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Against the Odds: Jace Tribal (Modern)

Hello, everyone. Welcome to episode 125 of Against the Odds. Last week, we didn't have an Against the Odds poll, which means we have a special episode this week! Over the past months, we've been working through various planeswalker tribal decks, and with the unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor in Modern, the time is right for Jace Tribal! The basic idea of our deck is simple: we played a ton of different versions of Jace, use our huge pile of Jaces to draw a ton of cards, and then use our ability to draw cards to win us the game with the help of Sphinx's Tutelage. Can Jace tribal work in Modern, fueled by the best Jace of all time: Jace, the Mind Sculptor? Let's get to the videos and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Against the Odds: Jace Tribal (Modern)

The Deck

The trick to building planeswalker tribal decks is to figure out what ties all the various versions of the planeswalker together. Sometimes this is easy, like with Gideon, where Gideon of the Trials has an ability that cares about other Gideons being on the battlefield. Sometimes, we have to go deep, like with Garruk, where it was a combination of The Chain Veil and Genesis Wave that finally cracked the code. So, what is it that all Jaces have in common? The ability to draw cards, of course, and it's this ability that provides the foundation for our deck today.

The Jaces

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Jace, the Mind Sculptor is—by a significant margin—the best Jace. Its Brainstorm 0 ability is the most important one to our deck, giving us a way to draw three cards in a turn to find more Jaces and win the game with the help of Sphinx's Tutelage, while fatesealing with the +2 can win the game by itself once the game is in a stable position. Meanwhile, the 1 Unsummon is good for protecting our Jaces from one big threat. The combination of these abilities makes Jace, the Mind Sculptor the one four-of Jace in our deck—it's just too good to pass up.

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Jace, Architect of Thought is the strangest Jace in our deck, since it doesn't actually draw us cards (while it still generates card advantage, the 2 doesn't trigger Sphinx's Tutelage). On the other hand, Jace, Architect of Thought offers something that we don't get from any of our other Jaces: the ability to protect all of our Jaces from a board full of small creatures. Typically, cards like Lingering Souls are really good against planeswalkers in general and Jaces specifically, but Jace, Architect of Thought's +1 shuts down any number of one-power attackers turn after turn, which makes it a great addition to our deck, even if it doesn't synergize with our finisher.

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Next, we have a bunch of Jaces that are in our deck because they give us the ability to draw a card every turn. The main plan of our deck is to gain control of the game, play as many of these Jaces as possible, and kill our opponent by drawing a ton of cards each turn, which not only makes sure we keep finding our removal (and more Jaces) but actually kills our opponent with the help of Sphinx's Tutelage.

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Jace, Memory Adept is our finishing Jace. While we can use it to draw cards like the rest of our Jaces, the ability to mill 10 cards each turn with the 0 ability helps to speed up the process of killing our opponent with Sphinx's Tutelage, allowing us to close out the game in short order.

Other Stuff

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Sphinx's Tutelage is the perfect finisher for Jace Tribal because it lets us kill our opponent by doing what Jaces want to be doing anyway: drawing cards. After we stabilize the game, we mostly just dig through our deck to find as many copies of Jace as possible, along with our Sphinx's Tutelages. Once we have a Tutelage on the battlefield, we can close out the game fairly quickly by milling away our opponent's library. Take, for example, Jace, the Mind Sculptor. When we Brainstorm with Jace, the Mind Sculptor with a Sphinx's Tutelage on the battlefield, we aren't just drawing cards and improving our hand; we're also milling at least six cards and sometimes more, if some of those cards share a color and we trigger Sphinx's Tutelage an additional time. Then, we simply activate all of our other Jaces to draw even more cards and refill our hand while, at the same time, milling our opponent out of the game in just a few turns.

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Sphere of Safety and Leyline of Sanctity are our best ways of protecting our Jaces. Since Sphinx's Tutelage (along with most of our removal) is enchantment based, Sphere of Safety often just locks our opponent out of being able to attack our Jaces with creatures, which means we have free reign to keep drawing cards and milling our opponent with Sphinx's Tutelage. It's worth mentioning that Sphere of Safety is unique because most similar effects (like Ghostly Prison, for example) only protect the player from being attacked and not planeswalkers as well, while Sphere of Safety does both. Meanwhile, Leyline of Sanctity keeps our opponent from killing our Jaces with burn spells, since our opponent can't target us and redirect the damage to our Jaces, while also making sure our opponent can't simply pick off our Jaces with discard like Thoughtseize, assuming we have Leyline of Sanctity on the battlefield from the beginning of the game.

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We aren't going to talk about all of our support cards, but the important thing here is that most are enchantments to make our Sphere of Safety as good as it possibly can be. Detention Sphere, Oblivion Ring, and Journey to Nowhere give us removal; Spreading Seas gives us an enchantment that doesn't cost us a card (and is also helpful against decks like Tron); and Search for Azcanta helps us filter through our deck to hit our land drops in the early game, and then once it flips, it digs us four cards deep each turn to find more Jaces or Sphinx's Tutelage to close out the game.

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Finally, we have a handful of non-enchantment removal spells to round out the deck. Path to Exile gives us a Turn 1 answer to cards like Goblin Guide and is great in the late game, where we are able to cast a Jace and still leave up one mana to protect it from creatures. As for our wraths, we're playing a weird split, partly because Meddling Mage is a concern and partly because Terminus is really good with the Brainstorm ability of Jace, the Mind Sculptor, even in a deck that doesn't have any ways of drawing cards at instant speed.

The Matchups

The matchups for Jace Tribal are pretty straightforward: aggro can be a problem, especially decks that have a lot of burn spells to finish off the game. While Jace Tribal has a ton of late-game inevitability, if the opponent can run us over during the first few turns of the game, all of the Jaces in the world can't save us. It's not that these matchups are unwinnable (we can win if we get the right hand or flip a Terminus at the right time), but they are certainly harder than slower decks.

Combo can be pretty hit or miss, depending on the exact combo and whether we have a Leyline of Sanctity to stay alive, but typically the combo matchup gets better after sideboarding, when we can take out some of our creature removal for counterspells. On the other hand, against midrange and control decks, it's really hard to lose if we can sweep the board (or play a Sphere of Safety) and then start playing Jace after Jace. We simply overwhelm our opponent with card advantage and eventually find a Sphinx's Tutelage to close out the game. 

The Odds

All in all, we played six matches and won four, good for a 66.67% match win percentage, along with winning nine of our 13 games, giving us a 69.2% game win percentage. This makes Jace Tribal above average as far as Against the Odds decks are concerned. Despite the good record, the deck (and the very idea of Jace Tribal) does have one big problem: Jace, the Mind Sculptor is almost too good to make the deck function properly. While we did manage to assemble Jace Tron and were able to mill the opponent out some games with Sphinx's Tutelage, what happened most of the time is that our opponent would scoop it up to a Jace, the Mind Sculptor activation, which ended the game before we could get more Jaces on the battlefield. The funniest part is that this was true even when we tried to play Jace, the Mind Sculptor in the least threatening way possible (for example, against Affinity, when our opponent was empty handed and empty boarded but we tried to Brainstorm to find more Jaces rather than fateseal our opponent out of the game). Apparently, Jace, the Mind Sculptor really is better than all.

Vote for Next Week's Deck

This week, I decided to try something different for the Against the Odds poll. Rather than picking the options myself, I asked for ideas on Twitter and then picked my five favorites, which you'll find below! Which of these cards should we build around in Modern next week? Let us know by voting below!

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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

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