Bonde's Jeskai Control from GP Lille

by Michael Bonde on 12 November 2018, Monday

Michael Bonde

Welcome to yet another article from yours truly!
This article is written in a place of limbo. On the one hand, I want to talk about all the great things that this new Standard format brings but on the other hand I have to also be somewhat secret due to our testing team for Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica. However, what I will talk about is the deck that I played at GP Lille – Jeskai Control – and give a guideline for sideboarding.

As Lille was getting closer by the day, school had me somewhat tied up, and I had only seen decklists and played a few leagues with different decks to get a feel of the different decks. It was no secret that the Golgari decks kept on crushing the online PTQs and it was the deck to beat. Like any new format, a lot of hyper-aggressive strategies started appearing which gave control decks something to build after.

Thomas Enevoldsen and myself initially fell in love with a deck from the online user “coolfridge” that looked both fun and good, which in my opinion is a great place to start when diving into a new format.

The deck had a plan as we expected and followed a strategy but I got more and more unimpressed over time regarding Crackling Drake. While Crackling Drake is a good card, I was often forced to run it into my opponent’s removals on turn 4 due to multiple copies in my hand. That either gave my opponent a turn to play around my counterspells or get to kill the Drake and maintain the status quo. While this was my main issue it also seemed like the deck was really mana hungry. We had too many powerful spells on the same turns and that the metagame was turning into cards that didn’t die to the removal suite that people had in their decks such as Adanto VanguardRekindling PhoenixArclight PhoenixTocatli Honor Guard, and Carnage Tyrant

Luckily Carlos Romao did well with a Revitalize and Opt version of the deck, that also didn’t play that many Crackling Drakes and had a way of dealing with the new critters on the block with cards like Seal Away and Settle the Wreckage. I fell in love with this version as it was even more fun than the prior one and had the opportunity to deal with almost all of the “known” meta.


I would say that after having played against Mono-Blue with Jeskai, there are three different ways the games turn out.
1. A regular game, where they try to aggro us out, and have counterspells for days – this is just a regular game of Magic.
2. They stick a Tempest Djinn on the board and ride towards the sunset, because it can be hard to deal with it 1-for-1.
3. They play a turn 2 Curious Obsession and start getting too far ahead on cards.

This matchup might seem pretty bad on paper; however, with a little understanding of what you can afford, like how you can spend your life total or trade for their counterspells, I actually think that we will come out on top most of the time. They apply pressure early and will have counterspells but the pressure is more often than not low-damage creatures and before we die, we will be able to double spell two turns in a row, putting pressure on their hand to have roughly 4 counterspells. In the games where they do have enough counters, they often lack the creatures to apply enough pressure, and we will be able to deploy our planeswalkers or a sandbagged mass removal spell. 

Our sideboarding plan tried to shave cards that will easily be stranded in our hand and only play high impact cards that can win us the game. Funnily enough when we take into account that we are playing against a tempo deck, a card like Niv-Mizzet, Parun is almost lights out for Mono-Blue, while it also fits the role of a way to deal with both Tempest Djinn and Jace, Cunning Castaway. I did play against an opponent that played a Deep Freeze to counter my Parun, but it just gave me a great blocker for his Merfolk Trickster.

On the draw

-2 Syncopate, -2 Chemister's Insight, -3 Sinister Sabotage, -1 Search for Azcanta

+2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun, +1 Seal Away, +1 Settle the Wreckage, +1 Cleansing Nova, +1 Expansion // Explosion, +1 Negate

On the play

-3 Chemister's Insight, -4 Sinister Sabotage, -1 Search for Azcanta

+2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun, +1 Seal Away, +1 Settle the Wreckage, +1 Cleansing Nova, +1 Expansion // Explosion, +1 Negate



Against Golgari, all sorts of things can happen depending on their plan. It will however most certainly revolve somewhat around planeswalkers, Duress and/or Carnage Tyrant.

Game 1 is often a race against the clock, where a well placed mass removal with a counterspell follow-up will give enough distance for us to grind it home. Some newer Golgari lists also cut their copies of Assassin's Trophy, which makes our own planeswalkers really hard to deal with for them.

Game 2 and 3 get a bit harder because their hand will dictate if they are aggro, control or midrange in the game. If they go the aggro route, a well-placed Duress can hit us hard. If they put a Carnage Tyrant into play after, that can seal the deal. However, the games often play out in our favor, since their deck does not have enough cards to board out. With main deck creature removal they will be a bit clunky and even though Duresswill help them understand their role in the game, if we get to 6-8 mana, we will often be able to just grind them out with card draw, mass removal and planeswalkers. 

-1 Niv-Mizzet, Parun, -2 Seal Away, -2 Essence Scatter, -1 Revitalize

+1 Settle the Wreckage, +1 Negate, +1 Disdainful Stroke, +2 Star of Extinction, +1 Cleansing Nova 

Jeskai Control

I counted on playing some mirrors in Lille since Jeskai Control (control decks in general) often is the closest to being a fan favorite in new metagames. Due to this, I really wanted to play more Niv-Mizzet, Paruns than my opponents. Most lists play 1 or 2 copies in their 75 but I wanted to be sure to draw it more often in the match, so I put in a third copy and didn't regret it – quite the contrary. The games are very typical “draw, go” control mirrors, where land drops are of the essence. Besides that you need to figure out your role in the game due to what kind of tools your hand gives you.

Depending on their build, we need to board differently – so I will divide it into two categories. 

Jeskai with Azor's Gateway

-4 Deafening Clarion, -2 Essence Scatter, -2 Seal Away

+1 Negate, +1 Expansion // Explosion, +2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun, +2 Legion Warboss, +2 Invoke the Divine 

Regular Jeskai 

-4 Deafening Clarion, -1 Essence Scatter, -1 Seal Away

+1 Negate, +1 Expansion // Explosion, +2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun, +2 Legion Warboss 

Izzet Drakes

This was the new kid on the block going into GP Lille, and to be honest it was quite scary. My last game of day 1 was the first time I played against this deck and when I went to the sideboard I had a clear plan about what I wanted to do. However, my opponent did his best to combat what I thought was right when he played a Firemind’s Research, with me having left all my copies of Invoke the Divine in the sideboard. The game was intense and long, and on a very intricate board I was lucky enough for my opponent to miss lethal, which allowed me to stabilize and turn the tables.

Their game plan revolves around playing a lot of spells, and we need to really focus on what to counter and what not to counter. The games tend to be long and decking is something that should be in the back of our mind. If we use our resources correctly, we should be able to isolate the deck down to very few win conditions. This can be hard if they setup up an explosive turn, so our first few turns are us trying to build a hand, gaining some life and countering the right spells

-4 Sinister Sabotage, -3 Deafening Clarion, -2 Essence Scatter, -1 Search for Azcanta

+2 Invoke the Divine, +2 Legion Warboss, +1 Expansion // Explosion, +1 Seal Away, +1 Negate, +1 Settle the Wreckage, +2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun 

(I am a bit unsure about the Legion Warboss here. They can be very good, but the more Shocks your opponent plays, the worse they get. It is a pretty nice way to close out the game but if you would like to go another route, I would keep 2 Sinister Sabotage at least on the draw.

Other matchups

Since the format is still evolving day by day, we are going play against a ton of matchups. I’ve tried to write down how to board against a few additional decks to give an idea about what to do if you play against a "yet to be tier 1" deck.


-4 Deafening Clarion, -2 Crackling Drake

+1 Essence Scatter, +1 Expansion // Explosion, +2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun, +1 Negate, +1 Disdainful Stroke


-1 Expansion // Explosion, -1 Negate, -2 Syncopate, -2 Crackling Drake, -1 Search for Azcanta, -1 Chemister's Insight 

+1 Cleansing Nova, +1 Essence Scatter, +2 Invoke the Divine, +1 Settle the Wreckage, +2 Star of Extinction, +1 Seal Away 


-3 Chemister's Insight, -4 Sinister Sabotage, -1 Search for Azcanta, -1 Syncopate, -1 Negate

+1 Essence Scatter, +1 Expansion // Explosion, +1 Settle the Wreckage, +1 Seal Away, +1 Cleansing Nova, +2 Legion Warboss, +2 Niv-Mizzet, Parun, +2 Invoke the Divine

Big Green

-1 Crackling Drake, -2 Sinister Sabotage, -1 Syncopate, -1 Search for Azcanta, -1 Chemister's Insight, -1 Negate

+2 Star of Extinction, +2 Legion Warboss, +1 Settle the Wreckage, +1 Cleansing Nova, +1 Essence Scatter 

The same weekend as GP Lille another Standard GP happened in New Jersey. Eli Kassis won that event with Jeskai Control. Where I had a plan for how I wanted to deal with the expected metagame, Eli had a different plan, that is truly ingenious. For that weekend, with the expected meta, I would say that this deck was the best choice, and definitely deserved to win a tournament. Going forward, I think a card like Banefire will be less of a jack in the box and rather get worse. But the cool thing about building control decks is that the tools are there to combat almost anything – the hard part is to actually do it!

With that said, I wish you all happy hunting for some sweet deck lists – this is definitely a fun and good deck that I would recommend you all to take out for a spin or two!

This article was written by Michael Bonde in a media collaboration with

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