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Brawl with Jace, Cunning Castaway


Brawl is the latest and greatest casual format for Magic: the Gathering. If you're not familiar with it yet you can read my last two articles about Vraska, Relic Seeker and Gideon, Martial Paragon. Or read game designer Gavin Verhey's official blog posts (especially this one and this one).

Today we're going to be talking about the most recent iteration of everyone's favorite mind mage: Jace, Cunning Castaway. He'll be our Commander as we look at an aggro-looting strategy in Blue. And yes, you read that correctly, aggro in Blue!

Jace, Cunning Castaway

Before we get started, let's remind ourselves which sets are in the current Standard-Legal card pool: Kaledesh, Aether Revolt, Amonkhet, Hour of Devastation, Ixalan, Rivals of Ixalan, and Dominaria. (And technically speaking, any cards in the Welcome Deck 2017 are legal right now too.)

The Aggro Looting Strategy

This deck is built around Jace's first ability which reads:

+1: Whenever one or more creatures you control deal combat damage to a player this turn, draw a card, then discard a card.

This ability tells me that we want:

  1. Creatures to attack
  2. Evasive creatures that are likely to get through (e.g. creatures that cannot be blocked, or with flying, hexproof, landwalking, etc.)
  3. To interact with our graveyard via the looting

Evasive Creatures

The list above contains what I think are the best evasive creatures Blue has access to in Standard right now. But these were tough calls to make. A few other creatures that didn't make the list, but who could easily be substituted in, include Artificer's Assistant, Eternal of Harsh Truths, and Mist-Cloaked Herald.

Artificer's Assistant
Eternal of Harsh Truths
Mist-Cloaked Herald

Ideally, you'll have Kefnet's Monument on the board, making all of your creatures cheaper to cast. But don't forget about running some of the other monuments too-- Bontu's Monument, Hazoret's Monument, Oketra's Monument, and Rhonas's Monument. The second line of text on every monument is applicable in a creature heavy deck. Also, every monument is a legendary monument, and will therefore interact with any "historic matters" spells you might choose to run.

For my money, I think Bontu's Monument might be the best of the non-Blue monuments for this deck. The additional life loss and life gain always makes a bigger impact in games than most players expect. And in this deck, most of your early attacks are small, so you need every additional bit of value you can get.

Two other creatures that you may want to consider for your own list are Scrap Trawler and Timestream Navigator. While both of these creatures are really powerful, they both seem better used in a deck that focuses on getting lots of tokens on the board (preferably treasure tokens). Since this deck isn't concerned about getting the city's blessing, or with sacrificing a lot of artifacts, I left them off the list. But they're still worth thinking about.

Scrap Trawler
Timestream Navigator

Cards to Discard When Looting

Drawing a card and then discarding a card (commonly called "looting" thanks to Merfolk Looter) has two benefits. The first is that it helps you get better draws. You're more likely to have the cards you need for each situation in the game if you're allowed to draw a card and then discard the extra.

But the second benefit to looting is that it lets you have some control over which cards are in your graveyard. This is advantageous if you treat your graveyard as a resource and not just a discard pile. Here are the cards that are preferable to discard over the others:

Each of the above cards (aside from the Islands) are playable from the graveyard. When these cards are in the graveyard you can actually think of them as still in your hand. They're still at your disposal; still resources you can use.

But of course, there will always be a situation when you'll be forced to discard something you prefer to keep. For those situations this deck runs a couple of cards that will return cards from your graveyard to your deck.

Commit // Memory is a strong card in this deck. It will be especially important to cast it from the graveyard late in the game.

The other card that will return cards from your graveyard to your deck is Perpetual Timepiece. It may seem redundant to have both Perpetual Timepiece and Commit // Memory in the same deck, however, this format includes a lot of graveyard hate -- Crook of Condemnation, Scavenger Grounds, Sentinel Totem, Silent Gravestone, etc. Because this deck loots quickly, and often, it's important to have this redundant effect at your disposal.

Commit // Memory
Perpetual Timepiece

In a pinch, you could even add Hope of Ghirapur and some of the other artifacts to the list of cards you're willing to discard. Just be sure to also include Scavenger Grounds, Scrap Trawler, or Workshop Assistant in your final decklist.

Hope of Ghirapur
Scavenger Grounds

Combos and Synergies

The most expensive card in the list, Walking Ballista, has strong synergy with Skyship Plunderer and Warkite Marauder. Skyship Plunderer can be used to add +1/+1 counters to the Ballista, while Warkite Marauder can reduce your opponents' best creatures to 0/1 creatures, making them easy targets for the Ballista's second ability.

Skyship Plunderer
Walking Ballista
Warkite Marauder

Another helpful synergy is the way the reshuffle cards work with non-basic land cards in this deck. Non-basic lands like Evolving Wilds, Field of Ruin, and Desert of the Mindful are great for getting through your deck or for removing an opponent's land. But getting to use them twice in one game because you reshuffled them with Commit // Memory or Perpetual Timepiece? That's just great value.

Field of Ruin
Desert of the Mindful

And now we'll enter Magical Christmasland. Consider the following situation: You have both Kefnet's Monument and Bontu's Monument on the board. (You've looted to find them or pulled one out with your Glint-Nest Crane.) After swinging with a band of small, evasive creatures, you cast Paradoxical Outcome, returning them to your hand and drawing a handful of cards. You then have the opportunity to re-cast all of them at a reduced cost due to Kefnet's Monument, and re-trigger Bontu's Monument all over again. This synergy gives you card advantage, taps your opponents' creatures, and gives you life total advantage.

Kefnet's Monument
Bontu's Monument
Paradoxical Outcome


This is Mono-Blue, so there should be no surprise that we're running a lot of counter spells.

Disallow and Nimble Obstructionist will help protect your graveyard from cards like Sentinel Totem. They'll also stop your opponent's Walking Ballista or and his or her Vraska, Relic Seeker.

Admiral's Order, Blink of an Eye, Commit // Memory, Insidious Will, Negate, and the mother of them all, River's Rebuke, will either counter or bounce your opponents' boards. Either way, the board should be clear of the worst threats, and Jace will be protected.

A few creatures also offer removal. Walking Ballista (see above), Hope of Ghirapur, and Siren Stormtamer will all be problematic for your opponents.

Vizier of Many Faces and Entrancing Melody will allow you to either steal or clone the best opposing creature on the battlefield. Is an opponent dominating the game with Muldrotha, the Gravetide? Now you have one too. Did someone just flash in Samut, Voice of Dissent? Now your creatures also have haste.

Entrancing Melody
Muldrotha, the Gravetide

End Step

Do you think Aggro Looting with Jace, Cunning Castaway will work in the Brawl format?

What cards have I missed?

What synergies or combos do you see that aren't listed here?

Or, have you built a deck around Jace, Cunning Castaway that focuses on a different strategy?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below or tweet at me at @Steamfloggery. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Until next time, may all your Mono-Blue decks have at least a smidge of aggro.

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