Last updated on May 18, 2022
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria | Illustration by Chris Rallis
Today we’re going to focus on Historic, Arena’s exclusive format that was recently featured in the Magic eSports world with the Strixhaven Championship. The event was highly dominated by Jeskai combo decks, unsurprisingly. Unfortunately, this prompted WotC to ban Time Warp in the format.
Time will tell if this ban is enough to curb the deck’s domination or if other cards need to be banned as well. I’m looking at you Brainstorm!
But for now, let’s take a look at a Jeskai deck and how you can play it for yourself.
Prismari Command | Illustration by Johannes Voss
The deck we’re going to be looking at today is Seth Manfield’s Jeskai Control list:
This is a classic control deck. Card advantage and responding to your opponent’s threats are key. The main goal is to interact in the early turns with cheap removal, sweepers, and card advantage to deal with whatever your opponent plays until you finally stabilized the game in your favor.
After controlling these early turns, you take the game down with either a bunch of flying sharks or Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Teferi shines in this kind of deck as this planeswalker does it all: removes your opponent’s biggest threat, gives you incremental card advantage, and wins the game with its ultimate ability.
Card Advantage and Deck Manipulation
Expressive Iteration is rapidly becoming a big staple. It’s a clean 2/1 being played on turn 3 with a little bit of card selection, which is always nice to have.
Narset, Parter of Veils is simply one of the best planeswalkers ever printed. It’s making waves in every single format. Narset’s passive ability shuts down some decks (cycling) while being a nightmare against others (auras, control decks).
Brainstorm doesn’t provide advantage on its own, but it will rarely be played if you don’t have a Fabled Passage or another way to shuffle your library. One of the best spells in the game and it’s an easy addition for almost any blue deck in Historic. Its dominance in the format is clear.
These aren’t the only card advantage tools in the deck, but we’ll get to Shark Typhoon and Teferi a bit further down.
Lightning Helix is your weapon of choice to deal with the various early creatures your opponents may play. The life boost is very important to keep you alive in the early turns against aggro decks. Of course, this card will be the worst one in our deck when facing mirror and combo matchups.
Dovin’s Veto and Memory Lapse make up the counterspell suite of the deck. Both are incredibly good when trying to keep Teferi in play after using its +1. Some might think the Veto is a dead card in a lot of matchups, but you always have something interesting to counter (e.g., Atarka’s Command, Embercleave, Collected Company, The Great Henge, etc.), making it a good main deck option.
Wrath of God. What to say about one of the greatest sweepers of the game? You’ll be dying to draw a copy when playing against aggro decks while it’s a mindless cut when sideboarding against control and combo.
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is this deck’s key card. If you can survive the first five turns of the game with some cheap interaction and then slam Teferi protected by at least one counterspell, it’ll be one of the main signs that victory is approaching. Of course, untapping with a Teferi in play will snowball most games out of control.
Shark Typhoon is your alternative wincon. It’s got great versatility and serves you well in the early turns by creating some chump-blockers. You can also hard cast it as an enchantment to create a shark army in short order.
The Flex Slots
These cards could be completely deleted from the deck depending on the current metagame. But with so many ways to manipulate your library and draw cards, it’s a good idea to have access to some “silver bullets” that can win the game against certain archetypes. These are also going to be the easiest cuts when sideboarding against the wrong decks.
Prismari Command is a very flexible card that you’re almost always happy to draw. It can ramp you to one-turn-ahead-of-schedule Teferi while killing a creature or looting away two cards while destroying some annoying artifacts.
Rest in Peace is the best possible card you can draw when facing graveyard strategies like Jund sacrifice, Izzet phoenix, and those Izzet/Temur combo decks that use Mizzix’s Mastery. A clear example of a card that played on time could win you game 1 if you time it right.
Aether Gust has been seeing a ton of play since its release. It buys you a lot of time as a great tempo card. It also has a lot of good targets in the current meta.
Gideon of the Trials is another way to win since it can be used as a creature. This card is important against the various aura decks, mainly Azorius. Trials can annul a single gigantic creature with the +1 ability. Another useful aspect is that it forces your opponent to put more creatures into play, making an eventual Wrath of God that much more hurtful.
Tips and Tricks
Brainstorm (Strixhaven Mystical Archive) | Illustration by Justin Hernandez & Alexis Hernandez
I’ve got a bunch of tricks and important interactions for you here. The majority of these are pretty obvious plays, although also easy to forget. So pay attention and try to keep them in mind when you run this build.
- Don’t just slam Brainstorm down. Sometimes you’ll need to find lands and use it on turn 1, but this is normally a bad move. Try to protect your hand from discard spells and be sure to have a Fabled Passage or Narset, Parter of Veils to get rid of your undesired cards.
- Keep an eye out when sequencing your lands. Be sure to have double white by turn 4 against aggro for Wrath of God or double blue on turn 3 for Narset when you’re up against control or auras.
- If you have Narset in play, you can use Prismari Command’s “loot-2-cards” mode on your opponent after their draw step for an instant speed Mind Rot effect that could be game changing.
- Don’t keep opening hands without cheap interaction cards. You’re almost definitely going to have the upper hand in the late game with card advantage engines plus Teferi. Make sure to answer your opponent’s plays during the first four or five turns. The deck doesn’t mulligan well, so an Expressive Iteration would be a good recovery if you mulled to six.
- Don’t forget that Gideon of the Trials’ “you can’t lose, opponent can’t win” ability can buy you an entire turn if you use it in the right scenario.
- If you get to very late game (like if you used Teferi’s ultimate and your opponent doesn’t want to concede), use Teferi’s -3 on itself to keep yourself from decking while your opponent tries to pull from an empty library.
- Don’t forget to add Kaheera, the Orphanguard to your hand as soon as possible. It’s your companion for a reason, and the spare mana could give you an important edge.
Izzet Phoenix Matchups
Since Time Warp’s ban, Izzet phoenix has rapidly become the most played deck in the format. It’s important to plan for these matchups as you’re going to run into them a lot.
You’ll be an underdog in game 1, but it’s not a lost cause. Especially if you find your single copy of Rest in Peace or Anger of the Gods. From game 2 on, you get more ways to interact with both your opponent’s graveyard and creatures by cutting your counterspells because they’ll be mediocre here.
The metagame isn’t 100% defined yet, so we don’t how popular Jeskai control is going to get, but it’ll probably be between the top 5 decks for a while. So you have to prep for some possible mirror matches.
Un-counter-able spells come out of the sideboard and creature removal spells are sided out to make room. It’s important to hit your land drops so that you can multi-spell as soon as possible and win the “counter wars.” There are a lot of very interesting subgames in the mirror match, like who resolves a Narset or who creates the biggest flying shark.
Another card that could be interesting here is Nezahal, Primal Tide. It’s already seeing some play in Izzet/Temur combo decks.
Izzet Combos Matchups
Indomitable Creativity decks aren’t dead like Matias Leveratto predicted it would be. The deck has actually been making waves in the ladder. The ability to combo out as early as turn 5 and its resilience after sideboarding (be aware of Nezahal, Primal Tide and Commence the Endgame) makes this deck an interesting opponent.
Azorius Auras Matchups
This isn’t an easy matchup. The goal is to use early removal to keep their creatures in check and try to stick an early Teferi to get rid of big threats with its -3. From that point, try to get ahead with card advantage.
Indestructible creatures like Adanto Vanguard are a nightmare, which is why you want to side two copies of Baffling End in. Azorius auras is getting some momentum after their victory in the Historic Open so you need to prepared for this matchup.
To give you a general idea of how to sideboard some of these:
- Against aggro, you need more quick answer cards.
- Against combo, you need more counters.
- Against midrange decks (Niv Mizzet is a bad matchup), you need to put a decent clock (if that exists in a control deck!) and try to beat them.
If you want to get better at the general principles of sideboarding, check out this class.
Shark Typhoon | Illustration by Caio Monteiro
This deck is challenging to play with. It demands a deep knowledge of the format but it’s also definitively very fun. I wouldn’t play it to try and climb the ladder since the games tend to go long, but this is your deck if you’re looking for something adaptable that can hold its own against a good portion of Historic’s current meta.
The metagame is still shifting, and I think Jeskai control is going to be a solid choice for the foreseeable future. But we’ll have to wait and see what D&D Adventures bring us in mid-July and if the deck is still playable then.
If you really want to get better as a control player, I recommend checking out Spikes Academy’s course on the topic. It goes in depth into control gameplay, metagaming, and matchup strategy.
I hope you enjoyed the deck guide for today. Feel free to leave a comment down below if you have any questions or suggestions for a deck guide you want us to cover. If you’re looking to improve your MTGA game with statistics and insights, don’t forget to check out Arena Tutor.
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