Last year I took a crash course in Modern after I qualified for Pro Tour Fate Reforged. In addition to the pro tour, I played three grand prix and a few local tournaments. Mostly I lost. The Eldrazi menace bored me, but with the latest bans and unbans opening the door for Ancestral Vision, I was excited to get back into the format.

Jeskai control was my original Modern deck. I never played competitively, but I messed around with friends and knew how to navigate it. If any set of cards ever wanted to join up with Ancestral Vision, it’s Lightning Bolt, Path to Exile, Spell Snare, and Remand. Jeskai has always been able to control the first few turns. Even at my pro tour where the deck was horribly positioned, it had no trouble crushing Affinity, as I felt first-hand in my round seven loss to Greg Orange. Drawing three cards on turn five, for no mana, it exactly what this deck wants to do. All it needed was a scary threat.

Enter Nahiri, the Harbinger. Her abilities are perfect for this deck. She takes care of some problem permanents, digs through your deck of assorted answers to find the right ones, and Emrakuls in two turns. Even fetching up Snapcaster Mage can close a game, especially if you have two bolts in the yard. This deck is for real.


By the way, people have forgotten the greatness of Cryptic Command. It does everything, from buying a turn or two (with Snapcaster) in a race—something both Nahiri and Vendilion Clique are happy to have—to throwing off the Valakut math for a Scapeshift deck. It also counters spells and draws cards. Go watch Shahar Shenhar defeat Reid Duke’s vicious Slippery Bogle attack to win the 2013 World Championship.

The aggressive decks in Modern are creature-based, and the pace of the game is slowing. Midrange is back—Jund mages rejoice. Tron hopes to prey on them. Jeskai control is back. And so is Cryptic Command. If you don’t own any, get them while they’re still kinda cheap.

Here’s the seventy-five I took to battle in Los Angeles:

Nahiri Jeskai

Creatures (6)
Snapcaster Mage
Vendilion Clique
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn

Spells (31)
Nahiri, the Harbinger
Lightning Bolt
Path to Exile
Cryptic Command
Spell Snare
Mana Leak
Logic Knot
Ancestral Vision
Serum Visions
Timely Reinforcements
Anger of the Gods
Lands (23)
Steam Vents
Hallowed Fountain
Sacred Foundry
Scalding Tarn
Flooded Strand
Arid Mesa
Celestial Colonnade
Sulfur Falls
Cascade Bluffs
Ghost Quarter

Sideboard (15)
Celestial Purge
Detention Sphere
Gut Shot
Anger of the Gods
Wrath of God
Engineered Explosives
Shadow of Doubt
Stony Silence
Venser, Shaper Savant
Thundermaw Hellkite
Relic of Progenitus

The main deck is fairly straightforward. Ghost Quarter provides nice interaction against various lands, and Logic Knot is a nice change of pace for the counterspell suite. I spent most of my time on the sideboard, which is crucial for Modern. You need versatile cards that improve your deck in multiple matchups. I brought in each card at least once over the two days of the grand prix.

Day one went well enough. I finished 6-3 after my two byes, and I was happy to finally put up a winning Modern record and get to come back for more. I faced Scapeshift variants three times, which was nice because I know that matchup well, and only lost to it once, when I had bad draws and my opponent had it all. I also lost to a Tron/Eldrazi hybrid deck that I expected to lose to, and to Bushwhacker Zoo when my draws both games totally mismatched the specific threats he drew. In addition to my two Scapeshift victories, I beat Jund and Suicide Zoo.

Day two was rougher, but mostly was bad variance. I defeated Naya Big Zoo and Storm, lost to Elves, the mirror, and a Mardu brew, then ended the tournament with an unintentional draw against a very slow and chatty Merfolk player. I lost every die roll, which is a bad place to be in Modern, and generally felt my draws were subpar. It felt amazing to beat Storm on the draw two games in a row, including a game one where I resolved Ancestral Vision on turn five. I was sad I didn’t draw Thundermaw Hellkite against the Mardu deck to kill some Lingering Souls tokens, but so it goes.

All of my opponents were pleasant and I was happy to end with an 8-6-1 record. I don’t think I’ll be happy to post that record again, but this was a milestone for me right now.


Jeskai Nahiri feels like a solid Modern deck that will grow to become an important part of the metagame. Tron is a bad matchup, but some amount of Crumble to Dust or Molten Rain might help make it competitive, along with Thundermaw Hellkite and maybe another midrange finisher or two.

The main deck needs some tuning. The manabase might want one or two Seachrome Coast, and it would be nice if an Izzet fastland existed. You need all your mana early, but with so many looting effects and cheap interaction, the deck often doesn’t care too much about maximizing its untapped mana in the late game. Maybe building the deck to leverage the midgame more effectively makes sense, or maybe it should lean more on going long. That’s been a debate among Jeskai Control players for years, and I look forward to seeing it play out in our new world.

I considered various targets for Nahiri in case Emrakul wasn’t an option, but ultimately stuck with one Thundermaw. Other creatures I considered, that the deck can actually cast if needed, were Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, Myr Battlesphere, Inferno Titan, Frost Titan, and Stormbreath Dragon. Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is another possibility that people have tried. There are plenty of options.

I may get to put my growing Modern prowess to the test at World Magic Cup Qualifiers this summer. I am currently about 60 planeswalker points short of 4000, which would give me a bye at the WMCQs. With some PPTQs this weekend, I think I can get there. Onward and upward!

Carrie O’Hara is Editor-in-Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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