Teferi and the Resurgence of Jeskai

Forget that other blue planeswalker, Teferi is here and ready to play, and Hans is devoting this article to Teferi and the deck lists that have utilized successfully in recent tournaments. Come find out what Hans has to say about the true hero of Modern's premier control deck!

When I looked through Dominaria's spoilers, I was one of those who pinned Karn, Scion of Urza to be the breakout star in Modern. Four-mana planeswalkers, especially those that can slot into any deck, are nothing to sneeze at, and Standard is playing out in a way that shows how powerful this new iteration of Karn is going to be for the rest of the time it is legal in standard.

But Teferi, Hero of Dominaria? I had little hopes that the card would make it big in Modern. This article, then, is one-part analysis of Teferi in Jeskai Control and one-part apology to the man himself.

Let's get right into it.

Setting the Stage

In the past couple of months, Five-Color Humans cemented itself as the premier deck of the Modern format. I've been harping about the power level of the deck since late-March, as seen in my article, "What the Four Best Decks from GP Phoenix Say about Modern", and the deck has been dubbed as the de-facto best deck by prominent players in the meantime, as well.

Meddling Mage
I cast Meddling Mage naming the only card that gets you out of this spot.

One thing that is true about Modern is its cyclical and adaptive nature. This means that the rise of deck gives rise to its predators and now, with the rise of Humans, we've seen the interactive decks in the form of Mardu Pyromancer and Jeskai Control come back to the forefront of the meta in order to combat the tide of Thalia's Lieutenants and Mantis Riders. The latter has made waves, however, with the inclusion of a certain blue planeswalker that people underestimated upon its release.

Imagine reading that sentence during Dominaria spoiler season and thinking the card in question was anyone other than the recently unbanned Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

The Hero Jace Never Was

The unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor back in February was followed by an excitement for a revitalized resurgence of the U/x dontrol archetype. The hype failed to materialize into a tier-one list that incorporated Jace, as linear decks ran roughshod over a format-in-transition trying to out-midrange each other. Decks such as Humans, Hollow One, and Bogles rose to the top partly because tapping out for Jace on turn four effectively did nothing to stop the oncoming tide of aggression and usually left you dead-on-board.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Friendship ended, Jace. Teferi is my best friend now.

Enter Teferi, Hero of Dominaria: a five-mana planeswalker that looked too slow and clunky to make waves in Modern. Although the card effectively costs three mana due to its first ability that allows its controller to untap two lands at the beginning of the next end step, five mana is a hurdle to climb, both in deck-building and in gameplay, especially in a format as fast as Modern. Fast forward to two of the biggest Modern tournaments in May, though, and we see that that requirement was a barrier that players were willing to overcome. Across Jonathan Rosum (2nd) and Jim Davis' (5th) lists from SCG Modern Open in Minneapolis and Seth Manfield's (2nd) list from GP Toronto, two copies of Teferi appear. Here are their respective lists from this past month's tournaments:

Jeskai Control by Jonathan Rosum – SCG Modern Open Minneapolis, 2nd Place

Jeskai Control by Jim Davis – SCG Modern Open Minneapolis, 5th Place

Jeskai Control by Seth Manfield – GP Toronto 2018 (Teams), 2nd Place

Whether it's Secure the Wastes or Sphinx's Revelation, all three lists take full advantage of Teferi's untapping ability. That's to say nothing of the two-mana interaction such as Negate, Lightning Helix, and Logic Knot that end up represented the turn Teferi comes down and uses his plus ability.

These are all powerful tools that are also versatile in a metagame that has begun to solidify. Players submitting reactive, interactive decks knew to gun for Humans, and Teferi does a much better job of squeezing out as much mana efficiency and card advantage out of the spot on its curve than Jace, the Mind Sculptor ever could.

Searching for Teferi's Best Friend

I'll cut straight to the chase: Search for Azcanta / Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin is an absurd card. Not only does it come down on turn two to filter, once there are seven or more cards in your graveyard, it transforms to help dig even further for card advantage and answers. This doesn't even include its most underappreciated aspect – the ramping – which is an effect that traditional blue control decks simply do not have access to.

Teferi and Seach for Azcanta go hand-in-hand on the battlefield. Teferi's plus ability allows you to untap Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin (as if you're not drawing enough cards at that point], and it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the opponent to answer Teferi. Naturally, this feat is made more difficult when the control player gets to hold up at least two-mana worth of interaction, and if the game even drags on a tiny bit, the opponent is absolutely buried in the card advantage that the two cards generate every turn.

Search for Azcanta

Blue-based control decks have continually gotten tools to become more powerful – Field of Ruin being one of the most recent – and an array of answers and haymakers will continue to push the power-level of decks such as Jeskai to be able to fight any given metagame as long as they know which archetypes to prepare for. Cards like Search for Azcanta and Teferi make finding these answers easier while presenting a game-ending engine that slot right into the control deck's game plan, and they look to be pillars of reactive decks that play their respective colors.

Going Forward

Jeskai Control is a great deck, and more importantly, it's a deck that people love playing. Despite that, a hard counter exists to the deck in the form of Tron, a deck that is ready to pounce on a metagame that slows down and becomes grindy. As the metagame continues to shape up in a direction that promotes midrange decks teched to answer the threat that is Humans, Urza lands will rear their ugly heads and return in greater numbers. Look for Tron and other big mana decks to make a big splash in the coming months.

Karn Liberated

For those sticking with Jeskai, this will mean a bigger reliance on cards such as Damping Sphere, Field of Ruin, and maybe even Crumble to Dust, if the meta calls for it. Whether a deck like Humans will regain its throne in this scuffle or a new, more powerful deck comes into existence is yet to be seen. In any case, Modern keeps on changing, and I'm looking forward to how the metagame plays out in the next big Modern tournaments.

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

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