I woke up this morning at the gamer’s crack of dawn after a long weekend of Modern failure at Grand Prix Toronto. I check my phone. 11:30 AM, loosely one million notifications. I know I posted a lot yesterday, but this is way more than usual. I open the group chat and hazily see my friends talking about Bloodbraid Elf. Why are they talking about Legacy? Wait, it’s banlist day. I totally forgot. Did they actually — wait, Jace? Sick.
I was hours away from registering a Jeskai Geist deck for GP Toronto before I pathetically gave in and switched over to Humans at the last minute. I promptly 0-3’d, and remembered how much I hate playing linear decks in Modern, and the hundreds if not thousands of words I’ve written complaining about how much I hate playing linear decks in Modern.
As usual, I’m my own worst enemy, and never listen to my own advice. I’ve been reluctant to commit to the control life lately, feeling that the control strategies in both Standard and Modern lately have been lacking, unable to consistently answer the wide variety of threats thrown at them. Diversity is preached as the saving grace of Modern, but in stark contrast to the real world, I feel like it’s a drag. Thoughtseize is ultimately the only “answer” that’s actually effective in most places, but it’s fundamentally not a solid control card. Counterspells suck in an era where one of the top decks plays sets of Aether Vial and Cavern of Souls, and a ton of decks just jam the board full of spells in the first few turns. Search for Azcanta and Field of Ruin helped control out somewhat by giving them low-cost ways to take over the game if they survived the early turns, but I found over and over again that in order to be able to turn the corner quickly, you’d need to play something like Geist of Saint Traft in Jeskai. You just couldn’t rely on overwhelming card advantage to win against something like Tron, who would inevitably start chaining Ulamogs against you. This has all changed. We can now turn the corner on turn 4. We have Jace.
I suspect many among you haven’t had the privilege — and yes, it is absolutely a treat — to play with Jace, the Mind Sculptor before. To summarize, if you untap with Jace, you’re probably going to win. He provides such an overwhelming advantage, either in card quality and advantage through repeatable Brainstorms, through a fate-seal lock or keeping the board empty. To say that Jace is a game-changer for control is a dramatic understatement.
Let’s get to work on some prospective homes for this boy, starting with U/W Control, the most successful control deck as of late.
U/W Control – Daniel Fournier
This is one of the major decision trees when it comes to deckbuilding with Jace, as it fights for a spot with Search for Azcanta. It’s quite possible that you would want to play both — you can find Jace with Azcanta, after all — but at this point you’re leaning pretty heavily on Jace as a reactive card for its Unsummon mode so as not to overload on non-interactive cards. That’s probably not a great plan in the current fast landscape of Modern. The upside of Search for Azcanta is that it comes down way earlier, before your opponent has counter-magic available. In a Modern where Jace decks are everywhere, it might be wise to have access to a couple copies of this powerful enchantment. In a control mirror, Azcanta will give you inevitability at instant speed, which is crucial when there’s a card like Jace floating around.
One of the weaknesses of a control deck like this moving forward is its comparative inability to take care of an opposing Jace at instant speed. It might be best, then, to look into various forms of Jeskai Control, which can use Electrolyzes and Lightning Bolts to take him off the table while not losing points in aggressive match-ups. The main trade-offs here would be losing immunity to Blood Moon and a lot of the powerful cards that don’t play well with the rest of the Jeskai deck, like Rest in Peace and Spreading Seas. These are cards you could theoretically play in both decks, but occupy many of the same flex slots.
Jeskai Control – Daniel Fournier
This is based off a 2015 list by local control visionary Andrew Van Leeuwen, that eschewed a lot of the typical cards found in Jeskai decks, such as Lightning Bolt, for more individually impactful cards, like Lightning Helix. Now that we’re firmly back in the control role, rather than skirting the line with cards like Spell Queller, and no longer need to fill our graveyard very aggressively for Search for Azcanta to flip, we can fall back on Lightning Helix to carry us through aggro matchups. A Geist sideboard helps us in control mirrors as well as rough matchups like Tron, and access to Field of Ruin thanks to our light mana requirements is great.
Last, but not least, we can easily slot Jace into my favourite deck, Twin. A strong tempo-oriented combo deck, Twin is — still banned. Apparently Jace, the Mind Sculptor is fair, but a bulk rare from a bad set is banned for competitive diversity. Let’s punish them for this egregious decision by playing Twin anyways. With Jace.
The Only Deck Ever – Daniel Fournier
You can find my magnum opus on this deck here, so I’ll just talk about these updates and how Jace plays into the gameplan. In many ways, the card is ideal on the level of Splinter Twin for such a strategy: a 4 mana sorcery speed “I win” button. Unfortunately, it doesn’t literally win you the game, so we have to do more work elsewhere. I think it’s important to stick to the Blood Moon plan here to ensure that we beat out the Tron strategies looking to prey on Jace control decks as well as earn free wins against unprepared or greedy strategies.
Now that we have the unbelievably powerful Jace in our deck, Serum Visions becomes much better than Opt thanks to its stronger card filtering. I’m not gonna lie, I really want to play this deck. It seems extremely fun and potentially quite powerful thanks to Jace. It’s quite likely that one of the other two decks is actually superior, but that probably won’t stop me. Catch me Twinning people in 2018.
That’s it for now, folks. Join me next time as I cover the much-requested topic of protecting yourself from cheaters at competitive events. Oh, I guess Bloodbraid Elf was also unbanned, but I could care less about bad green creatures. I’ll let Keith Capstick bait you later this week into finding new and innovative ways to lose to Tron.
Bonus decklist, for the control purists among us:
Excited to try out these new powerful options in Modern? Join us on March. 3 for our Modern Open+ at Seneca College in Toronto. There will be 5k in prizes and a couple trips to the SCG Invitational on the line!