I cannot overstate how big of a deal the unbanning of both Bloodbraid Elf and Jace, the Mind Sculptor was on Monday morning. It is likely the most significant unbanning announcement ever. I simply cannot think of another example when such a monumental change occurred as a result of DCI intervention. If you can think of one that tops this (or even comes close, for that matter) drop it into the comments because I am at a loss for examples!
I think both of these cards are going to be major players in Modern. This wasn't like unbanning Bitterblossom or Sword of the Meek, where they are sort of "meh," niche cards. These cards are going to be fixtures in decks that consistently battle for trophies.
Seriously, what blue deck isn't going to play at least one or two JTMS? Maybe Storm?
Are people going to bother playing BGx decks that don't play Bloodbraid Elf? Especially in a world where Jace is large and in charge? Doubtful.
These are both game changers.
As a result of the game being significantly changed by virtue of two titanesque threats being dropped on the format, the metagame is going to change. I can't tell you how, but I can tell you why. These cards are both insanely powerful threats. They are the kind of cards that enable new decks. They are the kinds of cards that make preexisting decks better. They are the kind of cards that shake things up.
The easiest and safest place to invest is into cards that are directly impacted by these unbannings. Cards that are either directly good against these strategies, or cards that nicely port into shells designed with the new unbannings in mind.
I'm going to break cards down into a few categories of similar types. Obviously, you should be thinking about other cards that can nicely port into these camps. Feel free to drop your own picks into the comments section. It's a great way to gain some street credit and also help out your fellow investors.
Jace is certainly the flashiest unbanning. The DCI really dropped a $150 bomb on the format and his name is Jace.
But what are we going to do with this busted mythic? The most obvious choice is just to splash him into Grixis Shadow, UW Control, or Jeskai Tempo shells. In fact, this is a very good thing to do with him. He obviously improves these decks by simply being one of the most powerful spells in the format!
We may well see an uptick in Thoughtseize in Modern as opposed to the more traditional 4-2 split favoring Inquisition of Kozilek. It is pretty relevant that Thoughtseize can hit opposing Jaces from the hand, as well as Bloodbraid Elf, which are sure to be out in numbers in the coming weeks.
I'm more interested in cards that could be part of powerful new Jace decks. How about this Pauper all-star...
Do you remember Caw Blade? Yeah, me too. The key is that you can use the Squadron Hawks as a hard draw engine. You tutor for three Hawks and brainstorm two away with Jace. You replay the extra Hawk and get the other two that were shuffled back. It is a great way to turn Jace's "virtual card advantage" into "actual raw card advantage."
Bolt also got a lot better. Obviously cheap removal of all kinds is good when you are brainstorming at will. Bolt is particularly good because it doubles as removal against opposing JTMS.
I've certainly played a lot of Bitterblossoms and JTMS side by side over the years. These were my go-to threats back in Extended. I'm not going to lie, the Faeries shell looks really strong having also gained Fatal Push. Are we destined for a rematch of Extended from a decade ago? Fae vs. Jund? Could be a matchup that comes up often. Either way, Bitterblossom is extremely effective at attacking a Jace.
Another Classic Jace team-up! Gideon is great against creature decks because he has so much loyalty and can draw the fire away from the Mind Sculptor. It is very difficult to get a Jace off the board when Gideon is helping to prop the Mind Sculptor up.
Basically, everything that applies to Gideon also applies to Elspeth. Both of these powerful walkers are great finishers and have the added utility of making it difficult for an opponent to make profitable attacks against JTMS.
Yet another classic pairing that we should not forget about. Both of these cards are inherently good. They have synergy. They are good at buffering for Jace. And, they are extremely effective at defending against Bloodbraid Elf. I wonder if these will be good again. Spoiler alert, yes.
Let's throw Blade Splicer into that camp while we are at it. Hmm, I'm noticing that Jace makes a lot of cards seem a lot better...
Jace Synergies Part II: Miracles
I've actually been buying up cheap miracles in hopes that something will stick to the wall.
Obviously, Terminus is the crème de la crème of the miracle cards. It just answers everything and now we have Jace's brainstorm to help set it up.
The addition of Opt into Modern in Ixalan gives the deck another great way to Miracle on an opponent's turn which will be crucial for these types of decks to protect Jace from BBE.
I expect Miracles to be a deck that people will try to build; whether or not it is actually good won't necessarily matter in terms of creating interest in Miracles cards. The hype alone will likely be worth some positive equity.
I was pretty lucky to have snagged a playset of Japanese Bonfire of the Damned from a two-for-$1 box at the last Grand Prix I attended. I'm glad that I have them now, as I'm actually interested in trying it out!
The card has been fringe Modern-playable for a while in Ponza, but with Jace around to actually set it up, the card starts looking like a real option for the first time ever. There is a reason this card was $75 when it was in Standard—it's very difficult to recover from an opponent miracling this spell at basically any point in the game!
Basically, if it has the miracle keyword, it is a potential target. I would guess this is the kind of finisher that control decks might play one copy of. It was a lot better in Legacy Miracles because it was one of the few ways to break through Counterbalance lock. It's potent; I give it a chance.
Another random good miracle. It is powerful. It seems pretty busted to take extra turns with a Jace in play. This is my dark horse pick.
Bloodbraid Elf Synergies
The first place people will try Bloodbraid Elf is in a Jund shell. The most powerful spin of the wheel with a BBE is often to hit a three-cost Liliana planeswalker. So much value to be had! I know that everybody is ranting and raving about Jace, but don't forget that Liliana also got a lot better thanks to BBE.
Expect more Lilianas in Modern and expect demand and price to rise.
Another card that plays nice with Bloodbraid Elf in Modern is Maelstrom Pulse. People tend to get tunnel vision about how games play out. Opponent taps out for Jace and brainstorms, then the Jund player casts BBE and kills Jace. It doesn't play out that way all the time. What if you don't have an Elf? What if they tick Jace up? Jace is very good against Jund once it hits that board assuming it can't be quickly removed.
Maelstrom Pulse is a card that takes out Jace which is important. Pulse has already been a good Modern card that has gotten a little pricey despite Masters reprints and it just got a lot better!
Speaking of efficient answers to the Mind Sculptor that can be played by Jund, how about Dreadbore? It's good removal that increases dramatically in value when there are good planeswalkers to kill. If Jace and Gideon start teaming up, look for Dreadbore to be an important player in the metagame, since Gideon has a ton of loyalty and is difficult to attack and burn out.
Anti-Jace and -Bloodbraid Technology
While it is true that cards that pair well with these new powerful spells are likely to see a surge in play, the same can be said about spells that are profitable counters to them.
If you want all the Jaces or Lilianas shut down, this is the card. You get a lot of tactical value for just one or two mana out of these spells, especially in a metagame that is likely moving more toward planeswalkers. I expect these popular but somewhat niche sideboard options to become more widely adopted with Jace and Liliana on the rise.
Can't counter it. Can't target it. And, it regenerates. If the Jace decks are not packing Terminus there are very few clean answers to a Thrun. It's a great way to pressure Jace that is difficult to interact with.
It's also pretty decent in the Jund mirror. It obviously stands up and blocks opposing Bloodbraids but the regeneration makes it good against opposing Tarmogoyfs on defense. It's always sweet when you can trade a BBE and a regen shield on Thrun for a big Tarmogoyf.
Thrun has dropped out of popularity because it doesn't size up well against Gurmag Angler or Tasigur. Keep in mind that both of these cards suddenly become much worse when Jace can minus-one to bounce them. It's easy to cast a delve-five or -six creature once or twice but casting the third or fourth time is a real pain.
The Modern Life
If you're investing in Modern, life is easy right now:
Does it play well with Jace? Gold.
Does it play well with Bloodbraid Elf? Gold.
Does it play well against Bloodbraid Elf and/or Jace? Also, Gold.
Did you think of it before everybody else did? Super Gold.
It's a big moment in Magic. I've never seen an unbanning like this one before. Truly momentous. Enjoy the moment and make some smart trades in anticipation of where things are headed. Personally, I believe that Jace and BBE are the truth and I'm catering my trades and buys to reflect that belief.