Teferi, Hero of Modern

While Dominaria is now out in full force, all of my time playing with the new cards has been in the context of Standard or Limited. But it turns out that once you get to play with a card as awesome as Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, it makes you want to play it in every format.

I’ve seen the question posed on Twitter – is Teferi better than Jace, the Mind Sculptor in Modern? If you simply look to Ben Nickolich’s latest Jeskai Control list from SCG Atlanta, you’ll see one copy of the new Teferi planeswalker and zero copies of Jace. That’s a bold statement, coming from the Jeskai master.

While it’s not exactly fair to compare a four-mana, monocolored planeswalker to a five-mana, multicolored one, I’m becoming more and more confident that Teferi is at least as good as the freshly-unbanned Mind Sculptor.

To preface, I’m considering blue-white to be the primary control colors in Modern, so Teferi being a blue-white card is perfect. Not to discount blue-red or Grixis decks, but UWx decks are the frame for this discussion.

Teferi has already shown that he plays well with instant-speed spells in Standard, where you can play him on five mana and leave up Seal Away and Negate, or play him on seven mana and leave up Settle the Wreckage, Commit // Memory, or a number of other spells to protect your powerful planeswalker. Teferi will play out much the same way in Modern, where you often need to wait to deploy your planeswalker until you also have mana available for a removal spell or counterspell. In these situations, Teferi is functionally a mana cheaper than Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

A staple of Blue-White Control decks is, of course, Celestial Colonnade. Teferi allows you to untap a newly-played Colonnade and have the potential to block with it immediately. I’m sure that Azorius Chancery is going too deep, but Teferi brings exciting possibilities with all of the lands available in Modern. Why limit yourself to one Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin activation per turn?

When playing against an opponent who has Lightning Bolt in their deck, you are often faced with a difficult decision with Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Do I use the Brainstorm ability to guarantee myself a card and risk Jace getting Bolted, or do I +2 to play around Lightning Bolt and risk losing Jace to a Maelstrom Pulse or Dreadbore anyway? Teferi’s high starting loyalty gives you the best of both worlds in this situation.

Teferi is much more adept at dealing with opposing permanents than Jace. Teferi’s -3 ability can target a number of problematic artifacts, enchantments, or planeswalkers that Jace could never touch. I often find myself facing down a Blood Moon, Choke, Bitterblossom, Chalice of the Void, or some other random permanent that my opponent has sideboarded in against me to keep me from having fun. Putting these unfun permanents into your opponent’s library will likely give you a couple of turns of reprieve, if not letting you shuffle them away with the stellar follow-up play of activating Field of Ruin (note that Field of Ruin is not a “may” ability – your opponent MUST shuffle their library, even if they don’t have a basic land to search up).

And, lastly, the final ability of each planeswalker – both ultimates should be game-ending. And while Jace’s might be a bit more sudden, Teferi is able to get to the ultimate a turn faster, drawing you cards along the way while you tick up.

Here’s my concept for a Blue-White Control list that is trying to make the most out of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria:

Blue-White Control

[deck]
[Lands]
4 Celestial Colonnade
4 Field of Ruin
4 Flooded Strand
2 Hallowed Fountain
6 Island
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Mystic Gate
2 Plains
1 Polluted Delta
[/Lands]
[Spells]
1 Blessed Alliance
1 Condemn
3 Cryptic Command
2 Detention Sphere
1 Gideon Jura
2 Gideon of the Trials
3 Logic Knot
1 Negate
4 Opt
4 Path to Exile
2 Search for Azcanta
2 Serum Visions
1 Settle the Wreckage
1 Spell Snare
1 Supreme Verdict
2 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
1 Wrath of God
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
2 Snapcaster Mage
1 Vendilion Clique
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
1 Ceremonious Rejection
2 Dispel
1 Grafdigger’s Cage
2 Celestial Purge
1 Damping Sphere
1 Disdainful Stroke
1 Stony Silence
1 Timely Reinforcements
2 Geist of Saint Traft
1 Vendilion Clique
1 Jace, Architect of Thought
1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

While a typical Blue-White Control list might play more copies of sorcery-speed cards such as Serum Visions, Spreading Seas, and Wall of Omens, here we are trying to maximize the power of Teferi alongside cheap instants. I’ve also added a couple extra cantrips and fetchlands from what I would normally play, in order to help enable the increased number of Logic Knots. It’s easy to imagine that a Jeskai Control deck packing Lighting Bolts and Lightning Helixes would be a good home for Teferi, as well.

Upcoming events that I will be attending include Grand Prix Toronto, where I will most likely be in the Standard seat for my team, as well as Grand Prix Washington DC and Pro Tour Dominaria. After that comes the next round of Regional Pro Tour Qualifiers, which are Unified Standard. This means that I’ll have to put Modern on the backburner, for now. But I am eager to find out if Teferi can become not only the Hero of Dominaria, but the Hero of Modern, too.

POV #4 – RUG Scapeshift vs. 4C Saheeli

[td_block_video_youtube playlist_title=”” playlist_yt=”0TaKWK8IL5E,WuOLXLtGgXo,CtBVI5xZKvk,MeiEymG6uao,suEsIcBm0,63FtV4kTSU0,IdQhs5lYoKg” playlist_auto_play=”0″]

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RUG Scapeshift – Andy Robdrup

[deck]
[Lands]
1 Breeding Pool
1 Cinder Glade
2 Flooded Grove
2 Forest
3 Island
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Mountain
4 Steam Vents
4 Stomping Ground
2 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
[/Lands]
[Spells]
1 Anger of the Gods
3 Cryptic Command
2 Electrolyze
2 Farseek
2 Izzet Charm
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Remand
4 Scapeshift
4 Search for Tomorrow
1 Sweltering Suns
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
2 Snapcaster Mage
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
1 Ancient Grudge
2 Anger of the Gods
2 Crumble to Dust
3 Dispel
2 Negate
3 Obstinate Baloth
2 Seal of Primordium
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

4C Saheeli – Alex Bianchi

[deck]
[Lands]
1 Breeding Pool
1 Copperline Gorge
1 Fire-Lit Thicket
1 Forest
1 Hallowed Fountain
2 Horizon Canopy
1 Plains
1 Razorverge Thicket
1 Sacred Foundry
1 Steam Vents
1 Stomping Ground
1 Temple Garden
4 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills
[/Lands]
[Spells]
2 Eldritch Evolution
4 Oath of Nissa
4 Saheeli Rai
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Bloodbraid Elf
2 Eternal Witness
4 Felidar Guardian
1 Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
4 Noble Hierarch
1 Qasali Pridemage
1 Reflector Mage
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Selfless Spirit
1 Spellskite
1 Sun Titan
3 Voice of Resurgence
1 Wall of Omens
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
3 Path to Exile
1 Kataki, War’s Wage
2 Meddling Mage
1 Aven Mindcensor
1 Eidolon of Rhetoric
2 Fiery Justice
1 Izzet Staticaster
1 Kitchen Finks
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Avalanche Riders
1 Reveillark
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Still Better Than All?

Jace, the Mind Sculptor – historically, the best planeswalker of all time – has been unbanned from Modern for the first time. Every January or February, it feels like the Modern format gets completely shaken up, and this February 12, 2018 Banned & Restricted Announcement was no exception. I’m hearing a lot of concern that this unbanning was a mistake, that [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] is too good a card for Modern, and that we will inevitably see Jace get locked back up, maybe even within a year.

I’m having a more tempered initial reaction. I admit to being biased, but I’ve always wanted to see [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] get set free in Modern along with [card]Bloodbraid Elf[/card] – a creature that can do a lot of work at keeping Jace in check. One could even question how good Jace actually is in the current Modern environment. Yes, Jace is a powerful card, but we’ve yet to see how it performs in the context of Modern. Just look at the list of top-tier Modern decks, and count how many of them would probably laugh at you for tapping out on turn four for a Jace. Burn, Affinity, Humans, Tron, Grixis [card]Death’s Shadow[/card], Valakut, Storm, Dredge…the list goes on. A lot of other previously-banned cards have flopped since their debut in Modern; maybe Jace could be headed the same way.

The truth about Jace’s strength in Modern probably lies somewhere in between. We blue control mages love to play the victim in Modern, but blue decks have won a lot of Modern Pro Tours and World Championships. And control decks have actually been doing well in recent times, with Jeskai Control and Blue-White Control being the most popular. Daniel Fournier already covered how Jace might fit into those existing decks in his article here: http://manadeprived.com/fourniers-take-unbans-finding-new-home-jace.

Yes, in the context of a Jeskai or Blue-White Control deck, tapping out for a turn four Jace might not always be safe or have much impact on the game. Those decks are probably waiting a bit longer, until turns five through eight, to be able deploy Jace and hold up countermagic or removal, and therefore might only want two or three copies of the planeswalker.

But is there a new type of deck that would want all four copies of the Mind Sculptor? In the past, we saw Jeskai Control decks with four copies of Nahiri, the Harbinger that always wanted to have one on curve. Maxing out on Nahiris also worked out because extra copies could be discarded to the first. Similarly, Jace can “brainstorm” and shuffle extra Jaces away. Nahiri and Jace both have the ability to protect themselves, alongside game-winning ultimates. Granted, Nahiri Jeskai decks eventually fell out of favor because of how hostile the format became for four-mana planeswalkers.

We as a Magic community are slow to evolve and try new things in Modern. Part of this is how expensive it is to acquire new decks and new cards, and also how rewarding it is to master the ins and outs of one particular deck. Two of the more recent, major impacts on blue decks in Modern were the printing of the Khans of Tarkir fetchlands and Fatal Push. Last year, we saw a bunch of [card]Death’s Shadow[/card] decks explode out of this. [card]Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/card] might be the final missing piece in order for a wave of Blue-Black based control decks to finally become viable.

The other key cards that would form the basis of this new control shell: [card]Thoughtseize[/card], [card]Inquisition of Kozilek[/card], [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card], Fatal Push, and [card]Ancestral Vision[/card]. One-mana discard spells have proven to be the best type of interaction, compared to things like [card]Mana Leak[/card] and [card]Remand[/card], in a format as fast as Modern and filled with [card]Cavern of Souls[/card] and [card]Aether Vial[/card]s. It’s also easier to tear your opponent’s hand apart with discard spells and then land a Jace, rather than waiting until you can play Jace and hold up countermagic in the same turn. At the very least, you get to see your opponent’s hand and gain the information of how safe it is to tap out. [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] is a natural fit for any black midrange deck, but also doesn’t play well with your own countermagic. While [card]Cryptic Command[/card] and [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] have long been the best blue spells in Modern, maybe it’s time for blue decks to go sorcery-speed instead of trying to cast spells on the opponent’s turn.

Esper Tap-Out

[deck]
[Lands]
4 Polluted Delta
3 Flooded Strand
3 Marsh Flats
2 Watery Grave
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Godless Shrine
2 Island
2 Swamp
1 Plains
2 Creeping Tar Pit
1 Shambling Vent
2 Field of Ruin
[/Lands]
[Spells]
3 Ancestral Vision
4 Fatal Push
3 Inquisition of Kozilek
2 Path to Exile
4 Serum Visions
3 Thoughtseize
1 Search for Azcanta
2 Detention Sphere
4 Liliana of the Veil
3 Lingering Souls
1 Damnation
4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
2 Snapcaster Mage
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
2 Ceremonious Rejection
1 Liliana’s Defeat
2 Surgical Extraction
1 Celestial Purge
2 Collective Brutality
1 Countersquall
1 Rest in Peace
2 Stony Silence
1 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
1 Damnation
1 Engineered Explosives
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

Jumping straight into Esper! I modeled this list to be a Blue-Black version of Reid Duke’s Green-Black midrange deck splashing white for [card]Lingering Souls[/card] and, of course, the best sideboard color in Modern. [card]Lingering Souls[/card] is an obvious pairing with [card]Liliana of the Veil[/card], and fills much of the same role that [card]Electrolyze[/card] does in Jeskai. I want a high number of fetchlands to go with Jace’s brainstorm ability, plus enough turn one, untapped blue sources for suspending [card]Ancestral Vision[/card]. Tron is going to be a tough matchup, with your best plan being [card]Surgical Extraction[/card] on an Urza’s land. You may want some [card]Fulminator Mage[/card]s in the sideboard, or to just give up on the matchup entirely.

Blue-Black Tap-Out

[deck]
[Lands]
4 Polluted Delta
1 Flooded Strand
1 Scalding Tarn
2 Watery Grave
6 Island
2 Swamp
3 Creeping Tar Pit
1 Darkslick Shores
1 Sunken Ruins
4 Field of Ruin
[/Lands]
[Spells]
3 Ancestral Vision
4 Fatal Push
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Serum Visions
4 Thoughtseize
1 Search for Azcanta
4 Spreading Seas
1 Dismember
1 Hero’s Downfall
4 Liliana of the Veil
1 Damnation
4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
2 Snapcaster Mage
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
1 Liliana’s Defeat
2 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Surgical Extraction
2 Collective Brutality
1 Countersquall
1 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
2 Flaying Tendrils
2 Vendilion Clique
1 Damnation
1 Hostage Taker
1 Night of Souls’ Betrayal
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

Cutting down to two colors allows you to fit the full amount of [card]Spreading Seas[/card] and Field of Ruin to help fix the Tron problem. This land denial package is potent and part of the reason why I like Blue-White Control so much. The removal in this deck is worse, and it will have a harder time dealing with artifacts, enchantments, and planeswalkers. I’m skewing the discard split in the direction of [card]Thoughtseize[/card] to try to help deal with things you can’t otherwise answer.

Blue-Black in general has always lacked a good win condition, and Jace provides that. [card]Creeping Tar Pit[/card] also happens to be a good way to pressure opposing Jaces. I’m excited to start exploring these types of Liliana-Jace decks to see what kind of potential they have. If Jace ends up underperforming in the Jeskai and Blue-White versions of control, the number of copies will just be trimmed down to adjust. But a Blue/Black/x, tap-out style Jace deck will really test what this “new” planeswalker has to offer.

Lastly, I want to showcase a more fringe Jace deck that I am terrified of. This one comes from the “Quad-Sleeved U/B Turns” guy, and how he’s said he would update his list to make room for Jace.

Taking Turns by Daniel Wong

[deck]
[Lands]
1 Flooded Strand
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Polluted Delta
1 Scalding Tarn
2 Sunken Hollow
1 Watery Grave
8 Island
1 Snow-Covered Island
3 Drowned Catacomb
1 Temple of Deceit
2 Gemstone Caverns
1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
[/Lands]
[Spells]
3 Fatal Push
4 Gigadrowse
4 Serum Visions
1 Collective Brutality
2 Howling Mine
4 Dictate of Kruphix
3 Exhaustion
2 Cryptic Command
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
4 Time Warp
2 Part the Waterveil
1 Commandeer
3 Temporal Mastery
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
2 Snapcaster Mage
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
1 Surgical Extraction
2 Thoughtseize
1 Collective Brutality
2 Hurkyl’s Recall
2 Thing in the Ice
1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
1 Commandeer
3 Chalice of the Void
2 Engineered Explosives
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

I don’t know much about this archetype, but Jace seems like a great fit in this deck. Humans has got to be a poor matchup, but I would think that you’d be able to make up for it by preying on other blue decks. You even have miracles that you can now set up with Jace. And if you don’t have a Jace yet, just [card]Commandeer[/card] your opponent’s!

POV #3 – Esper Gifts vs. Grixis Energy

**Due to technical difficulties, Alex Bianchi’s videos for match 2 and 3 are without audio.

[td_block_video_youtube playlist_title=”” playlist_yt=”eY6ndXY9-_s,EQ93FqS6Yfc,WrgBbAYc5_E,2tO9fyKcdLQ,KIvboRUVUKw,qtlasGDA4Ck” playlist_auto_play=”0″]

For even more content from the guys including an exclusive post-mortem video, consider joining the First Strike Nation!

Esper Gifts – Andy Robdrup

[deck]
[Lands]
4 Aether Hub
4 Concealed Courtyard
4 Drowned Catacomb
1 Glacial Fortress
3 Ipnu Rivulet
5 Island
3 Swamp
[/Lands]
[Spells]
4 Gate to the Afterlife
2 God-Pharaoh’s Gift
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
4 Angel of Invention
4 Champion of Wits
3 Dusk Legion Zealot
4 Minister of Inquiries
4 Ravenous Chupacabra
4 Seekers’ Squire
3 Trophy Mage
4 Walking Ballista
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
4 Dreamstealer
3 Duress
3 Fourth Bridge Prowler
1 Sorcerous Spyglass
2 The Scarab God
2 Vraska’s Contempt
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

Grixis Energy – Alex Bianchi

[deck]
[Lands]
4 Aether Hub
4 Canyon Slough
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Drowned Catacomb
1 Fetid Pools
1 Island
1 Mountain
4 Spirebluff Canal
3 Swamp
[/Lands]
[Spells]
2 Abrade
1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
1 Essence Scatter
2 Fatal Push
3 Glimmer of Genius
4 Harnessed Lightning
1 Liliana, Death’s Majesty
1 Magma Spray
1 Search for Azcanta
2 Supreme Will
2 Vraska’s Contempt
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
2 Ravenous Chupacabra
2 The Scarab God
2 Torrential Gearhulk
4 Whirler Virtuoso
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
3 Gifted Aetherborn
2 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
4 Negate
1 Magma Spray
1 Die Young
1 Vraska’s Contempt
1 River’s Rebuke
1 Treasure Map
1 Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]