Historic Jeskai Control Deep Dive: The Tier 1 Meta Killer

Archmage's Charm Art By Alayna Danner
Archmage's Charm Art By Alayna Danner

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:

JooHyun Jeskai Control 

Planeswalkers (4)
4
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Spells (23)
4
Unholy Heat
4
Expressive Iteration
4
Lightning Helix
3
Memory Lapse
2
Anger of the Gods
4
Archmage's Charm
2
Prismari Command
Artifacts (2)
2
Portable Hole
Enchantments (5)
1
Search for Azcanta
4
Shark Typhoon
Lands (26)
1
Castle Vantress
4
Glacial Fortress
4
Hallowed Fountain
1
Hengegate Pathway
1
Irrigated Farmland
4
Raugrin Triome
1
Riverglide Pathway
2
Spirebluff Canal
4
Steam Vents
4
Sulfur Falls
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
1
Portable Hole
1
Abrade
1
Aether Gust
3
Dovin's Veto
3
Rest in Peace
2
Mystical Dispute
2
Narset, Parter of Veils
2
Wrath of God

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.

Unholy Heat

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.

Expressive Iteration

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?

Archmage’s Charm

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.

Memory Lapse

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.

Lightning Helix

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.

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Stick him with interaction as backup and the game pretty much ends. I always start with four and rarely board any out. 

Anger of the Gods

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. 

Search for Azcanta

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.

Prismari Command

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.

Portable Hole

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.

Shark Typhoon

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.

Lands

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.

Sideboard

Narset, Parter of Veils Art by Magali Villeneuve
Narset, Parter of Veils Art by Magali Villeneuve

Dovin’s Veto

Not much to say here. Just a busted Negate for the mirror.

Rest in Peace / Grafdigger’s Cage

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.

Wrath of God

Just a great tool that you’ll often end up needing post board versus creature decks like Gruul and Elves. 

Narset, Parter of Veils

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.

Mystical Dispute

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:

Updated JooHyun Jeskai 

Planeswalkers (7)
3
Narset, Parter of Veils
4
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Spells (22)
4
Unholy Heat
4
Expressive Iteration
4
Lightning Helix
4
Memory Lapse
2
Anger of the Gods
4
Archmage's Charm
Enchantments (5)
1
Search for Azcanta
4
Shark Typhoon
Lands (26)
2
Fabled Passage
4
Glacial Fortress
4
Hallowed Fountain
2
Island
1
Mountain
4
Raugrin Triome
1
Riverglide Pathway
4
Steam Vents
4
Sulfur Falls
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
2
Grafdigger's Cage
1
Portable Hole
1
Abrade
1
Aether Gust
3
Dovin's Veto
1
Rest in Peace
1
Search for Azcanta
2
Anger of the Gods
2
Mystical Dispute
1
Commence the Endgame

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:

Jeskai without Archmage's Charm 

Planeswalkers (7)
3
Narset, Parter of Veils
4
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Spells (21)
4
Unholy Heat
1
Dovin's Veto
4
Expressive Iteration
4
Lightning Helix
4
Memory Lapse
2
Anger of the Gods
1
Mystical Dispute
1
Dismiss
Enchantments (6)
2
Search for Azcanta
4
Shark Typhoon
Lands (26)
3
Fabled Passage
2
Field of Ruin
2
Glacial Fortress
2
Hallowed Fountain
3
Island
1
Mountain
1
Plains
4
Raugrin Triome
4
Steam Vents
4
Sulfur Falls
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
2
Grafdigger's Cage
1
Portable Hole
1
Aether Gust
3
Dovin's Veto
1
Rest in Peace
2
Anger of the Gods
2
Mystical Dispute
1
Prismari Command
2
Commence the Endgame

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.

Jeskai Opus 

Planeswalkers (3)
3
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Spells (27)
4
Unholy Heat
4
Expressive Iteration
4
Lightning Helix
4
Memory Lapse
2
Anger of the Gods
4
Archmage's Charm
1
Prismari Command
4
Magma Opus
Artifacts (3)
3
Torrential Gearhulk
Enchantments (1)
1
Search for Azcanta
Lands (26)
4
Glacial Fortress
4
Hallowed Fountain
1
Hengegate Pathway
1
Irrigated Farmland
1
Island
4
Raugrin Triome
2
Riverglide Pathway
1
Spirebluff Canal
4
Steam Vents
4
Sulfur Falls
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
1
Portable Hole
1
Aether Gust
3
Dovin's Veto
2
Anger of the Gods
2
Mystical Dispute
2
Narset, Parter of Veils
1
Commence the Endgame
3
Shark Typhoon

Sideboard Guide

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria Art by Chris Rallis
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria Art by Chris Rallis

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.

Jund Citadel

INOUT
+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.

Gruul Aggro/Shamans

INOUT
+1 Portable Hole-3 Narset, Parter of Veils
+1 Aether Gust-1 Search for Azcanta
+2 Anger of the Gods-1 Archmage’s Charm
+1 Abrade

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.

Orzhov Auras

INOUT
+1 Portable Hole-4 Shark Typhoon
+1 Rest in Peace-1 Archmage’s Charm
+2 Anger of the Gods
+1 Abrade

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

INOUT
+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.

Simic Merfolk

INOUT
+1 Portable Hole-3 Narset, Parter of Veils
+2 Mystical Dispute-1 Search for Azcanta
+2 Anger of the Gods-2 Memory Lapse
+1 Abrade

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

INOUT
+1 Portable Hole-3 Narset, Parter of Veils
+2 Anger of the Gods-1 Search for Azcanta
+1 Abrade

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!

Izzet Phoenix

INOUT
+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!

Chris Kvartek

While Chris Kvartek technically kicked off his career in 2012, he burst onto the scene in 2019 like few before him. With an early season Top Finish at Mythic Championship II and narrow miss for his second at Mythic Championship IV, Kvartek earned invitations to two more Mythic Championships through online qualifiers. He secured his second Top Finish of the season at Mythic Championship VII, and now this rising star must prove he can stay among the elite of professional Magic.

5 Responses

  1. Aaron says:

    Thanks for the updated list and insight on card choices! I was curious if you’re excluding Kaheera due more to freeing up an additional sideboard slot or the information it gives the opponent for informing their mulligan decisions, especially in an open field like the Arena Open. Otherwise, the free 3/2 vigilant body could potentially be relevant.

    • Chris Kvartek says:

      Ooooh, I totally missed kaheera honestly. I always do that with companion i dont know why lol. I think that you want it since the free info isn’t worth too much in my opinion.

      • David says:

        Honestly, I wouldn’t run Kaheera. Speaking as a mono-white humans player, it makes my decisions and my attacks much easier on turn 6 when I know you don’t have Torrential Gearhulk in your deck, so I don’t have to fear it.

        Torrential Gearhulk makes having good attacks extremely difficult, so giving away the fact that you don’t have it is very detrimental, IMO.

  2. Daninja says:

    Cool article, I like the idea of maindecking 4 Heat and building for more consistent delirium.

    Replacing 2 RIPs with Cage just feels riddiculous to me in the current meta, as a lot of graveyard decks are very easily capable of destroying an artifact and having their whole gy free and ready. My advice is to stick with the 3 RIPs and 0 cage.

    • Chris Kvartek says:

      I do love RIP, but turning off azcanata and making Unholy heat worse has been annoying. It’s tough because you have to cut Azcanta postboard when you add RIP, but the Sunken Ruin is fantastic vs these discard based Lurrus decks. I see what you’re saying though, theres lots of Kolaghan commands around nowadays.