Pattern Recognition #184 - Jace, Part 2

Features Opinion Pattern Recognition


18 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.

Jace. Love him. Hate him. Be completely ambivalent about him. Don't care. Let's get back to the cards!

Jace, Vryn's Prodigy  Flip was one of the five "origins" Planeswalkers from the Magic Core Set that shares the same name. These five creatures can become Planeswalkers if certain conditions are met, and Jace here is actually pretty easy to do that. Coming into play, he's a Legendary Human Wizard. He is a 0/2 and can tap to draw a card then discard a card, then if you have five or more cards in your graveyard, you can exile him then return him to play flipped over.

Now, he's actually pretty good for his cost. Yes, he's a Looter. He can drop on turn two, then activate on turn three for the first loot, and in a dedicated deck, it's possible to set things up to hit that magic five on his one activation and flip him over on that same turn. Fetch lands or Instants and Sorceries you cast on Turn one or three. It's possible. But thankfully, Jace has a fatal weakness. He only has two Toughness, and there's a lot of things that can kill him at this point, from huge swathes of Burn spells, to Fighting him, or casting Dead Weight or other cards like that.

Seriously, when Shock is a great answer to Jace, you know this is a good Jace.

However, should the worst happen, and he flips over into his Planeswalker version, things get a little more spicy with Jace, Telepath Unbound . With a starting loyalty of 5, it becomes a lot harder to punch his lights out than his non-Planeswalker creature type. But starting from there, his +1 is an interesting thing as it acts as pseudo-protection, giving a creature a malus to its power, reducing or even preventing any damage it might do. Including to Jace himself. Of course, this has additional benefits as a creature with 0 power and Deathtouch actually doesn't do the damage required to kill something, or other things depending on a creature's power. It's useful, and I like it.

His -3 is a casting of Snapcaster Mage at Sorcery speed. And if you didn't spend any mana the turn this guy flips over, you have at least five cards in your graveyard. So you'll probably have something, or multiple somethings you want to cast this turn, or on later turns. It's a nice piece of synergy, and I can see how powerful this can be.

And finally, his Ultimate is something you'll never get to as you should have won by that point, or are cheating Loyalty, like with Doubling Season . Cast a Spell = Mill 5. It's a nice game ender, but it doesn't end games, it just makes them come sooner.

Honestly though, it's that casting from the Graveyard that makes this guy good. Fear it!

So I'll admit, Jace, Unraveler of Secrets was the first actual Jace card I got in a pack. A Pre-release actually. I had avoided him up to that point, but once he was in my hand, I knew my luck ran out. He's a little on the expensive side, at , but he comes with 5 to back that up.

I mentioned when I talked about Jace Beleren that his minus ability was bad? Well, here is definitive proof. This Jace, for +1 casts Opt , Now, Opt is a very good card, and the past few years have made it a Standard Staple, so I really can't object to it. But when you compare it to -1: Draw a Card? Yeah, no, it's no contest. This is a far superior ability, and it's another one I can't complain about.

On the other hand, his -2 is the same as Jace, the Mind Sculptor 's -1, and the change in cost is something I'm a little more uninterested in. In both cases, you're either setting up an ETB effect on your side of the board, or you're removing - delaying - a threat from your opponents. It's utility, and its costed well enough to work without making it a stupid choice.

Lastly, the Ultiamte? Ohh boy! There's a reason why Erayo, Soratami Ascendant  Flip is Banned In Commander. Sure, it takes four spells in a turn to flip, but one good counter war will do it in mono-. Free counterspells is a bad idea.

Although there was one time someone revealed Chancellor of the Annex on Turn 0, so my first spell was a Summoner's Pact . Even the local Spike was impressed by the play. Regardless, the free counterspell on an Emblem? One that works each turn and not just on you opponents own turn? That's hilarious and a potential game breaker as people have to judge when to casts spells knowing they'll be counterd. Or just cast uncounterable spells and call it a day. Carnage Tyrant doesn't care!

Moving on, we have... wait. Who is this guy? He's not wearing a hoodie, he's a gooddamned PIRATE!

Ladies and Gentlemen and everyone else, Jace, Cunning Castaway , a card that proves that being a Pirate can make everyone 100% more awesome, even Jace. With the same casting cost and loyalty as Jace Beleren , this Jace tosses out everything about Jace that's been seen before and remembers that, hey, is more than drawing cards and countering spells.

In other words, this is the cool Jace, and the Jace everyone should aspire to be. A Pirate.

Oh, you want to hear about his abilities, right? Oh, fine then. First, for +1, he encourages attacking in order to draw (then discard) a card. For the colour with a heavy dose of fliers, and sometimes outright unblockable creatures, this reward for being aggressive is actually pretty solid as it doesn't encourage over-committing, but rather being precise in your attacks.

Second, he creates a 2/2 Illusion with the Illusion tribal effect of going pop when someone tries to hit it with a spell - note that this will cause the spell to fizzle, and not resolve as the spell won't have a legal target when it leaves the stack and goes away. Like Gossamer Phantasm .

You know, I really should build that Illusion deck with Meloku the Clouded Mirror as the Commander at some point. I could put this Jace in without regret or confusion or feeling bad about it.

Anyway, his last ability is a Clone effect for himself as a Planeswalker! For -5, he makes two non-Legendary (and making him the first non-Legendary Planeswalker!) token copies of himself. Now, I've mentioned how you need to kill Doubling Season when you see it? Well, in this case, if you have it in play, Jace, Cunning Castaway and his token copies come into play with 6 starting loyalty, which means that you can fire off his ability right from the get go, doubling the amount of Jaces you have with each iteration, then you can generate an arbitrary amount of 2/2 Illusions to attack on your next turn (which should be the next turn because gets all the extra turn spells) to win!

Pirate Jace is Best Jace. End of story.

Moving on, Jace, Ingenious Mind-Mage is a bad card, a deliberately designed bad card from the Planeswalker-headed preconstructed decks for Ixaland. I mean, sure, he gives your creatures pseudo-vigilance, or a second activation of a ability, but for his cost? That's way too much. And his Ultimate? Good luck getting there. Look, it's a bad card, like all the other headliner Planeswalkers. Baby's first Jace, really. Don't care, NEXT!

Jace, Wielder of Mysteries from War of the Spark is a very solid, and surprisingly powerful Jace thanks to his static ability being the same as Laboratory Maniac . Given that he was in the same standard rotation as Thassa's Oracle , you had a very aggressive deck that was all about self-mill, and it worked for the most part. He's found his way into many formats where LabMan was seen as a wincon as a slightly harder to remove version of that creature, given his status as a Planeswalker. And I will admit to do doing the same.

His +1 is straight up mill-draw, and is most useful when targeting yourself as part of his win condition. Taking three cards out of your library in Standard is a good call when you're aiming to deck yourself, that's for sure. And milling someone else for two, then drawing a card for yourself after they've stacked their deck thanks to a Scry effect or something similar never gets old either.

For -8, he gives you seven cards, then has a redundant win-condition attached to it. Which isn't redundant as was explained by the Blogatg at some point as the same reason why Samut, Tyrant Smasher 's ability is the same as her static ability. If Jace (or Samut) would go away as a result of losing all their loyalty counters to pay for the ability, the ability itself has the win condition attached to it, rather than depending on the passive, static ability of a Planeswalker that's no longer in play. This Jace is a good Jace, though he plays more towards 's tradtional play lines, rather than going out and doing something different or unique like Best Jace.

Jace, Arcane Strategist was another pre-constructed Planeswalker Jace, and this time he's slightly better as his activated ability synergizes perfectly with his static ability. +1 to draw a card and put a +1/+1 counter on a creature you control is pretty snazzy - if only it wasn't on a Planeswalker that costs , making the ability pretty poorly scaled to the cost and size of the effect. Oh, and if he sticks around for four turns, he can make all your creatures unblockable - which would be good, except that if is swinging with creatures, they're already either unblockable, or have flying to evade most blockers, making this either a dud ability, or to be mixed with another colour. would love more unblockable things, that's for sure. Like Storm Fleet Sprinter .

Lastly, we have Jace, Mirror Mage . This poor sod thinks that Pirate Jace is something to be emulated, which is all well and good, but his efforts at casting Spark Double via the Kicker Cost leave something to be desired. Ideally, you would Kick this Jace (please! I have Swiftwood Boots for that purpose), and then +1 the clone to check what's coming next, then either repeat with the actual Jace or use his 0 to draw a card and lose some loyalty in the progress. Something like a Planeswalker version of Dark Confidant , and it's not like that card was powerful or anything.

That's Jace, mechanically. his abilities tend to be very mechanically basic and solid for the most part, and that's respectable. The problem comes when someone at Wizards - many someones most likely - decide that he needs something splashy to maintain his status as the poster boy of Magic. That's where we get broken cards, like Jace, the Mind Sculptor , the Limited ultra-bomb of Jace, Memory Adept (seriously, Mill 10 against a 40 card deck? Once is bad enough. Goes off twice? Do you even have a deck left?) through the "We deliberately made Jace, Vryn's Prodigy  Flip the best Planeswalker in the set because he's Jace", through the set-mechanic incorporating Jace, Mirror Mage . Which in this case, isn't bad, but still, it's Jace.

Honestly, there's room in him to be a solid card as long as Wizards stops treating him like the protagonist he isn't. He doesn't have to be bland and boring, he just has to be a Planeswalker that's emblematic of without being overbearing about it. We've seen bits and pieces of it on his cards already, but they keep getting drowned out by other things.

I want Jace to be good. I want to like Jace.

Wait. He is, and I do. He's Pirate Jace, because being a Pirate makes Jace better, and he's the mechanically unique Jace, who does something different and that makes him automatically better than Jace, the everything else.

So congratulations Wizards! You made a Jace I don't Hate! Then you got rid of him because he wasn't a hoodie-wearing introvert with delusions of competency and an inability to hold down a steady job. And I say that as a hoodie-loving introvert with delusions of competency with a steady job that I use to pay for my Magic cards.

Join me next week when I talk about something else. What? I don't know yet. But it'll be something.

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 #183 - Jace (Part 1) The next article in this series is Pattern Recognition #185 - Walls

plakjekaas says... #1

Jace, Telepath Unbound 's -3 is actually better than a Snapcaster Mage trigger at sorcery speed, on behalf of not using the actual keyword Flashback to recast your spell. You can pay alternative costs like Overload on a Cyclonic Rift when you target it with Jace, which Snapcaster can't, because the Flashback cost is an alternative cost itself.

February 18, 2021 7:43 p.m.

xram666 says... #2

Jace, Wielder of Mysteries second ability isn't completely redundant. If you have exactly seven cards in your library his static ability won't win you the game but his activated will.

Yes, I know... nobody likes the smart ass ;-)

Great article, as always.

February 22, 2021 6:03 a.m.

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