MTG Arena Zone Premium
Join our Premium community, remove all advertisements, get access to exclusive content!
MTG Arena Zone Premium
Join our Premium community, remove all advertisements, get access to exclusive content!
Zurgo and Ojutai - Jeskai Dragons

Standard Jeskai Dragons Deck and Sideboard Guide

Learn how to play the Jeskai Dragons deck for Standard in this strategy guide, with card options, best of one version, including all the popular matchups and sideboard guide!

In the current Standard format, there are powerful cards of each colour but from my perspective white has some powerful offerings in Wedding Announcement and The Wandering Emperor. You cannot really go wrong when playing both.

On top of that, in Arena Championship 3 we saw a break-out deck in Jeskai Dragons, piloted by the best of the best. It is now sadly without Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, but that can be amended.

I took the pre-ban deck and made it even more dragon-ny:

Jeskai Dragons
by Skura
Buy on TCGplayer $271.92
Standard
best of 3
16 mythic
35 rare
4 uncommon
5 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (4)
Creatures (8)
Instants (8)
4
Play with Fire
$9.96
4
Make Disappear
$3.16
Sorceries (2)
Enchantments (4)
60 Cards
$398.56
Sideboard
3
Spell Pierce
$1.05
2
Negate
$0.70
2
Deadly Riposte
$0.70
2
Sunfall
$3.98
15 Cards
$15.97

The deck has been very consistent and very powerful, all while being able to interact in every facet.

Deck Tech

Threats

This is where it all starts. Zurgo and Ojutai is the reason to try to lean into the Dragon creature type. The strength of the card is also big enough that you don’t need any more Dragon synergies to make it viable!

It’s a 4/4 flying haster which wouldn’t be enough to be playable in a Go for the Throat format. Thankfully, it has inherited Dragonlord Ojutai hexproof ability, albeit only for the turn it’s entered play. Thanks to this line of text, the first attack is very safe – especially if there are no flyers on the opposing side. It makes Zurgo and Ojutai an excellent card to kill off Planeswalkers or battles, and there are plenty of battles in this deck.

The last ability is essentially Anticipate when you get to hit the player or battle. This provides card advantage whilst pressuring. Since the creature has hexproof for the first attack, you’re almost guaranteed to get at least one card out of it before it gets dealt with. If that wasn’t enough, you get card selection on top of it.

At the end of the text box you can see a may ability that allows you to return one of the Dragons that dealt damage. It’s designed so that you can keep returning and recasting Zurgo and Ojutai, hence giving it permanent hexproof. While you don’t have to do it, it’s good to have it in mind, especially against decks with sorcery removal like Ossification, Lay Down Arms, Depopulate, or Sunfall.

This card does so much that it was played by pro players without any Dragons surrounding it!

Ao, the Dawn Sky is a Dragon that used to be played here and there purely because it’s a stand-alone solid threat.

Evasion in conjunction with vigilance allows it to keep attacking whilst being able to be on the defensive. If your opponent’s board contains 2/2s and 3/3s, they are unable to attack into Ao which never lets its guard down.

It has a die trigger for when it eventually gets dealt with, probably with Go for the Throat. The first mode will be used most often in my experience as it essentially replaces it with another very strong permanent like The Wandering Emperor, Atsushi, the Blazing Sky, or Wedding Announcement. It makes it indirectly not care about removal.

The second trigger is very strong when you already have board presence. It’s particularly relevant for Wedding Announcement and The Wandering Emperortokens which are relatively small but become real threats with this buff. If you have 1 or 2 creatures, it’s better to go with the first mode.

Another powerful Dragon that concludes our creature base.

Atsushi, the Blazing Sky is another evasive threat where the keyword ‘trample’ won’t often be relevant – after all if it flies already, trample is going to matter only in the face of other fliers. It might come up but it won’t be often.

Crucially though, it has a die-trigger. You either get to creature three Treasures or Reckless Impulse. The Treasure mode will rarely be picked unless your hand has been clogged up with expensive cards and it allows you to deploy, say, two four-drops on the following turn. The card advantage mode will be chose most frequently since it negates the removal that killed it in the first place.

There is an overarching theme across all three Dragons that they are either literally immune to removal or indirectly make it irrelevant. This is key in a format where Go for the Throat has been such a staple.

The reason to play white. The Wandering Emperoris a Swiss knife of a card.

It’s a flash threat that generates creatures almost every turn, hence flooding the board and allowing you to go wide. It increases the number of angles we attack in, as all the previously mentioned creatures go tall rather than wide. Those creatures have vigilance which also allows you to be on the offence and defense at the same time.

On top of that, it’s a regular permanent buff with +1/+1 counters. Giving a one-time first strike is not irrelevant either since it changes the combat dynamic. First strike can also be granted instant speed to blow the opponent out in combat.

The -2 ability pulls a lot of weight as well. It gets rid of any tapped creature regardless of its size. Whether it’s Sheoldred, the Apocalypse or Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, it will get dealt with. You also get 2 life on top of it to stabilize a bit better, which is particularly helpful in very aggressive matchups. Last but not least, exile provides unique value as well when targeting recursive threats such as Phoenix Chick, Squee, Dubious Monarch, or Bloodfeather Phoenix.

This is an instant speed threat and an answer, all in one.

A card called the white Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. In addition to The Wandering Emperor it’s a token maker that helps go wide. It’s a card that cannot be cleanly answered one for one usually since it creates creatures. There is only one window which is the turn it’s played – and the answer has to be instant speed.

When flipped, every creature gets a permanent buff, whether it’s the tokens made by Wedding Announcement or your Dragons.

When the opponent prepares all their exile removal for the Dragons, you can completely switch gears and employ the token plan that’s ambivalent to such measures.

Interaction

With so many Dragons, it’d be a shame not to play Invasion of Tarkir. I see it as a sort of Bonecrusher Giant – removal at first and then a threat. Expecting a more creature-heavy metagame, it’s a very good call in my opinion.

Crucially, Invasion of Tarkir can target anything that isn’t itself which means that in addition to creatures, it can kill of Planeswalkers but also… Battles! Your second Tarkir can help flip a previously played one or maybe Invasion of Gobakhan. This type of play has come up multiple times for me. If you lead with Gobakhan turn two, with just one Dragon in hand, Tarkir can help flip it. This play is particularly good in non-creature matchups where removal isn’t stellar.

When flipped, Defiant Thundermaw wrecks havoc on the battlefield, mainly thanks to its trigger. I’ve had games where I attack with Zurgo and Ojutai and two Defiant Thundermaw, getting SIX shock triggers, decimating the opponent’s board.

Invasion of Gobakhan is a piece of temporary disruption that can bridge us nicely to the mid-to-late game. Tagging Sheoldred, the Apocalypse makes it come down very very late and if you target something like Thundering Raiju against Mono Red, it’s possible that they will never find an opening to play it ever again due to the cost.

Another key part is that it flips when it’s attacked by any of the Dragons. It makes it trivial to use the backhalf that further isolates those Dragons from removal.

This is a pretty simple effect. You get a glorified Shock that most of the time will actually be Shock. Very rarely will you target face so I wouldn’t look at the scry ability too fondly.

It’s also decent at killing off walkers and flipping your Invasions.

We also want to be able to interact on the stack which is particularly strong in the face of mass removal and cards that have powerful enter-the-battlefield effects. Make Disappear is a powerful turn two play that answers very cleanly whatever is played.

In a deck with so many random tokens floating around, using casualty 1 is easy and pretty common. You can easily look it as a hard counter early and a better Mana Leak later.

Normally I wouldn’t maindeck mass removal but I expect the metagame to speed up considerably. This slot can be changed if that prediction doesn’t materialise though.


Best of One

Jeskai Dragons Best of One
by Skura
Buy on TCGplayer $266.48
Standard
best of 3
16 mythic
37 rare
6 uncommon
1 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (4)
Creatures (8)
Instants (6)
4
Play with Fire
$9.96
2
Abrade
$0.70
Sorceries (4)
Enchantments (4)
60 Cards
$404.08

The Best of One version is more heavy on removal, since I expect more aggressive strategies.


Budget

The deck’s maindeck contains 37 rares and 16 mythics. Even if the manabase consisted of basic lands only, it’d still be pretty expensive.


Matchups and Sideboard Guide

Midrange Decks

InOut
+2 Negate-4 Play with Fire
+2 Sunfall

The midrange matchups should be fine. Red black decks no longer have Fable of the Mirror-Breaker or Invoke Despair while you play The Wandering Emperor and Wedding Announcement.

Depending on the exact configuration you might need to side in Spell Pierce or more removal. However, I’d generally expect midrange decks to tilt to the white colour a bit more.

Aggro Decks

InOut
+2 Sunfall-4 Make Disappear
+2 Brotherhood's End-2 Invasion of Gobakhan
+2 Deadly Riposte

Against creatures, we want as much removal as possible. We cut the conditional effects like Make Disappear – especially as they won’t often be mana positive anyways. Conceptually, you don’t want to counter a one-mana spell with a two-mana counter. The plan is to play removal early and then make them unable to attack through our wide or tall boards.

If the opponent plays white and/or blue (like Esper Legends), side in Lithomantic Barrage. Then, I’d cut more Invasion of Gobakhan and some of the top end Dragons.

Control Decks

InOut
+2 Negate-4 Play with Fire
+3 Spell Pierce-1 Invasion of Tarkir

Against control decks, we want to dictate the pace of the game. Between flash threats and countermagic, we can really take the lead on what’s happening. Our token makers will necessitate a mass removal spell at some point which we can let happen and slam a Dragon or cast a counterspell on for a massive tempo swing and potentially attacking for lethal.

Tips and Tricks

  • In critical scenarios, you can use The Wandering Emperor‘s -2 ability on your own creature to gain life.
  • Play with Fire on your own upkeep can help you smooth out your draw.

Enjoy our content? Wish to support our work? Join our Premium community, get access to exclusive content, remove all advertisements, and more!

  • No ads: Browse the entire website ad-free, both display and video.
  • Exclusive Content: Instant access to all exclusive articles only for Premium members, at your fingertips.
  • Support: All your contributions get directly reinvested into the website to increase your viewing experience!
  • Discord: Join our Discord server, claim your Premium role and gain access to exclusive channels where you can learn in real time!
  • Special offerFor a limited time, use coupon code L95WR9JOWV to get 50% off the Annual plan!
MTG Arena Zone Premium
Skura
Skura

Also known as Skura or IslandsInFront on Twitter and YouTube, Filip started his career upon the release of Gatecrash and has been passing the turn in all formats ever since. He coaches and creates written and video content, mainly centered around the control archetype. He is passionate about Magic game theory and countering spells. Outside of Magic, he is a fan of snooker/pool, chess and Project Management.

Articles: 109

2 Comments

  1. Do you feel this more dragon heavy version is better than the version used in the arena championship? This version feels more Midrange focused vs control. Which do you personally think has more legs in the future?

    • Hi!
      I heavily prefer this one. The previous version lost Fable which hurt the generic good-stuff vibe of the deck.
      The Dragons motif very naturally slots into this type of strategy I feel

Leave a Reply