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Budget Magic: $93 (28 tix) Modern Jeskai Flying Men


བཀྲ་ཤིས་བདེ་ལེགས། , Budget Magic lovers! It's that time once again. This week, we'll be heading to Modern to play a deck I've been having a ton of fun with this week: Jeskai Flying Men! The deck itself is pretty much flying tribal, and overloading a deck with fliers takes advantage of the fact that the Modern format really isn't prepared for evasive creatures, but if you haven't been playing Magic for a long time, you might be wondering where the name comes from.

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Way back in Arabian Nights, Wizards printed a 1/1 blue flier for one blue mana and called the card Flying Men. While our deck doesn't play any literal flying men, we do have eight one-drop 1/1 fliers that allow us to start the evasive beat down early in the game. As such, it felt fitting to name the deck after the original. Plus, we're also playing Mantis Rider, which is a literal flying man!

We'll talk more about Jeskai Flying Men after the videos, but first a quick reminder: if you enjoy the Budget Magic series and the other video content on MTGGoldfish, make sure to subscribe to the MTGGoldfish YouTube Channel to keep up on all of the latest and greatest.

Jeskai Flying Men: Deck Tech

Jeskai Flying Men vs. Tron

Jeskai Flying Men vs. Thing Ascension

Jeskai Flying Men vs. WB Humans

Jeskai Flying Men vs. Titan Shift

Jeskai Flying Men vs. Enduring Ideal

The Deck

The idea of Jeskai Flying Men is pretty simple. Most importantly, many of the decks in Modern are fighting exclusively on the ground, so they have a really hard time dealing with a deck that is overloaded with aggressive fliers. Even better, many of our fliers are naturally disruptive, allowing us to counter a spell or, at the very least, make our opponent play off curve. So, the plan is to present a fast, evasive clock, back it up by just a bit of disruption, and kill our opponent before they have a chance to take over the game with cards that are more powerful in a vacuum. 

The Flying Men

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Judge's Familiar and Mausoleum Wanderer are essentially the same card in the deck (the only real difference is that we can occasionally turn Mausoleum Wanderer into a Spell Pierce thanks to Favorable Winds), so we might as well talk about them together. These cards are the backbone of our deck and are surprisingly good in Modern. First, they present an evasive clock, starting on the very first turn of the game. Second, many decks in Modern are looking to win with spells in one way or another. Tron is using Sylvan Scrying to find the lands it needs to power out Karn Liberated, Burn is throwing Lightning Bolts at our face, Dredge needs Cathartic Reunion and Faithless Looting, Infect and Death's Shadow are trying to fire off pump spells, and so on. Having a bunch of Judge's Familiars and Mausoleum Wanderers helps keep these decks in check. Of course, since they are only Force Spikes, they don't lock our opponent out of the game forever, but they often force our opponent to play off curve, which is usually all we need to buy us enough time to close out the game with our other threats. 

Tarmogoyf 

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Pride of the Clouds is basically the Tarmogoyf of our deck—a two-drop that can get so huge that it dominates the game in short order. Our best draws often involve one or more copies, and when we have curves like Judge's Familiar on Turn 1 into Pride of the Clouds on Turn 2 into another Pride of the Clouds and Judge's Familiar on Turn 3, it's very possible that we can just win the game on Turn 4 with a completely evasive clock (and even some amount of protection, thanks to Judge's Familiar). 

The reason Pride of the Clouds is so good in our deck is that it's not only one of our best cards when things are going well (like the example above), but it's also one of our best cards when things go poorly, thanks to its forecast ability. If we are flooding out, we can simply hold our Pride of the Clouds in hand and use it like the world's most expensive Bitterblossom, making a 1/1 flier each upkeep (for four mana). While this probably doesn't sound all that exciting, it offers a weird form of card advantage and can keep us in the game while we are waiting to draw more powerful threats or removal to deal with our opponent's board. 

Mana Leak

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As I was building this deck, I initially had literal Mana Leak in this slot; then, I realized how crazy it was that we were playing a flying tribal deck and weren't running a Mana Leak that comes attached to a flying body. After playing a bunch of matches with this deck, I'm super happy we added in Spell Queller because it is one of the most powerful cards in our deck. While Spell Queller is at its best when it's countering one of our opponent's plays, it's also perfect find as a 2/3 flying beater that we can cast on our opponent's end step. 

The Finishers

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Just like we have eight Flying Men, we also have eight Lightning Angels to finish the game. Since they have haste, they work almost like Lava Spikes to our opponent's face, but since they have vigilance, they are Lava Spikes that are also back on defense and then can attack again the next turn. Most importantly, these cards give our deck a way to close out the game super quickly—just look at a typical curve for our deck.

On Turn 1, we play one of our Flying Men. On Turn 2, we play a Pride of the Clouds and attack for one, putting our opponent to 19. On Turn 3, we play a Mantis Rider and attack for seven, putting our opponent to 12. Finally, on Turn 4, we play a Lightning Angel and attack for 11, putting our opponent all the way down to one life, which means that if our opponent cracked a single fetch over the first four turns of the game (which is pretty likely in most matchups), they are dead, and even if they are not playing fetch lands, we should be able to finish them off the following turn, if not with our creatures, then with a spell. 

While having a consistent Turn 4 kill doesn't make us one of the fastest decks in Modern, being able to consistently kill on Turn 4 means that we can keep pace with most of the fastest decks in Modern. We are also more disruptive than many of the faster decks, since our Flying Men can buy us an extra turn or two thanks to their ability to counter a spell and thanks to the handful of tempo spells we have in our deck.

The other amazing thing about Mantis Rider and Lightning Angel is that the damage they offer is usually unexpected. If you think about a typical game of Magic, most of the time you are making your decisions based on what your opponent has on the battlefield (this includes things like when and how you use removal spells along with which creatures you attack with and which you leave back to block). Hasty, evasive threats like Mantis Rider and Lightning Angel throw off these calculations and allow us to kill our opponent out of the blue when they think they are safe.

Anthem

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Favorable Winds is amazing in our deck, considering that every single creature we have has flying. On level one, it makes all of our Flying Men into 2/2s, which speeds up our clock significantly (this is also the easiest way we can turn Mausoleum Wanderer into a Spell Pierce). However, Favorable Winds does so much more in our deck. One of the weaknesses of Spell Queller and Mantis Rider in Modern is that they die to Lightning Bolt (currently the #1 most played card in all of Modern), which means that many of our opponents will have a one-mana answer to our three-mana creatures. When we play a Favorable Winds on Turn 2, our Spell Quellers and Mantis Riders go up to four toughness, allowing them to dodge Lightning Bolt. Finally, if we replace Pride of the Clouds with Favorable Winds, our clock is nearly as fast (we attack for two on Turn 2, six on Turn 3, and 10 on Turn 4, putting our opponent all the way down to two life). 

Spells

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We've talked a couple of times about how our deck is really good at getting our opponent down to one or two life on Turn 4, and thankfully we have some spells that can finish off our opponent, even if our opponent finds a way to deal with our creatures. Lightning Bolt typically kills a creature in the early game and goes to our opponent's face in the late game. Electrolyze is basically a backup Lightning Bolt. Meanwhile, Vapor Snag disrupts out opponent just a little bit while also making our opponent lose a life. Apart from eating away our opponent's last life points, these cards also deal with any flying blockers our opponent might present to allow us to keep attacking with our evasive threats. 

Getting Jeskai Flying Men down into the ultra-budget price range requires two things. First, we need to lose Spell Queller, which admittedly is one of the best cards in the deck. However, we get Skyknight Legionnaire as a replacement, which is a sort of mini-Mantis Rider. This makes our deck more aggressive, with another hasty, evasive threat, but we lose one of our best ways of disrupting our opponent. Second, we need to downgrade our mana base even more, which is scary because the mana was already one of the weakest parts of the deck we played in the videos. In the ultra-budget build, we have a ton of enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands, which is particularly problematic for a deck like ours that really wants to curve out. My advice would be to patch the mana together the best you can. If you have fast lands, shock lands, pain lands, or any other dual that comes into play untapped, stick them in the deck over the comes-into-play-tapped duals, and the deck will function much better. 

As for the non-budget version of Jeskai Flying Men, I'm actually really happy with the nonland cards in the main deck, so the only change there is dropping the Electrolyze for a copy of Snapcaster Mage. By far the biggest improvement is the mana, where we get the typical fetch land, shock land, and basic mana base. If you don't have Scalding Tarn or even any fetch lands as all, the more pain lands you can cut for fast lands or shock lands, the better the deck will be. Otherwise, we touch up the sideboard by adding in powerful white cards like Stony Silence, Rest in Peace, and Leyline of Sanctity, along with a copy of Keranos, God of Storms

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. We went 4-1 in our recorded matches, and so far, I'm 5-1 with the deck overall, picking up an additional win against our budget Mono-Blue Faeries list. All in all, the deck feels really competitive. The creatures are powerful, the deck is naturally disruptive, and the clock is fast; plus, it's really fun to play! Give it a shot—I don't think you'll be disappointed. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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