Jeskai Control is hot garbage. Or cold garbage, whichever is worse.
U/W Control (now with miracles cards) is a legitimately great Modern deck. Play it instead.
As Gerry Thompson might say, this is a hard truth . A Reddit compilation of tens of thousands of matches put it in the same win rate bracket with Ironworks, a deck that won two of the Grand Prix in the data set, and Dredge, which won the other in a no graveyard hate metagame.
Why Is U/W Miracles Great?
U/W Control was good in early February, when Alex Majlaton went 9-1 with it at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan. But it was merely good.
The changes between then and now are fairly obvious. U/W got two very powerful planeswalkers and added a different sweeper.
But this swap went a bit deeper than that.
Look at how Jeskai Control is built.
There are so many one-for-ones. So many cards that line up on the same axis of interaction.
And behind them are so few ways to make up for drawing them when your opponent makes them not matter. U/W Control is great because it follows the same outline as other great Modern decks in 2018. Do things that just break certain decks, then do several of those things with a plan to break everything.
Who cares if you draw a Logic Knot against Humans if you get to Terminus and cast Jace, the Mind Sculptor in the same turn? Or if you draw Supreme Verdict against Ironworks if you Jace on turn 6 and pass with Negate up.
Oh yeah, Jace, the Mind Sculptor is still broken in 2018. Don't be fooled. Brainstorming more than once is actual lights out. It just isn't the threat it was in 2010, when you could just slam Jace on turn 4 and run away with a game. It's more of a 1995 style threat, where you set up, land it with a bit of protection, then suddenly the game is completely out of reach for your opponent. Oh, and it sets up Terminus, which is real dumb.
Just activate Jace, the Mind Sculptor once with open mana and a known answer, and any questions about playing some stupid Jeskai list will be blown away. Maybe you can make a more Jace-y version of Jeskai, but by the time you're playing the Terminuses, Jaces, and so on, why are you cutting Field of Ruin to splash Lightning Bolt?
And I guess Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is okay too. It's no Jace, but oddly the five-drop is a little quicker to set up with protection than the four-drop. Untapping lands is weird stuff. It also plays a key role against opposing Planeswalkers. It isn't the best thing against Liliana of the Veil, as five lands and a spell is a lot of cardboard to keep around, but it gives you outs to it. And outs to Blood Moon, or whatever nonsense your opponents come up with. With a Field of Ruin mandatory shuffle, you can even remove the redraw scare.
A Really Good List
But Ari, what about this card or that card or…..
Or I can just give you context in the form of a sideboard guide that answers all of those questions against Modern's six best decks .
There are just too many ways for Humans to mitigate counterspells between Cavern of Souls and Aether Vial. If you ever get into an engagement where you get to Logic Knot their spells, you're likely winning, but if you get stranded with multiple dead counters, you die. The difference relative to Jeskai is that Terminus makes Cryptic Command good, allowing you to survive to six mana or just miracle on their turn. Timely Reinforcements is in the same boat of being a card that won't trade, but will let you live to six mana.
There's an argument that you should only be playing three counters in your maindeck to make this matchup better, but as you will see of the top six decks in the format, Humans is the only one where they're actively bad. In half of those matchups they're among the most important cards in your deck. Plus, the Detention Sphere you're replacing them with is middling at best. It's super slow against Humans, a liability against Tron, and honestly I only like it because it exiles Blood Moon and Ghirapur Aether Grid or whatever garbage permanent you're worried about in some second tier matchup.
The goal of basically every game is to cast a sweeper. That means you need to avoid Meddling Mage as much as possible, and that's why Wrath of God is Wrath of God and not Supreme Verdict. Engineered Explosives was also a great choice until The Bugler became an archetype staple and the casting cost spread made it a little less of an absolute game changer. Your spot removal serves three purposes: clearing out the things that stop your sweeper, stunting their first turn or two to give you more time to flex your bigger spells, or just keeping things clean post-sweeper. The extra Oust does a lot of work here.
Lyra Dawnbringer is exceptional against Humans, but it's important to talk about why. Obviously Lyra is probably great against any deck that isn't going to answer it, but there are decks in Modern that will just go over the card. A good example is Knight of the Reliquary/Collected Company decks, where a Tireless Tracker will just bury Lyra. Humans comes just short of going over the top of Baneslayer Angel plus a removal spell. Minor note: Lyra is better than actual Baneslayer Angel because it can't get double Phantasmal Image'd. Honestly, play whichever one you want.
Celestial Purge exiles Kitesail Freebooters, Mantis Riders. and Sin Collectors they might try to Phantasmal Image. You just want any card that exchanges with a creature, especially one that might pick off a piece of their anti-sweeper lock. Vendilion Clique is in the same boat. It blocks a flier or a Meddling Mage, so keep it in. The "Celestial Purge at least kills something" argument also comes up with Affinity and Vault Skirge, when really Celestial Purge is covering you against Ghirapur Aether Grid.
VS Mono-Green Tron
The removal out should be obvious. You still want Path to Exile to handle Eldrazi that resolve, but mostly you're fighting over planeswalkers. Even if they have Thought-Knot Seer and Thragtusk, you want more control over when you sweeper than Terminus gives you. The same applies against Jund-style decks, where having the consistent effect of Wrath of God is an upgrade to maybe drawing Terminus a turn too early. When Terminus is good it's great, but there are times it's not the best.
There's a small lesson here with Search for Azcanta being shaved for Ancestral Vision. Some matchups require you to leave up mana from turn 2 to turn 5 or so to play defensively, and Search for Azcanta is a liability. If you expect the game to be largely decided or that being down a card during that time span, you just want to shave Search for Azcanta without bringing in Ancestral Vision. That would be Infect, but Tron games take a while if U/W wins and aren't decided that early, so Ancestral Vision is a great tool to keep pace.
Disenchant isn't that good. Smart opponents should be shaving cards that Stony Silence is good against, which are the same cards Disenchant is good against. It does kill Expedition Map on the play, but the most important thing is does is hedge against nonsense sideboard cards. Sometimes they just have a Crucible of Worlds or a Pithing Needle naming Field of Ruin, and it has to die.
You may notice a lack of Damping Sphere in this sideboard. The issue with that card is the classic Blood Moon issue. You aren't closing fast enough to prevent Tron from just playing seven lands and a Karn Liberated, and with five basic Forest in their deck, Field of Ruin isn't turning into Strip Mine. You just have to proceed into the "answer all their cards" phase of the game a bit early sometimes. The only thing Damping Sphere does is sometimes save you from a turn 3 death at the cost of just being behind in multiple ways later.
VS U/W Control
Control mirrors in this format end in one of a couple ways.
If someone sticks an uncontested Search for Azcanta early, they probably win.
Sometimes people just start throwing cards at each other in midgames because waiting doesn't look profitable or they have good counter play, like a Celestial Colonnade threatening a response planeswalker. Someone sticks something, the other person misses on a relevant card, and they die. A common trend here is Cryptic Command bouncing a land to mitigate their counter play. Many sideboarded games end somewhere around here due to the efficiency of the extra counters. Often someone sticks a Teferi due to Dispel and gets to pass with a threat active and an answer up.
But then about one in three or four games degenerates into these cosmic brain mirrors. Where both players just wait out the mid-game, then have a bunch of countermagic. Then someone sticks a Jace in a fight, then the other person sticks a Jace, and there's attempts to figure out how many counterspells are left in libraries, and you can't afford to Terminus Snapcaster Mages or let them Cryptic Command bounce a Snapcaster because it adds one to that count, and oh wow it's a work of art. Just… a one game match work of art. I have been told in these matchups the one Entreat the Angels some people play is a huge breaker, but outside of that matchup, it just isn't good. It's a blank when non-miracled, and unlike Jace or Teferi, it's a liability to tap mana for something that doesn't interact. Honestly, most of my opponents just die at twenty life to Jace utimates or the inevitable heat death of their permanents.
Again, we see the job of Disenchant. It's not the most powerful card you can cast, but sometimes an enchantment just has to die. In this case, it's Search for Azcanta on turn 2. Note that you don't really need to transform Search for Azcanta if your opponent has a Field of Ruin until you need the mana or can afford a main phase activation. Just the card filtering is enough to win games.
This is the plan for the builds without Sai, Master Thopterist and Negate. Those cards throw a bit of a wrench in the general plan of stick a hate permanent and fight over their answers and alternate win conditions. That's all the Dispels are trying to do, as often their only remaining relevant cards are Nature's Claim and Guttural Response for your counters.
I explained the cutting Search for Azcantas, but the Snapcaster Mage trim looks really weird. When you add Rest in Peace to your deck and expect to have to keep playing a grindy game, you need to cut cards that will be dead if you resolve it. Often that means Logic Knot, but a two-mana counter is the most important card you can have against Ironworks. The last cut is either Snapcaster Mage or the last Search for Azcanta, and I have some concerns about trimming too many incremental card advantage engines.
VS Hollow One
This is a sideboard plan I'm not 100% on. The counters are still fine against their average hands, but are pretty bad in Rest in Peace games. Search for Azcanta is a huge boon in any matchup where you just need to miracle a Terminus, but the Rest in Peace nonbo might make you want to trim on them. Overall the matchup is just about you putting their things somewhere that isn't the battlefield or graveyard, then planeswalkering them out like any other aggro deck.
VS Mardu Pyromancer
Your entire goal is to resolve a planeswalker they can't put down to three loyalty and kill with Lightning Bolt. Jace, the Mind Sculptor almost always starts with a +2. Once your planeswalker sticks, they lose very quickly.
You lose when they stick a three mana threat, either Blood Moon or Liliana of the Veil, too early or just have too many card advantage pieces while you fail to find a planeswalker to get active. This is the matchup you really miss Detention Sphere in as a result of "that garbage permanent" being the easiest way to lose, though the exile your tokens thing often turns into exile a Spirit and they cast a Fatal Push. Young Pyromancer is honestly not a big deal as Terminus lets you clean it up and leave up other reactive options for their turn.
Your life total only somewhat matters. If you stay at nine or ten, they can't really burn you out.
Mana Leak is oddly great for a grindy matchup as Mardu is discarding so many extra lands to Faithless Looting and you cut Path to Exile leaving them just with their natural lands. Even with a Rest in Peace, Logic Knot is active for the same reason, though cutting it for a hedge Path to Exile is also fine.
Here's the important part.
Normally, when you build a good control deck, you expect it to have this depth of play against all the best decks, then be a bit short against a bunch of random things.
But Terminus and Jace, the Mind Sculptor just don't care. Neither do your sideboard cards. All these stupid decks that have given control decks fits in the past are joke matchups. Ad Nauseam, Living End, honestly even Dredge aren't that big a deal.
Here are the things that have been actually bad matchups for me:
- G/R Ponza, and I'm unsure you can fix it as Tireless Tracker, land destruction, and Blood Moon are just nightmares.
- Taking Turns, as I discovered at the Pro Tour.
- Burn, which is a real loss relative to the Lightning Helixes in Jeskai. Another Timely Reinforcements might just fix this.
- Storm, which is the only matchup where losing Damping Sphere really sucks.
Of the other 40 reasonable decks in Modern, I would be fine crushing any of them. U/W Control is just the real deal because it has extremely powerful effects. It's the first time a traditional control deck in Modern has felt this way, which is a huge revolution.
Even if Jeskai Control is a garbage fire, Cryptic Command still has a trick or two left to play in the format.