One of the most talked about cards in the new Khans of Tarkir set is Jeskai Ascendancy. At first glance, it looks like a simple prowess-styled enchantment, meant to buff your troops and reward you for casting non-creature spells. In reality, however, Jeskai Ascendancy allows players to create ridiculous combos that result in turn 3 or 4 kills, depending on luck. In Modern, the combo deck is even more potent, as it has access to a lot more zero drop and one drop cantrips (cards that cause you to draw a card in addition to its other effects). The question in everyone’s minds after seeing it become a serious contender in multiple formats is whether or not Jeskai Ascendancy should be banned.
The answer is simple. No, Jeskai Ascendancy should not be banned, at least not yet. It may, in fact, be too powerful and toxic for the competitive Magic scene, but it is way too early to tell. Once it starts making up 80% of the deck lists at tournaments, then the community can have an educated conversation about whether or not the card should be banned.
Although Jeskai Combo decks vary, the main combo in standard is simple; Play a mana dork (any low drop creature that taps for mana), play Jeskai Ascendancy and then play Astral Cornucopia with X equaling zero (making the card effectively free, but also effectively useless on its own). Casting Retraction Helix on one of your mana dorks (or any creature for that matter), allows you to infinitely tap it to return your Astral Cornucopia to your hand and replay it for free, which, thanks to Jeskai Ascendancy, untaps your creatures, allowing you to do it over and over forever. By itself, this combo wouldn’t be that interesting, even though it would leave you with a bunch of 20/20 mana dorks, since J.A. gives your creatures +1/+1 every time you cast a non-creature spell, but combined with Altar of the Brood, the combo becomes especially stupid. Altar of the Brood is one of those seemingly horrible junk rare artifacts, but in the Jeskai Combo deck it stands as one of the best finishers possible. Essentially, it allows for you to mill (force your opponent to put the top card from their library into their graveyard) your opponent for one every time you bounce and replay your Astral Cornucopia, which effectively mills their whole library in one turn. All a Jeskai Combo player has to do at that point is pass the turn for the win, as their opponent will draw a card without having a library and die to mill.
While the combo itself isn’t that interesting, I do enjoy the fact that the Jeskai Combo utilizes cards that would otherwise be considered incredibly underpowered, such as Astral Cornucopia, Retraction Helix and Altar of the Brood. The other point of interest is how powerful Jeskai Ascendancy is. If Wizard’s R&D (Research & Development) removed the text “Untap those creatures.” from the card, it would become a very powerful Jeskai aggro/tempo tool, allowing players to buff their already prowess’d creatures. If it didn’t allow the player to loot (draw a card and discard a card), it would also be a lot less powerful, as looting allows the combo player to search for their combo pieces. Any piece of the text box from Jeskai Ascendancy would make an interesting card if it was removed, but altogether, the card is a crazy combo-enabler that is becoming very dominant in Standard and Modern.