So this past Monday on Twitter a fascinating conversation happened about the results of Grand Prix Dallas. Which featured a LOT of Jace the Mind Sculptors. And by a lot I mean 32. Yes that's every single player. Every single deck. Want me to keep going? How about 60 copies in the Top 16. Yes really. Were it not for the brave soul of Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa running Boros to 15th place we'd probably have an all-Jace Top 16. As it stands there were ONLY 60 copies there.
Allow me to try and fully put Grand Prix Dallas into historical perspective here: No mythic rare or uncommon card. And I mean ZERO. Has ever EVER in the history of our game put 32 copies of itself in a Premier event Top 8. Were it not for Lightning Bolt at GP Kuala Lumpur earlier this year no card in the history of Magic has ever had 32 copies of itself in a Grand Prix or Pro Tour Top 8. Ever. Not Rishidian Port not Skullclamp which WAS later banned not any card you can think of. Seriously. Sure Bloodbraid Elf got 32 copies in a Magic Online Alara block championship but we're talking real world here. Big stars big names and they'll all running the most badass four casting cost card ever printed.
On Monday community firestarter Ted Knutson posted a lengthy and well-thought out argument for banning Mr. Mind Sculptor. This turned into the twitter conversation hashtag #BanJace and a full day of arguments stirred right up.
Just so we're clear Standard is probably not what you would describe as a 'healthy format.' A healthy format does not begin with every decklist having the same four cards. Diversity and power are the hallmarks of any good format and while we have the latter we don't have much of the former. “Jace decks” were a whopping 77% of the Top 8 decks from the past seven big events from Grand Prix Barcelona five Open Series events and Grand Prix Dallas. Many would describe this as a 'broken' format. Now I feel two things at this point and I'm going to explain both:
First - Jace the Mind Sculptor will never ever be banned in Standard.
Second - The actual menace some would say the 'Phantom Menace' here is actually a land. Here we go.
So this is your Standard format. Fully owned and operated by Jace the Mind Sculptor. There are two types of winning decks these days in general: On one hand you got the Stoneforge Mystic decks that being all of the Blade variants. Mystics Squadron Hawks Swords of the Body and Mind or Feast and Famine flavors. On the other hand you got Lotus Cobra decks and the unfair things they try to do.
Glenn Jones our Coverage Manager here at StarCityGames did some serious number crunching for the month of March and the Open Series events in it. Four stops over FIVE THOUSAND matches of Magic computed. The result? With a whopping 58% win percentage Caw-Blade is the deck to beat. Tier 1 right at the top looking down on everyone else. There's no denying it.
What is the other Best Deck? Red/Blue/Green control also known as RUG with a 57% win percentage. Now I know that may not sound like a lot but those are format-dominating percentages.
What's the worst deck to play? Boros and it's not close. With only a 48% win percentage it only has favorable matchups...with itself. That's just embarrassing. I'm pretty sure Paulo Vitor made Top 16 in Dallas because that kid is freakishly good at Magic not because it's the actual answer to Caw or RUG variants.
Before I go on there were also 32 copies of Preordain in the Top 8 and I'm guessing a total of 60 in the Top 16. But Preordain is merely the second best blue spell doesn't win games on its own and isn't a hard to remove permanent. Ban chance: 0%. Let's move on.
With that said let's answer the question of why they will never ban Jace the Mind Sculptor. Let's give the pro-banning argument a spin first by giving you a bit of surreal text. Let's imagine they banned Jace tomorrow and Wizards provided the following reasoning quote:
“Jace was banned in Standard frankly because it was everywhere. Every competitive deck either had four in the main deck had four in the sideboard or was built to try and defend against it. And there were a lot more successful decks in the first two categories than in the third. Such representation is completely unhealthy for the format. Your deck has to either have Jace or have Jace in its crosshairs—a definitive case of a card “warping the metagame.”
But why is Jace different? Because the GAME is different. Let's discuss.
First Planeswalkers are now a cornerstone of the Magic brand and Jace is the #1 Planeswalker. Magic is no longer 'just' a collectable card game. It's a quote 'entertainment property' and as such has various ties to things beyond the game. Like an XBox game like showing up in movies and tv shows and games that aren't even Magic like MTG Tactics. These guys are the badasses were designed to be badasses and well have lived up to all expectations and then some.
The fact is Jace the Mind Sculptor will forever be an iconic card in Magic. It showcases both the dominance of blue and the Planeswalker card type. It is a mistake in the best way. Every player who has one or a playset or a foil copy treasures it because it is special powerful and unique. Yes it's currently worth a hundred bucks. Yes all of this banning talk could affect his value. But the bottom-line is Jace is the leading man of the game. He's our Tom Hanks our Tom Cruise he was the tentpole for the Worldwake set. He basically sold Worldwake by himself. He's the reason people wanted to buy and play with Worldwake and while there were a TON of great cards in that set from manlands to Tectonic Edge to Basilisk Collar and Stoneforge Mystic Jace was the card everyone wanted from Day 1. They're not cutting up Karn and sending pieces of him to various shops around the country like the Great Jace Chase they did for Worldwake's release know what I'm sayin?
Now Wizards is understandably tight-lipped about the situation. They know what type of bind they're in. They've made a card that is supposed to be powerful and cool SO powerful and SO cool that they've unleashed a monster. Jace is the driving force behind this metagame and every deck with a significant win percentage has him in their starting sixty.
But who's the real menace? It's name is Valakut the Molten Pinnacle. I want you to notice how those G/W aggro decks seem to keep missing Top 8s while they should traditionally destroy these Caw-Blade decks running rampant. I mean Caw-Blade and RUG aren't the only decks in Standard regardless of dominance. Why aren't Vengevine and company getting it done? Because Valakut is at least 1-2 turns faster than any Vengevine deck. That's just the facts. Valakut is actually a combo deck that uses Primeval Titan to win the game on the spot. It has a ton of redundancy and it WILL be the most dominant deck in Standard if Jace is removed.
Looking for irony? Check out the New Phyrexia Buy A Box promo - Surgical Extraction. A card for any color that at any time can remove all copies of Vengevine from their yard hand and deck instantly. This card was designed to battle the Vengevine menace...of which there is none. Vengevine has been safely kept in check by Valakut and Valakut is in check by Caw-Blade. Basically your rock paper scissors metagame doesn't have one of the three. Aggro is not currently viable in your current Standard at least not at the win percentages needed to take down tournaments and we're all hoping New Phyrexia has the tools we're looking for.
Well then it looks like we've devolved into a witch hunt. Do we ban every card that's good? Is that really what we're going for here? Do we not recognize Jace the Mind Sculptor as a mistake in R&D pushing too hard? Do we really want Wizards of the Coast 'playing it safe' so we can never see a card like this again? Jace is the ultimate wingman no doubt about it. While he's not crucial to winning he can win on his own and can easily help you pull ahead.
One thing's for sure--nothing is happening until New Phyrexia gets here. I assure you Wizards is hoping for a less Jace-infused metagame after it's out fingers crossed that cards like Hex Parasite can destroy what dominance the card has currently shown.
If you're still seeing all-Jace Top 8s a few weeks after New Phyrexia I think that then and only then will the chance of him actually being banned even be on the stack much less have a chance to resolve.
With no Open Series this past weekend there is no Open Series update. That said there will be Invitational Qualifiers this weekend on Saturday at the Charlotte and Denver Regionals events. On Sunday you'll find them in Standish Maine and down in Bristol Tennessee at Mr. Wayne's a great shop I've frequented over the years. For those hoping for Invitational glory get to work!
For the remainder of today's show I have a treat for you. Friend of the show Richard Castle is an aspiring videographer and I was really impressed with his previous work so I wanted to highlight it on the show today. I wasn't able to make it to Grand Prix Dallas but he sure did. Check it out.
(( "INSIDE THE DECK" VIDEO PIECE BY RICHARD CASTLE ))
So that's another week in the world of Magic folks. I think I'll leave you with the classic line from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Don't Panic. Until next time Magic players this is Evan Erwin. Tapping the cards...so you don't have to.
Evan “misterorange” Erwin