Historic Jeskai Control Deep Dive: The Tier 1 Meta Killer
Hey everyone! I hope that you all are as excited for the upcoming Historic Arena Open as I am! The Historic metagame has been put on its head because of Jumpstart: Historic Horizons, but have no fear because today I will be breaking down what is most likely the best deck in Historic: Jeskai Control.
Now I ain’t talking about that Indomitable Creativity version; I’m talking about a good ol’ fashioned control deck where all you need to win is Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Here’s the list I copied and started with, and throughout the article I’ll break down the various versions of Jeskai Control that I’m working on:
I’m usually against playing control decks in competitive events because of how often they are unable to answer the key threats of the format. It just feels impossible as a control player in Historic to have a list that has adequate answers to the diverse threats of the format. Due to that, it makes it easy for games to slip away from you while playing control even after you believe that you have locked the game up. There’s nothing more frustrating than when you’re the control player and your opponent weasels their way out of a game after they stick a threat and squeak out a win while you’re fumbling to find an answer.
Fortunately for all the control aficionados out there, the best card from Jumpstart: Historic Horizons slots directly into Jeskai Control and fixes a large portion of its problems. I’m gonna talk about some of the cards in this list, break down what I do and don’t like, and then explain the rationale behind the current Jeskai lists that I’m working on.
It’s hard to put into words how disgustingly good this card is. It kills early threats with ease, while also taking down opposing Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Shark tokens, Questing Beast, Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, Narset, Parter of Veils, Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, etc. Historic control decks also reach Delirium easily with the help of cycle lands, Fabled Passage, Field of Ruin, Search for Azcanta, Shark Typhoon, Narset, Parter of Veils, etc. I knew that Unholy Heat would be incredible, but it exceeded my expectations to the point that I now am comfortable with my Jeskai Control decks ability to answer most of the threats that are thrown at it. I pretty much refuse to play a Jeskai deck that doesn’t play four of these.
The other crippling issue with control decks of the past was how awkward some draws could be and how easy it was to get land screwed or flooded. Expressive Iteration bumps up the consistency of Jeskai by an unbelievable amount, while also being one of the most powerful cards in the entire format. There’s not a chance I’m playing less than four Iterations. Pretty nice when one deck has access to the best removal and card draw, huh?
Another powerful card from Historic Horizons, however playing it comes at a serious cost. Giving up Fabled Passage in order to have all your lands be able to produce blue mana makes it harder to flip Search for Azcanta and achieve Delirium. You also become unable to play value lands like Castle Ardenvale or Field of Ruin, which means that you’re pretty much dead to an opposing Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin in the control mirror. I’ve been very impressed with Archmage’s Charms ability to help hit land drops while also being an excellent answer to Witch’s Oven, Shark tokens, Knight of the Ebon Legion, and other problematic one drops.
Please always start with four of these. It’s just too overall powerful as well as being backbreaking when paired with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.
Always important for control decks to have a source of life gain. Otherwise you’ll lose to nonsense like cat/oven, Klothys, God of Destiny, or topdecked burn spells. It’s just an incredibly versatile card that isn’t dead in any matchup. The metagame would have to be crazy for me to not pay four of these in an open field.
Stick him with interaction as backup and the game pretty much ends. I always start with four and rarely board any out.
If you want to stretch the mana to play Archamages Charm, it becomes difficult to have access to Unholy Heat early while also still being able to cast Wrath of God on turn four. That means you’re kind of forced into playing Anger of the Gods, which is all good with me since it’s a fantastic board wipe. So long as Cauldron Familiar, Woe Strider, and Lurrus of the Dream-Den continue to dominate the format, then the exile clause will be super important.
Helps smooth draws, fuels Unholy Heat, and is a major headache once it flips. It’s also such a cheap threat that it’s pretty easy to stick it through counter magic. I’m a big fan of Search right now and have been playing two in most of my lists because of how much Jeskai I expect this weekend.
I think that this card is super overrated unless you’re playing Indomitable Creativity. The existence of it alone has pushed out most of the expensive artifacts from the format, so most of the time you’ll just be getting an instant speed Improvised Weaponry, which is kind of disappointing.
This effect feels unnecessary to have in the main because you already have so much removal in addition to having Archmage’s Charm to answer cheap threats. I like Portable Hole as a board card for sure though.
Typhoon has unfortunately gotten worse because of opposing Unholy Heat and Archmage’s Charm, but I still think that it’s one of the best win conditions available. It’s a key way to hit land drops while also being a threat towards planeswalkers, which makes me happy to always start with 3-4 copies main deck.
As for the mana base for Jeskai, I think the only mandatory inclusion is four Raugrin Triome, four Steam Vents, and at least one basic land. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not just lose to one Field of Ruin. I also really don’t like Castle Vantress very much because it’s effect is over costed, often unnecessary, and overall just anemic. I’ve never really been a fan of the card and there are so many good value lands nowadays that I never find the need to include it. I’m still unsure about the land count, but 26-27 has felt the best to me so far.
Not much to say here. Just a busted Negate for the mirror.
A real heavy hitting board card against random Lurrus, reanimator, and graveyard matters decks. Jund Citadel also really struggles against an unanswered Grafdigger’s Cage. As the metagame establishes it will become clear how many copies of these effects you want.
Just a great tool that you’ll often end up needing post board versus creature decks like Gruul and Elves.
An overall great card that especially shines against slower decks. Also fantastic against opposing Teferi, Hero of Dominaria while also being much easier to protect with he addition of Unholy Heat to the deck.
Another busted card from Eldraine and it obviously is great against most blue decks since it helps win counter-wars.
Keeping all this in mind, I would update that list to this:
Really small changes here, but I felt that the deck was playing way too much removal main deck and needed the extra card advantage from Narset, Parter of Veils. There were just too many games where creature decks would grind out my removal with the help of Embercleave, Midnight Reaper, or Chandra, Torch of Defiance. By having Narset, it has become way easier to find the key threats or removal that I need at a given time. I added some basics and a couple Fabled Passage to help with Delirium and added Grafdigger’s Cage to the board to help against Collected Company strategies while also not making the deck too much weaker against graveyard strategies.
I love Archmage’s Charm, but I’m also worried about Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin as well as the constraints triple U puts on the manabase. This is another Jeskai version that I’m testing in order to see what’s the best way to build the mana base and just how much worse the deck is without Archmage’s Charm:
You could also go for a type of Jeskai Control that’s similar to the Jeskai Opus version from a month ago. This version seems better against most creature based decks, however I could see it struggling in the mirror since Torrential Gearhulk is pretty awful against Memory Lapse. Magma Opus is also pretty poor against any deck with counterspells, which makes me believe that a traditional control version is probably the best option at the moment.
For the time being I think that I like the second list in the article, the one that’s just the updated version of Joohyun’s list. Archmage’s Charm has just been way too good, so I’m gonna keep playing it until I get too frustrated from losing to Search for Azcanta.
I’m gonna do a brief breakdown on how I board with the updated Archmage’s Charm version, so hopefully that’ll help give you an understanding of how the deck operates in the current metagame.
|+2 Graffdigger’s Cage||-3 Narset, Parter of Veils|
|+1 Abrade||-1 Search for Azcanta|
|+2 Anger of the Gods||-1 Lightning Helix|
This is a good matchup for Jeskai because you have great removal and Anger of the Gods to answer their threats, but also have countermagic so you don’t just die to Bolas’s Citadel. Stick Teferi, hold up interaction, and the game should be yours.
|+1 Portable Hole||-3 Narset, Parter of Veils|
|+1 Aether Gust||-1 Search for Azcanta|
|+2 Anger of the Gods||-1 Archmage’s Charm|
Your plan will be similar to this against most aggressive/creature based decks. Narset is a great card, but is just way too slow against a deck that can put 8 power into play on turn two. Even though Shamans has a Collected Company, I wouldn’t bring in Grafdigger’s Cage since it’s just way too narrow.
|+1 Portable Hole||-4 Shark Typhoon|
|+1 Rest in Peace||-1 Archmage’s Charm|
|+2 Anger of the Gods|
I’ve yet to play this matchup, so I’m not sure who would be favored. Thoughtseize into Kor Spiritdancer is pretty unbeatable against most decks, but fortunately the addition of Unholy Heat means that they’re going to be able to untap with an aura creature way less often. Narset and Teferi are also both great against Auras, and Anger embarrassing Lurrus makes me believe that Jeskai would be favored in this matchup.
Jeskai Control/Jeskai Creativity
|+3 Dovin’s Veto||-2 Anger of the Gods|
|+2 Mystical Dispute||-4 Lightning Helix|
|+1 Search for Azcanta||-1 Unholy Heat|
|+1 Commence the Endgame|
Words can’t describe how much I love control mirrors. Do everything you can to make your land drops, try not to tap out, and then eventually find an opening to stick a Teferi and take over the game. Just keep in mind that it’s going to be way harder to kill an opponent with Shark tokens and Teferi just because of the existence of Unholy Heat and Archmage’s Charm. Again, I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to not keep land light hands in these matchups.
|+1 Portable Hole||-3 Narset, Parter of Veils|
|+2 Mystical Dispute||-1 Search for Azcanta|
|+2 Anger of the Gods||-2 Memory Lapse|
Simic Merfolk is the new kid on the block, but when you get down to it they’re just any old creature deck. Svyelun of the Sea and Sky having four toughness is kind of a pain, but other than that you have so much interaction that you should be able to pick off their lords and then clean up the board with a timely Anger of the Gods. From there, a Teferi will easily KO them.
Mono White Humans
|+1 Portable Hole||-3 Narset, Parter of Veils|
|+2 Anger of the Gods||-1 Search for Azcanta|
This matchup seems really annoying because of Esper Sentinel and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben making literally every spell in Jeskai cost more. However, Archmage’s Charm is a great answer to sentinel and Mono White still struggles with board wipes like any other creature deck does. In this matchup you almost never want to make a shark token that’s bigger than a 3/3 because of Giant Killer, which means that yet again, Teferi burying the opponent in card advantage after you clear up the board is going to be your avenue to victory!
|+2 Anger of the Gods||-4 Archmage’s Charm|
|+1 Aether Gust||-2 Memory Lapse|
|+2 Mystical Dispute|
|+1 Rest in Peace|
Answering their key threats and burying them with Teferi and Narset is the game plan here. With Anger being a clean answer to Phoenix and Narset being a huge hassle for their cantrips, I’ve found this matchup to be favored for Jeskai but not by a ton.
At the moment I’m not entirely sure what I’ll be playing in the Arena Open this weekend, but I do know for sure that Jeskai Control is one of my top contenders. It’s just crazy how much better it feels than Azorius Control lists of the past, which always felt underpowered and ill-equipped to me. Jeskai is full of so many busted cards that it has honestly been pretty easy to answer everything that these sort of strategies have been throwing at me. Hopefully you win big this weekend and see just how gross Unholy Heat is!
As always, thanks for reading!