The Pursuit of Knowledge

Posted in My Favorite Flavor on July 21, 2015

By Cassie LaBelle

Cassie LaBelle is a freelance writer. When she's not at her keyboard dreaming up stories, you can find her playing with his cats, listening to records, or building yet another Magic deck.

Hmm . . . so if you carry the seven and divide by two, the variables cancel out and the mana—oh, hey, welcome to the library! It's Jace Week here on DailyMTG, so I thought I'd get some studying done. I'm starting graduate school in the fall, and while mana pressure equations probably aren't going to be part of my writing curriculum, it never hurts to get back into an educational mindset.

Jace's Sanctum | Art by Adam Paquette

I went into this article intent on making the ultimate Jace deck. Much like any good academic, however, I soon realized that specialization would lead me to a much more desirable result. There have been six different Jaces printed since Lorwyn was released in October of 2007, and there are dozens of other cards that reference the powerful Planeswalker. Because he's such a beloved figure in Magic, there's very little in blue's section of the color pie that Jace hasn't dabbled in at least once or twice. A deck with all the best Jace cards would simply be a love song to the best that blue has to offer. Overwhelmed, I decided to dig a little bit deeper.

That's when inspiration struck. Jace may be a prolific mage today, but he wasn't born that way. Jace spent years deep in study, first under the tutelage of Alhammarret and later on his own. So even though it's the height of summer vacation, I decided to build a deck that showcases Jace's relentless pursuit of academic knowledge. To the bookshelves!

I built a 60-card Jace deck a few weeks ago when I previewed Talent of the Telepath, so I'm going to work in the medium of Commander today. A 100-card library may seem daunting at first, but Jace is a quick study. I'm sure he'll get to all those books sooner or later.

School is Back in Session

If we're playing Commander, we're going to need someone to lead us. Who better than Jace himself?

Jace, Vryn's Prodigy does everything we want our deck to achieve in miniature. He comes out early, studies as hard as he can, and then unleashes his newfound knowledge on his enemies in planeswalker form. Quick, powerful, and evocative.

One card down, 99 to go. Let's begin our search for the rest of the deck by taking a look at some Jace-related goodies from Magic Origins:

These cards tell the story of Jace's studies under Alhammarret, the Sphinx who taught him how to hone his telepathic abilities. They also give our deck some mechanical direction. While Alhammarret and Clash of Wills are good all-around cards, Talent of the Telepath, Jace's Sanctum, and Sphinx's Tutelage point us in a spell-heavy direction with a milling subtheme. That's perfect—Jace always wants to be the smartest guy in the room, so it makes sense that he'd be trying to erase his opponents' knowledge while simultaneously improving his own.

Of course, if Jace is going to be studying, he's going to need some books:

These are some pretty useful tomes. Through the power of the printed word, Jace can draw cards, ignore hand size restrictions, and summon creatures from the long-lost society of Icatia. As an added bonus, Idle Thoughts transforms all of your books into Lightning Bolts—wait, that's not what that card does? Oh well, drawing cards is pretty good.

Studying pays off, eh? With these cards in your deck, you're never going to be staring at an empty hand.

I doubt Jace has ever been to the Dominarian libraries of Leng and Lat-Nam, but some of his books may have originated there. Who knows if the libraries on Vryn or Ravnica have some sort of Planeswalker-based interdimensional interlibrary loan system?

From a mechanical perspective, these cards do a good job of evoking the idea that studying allows you to manipulate your library. A good scholar doesn't have to wait for a good spell to be drawn—he or she can search it out by using the power of knowledge. That should let us stack our library with the cards we need to win.

In the official lore, most of Jace's studies either happened alone or with Alhammarret. That's cool and all, but I thought that it would be fun to imagine Jace in a more classical academic setting. There aren't that many schools in the world of Magic—the Tolarian Academy is the only one we've ever heard much about—but we've seen students on many different worlds. I've assembled a few of them here to act as Jace's classmates.

Magical academia is a cutthroat world. I'm sure Jace wants to play by the rules, but that isn't always possible. Sometimes, even the most civilized of scholars is pressured into loaning a bloody tome to that pompous jerk in the first row instead of the copy of Tarmogoyf Geometry he asked for. No sense in letting him throw off the grading curve for no reason, right?

The correct way to play this card:

  1. Share a cool piece of knowledge that you've recently learned with your opponents. For example, did you know that mail was delivered up to twelve times a day in Victorian London?
  2. Wait for the moment of silence as everyone contemplates your awesome factoid.
  3. Shout "Boom! Mind Bomb!" and drop this card on the table.
  4. Sit back in your chair, cross your arms, and look as smug as possible. Isn't learning great?

Milling people out in Commander is hard. I have a Phenax, God of Deception deck dedicated to milling out the table, and it's a miracle whenever I kill one other person, much less two or three. You might not want to run any of the mill cards I've suggested if you play a lot of multiplayer, but they're fairly effective in a duel. Regardless, I've added a few cards here that give you alternate reasons for wanting to mill your opponent.

Staying alive until we can complete our studies is going to be hard, but these cards should help us out. They all feature Jace either in the art or the flavor text, too, so we can stay on theme by running them.

Final Exams

Some might say that the pursuit of knowledge is its own reward, but I'd still like to win the game. While some playgroups frown on infinite combos in Commander (and I won't be showcasing them very often), they seem rather appropriate here. What better way is there to demonstrate a full understanding of the curriculum?

These first four cards combine in various ways to generate infinite mana. I'm not going to tell you exactly how—figuring it out is part of the fun! Once you have the ability to generate all the mana you want, Rocket Launcher is the most evocative way to use it. Did you know that Jace has been working towards his PhD in rocket science this whole time?

Who needs to draw cards one at a time when you can simply pick up your whole deck? Azami has all the scrolls you could ever need. If you've truly mastered the skill of using Mind Over Matter, Azami will let you check them all out at once.

Psychosis Crawler might not be a strict flavor match, but it does allow you to use all of your new-found knowledge to drive everyone else on the table insane (and kill them in the process). Might I suggest loudly shouting the name of each card as you draw it in order to make the loss of life feel that much more tangible?

With lots of cheap spells and library manipulation, these two cards can be used to set up some amazing turns. Both spells are on flavor, too—study hard, and you might find your Mind's Desire. Don't study (or eat too much ice cream) and you'll get Brain Freeze.

Neither of these cards combines explicitly with anything else in this deck, but they both represent the ultimate goal of any ambitious academic. Cast both of these at once and all knowledge in the universe will be yours!

  The Pursuit of Knowledge

Download Arena Decklist
COMMANDER: Jace, Vryn's Prodigy

Jace has been all over, so you have your pick of basic lands. I'm a major Ravnica junkie, so I'm going to use those. Island #291 from Ravnica: City of Guilds looks very academy-ish, as does Island #256 from Return to Ravnica. If you'd rather focus more on the scholarly aspect of the deck, Shards of Alara Island #236 has a wonderful Cartesian grid on the sky alongside uniform, bisected clouds.

Overall, this deck is a good bit of silly fun. If I wanted it to compete against the best Commander decks I regularly face in my playgroup, I'd need to cut some of the book cards and the mill package in favor of some better creatures, bounce, and early defense. As is, I'm going to put on a tweed jacket, pour myself a glass of port, speak in a British accent, and see if I can defeat my friends using only the power of knowledge.

-Chas Andres

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