Archetune Up - I'll Have a Blue Christmas WITH You

(Mirrodin Besieged l Art by Bram Sels)

I Feel Blue... And So Will You!

Hello, and welcome back to Archetune-Up, a weekly article series devoted tweaking a deck with the help of the EDHREC Theme pages!

Before I begin, I want to apologize in advance for this article. I originally wanted to write an article featuring our Snow Theme here on the site, but it really wasn't coming together. I was so dejected that I did a complete 180 and decided to channel my holiday sadness into a deck featuring my favorite Praetor, Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur.

I'm sure you can already tell where this deck is going.

Jin is an incredibly expensive, incredibly powerful blue creature that can wreak havoc on our opponents. By flashing him in before an opponent's cleanup step, we can completely nuke their hand, and happily refill our own hand at the end of our turn. This is not going to be a deck that will make friends, and you need to make sure that you are brutal as possible when playing it in order to get ahead and stay ahead.

All Naughty, No Nice

When discussing build paths for Jin, the most optimal direction seems to involve the Stax Theme... and every fiber of my being is screaming in protest.

I personally have a great dislike for Stax strategies, as they often bog down the game and don't always have quick ways to win once they've established control. Slowing the game down is the function of the deck, but I also acknowledge that not playing it properly and forcing a game to go for two hours is user error more than deck error. When attacking your opponents' resources and locking them out, you need to make sure that you're doing so responsibly and in a timely manner so as to not waste you or your friends' time.

I tried to keep this in mind when making changes to the average Jin deck, ensuring we had ways to close out a game while also having ways to keep our death grip on the tempo of the game. I want to emphasize that this deck is not a hard Stax deck. We're not playing Static Orb, Tangle Wire, or the titular Smokestack, though they are great additions if you choose to go deeper down this rabbit hole.

We're going to start off with cards that hinder creatures. We already have Evactuation effects for when we need to hit the panic button, but we need permanents that can help us out, too, which is where Dream Tides, Pendrell Mists, and Frozen Aether come in. Each of these cards helps us deal with pesky creatures in their own way, either by making our opponents pay mana to untap their creatures, pay mana to keep them alive, or immediately tapping them (along with tapping artifacts and lands). These enchantments definitely pull their weight; none of them are backbreaking on their own, but together they have a potent effect. Your opponents will often have to choose whether they want to play spells or keep their creatures around, stunting their ability to progress normally through the game.

The next two cards disrupt our opponents' ability to play spells and even to play through every piece of their turns. Fatespinner is a very innocuous card that has a huge impact on the game. Forcing three other opponents to skip a phase of their turn is huge. Often, they'll skip their combat, further protecting you from their creatures. Narset, Parter of Veils is the second card in this section, and is most definitely not innocuous. Narset has been making waves in multiple formats as she is able to prevent opponents from drawing extra cards while also being a form of card advantage, herself. Alongside Jin, Narset goes a long way toward making sure your opponents' hands are suppressed, locking them out of drawing multiple cards a turn and forcing them to discard the one card they do draw if they aren't able to use it. While I didn't add it in, Arcane Laboratory is another card that fits in this category, too. It's a great way to shut down Storm-like decks in your groups if they're too unruly for your tastes.

We've so far hindered creatures, card draw, and even phases of the turn. Nothing is sacred, so we're hitting lands next! Back to Basics and Sunder affect every player and can make certain decks unusable. BtB can easily halt the progress of decks with three or more colors, making most of their lands worthless. Sunder, on the other hand, is blue's version of Armageddon, completely decimating everyone's land base, and at instant speed, no less! Paired with our commander, Sunder is absolutely backbreaking, since it will force your opponent's to discard their precious lands. A piece of advice, though: if you're going to make everyone lose their lands and hands, make sure you have a way to actually win. Please.

Continuing with the theme of destroying things people love, Wasteland, Strip Mine, and Ghost Quarter will deal with annoying lands your opponents may have, such as Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, or Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. While most decks that are able to play these three cards should be playing them, the difference here is that we are pairing them with Crucible of Worlds. This allows us to be able to repeatedly blow up a land each turn, giving us the option of cutting opponents off of key colors, lands, or just playing our own discarded lands from the graveyard.

The final two cards we'll lift from the Stax theme page are powerful blue spells: Search for Azcanta and Flood of Tears. Search for Azcanta is a little enchantment that sets up our draws each turn, and can then flip into Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin to further provide card advantage and fish important soft-lock pieces out of our deck. Flood of Tears is just another board wipe that will disrupt opponents while also letting us put a permanent back into play if we meet its requirement. This is a tremendous effect to have, as we can immediately drop Jin back onto the board, or even play Omniscience, should we have it in hand!

Even Fruitcake Would be More Enjoyable

Let's move onto this article's Bonus Round, a potpourri section where I may talk about anything at all; fun inclusions, interesting interactions, or in this article's case... more Stax synergies.?

We've already gone over the main pieces of resource denial and ways to slow down our opponents, but I want to make sure to highlight some styles of play, and especially the deck's win conditions. This is important to me because we need to be responsible when playing a deck like this. If you care about the people you are playing against, you have a moral obligation to respect their time and win in a timely manner. It's really easy for a deck of this nature to polarize people, and if you like playing this, you need to do your best to mitigate those feelings.

Ways to win:

There are quite a few different ways to close out a game in this deck, and none are the same. They all work towards a similar game plan but give you enough diversity and flexibility to be able to stick at least one of them.

The whole point of mentioning all of these ways to win is so to prevent situations where you Sunder the board and cause the game to stagnate for an hour or more. Do not lock your opponents out of the game without a clear plan to win. When you go for the kill, make sure there is no way out. You have countermagic, so make sure you use it protect your pieces in a way that makes sure the game will end. Be methodical, play smart, but most of all, have respect.

Forcing your opponents to get so frustrated they scoop is not a valid win condition. You aren't respecting anyone's time if that is the case. Fostering a healthy play group has a better return on investment than griefing your friends.

I Deserve Coal for Writing This

Surprisingly enough, I've had quite a bit of fun throwing this deck together. I like Jin, and I love drawing cards, so even if it was through some unsavory means, I'm glad I was able to make a deck with both of those things in it. The deck is still far from perfect, but it'll get the job done. It can shift to a more controlling build, utilizing more board wipes and countermagic, or add more Stax pieces to ensure that opponents have less resources to fight back. Either way, even with 10+ mana rocks in the deck, I think we could add a few more, such as Hedron Archive or Dreamstone Hedron, to make sure our suite of expensive spells can always be cast.

In my heart of hearts, I am a control player. While it may not seem much different, building this deck was a bit outside my wheelhouse since prison and control decks are two very different animals. I've had quite a few bad experiences with Stax in the past, so I'm hoping that this deck is able to circumvent a lot of the issues that I've had to slog through (and often scoop to). You have power over the way your friends feel when you play a deck like this. Be kind, enjoy yourself, and respect one another.

If you’d like to reach me I’m quite active on Twitter (@thejesguy), and have an email that I do my best to respond to ( If you have any comments, questions, concerns, or anything else of the sort, please don’t hesitate to leave them below or get in touch!

As always, thanks for you time, happy holidays, and thank you for arche-tuning in!

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Angelo is a Connecticut resident who started playing Magic during Return to Ravnica, and has made it his mission to play Jeskai in every format possible. Along with Commander, he loves Limited, Cube, and Modern, and will always put his trust in counterspells over creatures. He is still hurt by Sphinx's Revelation's rotation out of Standard.

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