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The Jace Question.

April 15, 2011

What a conundrum it seems when a Top 8 finish had 32 Jace The Mind Sculptors in it. the glamour of being The Mind Sculptor, must have Jace in an egotastic frenzy at the moment in the multiverse. But let us face the reality of existence shall we.

[Trigger Warning: I suck at percentage math] Since last weekend, the talk has been about Banning Jace 2.0 because of saturation in top decks finishing. If we break down the math and take a look at top 8 decks from Feb 6th until last weekend from SCG Open Series, and GP’s and PT’s etc, 142 decks contained 4 copies of Jace. this ranged includes finishes from 1st up too 332nd place finishes. now if you consider the following that each event had close to 1000+ players attend. lets say just for example that 14000 split by region so its 1000 people per event that would mean that less than less than 2% of the field with those numbers had exactly 4 Jace The Mindsculptors in their deck. Now people are throwing out numbers like 75% – 80 percent of the field, now that may be so, but we aren’t talking about every deck that includes Jace, we are just talking about 4 of copies of Jace.

Brian Kibler said on his twitter account yesterday and I absolutely love what he said “Kids these days don’t know what a card that should really be banned looks like!” and it is so true!!!

I have been playing Magic for a long time, and I played during the 2005 season, when lands, and skullclamp, and ravenger, and disciple of the vault were all banned from standard. I played when survival of the fittest was banned from legacy. I’ve seen many cards banned for various reason over the years because of their gross interaction in a format. how they literally reshaped and remolded an entire format to be completely suited towards one archetype only. We normally see a deck climb to the top every season, with various builds of it that dominate, but none so far in the last 6 years have ever required a card being banned. let alone an emergency banning.

If you go on over to DailyMTG at wizards.com, you will see an article today by Tom LaPille “About Jace” in this article Tom LaPille talks about this very subject. in fact this is what he says:

“Every deck in the Top 8 had four copies of Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

This has prompted plenty of Internet discussion in the past week. It also prompted plenty of discussion in the Pit. Today, I’ll share some of our perspective on what’s going on.

I will begin by talking about what we won’t do. We are not going to emergency-ban Jace, the Mind Sculptor or any other card in Standard.

Let me clarify what I mean by that. We make regularly scheduled B&R announcements four times a year. The next announcement will take place on June 20, and will go into effect on July 1. We will announce no changes to the (currently empty) Standard banned list before that time.

Emergency bannings, or bannings announced on days other than our regularly scheduled announcement dates, are extremely rare. In fact, we have emergency-banned exactly one card in Magic’s history. That card was Memory Jar. We did this because of a confluence of factors. The Standard environment leading up to the release of Urza’s Legacy was dominated by combination decks like Tolarian Academy that enabled turn three kills. Memory Jar was another obviously broken combination card. Rather than knowingly allow Standard to be dominated by broken combination decks for another set, we banned the card almost immediately upon its release.”

See that? they are not planning on banning Jace, because Jace himself does not define the format, it is the decks that define the format.

I said something along the lines to BMK’s article post from SCG ” if plainswalkers abilities were instant base rather than sorcery speed then I could see jace being banned in something like legacy where an instant free brainstorm in response would be stupid as shit and difficult to get rid of. Jace is fine the way he is” Now what did I mean by this? well if you have a premium account on SGC you can read BMK’s article, if not ill just post what i feel is the most relevant statement:

First of all, I don’t think WotC would ban Jace right now even if every single deck in every Top 8 had four copies. There’s a new set immediately on the horizon, which has at least one card we’ve seen – Hex Parasite – that has the potential to serve as a very potent answer to opposing planeswalkers. Even if the new set doesn’t change anything, and Jace remains the most dominant card in the format, there are only six months left until Worldwake rotates. The damage that would be caused by banning Jace and angering a huge swath of your player base who forked out cash for their copies would likely dramatically outweigh whatever respite banning might provide for the next few months of Standard. Not only that, but banning any card calls into question WotC’s willingness to ban other cards in the future, which can leave players gun-shy about investing in any future cards that might be a major force in Standard, which hurts Magic far more in the long run than Jace’s dominance for the rest of the year might.

That being said, Magic tournament attendance has hardly dropped off in the fourteen months since Jace has been legal – in fact, numbers are through the roof. Grand Prix Washington DC – the first tournament won by a Jace deck – was the biggest North American tournament ever. This past weekend’s Grand Prix Dallas had nearly 1200 competitors – over 400 more players than the last Grand Prix Dallas and nearly 600 more players than the Extended Grand Prix held in Houston just last year.

Previous Standard bannings came in the wake of massive discontent over the state of Magic and marked drops in tournament attendance as a result. People weren’t just complaining about Tolarian Academy or Affinity – they were voting with their feet and leaving the game in droves. Jace certainly doesn’t seem to have had that impact, what with Magic tournament attendance being as big as it ever has been and all. It’s not just Grand Prix attendance either – events like the SCG Open Series put up huge numbers at every stop. People don’t seem so sick of Jace that they’re unwilling to play against him anymore. Until that happens, I don’t see WotC pulling the plug on his Standard legality.

Are you beginning to see a pattern develop? R&D, Pro’s don’t see Jace as the Problem, neither is playing 4 copies of Jace TMS, while albeit surprising to see a Top 8 finish with 32 jaces, you have to consider the breakdown of the event. Most pros, most grinders, want to play the deck of the season, or the current top deck, it’s not a fictional event here, these people are playing for big money and don’t want to be behind the times. Even at our local FNM’s you see usually a good percentage of people playing the deck of the times. After the worlds, it was B/U Control, Valkut, etc, after Paris it was Caw-Go which evolved into Caw-Blade.

What players are failing to understand it is not the card in the format that is the problem, it is the lack of innovation. Top players home brew, they home brew against their metagame. Caw-Blade, falls, to RUG, RUG falls to Caw-Blade etc. U/B Infect is coming up, etc etc etc…but what do all these decks have in common? they were home brews against their metagame. They were innovative, that turned into Tier 1 competitive decks because they could beat their metagame when they were introduced. The purpose of Magic is to Win, the purpose of playing a game is to win, no one plays to lose, unless you are a serious deck builder and want serious stats, but in all truth and reality, even if you are playing to lose in that aspect, you are building a deck, a deck that is being built to win.

So where does this take us in the future? Well Jace leaves standard in 6 months, and unless R&D decides to Reprint Jace 2.0 he won’t be a problem much longer for the standard player, in fact he won’t see a lot of play, plainswalkers in legacy are pretty negligible, you have Jace 2.0, Tezz, and Elspeth…other than that I haven’t personally seen huge plainswalker style decks that you see in standard. mostly because in the format I play most frequently. Honestly, if you are really worried about one card then you need to get your head checked. It’s not the card that defines the format, it is the decks, we build that do.

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