Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Making Magic in the Arena - Jeskai Wishing Flames

Once more we find ourselves returning to Arena with a new deck in tow.

This time, we're packing one of my favorite builds yet. While it's certainly powerful, probably one of the top decks around in the current meta, the reason I like it is that it allows for a bigger, higher costs cards to see play in Standard, all at the same time, without being too unwieldy.

Welcome to Jeskai Wishing Flames. The decklist can be found here, with the difference that I replaced Chance for Glory with Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God in the sideboard.

The two cards that form the backbone of the deck are Fires of Invention and Fae of Wishes. When you first read the restriction on Fires of Invention, it seems like it would be bad to only be allowed to cast two spells each turn, including the enchantment itself on the turn we cast it. But the second line effect, allowing us to play spells for free so long as their CMC is less than or equal to our total land count. So though we're only allow two spells, we can use this to cheat our high cost cards and gain a net mana advantage.

More importantly, it allows us to take advantage of Fae of Wishes to greatest effect. While the card is a 1/4 Flyer that can bounce itself back to our hand, but we don't necessarily care about that half. What we care about is the Adventure half, Granted, which allows us to retrieve a non-creature card from our sideboard, commonly referred to as a "Wish" effect. Since Fires of Innovation allows us to cast any card for free as long as we have enough lands, we can play cards that ordinarily aren't in our colors, stashing them in the side board so that we can retrieve them if/when they are needed. Even better, this slots nicely into our two spell per turn limit, allowing us to use one spell to cast the wish itself, and the other to play the card we wished for. Without going into too much detail, our sideboard contains both potential win cons and utility cards that we can take full advantage of.

But we don't need these cards to win, they are just added value we can take advantage of. The maindeck itself has its own share of win conditions, including Sarkhan the Masterless and Kenrith, the Returned King. Sarkhan would be a powerful card on his own, but we also run a few other Planeswalkers for their own utility, like Narset to fetch for the spells we need while cutting off our opponent's card draw and Teferi to potentially bounce our Fae of Wishes, draw us cards, and stop our opponent from taking action on our turn. Sarkhan allows us both a create 4/4 dragons to defend ourselves and our Planeswalker allies, but transform those same allies into 4/4 dragons that can swing in for a swift kill. The fact that we run so many Planeswalkers also allows us to run Interplanar Beacon for its incidental lifegain.

What makes Kenrith special is that he gives us a place to spend all of the mana that we are not using, since Fires of Invention allows us to case spells for free. His first ability, especially when combined with Sarkhan, allows us to make big swings and ignore summoning sickness to dramatically, quickly swing the tide. His third ability also comes in handy by giving us another way to gain life that can help push us out of reach of other, more aggressive strategies.

The rest of the deck consists of utility pieces to help us get to our endgame safely. Deafening Clarion can be an effective board clear option for decks that like to place a ton of small creatures and swing in quickly, helping us remain stable until we can get online. Time Wipe servers a similar function, though the fact that it's a 5-drop means that it'll likely be used to reset a board that's going south while letting us bounce a Fae of Wishes back to our hand. Prison Realm and Ugin act as spot removal, and Ugin can also be used both for card advantage and in combination with Sarkhan. Lastly, Drawn from Dreams, like Narset, can help us search for the cards we need when we need them, while dodging Narset's passive since we don't technically draw the cards.

As someone who loves Planeswalker cards, being able to transform them into dragons so that they can swing for lethal will always be very satisfying to me. But more than that, the wish effects give this deck such a high degree of resiliency and versatility, especially when combined with the life gain we already receive from Kenrith and our Beacons.

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