1 Dread Statuary
2 Halimar Depths
1 Aeon Chronicler
1 Æther Adept
1 Æther Figment
1 Body Double
1 Crosstown Courier
1 Dream Stalker
1 Errant Ephemeron
1 Jace’s Mindseeker
1 Jace’s Phantasm
2 Krovikan Mist
1 Leyline Phantom
1 Merfolk Wayfinder
1 Phantasmal Bear
1 Phantasmal Dragon
1 Riftwing Cloudskate
1 Sea Gate Oracle
1 Stealer of Secrets
1 Control Magic
1 Future Sight
1 Into the Roil
1 Jace’s Ingenuity
1 Memory Lapse
1 Ray of Command
1 Summoner’s Bane
2 Thought Scour
1 Jace, Architect of Thought
Mana Base Review
Starting with the lands, Dread Statuary isn’t too exciting, but being able to animate a land and make it a 4/2 creature until end of turn is definitely a useful ability. Halimar Depths, of which there are two copies in the deck, are extremely useful, as when they enter the battlefield, even though they’re tapped, let you look at the top three cards of your deck. You can then put them back on top in any order, helping you to set up your draws. There are then 21 Islands, which makes sense for a mono-Blue deck.
The creature line-up is also fairly interesting. We start off with a reprint from Planar Chaos, Aeon Chronicler, a Commander favorite. You can suspend him for a whole bunch of turns and draw a card on each turn that you remove a time counter from him. When he does hit the board, his power and toughness are equal to the number of cards that are in your hand. The most useful aspect about him, honestly, is just the fact that he can draw you a decent number of cards. Still, he’s a nice reprint.
Creature Card Review
Aether Adept is a super useful creature that allows you to bounce a creature back to its owner’s hand and has been a favorite of control players for a long time. Aether Figment is a 1/1 unblockable for 1U that can be kicked for 3 colorless mana. If it’s kicked it gets 3 +1/+1 counters, which is kind of cool. He’s also an Illusion which fits with the theme of the deck.Archaeomancer gets back your instants and sorceries, which is always cool.
Body Double is a super good card that lets you copy creatures from your graveyard, or any one else’s for that matter, and is one of the best rares in this product. Chronomaton is a relatively harmless looking artifact that can tap itself to get bigger out of nowhere. Crosstown Courier mills cards from the top of your opponent’s deck when it connects with their life total directly. Dream Stalker is a 1/5 Illusion that costs only 1U but requires you to return a permanent you control to its owner’s hand. This isn’t too bad in this deck, since there are plenty of enter the battlefield effects you don’t mind reusing. A 1/5 wall is also never too bad.
Errant Ephemeron is an Illusion that looks pretty terrible as a 4/4 flyer for 6U. However, he can be suspended for 4 turns for only 1U. Also, the great thing about Suspend is that when he comes back, he can attack without summoning sickness. A 4/4 flyer that enters the field with Haste for 1U is kind of good. Jace’s Mindseeker is a pretty underwhelming rare, but fits the theme of this deck quite well. Its ability is certainly interesting, making an opponent mill the top five cards and allowing you to play an instant or sorcery from among those cards for free. It’s also a 4/4 flyer for 4UU and it’s an Illusion.
Jace’s Phantasm is a very interesting card that hasn’t really ever been quite as good as one might think when looking at it. It’s a 1/1 flyer for a single blue mana, but once an opponent has 10 or more cards in his/her graveyard, it gains +4/+4. It’s also an Illusion, and the chances of it being that big in this deck are pretty good. Two copies of Krovikan Mist are right at home in the deck, as they cost only 1U to cast and their power and toughness are equal to the number of Illusions you control. They can be surprisingly cost-effective.
Leyline Phantom is a 5/5 illusion that costs 4U to cast and it has to return to your hand when it deals combat damage. It’s not a bad blocker, I suppose, but quite underwhelming. Merfolk Wayfinder helps you dig for Islands, and being a 1/2 flyer isn’t bad. Phantasmal Bear and Phantasmal Dragon are a lot of fun, as you get a 2/2 for U and a 5/5 for 2UU, respectively. Unfortunately, they die as soon as they are targeted by anything.
Riftwing Cloudskate is a very interesting card, and at one point, was a major card in some Pro-Tour decks. It’s a bit expensive to cast (3UU) and it’s only a 2/2 flyer but it’s an Illusion that bounces any target permanent to its owner’s hand. There’s tons of ways to abuse this card, just not in this particular deck. Sea Gate Oracle is a cool little card that essentially gives you a free draw at the cost of putting another card to the bottom of your deck. Also, Stealer of Secrets draws you a card whenever it deals combat damage to a player.
As far as the creatures are concerned, I’m surprised that the deck is missing Lord of the Unreal, which gives all Illusions +1/+1 and Hexproof. That card makes this deck really good for a casual duel deck like this. Stealer of Secrets is pretty weak, and Leyline Phantom does nothing for me. Wayfinder is a bit too random and Crosstown Courier honestly isn’t useful enough to be in here. I’d cut all four of those for copies of Lord of the Unreal. If you were to cut a lot of the non-Illusion creatures for more Bears and Dragons, this deck actually is sort of dangerous.
Non-Creature Spells Review
Agoraphobia and Claustrophobia are both decent cards to shut down opponent’s creatures, and the former can be returned to your hand if you’d like. Control Magic is super powerful. Stealing an opponent’s creature is pretty good. Future Sight is great for letting you know what you’ll draw next while also essentially giving you an extra card in hand. Griptide is slightly expensive, but effective removal that can set an opponent back an entire turn at times. Into the Roil is a super useful bounce spell that when kicked also draws you a card. Jace’s Ingenuity draws you 3 cards for 5 mana, which is okay. Memory Lapse is an old-school counter-spell that instead of sending that countered spell to the graveyard puts it back on top of your opponent’s deck, which like Griptide, can set an opponent back a turn.
Prohibit is kind of a funky counter-spell that only counters spells with a converted mana cost of 2 or less, unless its kicked. If it’s kicked, it counters spells of CMC 4 or lower. A 4 mana counter-spell isn’t all that wonderful, though. Ray of Command is a cute little Act of Treason-like spell, except when you return the creature at the end of turn, it becomes tapped. Remand is just really good, because not only does it force a spell back to your opponent’s hand, it also draws you a card.
Spelltwine is really good if there is a really good instant or sorcery in each of your graveyards, but more often that not it’s pretty underwhelming.Summoner’s Bane is an expensive counter-creature spell, but it gives you a 2/2 illusion (unfortunately without flying). Rounding out the non-creature spells, there are two copies of Thought Scour, which mill a target player’s deck by two cards and let you draw a card, pretty solid for one mana.
The non-creature spells are pretty solid for a Duel Deck. Prohibit and Spelltwine are the only two I don’t especially like, and Summoner’s Bane is underwhelming but flavorful. They’re all too situational. I’d replace all those three with Remands. There’s a reason it sees so much play in Modern!
How About Jace, Architect of Thought?
Then we have Mr. Jace, Architect of Thought – who’s definitely proven his worth in Constructed. His +1 really slows down Aggro decks, as all creatures that opponent’s control until your next turn lose -1/-0 when they attack. His -2 is his bread and butter, however. Your opponent reveals the top three cards of his/her deck and you choose to put them into two piles. It’s sort of like Fact or Fiction, except that the cards in the pile that the player doesn’t choose go to the bottom of the deck, not the graveyard. It’s always a free draw at the very least, and usually Jace will get at least two activations of this ability off.
His -8 is not so relevant outside of Commander play (in which it’s insane, by the way) but being able to take a card from each player’s deck (including your own) and play them for free is pretty good. In Commander, that is a busted effect, and I’ve seen it personally win games. Overall, he’s a really good card and definitely is one that so many people are happy to see have a reprint. I’m not a huge fan of the new art, a sentiment shared by many other players, but it’s Jace AoT, no matter what.
Overall, this is a really good Duel Deck with great flavor. It has some odd choices for card slots, as many of these decks do. Simply value-wise, it’s a super good deck that sells the product all by itself. However, don’t count the Vraska deck out, because it has some pretty solid cards, too!
Read the Vraska deck review here.