My Jaces

While chatting with a dude at the draft table this week about the unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor in Modern, we both remarked that we could remember specifically where each of our copies came from, and I bet that’s true for a lot of people. I didn’t complete my set of Jaces until well after his time in Standard had come and gone, and I don’t play any Legacy, so it’s perhaps a little strange that I was drawn to collecting a playset at all – but there’s just something about Jace.

My First Jace

While my friends and I had played clueless casual kitchen table Magic for years, I didn’t get my DCI card until July 2009 when my friend Aaron invited me to go play Two-Headed Giant with him at the Core 2010 Prerelease. Even though we lost every match, I was hooked. I had never played Limited before and it was like a whole new world to me. I still have the foil Liliana Vess from our sealed pool, and I remember we tried playing the Darksteel Colossus we also opened.

By the next summer I had become a full-blown enthusiast, frequenting FNM and attending every prerelease. I was having a blast and I wanted to introduce my old friends to all of this amazing Magic stuff that they’d never seen before. I ordered packs of Rise of the Eldrazi and Zendikar-Worldwake from and got the gang together at my place. We all had fun drafting and playing with the cards but none of my friends were interested in buying in for prizes or even just keeping the cards they opened.

Looking back now, I realize I could have chosen a much better introductory drafting experience to share with this type of group, such as getting a box of Core 2010. For example, I remember one of my friends being confused by Guard Duty – what is this card for? Doesn’t this just make my guy worse? It’s by no means a dumb question if you haven’t played that much, and I certainly don’t expect a new player to pick up on corner cases involving Overgrown Battlement defender decks in a complex format like Rise of the Eldrazi. Compare Guard Duty to, say, Pacifism, which was in Core 2010. I think it’s much clearer to a new player what Pacifism is for, in a basic gameplay sense.

But if I’m honest, that’s a bit overwrought. The simple truth is that my kitchen table group just wasn’t that into it. I had found this new thing that I really loved and I was going to have to go do it without my old friends.

Not to be melodramatic or anything – I of course still have great relationships with those friends (believe it or not I am a functional human being) and we still regularly do non-Magic stuff together. And the other side of the coin is that going out to play Magic has led me to many new friends that I’d never have met otherwise.

After the drafts were done and everyone had gone home, I cleaned up the discarded booster wrappers and gathered up the cards. Nobody had opened anything too special; I think there was a Sorin Markov, maybe a fetchland. There were a few odd packs left over since nobody had wanted to do prizes. Tina cracked them for funsies, she has above average luck when spewing on packs.

“Is this card any good?”

And there was my first Jace.

My Second Jace

The first-ever Modern Format Grand Prix was right here in Lincoln, Nebraska in February 2012. I was incredibly excited to attend, I’d never been to a GP before and having one in my own city was a big thrill. As it turned out, the weather was crummy and the event organizers chose a lame venue on the outskirts of town – who can forget the “#GPHOTH” hashtag? I don’t know if we’ll ever get another try at a GP here in Lincoln, especially with Omaha right next door, but I’d love to see a different organizer take a shot at it. Our downtown area has come a long way since 2012.

I actually had an early version of Birthing Pod at GP Lincoln, which of course would evolve into one of the most powerful decks in the format. However, I was a pretty big donkey at the time so I scrubbed out after just a few rounds despite having a great deck. But, hey, I was just happy to be there so I hung around the event center soaking it all in. I checked out the vendors and got a print of the awesome playmat art signed by Ron Spencer.

I had done plenty of trading with familiar faces at my local store, but I had never interacted with “value traders” before. At the GP, there were lots of these dudes hustling around for trades, and a few of them definitely made me feel uncomfortable. I suppose I may as well have had a flashing neon sign above my head that said “Chump!” I recall getting into a trade with this fellow who I later learned was infamously known as “Bulk Rare Guy,” and I ultimately had to walk away from that deal because it just felt creepy and weird.

After making a few trades with various goofballs I was looking through one last guy’s binder. There was nothing I needed but, on a lark, I asked about his Jace. You’ll recall Jace had been banned from Standard back in 2011 so it hadn’t been a hot commodity for a while, although it was certainly still a valuable card. I was surprised when the guy said “Sure” and started adding up my stuff. He built up a big pile of my Standard rares, I think there were several Daybreak Rangers involved, and made me an offer. I’m certain, especially at that point in time, he was well ahead of me on the trade and this was just one of dozens of deals he made that day while grinding out a profit. As for me, I was just a chump stoked about picking up his second Jace.

My Third Jace

My pal Aaron (same guy who I got my DCI card with) is one of the best dudes I know, just a real treasure and I’m blessed to call him a friend. Although he did bring me to that first prerelease, I quickly got way more into Magic than he cared to be. He’d play with us occasionally and buy a few cards here and there just for fun. One day we were hanging around at a small comic shop, long since closed, and they had a few Worldwake Intro Packs in their clearance bin. Aaron grabbed one and, of course, because it’s Aaron, the booster pack contained a Jace. It’s his good karma. Frankly, I’m surprised it wasn’t a foil.

Aaron is one of these IT genius types, he works incredibly hard and has achieved a lot in that space. One of the traits that seems to be common among high-performing IT folks, in my observation, is that they can be a bit messy or scatterbrained with regard to peripheral things that are of lesser importance – e.g. Magic cards. Aaron would leave his cards laying around all over the place, even on the floor. We were hanging out one day and I notice there’s this foil Birds of Paradise laying on the floor near his desk. It was a promo version with beautiful art by Terese Nielsen. So this foil BoP is sitting there, naked, face-up – and this is seared into my memory like John Kerry in Cambodia – Aaron is rolling the wheels of his office chair across the card. Not intentionally, of course, but that’s just Aaron for you. At that point, I knew I had to gank my friend’s property, for everybody’s own good.

I told him, look, dude, this is obviously your stuff and you can take it back at any time but for now I am going to give these cards the safe, loving home that they deserve. A home where they can wear proper sleeves and rest securely in sturdy deckboxes. It’ll be easy enough to identify which Jace is his if he ever needs it back – it’ll be the one in the worst condition!

My Fourth Jace

In late 2013, after Theros came out, the local game store did a cool thing they called the “Clash of Champions.” Basically the top finishers from various pre-release events got to come back and play another Limited tournament for some bigger prizes.

It’s funny (cringey) to go back and read my own posts from that many years in the past. My style has certainly changed a bit. For one, I’m now less inclined to go into the minute details of every round. In fact, I think I kind of sound like a dorkus-malorkus tryhard in that report! I’m still a dorkus-malorkus, mind you, but I don’t think of myself as a tryhard these days.

Regardless, I am still proud of making it to the finals of that tournament. The field was comprised of a bunch of local end-bosses and it felt pretty good to be able to hang in that company. I got a From the Vault: Twenty for second place – and that was my final Jace.

We’ll find out soon enough whether the unbanning was a mistake but even if they have to nuke Jace all over again, I’ll never get rid my set.

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