9th Place at MC VI with Jeskai Fires

Grzegorz Kowalski

Grzegorz Kowalski

Introduction

Hello dear readers! I’m back from Mythic Championship VI, and I know there is only one thing I can write about. Yes, about the best non-green deck of the tournament – Jeskai Fires. This year I’ve changed my approach, and during the season I almost never played something considered as “the best deck”. My goal was to find the best “out of the radar” deck, tune it to beat enemy #1, and master it, while other people focus on beating mirrors.

Even though I didn’t spike any of tournaments I played, I’m very happy and proud of what I did, and I’m sure I’ll try to explore this strategy in the future. For the reference, at the Modern “Hogaak MC” I played UW Control (finished 12-4, 13th place), at the MTG Arena “Golos MC” I played Bant ramp (finished 4-3, 25th place missing day2 on tiebreakers), and now, at the “70% Food MC” I decided to play a non-green deck (12-4, 9th place).

Playing something that’s under other people’s radar might mean you play a few % worse deck in theory, than “the best choice”, but you gain a lot more advantage by people making mistakes against you. At this tournament itself my opponents:

If you add to this suboptimal mulligan decisions, and some other minor mistakes, advantage coming from playing a deck that people didn’t test a lot against is huge. And before you start thinking “oh, how those people can make mistakes like this, all those interactions are so obvious!” while seating at your chair and reading the article, please trust me – Mythic Championship players are around the top 500 players in the world. If you add a high stake, time pressure, and other factors like that, combined with playing unexperienced match ups, mistakes just happen.

Oko, Thief of Crowns

I can tell you from my experience, when I played against UW Control in day one. During three very close games of magic I made a lot of minor mistakes that led me to lose the match in the end. I’m pretty sure I would be able to win the match, if I played the match up many times before, and was more experienced with that, but I decided to use my testing time to master Oko match ups, because this was the most important thing going to this event. Even though I lost one round because of that, I’m sure my approach was correct, as it gave me more confidence in other six rounds when I played vs food.

Decklist and Details

Match Ups

Let’s start with our match ups:

Very Good:

– Sultai Food (unless they have 《Casualties of War》)

– Any version of Cat/Oven combo

– GB and GW Adventures (If they have a lot of hate cards in sideboard, it might fall down from very good, to just good. Game one is always insane)

Good:

– Simic Food

– Mono Red

– RG Aggro

– Mono Black/RB

– Jeskai with 《Bonecrusher Giant》 over 《Fae of Wishes》

Bad:

– UW Control

– Temur Reclamation

Using easy words, the more creatures (preferably small) they have, the better for us!

Card Choices

On my Twitter a lot of people asked about the reason for some unusual cards, so I guess it would be a good idea to give you an explanation:

1x 《Sphinx of Foresight》

Sphinx of Foresight

1

《Sphinx of Foresight》 – This is probably the most interesting one, my signature card for this event. I can tell you one thing. It wasn’t just “for fun” addition. I truly believe Sphinx deserves a slot in the deck. Why? Early game plan is all about finding lands, and Fires. With the enchantment our deck functions on another level, and we REALLY want to find it. Scry 3 let us dig deep into a library, and helps to find it. Also, makes keeps easier, as we can keep any good two lander without being too much afraid of being mana screwed.

On the other hand, when we have Fires, all we need is to survive that one, crucial, turn four. Since we get 5th land we get a huge power spike, but before that happens our only good defensive spell to combine with Fires is 《Deafening Clarion》. Sphinx is a great way to build a board presence, while waiting for another turn. 4 toughness blocker is really hard to deal with nowadays, and it’s usually the best we can do after playing our theme card on turn 4 against everyone who tries to attack us. Trust me, Sphinx does a great job!

4x 《Fae of Wishes》

Fae of Wishes

4

For some reason not every Jeskai Fires version plays the Faerie. I think that’s a mistake. To understand why Fae is so important, we need to get deeper into the concept of Jeskai. Our deck is mostly separated into three categories. Defensive spells, like 《Deafening Clarion》 or 《Prison Realm》, combo pieces, like 《Fires of Invention》 or 《Drawn from Dreams》, and threats like 《Cavalier of Flame》. We really struggle if we miss any of those. If we don’t draw a defensive spell, we might die before we take advantage of powerful five drops. If we don’t find Fires, casting Cavaliers in a fair way might be too slow, and if we end up without drawing threats, we might simply die to planeswalkers with hand full of mass removal.

Fae counts as all three! It’s a 1/4 two mana blocker with flying, which is amazing versus aggro or an Elk army (defensive spell), finds a Chandra from the sideboard, when we’re missing Fires (combo piece), and is a great threat with the enchantment (takes off-color one-ofs from sideboard). That’s consistency worth a lot, and I honestly can’t believe how people can play 《Bonecrusher Giant》 in that slot. Trust me, let the Fae a chance, and you will never come back to Giant!

2x 《Kenrith, the Returned King》

Kenrith, the Returned King

2

People usually play between 0 and 1. For me Kenrith is usually better than any of Cavaliers. The biggest downside of the King is being a good target for maindeck 《Noxious Grasp》, on the other hand, if you look closer, decks with Grasp are in the most part either Sultai Food, or GB Adventures. Both are great match ups for us, and dropping a small % here isn’t a big deal. In return, we get insane mana sink with many powerful options. Remember, with Fires you cast Kenrith for free, and get advantage of his abilities immediately.

Usually it works as 5th and 6th 《Cavalier of Flame》, with a cheaper haste ability (it’s even sometime better, because of trample). Versus aggro 10 life per turn is close to unbeatable, and during boards stalls it lets us draw more cards for virtually free, as we don’t need mana to cast our spells anyway. I would probably play three if Kenrith wasn’t legendary, but even with that drawback I can’t imagine playing less than two.

Sideboard: 2x 《Brazen Borrower》

Brazen Borrower

2

This is something interesting, because it works completely different, than any fundamentals of magic. Usually from sideboard cards you expect to be narrow and very powerful in a given match up. It’s a nice luxury to have, with 15 card sideboard. Jeskai has only 8 slots in sb, as 7 cards are in “never touch” category. With many “possibly dead cards” in the maindeck (mostly 《Aether Gust》, 《Deafening Clarion》 and 《Time Wipe》) we need some generic cards in sb to replace them when needed.

《Sorcerous Spyglass》 doesn’t work everywhere, but is very good against Simic Food, so I decided to keep two for that match up. That leaves us with 6 slots, for something generic, to fill our maindeck holes. Against UW Control, we need 8 cards, Spyglass is bad, so we have to make sure we don’t lose any other slot for card that can’t be boarded vs them. Against Temur Reclamation we need 8 cards (Gust is OK, but 《Prison Realm》 doesn’t do much), so similarly to UW, we would like all 6 to be boardable. Versus RB Aggro we have to cut 2x Gust. If you add all of this together, conclusion is easy. We should have 2 cards, that we can bring in against UW Control, Temur Reclamation, and RB aggro… It’s not an easy task, looking how different those decks are, so it has to be something VERY generic, and also relatively cheap. Yes! 《Brazen Borrower》! I’m glad you’re here!

Sideboard for 《Fae of Wishes》

Let’s start with the rule number one. Never touch those cards between games!

Enter the God-Eternals

1

Time Wipe

1


Casualties of War

1

Planewide Celebration

1


Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God

1

Chandra, Awakened Inferno

1

Garruk, Cursed Huntsman

1

This is the toolbox you want to have always available for 《Fae of Wishes》. 《Chandra, Awakened Inferno》 is your only threat you can find if you don’t have Fires, so even against UW Control you want to have her available to wish for. Same with 《Time Wipe》 against aggro, it’s better to have 2+1, than 3+0, because that way you have 6 virtual 《Time Wipe》s, instead of three.

The Real Sideboard

Mystical Dispute

3

Brazen Borrower

2


Sorcerous Spyglass

2

Disenchant

1

1 《Disenchant》

Disenchant

I think this is also worth an explanation. As I said before, we really need generic cards in sideboard to bring it. 《Disenchant》 is quite weird, as it tends to be good against decks, where mass removal is bad (UW Control, Temur Reclamation, Mirror). It’s another cheap interaction, which I like. That’s the reason why I like it over more expensive 《True Love’s Kiss》, which is a better card if we want to search for it with Fae with Fires on board, but worse in the actual deck. If you have Fires, it’s usually better to find 《Casualties of War》 anyway.

Sideboard Guide

Sultai Food

Against Sultai Food

Out

Drawn from Dreams Drawn from Dreams
Kenrith, the Returned King Fae of Wishes

In

Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute
Sorcerous Spyglass Sorcerous Spyglass
Vraska, Golgari QueenMystical DisputeLiliana, Dreadhorde General

I don’t like 3rd Dispute here, because of cards like 《Vraska, Golgari Queen》, 《Liliana, Dreadhorde General》 etc. Remember that with Fires on the battlefield, our counterspells are almost useless (technically you can cast them in your turn, but let’s be honest, it almost never happens), so putting every single copy in your deck is a real cost, and gives you a chance to draw a dead card later in the game. Be careful with that!

Simic Food

Against Simic Food

Out

Aether Gust Cavalier of Flame Sphinx of Foresight
Drawn from Dreams Drawn from Dreams

In

Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute
Sorcerous Spyglass Sorcerous Spyglass
Mystical DisputeBrazen BorrowerFae of Wishes

Here Dispute is better, as they have cards like 《Brazen Borrower》, or 《Aether Gust》 instead of 《Noxious Grasp》. On the other hand, our Gust gets worse, with more blue spells instead of Vraskas. Without acces to Grasp on the opponent’s side, I’m happy to keep both Kenriths. Also, with 4x 《Brazen Borrower》 Fae gets better than Sphinx, as 1/4 cheap body with flying is more relevant this time.

Sultai Sacrifice

Against Sultai Sacrifice

Out

Cavalier of Gales
Drawn from Dreams

In

Sorcerous Spyglass Sorcerous Spyglass
Oko, Thief of CrownsSorcerous SpyglassWitch's Oven

Spyglass is mostly for Oko, I don’t think Oven is a good enough card against us, to bring Spyglass, but obviously you should name it, if they have one mana artifact, and didn’t draw Oko.

Non-Green Cat/Oven Combo

Against Non-Green Cat/Oven Combo

Out

Aether Gust Aether Gust

In

Brazen Borrower Brazen Borrower
Brazen Borrower

As I said above, without Oko I don’t like bringing Spyglass. Since our Gust are useless here, it’s time to bring our joker card.

GB / GW Adventures

No sideboard.

Temur Reclamation

Against Temur Reclamation

Out

Deafening Clarion Deafening Clarion Prison Realm Prison Realm
Time Wipe Time Wipe

In

Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute
Brazen Borrower Brazen Borrower Disenchant
Legion WarbossDeafening ClarionBonecrusher Giant

We don’t have enough cards in sb to bring in, so we have to choose one necessary evil. I think Clarion is the best out of the worst, as it’s our insurance from random 《Legion Warboss》 or 《Bonecrusher Giant》 aggro plan. Sometimes lifelink option might be relevant to escape from one-shot range with 《Expansion/Explosion》, which might give us one important turn to finish opponent. I expect opponents to board out 《Niv-Mizzet, Parun》 even if they have one, so 《Prison Realm》 is close to useless.

UW Control

Against UW Control

Out

Deafening Clarion Deafening Clarion Deafening Clarion Deafening Clarion
Time Wipe Time Wipe

In

Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute
Brazen Borrower Brazen Borrower Disenchant
Aether GustFires of Invention

And again, we’re missing two cards. On the other hand, that’s what we signed up for while registering powerful 《Fae of Wishes》, and I’m still convinced it’s worth it. Out of all bad cards I like 《Aether Gust》 the most, as it can return Chandra stolen by 《Agent of Treachery》 or 《Mass Manipulation》, or deny opponent’s counterspell and put Fires back on the top of our library, instead graveyard.

Agent of TreacheryMass ManipulationPrison RealmTeferi, Time Raveler

Nice trick worth to know against Agent/Manipulation is 《Prison Realm》 and 《Teferi, Time Raveler》. You can exile whatever they stole first, and then bounce the 《Prison Realm》 with Teferi. You get your permanent back, ready to use, draw a card thanks to planeswalker’s ability, and stay with removal spell in your hand. Pure profit!

Mirror

Against Mirror

Out

Deafening Clarion Deafening Clarion Deafening Clarion Deafening Clarion
Time Wipe Time Wipe

In

Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute
Brazen Borrower Brazen Borrower Disenchant
Aether GustFires of InventionMystical Dispute

Mass removal is just bad. 《Time Wipe》 never works as you might want it to. If your opponent has Fires, and enough creatures to be worth Time Wiping, they usually have advantage big enough, to destroy you anyway. It’s better to focus more on early game and countering Fires, than trying to solve it by overcosted mass removal.

What After Bans?

Well, it’s not an easy question. We can be (almost) sure, that our deck will be safe. The most realistic scenario is making food decks worse (either by banning Oko, or cards around), and that’s even better for us. This opens a good opportunity for aggro decks, as they were historically bad against food, and if you read my article carefully, you already know that the more creatures they have, the better for us.

Devout DecreeSorcerous SpyglassDovin's Veto

Without 《Oko, Thief of Crowns》, we can cut 《Sorcerous Spyglass》 from our sideboard and put some actual good cards against other match ups. It might be 《Devout Decree》, if we expect black or red based aggro to rise, it might be 《Dovin’s Veto》, if UW Control becomes better. I don’t know how metagame will evolve, or what gets banned, but I know something else. I’ll keep working on Jeskai Fires after bans, so if you enjoy the deck, and want to be up to date with post ban version, be sure to follow my Twitter!

Thank you for reading, until next time!

Grzegorz “Urlich” Kowalski. (Twitter / Twitch)

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Grzegorz Kowalski

Grzegorz Kowalski He made top 8 in GP Lille 2012 and GP Brussels 2015, and GP Santiago 2017 has achieved second place. His extraordinary skill is also demonstrated on Pro Tour, experiencing countless top prize and money finish. He is one of the top players who travels the world and continues to fight. Read more articles by Grzegorz Kowalski