Fact Or Fiction: Brought-Back Elf And Jace, The Hype Sculptor

We were hoping this is a format we’d get to see eventually, and the day has come! Modern is about to get even more crazy! Do you agree with the unbans? Vote here!

[Welcome back to

[card name="Fact or Fiction"]Fact or Fiction


! Today, 2014 SCG Tour Players’ Champion

Brad Nelson, and 2016 SCG Tour Players’ Champion, Jim Davis, give their
takes on five statements inspired by the

latest Banned and Restricted announcement by Wizards of the Coast.

. Read their responses and vote for the winner at the end!]

1. Unbanning Jace, the Mind Sculptor was a good

Brad Nelson: Fact.
Good is a relative term. What one perceives as good may contradict
another’s opinion as they deem it bad. For example, Shaheen Soorani thinks
this unbanning is good since he will only play control decks. I, on the
other hand, would normally consider this a bad decision since I don’t want
to play with control decks. That said, as a newly formed Eldrazi Tron
player, I’m okay with this decision as Reality Smasher trumps the hell out
of Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

As for Modern, I’m unsure just like everyone else. It may make the games
more fun, but also could put a damper on the format. Luckily Modern is
Modern, and by that I mean a giant dumpster fire of a format. There’s a
million decks that don’t interact well with each other, and for many that’s
the selling point. The unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor perpetuates the
fact that threats dominate answers in the format. WotC’s decision to bring
this card back just goes to show that they want Modern to be the format
where you do cool stuff, and hope it’s better than the cool stuff your
opponent’s doing.

Honestly, I’m fine with that.

Jim Davis: Fiction.

Wizards of the Coast has suffered from a pretty poor timing problem lately,
often doing the right thing but at the wrong time or for the wrong reasons.

Given the rampant success and appeal of the Modern format, people have been
clamoring for a Modern Pro Tour for a while. With a year of failed Standard
formats in the books, WotC decides to give us a Modern Pro Tour… just as
Standard finally finds its footing as the best it has been in a long time.
Now after a very successful Modern Pro Tour featuring perhaps one of the
most diverse and exciting metagames in the history of the game, WotC
decides to drop this bombshell.

I’m very torn on calling this decision fiction because I’ve been a pretty
staunch advocate for the unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor in Modern for
the last year or two. Ever since I spent some time piloting the Jeskai
Nahiri deck a few years ago and wondered if I would even play Jace, the
Mind Sculptor over Nahiri, the Harbinger, I’ve considered the fact that a
four mana, sorcery speed card that doesn’t have a strong impact on the
battlefield and is bad when you are behind is not going to break the Modern
format in half.

So why fiction?

I’m not going to lie I was very close to fact on this one, but it just
seems foolish to me to mess with a great thing. Modern right now is pretty
much the apex of what one could want in a format: there’s a truckload of
playable and different decks, all strategies are viable, the players who
are putting in the time are winning, and it’s a blast to watch because you
never know what is going to happen yet. When you’ve got things balanced
more perfectly than you ever have before, it feels weird to change it up.

I think Jace, the Mind Sculptor is a reasonable unban, I just think the
timing is poor.

2. Unbanning Bloodbraid Elf was a good decision.

Brad Nelson: Fact.
Bloodbraid Elf isn’t going to be that good. It was a symptom of the disease
we know call Deathrite Shamanitus. That mana dork ruined
the format, but we unfairly blamed Bloodbraid Elf for its indiscretions. I
don’t even think the card’s going to make waves in the format as I’ve
played a little with it in the VS Series and was extremely underwhelmed.

Jim Davis: Fact.
Wait what?

What about

“When you’ve got things balanced more perfectly than you ever have
before, it feels weird to change it up.”?

Didn’t you just say that if the format is already great why mess with it?

Yes, but I also said I was extremely close on the matter because I feel
that Jace, the Mind Sculptor is probably a safe unban. So why am I more
okay with Bloodbraid Elf? Put mildly, Bloodbraid Elf ain’t got nothing on
Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

Bloodbraid Elf is a great Magic card that will certainly see a ton of play
in Modern, but I don’t think it ever needed to be banned in the first
place. Bloodbraid Elf died for Deathrite Shaman’s sins before everyone
realized that Deathrite Shaman was actually the problem, and has been a
casualty of that crossfire ever since. Yes, Bloodbraid Elf into Kolagan’s
Command is very good. Yes, Bloodbraid Elf into Liliana of the Veil will be
as good as it ever was. However sometimes you’re just going to cascade into
a worthless Fatal Push or Abrupt Decay, or worse, be dead (or effectively
dead) the turn after you cast it. Bloodbraid Elf is a great tool but just
doesn’t put away games like Jace, the Mind Sculptor does.

It’s going to be a lot of fun to see how Bloodbraid Elf fits into the
Hollow One/Vengevine decks, as well as how it plays with all the new tools
that have been printed since it was unfairly locked away.

3. With the unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor, blue-based
control deck will now dominate Modern.

Brad Nelson: Fiction.
Dominate is a strong word. Will Jace, the Mind Sculptor control decks
over-perform in the initial weeks? Probably, but I’d imagine the best Jace
decks will eventually become tempo-based. That’s what happened with Jace,
the Mind Sculptor in Standard all those years ago, and I’d imagine the same
will happen in Modern. It’s just difficult for a control deck with Jace,
the Mind Sculptor to keep up with a tempo deck with the same card. Options
are important, and the midrange decks have more of them as they also have
avenues to pressure opposing Jace, the Mind Sculptors with cards like Geist
of Saint Traft.

Jim Davis: Fiction.
We seem to be past a point of any one deck or archetype dominating the
format, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor won’t be changing that.

There are too many powerful things happening in Modern for blue control to
ever hit the level of domination, as there are too many powerful proactive
strategies that you need to be able to answer. Without the ability to
defend itself or you from the many broken things that can happen on turn 4
or 5 of a Modern game, it’s going to be an extremely risky proposition for
a blue deck to be tapping out for Jace, the Mind Sculptor in a lot of
matchups. We’ve seen this with Geist of Saint Traft, and that card costs
three mana! You can’t just play Jace and back it up with a Force of Will
like you can in Legacy.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor is honestly better in midrange strategies and decks
with more proactive plans that can get him out early and in conjunction
with other threats. If you’re already struggling to deal with the Tarmogoyf
or whatever threat your opponent has presented and then they play a Jace,
the Mind Sculptor that’s a crux that’s very hard to escape.

Jace will change the face of what value-based decks look like in Modern,
but it won’t be all control, all the time. (Sorry, Shaheen!)

4. With the unbanning of Bloodbraid Elf, Jund will be the
midrange deck of choice in Modern

Brad Nelson: Fiction.
Honestly I have no idea. Like I should just be answering this question as
“Jund Guy” saying things like, “OUR PROMISED ONE HAS RETURNED”, but the
truth is Jund never really did anything for me. It took a long time to
realize this since I was always doing “okay” with the deck, but I never got
to accomplish anything with the deck. Even after years of playing it. I
just think B/G midrange decks aren’t that good. “But Reid Duke did well
with Abzan” is what I think many are thinking, but the question to ask
yourself is if Reid Duke played Taking Turns would you also jump off that
bridge? Yeah, didn’t think so!

Jim Davis: Fact.
Jund may not be the final form of whatever the best midrange deck in Modern
ends up being, but it will certainly be the starting point.

Jund has fallen by the wayside lately, with both Abzan and Mardu taking up
the majority of the Thoughtseize/Fatal Push/Liliana of the Veil slice of
the metagame, but Bloodbraid Elf puts quite a bit of wind back into its

Both Abzan and Mardu utilize Lingering Souls as a major part of their long
game plan, giving them the edge they need in any sort of attrition-based
game in fair matchups. Jund, while a bit better against the unfair decks of
the format thanks to a slightly faster clock and Dark Confidant, has
historically struggled against Lingering Souls because it ends up just not
having the material to come out ahead in the grind.

Bloodbraid Elf changes that dynamic, both in providing great battlefield
presence and card advantage right away, as well as over and over again in
conjunction with Kolagan’s Command and perhaps Liliana, the Last Hope. Jund
will now be able to grind with the best of them, while also maintaining its
slightly more aggressive stance.

While Jund is likely to be the midrange of choice to start, I wouldn’t be
surprised if the best midrange deck ends up being Sultai with Jace, the
Mind Sculptor joining forces with the usual green and black midrange tools.

5. In light of today’s announcement and detailed explanations,
you’re excited about Modern’s future.

Brad Nelson: Fact.
After extensively testing for Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan I can now
say I love Modern and think it’s a great format. I just don’t think it’s a
good format for high-stakes competition. I don’t want to travel far for the
format since it’s difficult to consistently do well. As a professional
player you have to try to maximize your edge as much as possible, and
Modern has made it difficult for most of us to do this. That doesn’t mean
the format needs to be “fixed” though. After all, it’s my opinion. The
format’s extremely enjoyable to play casually as you don’t play against the
same three decks over and over again. You also get into more unique game
states so you rarely have repeat play patterns.

These unbannings won’t change Modern, which is a good thing. Sure they may
cause new decks to be played, and invalidate others, but all cards are
guilty of that. A good shakeup every once and a while is a good thing for
the format. I may continue to play Eldrazi Tron, but am excited about
playing against Jace, the Mind Sculptor, as I’ve never had to think about
how to play against the card before. That sounds fun to me! It also sounds
fun completely bashing Jund players trying to play 3/2 haste creatures into
a sea of powerful Eldrazi.

If the unbannings were today, you’d probably have found me at


this weekend doing battle. That goes to show you just how excited I am!

Jim Davis: Fact.
While I am surprised by timing of the unbannings, as a Magic player and
content creator, format upheaval is always exciting.

There are now a million questions that I have about Modern, and finding the
answers is a blast! I get to stream my brews, write about how I think
things are going to turn, and of course enjoy playing on a brand new
battlefield in every tournament I attend. Creating content is even easier
when they basically hand you a brand new toy and tell you to play with it
and talk about it.

After a rough 2017, Magic is off to a great start in 2018. I can’t wait to
play more Standard, and I was already excited about Modern and now we’ve
got even more to chew on. Say nothing of possible Vintage, Pauper, Legacy,
and No-Ban-List Modern events too!

Excited is a good word.