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Budget Magic: $95 (22 tix) Leveler Jace Combo (Modern, Magic Online)


Kopisanangan, Budget Magic lovers, it's that time once again! Lately, we've been playing a lot of Standard to check out the new War of the Spark cards, but we're changing things up this week and heading into Modern to play a sweet new combo deck built around one of the 36 planeswalkers from War of the Spark: Jace, Wielder of Mysteries. The idea of the deck is simple: we're building a janky version of Splinter Twin (i.e. a two-card "I win" combo) that involves sticking a Jace, Wielder of Mysteries and then exiling our entire deck with the help of a single card like Leveler or Mirror of Fate, which in turn will allow us to tick up Jace, Wielder of Mysteries to draw a card and win with the help of Jace's Laboratory Maniac-esque static ability. Otherwise, we've got plenty of cantrips to help find our combo, some redundant backup combo pieces to increase consistency, and some counterspells to fight through our opponent's disruption. Is Jace, Wielder of Mysteries with Leveler the second coming of Splinter Twin in (budget) Modern? Let's get to the video and find out; then, we'll talk more about the deck!

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Budget Magic: Leveler Jace Combo

The Deck

Leveler Jace Combo, as its name suggests, is a combo deck. It's basically looking to find a two-card combination that can win the game all by itself. In some ways, the deck plays like a mono-blue control deck as well, with a bunch of cantrips to find combo pieces and some counterspells to help protect the game-winning combo finish. Probably the easiest way to break down the deck is to start by examining the combo and then look at the support pieces.

The Combo

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To win the game with Leveler Jace Combo, we need two different combo pieces. The good news is that, along with a bunch of cantrips to find our combo pieces in a timely manner, we also have a backup version of each combo piece to increase consistency. Combo piece number one is a Laboratory Maniac effect—a card that makes is so that if we'd draw a card with an empty library, we will win rather than lose the game. While we do have two copies of literal Laboratory Maniac, our primary plan is Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, which not only gives us the Laboratory Maniac static ability but can also draw us a card to trigger our alternate win condition. 

While either of these pieces can work, Laboratory Maniac can be risky, which is why we only have two copies while running the full four copies of Jace. Since our plan is to exile our entire library, if our opponent can kill our Laboratory Maniac (or Jace, Wielder of Mysteries) in response, we risk losing the game by decking ourselves rather than winning the game. Thankfully, planeswalkers are pretty hard for most Modern decks to kill, which makes Jace, Wielder of Mysteries a fairly safe plan. Meanwhile, Laboratory Maniac dies to pretty much all of the creature removal in the format—from Lightning Bolt to Path to Exile to Fatal Push—so normally we try to win with Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, with Laboratory Maniac being a backup plan for when everything goes wrong and we're forced to take a risky line to try to steal the game.

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The second combo piece we need to win the game is a card that can exile our entire library all by itself. For this, we have two options, with three copies of Leveler and three copies of Mirror of Fate. Leveler is pretty straightforward: it gives us a massive 10/10 for five but with the "drawback" (which is actually an upside for us) of exiling our library when it comes into play. Meanwhile, Mirror of Fate essentially does the same thing but on a non-creature artifact (with a bunch more words). In theory, we can use Mirror of Fate to return cards from exile to our library (which can sometimes be relevant, such as if our copies of Jace, Wielder of Mysteries are exiled by Surgical Extraction or Unmoored Ego). But most of the time, we simply activate it and choose to put zero cards back into our library, which exiles our entire deck, just like Leveler.

As far as these two combo pieces, each has different drawbacks and benefits. The biggest upside of Leveler is that it dodges certain hate cards (like Stubborn Denial, Dovin's Veto, Negate, and Pithing Needle). The drawback is that it's literally uncastable until we are ready to win the game, which means if we don't draw a Jace, Wielder of Mysteries or Laboratory Maniac, it sits in our hand until we do. Meanwhile, the drawback of Mirror of Fate is that it gets countered by various Negates, and cards like Pithing Needle, Sorcerous Spyglass, Karn, the Great Creator, and Stony Silence shut it down. That said, it does have a huge upside: we can cast Mirror of Fate before we have a Jace or Maniac and just let it sit on the battlefield until we find our missing combo piece and are ready to win the game.

Despite these differences, our plan is basically the same no matter which pieces we have: stick a Jace, Wielder of Mysteries for four mana, follow it up with a Mirror of Fate or Leveler for five mana, and win the game immediately by ticking up Jace to draw a card with an empty library. Naturally, this gives us a Turn 5 kill, and with the help of Mind Stone to ramp us, we can combo off and win the game as early as Turn 4 unimpeded. 

Support Cards

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Outside of our combo pieces, our next most important cards are cheap cantrips to filter through our deck and find our combo as well as Mind Stone to ramp us into our combo. Serum Visions and Opt give us one-mana ways to dig through our deck for Jace and Leveler while also helping us find protection (mostly counterspells) for our combo if we already have the win in hand. Meanwhile, Mind Stone speeds up the deck by a turn, allowing us to cast Jace, Wielder of Mysteries on Turn 3 and Leveler on Turn 4 to win the game. Plus, if Mind Stone is bad, we can always cycle it into another card for just one mana.

The other benefit of our cantrips is that they draw us a card, which is important if we are trying to combo off with Laboratory Maniac instead of Jace, Wielder of Mysteries. Remember, to actually win with our combo, not only do we need to have Jace or Laboratory Maniac along with an empty library, but we also need to draw a card. While Jace, Wielder of Mysteries does this itself, if we're on the Laboratory Maniac plan, we have to wait an entire turn before winning the game naturally when we draw for our turn, which gives our opponent a lot of time to find an answer for Laboratory Maniac and turns on sorcery-speed removal. Opt, Serum Visions, and Mind Stone give us ways to draw a card right away and avoid waiting an extra turn to win.

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Next, we've got a few counterspells, which do double duty in our deck. First, they help make sure we stay alive long enough to find and revolve our combo pieces. Second, they protect our combo from our opponent's removal. The biggest nightmare for Leveler Jace Combo is the opponent killing our Jace, Wielder of Mysteries or Laboratory Maniac with the "exile your library" trigger on the stack, which will make us lose the game rather than win. Counterspells can help make sure that something like Assassin's Trophy doesn't ruin our day. Disrupting Shoal is especially good at protecting our combo since we can tap out for Leveler or Mirror of Fate and still have a counterspell to protect the win.

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Last but not least, we have a couple of bounce spells, which are mostly in the deck to help us stay alive against creature decks. One of the downsides of being mono-blue is that we don't get hard removal, so there's a risk that if our opponent just curves out with cheap, powerful creatures, we can get run over before we combo out (or the creature can attack and kill our Jace, Wielder of Mysteries, which is also bad). Vapor Snag and Boomerang don't stop creatures forever, but they do buy us some time—hopefully enough time that we can set up our combo kill and win the game.

Wrap-Up

We played five matches with Leveler Jace Combo, and the deck worked surprisingly well. We finished 3-2 but got fairly unlucky to lose to Colorless Eldrazi (where our opponent had one turn to top deck either a Reality Smasher or a Thought-Knot Seer before dying to our combo and hit the 20-ish percent chance to steal the win). The only match where we really felt outclassed was against Sultai Midrange, which just played a bunch of cheap threats, backed them up with Thoughtseize to disrupt our combo, and ran us over with creatures. Otherwise, we took down an Electrodominance build of Living End, Grixis Death's Shadow (with Laboratory Maniac beats, of all things), and Ad Nauseam

In general, the deck felt solid, and the combo itself was a pretty effective way to win games. That said, the deck can be soft to decks with powerful early-game creatures. While we're great against combo and control, I'm not sure there's a ton we can do to fix the creature problem while staying mono-blue. In a non-budget world, it would be easy enough to splash into red, white, or black for hard removal like Path to Exile, Fatal Push, or Lightning Bolt (along with sweepers). But as far as the fixing the issue while staying budget friendly in mono-blue, we don't have a ton of great options other than adding more bounce spells. It might be worth going up to a playset of Boomerang, for example. That said, it's not that Leveler Jace Combo can't beat creature decks—racing out the combo and winning by Turn 4 or 5 is a fairly effective plan in these matchups—but staring down a Turn 2 Tarmogoyf or Thought-Knot Seer isn't ideal since even if we manage to bounce the threat, our opponent can easily replay it for just a mana or two.

This leaves us with a pretty sweet Modern budget deck with the potential for some solid non-budget upgrades. The combo of Jace and Leveler is actually a good way to beat a lot of decks, and apart from the problem of occasionally getting run over by decks with big aggro creatures, Leveler Jace Combo can actually win a lot of games. If you like janky, fun combos that can actually steal a lot of wins against top-tier Modern decks, Leveler Jace Combo seems like a good budget choice for the format.

For our non-budget build this week, we splash into white to grab some hard removal in Path to Exile and Supreme Verdict, along with some expanded sideboard options. Otherwise, we keep the deck almost exactly the same as the one in the video. The basic idea isn't to rebuild the deck from the ground up but to improve our matchup against the creature decks that gave our budget build problems on occasion. With the addition of wraths and Path to Exile over random bounce spells, we should be almost as good against control and combo but with a greatly improved matchup against those annoying Tarmogoyf and Death's Shadow decks.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. 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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