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A few weeks ago, we watched as Jan Merkel won his second Pro Tour-esque event sixteen years after his first in the Streets of New Capenna Set Championship. This time he brought Jeskai Hinata, a deck that centers around several powerful four-power fliers and some of the best spells Standard has to offer.
Since the Set Championship, we have seen various other decks come to the forefront, but Jeskai Hinata remains a top tier deck, especially in Bo3, that has spent weeks dominating Standard Challenges on MTGO and has quickly become my favorite deck in Standard for climbing the Mythic ladder. So powerful in fact, that Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa wrote a guide on how to beat the deck.
So, what makes this Jeskai deck powerful? Let’s dive right into the cards in this deck!
Like many control decks before it, Hinata, Dawn-Crowned leverages a few key threats to garner advantage and end the game. Control decks of old used cards like Aetherling, Torrential Gearhulk, or even Snapcaster Mage as their threats, but this deck gets to play some stronger midgame threats and leverage late game spells to fill the role of inevitability those other creatures gave. Hinata, Dawn-Crowned is the namesake of the deck and as a 4/4 flier with trample for four mana, it’s a powerful enough threat to warrant inclusion in a Standard deck.
The additional text on Hinata, Dawn-Crowned enables this deck to cheat on mana through various powerful spells and taxes opponents looking to interact on the stack either through discard, counterspells, or targeted removal. All of this while directly pressuring opposing Planeswalkers or life totals, Hinata, Dawn-Crowned has quickly become one of my favorite threats in Standard.
What more is there to say about Goldspan Dragon? It’s replaced a long lineage of powerful five-mana haste dragons that dominate Standard from Thundermaw Hellkite to Stormbreath Dragon and not only dominates the air, but it also accelerates you –allowing you to cheat on mana. When you don’t have access to cards like Magma Opus, Goldspan Dragon acts as a resilient threat that can take over the game and when paired with the treasures made from Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, can instantly ramp you past your opponent.
The deck is built around the idea of having access to one to two mana once your threats have resolved so that you can leverage the cost reduction off Hinata, Dawn-Crowned or the bonus mana from Goldspan Dragon. You’ll see a mass of two-mana spells, many you can cast to protect your threats, especially after Hinata taxes them or Goldspan produces a two-mana treasure after being targeted.
While there are plenty of valuable pieces of interaction In a control deck like this one, there are a few spells that are generally the most important and are the foundation of this strategy. Like most decks in Standard, the first one shouldn’t be a surprise in Fable of the Mirror-Breaker.
Seemingly one of the most prevalent cards in Standard and Pioneer, Fable does it all. It creates a threat, ramps you if you get to attack, helps you filter through your less effective cards, and can combo with Goldspan Dragon to create an army of flying dragons and a horde of treasures.
Much like Goldspan Dragon, there isn’t too much to say about this card that hasn’t already been said – it is one of the most efficient and powerful effects never once considered for a ban given how balanced it is in the context of Magic as a whole. Just a great card that any deck able to run probably should, certainly in Standard.
Next up is the latest card added to the Explorer and Pioneer ban list in Expressive Iteration. One of the most effective and efficient card draw and selection tools ever printed, Expressive Iteration is incredible in this deck like in any deck that can run it – you’re able to easily hit your land drops, find multiple spells in the mid to late game, and dig to your key spells at nearly no cost.
I’ve said a lot that there isn’t much to say about these multiyear staples, but Expressive takes that to another level. Jeskai Hinata has a strength that I often tell newer players to maximize whenever they can: play the good cards. I know it sounds simple, but if every other card in this deck guide is a 9/10 or better, consider that a major reason to consider this deck over other decks that rely on more synergy and less raw power. Sometimes synergy beats power, but most the time in Magic, you’ll win more playing the good cards and this deck is loaded with them.
Finally, when looking at the key spells for this deck, you have the biggest draw to playing Hinata, Dawn-Crowned in Magma Opus. Magic is designed around mana costs and spells being cast within a reasonable time frame relative to their mana cost. What if you could cast an eight-mana spell on turn five? Well, generally that will put you way ahead. In this case, you get to deal some damage, often killing creatures or Planeswalkers, draw two cards, make a 4/4, and tap down lands or blockers. Doing all of that for two-mana is unbelievably back-breaking.
While there are plenty of ways to interact with a 4/4 or a large blue spell in Standard, what tends to happen is that you chain your various draw effects into more Magma Opus and in the mid game you can cast them for nearly free and in the late game, you just have a large spell that can take over the game, even without Hinata around. The first time you cast Magma Opus for two mana, it will be hard to do anything else in Standard until that option is pried from your hands.
As mentioned before, with the cost reducing effect of Hinata, Dawn-Crowned or the bonus mana from Goldspan Dragon, you want a glut of two-mana interaction that you can play to take your opponent off their game plan while still playing out your threats. Most of these spells fall into a two categories: Removal and counterspells.
The various counterspells all work to create a tempo advantage, especially in the early game so that you can survive long enough to find your top end threats. Cards like Spell Pierce, Disdainful Stroke, Make Disappear, Negate, and Jwari Disruption all give you maindeck ways to keep problematic permanents and spells from creating a snowball. Especially with Jwari Disruption doubling as an additional set of lands or counterspells, you have plenty of versatility and choice how to approach every turn of the game.
In terms of removal, the deck leverages the power of red damage-based removal like Spikefield Hazard, Voltage Surge, and Dragon's Fire to deal with low to the ground aggressive decks and Planeswalkers that sneak through your counterspells.
Along with Valorous Stance as a flex slot that can remove opposing large creatures or protect your creatures for cheap. While this slot has been trimmed a little recently, it is still incredibly powerful when you can protect your Goldspan Dragon in response to removal while netting free mana as well.
Now, you might be wondering why the Reckoner Bankbuster gets its own section and mostly it has to do with the fact that this is a hedge towards the metagame being more midrange, especially with the power of Fable of the Mirror-Breaker.
When Jeskai Hinata won the Set Championship, Bankbuster was a sideboard card you would bring in to out grind the various midrange and control matchups. As time went on after the Set Championship, players started solidifying the metagame and there wasn’t as much aggro to contend with overall. With this change, some smart players started pre-boarding their Reckoner Bankbuster to have an edge game one.
While not the most impactful card in the deck, having a main deck source of card advantage you can activate at instant speed while holding up interaction is the perfect tool to win the mirror and the other midrange matchups. I can’t speak highly enough of how good this card is as a main deck consideration and it also serves as a card you can move back to the sideboard if Boros Aggro starts to meaningfully pick up, giving you more agency over how you construct your deck to match the metagame.
Matchups and Sideboard Guide
This is a back-and-forth matchup where the key cards are Raffine, Scheming Seer, Tenacious Underdog, and the Planeswalker suite. Plan to leverage your cheaper engines like Reckoner Bankbuster and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker so that you can counter their threats before they get value out of them. This is also a matchup where you don’t want to let their key threats hit the table as you don’t have a lot of great means of killing a Raffine that gets even one counter.
In this matchup, I prefer to take the role of the control deck that eventually sticks a big threat and out values the opponent via Magma Opus. While Esper can board in some counterspells and discard, they’re more focused on using those cards to maintain a tempo advantage. If you can keep their key cards off the board, their interaction pales in comparison to yours and your late game goes well over top of their Planeswalkers.
Be mindful of Wedding Announcement that can act as their version of Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and generate repeated advantage you won’t be able to answer cleanly. Legion Angel can also act as a difficult to answer four-for-one, so prioritize countering the Angel even if you have the means to kill it as it is nearly impossible to one-for-one with Legion Angel and end up in a competitive position.
Jeskai Hinata (Mirror)
|+2 Reckoner Bankbuster
|-1 Dragon's Fire
|+1 Disdainful Stroke
|-2 Spikefield Hazard
|+2 Test of Talents
|-2 Voltage Surge
|+1 Spell Pierce
|-1 Valorous Stance
The mirror is a value grind. You want to counter the key engine pieces and play patiently. Remember that Hinata, Dawn-Crowned interacts with your spells and your opponents and if you both have one, it counters the effect out.
Focus on maximizing your engine value and don’t rush – the worst thing you can do is get your big spell countered and not have the resources to fight over their key spell. Patience wins this matchup given you should both have plenty of interaction and engines, you can’t afford to let one slip through without a guarantee that your better engine will resolve and outpace their plan.
For this matchup, I value the engines in this order:
Fight to resolve your top engines and work to mitigate the effects of the lower quality engines as best you can. If multiple engines resolve though, it doesn’t matter where they are on the list, you’re likely to get buried.
|+4 Flame-Blessed Bolt
|+3 Dragon's Fire
|-2 Magma Opus
|+1 Seismic Wave
|-2 Reckoner Bankbuster
|+1 Spell Pierce
|-1 Fable of the Mirror-Breaker
|-1 Disdainful Stroke
|-1 Valorous Stance
This is the one major aggro deck still kicking around in the format. You need to maximize your interaction to ensure the game goes longer. The benefit of Dragon's Fire turning into a 4 damage burn spell with Goldspan Dragon makes it invaluable as the default removal spell. You want to cut down on your main deck mid to late game cards and move more into a controlling role with 4/4 creatures to stop their aggression.
Really make sure you have a plan for early turns of interaction and don’t be afraid to use what few Magma Opus are left in the deck as ramp to bridge your early game into the midgame. While this aggro deck can certainly go a little bigger post board, you will still go well over the top with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Goldspan Dragon, and Hinata, Dawn-Crowned – so just ensure you have enough time to survive.
|+3 Dragon's Fire
|-1 Disdainful Stroke
|+2 Reckoner Bankbuster
|-1 Spell Pierce
|+1 Valorous Stance
|-2 Voltage Surge
|-2 Spikefield Hazard
This is a tricky matchup. You’re both able to play a solid controlling game plan, but you both have powerful engine cards that can snowball the game if they go uncontested. Game one, your counterspells are in a better position than their removal spells. Post board, you need to work around their Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Evelyn, the Covetous, and Corpse Appraiser. I liken this matchup to playing old Jeskai Control against Jund from 2015 era Modern – everything needs to die and both players are just slamming constant two-for-ones and whoever has the last threat standing wins.
Much like in the mirror, cards like Reckoner Bankbuster and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker outperform your creature threats since they are harder to dispatch for Grixis. Rely on your interaction and your engines while keeping Evelyn, the Covetous in check and you should be able to eventually pull ahead in value.
If Evelyn or Fable go unchecked even for a turn or two, it will be hard to recover without a cheap Magma Opus backed up with counterspells, especially since you lack meaningful interaction for the key cards in this matchup once they’ve resolved.
Tips and Tricks
- With Hinata, Dawn-Crowned out, your two mana counterspells cost one mana, making it easy to set up turns where you play Hinata and hold up protection.
- Conversely, Hinata, Dawn-Crowned makes all your opponents’ spells that target cost one more, so you can make your opponents’ spell cost one more and your spell cost one less. Leading to situations where Make Disappear or Jwari Disruption makes even one mana spells cost up to four mana.
- Thanks to the Goldspan Dragon attack trigger and target trigger, you can set up situations where you protect your Dragon with the treasure it makes in response to being targeted with removal.
- Against discard heavy decks, lead on your modal double-faced lands so you guarantee you hit land drops. This deck excels in the mid to late game so hitting your land drops is worth a lot.
- Voltage Surge can leverage the treasures from Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and Goldspan Dragon to deal four damage rather than two.
- You can make Magma Opus cost two mana with Hinata, Dawn-Crowned out. If you deal 1 damage to four targets and tap two other targets, it reduces the cost by six. You can target your own creatures or yourself, if needed, including Goldspan Dragon to make extra mana.
We’ve seen this deck dominate various Standard tournaments, but what excites me most about this deck is that it has started to pop up in various other formats as well. Logan Nettles managed to nearly qualify through the Arena Qualifier with Jeskai Hinata in Explorer, and I’ve found the deck to be great and a solid translation of the same ideas as the Standard deck. I’ve managed to get a pair of 4-1s with the deck in Pioneer as well and I wouldn’t be shocked if this powerful Standard deck slowly became a staple of other formats as well.
If you are looking for a deck that has plenty of staying power in Standard, Hinata, Dawn-Crowned certainly is a top deck that isn’t going anywhere. If you are looking to buy into the deck in paper or MTG Arena, this is one of the safest ways to craft your Wildcards, especially with the possibility of this deck crossing over to other formats as well.
Hope this guide has helped you figure out what to play in Standard. Thanks for reading and stay safe!