Charms are some of the most exciting cards in Magic. They provide options, making them versatile. Their modality tends to come at the price of each individual effect being mana-inefficient (usually, if a charm’s mode would be on a card by itself, its CMC would be N-1, where N is the CMC of the charm).

A charm is Limited or Constructed playable if an individual effect or the combination of its effects justify the charm’s mana cost (which, in the case of tricolor charms, is particularly prohibitive). I’d like to examine Jeskai Charm, mode by mode, to see if it’s up to snuff.


Jeskai Charm‘s first mode can easily be compared to Griptide and Time Ebb. Griptide was a very strong card in Theros Limited and a reasonable (but not great) card in Dark Ascension/Innistrad Limited. It saw zero Constructed play. Time Ebb was quite good in M14 Limited but also saw little to no Constructed play. Tempo removal spells like Unsummon have become very strong in Limited (with the depowering of removal at common ), and Time Ebb-style unsummons are great because they’re card advantage neutral (you spend a card, your opponent ‘skips’ a draw step). This mode is a little worse in Constructed, since your opponent can use a fetchland to shuffle away an unwanted creature (but then Jeskai Charm is an actual kill spell, so that ain’t bad, either).

Jeskai Charm is (ignoring color considerations) more mana efficient than both, since it combines Time Ebb‘s CMC of 3 and Griptide‘s instant speed. In Limited, it’s playable enough for this mode alone (if you can cast it). Whether Jeskai Charm is worth splashing… probably not. Having a tempo removal hand be stuck in your hand as tempo advantage slips away is awful.

In Constructed, the comparable Azorious Charm was a Standard all-star for a weaker version of this ability. However, Jeskai Charm lacks Azorious Charm‘s excellent cycling mode which made it a perfect fit for control decks (and gained a third color). At three mana, Griptide probably isn’t good enough to justify the charm by itself.

Flames of the Blood Hand

There are only two cards to compare Jeskai Charm‘s burn mode to: Flames of the Blood Hand and Boros Charm. Flames of the Blood Hand has been a Constructed burn mainstay and Boros Charm has quickly been adopted as Flames’ more mana-efficient cousin. I wouldn’t know how good Flames was in Limited (though my expectations of a Lava Axe tend to be low), but Boros Charm was excellent in hyperaggressive Boros.

Jeskai Charm‘s burn mode is less mana-efficient than Boros Charm‘s identical mode and more color-prohibitive than both. Generally, burn decks are one or two colors and a three-color burn spell that doesn’t hit creatures isn’t where burn would want to be. I’d not predict Jeskai Charm to be what burn decks want (when they have access to Stoke the Flames in Standard and Boros Charm in Modern). Of course, Jeskai Charm has seen success in Standard Jeskai tempo with burn as the primary mode. That’ll tell you just how good 4 damage for 3 mana can be.

In Limited, it’s rare that I’ll be excited to put a Lava Axe into my deck, and a tricolor one isn’t good enough on its own to earn a spot in my 23.

Zealous Persecution

There are several cheap spells that grant your team +1/+1 with a bonus: Break of Day (an okay Limited card), Profit//Loss (a strong Limited card, muchly because of its Zealous Persecution impression), Sigil Blessing (a reasonably strong trick), and chief among them, Zealous Persecution (a decent Constructed card). Minor pump spells pale in comparison to big effects like Overrun. However, sometimes little pump spells with upside, like M15’s Sanctified Charge can be enormously powerful.

The value of Jeskai Charm‘s anthem mode depends on two things: the number of creatures benefiting from the effect and the value of lifelink. If only one creature benefits, then +1/+1 and lifelink isn’t worth three mana (Mortal’s Ardor isn’t a great combat trick, and that’s from a set with heroic). When you’re looking at three or more creatures, however, that’s a huge life swing. Furthermore, Jeskai Charm interacts very well with the Jeskai ability: prowess (which doubles the pump spell’s effectiveness). I’d gladly pay three mana for +2/+2 and lifelink and will do so as much as possible in Limited.

In Constructed, Jeskai Charm has Hordeling Outburst and Goblin Rabblemaster to work with (cards which also make the charm’s burn mode very relevant, as well). I’m not at all surprised to see it as a 4-of in those decks.

Stern JudgeJeskai Charm combines two strong-in-Limited effects (Time Ebb and a solid trick that rewards an archetype) with a strong-in-Constructed effect (Flames of the Blood Hand). It’s mana-efficient in all of its modes (though Boros Charm does put its burn mode to shame). All of its modes work well with a tempo-based, creature-heavy strategy, and this synergy and versatility makes the card more than the sum of its parts.

It’s not at all surprising that Jeskai Charm is seeing wide play in Standard and is a reasonably high pick in Limited. I don’t believe that it’s quite strong enough for nonrotating formats, but I’ve seen Modern aggro decks try it out, so perhaps it might even be good enough there. Only time will tell.

Deep Analysis

That’s all for this week, friends. Hope you’re having a lovely holiday week. And as always, thanks for reading.

—Zachary Barash

Zachary Barash has been playing Magic on and off since 1994. He loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He’s a proud Cube owner and improviser, creating entire musicals from scratch every week. Zach has an obsession with Indian food that borders on being unhealthy.

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