The Fires of an Engine: Where to be in Week One Standard

Many of us have played that pile of powerful cards with no synergy that won some games, but in this new Standard we have a deck with incredible card quality and synergy. This deck has multiple engines that can function independently, but they all support each other to make a suffocatingly powerful deck, between the power of three mana planeswalkers to efficient removal to an incredible top end. Wait no longer, it is time for Jeskai Planeswalkers to ascend to the Throne of Eldraine. 

So what is going on here? What happened to make Jeskai great? Two very powerful engine pieces in Irencrag Pyromancer and Fires of Invention were printed in Throne of Eldraine. These two cards represent a virtually free four mana enchantment (if only we had historical precedent to show that this is good) and a Lightning Bolt every turn. Quickly, we saw two of our very own, KanyeBest and Bryan Gottlieb, playing a version of Jeskai Planeswalkers featuring Fires of Invention. Ross Merriam floated a deck build with Irencrag Pyromancer as an option. Both were almost all the way there to where I am now. 

3 Irencrag Pyromancer

4 Teferi, Time Raveler

4 Narset, Parter of Veils

4 Sarkhan the Masterless

2 Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor

4 Fires of Invention

3 The Royal Scions

2 Chandra, Awakened Inferno

3 Deafening Clarion

2 Justice Strike

3 Shock

2 Castle Vantress

3 Fabled Passage

4 Hallowed Fountain

4 Interplanar Beacon

2 Island

1 Mountain

1 Castle Ardenvale

1 Plains

2 Sacred Foundry

4 Steam Vents

1 Temple of Epiphany

1 Temple of Triumph

Sideboard

2 Ashiok, Dream Render

3 Prison Realm

1 Deafening Clarion

2 Fry

2 Aether Gust

2 Devout Decree

2 Time Wipe

1 Ugin, the Ineffable

(Scryfall link with Arena export)

The general gameplan of this deck is to use removal, various planeswalkers, and the value gained from Fires of Invention to drag the pace of the game to a crawl, where an eventual Sarkhan animates our planeswalkers for a lethal swing. One of the key draws of this deck is that it doesn’t play any bad cards and each card in this deck is efficient. Furthermore, with a hyper-efficient three-drop slot that curves into increasingly incredible cards, this deck has a disgustingly powerful curve. Compound that with the raw powered offered by many of the planeswalkers currently standard, and you have an incredibly powerful tap-out control deck. The removal and wraths tie the rest of the deck together, enabling our deck to succeed. The final biggest selling point is that this deck uses multiple powerful angles of attack to pressure the opponent’s resources.

The Irencrag Pyromancer Engine

This set of cards all draw cards to enable Irencrag Pyromancer so it can present a source of repeated removal for planeswalkers and creatures alike. Importantly, Irencrag Pyromancer kills an Oko, Thief of Crowns that has activated its +2 then its -5. Another important aspect of this package is that in matchups where Irencrag Pyromancer isn’t effective you can board it out as all of the other cards in this package are good on their own. The biggest concern you see here is that Irencrag Pyromancer opens up your opponent’s creature removal, but that concern isn’t prevalent here for the following reasons

  1. You can often activate a planeswalker to trigger Pyromancer on the turn it comes down, allowing for you to get some value out of the card
  2. This deck has ample token generation, and a removal spell used here won’t answer a future Dragon put out by Sarkhan the Masterless
  3. Many decks are moving towards removal that does damage in increments of three or less or Murderous Rider as their premier removal. Our planeswalkers also put pressure on these removal options. 

All things considered, this card and the engine that enables it does a lot of work vs. Mono-Red Aggro and other creature-based decks, but I would recommend boarding it out against any deck with Narset, Parter of Veils.

The Fires of Invention Engine

Fires of Invention is a messed up Magic card. Each card in this deck synergizes with it, but I chose the best cards in the deck for this package. Fires of Invention at bare minimum doubles your mana. Narset keeps the gas flowing so you can double spell every turn. Naturally, Teferi is broken here as well, as he can bounce the Fires to allow us to triple spell if necessary. The Castles allow you to do something with the mana you aren’t using. This engine is part of the core of the deck, but occasionally vs. the fast aggro decks you want to board out a copy or two to make way for removal. 

Generating Dead Cards: The Engine

The hidden function of Jeskai Planeswalkers has always been that it disables your opponent’s ability to use their cards. This creates dead cards, makes chunks of their deck irrelevant, and forces them to play your game. These cards either disable certain functions of their game (such as Narset or Teferi), threaten removal or invalidate their creatures (Chandra, Irencrag Pyromancer, or Sarkhan), or tax their ability to interact (Kasmina). These cards are all also modular, they aren’t here purely to shut down opposing decks, they all forward our game plan. Feel free to cut these cards if they are poor in a matchup, but many of them rarely are. 

Filling a Role

While I don’t feel comfortable as of right now providing a sideboard plan I can offer one that gives a good net answer to the best cards in Standard, which I have listed above. What I can offer is what roles you want to be playing in many popular matchups right now and crucial points of clash that determine in which way the matchup swings. 

Mono-Red Cavalcade

When you are playing against this deck, you fill the role of the control deck. You want to spend the first couple turns removing anything you can until you can stabilize all in one fell swoop and win with you planeswalkers. Key cards that you need to answer are Cavalcade of Calamity, Chandra’s Spitfire, and Torbran, Thane of Red Fell. All of these cards enable the combo-esque one-shot turns that this red aggro deck stocked with one-drops can offer. You should prioritize finding a Deafening Clarion before all else in this matchup, followed by other removal and Interplanar Beacons to gain life. Once you are stabilized, this matchup is largely locked up, as this take on Mono-Red gives up comeback power for speed. 

Mono-Red Aggro (with Experimental Frenzy), Rakdos Aggro

These decks are incredibly well rounded, threatening aggro decks that can grind the game back in the face of late game adversity. In the early game, you need to either push through an Irencrag Pyromancer or a Deafening Clarion to regain control of the board. From there, prioritize denying Runaway Steam-Kins and Experimental Frenzies or other ways of drawing cards until you can close out the game with a Sarkhan. Irencrag Pyromancer is at its best in this matchup, as it clogs up the board and removes every relevant threat that this deck puts forward. Yet again, try to cast planeswalkers with Interplanar Beacon(s) out so you can gain life outside of the range where they can burn you out. 

Simic Flash

This is one of the rougher matchups for this deck, but fortunately we have one key card that totally disables their entire game plan: Teferi, Time Raveler. The game is often a dance of us trying to bait their counters and their commitment to the battlefield so we can set up for a big Deafening Clarion or Teferi. Fortunately, this is yet another deck where once we get ahead we can close the game out quickly due to the Flash deck’s absence of card advantage. 

The best advice is that you need to recognize that they have many counterspells in their deck, and play to resolve your key anvil on their tempo advantage. Also between Brazen Borrower and Unsummon, try to avoid generating tokens if it can be avoided, as they will almost always be bounced and removed. 

Jeskai Planeswalkers

The mirror is often comes down to factors that involve some amount of luck. These are: having a Narset on turn three, the overall quality of your draws, and who can get more value out of Fires of Invention and Chandra, Awakened Inferno. All things considered, mulligan aggressively until you can either play a Narset or a Teferi on Turn 3. These cards are so important to your game plan that seeing a five card hand with them will almost always be better in this matchup than a seven card hand that doesn’t play a planeswalker until Turn 4. Also, try and figure out early what variations they have on their deck, as it helps you make more educated choices on what you should be digging for with Narset. 

Oko-Based Midrange Decks

Oko is broko, and the decks he occupies are often just bad vs. us without him. He warps the game though so plan accordingly. You don’t want to commit an Irencrag Pyromancer to the board until you are sure they don’t have an Oko or Wicked Wolf. The exception is when you can play one and trigger it on the same turn. In general, these matchups come down to whether they can answer Fires of Invention or if you can answer Oko, then who can grind the opponent to death. Prepare for a long game, and a Questing Beast or two. 

White-Based Aggro

Irencrag Pyromancer is so incredibly powerful here it isn’t even funny. These decks all struggle to deal with him, and when you combine that with the raw power offered by Deafening Clarion in these matchups, you end up playing games where you only need to be concerned about a massive threat or a Murderous Rider. Our deck fires on all cylinders here, but in general emphasize establishing the Irencrag Pyromancer engine (often with a The Royal Scions to trigger the Pyromancer every turn) and Deafening Clarion. 

Closing Thoughts

The idea of Jeskai Planeswalkers was invented in the fires of War of the Spark Standard, and with rotation it is finally time for the veils to be pulled back on the shocking power of this deck. This deck has enough autonomy where it often is its own master, and I’m excited to unravel other decks while this deck sits on the throne of Standard. 

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