Jeskai Fires in Post-Oko Standard
- Rodrigo Martin
Standard was all about Food decks before the ban of Oko, but one underdog deck was already waiting for its moment to take over. Finally, the time has come for Jeskai Fires of Invention to shine. Join Rone and the Cavaliers and have all your dreams and wishes come true!
Disclaimer: At the time I am writing these lines, it is unclear which card or cards will be banned from Standard on November 18. I am writing this assuming that Oko, Thief of Crowns is banned, along with another key card from the green-blue Food archetype. Since Wizards still want to sell packs of Eldraine, my bet is on Nissa, Who Shakes the World, as she is a rare card and can easily be replaced with another top-end planeswalker. Veil of Summer could also be in the conversation …
That said, in a foreseeable world where Food is not all over the place, it's time for other strategies to step up and shine. This article is all about Fires of Invention—the card as well as the Jeskai decks that make the best use of it.
How to Play with Fire and Don't Get Burned
What's one of the most broken things you can do in Magic? Draw extra cards, you might say. You are right, but after that what's the second thing you consider almost tantamount to cheating? Turning stuff into Elks …?
Enough about Elks already! What I mean is free spells and that's the main reason why Fires of Invention is a busted card. Once in play, you don't need to tap your lands for mana ever again; rather, you look for the most busted spells to cast for free. In a way, this enchantment reminds me a bit of Wilderness Reclamation, a card that also costs 4 mana and basically doubles the mana you have available.
Once Fires of Invention has successfully resolved, you are restricted to casting two spells per turn and only during yours, which means it has to be worth the investment. The best way to ensure as much is to either play planeswalkers as they generate incremental advantage over multiple turns, or to steal the game with powerful expensive spells.
Fires of Invention Cheat Sheet
- Step 1: Get to 4 mana and find Fires.
- Step 2: Deploy planeswalkers to gain card/board advantage.
- Step 3: If not, tutor for game-winning cards or mana sinks.
- Step 4: Win the game.
|Grzegorz Kowalski's Jeskai Fires, Mythic Championship VI|
Grzegorz Kowalski was one of the few pro players that submitted a Jeskai Fires list for the MC, and he also finished with a respectable record: a 7-2 score in a field full of Food decks is quite outstanding, considering how hard is to beat a turn two Oko on the draw. The list uses a mix of cards to take advantage of Fires: blue and red Cavaliers from Core Set 2020 on one side and also Fae of Wishes // Granted to tutor up sweet silver bullets from the sideboard. Let's carefully dissect the creature selection:
Cavalier of Flame/Cavalier of Gales: These two Elemental Knights form the main payoffs once Fires of Invention is on. Since we have all lands untapped and ready to use, casting a free red Cavalier allows us to pump it and the rest of our creatures for a hasty surprise attack that sometimes seals the deal on the spot. It's also worth mentioning that both of their enter-the-battlefield triggers synergize incredibly well: we can slam Cavalier of Gales first to get a Brainstorm effect, leave the desired cards on top, and subsequently, when Cavalier of Flames hits the table, discard the useless ones based on perfect information. Sadly, the Cavaliers are quite unexciting without Fires, but at least both dig for the enchantment, so that sooner or later we can still assemble the deadly combination.
Bonecrusher Giant // Stomp: Kowalski chose not to play this card, maybe because both parts were pretty weak against the expected metagame. Even shocking Gilded Goose on the play is not a great tempo move, while Wicked Wolf or Questing Beast easily outclass the creature part. Though the Giant would be sweet if we took Realm-Cloaked Giant // Cast Off on an Adventure.
Kenrith, the Returned King: This legendary Human is great when combined with Fires, both because of the body and the relevant skill set. The red ability is as cheap as 1 mana, enables surprising attacks, and disables chump blocks, as it also grants trample. The white ability has proven to be the one that annoys aggro opponents the most. Finally, the blue ability comes in handy when you're empty-handed and looking for more action, or in the event of a spot removal targeting Kenrith. Then we replace Kenrith with a new card and wait for another payoff to come.
Last but not least, we have Fae of Wishes // Granted, which deserves and will receive its own section later in the article.
Keep the Fire Going
Now that we know how to win, it's time to review the support cards. Their role is to dig for the key pieces or keep the battlefield empty of threats until we set up our path to victory.
Deafening Clarion/Time Wipe: our premium sweepers buy us time to find and deploy Fires; they both have some upsides aside from the plain aspect of getting rid of opposing creatures. Clarion is superb against aggressive strategies like Black-Green Adventures or Black-Red Sacrifice, and it can even be useful in the green matchup to invalidate the mana ramp of Paradise Druid and Goose. Moreover, the second clause comes in handy when we're close to death and can gain some life back with our hasty Cavaliers. Time Wipe is a proper Wrath of God effect that hits almost every creature in the format except for a well-fed Wicked Wolf. Being able to Unsummon one of our creatures in the process generates some extra advantage when bringing back Fae of Wishes or any of our Cavaliers. This makes Time Wipe preferable to Realm-Cloaked Giant // Cast Off here, and the same is true for the planeswalker-heavy version where Narset, Parter of Veils can find the sorcery but not the Adventure.
Prison Realm: This is our primary way to shut down big fat creatures like Questing Beast and specifically troublesome walkers. It's important to note that the enchantment isn't necessarily a permanent answer like Murderous Rider // Swift End would be, since cards such as Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft or Vraska, Golgari Queen can still bounce it or destroy it.
Teferi, Time Raveler: Another pushed 3 mana walker that has been getting less attention lately due to Oko. Little Teferi's role in this deck is threefold: slow down opposing threats by bouncing them, shut down interference, and sometimes you can perform a mana-boost trick by playing him as your second spell under Fires of Invention, then target the enchantment to lift the two-spell restriction and play a couple more with all your untapped lands.
Drawn from Dreams: Dig Through Time for 4 mana searches for whatever pieces you are missing. If you don't have Fires of Invention yet, this will find it, and if you do, playing the red enchantment and this makes for just about the most broken turn-four sequence possible.
Castle Vantress: This card is part of a mana base that we can easily summarize as 12 shock lands, a bunch of scry lands, and some basics. Fabled Passage will sometimes shuffle useless cards away following Cavalier of Gales, but the blue Castle is by far the best land once Fires is in play. We can sink all the mana we no longer need for spells into it, and it allows us to dig for our next play without using up any of our precious spell allowance.
Gathering Friends Around the Fire
Now that we have detailed the Cavalier shell, let's move on to my favorite variant. It is less popular these days. However, it's so much fun to play since it revolves around all the sweet planeswalkers from War of the Spark.
|Dmitriy Butakov's Jeskai Fires, Mythic Championship VI|
Another well-known pro player, Magic Online grinder Dmitriy Butakov, also trusted on Jeskai Fires for the Mythic Championship. His version, in contrast, relied heavily on planeswalkers to control and win the game. The deck's roots lie in pre-rotation Standard with War of the Spark. One walker-centric card from that expansion in particular remains critical: Interplanar Beacon fixes the mana for our friends and gives us some extra life for each of them, whether we use the Beacon or the Fires to cast them.
The basic premise here is to set up turn-four Fires, searching for it with Narset, Parter of Veils if necessary. Then we deploy a couple of walkers and effectively negate the two-spell restriction, as they repeatedly create value over the course of multiple turns. It's almost as if they're casting their own spells—just as their flavor dictates.
The list of walkers includes the best of the Jeskai colors. On turn three, we have Teferi and Narset. Both are all-stars even in bigger formats like Modern and Legacy, although these days they have to deal with a scary predator in the shape of Questing Beast. Narset, Parter of Veils is a phenomenal tool when facing cantrip effects like Growth Spiral or the 2 mana artifacts from Esper Stax, and ultimately cuts off Hydroid Krasis's drawing ability, while her −2 digs for either Fires of Invention or another key piece such as Sarkhan the Masterless.
Speaking of the devil, Sarkhan is our primary way to win the game. When he first joins his fellow planeswalkers, he usually summons a Dragon to protect everyone, and then he transforms his friends into real superfriends to finish off the game in a couple of swings. I encourage you to save him until the coast is relatively clear, because there are not many straight-up ways to close up the game. Aside from Sarkhan, Chandra, Awakened Inferno is the other main one. There are normally one or two slots for 6 mana planeswalkers at the top end of the curve, and it's either Ugin, the Ineffable or Chandra. They both have their advantages, but I would rather stick with the fiery red walker in this context.
All in all, the deck runs between twelve and up to thirteen planeswalkers, though there's still room for potential newcomers from Theros: Beyond Death. I hear Elspeth will be making an appearance again after her long absence.
A Sideboard Full of Wishes
Fae of Wishes // Granted constitutes an alternative route to victory along with a selection of silver bullets in the sideboard. This imposes some limitations on deck design. On the plus side, you get access to the most busted noncreature cards that you will be able to cast, regardless color, thanks to Fires of Invention. But as a result the sideboard options one can bring in between games are down to as few as two or three cards. Here's a short list of tools your toolbox should definitely include:
Casualties of War: This multi-target removal spell can hit almost everything and it's one of the more common choices to get ahead on a problematic board state, for example when you need to deal with both a planeswalker and a creature. It easily becomes a three-for-one then, as you always Stone Rain one of the opponent's lands.
Command the Dreadhorde: Dreadhorde is ideal for grindy matchups where you trade your resources back and forth but don't lose life. When your opponent is out of answers, you can bring your whole superfriends army back to life.
Enter the God-Eternals: A creature spot removal plus life gain for aggro matchups.
Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God/Planewide Celebration: There are a ton of planeswalkers you can add to your sideboard. Many lists have a fourth copy of Sarkhan or another Chandra, and Tamiyo, Collector of Tales works wonders against discard and sacrifice effects, which may become more relevant now. But the ultimate villain of recent Magic history should always make the cut. With Bolas, you don't need the combat phase to win anymore. You just wish for him, get rid of your opponent's legendary permanents, and a few turns later you recast Granted, search for Planewide Celebration, proliferate, and activate Bolas's ultimate which ends the game on the spot.
There are other options that may come in and out depending on the expected metagame: The Elderspell to fight the mirror match, Unmoored Ego against combo decks, or utility planeswalkers such as Ashiok, Dream Render which was a must-have back when Field of the Dead was available in Standard. The list goes on and one.
Let me know in the comments if there's a silver bullet you play that I missed. If you want to reach me outside Cardmarket, hit me up on my shared Twitter account.
Until next time
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.