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Against the Odds: Esper Jace Tokens (Standard)


Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 105 of Against the Odds. We didn't have an Against the Odds poll last week because it's week one of Ixalan Standard, which means we have a super-special episode! If you've been missing the poll, don't worry. It's back at the end of the article and full of sweet new Ixalan options! Anyway, this week, we are heading to Standard to play one of the most controversial cards in the set: Jace, Cunning Castaway. While the general feeling is that the three-mana planeswalker isn't all that good, it has one of the most unique ultimates we've ever seen on a planeswalker: making non-legendary token copies of itself. So, our goal today is two-fold. First, we're hoping to win a few games, but second (and more importantly), we're trying to see how many copies of Jace, Cunning Castaway we can get on the battlefield at once! Can the combo of Anointed Procession and Jace, Cunning Castaway work in Standard? Let's get to the videos and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Esper Jace Tokens (Deck Tech)

Against the Odds: Esper Jace Tokens (Games)

The Deck

The build of Jace, Cunning Castaway we played in the videos was actually my second attempt at the "see how many token Jaces you can get on the battlefield" challenge. The first one looked to use "add a counter" cards like Skyship Plunderer and Quarry Hauler to get Jace, Cunning Castaway to ultimate faster, but unfortunately, it didn't work very well because all of the creatures in the deck did nothing if we didn't happen to have Jace, Cunning Castaway. Even if we did have a Jace, the extra counter didn't save it from Cast Out or Vraska's Contempt. After flaming out with the initial build, I realize that maybe instead of focusing on loyalty counters, a better plan would be to focus on the fact that the copies Jace, Cunning Castaway makes of himself are tokens, so they can be doubled with Anointed Procession. While Anointed Procession doesn't really help us ultimate Jace, Cunning Castaway the first time, it does make sure things will spiral out of control quickly if we can ultimate just once. 

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The main plan of our deck is to get at least one copy—and hopefully more copies—of Anointed Procession and then find a way to ultimate Jace, Cunning Castaway. With one Anointed Procession, we get four copies of Jace, Cunning Castaway, and with two, we get eight. Then, we have a couple of options: we can try to tick up all of our copies of Jace, Cunning Castaways to make even more Jaces, or we can simply tick down all of our copies of Jace to make a board full of Phantasmal Bear tokens to beat our opponent down. With this in mind, the biggest challenge of the deck is protecting Jace, Cunning Castaway long enough to ultimate it for the first time. It should be pretty hard for us to lose if we can survive long enough to ultimate a Jace, Cunning Castaway, so the rest of the deck is dedicated to keeping us (and Jace) alive long enough to pull off the ultimate.

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When it comes to protecting Jace, Cunning Castaway, we have two plans. First, we can use token producers to clutter up the battlefield and chump block. Cards like Legion's Landing, Anointer Priest, and Hidden Stockpile are fine on their own and even better when we have an Anointed Procession on the battlefield doubling up our tokens. Legion's Landing comes down on Turn 1, and if we ever manage to flip it around, we can make a lifelinking chump blocker every turn for just three mana. Anointer Priest helps keep our life total high so we live long enough to draw into our Jace, Cunning Castaways, and Hidden Stockpile forms a strong engine with Anointed Procession, allowing us trade a Servo and one mana for a scry and two Servos during each of our turns, which eventually adds up to a lot of Servos on the battlefield. Plus, the ability to repeatedly scry with Hidden Stockpile is one of our best ways to find Jace, Cunning Castaway or copies of Anointed Procession, if we already have Jace. 

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Beyond making a bunch of tokens, our second plan for keeping Jace, Cunning Castaway alive it to kill our opponent's threats. Fatal Push is great because we can trigger revolt consistently with Hidden Stockpile or mana sources like Renegade Map and Evolving Wilds. Cast Out hits planeswalkers and other things we can't get with Fatal Push, while Fumigate not only sweeps away the entire board but also gains us a bunch of life along the way, since we are blowing up all of our tokens along with our opponent's creatures. Plus, our deck naturally breaks the symmetry of Fumigate, since we rebuild quickly with Anointed Procession and Hidden Stockpile making Servos for free and because Jace, Cunning Castaway survives the creature-only sweeper.

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The last part of our deck doesn't really work directly with Jace, Cunning Castaway, but The Scarab God is too powerful to pass up since we are in blue and black, especially since it seems super powerful with Anointed Procession doubling up the tokens we make by exiling creatures from the graveyard. It gives us another way of closing out the game if something happens to Jace, Cunning Castaway, and when we do have a Jace, The Scarab God does a good job protecting our planeswalker, coming back from the graveyard when it dies and also making a bunch of additional blockers. 

The Matchups

Jace, Cunning Castaway himself is at his best in control matchups, where we can slip him into play early, before our opponent can leave up counters, and then plus until we ultimate. In other more aggressive matchups, Jace, Cunning Castaway struggles, since he is pretty bad at protecting himself. If we tick him down to make a Phantasmal Bear, our planeswalker drops all the way down to one loyalty, which makes it really hard to ever get to the ultimate. 

Our deck as a whole sort of mirrors Jace, Cunning Castaway. We are strong against control and midrange, since we are resilient to removal and can rebuild fast after sweepers—cards like Fatal Push look pretty silly when they are pointed at 1/1 Servo tokens—but we can sometimes struggle with aggressive decks if we don't draw our lifegain effects. In theory, we can beat anything with the right draw if we get our engine going, by making a ton of tokens and eventually a ton of Jace, Cunning Castaways, but these matchups require all of our cards to show up in the right order, which doesn't always happen. 

The Odds

All in all, we played five matches and won three, giving us a 60% match win percentage, along with winning seven of 14 games, good for a 50% game win percentage, making Esper Jace Tokens slightly above average for an Against the Odds deck. As for Jace, Cunning Castaway, our planeswalker was very hit or miss. While we did eventually pull off our goal of making eight copies of Jace, Cunning Castaway (and then about a million Phantasmal Bears), we also had a lot of matches where Jace, Cunning Castaway was either a three-mana Phantasmal Bear or a three-mana loot effect before it immediately died. All in all, Jace, Cunning Castaway was amazingly fun in the games where it went off but average to below average much of the time, even in a deck that's built to double up its power with Anointed Procession

Vote for Next Week's Deck

Ixalan is here, and we're sticking with the sweet new cards for this week's poll. Which of these cards should we play (probably in Standard, although I reserve the right to switch to Modern if need be) next week? Let us know by voting below!

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Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Don't forget to vote for next week's deck! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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