Zurgo and Ojutai
27, May, 23

New MTG Archetype Creates Life in Dead Format

Article at a Glance

One of Magic’s premier high-stakes events, the Arena Championship, began today. 32 top-tier players from around the world would battle for the chance at pride, glory, and large sums of money. Unfortunately, with the format being Standard, there wasn’t much room left for a new MTG deck to emerge. After all, Rakdos Midrange had held a stranglehold on the Standard format for many months. Once Rakdos Midrange dominated the Standard Pro Tour March of the Machine, it appeared all hope for change was lost. All that was left was to wait for the May 29 ban announcement to force a shake-up of this stale format because nothing else could provide a spark… or so I thought. Of the 32 people competing in the Arena Championship, five daring individuals registered Jeskai Dragons!

Yes, you heard that right. After Rakdos Midrange, Jeskai Dragons was the second most popular deck in the room, and yet it has largely never been seen before. For context, Nathan Steuer, the winner of Pro Tour March of the Machine (with Rakdos Midrange of course), switched to Jeskai Dragons for this tournament. Not only does this show that he believes this deck is the real deal, it also clearly shows he thinks the deck has what it takes to beat the Rakdos menace.

The Gameplan

Zurgo and Ojutai

On the surface, this deck may look like just a pile of cards. However, they were carefully chosen and seem to work very well together. Notably, the only creature in the deck is Zurgo and Ojutai, with a full four copies featured. This card is quite powerful. With Flying, Haste and Hexproof for a turn, it is quite easy to be able to attack for four and trigger its second ability, which provides some nice card selection upon dealing damage. The downside is that Zurgo and Ojutai costs five mana to cast, so be prepared to interact with the opponent beforehand to not fall too far behind. Cards like Abrade and Play with Fire do a great job at buying you time to cast the powerful Dragon.

The best piece of interaction this deck has access to though is definitely Invasion of Gobakhan. Invasion of Gobakhan first allows you to exile a card from the opponent’s hand and make it cost two more mana to cast. This delay is nice at buying you time early, but what sets Invasion of Gobakhan apart is its amazing synergy with Zurgo and Ojutai. Zurgo and Ojutai having Haste allows it to attack and flip the Invasion right away. Notably, the powerful Dragon’s card selection ability triggers not just off dealing damage to the opponent, but also Battles they protect. Most importantly, the flipside of the Battle provides a way to protect Zurgo and Ojutai by being able to give it Hexproof on command. Combined with the initial turn of Hexproof from Zurgo and Ojutai and your opponent has no window to kill your Dragon with a single removal spell.

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Additional Powerhouses

Wedding Announcement

Rounding out the deck are simply some of the most powerful options legal in Standard in in this color combination. Seeing four copies of Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is not much of a surprise, but being in white also lets you play both The Wandering Emporer as well as another fantastic three-mana enchantment: Wedding Announcement. Wedding Announcement is a Human token army in a can that eventually flips into an Anthem effect that pumps said army. These Human tokens also do a great job of flipping Invasion of Gobakhan, which then provides a stream of plus-one plus-one counters to the Human Tokens every turn they attacked. If that wasn’t enough, the flip side of Invasion of Gobakhan also gives your Creatures Indestructible when sacrificed in addition to Hexproof, rendering board wipes such as Brotherhood’s End ineffective.

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Beating Rakdos

Make Dissapear

One of the easiest ways to lose to Rakdos Midrange is to let Fable and Reckoner Bankbuster grind you into dust. Unfortunately, there are minimal clean answers to a resolved Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. Even if you kill both the Goblin token and the Saga itself, you likely used two cards to do it and let the opponent sculpt their hand with chapter two. Similarly, if your opponent has two untapped mana after casting Reckoner Bankbuster, they are still up a card even if you can answer it immediately with an Abrade.

Well, one of the best ways to cleanly answer Fable and potentially even Bankbuster is by simply not letting them resolve. Make Disappear fills this role nicely. At two mana, it can even Counter Fable when on the draw. This can prevent you from getting tempoed out by the powerful Saga or using multiple resources to answer it. Additionally, having Fables of your own and Wedding Announcement can pull you far ahead in tempo and on resources. This doesn’t even take into account the potent Dragon-Invasion synergies.

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The Rest of the Field

Atraxa, Grand Unifier

Not only is it important to have a good gameplan versus Rakdos, but it’s also important to have a strategy when facing other top options. Recently, we’ve seen many MTG players turn to five-color ramp to beat up on Rakdos Midrange. This makes sense, as all of Rakdos’ small gains of resources throughout the game could be undone by a single Atraxa hitting the board. Jeskai Dragons has come prepared for this strategy too. Make Disappear is amazing because, just like against Fable, it can stop an Atraxa from ever hitting the board. Invasion of Gobakhan can delay Atraxa multiple turns, and Wedding Announcement or Zurgo and Ojutai can close the game in the meantime.

Other more aggressive decks, such as Azorius Soldiers or Mono Red Aggro, have limited ways to remove a resolved Zurgo and Ojutai, making the gameplan of casting cheap removal spells and then slamming the powerful Dragon quite effective. Jeskai Dragons truly has game against all the top decks ion the format. It is an excellent call for the Metagame this weekend, and I am excited to see how the Arena Championship and the Standard format as a whole shake out.

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