Jeskai Fires at Magic World Championship XXVI

Raphael Levy

Raphael Levy

Introduction

2020’s Magic schedule is a busy one. At least for the partial season that will determine who remains in the Magic Pro League (MPL) for the remainder of the year. It started a couple of weeks ago with Players Tour Brussels in Pioneer and was followed two weeks later by World Championship XXVI in Hawaii, the biggest tournament ever held in terms of prize money. While Brussels gave away important mythic points for the MPL race, Worlds was a different kind of ev.

I weighed my priorities and decided to prepare Standard more than Pioneer in order to give myself the best chances at a potentially life-changing tournament.

Mausoleum WandererSelfless SpiritSpell Queller

Deck submission for Worlds was due three days after Brussels. For the PT, I just picked the only deck I could win a few games with on Magic Online: UW Spirits. I was honestly surprised at how well I did on day 1 (7-1), and the fall was quite brutal on day 2 (1-7). I did manage to score some points, so it wasn’t all for nothing. With the little preparation I had for that one, I’m still not too disappointed about it.

While most of my competitors were playing Pioneer, I was looking for the Standard deck that would make the headlines: Raphaël Lévy wins $300k with deck X!

Preparation with Gabriel Nassif

Gabriel Nassif and I joined forces and got to work as soon as Theros Beyond Death got released.

Agent of TreacheryQuasiduplicate

The first deck I built was a Simic Ramp deck that relied on 《Agent of Treachery》 and 《Quasiduplicate》. It felt good early in the format, but had some really bad matchups: UW Control, Temur Reclamation, Mono Red and Jeskai Fires. We realized quite early that these were the decks to beat. So I dropped Simic and tried them all. I couldn’t quite find a Mono Red list that worked, and same went for Temur Reclamation or UW Control. I had been playing Jeskai Fires for a while and I decided to pick up where I left.

Fires of InventionKenrith, the Returned KingCavalier of Flame

After I tested all the brews and the other decks, I was on 94% on the Arena ladder before I started with Jeskai. A couple of hours later, and to close the season, I hit top 20. One day later, when the new season started, I hit Mythic in one day. I lost my first match with the deck after 27 matches. We can say whatever we want about the level of ladder players, winning 26 in a row is no small feat and at that point, I knew I was going to play Jeskai Fires, I just needed to tune the deck to face the expected metagame.

Decklist and Card Choices

I was confident in the Mono Red matchup and Gabriel and I tested the other matchups. While they were all close, we liked our chances and decided to lock the deck for Worlds:

Card Selections

No 《Cavalier of Gales》

Cavalier of Gales

The list is very close to what I was playing before Theros Beyond Death came out. The main difference with more classic list is the choice of creatures in the deck. Most Jeskai Fire lists play between 10 and 12 fatties, including 《Cavalier of Gales》.

Brazen Borrower

The way I built this version was to make sure the deck could have game when I didn’t draw (or didn’t resolve) 《Fires of Invention》. Drawing too many 5 drops and no Fires usually results in you not doing anything in a game. 《Brazen Borrower》 gives you more interaction in the early game and helps put pressure on your opponent while looking for your 《Fires of Invention》. It’s flying so it gives you extra reach with 《Cavalier of Flame》.

MountainFabled PassageIsland

The other thing I didn’t like about 《Cavalier of Gales》 is that it’s actually pretty hard to hardcast. Sure, you don’t need blue mana when you can play it for free, but I’m talking about the complicated games, when you don’t have the red enchantment. The deck requires you to find a lot of red mana to use 《Cavalier of Flame》 to its full potential and it gets a little awkward when you have to choose between finding your 《Mountain》 or your 《Island》 with a 《Fabled Passage》. 《Mountain》 is usually what you want, but then, if you draw a blue Cavalier, you wish you had fetched an 《Island》. By completely removing them from the deck, you avoid this kind of choices that don’t really need to be.

In fact, you don’t really need more than 7 big creatures. What you want in your 5-drops is a hasty 5+ power creature to close games quickly, and that’s why we settled on 3 《Kenrith, the Returned King》 and 4 《Cavalier of Flame》.

《Omen of the Sea》 over 《Shimmer of Possibility》

Omen of the Sea

The last twist in this version is the addition of 《Omen of the Sea》 over 《Shimmer of Possibility》. While Omen doesn’t dig as far as Shimmer, the fact that it can be played at instant speed makes it a much better option. With 7 other plays at instant speed at two mana (《Stomp》 and 《Petty Theft》), you don’t want to tap out on your second turn. Once again, you want your deck to make as much sense as possible and not have to make non-intuitive, non-obvious plays to pack a slightly better draw spell, which is also debatable as 《Omen of the Sea》 is a fine target to bounce with 《Teferi, Time Raveler》.

《Robber of the Rich》 in Sideboard

Robber of the Rich
The other big change to classic lists is the inclusion of 《Robber of the Rich》 in the sideboard. Gabriel spotted that piece of technology on the ladder and I tried it out. I was never impressed by 《Tithe Taker》 against control or Temur Reclamation. It’s slow, doesn’t put enough pressure, gets blocked by a 0/4 wall from 《The Birth of Meletis》 and just isn’t relevant enough against counterspells or Reclamation as they play their spells on their turn anyway.

《Legion Warboss》 was cool and all, but it felt that it came too late. Three mana doesn’t get around 《Absorb》 or 《Mystical Dispute》 on the draw.

Brazen Borrower

We basically need an aggressive two-drop to work around counterpells and put pressure while setting up the late/later game. 《Robber of the Rich》 does that perfectly. Also, its interaction with 《Brazen Borrower》 is amazing. Keep in mind that the cards exiled by 《Robber of the Rich》 can be played on the same turn you attack with a Rogue, even if Robber is dead. 《Brazen Borrower》 happens to be a Rogue. Not an interaction you will see often but something you can set up and that will catch most of your opponents off-guard, even the ones that know about the interaction (see Nassif vs Burchett top 8 match).

Matchup / Sideboard Guide

When the lists for Worlds were revealed, we felt we had a shot. That was exactly the tournament we prepared for and there was no surprise there. No Bant Ramp in sight (Jeskai Fires’ worst matchup). The UW control lists were to be a little problematic, but nothing that we couldn’t beat.

Mono Red

Against Mono Red

Out

Brazen Borrower Brazen Borrower Brazen Borrower
Omen of the Sea Omen of the Sea Cavalier of Flame

In

Chandra's Pyrohelix Chandra's Pyrohelix Devout Decree
Elspeth Conquers Death Scorching Dragonfire Disenchant

I have played a lot against Mono Red and while this matchup is indeed scary, it is favorable. We weren’t sure how popular it would be at Worlds considering its bad rep, but we decided to respect it and packed enough anti-red cards in the sideboard.

Scorching DragonfireDevout DecreeChandra's Pyrohelix

You basically want efficient interaction in the early game, a mix of cards like 《Scorching Dragonfire》, 《Devout Decree》 and 《Chandra’s Pyrohelix》 should do the trick. 《Redcap Melee》 is another interesting option to deal with 《Torbran, Thane of Red Fell》.

Temur Reclamation

Against Temur Reclamation

Out

Deafening Clarion Deafening Clarion Deafening Clarion Deafening Clarion
Bonecrusher Giant Bonecrusher Giant Omen of the Sea
Kenrith, the Returned King Kenrith, the Returned King

In

Robber of the Rich Robber of the Rich Robber of the Rich Robber of the Rich
Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute
Dovin's Veto Disenchant
Dovin's VetoRobber of the RichMystical Dispute

The matchup against Temur Reclamation is very close. It depends a lot of the version they are running and the way they are sideboarding. Having early pressure and interaction is what will help you after board . They have more counterspells than you do so relying solely on 《Fires of Invention》 and fatties isn’t going to cut it. 《Robber of the Rich》 is fantastic at the job you have for it, and if you add 《Mystical Dispute》s and 《Dovin’s Veto》, you have a fine chance in the matchup.

UW Control

Against UW Control version 1

Out

Deafening Clarion Deafening Clarion Deafening Clarion Deafening Clarion
Fires of Invention Kenrith, the Returned King Bonecrusher Giant
Omen of the Sea Omen of the Sea

In

Robber of the Rich Robber of the Rich Robber of the Rich Robber of the Rich
Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute
Dovin's Veto Disenchant

Against UW Control version 2

Out

Deafening Clarion Deafening Clarion Deafening Clarion Deafening Clarion
Fires of Invention Fires of Invention Fires of Invention Fires of Invention
Omen of the Sea Omen of the Sea

In

Robber of the Rich Robber of the Rich Robber of the Rich Robber of the Rich
Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute
Elspeth Conquers Death Dovin's Veto Disenchant
Teferi, Time RavelerFires of Invention

The matchup against UW Control can go in very different directions. If you manage to resolve a 《Teferi, Time Raveler》 early, you can just ride it and play your gameplan of 《Fires of Invention》 into hasty creatures to win. It’s usually not that easy as they’re usually setting up to counter your Teferi and whatever you’re following it with.

You can play two different games after board:

I’m still unsure what the better plan is (both work), and maybe the creature plan would benefit from adding a pair of 《Legion Warboss》 as well and turn your deck into some kind of Jeskai Midrange.

Jeskai Fires Mirror

Against Jeskai Fires Mirror

Out

Deafening Clarion Deafening Clarion Deafening Clarion Deafening Clarion
Brazen Borrower Brazen Borrower Bonecrusher Giant

In

Elspeth Conquers Death Dovin's Veto Disenchant Giant Killer
Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute Mystical Dispute
Fires of InventionMystical Dispute

Try to resolve your 《Fires of Invention》 while dodging their counterspells. They’re going to try to do the same! 《Giant Killer》 is a fine sideboard card, mainly targeting Gruul creatures, but that also works here. Also a fine target to bounce with Teferi.

Conclusion

My tournament didn’t go as well as I hoped for (9th), but Gabriel made it to the top 4. I lost the mirror (Gabe) and to Mono Red (Sebastian Pozzo, pretty sure I could have won that match), and twice to Temur Reclamation (Autumn Burchett), but beat Jund (Piotr Glogowski). Gabriel pretty much had the opposite record to balance it out!

We were overall satisfied with the list and didn’t regret our choice. Worlds was a great experience and I’ll do my best to qualify again next year. The fact that it was in Hawaii made it just that much better.

I finally have a few weeks off to relax at home and take care of my people before I get ready for the second part of the season which is going to be hectic again.

Thank you all for your support.

Until next time,

Raph (Twitter / Twitch)

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Raphael Levy

Raphael Levy Raphael Levy is a veteran player from France. His Pro Tour debut was 1997 and he is unstoppable since then. He played 91 Pro Tours continuously and became the very first player who reaches plying 100 Pro Tours at 2019 Mythic Championship I. During the long career he also achieved so many great results like 3 PT Top 8, 23 GP Top 8 with 6 wins, and won World Magic Cup 2013 as a French captain. He was elected Pro Tour Hall of Fame at 2006 and earned over 750 Pro Points. Read more articles by Raphael Levy