Why Gerry Thompson Is Wrong About Jeskai Control

With all due respect to Gerry, it seems like Rosum knows what he’s doing! He states his case for his signature deck here in excellent detail! Hard to argue with…

Jeskai Control is the fair deck to beat in Modern. There was once a time
where you could say the same about decks like Jund, U/W Control, and Grixis
Death’s Shadow, but in today’s Modern, it’s Jeskai.

Jeskai is much more than just kill this, kill that, counter that, bounce
that. Understanding Jeskai and how it interacts within the format should be
evidence enough on why it’s a contender in this Modern format.

Understanding Jeskai

Jeskai fits within in an interesting spot within Modern. I think my friend
Abraham Stein puts it best when he describes Jeskai Control:

It has the tools to cover such a wide range being both a Snapcaster
Mage/Lightning Bolt/Lightning Helix deck and a Logic Knot/Cryptic
Command deck.”

Breaking down what this means is critical on being able to understand why
individuals like myself, Benjamin Nikolich, Kazu Negri, and even Jonathan
Sukenik continue to play the deck to this day. The deck is absurdly
customizable in both deckbuilding and gameplan engineering as your cards
genuinely have different forms of utility as the game progresses. This is
where Jeskai has an edge in Modern, as it’s one of the few decks that can
enact multiple plans within a game successfully and why having a deck full
of Lightning Bolt, Lightning Helix, Electrolyze, and Snapcaster Mage is a
pro for the deck.

The core of the deck is equipped to out grind every other fair deck in
Modern. Jeskai plays the fair game better than decks like Jund, Mardu
Pyromancer, Grixis Death’s Shadow, and U/W Control. How does Jeskai do

These are the cards that allow you to out grind the fair decks in Modern.
Snapcaster Mage and Cryptic Command are more interested in generating the
hard-hitting two-for ones while Search for Azcanta and Teferi, Hero of
Dominaria focus on burying your opponents in additional resources with
Search for Azcanta and Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin being the ultimate fair
card in the format and will beat anybody if given enough time to do so.
Together, these four cards are what give Jeskai its incredible lategame
inevitability and make the deck hard to be “grounded out” in given

Jeskai doesn’t have much in the form of generating an immediate bevy of
card advantage, but the deck is designed to just one for one the opponent
until the four cards mentioned above are able to pull you ahead. The main
difference between U/W Control and Jeskai Control in this regard is the
ability to efficiently one-for-one your opponent several times in the first
few turns that allows you to comfortable get into the stage of the game
that your deck operates on its full potential.

The red cards are what gives Jeskai its versatility in enacting different
gameplans. The Lightning Bolts, Lightning Helixes, and Electrolyzes are,
first and foremost, there to just play a one-for-one game, but having the
option of dealing a bunch of damage to your opponent is a strategy that
gives Jeskai Control an additional line to victory in longer games. This is
known as versatility.


The concept of versatility is what I think of most when looking at a deck
like Jeskai. I mentioned this above briefly, but I think it’s important to
understand why it matters. Jeskai has an effective plan B, which the other
control decks in Modern simply don’t have access to. The burn in Jeskai is
not only effective against creature strategies, but powerful in most
control mirrors as being able to dictate the points in which they must
fight over burn spells is the point where Jeskai thrives because of the
abundance of relevant cards.

The other card that fits under this category is Cryptic Command. Cryptic
Command is more than just “counter target spell, draw a card” in Jeskai and
is the card I see not maximized to its full potential with regularity.
Understanding the role that Cryptic Command plays in certain matchups is
what gives Jeskai a ton of flexibility in dealing with non-Cavern of
Souls-based threats. Cryptic Command can be absolutely devastating when
timed and used correctly, and it often bridges the gap from the constant
one-for-ones into your powerful spells like Snapcaster Mage and Teferi,
Hero of Dominaria.

The argument against versatility is that we must play some incredibly
mediocre cards to have multiple options. If you examine Modern results
lately, there’s a plethora of decks within the format and it’s not just
completely dominated by one thing. Having options in your control deck is
what makes Jeskai a good Modern deck; you’re able to play effective
countermagic and efficient removal in a format revolved heavily around
powerful creatures and ways to beat them.

Understanding Jeskai’s Role in Modern

The main Jeskai Control misnomer is, “what if your spells don’t line up?”
and that argument often folds when you understand what your opponent is
trying to accomplish and just look at what Modern is. The best part about
Modern is that it’s completely overrun by creature-based decks and fair
grindy midrange decks with a sprinkle of combo. Jeskai is good because of
its ability to prolong games of Magic with its plethora of one-for-ones
until the game reaches a point where Teferi or Azcanta win the game. Jeskai
also secretly has a ton of turn 4/5 wins, the games never actually end on
those turns. but you can identify this by just actions that have been done
leading up to that turn and the lack of what the opponent has on the
battlefield. The games that you get to curve up on your interaction happen
frequently and many of the fair decks in this format can’t come back from
having a weak battlefield while staring down a Cryptic Command or Teferi.
On the way home from SCG Indianapolis, Abe said something that I absolutely
agree with:

Modern is a turn 4 format. Jeskai’s turn 4

kill is leaving the opponent with absolutely no battlefield and we’re
up a card.”

The main flaw of Jeskai is that you’re not really doing anything inherently
busted. You’re playing a deck that revolves around cheap battlefield
interaction and counterspells to eventually find a hole in which you can
just start generating cards. Jeskai punishes opponents who stumble and when
you get a turn of reprieve against a deck like Humans, Affinity, Jund, and
Mardu Pyromancer, you’ll often win the game. Jeskai Control doesn’t
directly punish stumbles like Humans does, but when you examine games that
Jeskai wins, the turnaround sequence often comes on the turn that the
opponent can’t deploy a relevant spell.

Modern is a vast and diverse format. One argument towards Jeskai in a
format like Modern is that it’s not very friendly to reactive strategies.
With that in mind, look at the defining deck in Modern – Humans. Humans as
the defacto best deck in Modern bolds well for the argument of why reactive
strategies like Jeskai have a home.

Why Humans and Militia Bugler are Good for Jeskai

The argument that perhaps gets blown out of proportion every time I hear it
is that Militia Bugler is the tool Humans needed to beat Jeskai
consistently. The issue with Militia Bugler in the matchup is that it’s
often too slow and can’t possibly compete with cards like Snapcaster Mage,
Search for Azcanta, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, or even Jace, the Mind
Sculptor when going to the long game.

Yes, I have lost to Humans with Jeskai, but I’ve also beaten Humans with
Jeskai and beaten Jeskai with Humans. I’ve played all sides of the matchup
so I’m confident in saying that Militia Bugler does not do everything that
you want against Jeskai. The matchup revolves around how fast Humans can
kill Jeskai as they can never actually out card the deck because of the
sheer amount of two-for-one or better spells Jeskai has in Electrolyze,
Snapcaster Mage, and Supreme Verdict.

The popularity and success of Humans at SCG Indianapolis last weekend is
not to be overlooked, and it will create a Modern metagame in which Jeskai
will shine. Humans boosts the popularity of decks like Mardu, Jund, and U/W
Control while also increasing the volume of creature-based combo decks like
Affinity, Elves, and Counters Company. This puts Jeskai in a spot where it
excels because of the sheer amount of efficient answers and high quantity
of pull ahead cards it plays. Jeskai suffers in a metagame that is defined
by decks like Hollow One, Dredge, Ad Nauseam and other unfair, resilient
decks. The Hollow One metagame has long been gone, and when the format is
overrun by creature decks that don’t involve Hollow One, Jeskai is the
obvious predator to both other fair midrange decks and the creature decks


Jeskai offers a fair number of tools that can be incorporated in specific
metagames and it gives another layer to the consistent reactive deck.
Jeskai can fully tech out its sideboard against what the current trends of
the format are.

Let’s take a look at my current sideboard that I registered in SCG

2 Ceremonious Rejection

2 Dispel

2 Celestial Purge

2 Stony Silence

2 Vendilion Clique

1 Engineered Explosives

1 Negate

1 Baneslayer Angel

1 Lyra Dawnbringer

1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

I expected an above average number of Humans pilots as well as people
becoming more and more apt to register Ironworks, so I built my sideboard
to have four targeted hate cards against Ironworks while also having two
Angels in my sideboard to shore up the Humans matchup. The sideboard of
Jeskai is known to change weekly as the metagame continues to change as
most decklists should, but Jeskai gives you a wider range of options
compared to other midrange decks because of how powerful white is for
targeted hate.

Sideboard cards that have come in and out each weekend depending on what I
expect include:

Within these eight cards alone, you’re able to cover a wide portion of
decks that you can expect to play in a given Magic tournament. Jeskai gives
you a plethora of options within deckbuilding that can make or break your
tournament, and making sure you come prepared is what gives Jeskai a lot of
power across a defined metagame.

Closing Thoughts

It’s a fair world out here in the Modern format, and this is a world that
showcases the power of Jeskai Control as a predator and a powerful Modern
deck in these kinds of formats. Don’t disregard how powerful having options
are and always remember that the true king of fair Magic will never let you