Jeskai Ascendency Tokens

Here is a new take on the Jeskai Ascendency combo deck.

Jeskai Ascendancy is a great card. It enables some very powerful and explosive combo victories. However, what people often forget about the card, is that it’s also a very powerful Glorious Anthem effect. Casting a spell or two with an Jeskai Ascendancy out makes all your creatures into a huge force. Taking a page from the standard, not-combo version of the deck, it’s a perfect card in token decks.

One of the most powerful things you can do in Magic is threaten your opponent from two angles simultaneously. Forcing your opponent to make difficult choices is absurdly powerful. Tarmo-Twin is the best example of this, where the tempo game attacks from one angle, while fear of the combo makes your opponent’s responses suboptimal. Leaving up mana each turn is a recipe to lose against a tempo deck, but it’s essential to fight off the twin combo.

By combining a token deck with Jeskai Ascendancy combo, the deck threatens to attack on multiple levels. The tokens threaten to win with combat damage, while the deck can threaten to combo with just a few tokens out. The deck switches between a big mana deck that wins with big X spells, a fast combo deck that wins with the classic Jeskai Ascendancy combo, and a slow token deck that wins with Gavony Township and Lingering Souls value. Clearing the tokens is essential to prevent them from comboing with an enchantment, but it’s also a recipe for loss against a deck thats capable of grinding with relatively few dead top decks.

Here is the deck list.

Enchantments (8)
Jeskai Ascendancy
Cryptolith Rite

Creatures (4)
Birds of Paradise

Instants and Sorceries (25)
Lingering Souls
Raise the Alarm
Secure the Wastes
Timely Reinforcements
Serum Visions
Sleight of Hand
Anticipate
Sprout Swarm
Path to Exile
Lands (23)
Flooded Strand
Misty Rainforest
Windswept Heath
Breeding Pool
Hallowed Fountain
Steam Vents
Stomping Ground
Temple Garden
Watery Grave
Island
Plains
Gavony Township

This deck looks a bit like a pile of junk, I’ll be the first to admit that. However, it’s strength comes from it’s ability to play on multiple levels, and the difficult decisions it forces your opponent to make.

The original Ascendancy decks were pretty cold if you removed all their mana-dorks. That deck was faster than this one, averaging maybe turn 3 with good draws, while this deck typically doesn’t combo off until turn 4, but it trades some speed for some great resilience.

It combo in multiple ways. The obvious way is Cryptolith Rite with a Jeskai Ascendancy and several tokens in play. Each spell you cast nets a number of mana equal to the number of tokens (without summoning sickness) you have, and with some flashback spells in the deck plus the loots from the Jeskai Ascendancy, you aren’t likely to fizzle once both cards have been assembled. Even if you do fizzle, building an army of huge attackers, and leaving behinding a lasting board advantage full of tokens is still pretty powerful.

Alternatively, Jeskai Ascendancy with Sprout Swarm goes infinite. It only takes three mana to go infinite if you have three creatures.

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When the deck isn’t trying to win with an infinite combo, it’s probably trying to abuse Cryptolith Rite to get an overwhelming board advantage. Casting Secure the Wastes for 15 isn’t abnormal in this deck. Using Rites to cast three or four spells a turn isn’t abnormal either. The mana advantage is insane.

But even when it isn’t abusing one of the enchantments, the deck still casts token makers, which are still difficult for most modern decks to efficiently trade with. With Abrupt Decay on the downturn, clean answers to your enchantments are few. Clean answers to the tokens are even fewer. This deck grinds so successfully because it’s playing a different game than the game modern decks bring four Terminate to deal with.

This deck isn’t without fault though. The individual cards aren’t the strongest, and against other combo decks preboard, it just wants to race. When it doesn’t draw either enchantment, it feels like the world’s clunkiest tokens deck. The preboard plan against faster decks like infect is to chump block with an early Lingering Souls until you combo.

The mana isn’t as bad as it looks. When every token you have in play is capable of tapping for any color of mana, your mana gets quite good, especially if your Birds of Paradise survives. Despite the single black mana source (one Watery Grave), most of the time, you’ll be flashing back Lingering Souls with creature mana.

Anticipate might seem like an odd choice, but the deck really wants to dig to find certain spells, especially once it begins to combo. The deck with and without Jeskai Ascendancy is a sizeable difference in power, so playing many cards to dig to it makes sense. I used to have Desperate Ravings in this slot, but Anticipate does a lot more to hold the deck together, whereas Desperate Ravings is a card that you only want to cast once your hand is bad. However, it is a lot more powerful once you have Crytpolith Rite out, and you need an outlet for all your mana. Alternatively, I have tried out Gifts Ungiven in this slot, as a value card with a number of silver bullets (Increasing Devotion, Sprout Swarm, Intangible Virtue, and a few planeswalkers), but it didn’t seem like what the deck wanted to do in it’s current form.
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Frankly, the number of options available to this deck are so wide, that I’m confident that I haven’t made the best version of this deck yet. Perhaps it needs to be even more focused on comboing, but I think it most likely wants to focus on being a better token deck that happens to have a combo. I’m not sure if that means something like Intangible Virtue fits in this shell, or if it needs to go all in on finding Jeskai Ascendancy with Glittering Wish.

Is Hordeling Outburst good enough to warrant the double red in a 5-color deck? Is Cryptolith Rite good enough in a deck with few creatures that I can focus on comboing with Snapcaster Mage or other modern staples instead of tokens? Another card I haven’t tested is Ancestral Vision, which might be stronger than the other cantrips, especially if Birds of Paradise is cut. The deck can loot it away when it’s bad, though I imagine it will be bad a lot of the time since this isn’t a grindy deck.

I haven’t made a sideboard for the deck, since I’m not sure how it should be built. Generally, I’d assume it would be best to put in a lot of reactive cards for faster matchups.

Taking out Birds of Paradise against slower decks, and bring in planeswalkers that synergize with tokens, like Ajani Goldmane, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar or Nissa, Voice of Zendikar would be my first plan.

Untested Sideboard (15)
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
Path to Exile
Lightning Bolt
Timely Reinforcements
Negate
Dispel
Sprout Swarm
Engineered Explosives

This deck does a lot of very powerful things, and it’s a blast to play. The things the deck does are so profoundly fun when it’s working, and it never feels far from winning most games.