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.
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.
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.
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:
4 《Steam Vents》
3 《Hallowed Fountain》
3 《Sacred Foundry》
4 《Fabled Passage》
4 《Temple of Triumph》
2 《Temple of Epiphany》
2 《Castle Vantress》
-Land (28)- 4 《Bonecrusher Giant》
3 《Brazen Borrower》
4 《Sphinx of Foresight》
4 《Cavalier of Flame》
3 《Kenrith, the Returned King》
2 《Omen of the Sea》
4 《Fires of Invention》
4 《Teferi, Time Raveler》
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》.
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》.
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》.
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
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.
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.
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》.
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.
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
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.
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,