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Vintage 101: The Jeskai Experience


Howdy folks! It's time yet again for another edition of Vintage 101! I'm your host, Joe Dyer, and this week we're going to be talking about Jeskai Xerox in Vintage, continuing our series from last week where we're talk deeper about card interactions and things in the format that might not be apparent to playing the format. In addition, we'll be talking about last week's Vintage Challenge, in addition to our Spice Corner.

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

Deep Dive - Jeskai Xerox

One of the more popular decks of the format overall, Jeskai Xerox has long been one of the major stalwarts of the Vintage format. This is one of the most commonly associated decks with the format at this point since it utilizes a high number of restricted and powerful cards. Before we get started I especially want to thank the folks of the Vintage Streamers Discord for chiming in on some questions and comments about this deck. It was most enlightening!

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The play patterns of this deck can be difficult to understand at first, as is generally the case with most decks that play a lot of cantrips and whatnot. Generally speaking this also often makes evaluating opening hands a little more difficult since Xerox is one of the fairest decks in the format overall. However, that does not mean that it can't do things in a very Vintage way.

For example, it's pretty easy to spot an opening hand that has the ability to cast Turn 1 Monastery Mentor off Black Lotus and then roll with whatever needs to happen there, but what if the hand is a lot more subtle than that? Let's take a look at few sample hands.

Sample Hands

ON THE PLAY

This hand is actually pretty simple, mainly because of the presence of Gitaxian Probe. Probe can swing the balance way over just in the first turn because it can help determine what exactly your next line is. From there you can decide if your line is to cantrip with Preordain depending on what you drew with Probe, or hold Preordain up for Force of Negation. Wasteland is good incidental if the opponent is on something like Dredge, and Swords to Plowshares is great removal vs a lot of decks.

ON THE DRAW

This hand is a little more complex, but it does have mana and it does have Force of Will x2. Depending on what you are playing against this could be necessary to have to make it through the early turns. If you do know what you're playing against and you're playing against another fair Xerox type build, this could be considered a mulligan, but it does have a lot of promise regardless.

ON THE DRAW

This hand is frankly intriguing but ultimately really depends on what is drawn for turn. Without any free interaction to protect Arcanist right off the bat, it becomes pretty awkward to play this out and therefore should probably be mulligan'ed on the draw. If this were on the play it could be interesting but there's nothing to work with Arcanist right off the bat, so it is still needing for you to draw something off the top of your library to cast with it.

This is but a fraction of how hands can be evaluated with this deck, and I'm certainly not always correct in my assertions. If you find I may be incorrect, please feel free to let me know!

Other Play Patterns

One of the other things to consider when playing this deck is mainly about sequencing and when to cast certain spells. Ancestral Recall is a powerful spell for sure, but when to cast it can be hard for newer players. A common play to possibly get the opponent to counter Ancestral is during the opponent's draw step early in the game if you are on the play. This can either give you additional cards during their turn for handling what else might happen during the turn or if the opponent counters it may put them down on at least 1-2 cards since they would need to spend at least a restricted copy of Mental Misstep or Force of Will to handle it.

In addition, as the deck does utilize many of the blue suite of cantrips, a general reminder that ones like Ponder and Brainstorm are restricted and are going to be a lot higher impact than Preordain is on average. Many of the normal cantrip usage lessons from Legacy apply here however, utilizing Brainstorm with fetch lands, etc. In regards to Vintage, you can generally get by with one threat at a time and can be aggressive with putting back extra threats if need be. For example, if playing a build with Young Pyromancer, you can put back additional copies of the card with cantrips like Brainstorm and shuffle them away in favor of more interaction.

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Knowing your countermagic setup can also be very important. Cards like Pyroblast are a hard premium in Vintage, because they rarely ever go dead in any blue based matchup. The only time it does is generally during the Workshops matchups. However, cards like Spell Pierce and Daze can often be deader than dead late game, so it's important to know when to cast these cards. If you're setting up for a tempo for the early game, it is better to try to spend these first when they have the greatest possibility of resolving, since the longer the game goes on the less effective they will be.

There can often be scenarios that may seem counterintuitive for play. One of these that came up in my discussions over this article was playing a card like Dack Fayden when you have no cards in hand. While in some ways this might seem highly unintuitive to target yourself with Dack in this scenario, it can be used to push through the deck and also fill the graveyard up for a potential Delve spell or the usage of Mystic Sanctuary with a fetch land to put an important card back on top of the library.

Mystic Sanctuary in general can provide for some truly abusive situations with cards like Time Walk and Gush, but it is important to note that Sanctuary only enters untapped if you have three other Islands, and this can sometimes come up for newer players if they Gush and only end up with two Islands in play.

Furthermore, playing Xerox is often a game of decisions and determining which decision outcome really matters. While there can be a whole book written about certain cards in the deck, like Gush for example, the long and short is you sometimes have to decide when to make a decision that looks negative in your favor. It might be tempting to fire off a Gush in response to a Wasteland, but if you have no good follow up plays with it, you might be double Wasteland'ing yourself anyways by casting it. In these instances, it makes sense to just allow the Wasteland/Strip Mine effect to happen and be patient.

As with any cantrip/tempo/control shell however, the biggest determination is figuring out what your opponent's game plan is, what possible alternative game plans there could be, and what their best SB plan entails. This can quickly give you good information on how best to adjust your own game plan. If that game ends up being a Xerox mirror, then you find yourself in a true game of resource management. The match is all about trading and gaining resources throughout the game, and identifying which resources are important and which are not. It is also a match of pure patience, as you can make plays that in a vacuum might seem pretty strong, but might end up losing you the game as early as Turn 1. For example, going Land + Black Lotus into Dack Fayden could likely seem strong, except you are essentially wasting a potential resource if you're unable to utilize the extra floating mana. Even if you can utilize it, +'ing Dack in that situation might end up being problematic, especially if that Dack ends up getting Pyroblast'ed. The general rule of thumb here is that if your opponent is discarding to hand size, this is a good thing. These matches can never be fully explained, but are worth going to find streamers and video content that play these kinds of decks and watch those matchups. They really will help you better understand the deck.

Community Vintage Update

It's safe to say that there are no big events or even really any small events going on right now with the advent of COVID-19. Unfortunately it's going to be some time before things get back a semblance of normalcy for these kinds of things. As always, we'll continue to look out for the community and it is worth noting again how easy Magic Online is for Vintage, so that might be an option for aspiring paper Vintage players that can't play in their regular scene!

Vintage Challenge 3/14

We had yet another Vintage Challenge this past weekend, and this one was pretty big! There were at least 90ish players in this event, making it one of the larger Vintage Challenges on Magic Online. Without further ado, let's dive right into the Top 8!

Deck Name Placing MTGO Username
4C Walkers 1st ChubbyRain
BUG Midrange 2nd Clone9
Oath of Druids 3rd Miharu_Fuyumiya
Golos Stax 4th Kanister
Ravager Shops 5th HeavierMelero
4C Xerox 6th TheDeck84
Jeskai Xerox 7th Mannes
Ravager Shops 8th Clockwork Dean

This was certainly an intriguing challenge. There appears to be a pretty healthy mixture of decks going around the metagame right now, with nothing really standing out as the definitive "best" thing to be doing in the format, and I really like that about it. It's certainly making these Challenges interesting to follow, and especially with a player base of this one, it's pretty cool to see. According to some data provided by our good friend Matt Murray (ChubbyRain), the most represented deck was PO Storm at roughly 17.2% of the metagame. This was followed by the two Shops archetypes Ravager and Golos at 14% and 11% respectively. Despite the over-presence of PO however, the deck seems to be just mainly popular but not actually in a great spot for winning, as it is roughly sitting at under a 50% Match Win Percentage in this event.

The decks that do seem to be performing well however are the Xerox Combo/Control decks and Shops. Even Dredge's Win Percentages are down quite a bit as the format has continued to adjust as the presence of the Hollow Vine deck has put the onus on players to have answers and hate for it.

At the end of this great event however was our good friend Matt Murray himself on 4C Walkers!

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This list is significantly interesting on the basis of the inclusion of Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. This card has been gaining a lot of traction in Legacy as I've noted earlier this week, but it certainly looks really good in these kinds of Xerox Planeswalker builds as well. Major congrats to Matt on his finish, as this makes a number of Vintage Challenge victories in his corner!

In Second Place we have Clone9 on BUG Midrange!

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There are quite a few Planeswalkers here and that's actually sort of cool. It's really cool to see something like Vraska, Golgari Queen see play. In addition, packing in the Bolas's Citadel + Tinker package here is pretty cool as well. Pretty interesting build, all around!

In Third Place, we have the Master of Oath themselves, Miharu_Fuyumiya!

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Not much to really say about this, except that it does show how powerful of a player Miharu is with this archetype. They have truly mastered every facet of this deck it seems and their results show.

In Fourth Place we have MPL member Kanister on Golos Stax!

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As we discussed before about the push on decks like HollowVine and Dredge, the main deck Grafdigger's Cage here is a prime example of that and why these decks are doing so well.

All in all, this seemed like a pretty great event, especially with the player base in it. Now let's take a look at all the 2020 cards appearing in this event.

Card Name Number of Copies
Thassa's Oracle 6
Underworld Breach 5
Soul-Guide Lantern 2
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath 2

There were a few of the Oracle Combo decks this go around and also some Doomsday decks. It also just seems that most of Theros: Beyond Death has proven just to be "good" in Vintage and not format-warping. Even a card like Underworld Breach which feels like would be busted as a 4-of like it was in Legacy before it got banned has barely made its presence felt in the format. I'm fairly pleased with this result, as it means we'll have something of a relatively stable metagame (until Ikoria is released, at least).

The Spice Corner

Someone ported Jeskai Breach from Legacy into Vintage and it is glorious!

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Wrapping Up

That's all the time we have this week folks! Join us next week as we continue our exploration of the wonderful world of Vintage!

As always you can reach me on Twitter, Twitch, YouTube, and Patreon! I've been pretty busy lately, and we've all had a lot going on in our lives right now, so I just want to continue to thank everyone for their article support and the support of the content here. You are all awesome people and I wish only the best for everyone in these trying times.

Until next time however, keep on Grafdiggin'!


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