards for me to play. Ten years ago the Banner would have been a rare card; people used to play Glorious Anthem. It's the strongest 3-drop in the deck.

Tin Street Dodger is often one of the most dangerous creatures on the battlefield thanks to the Banner and Obosh. Most of the creatures in Standard without power don't actually have Defender. It's mostly just the 0/4 from The Birth of Meletis.

The sideboard is where things get weird. Since you can only play odd converted mana costs in a monochromatic deck we're really grasping at straws. There are high diminishing returns on many of these cards. I wouldn't want to draw more than a single Act of Treason, Grafdigger's Cage, and Claim the Firstborn.

Redcap Melee is one of the few sideboard cards I want to draw and they are great in the mirror.

This deck can have a hard time against Jeskai Lukka when they curve out. Obosh also has slower draws because the deck only plays spells that cost one or three mana. When you draw too many 3-drops slower interaction out of Lukka starts becoming relevant such as Elspeth Conquers Death and Teferi.

Mono-Green Aggro

The last deck I want to talk briefly about is Mono-Green. As I have been piloting Jeskai Lukka this is one deck I came across that scared me. This particular list came from a Red Bull qualifier second place finish by Maxim Salmin.


This seems like a strange type of deck to put up a fight against Jeskai Lukka, but it works.

Pelt Collector can grow out of hand quickly to apply enough pressure before Shatter the Sky resolves.

Haste creatures give me headaches. Questing Beast deals damage before I have the chance to interact with it on account of Fires of Invention being on the battlefield. The real problematic creature is Shifting Ceratops. I can't chump block it with a soldier token because trample can be activated. It can't be stolen because of protection from Blue. Shatter the Sky even gives them back a card.

Gemrazer is also a strong card as there are plenty of enchantments to destroy. It works particularly well with Stonecoil Serpent due to the +1+1 counters. The same can be said about Growth Chamber Guardian.

That's all I have for this week. Standard is pretty fun despite there being a "best deck" in Jeskai Lukka. Practice makes perfect so get some reps in!

Thanks for reading,

Kyle

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