At the time of this article’s writing, 31 cards out of 269 have been spoiled from the upcoming set Khans of Tarkir, and 20 of those are basic lands. In particular, I have my eye on two: [c]Jeskai Elder[/c] and [c]Thousand Winds[/c]; it’s not for the cards themselves but what they represent in their keyword mechanics. It’s strange; blue stuff typically doesn’t catch my eye, but here we are nonetheless.
Jeskai Elder, AKA reverse [c]Storm Entity[/c]
Prowess is an interesting mechanic. It reads “Whenever you cast a noncreature spell, this creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn). We have seen things like it before, in the earliest days of Extended with [c]Quirion Dryad[/c] Miracle-Gro, ever-present in Pauper ever since Return to Ravnica brought us [c]Nivix Cyclops[/c], and with the aforementioned [c]Storm Entity[/c]. Essentially, prowess is a storm mechanic, rewarding you for playing many spells in one turn.
Unfortunately, the rest of Jeskai Elder’s text, to draw a card and discard a card whenever you deal combat damage to a player, is counterintuitive to how we have used the Prowess-like effects before. Jeskai Elder’s Prowess effect wants to be taken advantage of in one turn, like [c]Kiln Fiend[/c] and [c]Wee Dragonauts[/c], but his triggered ability wants to go long. When we went for an incremental advantage in [c]Quirion Dryad[/c], the +1/+1 did not go away at the end of turn, so it made more sense than Elder.
So why is Prowess interesting, then? Well, two things set it apart: it works with enchantments, with green spells, and with artifacts, and we can go mono-blue with the [c]Quirion Dryad[/c], cantrip deck.
If we want to recur an enchantment, I don’t think we can get better than [c]Auratog[/c] and [c]Rancor[/c], when format limitations allow. We can bypass that until we see more cards.
[c]Quirion Dryad[/c] was never particularly hungry for green spells that weren’t [c]Berserk[/c], either. So where can we go with [c]Jeskai Elder[/c], then? Eggs, of course! Rip through your deck and attack with a big dude. Fortunately, the power boosts will replace themselves, so an all-in strike isn’t as risky as others could be.
Jeskai Elder in Legacy
Here is an early draft for Legacy.
[d title=”Jeskai Egger (Legacy)”]
4 Ancient Tomb
4 Archaeological Dig
4 Seat of the Synod
4 Etherium Sculptor
4 Jeskai Elder
4 Aether Spellbomb
4 Conjurer’s Bauble
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Chromatic Star
4 Helm of Awakening
4 Sensei’s Divining Top
4 Shadowblood Egg
4 Skycloud Egg
4 Sungrass Egg[/d]
So here we aim to play [c]Jeskai Elder[/c] as fast as possible (the cantrips will help us draw into him) and have either [c]Helm of Awakening[/c] or [c]Etherium Sculptor[/c] to draw through our deck. We can find 2 [c]Sensei’s Divining Top[/c] to go infinite, and [c]Aether Spellbomb[/c] to clear any blockers.
We have to ask ourselves: is Elder better than [c]Brain Freeze[/c]? Probably not, because we have to untap with him in play, whereas we can draw into the latter as we combo. Still, we bookmark the idea, and we move into Modern where the storm instant isn’t an option.
Jeskai Elder in Modern
[d title=”Modern Eggers (Modern)”]
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower
4 Etherium Sculptor
4 Jeskai Elder
3 Aether Spellbomb
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Chromatic Star
4 Cloud Key
3 Cloudstone Curio
3 Conjurer’s Bauble
4 Ichor Wellspring
4 Krark-Clan Ironworks
4 Mind Stone
1 Spine of Ish Shah
Once again, go big or go home. We play our eggs until we have Elder in play, we assemble [c]Cloudstone Curio[/c] and either [c]Cloud Key[/c] or [c]Etherium Sculptor[/c], and we attack for approximately 7,000,000. It’s a heartbreaking work of staggering genius.
Jeskai Elder in Standard
If this archetype is to be a thing in Standard, then it will be on the back of [c]Chief Engineer[/c]. That deck will be awkward, though, because you’re looking to cast creatures to enable Convoke, but the creatures won’t grant the power boost.
The things that makes me most excited about Prowess is that if there is an ability on the Prowess creature that goes well with Prowess – unlike [c]Jeskai Elder[/c] – making it more accessible to the all-in strategy, or a keyword plus number effect like Prowess 2 or, much less imaginable, Prowess 3. If Prowess sees play, there are three things we all will want to be holding onto:
- Phyrexian Mana Spells: [c]Dismember[/c] and [c]Gut Shot[/c] will be good for clearing blockers. [c]Mutagenic Growth[/c] and [c]Gitaxian Probe[/c] will boost the power and toughness for free, and all of this will happen for free-to-little cost.
- Alternative cost spells or untap lands spells: [c]Daze[/c] and [c]Force of Will[/c] will protect our large creature in their formats, and [c]Snap[/c] and [c]Snapback[/c] will make way for the big swing.
- Things that double power: We’ve seen [c]Assault Strobe[/c] before, but there is a slew of them, including artifacts which boost Prowess and double power such as [c]Inquisitor’s Flail[/c] and [c]Fireshrieker[/c]. Look for [c]Berserk[/c], [c]Tainted Strike[/c], and [c]Psychotic Fury[/c] to be correlative in power to Prowess.
[c]Thousand Winds[/c], as in, Modern Morph may have a chance
This card is okay. It will certainly be an early pick in limited pack one because it is a big flyer, and later on it will be less enticing. In constructed, I can’t see it shaking up anything. Still, now that I see Morph, I see potential.
There was a Pauper list that combined cards like [c]Undying Evil[/c] and [c]Otherworldly Journey[/c] with [c]Treespring Lorian[/c] and other big beaters. In Modern there are so many cards that can reset a Morph creature, but there is only one creature to take advantage of: [c]Akroma, Angel of Fury[/c]. We have seen it in Death and Taxes lists, and it has actually gone 3-1 and even 4-0 a number of times. There are even some lists that max out on the red inferior Akroma along with [c]Flickerwisp[/c] and [c]Cloudshift[/c]. If there is just one more solid morph guy that we can cheat in for four mana, I will be really happy. If there are multiples, then look out. We have [c]Venser, the Sojourner[/c], [c]Ghostly Flicker[/c], [c]Restoration Angel[/c], and many more cards for the necessary blink effect.
As it is, let’s say [c]Thousand Winds[/c] is the best we get. Is it worth cheating in a 5/6 flyer? We’ll see. Here’s my first draft. As soon as something better is spoiled, go ahead and sub him in.
[d title=”Modern Morphin Power Rangers (Modern)”]
4 Flagstones of Trokair
4 Ghost Quarter
2 Tectonic Edge
4 Akroma, Angel of Fury
4 Blade Splicer
2 Kitchen Finks
4 Restoration Angel
4 Thousand Winds
4 Path to Exile
3 Otherworldly Journey[/d]
So I’ve converted a Death and Taxes list into a strictly blink and enter the battlefield deck, as Modern Death and Taxes often has so little of the latter. We keep the bare minimum of disruption and life-gain so that we don’t throw away some of our good match-ups, and we emphasize the “Death” element of the namesake. A more all-in approach could be to play G/W with mana elves for the turn 3 swing using a big beater, but I don’t particularly see a reason for that just yet.
I hope you enjoy the couple of brews and ideas, and that you can be excited about the direction of this set with me!