Today I’ll be looking at a pair of cards that often go hand in hand, yet are fighting for the same space in the decklist. One of them is the best planeswalker ever printed.
The other is Jace, the Mind Sculptor…
Move over Jace, The Greatest Thief in the Multiverse has stolen your top spot.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor[/draft]
For a long time now Jace, the Mind Sculptor has unquestionably been the number one planeswalker in Vintage. He provides great card selection and card advantage, can protect himself, and ultimately can win the game, given enough time.
I feel that Dack Fayden can do all of this – and more.
So what makes Dack so great?
Point 1: Cost
Most Blue-based control decks will run Red as well now as it is a colour that lends flexible, powerful answers to resolved permanents – which is something that Blue struggles to do by itself. Lightning Bolt and Pyroblast are both being played in maindecks by themselves and Young Pyromancer is a real threat when you can cast 5, 6m or even more spells in one turn – something which you can definitely make happen in Vintage.
So, there is very little opportunity cost to playing Dack Fayden in a planeswalker-based Control deck. He doesn’t make your mana base any worse and is in fact cheaper to cast than Jace TMS. Now, I accept that he can be a little harder on the mana than Jace may be – due to the fact that he does cost 2 colours. Of course, there will be “god hands” of Black Lotus into Library of Alexandria or Strip Mine or another colourless land into Jace, which can’t happen with Dack. But those hands are few and far between and you can probably still do something busted anyway.
The fact that he only costs three mana is a huge plus point over Jace. Against Mishra’s Workshop-based Prison decks (Shops) that 1 mana can be the difference between casting the planeswalker and having it rot in your hand whilst a 5/3 beats you down. Vintage games do not tend to last very long (even the games that do can be over within 4 or 5 turns) and that extra bit of speed from Dack pushes him ahead here.
Point 2: Card Selection
Both of these Planeswalkers provide very good card selection for your deck. With Jace you get to Brainstorm, a card so potent that it’s on the Restricted list – and do it every turn. In a fetch-heavy mana base, you’ll often be drawing three cards, getting rid of two that aren’t right for the situation, playing a fetch, and crack it to shuffle them away. Dack allows you to dig a little deeper by himself over a few turns and also provides synergy with other areas of your deck.
If you are running Dack, you will almost certainly want to be running the big delve spells: Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time. Dack not only draws you through your deck to the spells you want now, but also enables these big haymakers much quicker and chain Dig Through Time into Dig Through Time into Dig Through Time. There aren’t many decks that can fight against this kind of card selection when you get to see so much of your library.
Point 3: Protection
For this point, both cards are effective in different ways. Jace is definitely better against decks that want to play a big threat and protect it: Tinker into Blightsteel Colossus type strategies for example. But both are fairly weak to two newer kids on the block: Young Pyromancer and Monastery Mentor. Or rather, more specifically: to the tokens that they create. These creatures are basically armies in a can, they can be real threats to our planeswalker surviving more than one turn.
Looking at how Dack protects himself gives us a different slant on things. Dack’s only form of protection is through theft, as is naturally flavourful. However, his theft is limited, so he can be of little use against most of the creature decks in the format. What can he do?
Well, this actually brings me on to the fourth point.
Point 4: Win Games
Dack can steal big things. Like REALLY big things. Whilst playing against Shops decks, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been able to hit a freshly Kuldotha Forgemastered Blightsteel Colossus, or even just Lodestone Golem to win in a few turns and two for one my opponent. Unfortunately, this has caused a shift in deckbuilding away from the one-hit KO of Blightsteel Colossus and towards Inkwell Leviathan. Even though, I still think that Dack is a very strong weapon in the battle against Shops decks.
On the other hand, Jace can flat out win you the game in some situations, but what he does need is time. Got Time Vault/Voltaic Key active? Then Jace is your man. However, his disruption is limited and it does take a long time in Vintage terms to get yourself in a situation to win with him. However, sometimes you just need the cards, and that’s enough. Jace can do that.
So which is the better card? Well, I’ve certainly outlined merits of both. Jace is a little less situational, but lacks a little of the blowout factor that Dack has against Shops. Personally I like all of the little synergies that you can get with Dack, and that’s not even touching on what happens when you combine Pyroblast with his ultimate! I will definitely be sleeving up some number of both at the mtguk National Vintage Championships, that’s for sure.
Before I finish, I’d like to remind you all to preregister for the Championships. There are three events split across the Bank Holiday weekend so you’ve really got an excuse to make a Magic-al holiday of it and come down for the whole weekend. Even if you don’t normally play Vintage there’s still chances to win prizes with an unpowered deck and plenty of side events in the afternoon.
Good luck everybody, and I hope to see you there.