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An iconic addition to the format, War of the Spark brings with it a new era of planeswalkers. This unique take on the powerful card type proves itself dominant in the competitive sphere, with multiple players piloting planeswalker decks to Mythic. We’ll be breaking down the card choices and sideboarding for Standard’s hottest archetype below.

The Planeswalkers

Teferi, Time Raveler — One of the defining planeswalkers of War of the Spark, Teferi, Time Raveler enables multiple archetypes. Serving as the primary tempo play, Teferi shuts off countermagic, slows down aggressive starts, and enables instant speed sweepers and removal. In addition to controlling most board states, Teferi singlehandedly shuts of Wilderness Reclamation and can slow down Search for Azcanta. When combined with Dovin or Narset, Teferi can dramatically slow down the opponent’s development long enough for more powerful planeswalkers to take over the game.

Narset, Parter of Veils — Earning four of status alongside Teferi, Narset is an additional disruptive planeswalker that can shut off entire strategies. Unlike Teferi, Narset does not affect the board, but can most consistently dig through your deck to find whatever pieces you need. Accompanying this pseudo-Search for Azcanta is a powerful static ability that shuts off most iconic forms of card advantage in Standard — Chemister’s Insight and Hydroid Krasis. While both of these cards have seen a resulting decline, the maindeckable ability to shut off Chart a Course and Radical Idea limits even the effectiveness of Arclight Phoenix.

Sarkhan the Masterless — The primary reason to play red, Sarkhan gives the deck a payoff for uncommon planeswalkers like Narset or Dovin, while creating multiple bodies to pressure opposing planeswalkers. Sarkhan is the late game that the entire deck builds towards, and the full four copies show up in force. As the primary win condition, Sarkhan is untouchable and is the singular reason to play Jeskai over the Azorius or Esper variants.

Ugin, the Ineffable — Absent from many lists, Ugin gives Jeskai the ability to remove nearly any opposing permanent and acts as one of the few true answers to planeswalkers. Ugin also gives the deck a wincon and card advantage, two aspects of the War of the Spark planeswalkers most commonly lacking. Six mana makes Ugin difficult to cast, but curves perfectly following a Sarkhan or a board wipe.

Dovin, Hand of Control — The final three-mana planeswalker joining the roster, Dovin is the least impactful of the bunch, instead serving mostly as a removal spell stapled onto a slightly disruptive permanent. While Dovin is one of the weaker options available, a density of restricting planeswalkers is necessary to tempo most opponents, and he can pair with Kasmina or Narset to lock out most control decks, while completely shutting off certain archetypes. Where Dovin is most likely to shine is in aggressive matchups, where he effectively neutralizes a threat for turns, while slowing down burn spells like Shock or Lightning Strike.

Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor — The last disruptive planeswalker to make the list, Kasmina is unique as an effective defense against Vraska’s Contempt, while doubling as mid-game pressure against opposing planeswalkers. The primary utility of Kasmina comes with her static ability, but card selection attached to a pair of bodies makes Kasmina a decent threat in the mirror or against opposing Teferi decks.

The Removal

Lava Coil — A defining removal spell since its introduction into Standard, Lava Coil answers most cheap threats in the format cleanly, exiling sweeper resistant creatures like Seraph of the Scales or Rekindling Phoenix. A two mana, Lava Coil has little overlap with the rest of the deck, sequencing perfectly into a planeswalker on Turn 3. While many lists replace this spot with Shocks or Lightning Strikes, I prefer the better scaling of Lava Coil.

Deafening Clarion — Managing the board is crucial, as many planeswalkers are vulnerable to combat. Deafening Clarion cleans up most early board states while helping stabilize against burn spells in the late game.

Cleansing Nova — Functioning as an additional sweeper, Cleansing Nova is used to manage board states of bigger creatures — like Oketra or Carnage Tyrant. Having a couple copies is important against many of the Green decks in the format, and being able to clear away pesky Prison Realms comes up as well.

Support Spells

Negate — Similarly to Lava Coil, Negate is an efficient answer for a wide variety of threats. Answering an onboard planeswalker can be difficult for Jeskai, and the snowballing nature of the planeswalker curve encourages the use of two mana interactive spells. While many lists prefer Spell Pierce for the tempo it gains, the lack of scaling results in many decks being able to play around Spell Pierce. Negate lacks any such restriction, and is the perfect choice in a metagame low on Wilderness Reclamation.

Opt — Replacing the default Fblthp that most lists play, Opt gives the deck a one mana play that digs for important pieces. While it can’t pressure planeswalkers, the cheap mana cost of Opt allows for better Turn 4 plays and works well with Negate to function at instant speed.

Spark Double — Deserving inclusion mostly for the fun factor, Spark Double proves itself invaluable in its ability to double up on relevant planeswalker effects, while quickly snowballing to victory alongside Sarkhan or Narset. Getting a third activation out of Narset or Kasmina can bury most opponents in card advantage while creating a second Dovin can slow down many aggressive decks. Ultimately, Spark Double is a flex slot and can be cut for other mid-game power plays.

The Sideboard

Dovin’s Veto — Additional copies of Negate are always welcome, and Dovin’s Veto is a powerful defensive tool for Jeskai. Cleanly answering difficult to remove threats, as well as protecting onboard planeswalkers from Vraska’s Contempt, Dovin’s Veto is an integral part of Jeskai’s postboard games. Three copies are the norm for these lists, but adding or cutting a copy depends on how many Thought Erasure decks you expect to face.

Prison Realm — Filling a similar role as Lava Coil and Negate, Prison Realm earns a spot in the sideboard primarily as a removal spell against planeswalkers, that can also handle problematic creatures like Oketra or Wildgrowth Walker. One of the most important roles of Prison Realm is in handling an early Gideon Blackblade or Vivien, but acting as an answer to Nissa is relevant as well. The mana advantage and quick clock of Nissa necessitates an answer, to which Prison Realm is one of few.

Urza’s Ruinous Blast — A maindeck consideration over Cleansing Nova, Urza’s Ruinous Blast is a conditional sweeper that gains more utility against green decks. While it too lacks the ability to remove planeswalkers, the exile component as well an ability to hit Prison Realm earns Urza’s Ruinous Blast merit over many other candidates. Ultimately, the negative interaction with your own Prison Realms and an inability to remove planeswalkers or Gods relegate it to the sideboard for matchups like Esper Midrange or Gruul Monsters.

In Bolas’s Clutches — Like Prison Realm, In Bolas’s Clutches is an answer to a variety of permanents, but makes its way into the sideboard mostly as an answer to the difficult to remove God-Eternals. Stealing a Kefnet or an Oketra can often win the game, as you can then choose to not put it back into the library when it dies. Alternatively, Clutches gives Jeskai an additional way to answer planeswalkers and can turn on Urza’s Ruinous Blast by itself. If Kefnet and Oketra are on the decline, then In Bolas’s Clutches can be cut, but the prevalence of Bant Midrange in the metagame necessitates an answer.

The Wanderer — Originally seeing more than singleton play in the sideboard, The Wanderer gives breathing room against red decks by mitigating the effects of burn spells, while also blanking Goblin Chainwhirler. Doubling as an answer to Rekindling Phoenix or Seraph of the Scales gives The Wanderer flexibility in line with most other removal spells.

Teyo, the Shieldmage — Often replaced in most sideboards for more impactful answers, Teyo serves primarily as a tool against Duress and burn spells. With this slot primarily dedicated to anti-aggro, Teyo can be trimmed in favor of better tools against Bant Midrange — a poor matchup that is won by cheap removal.

Lyra Dawnbringer — Almost exclusively a tool for the Mono Red matchup, Lyra also serves as a threat in the Mirror and against Bant Midrange that allows the deck to configure to a threat dense postboard plan. Two Lyra is the perfect amount, with additional threats a consideration in a Thought Erasure heavy metagame.

Sorcerous Spyglass — An additional Prison Realm for planeswalker heavy matchups, Sorcerous Spyglass also allows Jeskai to preemptively stop Blast Zone from removing planeswalkers. This is an important dynamic of the Nexus matchup, but the primary purpose is in defeating snowballing planeswalkers like Vivien Reid or Teferi preemptively.

Jace, Wielder of Mysteries — A flex slot often occupied by Chandra, Fire Artisan or Karn, Scion of Urza, Jace gives Jeskai an additional win condition stapled onto a card advantage threat. Arguably easier to cast than Chandra, the lack of board presence relegates Jace to the sideboard. While Karn is a better form of card selection, Jace is better in longer matchups, as the ability to win regardless of board state is a unique benefit.


Sideboarding

Bant Midrange

Board control is the way to win this matchup, and ensuring you have enough answers is a priority. Lyra beats most of the threats in the matchup and capitalizes on Bant’s weakness to flyers.

In: 2 Lyra Dawnbringer, 1 In Bolas’s Clutches, 3 Prison Realm
Out: 3 Negate, 1 Spark Double, 1 Dovin, 1 Kasmina

Esper Control

Being as threat dense as possible is the most important aspect of this matchup. Every threat in the sideboard comes in, as well as Dovin’s Veto and other answers for planeswalkers. Removal is not great, even against Thief of Sanity, as Dovin and Teferi can handle that part of the matchup.

In: 2 Lyra Dawnbringer, 1 In Bolas’s Clutches, 1 Jace, 2 Sorcerous Spyglass, 3 Dovin’s Veto
Out: 3 Deafening Clarion, 2 Cleansing Nova, 3 Lava Coil, 1 Spark Double

Mono Red

Preserving life total and sweeping the board are the only two metrics that matter, and winning with planeswalkers is not a likely scenario.

Out: 2 Cleansing Nova, 1 Spark Double, 1 Ugin, 3 Negate
In: 1 The Wanderer, 1 Teyo, 3 Prison Realm, 2 Lyra

Gruul

As with Bant, managing the board matters the most, but Gruul plays larger flyers and more burn, so preserving life total is important as well.

In: 1 The Wanderer, 2 Lyra, 3 Prison Realm
Out: 1 Spark Double, 2 Kasmina, 2 Cleansing Nova, 1 Ugin

The Mirror

Tempo matters the most in the Mirror, and drawing Sarkhan first usually leads to a win. A resolved Tefer blanks countermagic, so fighting over that is important.

In: 3 Dovin’s Veto, 3 Prison Realm, 2 Lyra Dawnbringer, 1 In Bolas’s Clutches, 1 Jace
Out: 3 Lava Coil, 3 Deafening Clarion, 2 Cleansing Nova, 2 Dovin


Thanks for checking out our Jeskai Planeswalkers deck tech. Let us know what you think in the comments below, or if you have any different takes on the archetype. As always, you can follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/PariahPopular.