Here’s the New Jace in Return to Ravnica

September 2, 2012 | Posted by Dee

For the fourth year in a row, Wizards threw a party at PAX Prime to celebrate the upcoming fall set. This year’s party just happened yesterday and many cards from Return to Ravnica were spoiled.

One of the biggest previewed cards that had many people talking was definitely the new Jace planeswalker. There was speculation that he would be blue/red to match the Izzet guild, but he turns out to be mono blue.

I like this decision because it allows Jace to be played in other blue guilds like Azorius (blue/white) and Simic (blue/green) without having to dip into red.

I checked out a popular Magic forum and watched my Twitter feed to see what people were saying about the new Jace. They were split in their opinions. Some players think he’s very good while others are not very impressed.

Personally, I think the new Jace is not broken like Jace, the Mind Sculptor, but he’s still very good. He seems much better than Jace, Memory Adept and I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned out to be better than Jace Beleren.

Here is Jace, Architect of Thought from Return to Ravnica.

Jace, Architect of Thought

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Neutralize Token Creatures

When I first saw Jace’s +1 ability, I thought, “Wow, Wizards really wants to hose token decks.” This ability definitely puts a damper on cards like Lingering Souls and Increasing Devotion. Even a card like Huntmaster of the Fells is a lot weaker once you start ticking up Jace’s loyalty.

If token decks see a lot of play in post-Return to Ravnica Standard, then Jace will be very good. I could see token decks becoming popular for a couple of reasons.

First, Selesnya is one of the five guilds in Return to Ravnica and it is very token centric. In fact, its new mechanic, populate, doesn’t do anything unless you have a token creature on the board.

Second, Lingering Souls and Intangible Virtue were banned in Innistrad block for being too powerful. With Sword of War and Peace and Ratchet Bomb leaving Standard, I expect these cards to make a bigger impact once Return to Ravnica is legal.

Third, Huntmaster of the Fells is one of the best cards in Innistrad block right now. If you look at the winning decks on Magic Online for Innistrad block, you’ll see many main decks with 3-4 Huntmasters.

Against decks that rely on big creatures rather than small token creatures, Jace is much weaker. However, he can still survive some attacks. For example, if your opponent’s only creature is a Thragtusk, it won’t be enough to kill Jace.

Jace goes up to five loyalty after you activate his +1 ability. Then, on your opponent’s turn, Thragtusk attacks as a 4/3 instead of a 5/3, which leaves Jace at one loyalty.

This is where Tamiyo, the Moon Sage can help. Jace is great against small creatures while Tamiyo is great against a lone big creature. When you have both planeswalkers on the board, they do a great job controlling the battlefield and protecting each other.

For instance, in the above example with Thragtusk, if you play Tamiyo after casting Jace, you can lock down Thragtusk by tapping it with her +1 ability.

In the early turns, you can play token cards yourself like Gather the Townsfolk and Lingering Souls. These cards give you multiple chump blockers to protect Jace until his -2 ability takes over the game.

Jace’s -1 ability gives you more favorable blocks. Your opponent will want to attack Jace to destroy him but his creatures will shrink when they attack. That gives you a big advantage during the combat phase when you declare blockers.

Bury Your Opponent with Card Advantage and Card Selection

Jace’s second ability is very exciting because it gives you both card advantage and card selection. Basically, when you activate it, you get the best card out of the top three cards of your library or you get the two other cards.

Sometimes your opponent will misjudge the strength of the top three cards and create a two-card pile with the best card. Other times there won’t be a clear cut best card. Instead, there will be two strong cards with similar power levels. In this situation, your opponent can’t help but give you a two-card pile with one of those cards.

And then there are those rare situations when the top three cards includes two copies of the same powerful card. For example, you could reveal 2 Snapcaster Mage and another card. Not only will you get a Snapcaster Mage, you’ll also get an extra card to go with it.

With just 2-3 activations, Jace’s -2 ability can easily win you the game because you’ll be digging through your deck and picking the best cards or just gaining two cards per turn.

I’m actually glad the pile that doesn’t go to your hand goes to the bottom of your library instead of to the graveyard. That makes Jace more balanced. If the cards went to the graveyard, this ability might be way too good because you could gain even more card advantage with flashback spells and Snapcaster Mage.

Cast the Best Spells for Free

I’m not too impressed with Jace’s ultimate ability but it’s still pretty powerful. It doesn’t give you a game-breaking emblem like Tamiyo or Venser, the Sojourner. Against some decks like small creature aggro decks, you won’t get much when you go through their library to find a spell to cast.

However, you can at least find a finisher in your deck like Drogskol Reaver or sometimes you need to search for a sweeper like Terminus to survive. The ability says “each player” so you can search your own library as well as your opponent’s.

If you play multiplayer EDH, the ultimate becomes a lot better. EDH decks have flashy expensive spells and you get to go through each player’s deck and cast their best card.

[Preorder Jace, Architect of Thought on eBay at a low price]