Exploring New Tech For Modern Jeskai

The less common success stories of control decks in Modern hasn’t stopped Patrick Chapin from looking for new ways to boost them back to the top! See what he’s studying up on before SCG Baltimore and SCG CON!

The printing of Search for Azcanta sparked a revitalized interest in blue
control in Modern, but it wasn’t until Teferi, Hero of Dominaria reared his
head that Jeskai surged into tier 1.

While Guilds of Ravnica doesn’t feature anything for Jeskai as
impactful as Teferi, there are a few new options to consider. Besides, the
Modern metagame has evolved enough over the past few months, it’s worth
taking a deeper look into some of the updates people have had success with.

The biggest departure from the previous world has been the widespread shift
towards Terminus, as the sweeper of choice. Jace, the Mind Sculptor combos
with it for some “Miracles lite” action, and Opt really helps get it over
the finish line (making it more likely that you’ll get to miracle it on
your opponent’s turn)

That’s only part of the story, however. A big part of the reason for
Terminus gaining so much popularity is the shift in opposing strategies.

Humans has established itself as a tier 1 strategy, now that Unclaimed
Territory stacks with its previous fixers to give it basically perfect
mana, all of the time. Besides, do you want Supreme Verdict or Terminus
against stuff like Christopher Slinger’s Tron deck?

With a host of durable threats like Wurmcoil Engine, Worldbreaker, and
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, Slinger’s list is a perfect example of where
Supreme Verdict fails and Terminus succeeds, on account of putting the
creatures on the bottom of their deck, instead of actually killing them.

For an example of this new-ish Terminus style of Jeskai, let’s look at IQ
winner Henry Holbrook’s most recent list:

This is a reasonably standard build of the archetype, even including the
split between Lightning Bolt and Lightning Helix. While Lightning Bolt is
the objectively stronger card, drawing a Helix against aggressive decks
really increases the value of your Snapcaster Mages.

If you’ve got to pay two life to get the extra mana from a Steam Vents,
you’re still netting a life compared to playing it tapped and Bolting the
threat. Besides, Teferi untapping two lands means you’re going to have
exactly two mana a lot of the time anyway, so you might as well put it to
good use.

Most people that use Terminus at all, go hard on it, and I guess I’m not so
sure it ought to be so all-or-nothing. Drawing two Terminus is generally
way worse than one plus one of either Settle the Wreckage or Supreme
Verdict. Would it be crazy to play two Terminus, one Settle, and one
Verdict? At the very least, I’d be interested in trying three Terminus and
one cheaper sweeper.

I still think Temple of Epiphany is slightly underrated, as the extra card
filtering really is quite similar to Opt, and if you were going to have to
play your Sulfur Falls tapped anyway, you’re kind of freerolling. Once
you’re willing to play a Lightning Helix over another Lightning Bolt,
there’s at least some willingness to sacrifice guaranteed speed.

Why Temple of Epiphany instead of the other two? Celestial Colonnade is too
much better than Temple of Enlightenment to go that way; and Cryptic
Command rules out Temple of Triumph, of course.

Holbrook doesn’t play Secure the Wastes or Sphinx’s Revelation, unlike some
Jeskai pilots that play one or the other as a high-end alternate victory
condition/way to take over the game, and I don’t blame him.

Having both Teferi and Jace means we’ve got a little more redundancy in
kill (of course, along with Snapcaster Mage and Celestial Colonnade), but
it’s still quite valuable to have another threat, another way to get the
game over with before things spiral out of control. In this slot, Holbrook
runs Vendilion Clique, instead. Clique is a great card, so I can’t fault
him, but I’m interested in trying Expansion//Explosion instead.

Expansion//Explosion has been a Standard staple since Guilds of Ravnica first dropped, but like Sphinx’s Revelation,
it’s the sort of card that will likely cross over once people figure out
the best way to utilize it. A Sphinx’s Revelation that costs a mana more in
order to deal damage instead of gaining life isn’t particularly better; but
the ability to “cycle” it early as a Fork/Twincast is actually really

There are some nice opposing cards to copy and you can generally use it as
a counterspell against counterspells; however, there are actually quite a
few decks in Modern without any good targets so I think you really need to
believe in the power of copying your own stuff, like Lightning Bolt,
Lightning Helix, and the like.

Planning to copy your own Ancestral Vision is probably just “win-more,” but
it’s a good card to keep in mind from opponents. You can copy their
Vision(s), and then if you draw a counterspell, copy the original.

I know a lot of people like to sideboard Ancestral Vision against Golgari,
Jund, and the like. I’ve been on that side plenty of times, but don’t love
it, right now and prefer Holbrook’s use of zero. It’s just such a bad

While the above list features zero Hieroglyphic Illumination, I don’t mind
one. It’s only a little weaker than Opt to cycle, and having the option of
one of these, as the game stretches on, is kind of nice for grindy matchups
where you’d normally be interested in Ancestral Vision.

I think Ral is definitely above the line for Modern playable, and some
Jeskai decks use one in place of a Teferi. Still, I think Teferi is just
too good for such “cleverness,” and I would save Ral for Izzet, Grixis, and
Temur decks.

Not everyone plays Rest in Peace in Jeskai’s sideboard, but I think Dredge
is just so good and will continue to be quite popular, so I would
definitely not skimp here (and in fact, I would play at least three
dedicated graveyard-hate cards, to put alongside the Angels we should be
sideboarding in). I don’t think it’s unreasonable to play a Surgical
Extraction instead of the third Rest in Peace, particularly if you can
squeeze at least one more Field of Ruin in here. The extra flexibility for
other matchups is not trivial. Surgical the Urza’s Tower is still a
classic, and Surgical against Snapcaster/Cryptic decks can be just what the
doctor ordered.

Holbrook doesn’t run any, but I’m a fan of a couple Spell Quellers in the
sideboard. The added counterspell (that can’t be Duressed or Negated) is
already nice against combo and control, and the body helps diversify our
victory conditions after sideboard. Besides, many Modern combo decks are
not safe to let live for long periods, as they can just kill you out of
nowhere if you waste time, so the clock matters.

Lava Coil might not be flexible enough for this build of Jeskai – a deck
with incredible sideboard cards – but it’s probably not getting sideboarded
as much as it should in the format, at large. Extra cheap removal is very
useful in some matchups, and the ability to kill things usually out of Bolt
range, as well as exiling dredge creatures is not to be underestimated.
That said, Tarmogoyf, Siege Rhino, Tasigur, and Gurmag Angler all sort of
suggest that, at least at the moment, four damage might not be enough more
than three.

While a lot of Modern games are decided before there’s time to drop a
Niv-Mizzet, I suspect his day is not far off. In terms of a sideboard
threat that just completely takes over the game, Niv-Mizzet is a 10.

While I’m warm to Niv-Mizzet, I don’t see much future for Crackling Drake
in Modern. While Niv-Mizzet would actually work great with a lot of what’s
going on in Modern (lots of great cheap instants, for instance), Crackling
Drake is just a much worse two-for-one than we can get from a dozen other

If we were looking for a sweeper this size, I’d definitely look to Anger of
the Gods. That said, Terminus really removes a lot of the pressure on us
for such things.

While a respectable removal spell in Standard, Justice Strike is just too
flimsy and slow for Modern. Too many opponents have no targets, and while
Path to Exile can still be used on your own Snapcaster Mage to ramp,
Justice Strike can’t even kill every creature. If you’ve got a Justice
Strike in hand, it’s gonna get real awkward when your opponent drops a
Tarmogoyf or Tasigur. Bolt and Helix can’t kill everything either, but at
least they can go to the face.

Here’s what I’m looking at for this weekend:

On the topic of Niv-Mizzet, I briefly considered some kind of dedicated
Niv-Mizzet deck seeking to abuse its interaction with Curiosity and maybe
Keen Sense.

Attach either one and the first time you draw a card, you loop as much
damage as you like (since each damage draws you a card, which deals a
damage). You know, the thing that was already true for Niv-Mizzet,
Dracogenius and Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind.

That’s kind of Niv-Mizzet’s jam. He’s just really curious.

Even though Niv-Mizzet, Parun is the best version yet, I don’t think the
combo was close to being close for Modern. That said, I did get to thinking
a little bit more about Curiosity

Might need to call in Gabriel “Papa Hat” Nassif for this one…