Jace, the Mind Sculptor was merely a distraction.
The card we should’ve been worried about was Bloodbraid Elf all along!
Releasing Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf at the same time kind
of made sense looking at it from the perspective of “Hey, at least if Jace,
the Mind Sculptor is a problem, Bloodbraid Elf is good against it and will
keep Jace in check!”
But what happens when the solution to Jace, the Mind Sculptor is a bigger
monster than Jace itself?
I’ve felt Bloodbraid Elf would be safe to unban in Modern for a long time,
but that confidence has been wavering now that Bloodbraid Elf was actually
freed and I’ve had some time testing with it. That alongside this weekend’s
Magic Online Championship metagame, which featured seven out of
twenty-three players picking up Jund, paints an interesting picture.
What is Bloodbraid Elf’s place in Modern? Is it actually broken? Can the
historically resilient and flexible Modern metagame adapt? It’s time to
look at the Jund reviver and Jace destroyer.
Similar to my initial analysis of Jace, the Mind Sculptor,
here are all my opinions and findings about Bloodbraid Elf after the first
few weeks of playing with it, featuring the decks I built and tested, along
with my thoughts on how to best beat Bloodbraid Elf decks.
Finding 1: Jund is not only the de facto starting point for G/B/x
Midrange; it’s the deck to beat in Modern.
Thanks to Bloodbraid Elf, of course.
Jund has periods of success but had fallen off the Modern radar quite a bit
before the unbannings, and felt more like a “45% win rate against the
field” deck. Now it feels like it’s been restored to its former glory and
feels more like a “55% win rate against the field” deck once again.
Bloodbraid Elf added a lot to Jund. It tops out the curve nicely, which was
otherwise lacking. It provides card advantage and aggression. It’s great
with the deck’s powerful three-drops, like Kolaghan’s Command.
There might still be some reasons to play variations of G/B Midrange that
aren’t Jund. Abzan for Lingering Souls, for example, since Lingering Souls
is one of the best ways to win a grindy midrange matchup. Heck, maybe
Lingering Souls and Bloodbraid Elf fit together somewhere. Still it’s hard
to compete with the raw simplicity, power, and efficiency of Bloodbraid Elf
Finding 2: Bloodbraid Elf has downsides in Jund, but they shouldn’t be
too much of a concern.
For example, whiffing with Bloodbraid Elf by cascading into a removal spell
with no targets or a Thoughtseize when your opponent’s hand is empty. These
might seem like big problems, but in reality they don’t actually come up
that often and you still get a 3/2 haste out of the deal.
Thoughtseize and Inquisition of Kozilek are surprisingly relevant at most
stages of the game and so is your removal. It’s also more likely you’ll hit
a card that’s always good, like Tarmogoyf or Liliana of the Veil. Just make
sure to activate a Liliana of the Veil you already have on the battlefield
before you cascade if you were going to anyways, in case you hit another
The other fear is revealing Bloodbraid Elf with Dark Confidant and losing a
whopping four life.
It’s a legitimate concern, since your life total can be an important factor
in some matchups or when Dark Confidant is going for multiple turns. But
once again the reality of the way games play out seems to favor Bloodbraid
First of all you only have four copies of Bloodbraid Elf, and four damage
isn’t a huge difference from just a regular three-drop, which you have
There are also plenty of matchups, usually combo and control, where your
life total is mostly irrelevant.
Finally you have plenty of ways to kill off your own Dark Confidant if it
gets to a point where it becomes necessary. Chump blocking with Dark
Confidant is also usually an option where your life total is precious.
Bloodbraid Elf can even help you regain life thanks to Scavenging Ooze if
you cascade into it.
I wouldn’t put too much stock in worrying about Dark Confidant flips or
trying to pack in the absolute best three-drops to cascade into rather than
just building the best overall Jund deck you can and letting the cascades
Finding 3: Death’s Shadow and Bloodbraid Elf are both great cards and
putting them in the same deck works.
Even though a four-drop might seem a little expensive for a Death’s Shadow
deck, which usually have very low curves, it works out fine.
Bloodbraid Elf does end up cascading into Mishra’s Bauble or Traverse the
Ulvenwald sometimes, which can be fairly unexciting, but it’s still not bad
by any means. If you have delirium, cascading into Traverse the Ulvenwald
is sometimes exactly what you want to be doing anyway, since it allows you
to find and cast a Death’s Shadow if you have an extra mana, find another
Bloodbraid Elf, or whatever helps you most in any given situation–even a
land like Ghost Quarter, or Street Wraith to grow Death’s Shadow.
Finding 4: Putting Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Bloodbraid Elf, and
Ancestral Vision in the same deck gives you a ridiculous amount of card
This deck can have some excellent starts thanks to Noble Hierarch and Blood
Moon, and draws cards like crazy in the late game.
Ideally you can stack the top of your deck with Jace, the Mind Sculptor and
then cascade into what you want with Bloodbraid Elf. Personally I would
recommend Ancestral Vision.
The reason why I’m not in love with the deck is the lack of interactivity
you have in a lot of matchups. Temur usually relies on counters as a way to
interact with non-creatures, but since you have Bloodbraid Elf you don’t
want to be cascading into a useless Logic Knot.
There are ways to work around this thanks to Izzet Charm and Cryptic
Command, but they both come with their own drawbacks. Izzet Charm is fairly
underpowered in Modern right now since spending two mana for Spell Pierce
or Shock is not what you want, although the versatility is nice. Cryptic
Command is a little tricky to cast in a three-color Blood Moon deck and is
competing with both on Modern’s hottest new four-drops. It’s hard to
justify Temur when you can get the excellent Thoughtseize and Inquisition
of Kozilek from Jund.
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Heritage Druid
- 2 Nettle Sentinel
- 3 Elvish Visionary
- 4 Bloodbraid Elf
- 4 Elvish Archdruid
- 2 Ezuri, Renegade Leader
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Dwynen's Elite
- 4 Shaman of the Pack
Finding 5: Bloodbraid Elf is similar to a more consistent Collected
Company in Elves.
You’ve heard of Elf on the Shelf, now get ready for cascade into Ezuri
Collected Company is certainly one of the most powerful effects in the
deck, which means Bloodbraid Elf being comparable is exciting for the deck
even if it doesn’t have the same raw power.
One advantage to Bloodbraid Elf is that it has lower variance (never
thought I’d say that) since it’s guaranteed to cascade into something,
whereas Collected Company doesn’t always hit two creatures–sometimes not
even one. You’re never happy just getting a Llanowar Elves consolation
prize with either card, but they both have much better results than a
single Llanowar Elves on average. Bloodbraid Elf has a much less exciting
high end overall though and can’t be played at end of turn after Supreme
Bloodbraid Elf can hit non-creatures though like Lead the Stampede, Choke,
or Evolutionary Leap.
The biggest downside to adding Bloodbraid Elf is you stretch your manabase
a little bit more, losing access to some basic lands which means you take
more damage from Stomping Grounds, and you give up Horizon Canopy and a
white splash. That does add up. The other downside being Bloodbraid Elf
makes your Collected Companys a little worse since you can’t hit Bloodbraid
Elf with Collected Company.
Finding 6: Playing a bunch of Elves and hoping they swarm your opponent
isn’t a half bad strategy right now.
Turns out Bloodbraid Elf is actually an Elf! Who’d have thunk it? That
means Bloodbraid Elf gets access to all the delicious Elf synergies the
deck has to offer.
It also makes the deck more resilient to removal-heavy decks trying to pick
off your important Elves. Bloodbraid Elf gives you two threats and more
opportunities to reload against mass removal.
Finding 7: Bloodbraid Elf pushed Jund to the top of the Modern metagame
and Jund is currently the best home for Bloodbraid Elf. There are decks
that are good against Jund, but Jund is still capable of Junding out
Overall, Jund is top tier, but there are some decks right now that I feel
have a good matchup against it.
The thing is that when Jund is great it’s hard to beat. It has powerful
threats, removal, and answers, and can pluck the cards out your opponent’s
hand before they get to cast them. Jund gonna Jund.
Tron is always going to be the first deck that springs to mind when you
think of a Jund destroyer, but with Jund packing four Fulminator Mages in
the sideboard it’s by no means completely lopsided.
B/R Hollow One is another deck that has the raw explosiveness to power past
Jund as well. A lot of the decks that have a solid matchup against Jund
have relatively high fail rates, but that’s been how the metagame has
started to adapt. Speaking of which…
Dmitriy Butakov absolutely nailed it (and won the Magic Online Championship
as a result) with four Leyline of Sanctity maindeck in G/W Hexproof to
punish Jund. Leyline turns off Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek, and
what is one of the scariest cards for G/W Hexproof, Liliana of the Veil. It
was a great metagame call and great deck construction, since this is
definitely one of the decks you don’t want to play against if you’re on
Finding 8: Based on my initial impression unbanning Bloodbraid Elf was
a mistake… but not a major one.
Whereas unbanning Jace, the Mind Sculptor was fine!
I certainly didn’t expect that.
Now that I’ve had time to play a reasonable amount, in my opinion, Jund is
the overall best deck in Modern, and has reduced the number of other top
tier archetypes I’d want to play in the format, which has overall reduced
the quality of the format. The nice thing is that Jund is beatable if
that’s what you’re looking to do, but you do have to work for it. Modern
has usually adapted to whatever gets tossed at it, and I think it might be
able to survive Bloodbraid Elf.
Interestingly, Jace, the Mind Sculptor has felt much less powerful and
oppressive, but I also expect Jace decks to take more time to figure out.
It’s still way too early to consider any sort of bans again, but these have
been my initial impressions of the new Modern format.
I hope you enjoyed this and I look forward to seeing what tech to take down
Bloodbraid Elf emerges. What do you think? Is Bloodbraid Elf too good in
Modern? Do you think it should be banned again? When? Is it completely