When the news broke that Jace, the Mind Sculptor was unbanned in the Modern constructed format the Magic community went nuts. This was, of course, a refreshing change of pace from the usually docile Modern fan-base, which normally only cries bloody murder whenever any deck wins a tournament, or appears in a tournament, or looks at them funny from across the room while they’re sorting cards.

It’s probably a good thing that Jace was unbanned, to be honest. After a Pro Tour and a Grand Prix in which the Modern format looked incredibly healthy, this past weekend in Lyon showed a different sort of beast with four ‘Tron decks appearing in the Top 8 of the event. Frank Karsten pointed out on Twitter that overall the mono-Green ‘Tron deck that dominated the top tables wasn’t actually that successful, though, and that the result in Lyon was more of an outlier.

Regardless, could you imagine if nothing had been unbanned last week and we all had to talk about whether or not to ban ‘Tron decks from Modern? That would have been an incredibly productive discussion given ‘Tron’s role in the format’s history, the fact that its anchored by cards from 8th Edition, and the way Blood Moon and New Blood Moon can warp the metagame as a result.

But Jace, the Mind Sculptor is here and despite not showing up for Grand Prix Lyon (okay I’ll let that joke go now, I swear), it’s highly probable that Jace will have an immediate impact on the Modern metagame. This speculation is based on a few data-points:

  • Jace is very effective in Vintage
  • Jace is very effective in Legacy
  • Jace was banned in Extended
  • Jace was banned in Standard

Okay, one of those isn’t very important but the other three are (I’ll let you guess which one doesn’t count). Jace is a very oppressive part of blue/white control decks in other eternal formats and was a dominant force in Standard back in 2011 alongside his partner-in-crime Stoneforge Mystic.

There’s a lot of debate over which card was the “real” problem, Jace or Stoneforge Mystic, and it’s hard to extricate one from the other. They were banned at the same time in Standard, leading to the incredibly funny footnote on the banned list that allowed Stoneforge Mystic to still be played. This was because she was part of an event deck, which was allowed to remain in the format…so long as it was played completely intact.

The fact that Stoneforge Mystic remains banned in Modern while Jace, the Mind Sculptor is finally getting an opportunity to shine is a pretty clear indication of which card Wizards of the Coast feels would be more problematic. The general justification is that Jace costs four mana and can only be played at sorcery speed and does not immediately win the game when entering the battlefield (unlike say Splinter Twin) and therefore will allow other decks to continue to be interactive.

I’m not entirely convinced that logic is sound because there are plenty of four-mana sorcery-speed spells in Magic’s history that are good-but-not-great in Legacy that I think would be absolutely devastating to Modern. Below is a list of such cards. Take a look and consider if you’d feel comfortable making them legal in Modern:

All kidding about Bloodbraid Elf aside, consider Sneak Attack and Natural Order as four-mana spells which are basically one-turn-faster versions of Through the Breach. Do these cards win the game immediately? I think there’s a strong argument to be made both for and against either card’s value/impact to Modern, especially in the light of decks like Grishoalhoard and Breach Titan, which put powerful creatures into play very quickly.

Jace is clearly better than all of these cards, as evidenced by how much more play Jace sees in Legacy. Then again, Stoneforge Mystic is legal in Legacy and it is not in Modern. Will Jace make any impact without his usual partner-in-crime? It remains to be seen, but I wouldn’t rest on the logic that just because you have to tap out on turn-four to play Jace (or turn three if you get literally any mana acceleration) that its safe for the format.

What We Learned About Lame-Duck Modern

That’s enough about the impact of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf on Modern. Let’s talk about the results from Grand Prix Lyon and those four mono-Green ‘Tron decks in the Top 8. Is that a sign of things to come? The top 32 decks included 17 different archetypes, which is a bit lower than we’d expect given the past two Modern tournaments’ results, but still seems indicative of a very healthy format.

No one should really be concerned about ‘Tron—but that doesn’t mean it isn’t on Wizards of the Coast’s radar for banning. When a deck does well but relies on something as fragile as a three-land combo, you have to look not at the combo but what allows it to be so consistent. Enter Ancient Stirrings, Sylvan Scrying, and Expedition Map.

With the knowledge that Ponder and Preordain are banned in Modern, it’s easy to see how effects like this can give too much consistency to combo decks. If ‘Tron was a real threat, that’s likely where the most work can be done to weaken the deck without making it go away entirely. To be frank, the problem isn’t ‘Tron, it’s ‘Tron being assembled rapidly and consistently that can lead to problems.

That said, we have bigger, Jace-shaped fish to fry these days. One silver lining of Jace’s unbanning is that Modern fans will be able to debate whether he warps the metagame for the next few months.

Rich Stein is a retired Magic player, an amateur content creator, and a Level 2 Social Justice Sorcerer. He hopes to eventually become a professional content creator and a Level 20 dual class Social Justice Sorcerer/Bard but he’s more than content to remain a retired Magic player. You can follow his musings on Twitter @RichStein13.

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