Brewing with Jace and Bloodbraid Elf
We knew there was a chance there would be unbannings in Modern, but honestly that chance seemed fairly small. Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf have been on the banned list for so long, and Wizards has had plenty of opportunities to unban them. Now all of a sudden these two cards are legal and the Modern format is once again going to change in a huge way!
I believe part of what went into this decision was the fact that Jace, the Mind Sculptor is the face of Masters 25. It would be hard to justify a reprint of the powerful planeswalker without making it legal in Modern. Jace sees plenty of play in Legacy, though perhaps not as much as it used to after the Sensei's Divining Top ban. But people also love playing Jace, and that has to be a consideration as well.
I believe that Jace, the Mind Sculptor is more powerful than Bloodbraid Elf. It should go directly into any blue midrange strategy, whereas Bloodbraid Elf is a card I have heard very mixed opinions on. There are some players who are Jund lovers and see this as a way to revive that archetype, and that may very well happen. There are also players who simply don't like the cascade mechanic and the card in general.
Bloodbraid Elf does happen to match up well against Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and that helps make it a pretty easy card to take off the banned list. It isn't clear exactly how much play either of these cards will see since unbanning cards is a bit of an unknown. I'm sure Wizards has done some testing in a world where these two cards are legal, but we know that Modern is a very difficult format to accurately predict what is going to happen.
There is a reasonable argument to be made that Modern is in a healthy place right now, so if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I understand this logic, though there are good arguments to support the unbanning as well. I don't believe the addition of these two cards will break the format. There are plenty of decks that want their opponent's deck to be filled with four-mana spells. This is a way to shake up Modern but not necessarily in a bad way. We know that if cards like Jace and Bloodbraid Elf get too popular, aggressive and fast combo strategies should be effective answers to those cards.
Where will Jace end up? Let's talk about what existing strategies are a good fit for this card. Lantern Control might be able to play a copy of Jace, the Mind Sculptor in its 75, but I don't think a Lantern Control player should be happy about the unbanning. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is very good against Lantern Control, and essentially demands an immediate Pithing Needle.
We won't be seeing craziness like Jace, the Mind Sculptor in green Tron decks, so let's not get carried away (I may be eating my words in a couple weeks!) Jace, the Mind Sculptor could actually be very good in Bant Midrange, a green creature-based strategy.
This deck could certainly play a couple copies of Jace, the Mind Sculptor main deck. There are plenty of ways to shuffle your library, which makes the Brainstorm effect significantly more powerful. This is also a good way to dig through your deck to find specific combo pieces, which is another thing to consider; Jace will not just see play in typical midrange and control decks it works well in combo strategies too. In a deck like this you do still need to watch your curve and the number of cards Collected Company can't hit. I believe there are very few, if any, decks that want to play the full four copies of Jace.
The most common home for Jace, the Mind Sculptor is still very likely to be control decks. The blue-based decks certainly get better with the addition of this powerful planeswalker, but how much better? You can certainly shave a Cryptic Command for a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and call it a day, or build a different style of control deck centered entirely around maximizing the power of Jace. The fact that Jace, the Mind Sculptor can set up the top of your library is huge.
How different is this from a typical White-Blue Control deck? It is certainly much more synergistic. Terminus is actually very well-positioned right now, with Bogles having just won the last Grand Prix. Of course, this list is merely an idea that needs some work, but I do believe we will see a deck like this develop into a more finished product and possibly surpass the power level of the current control decks.
Bloodbraid Elf Decks
There are a ton of blue decks in Modern, and in the case of almost all of them you can make an argument for the addition of Jace, the Mind Sculptor. There aren't quite as many red-green midrange strategies, on the other hand. Jund has not been putting up as of strong results as Abzan lately, and this has led to Jund largely disappearing. That certainly may change now that Bloodbraid Elf is back.
Jund is the traditional home for Bloodbraid Elf, but there are typically not many four-mana cards in the main deck of the Black-Green Rock strategies nowadays. You occasionally see a card like Huntmaster of the Fells or Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, but there are normally no more than two copies of the four-mana creatures it makes you wonder if Bloodbraid Elf will actually be a four-of.
In its glory days, Bloodbraid Elf was in the same Modern deck as Deathrite Shaman, which made it easier to ramp to four mana, which is no longer the case. Jund Death's Shadow would want Bloodbraid Elf if it weren't for the deck playing such a low land count. We could see some hybrid takes on these decks that try to play both Noble Hierarch and Bloodbraid Elf, though at that point you really are dipping into a four-color deck. One of the main incentives to playing Bloodbraid Elf is having as many high-impact spells you can hit off the cascade as possible.
I'm actually not sure that Jund is the place we will see the most of Bloodbraid Elf. Certainly, cascading into a Liliana of the Veil is nice, but the cascade doesn't always work out the way you want it to. Red-Green Ponza is probably the most popular red-green deck right now after Scapeshift, and Bloodbraid Elf should fit nicely into the strategy.
This deck actually plays ramp creatures, which means you can very easily play Bloodbraid Elf on turn three where it can be very impactful. While you will simply hit a mana creature a lot of the time, this deck also has things it can do with excess mana. When you do cascade into a card like Stone Rain or Blood Moon, it can completely swing the game in your favor.
I see this deck playing four copies of Bloodbraid Elf moving forward since many of the four-mana creatures are replaceable. I could even see adding in some Molten Rains as additional high-impact three-mana cards to hit off Bloodbraid Elf though I wouldn't be surprised to see players complain if a land destruction deck gets any better.
Beyond the existing decks, there could be new homes for Bloodbraid Elf. There could even be a world where Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf exist in the same deck. Perhaps this could be reminiscent of Shardless Sultai in Legacy, with Bloodbraid Elf instead of Shardless Agent?
This is simply a Temur Midrange deck with a land disruption package and a really powerful four-mana slot. The reason I have not included Snapcaster Mage or counters in the main deck is that they don't work well with cascade. It could be that a blue midrange deck without lots of counters simply isn't good enough, but there is a lot of power here. Being able to Brainstorm with Jace, the Mind Sculptor, put an Ancestral Vision on top, and then cascade into it is one of the main incentives to play the deck. Blood Moon is still a messed-up card, and I expect to see players cascading into it with Bloodbraid Elf.
Thanks for reading,