Who would’ve guessed Modern would be the place Nahiri, the Harbinger would first be broken?
And who would’ve guessed the archetype that she Har-brings back from Nahir-death is Jeskai Control?
And who would’ve also guessed it would be the amazing R/W planeswalker (sorry, Ajani Vengeant, I still love you) heralding its triumphant return back into the spotlight right when Ancestral Vision and Sword of the Meek plus Thopter Foundry just got a chance to stretch their legs again?
But enough about who, what, where, when, or why. All that really matters right now is that Jeskai is back, baby, and better than ever!
The only damper on this news is that, just when Jeskai is getting a good shot to be top dog again, the Modern Pro Tour gets tossed into the shredder.
Goodbye Modern Pro Tour
The Modern Pro Tour was near and dear to my heart, and not just because I won one. Modern has been a format I’ve enjoyed playing since it was introduced and I’ll miss having the opportunity to play it at the highest level. One of the reasons it was axed was because:
Modern wasn’t often about innovating or solving the puzzles presented by a new card set, but rather it rewarded huge numbers of repetitions with established decks.
Which is true, at least moreso than Standard is, but I think that a small dose of this wasn’t a bad thing for Pro Tours. I think it helped even the playing field a little for dedicated new blood that wanted to break onto the Pro scene.
I think Modern testing a different skill set was also a good thing, even though the format itself isn’t perfect and is a shade too non-interactive and volatile. This isn’t just about Modern; it’s about variety in high-level gameplay. I like the variety of different formats and I also like Modern. It’s nice to have tournaments that matter that encourage you to play different formats.
I just hope this doesn’t completely shut down the possibility that in the future different formats could be brought to the Pro Tour.
Despite those critiques, I don’t think the removal of the Modern Pro Tour was a bad thing in general, even if I would personally prefer it stick around.
It’s healthier for the Modern format not having bans forced on it once a year. The announcement of those bans was also way too close to the actual Pro Tour to have enough time to test, and it eliminates that problem as well.
Players can now invest in a deck with much more security that it won’t be banned.
Standard Pro Tours will also highlight and sell new cards and draw more people to the game, since Standard is a better point to jump into the game and probably easier to watch as well.
This was likely a good decision overall for Wizards with more benefits than downsides in the grand scheme of things. Modern is still an integral part of the SCG Tour®, and will still show up at Grand Prix and potentially even the World Championship.
All right, enough about that. Modern matters a little less, Standard matters a little more. Time to move on. Goodbye Modern Pro Tour, hello Jeskai Control!
First of all, what does Nahiri, the Harbinger actually do for the deck?
She is a great finisher. Her ultimate is surprisingly easy to fire off if she’s left unscathed. After only three turns of having her on the battlefield, you’ll get a hasty Emrakul, the Aeons Torn onto the battlefield. This is usually enough to win the game on the spot, or at least put you in a position that makes losing difficult. If the Shadows over Innistrad aren’t being cast by Emrakul, I’m going to be very surprised, and her interaction here just further exemplifies who she is the perfect harbinger for.
I think there are matchups where you side out Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and her ultimate is still formidable, even just searching up a Snapcaster Mage, since it gets bounced back to your hand in the end step and you can replay it to give another spell Flashback.
High loyalty is good in Modern. Nahiri, the Harbinger comes down with six loyalty after a plus activation. In Modern there are few ways to get rid of planeswalkers without doing it the old-fashioned way, with damage.
Card selection is great for Jeskai in the late-game. Exchange those useless lands for delicious Lightning Bolts. Having a sticky source of card selection that doesn’t cost mana and threatens to win the game is exactly what Jeskai wants.
Nahiri is solid removal. Her -2 ability is a great complement to a deck chock full of Lightning Bolt and Electrolyze. She is hard removal for chunkier threats like Tarmogoyf, which you would otherwise be leaning on Path to Exile as an answer for. She also interacts nicely with problem enchantments from G/W Hexproof, Pyromancer Ascension, or the otherwise devastating Blood Moon, as long as you have a Plains to cast her.
Nahiri, the Harbinger just lets Jeskai do its thing and fills in the gaps where it was once lacking. Games play out the same way as they did, only now you have access to a powerful finisher, reoccurring card selection, and more good removal, all in one planeswalker package. Ideally games will play out like this: removal and counters, drop Nahiri, play more removal and counters, Emrakul, win.
Thoughts on Ancestral Vision
Ancestral Vision hasn’t performed well for me.
It hasn’t simply been “draw three cards” for little investment. It’s been nothing but problems. I think it’s likely all the decks I’ve been putting it in are too slow to use it effectively. I end up drawing too much fluff in the late-game and have often fallen behind because I’ve invested a card in the Ancestral Vision.
I still think Ancestral Vision has a place in Modern, just maybe not in my preferred style of deck. I still haven’t tried it out with Young Pyromancer, though, and this is the next place I’ll be looking.
Thoughts on Thopter Foundry
It ranges from instantly winning the game to not doing much at all, but it plays much more nicely as a win condition for pure control decks. In any “fair” matchup, assembling the combo will make whatever your opponent is doing look like a complete joke.
It’s actually often tricky to assemble both halves of the combo, but I still prefer just focusing on being a good control deck and drawing the combo “naturally” through good card draw rather than investing too many slots dedicated to searching for it.
Much of Modern, and the key to success for Jeskai, lies is predicting the metagame you expect to face. That means your Jeskai list should adapt as the format does. Instead of giving a straight sideboard guide, I’ll talk about how the matchups play out and what cards you might look to add to your sideboard (or maindeck) to help specific matchups.
Nahiri, the Harbinger is a really nice addition to help this matchup. Your answers are somewhat awkward and not good at dealing with all their threats, which is why Nahiri is great, since it acts as hard removal and helps you dig for the right stuff. It’s a classic attrition war and you’re going to be on the control side of it. They can play the early-game better and a good start will often snowball into a win. You don’t want to overload on countermagic, since you want your draws in the late-game to be relevant.
Nahiri, the Harbinger isn’t great here. I’d probably side out Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and some Nahiri if you have enough lifegain; if you do happen to ultimate Nahiri, finding Snapcaster Mage will be enough if you’re gaining life. Hard countermagic and cheap spot removal is what you want.
Anger of the Gods is actually getting the nod over Wrath of God in my book due to the rise of dredge decks abusing Vengevine and Prized Amalgam, but it works great here as well thanks to its exile clause. Abzan Company is tricky, but your removal matches up well against them and Nahiri will help end the game before they can get their engines online.
Nahiri doesn’t really help much here, since she’s a little on the slow side and can’t exile Cranial Plating, but you should be favored nicely post-sideboard anyway. Another matchup I’d side out Emrakul in, since you don’t want dead cards in your hand, and by the time you’d ultimate you’ve probably established firm control anyway.
Once again the trend is that Nahiri, the Harbinger is not particularly wanted against the super-fast creature decks, but those are generally the matchups Jeskai already shines against.
Burn small creature. No get blown out by pump. Good.
Similar to Burn but might have bigger threats depending on the version, which makes Nahiri and Anger of the Gods better.
G/R Tron vs. Jeskai has changed a lot recently. I had thought it would get better thanks to Eye of Ugin getting banned, but the additions of World Breaker and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger are huge problems, since you can’t just sit back and cast Remand and Cryptic Command over and over.
Nahiri isn’t really helping anything here, and she even makes Tectonic Edge and Ghost Quarter less necessary since she’ll often end games before they become relevant, which led me to just load up on Crumble to Dust for G/R Tron. The amount of G/R Tron you expect is going to dictate the number of Crumble to Dust you should run.
Harbinger of Wins
Nahiri, the Harbinger has me excited to play Jeskai in Modern again. I think Jeskai has the potential to be a Tier 1 deck, and Nahiri is a great fit in it, and potentially others.
Do you think she’ll be a staple in the Modern format? Does she fit better in another archetype? Perhaps another format entirely?