Pattern Recognition #183 - Jace (Part 1)

Features Opinion Pattern Recognition


11 February 2021


Hello everyone! This is Pattern Recognition, TappedOut.Net's longest running article series as written by myself, berryjon. I am something of an Old Fogey who has been around the block quite a few times where Magic is concerned, as as such, I use this series to talk about the various aspects of this game, be it deck design, card construction, mechanics chat, in-universe characters and history. Or whatever happens to cross my mind this week. Please, feel free to dissent in the comments below the article, add suggestions or just plain correct me! I am a Smart Ass , so I can take it.

If you imagine me, sitting at my desk, leaning back in my chair, drumming my fingers as I ponder the necessity of this article, you've just envisioned most of my free time this past week. I've made no secret of my hatred for the character of Jace Beleren , to the point where I ... Oh Sweet Urza, I wrote that article nearly four years ago! Where does time fly?

Anyway, my hatred of Jace has not really diminished, though the fires of my fury are matched only by the stoking flames of the impending arrival of New Phyrexia. Seriously Karn, just destroy the Plane already and we can move on to actual villains and not a disease that needs to be burned out.

Regardless though, I come to you today to reexamine Jace, not as a character, but to actually look at his cards this time around properly, rather than using them as a stepping stone toward ranting at his ubiquitous Mary-Sue-ish-ness. Instead, I'm going to provide some colour commentary on him as I go, rather than just a dry recital of facts. I'm sure some of you are going to wait with baited breath for me to break, right?

Also, that's a real word, and don't you argue with me! I'm the one taking time to write all this! ;)

So anyway, let's start from the top. As of this article, 11 Feb 2021, there are twelve unique versions of Jace in the game. They range from to the deliberately overpriced . His starting loyalty has been pretty consistent across most his incarnations, though he started out with 3 with Jace Beleren , he is most comfortable starting as 4 with the more recent Jace, Unraveler of Secrets starting at 5. And for the most part, he is a very conservatively designed Planeswalker, not really pushing any sorts of boundaries where his abilities are concerned as I will further elaborate on. Let's get to it.

Jace Beleren , from Lorwyn Block, was one of the initial set of five Planeswalkers, and like all of them, was a very bland card as Wizards was experimenting with one of the biggest design changes and hurdles in the game since the introduction of Equipment. And they still screw up Equipment and Planeswalkers to this day.

I'm looking at you, Oko, Thief of Crowns

But that's a subject for a day long past.

Regardless, Jace Beleren was cheaply costed as his abilities weren't actually that bad. His +2 is very much a Group Hug ability, something that says to the other player(s) that "Hey, this guy is helping you out! Don't punch him in the face please!"

Well, still, Punch Jace In the Face. It's the right thing to do. His -1 is a simple card draw, and it shows how card draw, especially repeatable card draw has changes in terms of being understood as a resource for general card advantage. Drawing a card nowadays is far more common, cantrips are a thing, and still draws cards whenever they so much as sneeze - metaphorically speaking. I'm sure at some point, someone at Wizards has created a card with a placeholder and joke name of 'Sneeze' But regardless, this ability at this cost is not something would wok in this day and age.

Lastly, his ultimate was the punishment for letting him hug you too much and not punching him in the face. He mills you for 20 cards! That's a pretty big hit, and if you're running Dimir, a card like Megrim can result in a very dead opponent. No, wait, that discard, not mill. How about Syr Konrad, the Grim instead? Don't let Jace hug you people, unless it's to let him get close enough to punch him in the face.

Why yes, this is a running theme, why do you ask?

So, moving on we get Jace, the Bah-Roken. Sorry, Jace, the Mind Sculptor . Printed in Worldwake, this guy quickly set the bar for being an utter powerhouse of a card, so much so that when Extended transitioned into Modern, he was first up on the ban list. Why? Well, let's break him down. He's reasonable costed - for the most part as is still reasonable, though a part of the problem.

The first real problem with this Jace though is his abilities. He was the first with four, thought not the last. Part of the problem was, though which four abilities he got. The first was an odd one, as you got to effectively Scry 1 or Fateseal 1. For those of you who don't know what Fateseal is or was, it was basically scrying your opponent's library, and was cut after Future Sight as being 'unfun' to play against or around. Fair enough. If you're interested, read my article about Scry from a bit short three years ago.

Now, this ability is actually fairly underpowered. Not saying that it's useless, because it's not. It's just that for +2, I would expect more than a simple Scry/Fateseal 1. But then again, the ability to mess around with your opponent's deck is something that could very much end the game right there if you could simply keep denying them a vital resource. That using this ability kept him out of easy damage-kill range was only a bonus.

His second ability was to cast Brainstorm . Now, one of the conceits that Planeswalkers had was that they were effectively casting a spell on your behalf. This was pretty blatant with Jace, the Bah-Roken as the last time Brainstorm had been printed before Jace started casting it was back around Fifth Edition and Mercadian Masques. Yeah, that far back. Sure, it got a few reprints in supplemental sets or dual decks, but the last time the card or its effect was in Standard was about a decade or so previously.

Now, Brainstorm is a great card! It lets you look through about 5% of your total deck, put cards from your hand back on top of your library if you want to set up future card draws, or even put them in a place where you can Scry them away. Hey, like his first ability! Look, what I'm saying is that hand and deck manipulation is important. Important enough that I have to say so again, but I don't want to get bogged down in the details.

Jace's third ability is to Unsummon , and this is an odd one for a -1 ability. I mean, yes, it can be used to temporarily remove a threat to Jace or another Planeswalker or even yourself, and can also be used to give you another chance to case and get an "Enters the Battlefield" effect for a creature you control, but it just seems like an unnecessary downside. Thought given everything else on this version of Jace, having something cost him loyalty that isn't his final ability.

Speaking of, for a huge -12, he exiles someone's library (including, possibly your own!) then turns their hand into their library. Look, I'm not saying he's a great substitute for Leveler in a self-mill deck, but he's certainly a viable one for all his other abilities. Of course, getting him to that point may be difficult.

Now, I wasn't playing when Jace the Wallet Sculptor was in play as I was on a Magic Sabbatical at the time, but I remember that a lot of people were complaining that he fit perfectly into the control decks of the time, filling an otherwise lackluster slot in the deck. Although some of my research indicates that he was part and parcel of the oppressive Caw Blade deck, which only had four Squadron Hawk creatures in the deck, and the rest was pure Control, of which Jace was. It got so bad that he was banned in Standard first, along with fellow enabler Stoneforge Mystic for simply been too good and too efficient in an Azorious control package. And when he could win by himself if all else failed, well, he ate a Standard Ban, then a Modern Ban, and that was that until he got reprinted in and unbanned with Vintage Masters.

But enough about him! Who's next? Jace, Memory Adept ? OK, don't really know much about this one, despite being printed in two consecutive Core sets. Let's see what this guy is about. is on the high end, but at least he keeps his double- across all iterations. And 4 is bog-standard.

First up, +1 is Draw a Card, then target Player mills one. See what I mean about how the negative ability on Jace Beleren was poorly thought out? Here, it's a positive loyalty ability, with an additional benefit! And hey, that Mill can go against you or your opponent, which can enable certain self-mill effects. And by this time, Laboratory Maniac had been printed (I think), to the impetus for self-mill as a resource and a win-condition was there. You know, this isn't that bad taken in isolation.

His 0 ability is...


deep breath

walks away from keyboard





No. No! NOOOOO! Bad idea! Bad ability! You shouldn't be there! That's bad! Go away! You were looking so good to start with it wasn't funny! You were respectable! Then you had to go ruin it. His final ability though? Any number of target players each draw 20 cards? You know, this is pretty nice, except that it selectively targets people, which either means you're trying to mill someone out, or you're trying to draw into your victory condition.

Actually, when was ... heeeeeyyyyyyy. Jace, Memory Adept was printed in the same set as Omniscience , Core Set 2013. Do you see where this is going? I do! Draw all the cards, then play them for free! That's fun! That's combo-tastic and it sorta appeals to the Vorthos in me.

Let's move on. There has to be a boring Jace in here somewhere, right? Is it Jace, Architect of Thought ? This is the Return to Ravnica Jace, where he took over the plot of the game and became something even more stupid than normal. for 4 is pretty reasonable, so he's got that in his favor.

And his first ability is new! It's interesting, it's a doozy! For +1, this Jace gives all attacking creatures an opponent controls -1/-0 until the end of that player's turn. Now, this is all opponents, and they don't have to be the one attacking you. Very political in a multi-plyer game as you can stifle (but not Stifle ) any sort of attacking Weenie deck. You know, I like that someone remembered that has this sort of utility effect in its toolkit.

Secondly, we get a cut down Fact or Fiction for a mere three cards and two piles. Or more like an early Anticipate where the opponent chooses which two go to the bottom of the library, or a ... wow, Strategic Planning is so much worse than Anticipate unless you're trying to fill your graveyard. Anyway, it's not bad, but it's not spectacular. I just hope you have lots of options to make things work or else your opponent is just going to do their best to hose you.

And I can be a man and admit that I've lost to this Jace's Ultimate. Here's a lesson kids:

Kill Doubling Season

This guy dropping and Ulting on the same turn is bad news. The only thing that didn't make it a total and utter blow out was that I didn't have Phyrexian Metamorph in my deck. It may not seem like a lot, but when he pulls your game-winning card and casts it for free? That's bad news all around. I can respect that.

Moving on, Jace, the Living Guildpact

Now this is the guy that's aggressively bland, probably in response to the previous versions. I mean, the only outstanding thing for him is that he starts at five loyalty, and for +1 does what the far more impressive and powerful Teferi, Temporal Archmage does. Congratulations Jace, you can now do something a far better, likable, handsome and well-received Planeswalker can do!

His second ability, for -3 let's him cast Disperse ! Wow! I'll take Boomerang over that any day, thanks.

Lastly, he presents an asymmetric Wheel effect, where everyone shuffles their hand and graveyard back into their library, but only you get to draw seven cards to replace it. Hand destruction, graveyard hate and card advantage all rolled into one. You know, that's nice ability, shame it has to be on a Jace. He might be good in a Wheel deck of some sort, like say a Niv-Mizzet deck in Commander.

I think that's enough for now. I'll see you next week when I look at the other Jace Cards. Until then, what do you think of these first examples? Any horror stories you want to share? Or even, in an act I cannot comprehend, compliment Jace?

Until then please consider donating to my Pattern Recognition Patreon. Yeah, I have a job, but more income is always better. I still have plans to do a audio Pattern Recognition at some point, or perhaps a Twitch stream. And you can bribe your way to the front of the line to have your questions, comments and observations answered!

This article is a follow-up to Pattern Recognition #182 - Flicker The next article in this series is Pattern Recognition #184 - Jace, Part 2

Jace, Wielder of Mysteries has killed me more times than I'd like to admit.

More than 8, I can say that much. I won't say how much more... that's up to your imagination
February 11, 2021 5:25 p.m.

JANKYARD_DOG says... #2

I too share a strong disliking of Jace's character. I am awaiting the day he gets mind fucked one too many times and turns Dimir bad guy for a while then maybe dies by, oh idk... Lily would be a good candidate maybe, though she's incognito right now and sans Chain Veil. Then again, he's recently been pissing off Nahiri, so there's that. XD

February 11, 2021 10:24 p.m.

plakjekaas says... #3

Small correction: you seem to have not read Jace, the Living Guildpact exactly right. The +1 doesn't do the same thing as Teferi, Temporal Archmage at all. Teferi looks at the top 2, puts 1 in your hand and one on the bottom of the library. Jace, however, looks at the top 2, and puts one in the graveyard. Nothing to hand, just self mill. Which seems way worse to me.

February 12, 2021 8:09 a.m.

Stardragon says... #4

Im neutral to jace don't love nor hate him he is just a bland character nothing overly likeable nor unlikeable about him.

February 16, 2021 2:57 p.m.

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