Jeskai Ascendancy Combo in Modern and Pioneer: 2021 Edition

Jeskai Ascendancy was one of the most exciting cards to come out of Magic: the Gathering’s Khans of Tarkir set. There were five Ascendancy enchantments in the set, each of which covered a three-color combination associated with one of the five Tarkir clans; each cost one colored mana of each of those three colors. The Jeskai version is an enchantment that gives you a couple of things to do anytime you cast a non-creature spell: it gives creatures you control +1/+1, plus gives you the option to draw a card and discard a card – otherwise known as looting. Even being three colors to cast – one each of Red, Blue, and White mana – it’s a pretty powerful card in a Jeskai deck.

When the powerful Monastery Mentor and his army of Monk tokens were in Standard, Jeskai Ascendancy was a key card in the Jeskai strategy. Not only did the Ascendancy pump the Mentor and tokens, but the Mentor and tokens themselves had Prowess, which gave each of them an additional +1/+1 for each non-creature spell you cast. The Mentor strategy carried over to Legacy, where there are plenty of cheap powerful non-creature spells to fuel the Mentor. But, Jeskai Ascendancy wasn’t a key part of the Legacy strategy.

In Modern, however, it seemed eventually that Jeskai Ascendancy would eventually break through in Modern, though. While it would make occasional top appearances at Modern tournaments here and there, it wasn’t until March 2019 when a list took down a Magic Online Competitive Modern League.

Here is that Jeskai Ascendancy Combo Modern deck list piloted by Kayu:

Jeskai Ascendancy Combo

LANDS (20)

2 Faerie Conclave

4 Flooded Strand

2 Hallowed Fountain

1 Island

1 Mountain

1 Plains

1 Sacred Foundry

4 Scalding Tarn

2 Spirebluff Canal

2 Steam Vents

CREATURES (6)

4 Fatestitcher

2 Monastery Mentor

INSTANTS and SORCERIES (30)

4 Faithless Looting

4 Opt

4 Path to Exile

4 Serum Visions

4 Sleight of Hand

4 Spell Pierce

4 Thought Scour

2 Visions of Beyond

ENCHANTMENTS (4)

4 Jeskai Ascendancy

SIDEBOARD

2 Abrade

1 Dispel

1 Engineered Explosives

1 Hurkyl’s Recall

2 Negate

3 Surgical Extraction

2 Timely Reinforcements

3 Young Pyromancer

The strategy of this Jeskai Ascendancy deck is pretty straightforward. Fatestitcher allows you to tap or untap target permanents, which either allows you to untap your lands or tap down opponent’s cards. Then, each time you cast one of the cheap noncreature spells in the deck, Monastery Mentor creates a 1/1 Cleric token with Prowess. With the addition of Jeskai Ascendancy in play, you get the extra +1/+1 on top of the Prowess, plus the ability to loot for additional spells to play.

Unlike some enchantments, Jeskai Ascendancy is actually a card you don’t mind having more than one of in play at one time. Each copy of the Ascendancy gives you another +1/+1 trigger, as well as another “looting” trigger. Also, casting additional copies of the Ascendancy, as a noncreature spell, triggers Prowess and any other Jeskai Ascendancy in play. This deck can overwhelm quite quickly if Mentor is allowed to stick around in play.

Also, this deck has the ability to bring in Young Pyromancer and Timely Reinforcements from the sideboard, so that the deck can keep up with more aggressive decks.

This isn’t the only competitive Jeskai Ascendancy deck that appeared in March 2019. Here’s another interesting approach to a 4-color Jeskai Ascendancy Modern deck that uses Glittering Wish as a toolbox card to search out any multi-colored card from the sideboard.

Glittering Jeskai Ascendancy

LANDS (17)

1 Botanical Sanctum

1 Breeding Pool

4 Flooded Strand

4 Gemstone Mine

1 Grove of the Burnwillows

1 Hallowed Fountain

1 Horizon Canopy

1 Island

1 Plains

1 Steam Vents

1 Temple Garden

CREATURES (11)

4 Birds of Paradise

3 Fatestitcher

4 Sylvan Caryatid

INSTANTS and SORCERIES (28)

3 Cerulean Wisps

2 Faithless Looting

4 Glittering Wish

1 Lightning Bolt

4 Manamorphose

1 Mystic Speculation

1 Nagging Thoughts

1 Noxious Revival

1 Path to Exile

4 Serum Visions

1 Silence

4 Sleight of Hand

1 Swan Song

ENCHANTMENTS (4)

1 Abundant Growth

3 Jeskai Ascendancy

SIDEBOARD

1 Abrade

1 Ceremonious Rejection

1 Detention Sphere

1 Failure / Comply

1 Fiery Justice

1 Flesh / Blood

1 Jeskai Ascendancy

3 Leyline of Sanctity

1 Path to Exile

1 Scarscale Ritual

2 Silence

1 Swan Song

The idea of beating down your opponent with Birds of Paradise (and Fatestitchers perhaps) is a pretty wild thing. But, with this deck, that is completely possible, and actually expected. It’s a clever deck, for sure. While it didn’t take down a Competitive Modern League, it certainly held its own as a neat brew.

While Jeskai Ascendancy was competitive with the rest of the Modern format in 2019, the power creep from the Modern Horizons sets eventually overran the powerful, but sometimes clunky, Jeskai Ascendancy. Fortunately for the Ascendancy, however, the emergence of the Pioneer format – a format that only includes sets from Return to Ravnica on – has given the Ascendancy a new chance to shine.

Here’s a Jeskai Ascendancy list that took Top 4 in a Pioneer Challenge on Magic Online in October 2021:

LANDS (25)

1 Breeding Pool

4 Fabled Passage

1 Forest

2 Glacial Fortress

1 Hallowed Fountain

2 Hinterland Harbor

1 Island

3 Ketria Triome

1 Mountain

1 Plains

3 Raugrin Triome

1 Sacred Foundry

1 Stomping Ground

1 Sulfur Falls

1 Sunpetal Grove

1 Temple Garden

CREATURES (10)

2 Fae of Wishes

4 Omnath, Locus of Creation

4 Sylvan Caryatid

INSTANTS and SORCERIES (17)

4 Consider

1 Escape to the Wilds

4 Expressive Iteration

1 Fiery Impulse

2 Growth Spiral

2 Sylvan Awakening

3 Treasure Cruise

ENCHANTMENTS (8)

4 Chained to the Rocks

4 Jeskai Ascendancy

SIDEBOARD

1 Jegantha, the Wellspring

1 Aether Gust

1 Dovin’s Veto

1 Fry

2 Mystical Dispute

1 Portable Hole

2 Radiant Flames

1 Rip Apart

1 Sunset Revelry

1 Sylvan Awakening

1 Thud

1 Treasure Cruise

1 Wear / Tear

Drawing from a very different card pool than Modern, this Jeskai Ascendancy deck benefits significantly from a couple of recent draw spells. There’s Consider from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt and Expressive Iteration from Strixhaven. Not only are these powerful card selection spells, but they synergize perfectly with Jeskai Ascendancy itself. This deck leans heavily on the powerful of a card that was so broken it was banned in Standard: Omnath, Locus of Creation. While there aren’t a ton of extra Landfall triggers in the deck, Omnath’s ability to gain you 4 life each land drop is enough to keep you in the game.

The finishers of the deck are Sylvan Awakening, which turns all of your lands into indestructible creatures with reach and haste until end of turn. Because the Ascendancy untaps your creatures and pumps them, you can cast your entire hand before attacking for a huge amount that is likely lethal.

For consistency purposes, the deck has two copies of Fae of Wishes, whose Granted adventure gives you the ability to choose from a toolbox of potential answers against your opponent. There are also four copies of Chained to the Rocks for creature removal in the main deck. Escape to the Wilds gives you both the ability to draw five cards and play an extra land. The two copies of Growth Spiral give you an additional landfall trigger. In the sideboard, there’s also a copy of Sunset Revelry, which can help you catch up on life, the board, and in your hand when you’re behind in any or all of those areas. You also have main deck copies of Treasure Cruise to dig for the cards you need.

Also, Jegantha, the Wellspring acts as an excellent Companion for this deck. Jegantha can tap for all five colors of mana to cover your Jeskai Ascendancy color requirement.

Other builds of this strategy play Strategic Planning rather than Consider and some play Tamiyo, Collector of Tales in place of the Fae of Wishes. Others go all in on the Sylvan Awakening plan, eschewing Omnath altogether, and playing Opt as an additional draw spell.

Which build of Jeskai Ascendancy combo do you think is more explosive? While I prefer the beat-down Monastery Mentor plan, the Sylvan Awakening plan is perhaps the more creative approach, and a fun way to compete in the fledgling, but very popular Pioneer format.

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