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Tuning Jeskai Control for MTG Arena


I know that in my last article I promised not to write about Azorius Control. If you're a fan of Mike Flores' articles on this website as well I'm sure you're doubly tired of reading about it. However, if you're a Control aficionado like myself, allow me just one more article to show you the next decklist I've been cooking up!

After winning my RCQ with Azorius Control (and subsequently Flores winning his with 32/33 of the spells I played) I've taken a half step back from playing Magic. The sad fact about actually winning a RCQ is that you don't get to participate in any of the competitive events your local area has to offer. With Standard store championships being on exactly one weekend where I had other things to do, I don't even have an avenue to play Standard in paper anymore! I'm drafting here and there but I'm not the biggest fan of Murders at Karlov Manor, so if I go out to draft it's pretty much only for chaos with my local Limited group here in LA.

Thus, I started to experiment with different builds on MTG Arena. MTG Arena is a fantastic program for MTG because it allows you to simulate and test different ideas you have for a deck in a short amount of time. While I do believe MTG isn't the best outlet to competitive testing, I will concede that you can practice a lot with a given decklist in a short and convenient amount of time. As I've written in past articles, MTG Arena is easily the most accessible way to play Magic.

As I had no more competitive events to grind and my RC being months away, in a different Standard format to boot, I started creating lots of lists to try out various ideas. I played around with various Sunken Citadel decks with multiple Mirrex and Restless Anchorage (spoiler: Sunken Citadel is very good), but I wanted to try a new approach to the deck entirely.

Enter: Jeskai Control

While the deck only has two Red cards in the maindeck, let's actually dive a bit into why I included them.

Ill-Timed Explosion
Lightning Helix

After talking at length with Adrian Sullivan about various Control cards in the format, one spell that stood out to me was Ill-Timed Explosion. After playing with it a couple of games I quickly realized how good this card was, especially in a best of one format. Here's why!

Reason #1: It's a Much Better Depopulate - Instead of giving your opponent a card with Depopulate or No Witnesses how about just not doing that and getting some card selection instead? Ill-Timed Explosion is the wrath that I've been looking for in the four-drop slot in Control in Standard. With access to cards like Ezrim, Agency Chief and The Eternal Wanderer you can realistically destroy any creature in Standard, save Atraxa, Grand Unifier. You can also Explosion for four + Lightning Helix to kill any large creature that might be in your way, if a March of Otherworldly Light or Get Lost hasn't already wiped it off the battlefield.

Reason #2: Card Selection in Best of One - One of the weaknesses of playing Control decks on MTG Arena is the fact that you can just draw the wrong cards for any given deck you're paired against. A long time ago when I was working on a Azorius Control deck specifically for best of one, I considered playing copies of Faithful Mending for this reason alone. You can toss no longer needed Temporary Lockdowns or No More Lies that have diminishing returns for much better answers. What I love most about this wrath is that you don't actually have to discard anything! You can just trade it in for two cards, making it a pretty flexible Inspiration when you no longer need to wrath the board.

Reason #3: Ezrim Lives! - The final reason this card is so powerful and can easily swing games in your direction is the fact that you can discard a 4 mana or less card to keep your Ezrim, Agency Chief alive after wrathing. This isn't the case in my RCQ-winning list that has Depopulate, Sunfall, and Farewell. You can sequence in a way where you can become the beatdown in this fashion. This way your explosion won't be that ill-timed after all.

The other inclusion to the deck was Lightning Helix. Helix is a card I've cast more times than I can count, but only as a Boros Burn player in Modern. While Helix is just a good removal spell I'll go over the reasons why it made the deck!

Reason #1: Skewing to Beat Mono-Red and Aggro - The first and foremost reason to play Lightning Helix is that it gives you an edge in various Aggro matchups, specifically Mono-Red. From my years playing Burn, I learned pretty quickly that Helix is by far one of the best cards in the mirror. The reason being if you can catch your Burn opponent with their pants down, Helix can turn the tide in your favor. Lightning Helix being able to kill a creature, while also gaining you three life is a two-mana two-for-one.

In the Burn mirror Helix is a way to off-set a past or future Lava Spike. In Standard, it's a removal spell that buys you time but also undoes your opponent's early aggression. With enough life from Lightning Helix, The Celestus, and The Wandering Emperor you'll be able to off-set Mono-Red's early start and their topdecked Lightning Strikes. Best case scenario you'll be able to catch up any in game you lose the die roll to help you turn the corner.

Reason #2: You Kinda Need to Win Fast - Although Lightning Helix and Ill-Timed Explosion are new additions to the deck, this list is mainly based off the maindeck of my RCQ deck. In Flores' last article in which he talks about my deck, he actually taught me a pretty cool lesson that I hadn't realized: "you kind of have to win early." Unlike other builds of the deck with Disruption Protocol, I only had four counterspells in No More Lies, which become worse as the game goes long. With maindeck Ezrim, Agency Chief you get to turn on the pressure so much faster than other Azorius lists. Helix aides in this plan, allowing you to out-tempo your opponent with the lifegain or just win games in less turns by flinging three damage at their face.

Is this decklist the ultimate build of Azorius Control? The answer is no. However, I do think it is a solid deck to grind on the Standard best of one ladder on MTG Arena. You're skewed to beat the various creature decks you can run into while also having some more reach in the slower matchups with Ezrim and direct damage. The mana is also a little wonky, but Arena best of one hand smoother helps with that.

Ultimately, I'm tired of losing to Mono-Red, and what better way to put Arena's best of one menace to the test by packing Lightning Helix in your Control deck? I hope you give this deck a shot if you like Control and that you always topdeck a Helix when your opponent is sitting pretty at three life.

-Roman Fusco

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