I’ve been hot on Khans Limited for a while now—the format is still unbroken, still has space to explore, and still is fun. Accordingly, I’ve played no other format in months. However, I’ve been meaning to scratch my Modern itch (particularly considering four Hipsters and friends-of-Hipsters are heading to the Modern Pro Tour in Februrary. Testing needs be done!). Last week, I decided to scratch that itch. With that decision made, I… had to choose a deck to play.

My go-to Modern deck  starts with four copies of my favorite card, Geist of Saint Traft. However, I’ve been a bit sour on the ol’ spirit man lately—his decks don’t take advantage of the absurdly powerful Treasure Cruise nearly as well as UR Delver does, the burn matchup (while still good) is nowhere near as dominant as it once was (thanks to Eidolon of the Great Revel and Monastery Swiftspear), and it’s been a while since I’ve played something else. So, I did just that. I netdecked and played the new hotness from the World Championship: Jeskai Ascendancy.

Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa's World Championship deck

Creature (4)

Sorcery (9)
Gitaxian Probe
Serum Visions
Treasure Cruise

Instant (21)
Thought Scour
Izzet Charm
Dig Through Time
Lightning Bolt
Path to Exile

Enchantment (4)
Jeskai Ascendancy

Land (22)
Flooded Strand
Scalding Tarn
Faerie Conclave
Arid Mesa
Sacred Foundry
Steam Vents
Hallowed Fountain
Seachrome Coast
Sideboard (15)
Wear // Tear
Gifts Ungiven
Unburial Rites
Iona, Shield of Emeria
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
Swan Song
Pact of Negation
Timely Reinforcements

This deck is AMAZING. It’s incredibly consistent—unsurprising, considering that almost the entire deck is composed of cantrips. It can go off as early as turn three and can somewhat reliably go off on turn four. It packs enough disruption to buy it the few turns it needs to find and resolve a Jeskai Ascendancy. Once that card is in play, you’re almost certain to draw your deck while untapping and growing Faerie Conclave/Fatestitcher. Once you do that, you attack for lethal and win.

The deck is a complicated one and I didn’t have the luxury of practice: my first game against another person was my first round of TNM. I managed to go 3-1 over the night (beating Junk, UWR Delver, and UB Faeries while losing to Burn—Eidolon of Great Revel is very good against Ascendancy); a record I’m proud of and one that I know I can improve upon. I’d like a bit more time with the deck before writing a full primer, but here are some quick things I learned over the night.

Your mana hurts. The deck wants to cast blue cantrips as often as possible. Any land that doesn’t tap for blue mana is a land that doesn’t cast a cantrip (well, except for Izzet Charm). However, if you fetch painless basic islands, they can’t cast Jeskai Ascendancy. You’ll usually need to fetch untapped shocklands (and bolt yourself in so doing) to maintain your velocity. This makes the burn matchup bad, but if you’re not fetching shocks, you’re probably going to be a turn behind, anyway. Accept that you’ll probably do 5-8 damage to yourself or play more copies of Seachrome Coast (which makes Dig Through Time worse).

Time your Conclave. Faerie Conclave is one of two creatures in the deck, and unlike an unearthed Fatestitcher, it has summoning sickness (plus, it ETB tapped, so it doesn’t even produce mana the turn you play it). If you’re going to go off on turn four, it needs to be played on turns one or two, (since you need it untapped to cast Jeskai Ascendancy on turn three and be animated on turn four). This means you won’t be casting a cantrip with it on the turn you play it and won’t be as able to build your hand and fill your graveyard. If your hand needs a lot of sculpting, it might be best to dig for Fatestitcher and eschew playing the conclave.

Find a trigger methodJeskai Ascendancy has two triggers, both of which need be remembered, and multiple Ascendancies require attention to multiple triggers. You should have a method to remember your triggers and perform them quickly; it can take a fair while to actually combo off and you don’t want to go to time just because you’re slow or fizzle because your forgot to untap your creatures or loot before drawing your card off of Serum Visions. Mine was to resolve all untap triggers (placing dice on my creatures), then resolve all loot triggers, then resolve the spell and only then to put it into my graveyard. Find what works for you.

Decideboard. I love the idea of transformational sideboard—your opponent puts in a bunch of silver bullets and boom! You’re playing a different deck that those cards are dead against. Well, the World Championship deck has a sweet Gifts Ungiven/Unburial Rites plan that is… just as weak to graveyard hate at the main deck is. Fortunately, SCG’s Jim Davis fixed Ascendancy’s weakness to graveyard hate. His main deck is the same (well, he plays 3x Dig Through Time and 2x Treasure Cruise instead of the 4-1 split), but has a thoroughly different sideboard package: he turns the deck into Delver!

Jim Davis' sideboard

Delver of Secrets
Young Pyromancer
Swan Song
Geist of Saint Traft

This is awesome. Your opponent boards in Wear // Tear or Celestial Purge and takes out removal; you board in Delver of Secrets and my favorite card, Geist of Saint Traft. I’ll definitely be trying this out next chance I get. I strongly recommend you do so, as well: play the deck before it (almost certainly) gets banned next year.

As ever, thanks for reading, friends, and happy holidays!

—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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