Standard Jeskai Mutate Deck Guide: Is Combo Tier 1?

Vadrok, Apex of Thunder Art by Zack Stella
Vadrok, Apex of Thunder Art by Zack Stella

Hello everyone! Today I’m bringing you one of the coolest decks Standard has seen in a very long time: Jeskai Mutate. First introduced by romanesque_pkm getting rank 1 in Best of One, the deck looked cool, but mostly a gimmick. However, it took the Strixhaven Championship by storm and ended up with one of the best win rates at 60.7%. Furthermore it put two pilots, David “tangrams” Inglis and Matti Kuisma into the top 8 as well. It’s hard to believe that a new deck could come into prevalence this late in the Standard cycle, but it’s not too surprising that it took this long to be discovered considering how complicated it is. Let’s take a look at the list.

Jeskai Mutate by tangrams + Matti Kuisma 

Creatures (12)
4
Lore Drakkis
4
Vadrok, Apex of Thunder
4
Goldspan Dragon
Spells (26)
1
Sejiri Shelter
4
Spikefield Hazard
1
Essence Scatter
4
Expressive Iteration
2
Fire Prophecy
2
Negate
1
Scorching Dragonfire
4
Unsubstantiate
1
Mystical Dispute
3
Prismari Command
3
Seize the Spoils
Lands (22)
4
Hengegate Pathway
4
Island
2
Mountain
4
Needleverge Pathway
4
Raugrin Triome
4
Riverglide Pathway
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
1
Light of Hope
3
Redcap Melee
2
Cinderclasm
1
Essence Scatter
1
Glass Casket
3
Mazemind Tome
2
Mystical Dispute
2
Phoenix of Ash

So the main question most people have about this deck is how it even works. I can’t blame anyone for asking as it took me a while to figure it out, but once I got the play patterns down, it became a lot easier.

The deck more or less revolves around Goldspan Dragon. You can win without it, but it’s extremely difficult. The idea is that once you establish a Goldspan, you can mutate a Lore Drakkis onto it to rebuy a spell for free (as the treasure you net from targeting it pays for Drakkis) or mutate a Vadrok, Apex of Thunder to recast a spell (ideally one that makes a Treasure so this is also free). This synergy can generally put you extremely far ahead as you make a bunch of Treasures and cast a bunch of spells, but you could also go “infinite” and win that way as well. The issue is the Arena timer doesn’t handle infinite loops well and will begin to time you out, but if you play this in paper or you’re a former Starcraft pro, you may be able to execute it enough times to win regardless.

The easiest loop involves a Goldspan Dragon, Lore Drakkis, Vadrok, Prismari Command, and Unsubstantiate. If you have a Goldspan Dragon with both creatures mutated onto it, you can cast a Prismari Command making a Treasure and dealing 2 to Goldspan Dragon trigger it again and netting 1 mana. Then you Unsubstantiate the Goldspan Dragon which returns all the creatures to your hand. You can keep this loop up to net a mana each time then eventually turn that into infinite damage (or enough to kill the opponent). As a note, you’ll need to have full control on so you can sacrifice your Treasures while Goldspan is still on the field to execute this properly. So let’s write it out.

  1. Cast Goldspan Dragon
  2. Mutate Vadrok onto Goldspan Dragon, cast Prismari Command from the yard making a Treasure and dealing 2 damage to Goldspan for an additional Treasure. 
  3. Turn on Full Control. Mutate Lore Drakkis onto Goldspan Dragon, order the triggers so Lore Drakkis resolves first. Get back Unsubstantiate if you don’t have it in hand yet with Drakkis’s ability, recast Prismari Command for the same modes and targets as before.
  4. After the Treasure resolves, but before Command fully resolves, cast Unsubstantiate targeting Goldspan Dragon, let the Treasure resolve, crack enough Treasures to recast Goldspan, rinse and repeat.

This combo is both mana and card intensive, but this deck naturally sees a lot of cards and by having pieces set up earlier make this much more tenable. That being said, most players will just die from the insane amount of value you generate from these loops anyway so executing the full combo isn’t that necessary most of the time regardless. Furthermore, most games you don’t even need to be a combo deck, but just a weird control deck with Goldspan Dragon as the top end. I’ve won more games just being a weird control deck than comboing anyway so discount the ability to do that as well.

MATCHUPS AND SIDEBOARDING

Lore Drakkis Art by Lucas Graciano
Lore Drakkis Art by Lucas Graciano

SULTAI ULTIMATUM

INOUT
+3 Mazemind Tome-2 Fire Prophecy
+2 Mystical Dispute-1 Scorching Dragonfire
-2 Seize the Spoils

This matchup felt relatively even in my experience with Jeskai coming out a little bit ahead. The main concern is if they become a weird midrange deck with Elder Gargaroth and Polukranos, Unchained backed up by removal and interaction, but we’re pretty good at protecting our threats. Don’t be too greedy when going for Goldspan Dragon as it’s extremely hard to beat them without it.

IZZET DRAGONS

INOUT
+3 Redcap Melee-2 Fire Prophecy
+1 Essence Scatter-1 Negate
+3 Mazemind Tome-1 Scorching Dragonfire
+2 Mystical Dispute-1 Unsubstantiate
-1 Prismari Command
-3 Seize the Spoils

Unfortunately this is both one of the most popular decks and one of the most difficult matchups. They have a huge amount of interaction backed up by a reasonable clock in the form of their own Goldspan Dragon. Your best bet is to try and grind them out with Mazemind Tome as it’s going to be very difficult to successfully mutate your creatures. If they get a bit greedy, you may blow them out if they tap out for something and you can answer it plus land a Goldspan Dragon. Try to wait for that opportunity and don’t do anything important when they have a lot of mana untapped.

GRUUL ADVENTURES

INOUT
+3 Redcap Melee-2 Negate
+2 Cinderclasm-1 Mystical Dispute
+1 Glass Casket-3 Seize the Spoils

For Gruul and most aggro matchups, the dynamic is going to come down to if you can control the board long enough to pop off on them. Thankfully, this deck plays a large swath of removal that makes this plan rather tenable and Gruul doesn’t have an excess of ways to kill a Goldspan Dragon either. 

NAYA ADVENTURES

INOUT
+2 Cinderclasm-1 Negate
+2 Mazemind Tome-1 Mystical Dispute
+1 Glass Casket-3 Seize the Spoils

Naya is a pretty good matchup for this deck as they aren’t fast like Gruul, but they also can’t interact with you well either. Their main form of interaction is Giant Killer so you can play around that by mutating your creatures on top of Goldspan Dragon instead of below it like you normally do. It may seem weird bringing in Mazemind Tome, but I spoke to Tristan, a member of Matti and David’s team, and he said Seize was very poor in the matchup and Tome is just better anyway.

MONO RED AGGRO 

INOUT
+1 Light of Hope-2 Negate
+3 Redcap Melee-1 Mystical Dispute
+2 Cinderclasm-1 Unsubstantiate
+1 Glass Casket-3 Seize the Spoils

This matchup can be very challenging if they have a fast start backed up by removal, but any show of weakness we can capitalize on with interaction into Goldspan Dragon. Vadrok is a good blocker against them in theory, but gets killed by Frost Bite. That being said, if you’re desperate for a blocker I’d say it’s definitely worth the risk. Play this like you’re a control deck and try to limit the amount of damage you take overall.

DIMIR ROGUES

INOUT
+1 Glass Casket-1 Essence Scatter
+3 Mazemind Tome-4 Unsubstantiate
+2 Mystical Dispute-3 Seize the Spoils
+2 Phoenix of Ash

Rogues can definitely be rough as a good portion of games they’ll have the nuts and just destroy you without any counterplay. However, if you can help manage the creatures and mill over a Phoenix, this becomes extremely manageable. Like most other matchups, try to stop them from resolving Into the Story with you many counterspells and you can reasonably grind them out. 

MIRROR 

INOUT
+3 Redcap Melee-2 Fire Prophecy
+1 Essence Scatter-2 Negate
+3 Mazemind Tome-1 Scorching Dragonfire
+1 Mystical Dispute-3 Seize the Spoils

Although this wasn’t a matchup you had to worry about before, it won’t be too surprising to find the mirror now. The matchup is going to completely revolve around Goldspan Dragon so do everything in your power to keep their Dragon off the board and keeping your Dragon on the board. You want to play this kind of like a Control match and look to accrue card advantage and a bank of permission before going for Goldspan.

CYCLING 

INOUT
+2 Cinderclasm-1 Essence Scatter
+1 Glass Casket-1 Mystical Dispute
-1 Seize the Spoils

Cycling is a weird matchup as they can be aggressive, grindy, or durdly depending on their draw. This matchup can feel pretty bad since recent lists have an excess of Disdainful Stroke and it’s extremely hard to just keep passing as every turn you give them gets them closer to a lethal Zenith Flare. My plan is generally to just jam and hope they don’t have the right card as you can’t really afford to wait most of the time. As a final tip, if they decide to keep in Irencrag Pyromancer or board in Rielle, the Everwise, you can board in Redcap Melee and trim more Seize the Spoils.

TIPS AND TRICKS

Goldspan Dragon Art by Andrew Mar
Goldspan Dragon Art by Andrew Mar
  • Your mutuate creatures will generally just be used for Mutating, but don’t discount the ability to just cast them if you need. In some matchups like Naya, Vadrok, Apex of Thunder is particularly hard to kill so keep these situations in mind.
  • If you’re unsure whether or not you can combo or have enough time to combo, don’t be afraid to use your Mutations to just grab interaction like Unsubstantiate or Negate if you want to. It may technically be a misplay if you could’ve won instead, but winning in a few turns is better than losing because of a misequencing.
  • Spikefield Hazard is surprisingly excellent here as a means to kill x/1s, shut off Lovestruck Beast, or even ramp when targeting a Goldspan Dragon. Play it as a land if you need, but I try to save these when possible.
  • Expressive Iteration feels like a functional 3 drop, but you can play it on turn 2 if you’re desperate for a certain card or you won’t have time to cast it otherwise.
  • It’s very common to Unsubstantiate your Goldspan Dragon if someone is trying to kill it, keep this play in mind.
  • I try to not get back Seize the Spoils with Lore Drakkis as it’s much better to cast with Vadrok, Apex of Thunder.
  • Be patient with mutating creatures onto your Goldspan Dragon. If Dragon beatdowns is already winning, you can be extra patient as they’ll need to do something first to catch back up. Then once their shields are down you can go for mutations.
  • You are a 3 color deck, but can function without white mana nearly all of your games since Vadrok, Apex of Thunder can be mutated for 1URR. Don’t feel pressured to make any of your Pathways White for this reason.

Thank you for reading!

DoggertQBones

Robert "DoggertQBones" Lee is the content manager of MTGAZone and a high ranked Arena player. He has one GP Top 8 and pioneered popular archetypes like UB 8 Shark, UB Yorion, and GW Company in Historic. Beyond Magic, his passions are writing and coaching! Join our community on Twitch and Discord.

6 Responses

  1. Petert4727 says:

    About time Doggert makes an article on this deck! I’ve been rocking this deck for a while now and I really wanted to hear what the expert’s thoughts were on this deck!

  2. ALEX says:

    No way I’m playing this on arena lol. Recipe for carpul tunnel and a broken mouse

  3. John Smith says:

    In every single side board you’re boarding out the Seize, why even include them main deck?

    • DoggertQBones says:

      Great question! So the theory behind Seize game 1 is that its a solid proactive card that helps further the main game plan. In the game 1 with most decks, you’re primarily focused on enacting your own game plan over trying to interact with the opponents. In the post board games, reacting to the opponent’s plan becomes significantly more important and Seize the Spoils which is only good at helping to set up the combo, is extremely vulnerable to counter magic, and relatively slow, becomes unnecessary in the face of better options in reactive spells. All that being said, there’s a real chance that those Seize should be Mazemind Tomes instead or something, but I’m not positive.