Grinding to the Top: A Guide to Modern's Jeskai Breach Combo

Formerly on the fringes, Jeskai Breach has risen to prominence in recent months thanks to multiple top players putting up top results. Let's look at the deck in detail: How does the combo work? What is plan B when it doesn't work? How about plan C and D? And how do you sideboard in Modern's most common matchups?

breach - station

Grinding Station has seen play alongside Underworld Breach for many months now. But at first people thought of it as tier three, silly stuff. After all, why would you play a deck that is so susceptible to graveyard hate, artifact hate, and enchantment hate when you could play Murktide Regent?

Then Corey Baumeister, Jesse Robkin, and Ross Merriam adopted the deck as their main weapon of choice and basically couldn't lose even if their life depended on it. This put more eyes on the deck, including my own. I have been running it for quite some time now and have to say that I truly think it's the most fun deck I have played in a long time and also one of the strongest ever.

The Combo

There are almost too many permutations and paths that lead to victory. I still want to explain the basic premise of the combo.

But rather than starting with the necessary ingredients, I want to begin at the end goal and go backward from there. This should give you a better idea of what you want to achieve. The how changes, but the outcome does not.

What we aim for is to cast Thassa's Oracle with an empty library and win on the spot, thanks to Oracle's trigger. In order to get to an empty library we utilize Grinding Station, which taps to mill at the cost of an artifact. Station also has this trigger that untaps it whenever an artifact enters the battlefield. So if we keep playing artifacts, we get to keep feeding the Station. This is where the namesake Underworld Breach comes into play. It allows us to escape any card from the grave, and at this point it might become unsurprising that we're trying to replay some artifacts. We need to do this with a zero-drop so that escaping doesn't cost any mana. Coincidentally, escaping requires three cards and Station mills three. In practice, then, we can play Mox Amber or Mishra's Bauble, sacrifice it to Station, mill three, escape this Mox/Bauble, untap Station, and the loops continues. At the very end of the chain, we replay Oracle from the grave.

emry

There are some more details I need to outline. You have to pay attention to the card count in the graveyard as you will need three more cards at the end to escape Oracle. On top of that, you need double blue for Oracle. You can either have the mana available already or have Mox Amber generate it with Emry, Lurker of the Loch in play. If you want to win from an empty board, you need at least five mana: two for Breach, two for Station, and one for Emry to tap Mox for blue so you can pay for Oracle.

It is important to note that Emry mills four when entering the battlefield, so escape-wise it actually nets you a card. This can be relevant when you are short on cards in the grave. There are some lines that involve you looping two Emry to mill the library manually. Sometimes, when you don't have Station, you can play a few Emry to mill toward Station. Other times you have to kill your own Emry with a removal spell just to be able to escape it and mill another four.

As you can see, plenty of roads lead to Rome. You will truly absorb them only by practicing them in real-life scenarios.

Plan A, B, C …

saga

In spite of all of the above, a good chunk of this deck's wins come down to its grinding (pun intended) capabilities. It can absolutely play—and win—fair games, in particular when an opponent invests a bunch of resources to stop the combo.

While some say that this deck's weakness is that everything is good against it, I would say this is its strength. Yes, removal, graveyard hate, enchantment hate, countermagic, and any kind of interaction is applicable. However, the way I like to look at it is that it is the Breach player's decision which path they take each game. You see Leyline of the Void? You can lean on Saga, Ragavan, and Ledger a bit more, thus rendering Leyline useless. An opponent may happily hold up Wear // Tear, but it won't do anything in the face of Ragavan, Mentor, Emry looping Baubles, and Teferi, Time Raveler.

Sideboard Guide

To preface this section: I really like the approach of siding out the whole or most of the combo post-board to blank the opposing hate and pivot more to playing fair. This approach has proven itself not only for me but also for Tadej Kadunc, the player whose list I put at the beginning of the article.

Sideboarding Versus Izzet Murktide
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I hate being held hostage by a single Tormod's Crypt or Unlicensed Hearse. On top of that, we will trade a ton of resources throughout the game. Therefore, I cut cards that both are graveyard-reliant and are awful top decks. I want to win as Jeskai Mentor essentially, leaning on interaction and diverse threats. Urza's Saga finding Aether Spellbomb will come up often.

Sideboarding Versus Rakdos Scam
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Another matchup where I want to play a full-value game. Against multiple Grief, Dauthi Voidwalker, and even more hate post-board I wouldn't dare try to combo off. Usually Underworld Breach replaying a few Mishra's Bauble is good enough to recoup all the advantage they have gained with their early Grief.

I. Hate. Eidolon. You always need to warp the way you play around a potential Eidolon of the Great Revel. Roiling Vortex will also be pretty tricky when you want to combo off. If you see Roiling Vortex, side in another Wear // Tear. The main plan is to ride Shadowspear on a Construct to victory.

Sideboarding Versus Creativity
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Looping Engineered Explosives is of course excellent against them. A well-timed Spell Pierce can also turn the game around. Between our and their interaction, these games will take some time.

Sideboarding Versus Rhinos
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Rhinos are more interactive than your typical cascade deck, but their payoff is much less scary. We can play a fair value game easily and have our Construct tokens outgrow Rhinos. Shadowspear is good at stabilizing. Ledger Shredder will play a key role as just two connives bring it to 5 toughness, hence capable of blocking Rhinos. Keep in mind that they run multiple free spells such as Force of Negation, Force of Vigor, and Endurance that are all solid against us.

We turn into a combo control deck here. We want to interact and still be able to have a kill out of nowhere. Sanctifier en-Vec is solid as it dodges damage removal and carries Colossus Hammer very well. I really like Teferi, Time Raveler in game one as he gets rid of a creature regardless of size. If you see multiple Sanctifiers, you may want to keep Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer on the bench regardless of play or draw.

It is very tempting to keep Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer on the play, but I think ultimately I am against it. Pithing Needle almost always names Yawgmoth, Thran Physician but may also name Grist, the Hunger Tide. Shadowspear's main usage is to allow Constructs to break through in combat as otherwise combat is quite tough in the face of all the undying creatures. Monastery Mentor is a way to both block and go wider than them, building up to one alpha strike.

I hope you have found this guide useful. The deck is great at playing a linear game, being interactive, but also employing varied approaches depending on the matchup. I cannot recommend it enough!

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, not of Cardmarket.



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