I did not see that coming.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor is back on the menu and immediately after the
Modern Pro Tour returned, as well. What was the reasoning behind this odd
Modern’s return to the Pro Tour, shining a spotlight on the format,
makes this a great time to revisit past decisions and see if they still
make sense in the current era. The data we gathered both from the Pro
Tour itself and from the several weeks of Magic Online play as pro
players tested for the event have helped us cross-check our decisions
against what’s doing well in the real world.
How long ago did they lock in a decision to unban Bloodbraid Elf and Jace,
the Mind Sculptor? Months ago? Weeks ago? Days ago? I would guess it’s
closer to months, maybe multiple months, rather than days or weeks, and it
feels like the Modern Pro Tour had little to no impact on this decision.
Which would make sense, since right now Modern is basically amazing any way
you slice it and certainly doesn’t need any changes. So in that
regard the timing is odd.
That said, even though these unbans might seem strange and out of the blue
(and red and green) personally I’m excited to see what happens in terms of
what they’ll shake up. The brewer in me is pleased, and Jace, the Mind
Sculptor lover. It makes me want to play more Modern despite just having
played it a ridiculous amount testing for the Pro Tour.
So what impact will these two cards have on the Modern metagame?
Today I’ll mostly be skipping over Bloodbraid Elf, since it’s far less
interesting to me, and my opinion as well as the general consensus has been
that Bloodbraid Elf probably won’t break anything in Modern.
But what about Jace, the Mind Sculptor? He is the big question mark. My
initial impression is… I have no idea.
It seems like Jace should be completely busted, but maybe he ends up doing
For now let’s imagine there will be three broad levels of impact Jace, the
Mind Sculptor will have on Modern:
1. Mild impact: Jace, the Mind Sculptor turns out to be not that great in
Modern and appears in a few control decks and sideboards. Ancestral Vision
and Sword of the Meek have a new drinking buddy to commiserate with and
share stories about the glory days.
2. Moderate impact: Jace, the Mind Sculptor is a staple in control decks
and appears in a lot of Modern decks that run blue mana, revives old
archetypes, and spawns a bunch of new archetypes with varying degrees of
success. The rest of the format has to adjust a little, but Jace decks are
very beatable and life goes on.
3. Huge impact: The darkest timeline. Jace, the Mind Sculptor gets used and
abused in interesting and powerful ways, both expected and unexpected, and
warps the format around his gloriousness. All other decks bend the knee or
get destroyed. Nothing ends up being able to compete with Jace decks,
Middle-earth falls into shadow under the rule of Jace’s massive mind and
Jacecoin, the new cryptocurrency, surpasses Bitcoin in value. Eventually
Jace has to be resealed, sent to the super duper ultra banned shadow realm
to join repeat offender Golgari Grave-Troll.
All of these options seem plausible. My gut reaction was feeling somewhere
in the middle between two and three.
How could Jace, the freakin’ Mind Sculptor not get broken at some
To be fair, presumably Jace was unbanned because Wizards is confident he is
safe to unban. I assume they did a bunch of testing and found it would be
fine and the more I think about it, the more I feel Jace won’t break
anything. The tricky part is how much can they know? They don’t have
thousands of minds all trying to break it at once for a prolonged period of
time. Jace is a complicated card and it might take an unexpected deck to
Jace doesn’t obviously fit in too many top archetypes that already exist.
Mostly just control decks. There’s plenty of other options though, like
Grixis Death’s Shadow, U/R Gifts Storm, Lantern Control, Bant Knightfall,
and Merfolk. The real interesting thing will be the new tempo decks and
unique control decks that try and abuse Jace.
But for now let’s begin at level one and look at control decks, starting
with the first place and best place to start sculpting minds: U/W Miracles.
You may recognize this as the former best deck in Legacy…
Seriously though, there’s a lot that doesn’t translate from Legacy to
Modern, even without Sensei’s Divining Top in the mix for either, namely
Brainstorm, Ponder, and Portent to smooth your draws and enable Terminus,
as well as Force of Will to shut down combo decks.
Still there might be enough tools to complete the entire Miracles picture
in Modern now that Jace, the Mind Sculptor is another piece of the puzzle.
The big winner here is Terminus, thanks to Jace’s Brainstorm ability
setting up it’s miracle cost, and the big loser is Dan Ward and Bogles.
Telling Time is no Brainstorm by any means, but it’s probably still a
no-brainer in any deck looking to unlock the power of Terminus. Terminus
does seem like a nightmare for any creature deck to play against, but to be
fair, so is Supreme Verdict. Terminus does seem better overall though,
especially against some decks like Dredge, Living End, or Bogles, and now
you “get” to play Telling Time, which helps you get rid of your bad cards
anyways when you’re not playing against a creature deck. Telling Time is a
solid card by itself, especially when you can further manipulate your draws
with fetchlands, and cast it at instant speed on your opponent’s end step
against combo decks while holding up counter magic.
Search for Azcanta fits the theme of helping you hit your miracles, albeit
not that consistently. We’re still mostly playing Search for Azcanta
because it’s a good card, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor plays a similar role
as card draw/win condition in the deck, so it’s possible Search for Azcanta
is a little less necessary despite the synergy.
Opt is good for enabling a Terminus during your opponent’s attack step, but
Telling Time can do that as well, and I’m a little bit afraid of
overloading the deck with too much card draw and not enough meat.
Temporal Mastery is worth trying, although it might end up being a little
bit too clunky. Any time you can cast it for two mana is going to be a good
time, but the dream is taking an extra turn with Jace on your side of the
Entreat the Angels is a great way to close out a game, the question being
how necessary is it to actually win? It might be that Entreat the Angels is
powerful enough to warrant more slots, but now that control decks have
Jace, the Mind Sculptor do they actually need or want any other ways to win
Getting our eyes back on the prize, Jace, the Mind Sculptor does a lot for
the deck. It can be card draw, removal in the form of bounce, and a win
condition. All you really need to be doing is keeping parity with your
opponent, not dying, and then Jace will do the rest.
Also note that control now has a free win condition. The best win
condition. Jace’s ultimate. With Jace you don’t need to be worried about
running enough win conditions, or not being able to close out games. It all
After you’ve established control over the battlefield, made it nice and
empty, and feel you’ve drawn enough cards, then it’s finally time to start
winning. Jace’s +2 manipulates your opponents’ draw steps and makes sure
there are no surprises. This phase of the game feels much like a cat toying
with a mouse trapped in a bathtub.
Miracles is the big one but here a few other blueprints for other control
This build of Jeskai kind of hedges our bets, not fully committing to the
Terminus plan, but still has plenty of ways to enable it as well. You could
just toss Jace into an existing Jeskai shell, ignoring Terminus and Telling
Time entirely, but for now the more exotic options seem promising.
Snapcaster Mage gets a little worse since you’re increasing your number of
six-drops and four-drops, and also seems a bit less necessary as a win
condition and card advantage engine in the late game now that you have
You’re pretty much doing the same things you were before, except with Jace,
the Mind Sculptor. Sounds good to me.
So this is what it looks like to hedge our bets and take it easy with the
miracle mechanic, but what about when we go all in?
Behold: Turbo Miracles!
Temporal Mastery gets extra value with Search for Azcanta or Jace on the
battlefield, but we’re still mostly running it because we can get it
miracled easily rather than trying to force synergies with it.
Since we’re going hard with card draw and Search for Azcanta, we upped the
amount of Entreat the Angels to increase the chances things go horribly
wrong for our opponents when we draw cards.
Mishra’s Bauble takes on a whole new meaning with miracle cards. Since you
draw the card with Mishra’s Bauble the turn after you use it, you can
activate it, taking a peek on top of your library to check for miracles,
then fetching if you don’t like what you see, and draw the card on your
opponent’s turn which allows you to use miracle.
That means with three measly mana you can use Telling Time, draw into
Mishra’s Bauble and Terminus, and then use Mishra’s Bauble to draw the
Terminus you conveniently put on top of your deck with Telling Time. Same
goes for Jace using his 0 ability instead of Telling Time, except you’ll
need five mana.
Jace Is The Place
Those are my initial ideas on where to put Jace, the Mind Sculptor now that
he’s free to terrorize Modern. Do you think Jace will live up to the hype,
or will Modern’s harsh metagame beat him into submission? I know one thing,
the next few months of Modern are going to be very interesting.