Thoughts on Jace, the Mind Sculptor
So this past week has been one wild time in the Rumor Mills. The pieces were revealed slowly but surely each day giving us more.
The first reveal was a majority of the artwork and the reveal of the first part of the name. This got players guessing at his first ability which we now know to be +2: Look at the top card of target player's library. You may put that card on the bottom of that player's library. This ability is known as Scry 1 when you're targeting yourself and Fateseal 1 when you're targeting an opponent. That said it's not the most exciting ability but for a control player the ability to see what you've got coming up next or what your opponent is about to draw and denying them that... well that's just good times right there.
But something seemed odd about the art. Not... right. It seemed... short. Small. A bit too small when compared to other Planeswalkers even his own. What was going on here?
The theories abounded: First came the idea that they moved up the art so they could fit all of the abilities on the card. But that didn't make sense: Wizards had mentioned several times that Chandra Ablaze originally had Arc Lightning as her first ability but it wouldn't fit on the card. If they had really wanted the ability on there they would've changed the frame. So that theory was out.
The second theory was ridiculous: Four abilities. Four abilities on a Planeswalker?! Not just two you could use immediately but four total options one of them being the "Ultimate" that can sometimes win the game on its own? That's just nuts.
The following day we got our mana cost - 2UU - and the full name: Jace the Mind Sculptor is a card that will be on everyone's mind in the coming weeks. And as the art realizations and comparisons came in it was more and more apparent we were potentially seeing our first four-ability Planeswalker ever.
Wednesday came with the bombshell from Japan: Four abilities and they were really really good. The first ability was confirmed but the second ability looked very simliar to Ponder or Brainstorm the third looked like Boomerang or Unsummon and the last had something to do with Exiling your opponent's entire library! The rumor mill exploded with interest and activity once again everyone wondering just how good this four-mana wonder could be.
Then the loyalty was divulged. Three! This meant that the four mana Jace could go up to 5 Loyalty counters immediately - like his original incarnation - without giving an opponent any advantage at all and staying safely out of Lightning Bolt range.
But Thursday was the best as it gave us a confirmation on all of the abilities while also providing their loyalty costs. You get two loyalty counters for Scrying or Fatesealing it costs ZERO loyalty to play Brainstorm only a single loyalty counter for Unsummon and his ultimate takes a whopping 12 counters to exile a library and shuffle what's left of that player's hand into a 'new' library. Oh my God a no loyalty counter Brainstorm?! Can I get a high-five ladies and gents?
Now that we know the entire card let me tell you this guy is the freakin’ hotness. An absolute chase Mythic my guess is this card will come out of the gate blazing at $15 and will probably stay at that price or higher for as long as it's in Standard. For those who doubt let us count the ways in which it is good:
First it can stay Lightning Bolt proof and not give your opponent a card. That's a definite bonus. Second a zero cost Brainstorm is NOT to be underestimated. Brainstorm is one of the most powerful cards ever printed and for good reason: It lets you draw three cards. Again read the first part of that ability realize it costs you NO loyalty counters and then just try to be disappointed. Did I mention this Brainstorm ability is in the same format with Fetchlands? But it gets even better: How about you use this ability before you play a Cascade spell? Could you possibly setup a sweeter Cascade than knowing exactly what was going to be on top? Enigma Sphinx is just the sickness with this Planeswalker assuring it will return to your hand very soon all with one simple FREE activation of your Planeswalker. Yeesh.
Third how about the Unsummon ability? One of the hallmarks of a great Planeswalker has been the ability to defend themselves. Which Planeswalkers have failed to see any significant play? Liliana Vess and Sarkhan Vol. Why? Because they can't protect themselves against anything. Liliana can tutor a threat and make her almost instantly killable while Sarkhan Vol doesn't protect a damn thing and whose hype wore off quickly once that realization set in. You could say Nicol Bolas Planeswalker hasn't seen any significant play either but that's mainly due to his cost and besides he was played at Worlds and his Ultimate ability was played by none other than Gabriel Nassif.
Finally that Ultimate ability shouldn't look too absurd. There is nothing a control deck likes more than sitting there turn after turn slowly grinding you into an inevitable defeat. And that Ultimate is pretty much the epitome of inevitable. You're going to lose and this ability is going to assure it.
I for one can't fathom a world where this Planeswalker is anything but fantastic and impacting on a variety of decks and strategies. Better yet this version of Jace is unique and strong enough to not 'bump into' the original Jace Beleren. There is room enough for both in this wacky Standard environment and I appreciate that as well. I for one think that Zendikar and its subsequent impact showed what happens when Blue is no longer dominant and that Worldwake will herald the return of the color to its former heights. We're a mere Counterspell away - Condescend Mana Leak something - from having a heavy blue-based deck be a solid part of this metagame. I for one welcome our Mind Sculpting overlords and can't wait to see more crazy Worldwake goodness in the weeks to come.
As for this guy I'm loving our early Christmas present from Wizards of the Coast and look forward to what else the guys in Renton have for us next year.
Until next time Magic players this is Evan Erwin. Tapping the cards... so you don't have to.
Evan "misterorange" Erwin