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Top 8 Split with Legacy Jeskai Control (and Hammertime)


Hey everyone!

I'm back with a successful result in a local Legacy 1K. It was a $50 buy-in with 31 players and was bumped to 1.5K. There were five rounds and I was able to make the Top 8 with a 3-0-2 record followed by a split for $187.

Today I'm going to talk about the Jeskai Control deck I played as well as a cool deck piloted by fellow Top 8 competitor, Jason Reid. He surprisingly played Hammertime, with mostly Modern cards, that was the only deck to take a game off me in the event.

This deck could be called Jeskai Tempo or something else entirely, but I will refer to it as Jeskai Control because the win condition is Expressive Iteration. You may be winning with a creature, but the reality is a ham sandwich would be good enough as long as a lot of cards are drawn ahead of time.

Let's get started!

Here's my list:

I made some slight changes from Gary Wong's winning list in the Legacy Pit Open. After testing the deck for the last week I made some changes from my last article, too.

Gary reported Jace, the Mind Sculptor underperformed and I was happy to cut it. I still wanted a fourth planeswalker to keep the card type diversity high so a second Teferi, Time Raveler made the cut.

I was happy with Teferi's static effect in the deck because most combo decks try to stick a winning interaction and back it up with Force of Will. It's easier to stabilize a game when free counters are out of the equation.

Another big piece of the Legacy metagame are Urza's Saga decks. I can bounce the enchantment land or a Construct token. Teferi can also generate multiple bounces if you keep the battlefield clear.

I don't want to cast Expressive Iteration as an instant, but Ponder and Prismatic Ending are solid to cast on the opponent's turn with Teferi's +1 ability.

Since Jace, the Mind Sculptor is a closing threat and Teferi rarely wins the game on his own, I wanted a third Murktide Regent as a win condition. I was happy with three Murktide Regent as even a 5/5 flying dragon was enough to stabilize. The correct number of Murktides is between three and four. It's defensible to cut the second Teferi for a fourth Murktide, but you will lose a sideboard slot as the fourth planeswalker is good in the seventy five.

Narset, Parter of Veils was very strong. Out of four matches I played, she stopped Faithless Looting, Thought Monitor, Uro, Dack Fayden, and even Esper Sentinel. The third copy in the sideboard is now overkill thanks to the second Teferi. Both static effects have a prison component, but three mana is a lot considering that I also never board out Expressive Iteration.

Two Force of Negation was great and I even played a third in the sideboard. Since I'm not playing two Daze like the stock list it's important to have a critical mass of counters against combo decks.

There are times where Force of Negation exiling a spell is a boon. Life from the Loam and Faithless Looting are great hits and reducing the graveyard count against a potential Uro escaping are great interactions.

There are also times where Force of Negation exiling a spell is a hindrance. Surgical Extraction would be a better sideboard card against decks with a key spell to exile, but they only go to the graveyard if they are countered by Force of Will. This came up against my Temur Crashscade opponent and also is relevant against Doomsday.

Two Surgical Extractions were good against my Jund Madness opponent to hit Vengevine. Thanks to my seven Forces and two Extractions I was able to stop any turn one shenanigans. This may seem like a lot of these effects, but when they are strong in the matchups you often need to mulligan if they aren't in your opening hand. I use this same theory when constructing Modern sideboards. I mulligan more against Tron, Burn, and Dredge because the sideboard cards are more critical to draw early.

I was happy with the mana base. It's realistic to play nineteen lands, but I'm basically playing the second Wasteland as a spell that trades one-for-one with Urza's Saga and Thespian's Stage.

Jeskai Control draws so many cards thanks to Ponder, Brainstorm, Expressive Iteration, Dragon's Rage Channeler, and Narset that being constrained on mana was a concern. I easily churn through the deck and make a land drop each turn to amass an even larger amount of card advantage. It's awkward when you need to play Ponder over DRC/Ragavan on the first turn to ensure you have a second land to play around Wasteland so it's better to have more mana sources.

Most spells can't use Wasteland to cast them, but the colorless can be used for playing planeswalkers, hardcasting Forces, dashing Ragavan, and paying for Daze. I don't typically try and Wasteland out my Izzet Delver opponents for this reason. D&T attacks my mana, but their curve is higher making it reasonable to Wasteland their Rishadan Ports.

I didn't miss Mystic Sanctuary from Gary Wong's original list. Sanctuary is an Island that can be bounced with Daze so I view them as a package deal. I did not flood out or mulligan in any of my games in the 1.5K. The deck is very consistent.

This is a small detail, but it might be right to play more Arid Mesa than Scalding Tarn because that's the most obvious land to name with Pithing Needle. I need Jeskai fetch lands because of Plateau. The opponent may read an early Arid Mesa as Izzet Delver with the Island and Mountain over the two Steam Vents.

Sideboard guides are once again a hot topic. I'm going to discuss sideboarding in a more general sense because swapping just a few cards from my list will throw off your numbers. There is plenty of room to tinker with the sideboard because this deck is reactive.

The maindeck of Jeskai Control contains many broad answers to Legacy's top threats, library manipulation, and the most efficient creatures we have ever seen. In most matchups either Swords to Plowshares and Prismatic Ending are weak or the two Force of Negations. This means I need a lot more cards in my sideboard against combo decks because I need to typically cut seven White spells.

Ponder, Brainstorm, and Expressive Iteration are the lifeblood of this deck. I never board them out. I accept that Expressive Iteration is a late game card advantage spell against Izzet Delver because Daze is the natural predator to Iteration. Narset is even more expensive to play around Daze so they get cut.

Dragon's Rage Channeler is the most well-rounded threat and there hasn't been a time I wanted to cut one.

Ragavan can line up poorly against small creatures so I can swap one for a Grim Lavamancer.

Since I have four Ragavan in my maindeck, I'm happy to trade them off early. Delirium can be tricky to achieve early in the game because instants, lands, and sorceries are the most common card types. The fourth card type is typically trading off a Ragavan because I don't want to surveil away the planeswalkers very often.

I'm less likely to use my treasures from Ragavan against decks that play Daze or Blood Moon.

The treasures can also be used as a fourth color for Prismatic Ending against Jace, the Mind Sculptor or hardcast Forces against combo.

Karakas can bounce your Ragavan, but also the opponent's. If you have Karakas in play, Ragavan can be dashed, then bounced and replayed for a total of four mana. Ragavan basically has a three mana kicker to gain haste and remain on the battlefield.

I want to cut a couple Ragavan against D&T because the small creatures get in the way, but they also play four Karakas to bounce it. I could Wasteland Karakas, but they have three backup copies in their deck. I don't even want to play that guessing game if they have a second copy stranded in hand.

Even though I have four ways to deal with graveyards in the sideboard, two Surgical Extractions, a Grafdigger's Cage, and a Containment Priest, none of them work unfavorably with Murktide Regent. For this reason, I haven't come across a matchup where I want to cut even a single Murktide. This would change if I were to make the swap for a fourth Murktide over the second Teferi.

Teferi, Time Raveler and Narset, Parter of Veils can be good in the same matchups such as Bant Control. Narset is less likely to stay in the deck after sideboard because Teferi either stops counterspells or bounces annoying permanents; this is most of the Legacy metagame. Boarding out too many of the planeswalkers makes it difficult to get delirium.

A few years ago, before Force of Negation existed, it was fairly typical to board out Force of Will against non-combo (fair) decks. Now that Force of Negation would be cut ahead of Force of Will I find myself playing at least three FOWs after board. Jeskai Control draws so many cards that Force will ensure they are all converted into something usable.

While Null Rod covers many bases it might be worse than Stony Silence. It's easier to kill artifacts than enchantments in Legacy. Wasteland is often not in the decks you want to board in Null Rod making the White mana not relevant. The White mana comes up if you want to cast another White spell on the same turn. I'm sticking with Null Rod for now, but it's closer than it looks. If you don't own Null Rod then don't sweat it and play Stony Silence.

I played a Null Rod effect over Meltdown because I wanted to hate out Lion's Eye Diamond. Meltdown is much stronger against Blue artifact decks, but less versatile overall. If I wanted another card against Blue artifact decks then a fourth Pyroblast effect will get the nod.

I prefer Dress Down to Torpor Orb because Death and Taxes is ready for lockout artifacts after sideboard. I would rather get a surprise effect for one turn because the games are grindy and Orb will get hit by Cathar Commando or Council's Judgement. Force of Will is also good against D&T so having another Blue card to pitch is relevant.

Dress Down is also able to stop Thassa's Oracle from winning- even if it's cast with Cavern of Souls. It's also a way to kill two Constructs from Urza's Saga.

Grim Lavamancer and Izzet Staticaster are for D&T and Elves. Staticaster can also hit Ichorid, Bloodghast, and Narcomoeba against Dredge and Goblin tokens against Red Prison. Each of these creatures have diminishing returns so I was happy with the split.

Lavamancer takes delirium away from Dragon's Rage Channeler. Even though this looks bad on the surface they actually work well together. I'm more willing to mill cards when Lavamancer is on the battlefield as my main priority is to shock as many creatures as possible.

I try to keep instants and sorceries in the graveyard with Lavamancer to fuel Murktide Regent. If you already have a Regent on the battlefield I can exile instants and sorceries and give Regent +1+1 counters as the spells are leaving the graveyard.

Pyroblast and Red Elemental Blast are interchangeable. It's technically better to skew your deck toward Pyroblast because it can be cast without a target and get delirium or build up a graveyard for Murktide Regent. In practice, plays like this are so aggressive that I would need to be massively ahead to even consider. I have a Beta Red Elemental Blast and it makes me happy to play it over my Ice Age Pyroblasts. The only change I would make to my 75 going forward is to swap the sideboard Narset for a third Hydroblast.

I board in the Pyroblasts and REB against Bant Control, Blue artifact decks, and Izzet Delver. There are also various combo decks that use Blue cards so they are an easy swap for the Swords to Plowshares and Prismatic Endings. Decks like Sneak and Show or Storm have targets for Pyroblast, but also have a lot of non-Blue cards, too. For this reason I'm looking to trade one-for-one as often as possible and will counter a Brainstorm or Ponder.

Hydroblast counters and destroys Red permanents which are less popular compared to Blue in Legacy. The upside of Hydroblast is that it's Blue and can be pitched to Forces. It plays out well in practice against Izzet decks because it counters Hydroblast and Red Elemental Blast.

Overall, I was extremely pleased with the deck. It flowed well and each game was interesting. There's a lot of ban discourse in the Legacy community. I personally believe Expressive Iteration is the card that should get the axe, but arguments can be made for Ragavan, Dragon's Rage Channeler, Daze, and Brainstorm. The story remains the same: Izzet is not okay.

This doesn't mean you have no other choice but to play Volcanic Island decks. Jason Reid, my Hammertime opponent, was the only player to take a game off me. He made the Top 8 with a deck comprised of mostly Modern-legal cards:

Lurrus isn't legal in Legacy which opens some new avenues such as finding Kaldra Compleat with Stoneforge Mystic. An aggressive White deck has D&T vibes, but is able to win quickly thanks to Colossus Hammer.

Hammertime gave me a run for my money because I had to respect a quick kill which makes me want to play a leaner game, but it can grind thanks to equipment. The lands convert into threats and even the 0 cost creatures with a Hammer need to die.

The total cost of this deck is less than most of the Modern decks I've been playing lately and it can keep up with the speed of the format.

I'm beginning to see proxy Legacy events popping up which is a great sign for the format's future. The game pieces are unfortunately mixed with investments making the barrier to entry high. The Legacy game play can be a nice change of pace and the community is passionate about their decks since it's difficult to own too many archetypes.

That's all I have for today. Thanks for reading!


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