Something Old and Something New, but Both Somethings Are Blue

I’m having a real Jace renaissance.

I’m casting Farseek into turn-three Jace, Architect of Thought. I’m placing it in R/W/U Flash. I’m ultimating it to find another Jace, Architect of Thought. I’m even riding the subway all day and eating hotdogs on the Staten Island ferry.

And if you get that reference, you’re my new favorite reader.

The point is that the newest incarnation of a 4-mana Jace came in with a ton of hype, lived up to it initially, and then disappeared, and honestly, now that I’m playing again, I can’t really remember why. What I can figure out is what brought him back:

Fog

And the kicker is that several Dragon’s Maze cards seem poised to make Jace, Architect of Thought even more important. But we’ll get to that.

Fog has been sort of floating around the periphery of Standard for a bit now, so chances are pretty good I’m not bringing you anything new. But unless you read all of the internets carefully and ignore Todd Anderson’s build of Fog (which I would recommend), you might have missed what is probably the best build of Bant Fog in pre-DGM Standard.

(Note: I refuse to call this deck Turbo Fog. There’s nothing Turbo about it. We’re not even really trying to deck anyone.)

All credit for this deck goes to Shane McDermott (of Modern Gifts Ungiven fame) and Brandon Scheel (of former Pro Tour stalwart and maestro of eleventh-place fame). Or, like ninety-nine point eight percent credit. Amass the Components is all me. So I have that going for me.

Without going into specific card choices (we can in the comments if you’re really curious), the point is that this was the deck that got me playing Jace, Architect of Thought again and helped me rediscover how actually insane this guy is when he’s given a chance to shine—and a chance to hit play on turn three.

But with several powerful cards in Dragon’s Maze taking aim squarely at control decks generally and Sphinx's Revelation specifically, I actually think Jace might be ready to make a resurgence, stepping in where Revelation actually can be a liability.

The Enemies

Five creatures specifically are going to make life potentially difficult for Revelation to keep its hold on the format, but they very realistically don’t bother Jace nearly as much. Let’s take them from least offensive to most.

Master of Cruelties

This guy isn’t that tough to deal with for either a Revelation or Jace, but it is worth noting that it undoes a lot of the work Revelation does with just one swing, while Jace actually lets you block the Master without losing a creature.

But no one gets any points here. Master is mostly incidentally good against Sphinx's Revelation; plus, Jace needs help to really shut him down.

Jace: Who cares?
Sphinx's Revelation: No one.

Voice of Resurgence

This guy makes instants and sweepers less effective. He’s really not terribly scary for Fog decks or decks that can pack Pillar of Flames, but he will be played, and he will cause a few headaches.

He also makes instant-speed Sphinx's Revelations slightly worse.

Jace, Architect of Thought, on the other hand, could care less about the Voice (he is, on the other hand, a huge fan of The Voice. Mostly Shakira.). An attacking 1/2 is hardly something to worry about, and Jace does all of his activity on his turn anyway. Quite frankly, if my opponent’s “threat” is a Voice, or even two, Jace is a much, much better early play than Revelation.

And if Jace is backed up by Fogs and Supreme Verdict or Terminus, Voice becomes a non-issue. Then again, you can mostly say the same thing about Revelation. So we’ll call this one a tie.

Jace: 1
Sphinx's Revelation: 1

Council of the Absolute

This card might as well have come with Sphinx's Revelation pre-named on it, and it would have pretty much done the same thing.

Whether or not Council of the Absolute becomes standard for Azorius-flavored decks as a way to fight the Revelation war, I’m not sure, though people will at least try it in sideboards.

But what is certain is that if the Council does see the light of day, Sphinx's Revelation will almost certainly be named first.

Jace, Architect of Thought, as you might have noticed before, is not named Sphinx's Revelation.

Granted, if Jace catches on, it’s possible Council might rule against the planeswalker first, but that seems like a good way to lose to the opponent Counciling Revelation. Of course, you could just Council Revelation after that and . . . 

 . . . and so on and so on. The point is that as long as everyone sees this card and thinks, “This is the Azorius version of Slaughter Games for Sphinx's Revelation,” Jace will be a neat way to sidestep that particular battle. The fact that this can name Jace matters, but probably not much at first. Slight edge to Jace.

Jace: 2
Sphinx's Revelation: 1

Notion Thief

Here’s where things become truly offensive. Notion Thief is another one that might as well have Sphinx's Revelation written in there somewhere as well. However, unlike Council of the Absolute, if it works, it’s probably backbreaking. Council only does its job as long as it’s on the board. Remove it, and the damage it did is most likely undone.

Notion Thief, however, is probably unbeatable if it is able to steal just one Sphinx's Revelation. And if it stays on the board after that? Forget it. Game over.

Now read Jace, Architect of Thought (and if you haven’t already, how the heck are you this far in the article?). Nowhere on his lovely, blue-tinted text does he ever say the word “draw.” The cards are placed directly in your hand, meaning he sidesteps any thievery your opponent might have planned.

Granted, Notion Thief is actually pretty good at attacking Jace out of nowhere, but when your 4-mana threat is stopped cold by an Augur of Bolas, I still feel that Jace has the edge by quite a bit.

Jace: 3
Sphinx's Revelation: −27 (seriously, it’s that bad to get thieved)

Sire of Insanity

First of all, screw this card.

Second, seriously. This card.

Any card that makes Think Twice a preferable card to have in hand (or your graveyard) over Sphinx's Revelation has some serious chops. There are very few ways to remove this card at instant speed, meaning no number of Sphinx's Revelations is able to save you should the Rakdos twist on Craw Wurm resolve. It doesn’t matter if you cast Revelation for 27 . . . everything is gone. You could be flush with answers and card-draw and everything a control player desires, but if you can’t answer Sire of Insanity, all of your hopes and dreams go very quickly down the drain.

Unless those hopes and dreams already on the board, ready to dig up answers.

In fact, Jace and Tamiyo, the Moon Sage make a pretty potent one-two combo that makes casting Sire look, well, insane.

Jace: 4
Sphinx's Revelation: Completely unplayable

Have Your Cake, Eat It, Then Draw More Cakes

But why not just play both?

That’s obviously what I’ve been doing with the Fog deck (I may or may not have been tagged as “that guy who plays Fog” at a local store I’ve started playing at infrequently), but the existence of Sire of Insanity makes Fog a sketchy strategy going forward.

Instead, we want to build our control decks with Sire of Insanity in mind while still maximizing what we can do in other matchups. Possibly something like this:

The sideboard probables include Council of the Absolute, more Jaces of various varieties, possibly Lavinia of the Tenth, and maybe a copy or two more copies of Warleader's Helix for Sire decks. Plus, ya know, Clone and whatnot. Izzet Staticaster also deserves a look alongside Ral Zarek.

This first version is splitting hairs a bit on trying a few new things plus hedging against Sire of Insanity. Augur, Niv-Mizzet, Jace, Desolate Lighthouse, Moorland Haunt, and Think Twice all give ways to recover or stall after losing your hand to Sire, while Turn // Burn and Warleader's Helix can both kill it at instant speed. I’m not sure if Helix is actually good enough (we have a lot of stuff at 4 in this list), and Ral Zarek may or may not be worth it, but they’re certainly worth trying.

Fog
But what if I still want to Fog in a world of Sire of Insanity? (Hint: I do)

In one way, the deck is already pretty well set up. Planeswalkers and Alchemist's Refuge both give effective ways of fighting it without changing a single card. Plus, Dissipate has a pretty good shot at showing up early enough to matter.

On the other hand, Cavern of Souls is a thing, and the first time I top-deck Clinging Mists after Sire lands, I’m going to want to shoot myself—or whomever designed Sire of Insanity.

(If it seems as though I’m overly focused on Sire of Insanity, it’s because I think it’s the real deal. Cavern into Sire is very hard for control decks to beat without adapting. I’ve also heard it from some pros that this very interaction is going to, at the very least, help define early testing.)

Given that, we might have to adapt the deck in some radical way. We could splash red for Helix or, more interestingly, Turn // Burn. I like Turn // Burn better because we already have several wraths available to us, and Turn might buy us the time we need to simply cast Supreme Verdict. Even then, it’s probably a sideboard card.

Turn // Burn might not be good enough for the main deck, but I could see Ral Zarek possibly being good enough. His plus ability conveniently leaves up Fog mana, effectively giving him a way to “protect” himself long enough to give you all kinds of space to work with over the next few turns. And if any deck can ultimate Ral Zarek, it’s Fog.

That might look something like this:

Ral Zarek gives us another 4-mana walker to Farseek into that has more impact than a Gideon or Chandra. It might not be worth it in the end, but it’s certainly worth trying.

Because, you know, coin flips.

Things I Think I’m Thinking This Week

  • @#!#!##$@!!!! Sire of Insanity
  • I don’t like how two Blood Scriveners work. It’s non-intuitive. Same with dueling Notion Thiefs.
  • I would play eight Farseeks in all of my Farseek decks if I could.
  • Speaking of, I have one suggestion for Magic 2014 and only one: Mind Stone.
  • I enjoyed writing last week’s article and will probably try something similar with other sweet brews I try down the line. If you have any cards you like to see toyed with, share them with me on Twitter or in the comments.
  • I want to see what happens when a battlefield is full of multiple Blood Scriveners and Notion Thiefs and just how far the blood splatters when everyone’s head explodes.
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