My inspiration for this week comes from a dog no bigger than a hamster. His name is Little Pup and he is adorable.
Little Pup was rescued from a puppy mill in Naples, FL. As the runt of the litter, finding him a home was slightly difficult. Eventually two friends of my little brother decided to adopt him and as I type this, I'm watching him prance around my patio without a care in the world while he makes friends with my cocker spaniel Buddy. Buddy is trying to figure out if he should be afraid or welcome the new addition to his circle.
In a way I know exactly how Little Pup feels….
Except for the being neutered part…..although…I am married…
Much like my tiny Chihuahua friend, I'm completely out of my element. For years I've always had every card and deck in the format. If something new sprung up I'd just build it, test it, or play it. At this point I'm completely at the mercy of the Jeskai deck that you readers chose for me to battle with. Turns out after the Pro Tour this might not be such a bad thing.
For those of you just joining us on our adventure, I took a reader poll and everyone overwhelmingly voted Jeskai for me to play in FNM Hero. I will only be able to play that deck for the next few weeks, although that could bleed into months. My winnings will go into generating a collection and trade binder, and will fuel things like sleeves and other gaming supplies.
Building Jeskai turned out to be an exercise in extreme luck for me. As I noted last week I was able to pick up Mantis Riders before they tripled in price, and I also nailed down a set of Goblin Rabblemasters for $20 thanks to a friend selling his collection (this was when they were $7.99 a piece). All of the commons and uncommons came to the hefty sum of $16, which is lovely considering Stoke the Flames is currently $5 a pop.
Then there was Dig Through Time.
When I saw that these were $2.99 each I decided to pick up a set. The Pro Tour showed that this card is the real deal and should be on our radar, so it came as no surprise that for the entirety of Friday night and Saturday it exploded all the way up to $20+ dollars on some sites. That meant I could trade one away for a few cards I still needed for Jeskai, which I did!
Taking the advice of the comment section, I decided to focus primarily on fleshing out the manabase for the deck. While I would love to jam three Sarkhan, the Dragonspeakers, it wasn't remotely feasible on the budget I set for this deck a few weeks back. I was blessed enough to open one from the winnings I received at a Sealed event when Khans dropped, so I knew my deck was going to at least play one.
The biggest question was where to allocate the rest of my funds appropriated for Jeskai.
I decided to take a bit of a gamble, but I honestly believe it's slightly ahead of the curve on what we should be expecting from Jeskai in the future.
In the spirit of a tiny doggy, I have dubbed this deck "The Little Pup Special."
I pretty much just went with the mighty Kevin Jones and his list as a starting point. The mana seemed very good, and I picked up most of the Temples before Khans was legal, so it was entirely within my range and budget to snag a few Flooded Strand, since I opened one in a pack from winning our Prerelease.
The big purchase was Elspeth, Sun's Champion. For some reason she is still $20, so I made the decision to get a couple of her and just sideboard into a control deck. The plan worked very well my first FNM with the deck, as the room was filled with Abzan and Green Devotion decks.
It was clear that Steam Augury was not a bad card, but when you cast Dig Through Time, it's difficult to justify not playing more copies of it. The synergy between the two is very cute: drawing a few cards and filling your graveyard seems like a sweet bargain, but I feel like a lot of people underestimate how simple it is to power out a delve for Dig.
Rumblings of this card's power level have already started and my Twitter and Facebook burst wide open with "the new Sphinx's Revelation!" and "this card is so much better than Revelation!" Allow me to burst your bubble. Sphinx's Revelation is one of the most polarizing cards in the entire history of Standard Magic. Not only was it one of the strongest cards for the years it was legal, but Revelation has broken through into Modern and Legacy to a smaller extent. Sphinx's Revelation, without a doubt, is one of the most ridiculous cards ever printed. Dig Through Time is a hell of a card, but a Sphinx's Revelation it is not.
End Hostilities is a very, very good card in this metagame. I was surprised by how versatile it was, giving you a huge edge in both midrange and aggro matches. In a field full of Siege Rhino, Wingmate Roc, Courser of Kruphix and other undercosted yet overpowered cards, an equalizer like End Hostilities pays huge dividends. You saw firsthand how strong a card like Perilous Vault could be in U/B Control, so imagine getting to play three copies of a card like that in Jeskai. Sure, it doesn't hit planeswalkers, but with all your burn and Disdainful Strokes, it's not typically impossible to power through a Sorin or Elspeth.
The two cards that pulled the least weight were Deflecting Palm and Magma Spray. I rode the fence pretty hard about what to play instead of them, but ended up just going with it and trying them out. Neither impressed me on any level, so switching them out for something else won't bring me to tears.
Possible inclusions are more copies of Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, Banishing Light or Suspension Field, Dissolve, or other cards to shore up some matchups. Let me know in what to do! You've brought me this far.
Anywho, I ended up going all the way to the quarterfinals before taking a loss to Mono-Green Devotion. I played pretty poorly in that match, so I shrugged it off and used my credit to pay for some new Dragon Shield sleeves.
The first week was a success in my humble opinion.
As for my thoughts on Jeskai going forward, it's clear that the deck is a contender and is going to around for the long haul. As one of the breakout decks from the Pro Tour, preparing for it and with it is going to be extremely important to your success in the upcoming Khans Standard. The most glaring hole in it, however, would be this:
Ari had almost no trouble slicing through a field littered with Jeskai Aggro decks. His finals match against Shaun McLaren was more of a statement than anything else. This deck reminds me very fondly of Jund from days of yore: extremely potent threats like Siege Rhino, planeswalkers, removal, and a ton of card advantage built into your creatures. This deck captures that essence by absolutely cutting off every possible avenue of victory, and…oh yeah! It plays Thoughtseize! A deck with Thoughtseize, great creatures, and removal is a formula we are sadly very familiar with due to interactions with Mono-Black Devotion from the recently deceased format. While it doesn't have the "Oops I win!" draws of the hated Pack Rat, the curve of this deck is just brutal.
As Ari demonstrated in the finals, a Caryatid into Siege Rhino is just as powerful as you thought it would be, and combining that with Sorin, Solemn Visitor is even filthier.
If you're playing Jeskai Aggro like I am, it feels like this deck is your antithesis.
I believe the best way to win this match is to effectively become the control deck. Cards like Dissolve, End Hostilities, and Disdainful Stroke gain a lot of value after boarding. Contending with Thoughtseize can be a pain, but flushing a board away and then letting your Dig Through Times take over is one way I've found to win. Easier said than done, right?
Well this concluded our FNM adventure for the week, but next week I'll have something even sweeter for you. PTQ time, boys and girls! Hopefully I can win one instead of just Top 8'ing. I'll be channeling my inner Little Pup. Gotta have fortitude, spunk, extreme cuteness, and the love of being petted behind the ears.
Now if you'll excuse me, Little Pup and I are going to watch some Thursday Night Football before bed.
See you next time.