Talent of the Telepath

Posted in My Favorite Flavor on June 30, 2015

By Chas Andres

Chas Andres is a freelance writer and MFA student living in Wilmington, North Carolina. When he's not at his keyboard dreaming up stories, you can find him playing with his cats, listening to records, or building yet another Magic deck.

What would you do if you were a telepath?

Being able to read minds and psychically influence people sounds fun, but it's not a power I'd want to have. It would be too tempting to use telepathy in petty or frustrating situations. The potential for abuse in a moment of weakness is much too great.

This is something that Jace Beleren knows all too well. Telepathy has been both a blessing and a curse to him, manifesting in his brain at a very young age. The ability to manipulate minds makes him tremendously powerful, but it also allowed him to destroy the mind of his mentor—and erase some of his own memories.

After leaving his home plane, Jace spent some time on Ravnica putting his telepathic skills to use. This is where we find Jace as he is depicted in my Magic Origins preview card for the week:

As much as I'd dislike having telepathy as a real-world superpower, I really love controlling people's minds in Magic. Turning your opponents' best cards against them is quite satisfying, and it can lead to some pretty awesome stories. While the downside of not getting a card when you cast Talent of the Telepath is very real, this is a spell that lets you play two copies of Cruel Ultimatum for four total mana. The potential for making amazing plays like that with this card is incredible. I expect to hear people gushing about their best hits with Talent of the Telepath at my casual game nights over the next couple of years.

What sort of deck wants to play Talent of the Telepath? Well, the card certainly gets better in multiplayer because you can target whichever opponent is likeliest to have the splashy spell you most want. It also makes sense to have a high ratio of instants and sorceries in your deck so that you can turn on spell mastery. Being able to manipulate the top of your opponent's library is pretty good, too. Here's the list I built, tailored for a casual multiplayer game:

  Talent of the Telepath

This deck is designed to maximize your ability to fire off a really impactful Talent of the Telepath. Misinformation and Painful Memories allow you to manipulate the top of your opponent's library and ensure that there will always be at least one good spell to steal. Sealed Fate gives you the power to control the future, forcing your opponent to draw their worst cards while informing you of what steal-able spells are lurking in their top seven.

There was no way I was going to make a telepath-related deck without including four copies of Telepathy. While I didn't include a lot of cards that directly combine with it, there are tons of subtle interactions with Telepathy going on here. All of the cards that interact with your opponent's hand are more powerful when that information is known to you, and cards like Mindslaver and Reap Intellect gain another level of utility with Telepathy in play. Firing off a Control Magic is much safer when you know that your opponent doesn't have a much better creature coming out on the following turn, too.

Can this deck really get away with running just one creature? I think so. Between Control Magic, Mind Control, and Bribery, nine of the 60 cards here are dedicated to sealing your opponent's best threats. If your opponent is running a creature-light deck, your copies of Talent of the Telepath should be even more likely to hit. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Most of the other cards in here are designed to heighten the flavor of being a telepathic mage. Precognition lets you manipulate your opponent's draws, Reap Intellect allows you to wipe problematic threats from their hand and library, and Mindslaver represents the ultimate goal of any ambitious telepath. If you have enough mana, you can even recur it every turn with Academy Ruins and control your opponent's mind for the rest of the game.

This deck has very little in the way of removal, which forces you to lean on your four copies of Talent of the Telepath in order to remove problematic threats from the table. I've added two copies of Life's Finale as a board sweeper, because the creature extraction aspect of the card feels suitably telepathic to me. If you think that the card's Phyrexian flavor clashes too much with what we've got going on here, though, you might want to consider cutting it for countermagic or spot removal.

In terms of art, I'd recommend going with the Magic 2011 or Magic 2012 version of Mind Control and the Commander 2013 or Duel Decks: Jace vs. Vraska version of Control Magic. These versions feature Jace using his telepathic ability to control a creature, so they really mesh well with Talent of the Telepath. I also like the Seventh Edition version of Telepathy, which depicts telepathy in a visual style similar to Talent of the Telepath.

Other than Academy Ruins, all of the lands are from Ravnica, which is Jace's home as depicted in Talent of the Telepath. I like Island #256 and Swamp #261 from Return to Ravnica as basic lands, because they are the most populated-looking lands from that set. Jace needs to be in a public place if he's going to be mind-controlling a bunch of people, after all!

Looking for other directions to take the deck? Blatant Thievery and Treachery are fantastic cards that allow you to take control of other players' permanents. Neither felt as on-flavor to me as Control Magic or Mind Control, though, so I left them out of this build. Telepathy combines well with a hand-destruction strategy too, and a card like Cabal Therapy would look great in this deck.

If you really want to focus on controlling the minds of other players instead of just their best spells, you can opt for a blue and white build that combines multiple copies of Mindslaver with both Academy Ruins and Bringer of the White Dawn. If you'd rather go in more of a mill direction, Duskmantle Guildmage combines well with the five or six cards that will hit your opponent's graveyard every time you cast Talent of the Telepath. Some reanimation would be good in that build, too. Jace and Liliana were lovers during this time period, so adding her to the deck wouldn't be out of flavor!

Until next time, may your Talent of the Telepath always hit the best possible target.

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