It is time we all welcome Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy with open arms! I dare say that he is more than capable enough to hold his own in the great diversity of the Legacy format. At first glance you may not expect him to be able to hold his own thanks to Karakas and his legendary status, or because of his lack of power being a 0/2. So, we are at ground zero, and it comes down to playtesting where we see that he is all but mediocre.
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy has some prominent weaknesses at first glance. He is a 0/2, which never allows him to swing into an opponent. He is legendary, which makes him susceptible to Karakas and stops you from having more copies of him on the battlefield. He is a creature, which makes him susceptible to every popular removal spell in the format. He is a two mana creature that must contend with other Legacy format powerhouses like Tarmogoyf, Stoneforge Mystic, Baleful Strix, Dark Confidant, Meddling Mage, and more. So, at first glance, it seems as if he has no merit to be working his way into our decks, but can there be more strengths than there are weaknesses?
Many players have forgotten the time in Legacy when Merfolk Looter was a real card, but let me remind you that looting is no joke. Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy has a very powerful friend in the Legacy format called Rest in Peace. Where some assume that this interaction is a nombo (a non-combo interaction), the interaction between these two cards have the potential to be amazing. In a lot of match ups, the ability to filter your draws is more crucial than having a Planeswalker on the field. For example, the ability to loot away lands and drawing the counter magic or hand destruction to have a constant stream of disruption is vital to win in the combo matchup. The same concept applies to Relic of Progenitus if you are a non- white player and want to have Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and his looting synergy in your deck. Let’s not forget his susceptibility to Karakas, but being able to chump block and bounce seems like it could be a good interaction.
As a Planeswalker, Jace, Telepath Unbound’s +1 ability after transforming is very crucial in a variety of strategies. If you are a tempo player, locking down an opposing creature may be all you need to end the game in your favor; if you are a control player, being able to halt a tempo strategy dead in its tracks is all you need to be able to find the proper spell to end the game in your favor. Of course, Jace, Telepath Unbound’s ability to cast spells from the graveyard is invaluable in having the right spell at the right time.
Let’s not forget that Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is still blue at the end of the day, which allows for more consistent Force of Will fodder, so multiple copies of him don’t overload your hand.
Unlocking the Potential
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy may not look as appealing as his much larger brother Jace, the Mind Sculptor; but he is no pushover. Remember, big things come in small packages. First, let’s begin with what decks can welcome him with open arms and force big brother to share some space.
- Shardless BUG
- BUG Delver/ 4C Delver
- Esper/Jeskai Stoneblade
- Patriot Delver
- Any blue midrange/combo deck
To some degree, including Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy has its merits for each of these decks.
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy has a controlling side to him that many individuals don’t realize. When Shardless BUG gets into Tarmogoyf stalemates, Jace, Telepath Unbound allows for your opponents Tarmogyfs to shrink in the race which turns them into great walls instead of hyper aggressive bodies. This will allow Shardless BUG the opportunity to find Abrupt Decay to pave the way for their own Tarmogoyfs. So, in this shell he has become a tempo/control card. Granted, this archetype doesn’t have as many spells for his recursion ability as others, but the few this deck does have are so high impact and back breaking to your opponents, that you won’t feel bad including him. For instance, Jace, Telepath Unbound has the ability to attrition down a combo deck with several Hymn to Tourachs, this seems more than potent enough to restrain them from implementing their game plan.
Recommended Copies: x1 this archetype has a very tight base. One copy is all this can afford.
Analysis provided by local player Ryan Burk.
This seems to be the most hyped deck for Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, but, sadly, my opinion may hold some disappointment for everyone. Reanimator is an instant gratification deck where if I were to cast a Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy to loot next turn, I’d rather spend the turn casting a Hapless Researcher instead. The logic behind this is that I can block profitably, sacrifice him and still have my discard outlet. With Hapless Researcher, if my opponent has a kill spell, I will not be stopped from executing my game plan. Another negative situation for to consider when including Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is that while I can turn one him via Lotus Petal, if my opponent has an answer I have been put so far behind there is almost no room for recovery.
One of the biggest weaknesses of Reanimator, excluding the variants that play Show and Tell, is that it is an all in graveyard deck that is weak to Karakas as well. So, effectively, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy folds to both form of hate for this deck. In truth, he can allow your game ones to push through counter magic, kill spells, and a variety of other hate cards, but after boarding, things change dramatically and he is by far weaker. In theory, bad matchups for this archetype should improve with the introduction of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, but sadly they do not.
As well another negative fact of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is that he opens up opponents kill spells that otherwise would be ineffective. For instance any B/G/x deck runs multiple copies of Abrupt Decays that can clump up an opponent’s hand but with this introduction you lose this edge against them.
In my eyes, one of the most important parts of updating an old archetype is to give it some new wings against some problematic situations, but he does not fulfil this purpose. Examples of the matchups where he does little to nothing to improve are Death and Taxes, BUG Delver, Lands, Miracles, and Maverick.
Recommended Copies: 0
BUG Delver / 4C Delver
This archetype truly doesn’t need much help. It is a tempo deck at heart, but can comfortably get into the long game. One of the best reasons behind playing this archetype is the one-mana planeswalker: Deathrite Shaman, and its powerful un-counterable removal spell: Abrupt Decay. Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Dark confidant are currently at odds in this flex slot. A majority of the community is choosing a fan favorite and classic: Dark Confidant. With Hymn to Tourach holding prominence in the current meta-game, Dark Confidant’s pure card advantage holds more validity than Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy looting ability, or Jace, Telepath Unbounds recursion ability.
Recommended Copies: 2
Esper / Jeskai Stoneblade
Stoneblade midrange decks have been known to be able to have a variety of cards that allows them to have game against almost every deck in format, assuming you draw the correct half of your deck in those match-ups. These archetypes, unlike Shardless BUG, have many more cards to recur with Jace, Telepath Unbound once he has flipped. Powerful cards such as Ponder, Swords to Plowshares, Supreme Verdict, Council’s Judgement, Lightning Bolt, and Thoughtseize are great to cast multiple times. Also, in most of their matchups, these decks are playing as the control deck, and at worst Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is able to take the removal spell for Stoneforge Mystic and allow them to gain a large tempo swing into their favor. Also, Jace, Telepath Unbound gives you the ability to hold back up to a 5/6 Tarmogoyf from blocking and killing your Batterskull’s Germ token and giving your valuable life gain is a great way to draw the game out in your favor.
Recommended Copies: 2
In theory, this archetype may be the best fit for Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy for the mere fact that it is the control deck of the Legacy format. Now, there are some very interesting interactions that can be done with Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. For instance, if you have floated a Terminus on the top of your library with Brainstorm or Sensei’s Diving Top, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy can activate on the opponents turn and allow you to cast Terminus for the miracle cost, and if you have enough cards in your graveyard to cause him to transform, he will no longer be a creature when Terminus sweeps the field. This line of play may seem narrow, but Miracles has the ability to draw the game into this situation often.
Now, we have hit a crossroad with him in this archetype. The traditional creature less build seems less likely to adopt him, but the Monastery Mentor has much more versatility with him, as well as having more cards to cast from the graveyard profitably. Some of us will have the argument that Jace, the Mind Sculptor is strictly better, being able to double as a win condition, but it is important to step back and look at Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy as more of a utility card and value engine than a standalone win condition.
Recommended Copies: 2
Analysis provided by local Miracle player Kevin Toolan.
I believe that Patriot Delver is the best deck for Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Patriot Delver has the largest machine gun removal for any Delver deck in format while still being a Delver deck at heart. This archetype, dare I say, is the perfect fit for Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. We have wasteland to protect him from an opposing Karakas and the largest suite of spells to really abuse him as a Planeswalker. That’s not all folks! Jace, Telepath Unbound also allows us to race much harder and get through our opponents creatures. Since Patriot Delver is systematically always in a race situation, the -2/0 to stun a Baleful Strix or weaken a Tarmogoyf is insanely crucial to getting and staying ahead of the race. If needed, we can also just Bolt our opponent to oblivion to finish the race. Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy also allows this build of Delver to become much more proactive in the matches where a turn two Stoneforge Mystic takes the removal spell hindering your aggression. Now, we can cast Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy to take the removal spell, leaving an open path for our Stoneforge Mystic to take control and pave our way to victory. This archetype doesn’t have to struggle to decide which Jace to cast and our curve is low enough that he suits our game plan.
Recommended Copies: 2
Where do we go from here?
Taking all of this into consideration Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy shows that he can hold his ground and not be bullied out by Jace, the Mind Sculptor. The fact of the matter is that they are contenders and we must carefully choose between them. We should also look at some of the other blue shells he can fit in to, like Aluren or even a blue Painter shell. Also, we must give Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy the time or opportunity change and allow some new decks to emerge in Legacy. Who knows, maybe there are some MTG fanatics that already have some brews in the works? Maybe a Blue Smallpox build or Red/Blue Burn strategy? Who knows? What I do know is that I am definitely on board with Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and will be sleeving him up weekly for South Florida Magic Legacy events.