Did Jace Break Modern?

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Hello fellow PucaTraders!

It's been about a month and a half since Bloodbraid Elf and Jace, the Mind Sculptor have been unbanned. At the time the announcement was made, reactions were varied: Many felt Jace would be too strong, while others felt he was fair and balanced. The same was true for Bloodbraid Elf. How did this all of this shake out? Let's have a look!

Bloodbraid Elf Decks

Jund

Arguably, the biggest benefactor of the Bloodbraid Elf unban has been the Jund archetype (including Jund Shadow builds). Bloodbraid Elf put Jund back on the map as one of the stronger decks in the format. Jund plays a lot of value spells that Bloodbraid Elf can cascade into, and most of them are relevant (with the exception of Thoughtseize or Inquisition of Kozilek if your opponent is Hellbent). Even then though, the benefit of not drawing that spell on your next turn could make a difference. Jund has adapted to the Jace unban by dropping some copies of Terminate in favor of Dreadbore.

Ponza

Ponza got a big push from Bloodbraid Elf. While this deck has always lived on the fringes of the format, the recent addition to the deck has given it some more oomph. The dream of course is to play Arbor Elf turn one, Utopia Sprawl turn two, then play Bloodbraid Elf and cascade into a Stone Rain effect. This means you are swinging for three while also taking an opponent's land away.

Titanshift

Some Scapeshift builds have adopted Bloodbraid Elf, and can often cast the card ahead of the curve. The jury is still out on whether this change is positive, but recent results suggest the deck can put up results (It finished Top 8 at SCG Classic Cincinnati).

Jace, the Mind Sculptor Decks

Jeskai Control

Most often two or three copies of Jace are played in the deck. Jace has provided an additional way to get advantage and helps the pilot dig for answers when needed. As always, Jace's ability to bounce a creature can also put in work. Jeskai Control has a gotten slightly better with Jace, but the unban of Bloodbraid Elf has given a bigger boost to other decks causing Jeskai to stay at a similar pre-unban power level .

UW Control

Various UW lists play anywhere from two copies to the full playset. Personally, I think four is a bit too clunky, but in the end, it comes down to personal preference. UW was strong pre-ban, and is still strong today today. With the rise of Jund, Jund's predator—Tron—has seen an increased presence as well, but with 4 Spreading Seas and 4 Field of Ruin in the maindeck, UW is well positioned to take advantage of the Tron match-ups.

UR Control (Blue Moon)

The resurgence of Young Pyromancer along with the Jace unban has given new life to this deck. Pyromancer was a popular card for a while, but had recently fallen out of favor; however, Young Pyromancer does a great job of going wide to both attack opposing Jaces and protect your own.

I have also seen some rumblings of control players discussing Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir as an option to combat other control decks, and it even works decently against Bloodbraid Elf as well (as Teferi shuts down the ability to cast the cascaded spell).

Decks that do not play Jace or Bloodbraid Elf

Tron

Tron has historically been a deck that preys on midrange decks such as Jund, and the increase of Jund players has in turn seen an increase in Tron decks. Tron is a referee that causes both Bloodbraid Elf players and Jace players to prepare for it and dedicate sideboard cards to defeat it. Neither deck has a particularly fast clock and thus need to slow down the Tron player in order to take down this match-up.

Fast aggro

Fast aggro will always have a place in Modern. While everyone is trying to prepare for certain match-ups, fast aggro such as Hollow One, Burn, Affinity, Bogles, and others have their own plan and try to execute before other decks can take over. The unbans have not had a particularly big impact on them, but minor concession may have been made in some cases.

Combo decks

There has not been a big change in combo decks to combat either Bloodbraid Elf or Jace strategies—combo decks try to win before either card becomes relevant and thus can keep their same 60 as before the unban. While some sideboard slots may have changed, combo decks as a whole have not had to make any major adaptations. 

Jeskai Tempo

This is a deck that has somewhat fallen out of favor. Tempo decks featuring Geist of Saint Traft, Spell Queller, and other similar tempo cards do not perform as well as they did prior to the unban, but part of this may be because many Tempo players switched to control lists so they can play Jace. I believe the deck is still built to perform well, but time will tell how the deck moves forward.

Conclusion

Modern is still as diverse as it was before the unban announcement—every weekend a new deck seems to be on top of the field. Whether it is Ponza, UR Storm, Affinity, Humans, EldraziTron, or even Elves, any deck can take  the top spot on any given week. This is very encouraging and shows that Wizards did not ruin the format with the unbanning of either card. As a control player myself, I am happy to have access to Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but I hate seeing Bloodbraid Elf; a Jund player will see it in the complete opposite way. Neither card has been overpowering or pushed a deck too far ahead of other decks, while some decks such as Ponza and Blue Moon have been able to rise from the shadows and take on a more prominent role in the field. In the end, Modern is still a healthy format and I still have a blast playing it!

Personally, I am looking forward to what Dominaria has in store for us. I am already excited about Damping Sphere and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.

That's it it for today, folks. See you next week!

Dennis Gabriels (@GabrielsDennis) is an avid Modern player. Currently, he’s rocking casual Modern FNM's with the occasional drafts when a new set is released. Before moving to the USA from Belgium, Dennis' best finishes included several regional top 8 finishes with Izzetron in the Ravnica block / Time Spiral block Standard era. Dennis is also looking to expand his horizons to the Legacy format after having completed the Pox deck entirely through Puca.

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