Although I heavily favor the Esper colors, there are a few spells that pull me from my comfort zone. I am a sucker for a good battlefield sweeper and win condition, willing to ditch Watery Grave for Steam Vents at moment’s notice. Niv-Mizzet, Parun may have been forgotten by the competitive Standard crowd, but not over here at the Soorani camp.
Jeskai Control had a lot of things going for it a few sets ago; however, a weak battlefield sweeper and weak early-game to aggressive decks had many folks drop the deck. When the best four-cost mass removal spell is in Orzhov colors and Cry of the Carnarium is the premier option for Turn 3, deck designers have limited options. Niv-Mizzet, Parun is still a very powerful win condition that can devastate aggressive, midrange, and control opponents with ease, so I was hoping to see some doors open with Core Set 2020. I was not disappointed.
I noticed a better Fiery Cannonade creation in Flame Sweep, having no drawback on the opponent’s creatures and only upside for the caster. This is one of the minor requirements to help promote a red-based control deck again.
The real challenge is something to do in the mid-game. Niv-Mizzet, Parun is not a quickly summoned creature to say the least. It has a demanding mana cost, which initially influenced deckbuilders to include Treasure Map to help bring it to the battlefield quickly and easily. Without the abundance of Treasure, it can be quite difficult to have the legendary Dragon swoop down and torch the opposition on Turn 6.
Treasure Map is a huge liability in today’s Standard, with Teferi, Time Raveler making it nearly unplayable. There must be something that not only helps the consistency of Niv-Mizzet, Parun, but also is effective on its own.
I am not one that is usually excited by creatures, but this is one exciting Bird. Kykar, Wind’s Fury is basically an Emeria Angel reprint, but with some interesting upside. Some of my older friends remember a day where the Esper Professor was slinging Emeria Angel, Baneslayer Angel, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor in Standard, mauling the competition with the perfect mix of creatures and spells. The tap-out style of control is something I’ve always been the most confident in and I know many of my readers follow the same school of thought. Pressuring opponent’s planeswalkers is a perk that Esper Superheroes has down pact, which is why it has outshined Esper Control is recent events. The ability to play all the best control spells, while adding pressure, is where I want to be in a format dominated by dozens of planeswalkers.
Kykar, Wind’s Fury fits perfectly into the old Jeskai Control deck that was already built around Niv-Mizzet, Parun. Luckily for Jeskai Control fans, every card you wanted to include to boost Niv-Mizzet, Parun works just as well with our new legendary Bird Wizard. Having the ability to lead this out against decks that are soft on removal is fantastic. Untapping with this will nearly guarantee a quick army is drafted and ready for war. If you prefer to hold up a Dovin’s Veto and use it on Turn 6 against a deck with multiple answers, that works well also. Opt sees very low play in Standard since the exit of Jeskai Control, only seeing some play in Jeskai Superfriends. With some sweet Jeskai Control additions, we will see a return to cheap, efficient spells like this one.
The additional advantage that Kykar, Wind’s Fury has is that its Spirit creature is triggered off noncreature spells. This means Teferi, Time Raveler; Narset, Parter of Veils; and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria all provide triggers. Unlike with Niv-Mizzet, Parun, there is no shortage of noncreature spells. Running out of instant and sorcery cards is possible; however, the entire Jeskai Control build will be cluttered with planeswalkers now, due their current power level. There is no way to return to the Chemister’s Insight, flash-style control deck that existed before War of the Spark. Every control deck we craft moving forward must have proactive elements in order to pressure these absurdly powerful cards.
Creating threats with evasion makes this ability much more powerful than the typical token creation and fits right into a control shell. Hero of Precinct One is a very powerful two-drop that can dominate a game but can often fall short when the board gets cluttered. Providing a nonstop flow of flying creatures gives a Jeskai Control deck an edge in the pressure game, making sure the three-cost planeswalkers aren’t left to their own devices.
The last ability on Kykar, Wind’s Fury is the icing on the cake for this control mage. Most players would glaze over such a random ability like that, adding a single red mana for one of the freshly created Spirit tokens. This ability isn’t flashy and almost seems like a waste, yet is quite the opposite. There is no deck that would play Kykar, Wind’s Fury and not Niv-Mizzet, Parun, which conveniently costs six mana. This makes our four-drop threat a ramp spell for the six-drop finisher, a dynamic that hasn’t been achievable without the help from Treasure Map before.
The big difference between the two is that Treasure Map was nice to untap with, causing some card advantage boosts and mana surplus. Untapping with Kykar, Wind’s Fury is much more devastating for the opponent, as Emeria Angel was in the past. Just like with Emeria Angel, often it’ll arrive on Turn 5 with an Opt, where Emeria Angel arrived with a land drop. Although it was easier to toss a land on the battlefield, Kykar, Wind’s Fury has the upside of creating multiple threats on the same turn if it survives.
There are some obvious negatives with this creature as one would expect. I am deeply disappointed that it does not have four toughness, which could be a slight oversight. If this creature had the ability to dodge a one-mana removal spell from Mono-Red Aggro, it would be an all-around rock star in the maindeck. Due to this weakness, it is actively weak against a popular archetype and that must be taken into consideration. Still, Mono-Red Aggro has been on the heavy decline because it doesn’t really beat anything now, so this negative may rarely come up.
Another issue is that it is legendary. There is tremendous upside on Monastery Mentor, Young Pyromancer, and Emeria Angel because their abilities are disgusting in multiples. With Kykar, Wind’s Fury being legendary, that fun battlefield state can’t happen. Not only can players not have multiple copies of this sweet card on the battlefield, they also must limit the amount they include in the deck. This is not a four-of in Jeskai Control because of the legendary limitation. I am personally starting with two copies and I will work on getting the perfect mix of spells to complement it and Niv-Mizzet, Parun.
For full disclosure, Kykar, Wind’s Fury and an instant Pyroclasm aren’t the only reasons I am heavily considering Core Set 2020 the bringer of Jeskai Control. Chandra, Awakened Inferno was previewed very early, giving us control players nightmares for the last week. The emblem and static ability make me physically ill, but maybe some good can come from a disastrous card like this. The world will still be high on the Esper colors, continuing with what has been working for the last five months. A Jeskai Control deck that is armed with this type of mirror killer, as well as a battlefield sweeper, may be just what Standard needs from Team Control.
The third ability also handles creatures too big to be taken down by three damage, making it an easy maindeck card for all red-based control decks. This takes some space away from Niv-Mizzet, Parun, but it is versatile enough to timeshare. Kykar, Wind’s Fury also provides a window to have this mighty planeswalker out a turn earlier, making this Jeskai Control framework an exciting project. Who would have thought that cards like Chandra, Awakened Inferno and Fry would be used for good, not evil?