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By: kelvinmai, Kelvin Mai
Oct 15 2014 11:00am
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Hey guys! Guess what Khans is an amazing set for us Johnnys! So much potential with so many crazy cards. And as soon as I heard of a somewhat competitive combo deck that is now possible in standard I ran as fast as could to play it! And I first saw it on reddit and studied the deck enough to understand what is going on with it. And usually I don't like writing about decks that are somewhat known, but there's not much on the internet you can find out about this deck. I haven't found any articles about it, a few forum posts and definitely no videos. Regardless of all this mystery it still managed to make it to 11th and 26th place of StarCityGames. I feel like this air of mystery is an injustice so I felt like I needed to bring it to the public.

So what is the combo, exactly? Well you need three things on board before you're able to go off; Jeskai Ascendancy and 2 mana dorks. And now you start the combo with any cantrip. It'll untap your dorks, they get bigger, you keep cantriping and the cycle continues until you have lethal on board and just attack with a huge mana creature. And that's basically it, plain and simple. And because the combo is vague enough, the only specific card you need is the ascendancy, it leaves room for variations of the deck. So that's what I'll bring to you, a few different versions of this deck.

All In on the Combo

First up, my favorite version of the deck. It's the most all in on the combo. The reason why I like this version the best is because of Commune with the Gods. Because each of our cantrip is an enchantment and commune also gets us a creature means that commune is now an engine of the deck. The downside of this deck is that it's four colors so the mana base is the shakiest part of the deck. It helps that we have access to a full set of Mana Confluence. Nylea's Presence is also a huge help in mana fixing as well. As far as winning goes Stratus Walk is one of the most important of our cantrips as it gives our mana creatures evasion, but in the case that they also have a flier to block we can always dig deep enough for our one silver bullet Burning Anger. It also comes in handy when you only have Caryatids on board, which can't attack so the burning anger is definitely needed. I was trying really hard not to use Retraction Helix as it is a card that can be accidentally milled by commune, but it's just so good in the deck that it had to be included. For combo purposes it can send back a cantrip infinitely so you don't have to depend so much on the top of the deck being more fuel. And for protection reasons, Retraction Helix is a bounce spell that can get rid of a pesky permanent or in mid combo it can be a one sided sweeper. 

Hornet Queen Goblin Rabblemaster Thoughtseize

It's best match up is against Green Devotion. Both sides of the board use up the first few turns on setting up. And once we go off they have no real way of stopping it. Arbor Colossus and Hornet Queen are their only outs and it just means we need to reach a Retraction Helix before we attack. No sideboard plan is needed there. Next you would think aggro decks would be a hard match up as they could kill us before we combo off. Think again! It's actually a coin toss, the matchup is very play/draw dependent as both sides could have a nut hand and win early. Sylvan Caryatid is the most important dork here because it walls off their offense. Post sideboard, Circle of Flame, nullifies Goblin Rabblemaster and Magma Spray kills most aggressive creatures. Just be careful not to side out too many combo pieces. Esper control decks are actually not so bad either. They have hand destruction and counterspells but they give us a luxury that we don't always need, TIME! Many of their cards will be dead against us so while they dig for their Elspeth, we also get to sculpt our hand to have the perfect combo finish. The Cranial Archive allows us to re-combo if they manage to counter our spells, which is what our Swan Song is for. And remember not to overextend into a sweeper, only put 2 mana creatures on board at a time, just in case they draw into their end hostilities.

The bad match ups are black white based midrange decks. Of course Banishing Light can get rid of our Ascendancy outright, but Utter End can do it mid combo at instant speed and mess up our entire game plan. Unfortunately this is an enchantment based deck so we can't do anything in response. These decks also stack tons of removal so you have to prioritize Sylvan Caryatid as your finisher instead of the usual attacking Kiora's Follower.

No Green, No Problem

Okay, now you've seen the combo. But is four colors too ambitious for you? If it is, that's fine I still got something for you. Let's tighten up the mana and see what we can do. First of all this has to be less combo, and more beat down. Instead of attacking with an infinitely large mana dork, we're gonna attack now with an infinitely large Ornithopter

This deck is actually more resilient than the storm deck because it can also win as an Ensoul Artifact deck. Unlike the storm deck, you want every land here to come into play untapped as you are trying to win as fast as possible. The scrylands were more important in the other deck because what you drew was more important than what you have, not the case here. And because you are attacking in two different directions with this version your opponent may not know how to fight back. Your first line of play is to attack in with an ensouled artifact, you have plenty of artifacts to choose from but Ornithopter and Darksteel Citadel are always the best targets, and there are enough free spells in the deck to allow Illusory Angel to be threat early enough. The second line of play is to land a Jeskai Ascendancy early enough and have any creature, Retraction Helix and a free spell. This is another way Ensoul Artifact is important as it can create a creature for you. And you just play the free spell infinitely and grow your creature big enough to attack in for the win. There is also a fun little interaction with Daring Thief and Jeskai Ascendancy where you just exchange your entire board with your opponent. Essentially giving them all your useless 0 mana (Asttral Cornucopia) and Briber's Purse while you get something like Sarkhan or Polukranos.

So there you have it guys, two variations of Jeskai Ascendancy in standard. Both of which are as uninteractive as they come, and both are a blast to play. Personally I prefer the mana dork storm combo version because it's much more involved when playing. But of course it comes at a price, it is just as mentally draining as any other storm deck is concerned. The affinity version requires less thought, more beatdown and more resiliency and in my opinion a better choice competitively but it doesn't satisfy my Johnny cravings of a combo deck. And as always, I'll see you next time in the lab.


Cannot get Sarkan without a by Rerepete at Wed, 10/15/2014 - 21:00
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Cannot get Sarkan without a planeswalker of your own, as thief exchanges one permanent with target permanent that shares a card type with it.

Not if Sarkan is a creature. by ScionOfJustice at Fri, 10/17/2014 - 07:52
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Not if Sarkan is a creature.

Sarkhan is usually only a by Paul Leicht at Fri, 10/17/2014 - 14:39
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Sarkhan is usually only a creature on it's controller's turn...