29, Sep, 23

MTG Infinite Draw Combo Makes Surprise Appearance!

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Article at a Glance

The World Championship, the penultimate competitive Magic event of the year, has just concluded. Considering that the biggest competitive event of the year has just passed, it may seem somewhat surprising for another one to be right around the corner.

Not even a week after the end of the World Championships, the Pioneer Regional Championship series has begun. Over in Lille, European players are beginning to compete for their place on the Pro Tour, meaning a lot of innovative ideas will be hitting the floor in contention.

While today’s deck is not from Lille (but could very well appear there), it does outline an archetype that has seen little play, and suddenly top eighted a Pioneer Challenge regardless. Let’s take a look at the infinite combo shenanigans involved with the rare Jeskai Ascendency archetype.

Infinites with Artifacts

Jeskai Ascendency has a history in the Pioneer format, but it’s not a very detailed one. For a period of time, the strategy was to resolve a Jeskai Ascendency, resolve a Sylvan Awakening, cast a ton of spells while untapping your lands each time, and smack your opponents with some very big lands for lethal damage.

This deck is not quite trying to do that. Teimuuu has been pushing the Jeskai Ascendancy archetype in Pioneer for quite some time on Magic Online, and had a great performance this past weekend.

Instead of animating your lands and smacking your opponent for big damage, this Pioneer Ascendency combo utilizes a similar combo structure to the slightly less niche Rona Combo deck. The big different here, however, is instead of Rona, Herald of Invasion, we have Emry, Lurker of the Loch.

Emry has appeared a fair bit across competitive MTG since its release. Whether you’re playing Modern, Pioneer or Commander, Emry has likely shown up a few times.

Emry’s power comes from the combination of its cost reduction effect and its activated ability. Having two artifacts in play means Emry only costs one blue mana. After milling four, you can tap Emry to cast an artifact spell from your graveyard (once it doesn’t have summoning sickness). In other words, Emry works exceedingly well with cheap artifacts, enabling her to come out quickly and provide value.

Mox Amber happens to be a very cheap artifact that also works in tandem with Jeskai Ascendancy. Emry can cast Amber, which triggers Jeskai Ascendancy, looting, giving your creatures +1/+1 and untapping your Emry. You also get a blue mana from the Amber!

If you have two Mox Ambers available in your graveyard, this creates an infinite that generates infinite mana equal to the color of whatever legendary creatures/Planeswalkers you have, pumps your team infinitely, and allows as many loot effects as you like. Here’s how to do it:

  • Have Emry cast Mox Amber. Jeskai Ascendancy triggers, untapping Emry
  • Float your mana with Mox Amber
  • Cast another Mox Amber. This can be from hand, or by activating Emry and casting it from the GY. Jeskai Ascendancy triggers again., untapping Emry.
  • At this point, you’ll have two Mox Amber in play, so the legendary rule will apply. Discard your tapped Mox Amber.
  • Repeat steps two-four infinitely

Of course, your Mox Amber can be replaced with Tormod’s Crypt and this combo will still work. In fact, in the case of Tormod’s Crypt, you only need Emry, Jeskai Ascendancy and the Crypt. Since Tormod’s Crypt can sacrifice itself, Emry can re-cast it without the need of utilizing a legendary rule.

Of course having a Jeskai Ascendancy, an Emry and two Mox Ambers can be a bit of a tall order. Fortunately, this is not the only way that Tiemuuu’s deck goes infinite.

Retraction Helix

Retraction Helix is almost purely a combo piece. It can be used in niche ways occasionally to remove hate like Pithing Needle but, for the most part, this functions as a way to get into infinite combo mode with Jeskai Ascendancy.

All you need to get into the similar mode of infinite draw, pump and mana (if Mox Amber can activate), is to have Retraction Helix, a creature that is not summoning sick and Mox Amber. Here’s what that pattern will look like.

  • Cast Retraction Helix on your creature. Trigger Ascendancy.
  • If Mox Amber is in your hand, cast it. Jeskai Ascendancy triggers.
  • Float a mana with Mox Amber (if you can) and bounce it with your Retraction Helix creature.
  • Recast Mox Amber. Jeskai Ascendancy triggers, untapping your creature.
  • Rinse and repeat steps 3-4.

Like the Emry combo, Tormod’s Crypt can also get the job done here, but will not tap for mana.

The Rest

The easiest way to win with the above combos is simply to attack with an infinitely large creature. Unfortunately, this may not always work. An opponent having an available blocker will likely happen a fair bit, and you won’t always have the tools to remove it. What else is this deck doing?

Saheeli, Sublime Artificer won’t win the game on the spot, but it does give another angle for your Ascendancy deck: going wide. Every time you cast a noncreature spell, Saheeli makes a Servo token. Since Jeskai Ascendancy allows you to cast an infinite amount of noncreature spells with the above combos, Saheeli can create infinite tokens.

Everything else this deck has to offer has one of three objectives: slow down your opponents, speed up your gameplan or being the gameplan itself.

Cards like {tooltips]Consider[/tooltips], Treasure Cruise and Mishra’s Research Desk help find the combo pieces needed to execute Jeskai Ascendancy’s gameplan. The Research Desk can also be Unearthed, speeds Emry up and can be re-cast with Emry, making it a rather unique piece of the puzzle. Despite this, I personally would consider testing Candy Trail in this slot, as it has been quite promising for me in other formats.

Even Fallaji Archeologist, which can function as a win condition with Jeskai Ascendancy and Retraction Helix, has a secondary function of trying to find combo pieces and dumping cards in graveyard to be re-cast with Emry or Delved away with Treasure Cruise.

Strangle helps remove problematic blockers and can slow an opponent’s gameplan down. Removing a turn one Llanowar Elves can slow down the ever-popular Mono Green Devotion strategy immensely. Portable Hole can do this as well, but plays double-duty in being recastable by Emry, speeding Emry up and removing common hate pieces like Rest in Peace and Pithing Needle.

Finally, a couple Spell Pierce in the main deck can help deter your opponent from removing your creature, or could counter key spells in other linear strategies.

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Strengths and Weaknesses

Pioneer has a lot of linear strategies like Lotus Field Combo and Mono Green Devotion. This deck should theoretically be able race those rather efficiently, and can go off extremely quick when the opponent fails to interact with it.

The downside is that this combo is incredibly easy to interact with. Getting your Emry killed in response to a Retraction Helix targeting it is absolutely devastating. It’s also unclear to me personally what advantages this strategy grants over Rona Combo. Sure, you could argue that Retraction Helix is not a necessary card to resolve in this list, but the necessary card just changes to Jeskai Ascendancy.

Ultimately, the gameplans revolving around this deck and Rona Combo seem rather similar. Admittedly, Jeskai Ascendancy combo does appear to be a bit more flexible than Rona Combo, but the other deck has incredibly powerful ways to find and recur the more linear combo pieces.

That said, Jeskai Ascendancy packs some interaction of its own and is ready to interact with the opponent until an opportunity presents itself. Traditionally, interactive combo decks like Dimir Inverter have been one of the most powerful deck archetypes in Magic’s 30-year history. If this manages to get consistent enough while keeping opponents on their toes, it could have a breakout season at the Regional Championships. I am personally not expecting to see that happen, but who knows?

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