When I set out to write this article I was going to write about Mono-Black Control. My plan was to look over all the decks that have gone 4-0 or 3-1 in recent Daily Events and create an aggregated list. While I am sure that I will finish this project at some point, I got sidelined by a single card. Before I get to the meat, here are a few tidbits I uncovered from staring at all those lists.
● Everyone is running Chittering Rats and Gray Merchant of Asphodel. Four Chittering Rats were the most common number.
● There are fewer Corrupts than I would have guessed.
● The most abundant configuration of sorceries was four copies of Sign in Blood and two copies each of Corrupt and Unearth.
● Everyone seems to love Geth's Verdict (as well they should)
None of these observations are revolutionary and the article, at least from the data I have, would have been bland. Thank goodness I had a draft go less than perfect.
On Saturday morning I decided to try out one of the Khans of Tarkir Prerelease Swiss draft queues. I ended up with a sweet Abzan deck that went 2-1. While my deck was powerful it was not perfect and featured two copies of Jeskai Student. The Student played key roles in victories, mostly going hand in hand with Incremental Growth.
It took almost a day of thinking but driving home from grocery shopping today to realize that Jeskai Student might just have a home in Pauper. I was postulating a potential Simic (Delver of Secret)s list that ran both Werebear and Treasure Cruise when it hit me that Jeskai Student could play rather nicely in a deck with Delver. And if I had not played the Student in draft I am not sure when I would decide to look deeper into this Khans of Tarkir card.
An aside on writing set reviews: they are hard. While it is fun to look at new cards and imagine what they could do, sometimes one actually has to play with the cards to realize their full potential. This was the case with Jeskai Student.
When I initially looked at Jeskai Student I saw it as a white creature. While this is true it is not the whole truth. By virtue of following the Jeskai Way this card also has some blue and red in it. It was when I started to think about the Student as a damage engine that I realized I had missed something with a great deal of potential.
Jeskai Student is similar to Nivix Cyclops and Kiln Fiend in its ability to turn other investments into more damage. Unlike the already played duo the Student also receives boosts from artifacts and enchantments (and Planeswalkers too, but Pauper doesn’t care about that card type). This opens up multiple other opportunities for the kind of deck in which it can find a home.
Jeskai Student also has the right stats to see play in Pauper. While I initially tagged Jeskai Windscout as a card that might see play it is the three mana casting cost that is holding the blue Prowess beater back. At two Jeskai Student can stick on the board early and then can turn each other subsequent spell cast into more damage. A deck featuring the Student can focus the spells it casts on other attributes besides damage and forcing through damage since the +1/+1 bonus from Prowess is less explosive than the +3/+0 boost from the Izzet Blitz twins.
Of course that doesn’t mean Jeskai Student can’t appear in aggressive style decks:
While untested this deck takes the base of Burn and Izzet Blitz and mashes them together into a deck that while less consistent may have better sideboard options. While not the ideal version of a Jeskai Student deck it is one potential option that emphasizes the aggressive aspect of the card.
The Monk also can find a home in the more traditional white decks. White Weenie is experiencing a renaissance in multiple forms. While one focuses on solid creatures backed up with Kor Skyfisher a newer breed of decks have emerged. Where traditional White Weenie fights the format by using resilient creatures like Loyal Cathar and Doomed Traveler, the newer breed is more akin to a tokens strategy.
Using Squadron Hawk alongside Vintage Masters all-star Battle Screech, the token white deck seeks to gum up the board with small creatures and slowly whittle away at a life total. Of course it also can access a card like Guardians’ Pledge acting as a pseudo-Overrun.
Jeskai Student provides these decks another attack angle. Since most of the best token producers are non-creatures themselves the Student can benefit from the progression of a strategy designed to flood the battlefield with not-quite-cards.
Neither of these were the decks I built to test out Jeskai Student. No, I went along with my original idea of pairing it with Delver of Secrets. The resulting deck was good for a first pass but revealed a few problems. First was that the cards I wanted to run with Jeskai Student interefered with my ability to turn on Insectile Aberration. Instead the best part of the deck was the way Trinket Mage worked with the Student, fetching equipment and cogs to help deal damage.
After a few games I copied the deck to start work anew. I trimmed down the creature count to a mere eight - four copies each of Jeskai Student and Trinket Mage. Instead of supplementing the deck with the same cards I used to turn on Delver of Secrets, I figured that Battle Screech would be a better way to switch the Student into high gear. A single Battle Screech is unimpressive, but having two is when the card shines brightest. Chaining one Battle Screech into the flashback of another, and then a second flashback as well represents three extra damage from Jeskai Student and six flying power. This interaction alone is enough to warrant exploring a deck that maxes out on both. But this is not that deck.
Knowing this experiment would be two colors I erred on the side of including extra land to make sure I would be hitting land drops. Because of this I wanted a way to make use of late game land draws and settled on Cenn’s Enlistment. Not only does it repeatedly turn on Jeskai Student but it also helps with the backside of Battle Screech. Initial builds including a single copy of Marshaling Cry (more on this later) but it never proved necessary for victory. Instead, tokens combined with a Bonesplitter more than sufficed.
Between Battle Screech and Cenn’s Enlistment, this deck was taking on a small graveyard package. It became easy to add to this in the form of Think Twice, Thought Scour, and a single copy of Deep Analysis - all of which trigger Prowess. Marshaling Cry was here as a one time anthem option but again, it never mattered.
Trinket Mage is another key card in the deck. Not only does it fetch Ancient Den and Seat of the Synod, but it can go get Flayer Husk, Sylvok Lifestaff, and Bonesplitter to turn the rather small creatures into serious threats. I also found room for a single Aether Spellbomb which helps to clear a path while cycling in the absolute worst case scenario.
The rest of the cards in the deck help to keep the way clear for the creatures to do their work. I also included a single copy of Treasure Cruise as a way to refuel late. It has yet to disappoint.
The deck plays out rather similarly to the old Squadron Hawks based Azorius decks that are a popular less competitive option. By moving towards instant speed with more resilient spells, this version can make up for some of the tempo losses from which the so called “Pau Blade” decks suffered.
Jeskai Student may not set Pauper on its ear. That being said it is a card that is much better than it seems on first glance. It blocks well and provides a potent offensive threat. When paired with any kind of spell that advances the game state, well, the games tend to end in short order.
Keep slingin’ commons-
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