Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound
– Dark Ascension
Date Reviewed: November 15, 2017
Constructed: 4.5 Casual: 4.3 Limited: 3.9 Multiplayer: 3.5 Commander [EDH]: 3.7
Ratings are based on a 1 to 5 scale. 1 is bad. 3 is average. 5 is great.
I have to say, I’m a little bemused by the fact that most members of the new age of planeswalkers are so young. I understand the idea of the Spark is that it often fires at a moment of personal crisis or evolution, and it’s good to acknowledge that people in their teens and early 20s face such challenges on a regular basis. But it’s hardly as though you can’t have such an experience later in your life. Corwin is middle-aged at the beginning of his character arc in the Chronicles of Amber; Michael from Grand Theft Auto V has adult children. The group of teenage wizards in Magic Origins reminds me a little of Harry Potter, and Magic would do well to form a unique identity when it comes to things like this.
Aside from that, though, I’m always surprised just how easy it is to meet Vryn’s Prodigy’s transformation condition. He makes a good argument for making Thought Scour your one-mana cantrip of choice, even when Ponder is available; once you get up to five cards in your graveyard, the Telepath Unbound form offers some useful advantages, with the -3 ability capable of some devastating plays in the style of cards that have overtaken entire formats recently. He may not be able to attack like a Snapcaster Mage, but you’ll sometimes cast even more expensive spells with even less mana investment. This version of Jace is surprisingly good even as an incidental card in spell-based decks, and devastating when built around.
Remember back when Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy was considered the worst of the Origins planeswalkers? I do. And I remember when it achieved the rare distinction of being an $80 card when it was in Standard. That should tell you a lot: price tag and power are oft intertwined, and flip Jace was (and is) a very powerful card.
Let’s start with the flip condition: have 5 or more cards in the graveyard when you resolve his effect. He’s basically a Merfolk Looter that can potentially wall a 1 power creature; he’s not a great body, but 0/2 is serviceable for 2 mana when you have that effect. While 5 cards may seem like a lot…honestly, it’s not. This was back when Khans of Tarkir brought back fetchlands to Standard; it wasn’t impossible to crack a slew of fetchlands and have it so Jace was ready to flip on turn 3.
The main attraction of Jace, Telepath Unbound is his -3: cast an instant or sorcery out of your graveyard. Not for free; you still have to pay any costs associated with it. But this is surprisingly flexible in being able to let you pay any alternate costs, like overloading a Cyclonic Rift or delving away a lot of other cards to fire off that shiny Treasure Cruise (also legal in Standard with this Jace). His +1 is good at keeping him not dead for a couple of turns while you tick up, especially conjoined with his high starting loyalty; his ultimate is not great (milling is rarely a great strategy), but if you have Jace at 9, it’s a reasonable way to try and rush down an opponent (and it scales well to multiplayer).
A cheap, flexible mana cost makes Jace easy to splash, and a transform trigger that’s deceptively easy to trigger makes him powerful. He was an $80 card for a good reason: a confluence of powerful effects and an easy way to get him out made him a menace in Standard. He’s still occasionally played in Legacy and Modern, but his fragility is more of an issue there, and he rarely gets the chance to flip.
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