Jeskai Control Tournament Report and Sideboarding (2nd Place Finish @ SCG Louisville)

My name is Jonathan Hobbs (but most people call me Badger) and I am 18 years old in my senior year at Mississinewa High School.  Graduation is sooo close.  Last weekend, I took second at Star City Games Open: Louisville.  I’m here today to recap the event and give my two cents on the deck.

Funny story, actually; I didn’t even plan to play in this Open. I did not want to spend the money and had graduation coming up. The weekend before the event, I played in a PPTQ and got 2nd. I opened a Karn, Scion of Urza and some other good cards from my prizes. that I was able to sell to pay for travel to the open with my friends Ben, Zach, and Hagan.

I ended up playing Jeskai Control, finishing 12-2-1 in Swiss. The reasons I played Jeskai were fairly simple: it was very well positioned in the metagame going into the tournament and I knew the deck well having played it for some time now. Everyone says you should just play what you know in Modern and I don’t disagree that this is a good idea. Control was very well-positioned in the format due to the rise of Humans. This deck preys upon the Humans deck with its plethora of removal.

The list I registered was fairly stock for the most part. I knew the bulk of what I wanted to play for the tournament, just not the whole 75. Jonathan Rosum was streaming Wednesday with Jeskai and I liked his list. He did pretty well and even managed to go 5-0 in a league. I decided to sleeve up his version and start testing. It wasn’t far off what I had already but the small changes were great. Rosum told me before the event to cut the Damping Spheres from my board, which seemed weird at first because Tron was a bad matchup. But even with having Damping Sphere in your board, Tron is still going to be a tough matchup. They board in Nature’s Claim already to answer Search for Azcanta, so Sphere has a target on its head. Tron can eventually cast their threats even with a Sphere in play anyways.

Jonathan Hobbs’ Jeskai Control (SCG Open: May 2018)

Creatures (4)
Snapcaster Mage

Instants (21)
Cryptic Command
Lightning Bolt
Lightning Helix
Logic Knot
Path to Exile
Secure the Wastes

Legendary Enchantments (2)
Search for Azcanta

Legendary Planeswalkers (3)
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Sorceries (6)
Serum Visions
Supreme Verdict
Basic Lands (5)

Lands (19)
Celestial Colonnade
Field of Ruin
Flooded Strand
Glacial Fortress
Hallowed Fountain
Sacred Foundry
Scalding Tarn
Steam Vents
Sulfur Falls

Sideboard (15)
Engineered Explosives
Baneslayer Angel
Detention Sphere
Runed Halo
Celestial Purge
Disdainful Stroke
Settle the Wreckage
Vendilion Clique
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion

I didn’t have any byes going into the tournament, so we had to slug through all 15 rounds the all-natural way.

Round 1 vs. Jeskai Control (2-1)

Game 1: My opponent leads on Spirebluff Canal into Serum Visions, which led me to believe he was on storm. I passed leaving up a Logic Knot for a Baral, but he ended up just playing a Celestial Colonnade and passing. Fast forward to a point, turn four, where I Cryptic Command his Celestial Colonnade on his end step, which you basically have to counter because it’s a huge tempo play, so he uses a Logic Knot on it and now is tapped out. I proceed to cast my Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and take over the game.

Game 2: Opponent plays a Vendilion Clique on my end step on turn three. I decide not to Lightning Bolt it with the trigger on the stack, which was my only removal spell for it. My reasoning: I have a lot more time to draw another removal spell for the Vendilion Clique and I don’t mind my opponent taking that and not one of my more powerful spells. In the end, I basically just die to the Vendilion Clique attacking me four-five times followed by a few burn spells.

Game 3: I don’t remember how it played out in the early game, but he cast a small Secure the Wastes on my end step and I’m a few land drops ahead so I decide to take the opportunity and cast my own Secure the Wastes while he is tapped out. We trade warrior tokens but I have three or four leftover and they win me the game.

Round 2 vs. G/B Tron (2-0)

Game 1: Opponent mulligans to 5. He leads on an Urza’s Tower and I know I’m in trouble. His hand doesn’t cooperate with him and he never assembles Tron. My Snapcaster beats get me there.

Game 2: He plays an Overgrown Tomb turn one so I know he can’t have Tron online until turn four. I take this opportunity to play a Snapcaster Mage on two, counter a few spells after that, and win the game. Tron is not a good matchup and you have to get lucky, which was evident in my opponent not playing too much magic in this round. 

Round 3 vs. Jund (2-1)

Game 1: I am on the play and I get a Search for Azcanta down on turn two. My opponent plays a Liliana of the Veil on turn three and helps me fuel my Search for Azcanta. I transform my Azcanta quickly and run my opponent out of resources.

Game 2: My opponent has a very good hand. His discard left me with without removal which set the table for his Dark Confidant to take over. That plus multiple copies of Bloodbraid Elf was enough to get there.

Game 3: Like game one, I cast a Search for Azcanta on turn two (which is a very easy way to win against Jund). My opponent tries to play a Fulminator Mage to answer the Azcanta but I have a counterspell ready for it.

Round 4 vs. Mardu Pyromancer (0-2)

This match-up felt abysmal. Both games my opponent had early disruption into a Blood Moon. Neither game allowed me the position to play around Moon. Mardu comes from too many angles for Jeskai to handle. They have access to hand disruption, Young Pyromancer (that you cannot leave unchecked), Lingering Souls (you only have 2 Supreme Verdict and 2 Electrolyze to answer them efficiently), and Blood Moon which just might lock you out of the game as you only have a few counterspells to answer it.

I did get a rematch against this Mardu player, but (spoiler alert) not until the finals.

Round 5 vs. Burn (2-1)

Game 1: This guy runs me over. Goblin Guide into Eidolon of the Great Revel can be hard to answer on the draw without taking massive amounts of damage.

Game 2: My opening hand was just a bunch of good cards in the matchup, Lightning Helix, Dispel, and Snapcaster Mages. I remember winning that game with 15 or so life.

Game 3: This game was very close. At one point, my opponent appeared dead on the board when I passed the turn. He untaps and plays a Goblin Guide. I flash in a Snapcaster, targeting Lightning Helix, and then block with the Snapcaster Mage. I didn’t cast the Lightning Helix because I wanted to represent that I had a counterspell in hand (which I had a Cryptic Command but I did not want to cast it because I would’ve had to fetch to three life). I just untap and attack for lethal. My opponent doesn’t go for lethal with the Bolt and Skullcrack in his hand when he died, but had he tried, he would have won the match as I had only the Cryptic Command. I guess I bluffed a counterspell pretty well?

Round 6 vs. GB Elves (2-1)

Game 1: I stole this game. Opponent has cast two Lead the Stampede and was burying me in card advantage. I have a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and two knight tokens in play. On his end step, I cast Cryptic Command to tap his team and draw, then Lightning Bolt him to 13. On my turn, I fire up Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Celestial Colonnade and attack with them and both knights for exactly 13.

Game 2: He has a bunch of card advantage followed by multiple Thoughtseize. I was super dead quickly.

Game 3: This game went a lot better; my hand consisted of an Engineered Explosives, Supreme Verdict, and a few pieces of cheap removal. I easily took control of the game, played a Search for Azcanta, and won.

Round 7 vs. Jund (2-0)

I love the Jund matchup.

Game 1: I’m on the play and it plays out similar to the last match against Jund. I slam a Search for Azcanta on turn two. Then, my opponent then plays a Liliana and helps me fuel my graveyard. What a nice guy! I proceed to bury him in card advantage.

Game 2: We traded a lot of resources and we both end up in top deck mode. I rip a Search for Azacanta and play it. He plays a Liliana of the Veil and ticks up. I decide to discard my Path to Exile instead of my land, so that I have my 6th land to fire up my Colonnade and attack the Liliana of the Veil. I untap and trigger my Search for Azcanta. I see an Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. I obviously windmill slammed that instead of using my Colonnade. The following turn I rip a Baneslayer Angel off the top and my opponent concedes.

Round 8 vs. Jeskai Control (2-0)

Game 1: Opponent is on a mulligan. He casts something on his turn four, I counter it. Then I untap and play my Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and it proceed to take over the game.

Game 2: Opponent and I trade a bunch of resources. I don’t remember much else besides playing another Teferi that I top-decked and win the game.

Round 9 vs. Tron (2-0)

Game 1: Opponent is on a mull to five and his first three lands are all Urza’s Tower. I win that game with a turn four Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.

Game 2: I have a Snapcaster Mage in play before opponent gets to assemble Tron. By the time he has it assembled, I’m already in the driver’s seat. I counter a few of his threats and beat an Ulamog by burning him out.

We started off day one at 8-1, which is great. I was in 6th place going into day two.

Round 10 vs. Bogles: (2-0)

Game 1: I was on the play but my opponent had a decent start. He played a Slippery Bogle into a Kor Spiritdancer. I had to answer Kor Spiritdancer on my turn. He untapped and played two Rancor and one umbra on his Bogle, which led me to believe he would’ve cast a Daybreak Coronet if he had it. I took this opportunity to play Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Now, this could have been a gamble, but I was behind and needed to impact the board. I was fortunate enough to get to untap with Gideon and began taking the advantage.

Game 2: I remember drawing a fair amount of sideboard cards. The Engineered Explosives I cast was a five-for-one. Then my Search for Azcanta took over the game.

Round 11 vs. Bant Company (2-0)

Somehow I was the aggressor in both games. I Lightning Bolt his first two plays both games, followed by a Snapcaster/Bolt on another. Then, I pressure him while countering his Collected Company so he couldn’t establish a board.

Round 12 vs. Value Town (2-1)

I was paired up against Todd Stevens so I knew what he was playing.

Game 1: He never played a Ghost Quarter and my Search for Azcanta grinded him out.

Game 2: I only had one Lightning Bolt so Todd got to do his “Value Town thing” and blow up all of my lands.

Game 3: We traded a lot of resources. I remember Todd casting a Surgical Extraction on my Cryptic Command, which I let resolve because I only had one left in the deck and none in hand. He sees my hand is a lot of removal, a Dispel, and a Snapcaster Mage. He untaps with his Voice of Resurgence and casts a Collected Company. Although it feels bad giving him a token, I cast my Dispel. He eventually overextends and I untap and cast Snapcaster flashing back Supreme Verdict at which point the game is basically over.

Round 13 vs. Humans (1-2)

This is usually a great matchup, but you cannot stumble.

Game 1: I get there fairly easily. Opponent puts me down to four or so but my Supreme Verdict and Celestial Colonnade help me stabilize and win the game.

Game 2: I mulligan and my hand doesn’t do much. I basically just cast a Serum Visions and a Search for Azcanta and die.

Game 3: This game was pretty close; I never drew a wrath to catch back up in the game. I play my Baneslayer Angel on turn five but my opponent had the Dire Fleet Daredevil to use my own Path to Exile to deal with it.  

Round 14 vs. Storm (2-0)

I was 11-2 going into this round, so if I win either of my next two rounds, I’m a lock for top 8. Additionally, if I win this round, I can just draw with my next opponent into top 8. I’m against good guy Caleb Scherer, so I knew this was going to be tough.

Game 1: Close. Caleb didn’t do much on turn two so I took the opportunity to flash in a Snapcaster Mage, one of the most important parts in winning against Storm. He gets to resolve a Gifts Ungiven. My hand is double Logic Knot so I cannot afford to give him mana in the form of a ritual. I had to give him a Past in Flames. I get through some close turns and topdeck a Teferi to pull ahead.

Game 2: Caleb misses his 4th land drop, which is pretty crucial since his plan is to try and overload our mana in one turn. I have two early Snapcaster Mages in play and use them to establish a quick clock. On the final turn, Caleb tries to Empty the Warrens for enough to block my Snapcaster Mages, but I have the Detention Sphere.

Round 15: ID

Peter Tragos and I ID, which puts both of us on the play in top 8.

I’m 12-2-1 which puts me 2nd in top 8! Twitch chat votes to see Jadine and I on camera in the quarterfinals. With the downtime, I figured out how I wanted to sideboard against her.

Quarterfinals vs. Jund (2-0)

Game 1: I have good hand but it’s a little light on land. I cast a Serum VIsions on turn one and then lead with a Search for Azcanta. I left a Lightning Bolt and Path to Exile on top of my deck in that order. If Jadine plays a Tarmogoyf on my turn, I would keep the Path on top, otherwise I planned to mill the Path to Exile. Jadine doesn’t do anything on turn two and just plays a Liliana on turn three, which I was perfectly fine with because it helps me flip my Search for Azcanta. I discard some pretty good cards, but I’m doing this to leave a Snapcaster Mage and Lightning Bolt in hand to finish off the Liliana. I flip my Search for Azcanta and proceed to win with all of the card advantage it provides.

Game 2: We trade a lot of resources, but this time I don’t have a Search for Azcanta to help me with the card advantage. My hand was pretty good at the start, but she had an answer for my Baneslayer and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. After that, I drew pretty well with a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria to help get me back into the game. A few turns later, I rip a Secure the Wastes and slam that down pretty hard at the end of her turn, I pretty excited since I was about to win the game. Jadine then shakes my hand.

Semifinals vs. Jeskai Geist (2-0)

On paper, you might think this matchup doesn’t look good…and you’re right! I don’t have many answers to a resolved Geist of Saint Traft and my opponent has a lot of burn.

Game 1: Neither of us play any card advantage card or a Geist of Saint Traft. We’re just trading counterspells, Snapcaster Mages, and burn spells. I eventually draw a Secure the Wastes when he has no cards in hand and ended the fun.

Game 2: My opponent starts with a mulligan. This is another grindy one. We get to a turn where my opponent is at around 10 life, with one card in hand. I play my Gideon, Ally of Zendikar even though he has a Celestial Colonnade in play. I do this because if he spends his whole next turn using his Celestial Colonnade to answer my Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, I win the game on my turn. Instead, my opponent uses Cryptic Command to bounce my Gideon, Ally of Zendikar to my hand. I untap and cast a Lightning Helix and attack for lethal.

Finals vs. Mardu Pyromancer  [same guy in round four] (0-2)

I’m sure you saw, but these games didn’t go too well.

Game 1: Opponent plays a Blood Moon on turn three. Luckily, I draw all of my three Islands and Plains and get to play magic. I never draw a Cryptic Command or Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, however, to answer the Blood Moon and I eventually die to some Lingering Souls tokens and a Bedlam Reveler.

Game 2: The six-card hand I kept wasn’t great, but it had two basic Islands. My opponent casts a discard spell on my only castable spell, which is an Electrolyze and this leaves my hand with a couple basics, a Lightning Helix, and a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. I draw a decent amount of lands following and get to play my Teferi, Hero of Dominaria but I have to use it’s -3 on a Bedlam Reveler. On the next turn, my opponent gets me with a sick Kolaghan’s Command finishing off my Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and making me discard the other one in my hand. A few turns later, I die to the same Bedlam Reveler and shake my opponent’s hand.

Sideboarding Guide

Jeskai Control Mirror

  • In: 2 Vendilion Clique, 2 Dispel, 1 Negate, 1 Disdainful Stroke, 1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, and 1 Detention Sphere.
  • Out: 4 Path to Exile, 2 Supreme Verdict, 1 Lightning Bolt, and 1 Cryptic Command.

The easiest way to run away with the game is a turn two Search for Azcanta since it’s hard to counter early on. Vendilion Clique and Secure the Wastes are great ways to initiate fights on your opponent’s end step so that you can untap and play a threat and take over the game. It might feel weird sideboarding out Path to Exile because you won’t have many answers for a Celestial Colonnade, but if your opponent is activating a Celestial Colonnade, it’s because they are far enough ahead anyways. Burning your opponent out is still a feasible strategy postboard, so I tend to leave in most of my burn spells. Detention Sphere might be clunky but it’s a clean answer to opposing planeswalkers.

Humans (Favorable)

  • In: 1 Celestial Purge, 1 Runed Halo, 1 Detention Sphere, 1 Vendilion Clique, 1 Settle the Wreckage, 1 Baneslayer Angel, 1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, and 1 Engineered Explosives.
  • Out: 3 Logic Knot, 1 Negate, 3 Cryptic Command, and 1 Search for Azcanta or Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. I usually lean towards Teferi since I don’t want my hand to be too full of expensive cards.

Countermagic is pretty bad due to Cavern of Souls and Aether Vial. Runed Halo is basically just another removal spell, with your main choices being Mantis Rider, Thalia’s Lieutenant, or Champion of the Parish (whichever is more relevant at the time). Celestial Purge just answers Mantis Rider and Kitesail Freebooter, so I only want one copy and not both. They’ll take out their Reflector Mages post-board, so they shouldn’t have an answer for Baneslayer Angel. Elspeth is usually lights out aside from possible Mantis RIders, so play around that if you can. Vendilion Clique is usually just a pseudo-removal spell, mainly for Mantis Rider. In response to an Aether Vial, you can flash in your Vendilion Clique and target them, taking the card they were about to Vial in.

Affinity (Favorable)

  • In: 1 Wear // Tear, 2 Celestial Purge, 1 Runed Halo, 1 Detention Sphere, 1 Settle the Wreckage, 1 Baneslayer Angel, and 1 Engineered Explosives.
  • Out: 3 Logic Knot, 1 Negate, 1 Search for Azcanta, 3 Cryptic Command.

Counterspells aren’t too great since they deploy their spells at a faster rate than we do. One of the main ways you can lose is to their sideboard cards, such as Bitterblossom, Ghirapur Aether Grid, and Blood Moon, so our sideboard is here to help with that. Make sure to fetch accordingly to hedge against Blood Moon if possible. Celestial Purge answers all of those and, at worst, can exile Vault Skirge. Runed Halo is mainly for Ghirapur Aether Grid and Etched Champion. Baneslayer Angel is a card they won’t have answers for so it will be great and it has flying so it blocks well.

Hollow One (Game One: Unfavorable, Post Board: Even/Favorable)

  • In: 2 Celestial Purge, 1 Runed Halo, 1 Settle the Wreckage, 1 Baneslayer Angel, 1 Detention Sphere, and 1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
  • Out: 2 Cryptic Command, 2 Logic Knot, 1 Negate, 1 Lightning Bolt, 1 Lightning Helix

Disdainful Stroke and Wear//Tear don’t have enough applications so I don’t board them in. Another matchup in which you want to try and fetch around Blood Moon if you can. You have to leave in some Lightning Bolts so you don’t just lose to Flameblade Adept. I trim on Cryptic Command because they can be clunky since Hollow One tries to cast most of theirs spells before you can cast a Cryptic Command.

Jund (Favorable)

  • In: 2 Celestial Purge, 1 Detention Sphere, 1 Baneslayer Angel, 1 Engineered Explosives, and 1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion.
  • Out: 1 Negate, 2 Electrolyze, 1 Lightning Helix, 1 Cryptic Command, 1 Logic Knot

Search for Azcanta is your most important card in this matchup. Try to get it on the battlefield as fast as possible! Search basically stops their Liliana since now they are helping you transform it. Your plan in this matchup is to exhaust their resources and then take over the game with a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria or a Search. Baneslayer Angel and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion help our deck become Thoughtseize-proof so we have better draws later in the game. Countermagic isn’t the greatest because of discard and Bloodbraid Elf so I trim some. Jund will be bringing in Fulminator Mage so try and leave up a counterspell beyond turn two if possible.

Mardu Pyromancer (Unfavorable/Even)

  • In: 1 Negate, 1 Wear // Tear (if you suspect them having more than 1-2 Blood Moons), 2 Celestial Purge, 1 Detention Sphere, 1 Baneslayer Angel, 1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion, and 1 Engineered Explosives
  • Out: 2 Lightning Bolt, 1 Lightning Helix, 2 Cryptic Command, 1 Logic Knot, 1 Search for Azcanta

It’s pretty vital to fetch around Blood Moon or you will be stranded with dead cards in your hand. Fetch a Plains if at all possible so you can cast your answers to Blood Moon. Also, remember to leave in a few Bolts to answer Young Pyromancer.

Burn: (Game One: Even, Post-Board: Favorable)

  • In: 2 Dispel, 2 Vendilion Clique, 1 Negate, and 1 Runed Halo
  • Out: 2 Path to Exile, 2 Supreme Verdict, 2 Electrolyze

Early threats are your most important things in this matchup. Try and play a Snapcaster Mage, Secure the Wastes, or Vendilion Clique to start getting pressure on the board. Post-board, try to stay above four life as long as possible so you don’t die to Exquisite Firecraft.

Gx Tron (Unfavorable)

  • In: 2 Vendilion Clique, 1 Negate, 1 Detention Sphere, 1 Disdainful Stroke
  • Out 2 Path to Exile, 2 Supreme Verdict, 1 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Again, early threats are what you need in this matchup. If you give Tron forever, they will just eventually blow up all of your lands. Don’t be afraid to play a Snapcaster Mage on turn two for no value. You gotta get lucky but the matchup is winnable. Leave in all your Bolts so you can end the game quickly.

Bogles (Even/Favorable)

  • In: 1 Runed Halo, 1 Negate, 1 Settle the Wreckage, 1 Wear // Tear, 1 Engineered Explosives, and 1 Detention Sphere
  • Out: 2 Electrolyze, and 4 Path to Exile

You have to leave in Bolts to have answers for Kor Spiritdancer. This matchup isn’t too hard, just try not to take a ton of early damage and remember that you can Cryptic Command to bounce an umbra to their hand. Then, untap and cast Supreme Verdict.

Storm (Fairly Even)

  • In: 2 Dispel, 2 Vendilion Clique, 1 Disdainful Stroke, 1 Runed Halo, 1 Detention Sphere, 1 Negate, and 1 Engineered Explosives
  • Out: 2 Electrolyze, 2 Cryptic Command, 3 Path to Exile, 2 Supreme Verdict

You want to bring in Detention Sphere and Engineered Explosives as answers for Empty the Warrens, and at worst, they can answer a Baral or Electromancer. This is the most important matchup to try and get them dead as fast as possible; Snapcaster Mage on two is the best play you can make. Runed Halo can either name Grapeshot or Gifts Ungiven. If possible, try and leave up a fetch land or two so you can play around Gigadrowse.

Misc. Sideboarding

I’ve often been asked why I don’t run any Damping Spheres. I don’t recommend them. Storm and Tron have a decent amount of answers for them and it involves tapping out to play it. You also have to draw your sideboard card for it to be good so, for Damping Sphere to be good, you have to have around two-three in your sideboard, which in my opinion dilutes your sideboard too much.


Moving forward I don’t think I’d change the main deck; it felt great. I would definitely play a second Runed Halo over the Settle the Wreckage. It wasn’t that good and was easy for my opponents to play around. I could see playing Geist of Saint Traft if I expected the mirror to be more popular. I wouldn’t want Geist main deck due to all of the creature decks. Most people were aware of my sideboard Baneslayer Angel, so they left in some removal. I could see cutting her. Blood Moon is hard to beat and I want to try a threat that I can cast through Blood Moon such as Glorybringer, Stormbreath Dragon, Thundermaw Hellkite, or Pia and Kiran Nalaar.

Overall, the tournament was great and I was so excited I got second place! Luck was on my side that weekend, which helped me get those two wins against Tron. If I didn’t write a sideboard guide for a matchup you need help with, or you just have a question, comment below or message me on Facebook and I’ll share my plan.

Well, that’s all for now! I should be going to SCG Minneapolis this weekend so if you guys see me there, feel free to stop by and have a chat. If you guys have a chance you should check out my meme page on Facebook, Tournament Memes for Grinder Teens.

-Jonathan Hobbs