With Standard making a comeback in competitive MTG I’m starting to look into decks I like before the next RCQ season starts in January of next year. While Standard has been out of the competitive spotlight for quite some time, it’s made a resurgence with it being the format of the World Championship – our very own Eli Kassis talked extensively about his deck choice for that event!
By far the most imapctful news to Standard over the last year was the news back in May that Standard will now rotate every three years in the fall, as opposed to every two. This means that sets stay in Standard longer, but more importantly powerful strategies will remain more constant. Take Esper Midrange for example, that got second place at the World Championship in the hands of Kazune Kosaka:
Esper Midrange – Kazune Kosaka, MTG World Championship
It’s no secret since last year that Raffine, Dennick, and Wedding Announcement make a good trio, and even more so that Sheoldred is a nice bonus to go along with them. This is a prime example of an archetype that has pretty much been around since the release of Streets of New Capenna, but has only gotten stronger with the addition of cards like Virtue of Loyalty and Lord Skitter, Sewer King. It’s also worth noting that the four copies of Virtue and two copies of Skitter are the only cards in the deck from Wilds of Eldraine, meaning that the deck hasn’t changed much. While you can argue over how positive or negative the new-three year rotation cycle is for Standard the fact of the matter is that strategies will not change as frequently as they did in the two-year cycle.
Does this mean that all brewing is dead? Can we really not play anything in the format outside of the status-quo? Well yes, and no. If I were going to a Standard RCQ tomorrow, I’d figure the room would be mainly Esper and Domain players (assuming card availability isn’t an issue). However, with there not being as many Standard events going on the format is still kind of dead, which means there is still room to innovate, brew, and find holes in the metagame. Today I have a deck that I think presents an interesting attack on the current meta, and is one worth considering as we step closer to the next RCQ season.
Without further ado, I present Dimir Jace Control:
Dimir Jace Control
The first question you might be asking is “Roman, why are we playing Dimir and not Esper Control?” – there are a few reasons but let’s dive into what inspired me to build this deck in the first place: Jace, the Perfected Mind.
Jace, the Perfected Mind is a card I immediately fell in love with when it was spoiled earlier this year. Jace isn’t inherently a mill card (although it sees play in Modern Dimir Mill), it can be viewed as a control deck finisher that also does other control things: draws you cards and stabilizes the board.
Most games you play as a control deck aim to go to the mid-game anyway, with opponents drawing about half of their deck over the course of the game. Decks like Esper inherently loot or draw cards with Wedding Announcement and Raffine, Golgari strategies churn through their deck with Mosswood Dreadknight and Blossoming Tortoise, and Domain strategies basically empty out their library with cards like Invasion of Zendikar and Topiary Stomper.
The point is that these decks inherently do a lot of “deck damage” to themselves (mill themselves), so two copies of Jace usually get the job done. The trick is how do you get to turn 15 without dying? A control shell made perfect sense for this since you basically just want to slow your opponent down enough that Jace will finish the job. Jace makes perfect sense a control finisher for a few key reasons:
- You don’t have to rely on creatures or cards that take a long time to win with as win conditions, i.e. Mirrex, The Wandering Emperor, or Horned Loch-Whale
- Games will end faster by just ultimating two copies of Jace for 30 cards, as opposed to taking multiple turns to win
- Jace isn’t susceptible to cards like Leyline Binding or Sheoldred’s Edict since you’re winning by immediately using x = -5
- Jace has utility as a card to stabilize or draw into your future copies if you need to play one earlier than expected
It’s no secret that control decks in general have fallen out of the Standard metagame. One of the reasons why I didn’t pursue Jace decks before now was due to everyone’s favorite saga:
Standard has devolved into a format of midrange creature decks that rely on so many ways to accrue value. Control decks just can’t keep up with so many diverse threats with the answers and tools that we have access to, even if they are pretty good. Control decks having a fast two-card combo to win the game in one turn is something actually quite unheard of in Standard’s recent history. Since control decks can’t keep up with the midrange decks of today Jace seems like a card to turn the tide in its favor.
Individual Card Choices
This is a card that has shown up already in Esper Midrange/Control – I like that it’s a nice way to do something with your mana at instant speed that isn’t holding up counter magic, and it also deals deck damage!
While I’m not sure as to how many copies of this card I want I like that it cleanly removes threats like Sheoldred and Raffine, while also dealing, you guessed it, deck damage.
I’m a fan of incremental card selection and lifegain as a mostly instant-speed deck.
While it’s obvious why this card is in the deck, did you know it pairs perfectly with Jace? While it can’t kill a Jace’d Sheoldred, it can kill a Jace’d Blossoming Tortoise or larger Raffine.
Okay this plus Cut Down kills of Sheoldred.
While we already have Deluge Quick Study is like your mini Deluge that you can cast if you’re not Dissipating something. At the end of the day you want to find all your copies of Jace to kill your opponent with.
Field of Ruin is in the deck for a couple of key reasons. First, it’s another way of deck damage. More importantly, however, it acts as a key removal spell in the Golgari matchup. You can fall pretty far behind fast Blossoming Tortoise draws, so Field of Ruin can come in handy as some reach against Restless Cottage.
Field can also be a nice way to put your Domain opponent off a certain color of mana. Against the Esper matchup it’s a nice answer to Mirrex as well, one of that deck’s few win conditions. While I think Mirrex is a more powerful card, I think a 2/1 Field/Mirrex split or triple Field is a better place to be at for what this deck is trying to accomplish.
Matchup and Sideboarding Notes
Domain is by far your best matchup and pretty easy to navigate. No matter what type of Domain deck they are all you have to know is this: counter and kill what matters, let them draw cards with Atraxa/Invasion of Alara – let them slowly erode their library before you set up your combo kill turn. Take out clunky removal spells in favor of counters, discard, or midrange threats.
Cut counters and maybe some draw spells for cheap removal and roadblocks like Sheoldred. I’ve usually found this matchup favorable, especially post-board with the addition of Sheoldred.
These matchups require more play and correct sequencing. Golgari can be tough because their threats are so diverse and can win the games with creature lands. This is where Field of Ruin becomes so important. If you can deal with both their threats while removing Restless Cottages for no extra cards, you won’t fall behind as badly as you would if you were just a regular Esper control deck.
There are two other builds of the deck I want to post just for some closing thoughts. The first is essentially the Dimir deck, with the addition of white for a few Void Rends and wrath effects.
Esper Jace Control #1
I like this version because it gives you cleaner answers to go-wide strategies like Azorius Soldiers and gives you a better answer to Herd Migration, one card that can really outpace you in the Domain matchup.
The other version of the deck goes harder on the inclusion of White, for cards like Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset:
Esper Jace Control #2
My first inclination is that this version is just weaker than the one above, since you don’t have room for…well, everything. But I like that Teferi can provide some more looks at your deck for Jace, and can combo nicely with cards like The Celestus, Realmbreaker, and even Phyrexian tokens created off Sunfall. The incremental lifegain isn’t nothing either, but I think this planeswalker doesn’t do enough of protecting itself to make it a worthwhile inclusion into the deck.
Lost Caverns of Ixalan Spoilers
As of the writing of this article the full set for Ixalan isn’t spoiled, but there are a couple of potential standouts that will make this deck.
Treasure Map was a Standard all-star back when it was first released in original Ixalan, and I’m incredibly excited to play with it again. While this might remain a sideboard card in this deck for midrange and control matchups it’s definitely a card I’ll be including in my future builds. Map is a great way for decks like this to filter to find cards they need in a given matchup while also providing a source of late-game value.
This deck also gets an auto-include card that plays into the Jace gameplan! Restless Reef provides another win condition that’s free to include and also can help you close out games where you just need to mill a few more cards in addition to your Jaces. There’s not much to say on this one other than I’d start with testing four copies and go down from there if four seems like too many (but four is probably where I’m guessing I’ll end up).
Bitter Triumph is a pretty versatile removal spell, and I’m open to playing some copies maindeck. However, you usually don’t want to be losing life or discarding cards unless you’re already ahead. This is a card that I want to explore in Cruelty of Gix/Atraxa decks, but I can see it being a control staple just because it kills everything. I’d start with 1-2 copies main if anything, but I think Sheoldred’s Edict does enough of the job.
I think whatever version of this deck you play it does have to be completely optimized for Esper and Golgari. It shines against Domain and aggressive decks, but I think you have to be wary of getting outpaced by cards like Raffine and Blossoming Tortoise if they hit the battlefield. Overall, I’m super excited to play this archetype come the release of Lost Caverns of Ixalan next month as well as the upcoming RCQ season.
Regardless of how the meta shakes out with Lost Caverns of Ixalan, I think Jace is a card that needs to be in your 75 somewhere as a Blue deck. It can give you such an edge having an alternate win con that comes out of left field. If you want a unique way to attack the metagame that no one will be expecting, this is the deck for you!
As always, thanks for reading!