A few weeks ago, I contended that the reason Jace, the Mind Sculptor appears to be underperforming in Modern is because we haven't yet found the right shell for him. I've been searching high and low for it like a sniffer dog on a pogo stick, and today I'd like to share some results. Chiefly, I've been looking for a "hype man" for Jace – the best three-drop to play before he comes down next to really get the party started. The two cards I keep returning to are Lingering Souls and Courser of Kruphix. Let's get into how best to use these cards!
Very early on, I identified Lingering Souls as something I was very interested in resolving before deploying Jace. Having multiple blockers that can hold off most of the commonly-played early threats (Tarmogoyf, Hollow One, even Geist of Saint Traft) means you're much more likely to untap with an active Jace. It only gets better on turn five – you can bolster the defenses by flashing back Souls, a play that enables further interaction as it doesn't even tie up all your mana!
Lingering Souls seems like the perfect card to pair with Jace, the Mind Sculptor. The immediate starting point is to include black in traditional White-Blue Control lists. Esper Control decks haven't been traditionally strong performers in Modern - red is usually preferred over black due to the power of Bolt-Snap-Bolt. Nonetheless, a dipping our toes into black opens up a range of cards that are both powerful and effective in today's Modern format.
Quite apart from Lingering Souls, adding a playset of Fatal Push is another way to keep the battlefield ready for Jace to take over. I like Fatal Push's position right now. Jund is moving away from Push in favor of Lightning Bolt, which incentivizes people to play Bolt-proof creatures – a broad swath of which die very neatly to Fatal Push, still one of the most efficient and effective answers in the format.
That's it for black cards in the main deck. White-Blue Control is a proven strategy with a decent track record (most recently just missing Top 8 in Phoenix (congratulations to Bryan Rockenbach on a 10th place finish), so there's not too much need to really change things around too much in the starting 60. The sideboard, however, benefits enormously from having access to black.
Collective Brutality and Thoughtseize are uniquely black effects that will assist White-Blue Control enormously post-board. Both cards can play almost like silver bullets in certain matchups – for example, Brutality against Burn decks – but are never embarrassing on their own and can safely be brought in against a wide proportion of the field. I like Collective Brutality in particular, as discarding Lingering Souls in order to escalate things is super hot.
While we're on the topic of discarding our own cards for fun and profit, how about Liliana of the Veil? Just think of the possibilities – curving Liliana into Jace while discarding Lingering Souls! However, the double-black requirement is a bit beyond the mana base as it stands in the deck we've just explored. Rather than White-Blue Control with a black splash, how about Blue-Black Control with a white splash?
Emphasizing black over white means that we can safely play a multitude of one-mana discard spells. The 3/3 split between Inquisition and Thoughtseize seems safe enough as a hedge, but depending on what you expect to face it could go to 2/4 either way. Creeping Tar Pit subs in for Celestial Colonnade, a necessary evil, given what we're trying to accomplish with the mana base, and it's a nice one against opposing Jaces as it forces an immediate +2.
Speaking of opposing Jaces – how about Notion Thief? If you're not familiar with the interaction between these two cards, you're in for a treat. Not only does Notion Thief draw you the three cards destined for your opponents, they still have to put back two cards from their hand! It's often said that Dack Fayden is the greatest thief in the multiverse, but when it comes to JTMS, I have a notion that might not be true.
I think the one-two punch of Liliana of the Veil and Jace, the Mind Sculptor is incredibly potent, especially when coupled with powerful defensive cards like Lingering Souls. While thinking about this kind of deck, however, I was reminded of something BBD mentioned in his recent article.
Jace Is a threat, not an answer," BBD contended. "Jace works best as a top-end threat, not a control card in a deck with a million other expensive cards." GP Phoenix Top 8 competitor Vikram Kudva agreed with BBD, as his Bant Knightfall deck included a Jace as a two-of. More and more, we're seeing JTMS crop up in green-based decks. Ever since Guillaume Matignon's spectacular pile performed so strongly at the MOCS, players everywhere have sat up and taken notice.
Nassif took an altered version of the Matignon special out for a spin during one of his recent streams. There are some super-weird choices here ( Glassdust Hulk?!?), but there's something about the thrust of this deck I find very compelling. Not only is the package of eight Rampant Growth-style cards going to enable a turn-three Jace a lot of the time, this list also plays Courser of Kruphix – the second card I identified as being incredibly strong in conjuction with Jace.
There are a lot of reasons for this. Firstly, Courser is perfectly sized to go up against so much of the Modern format – a 2/4 blocks exceptionally well, brickwalling even the mighty Bloodbraid Elf. Secondly, it doesn't die to Lightning Bolt and is resistant to Fatal Push, making it difficult for opponents to gain easy value. Thirdly, it acts as an excellent value engine itself, helping you to hit land drops and deploy your Jace on time. Fourthly, the extra life gain is always welcome in a slower, midrange deck.
Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, is how unfair it feels to have a Courser out with an active Jace. Much of the time, your Jace Brainstorms will net you two cards – one from the Brainstorm itself, then another from the land you put back on top of your library. No longer do you have to hope for a blind hit from your Courser; Jace does a lot of work to guarantee you get that value you so richly deserve.
Still, I'm not huge on this build. I can't understand the huge glut of top-end threats, and the presence of Time Warp is mystifying. I want the deck to be lower to the ground, to have more to do on the early turns – and considering we're already playing white, have excellent fixing, and have identified both Lingering Souls and Courser of Kruphix as cards we want to play with Jace, por que no los dos?
Having access to both Lingering Souls and Courser of Kruphix seems excellent in setting up situations where Jace can do his thing, and that's in addition to Sakura-Tribe Elder and Explore powering him out on turn three. These cards get the nod above Search for Tomorrow and Farseek as they are serviceable in the late game, blocking and cycling respectively.
Terminus is just a silly Magic card when cast for a single mana, and if Jace has anything to say about it, you're always going to get that discount. It can even be cast on your opponent's turn thanks to Cryptic Command – just remember to hold priority and sacrifice your Sakura-Tribe Elder in response to the Miracle trigger!
I have to be honest – I may have oversold the mana base a little bit. This deck has multiple double-cost cards across three colors (Courser, Jace, Supreme Verdict), and also wants plenty of basics for Sakura-Tribe Elder and Field of Ruin. To complicate matter further, we're now adding black to cast Lingering Souls from the bin. Is there such a thing as too much greed?
This deck has performed well enough for me so far. I've been really impressed with its ability to grind, and Lingering Souls has been an all-star against decks of all kinds. The Jace plus Courser engine, once in full swing, is generally too much for opposing decks to Overcome, and the rest of the deck consists of flexible, powerful answers to the format more broadly.
The real problem is the mana base. It's being stretched to Breaking Point, and may need to be stretched yet further in the face of Field of Ruin and Blood Moon, since the single Watery Grave is very fragile indeed. I'd like to find room for another black-producing land (ideally a basic Swamp), and right now am considering cutting something like Sphinx's Revelation for an extra land. More data is required.
Nonetheless, this deck feels incredible when it hits its straps, and the combination of both Lingering Souls and Courser of Kruphix as Jace's supporting cast feels right. Critically, both cards are excellent on their own – Lingering Souls is still terrific against Jund, and Courser really shines in any aggressive matchup.
It might need some more tuning and tweaking, but the core of this strategy really is something very strong. The search for the best Jace deck continues, but if a better mana base can be found for this four-color monstrosity – featuring the best hype men in the business – it could be the way forward!
- Riley Knight