s we told you last week, Magic is making an appearance in the Disney blockbuster The Sorcerer's Apprentice, which is in theaters ... today! What a coincidence!
We received a great many submissions to our contest. Five first-place winners each got a draft set of product for 8 friends consisting of a display of Magic 2011 product (36 boosters), 8 alternate art Jace Beleren promo cards, and 16 movie tickets for them and their friends to go see The Sorcerer's Apprentice. And forty second-place winners each got an alternate-art Jace Beleren and four tickets.
So what does it take to win? Feast your eyes on the five winning decks!
Since this contest is about the upcoming film The Sorcerer's Apprentice, I thought I would come up with a deck that put one of the planeswalkers back in time when they were just learning their powers. The first planeswalker that came to mind was Jace. I thought Jace was the best candidate because, out of all of the planeswalkers, he fit most comfortably in the sorcerer/apprentice role.
Jace, at least from my perspective, has always been portrayed as an all-powerful mage that could tear your mind a new, well... mind hole. So this lead me to wonder; "How were his teenage years?"
So in this blue-red control-"ish" deck I kind of thought of a foolhardy, arrogant Jace. His arrogance shows with the use of red mana, and his inexperience shows through with the copy and control spells, (because every good apprentice learns through imitation). Also, as every mage knows, it is good to carry around a couple of trinkets to help them in a pinch.
Here is the Decklist for "Jace, the Apprentice"
Jace, the Apprentice
Jace endured tough times under his tutelage with Tezzeret, in his skirmishes with Chandra, and his part in unlocking the Eye of Ugin. I picture Jace's mind-magic as having developed a darker side – less reluctant to warp libraries of memories and shred fabrics of thoughts; less guilt after sending minds to the void. His magic-wielding skills are potent, keeping his enemies like Tezzeret and Chandra quivering in anticipation of Jace's next attack. Enemies cannot let their guard down for fear Jace will attempt assassination. All the while Jace grinds away at his opponent's mind with a fierce determination.
The Deck: 60 card mainboard + 15 card sideboard
Creatures: 3 – Jace summoned only a few creatures during his employment with the Consortium. He mainly relied on his quick spells.
1 Augury Owl - Jace vowed never again would he send a fae into battle after watching his long-time friend and spy get crushed by Tezzeret's writhing machine.
1 Azure Drake
1 Conundrum Sphinx – Lets Jace see a little into his opponent's mind and strategy.
Planeswalkers: 3 – Jace runs this show.
3 Jace Beleren
Enchantments: 11 – Jace's first option is to destroy his opponent's mind. His second option is to take it.
3 Leyline of Anticipation
2 Leyline of the Void
4 Jace's Erasure
2 Mind Control
Artifacts: 3 – Jace has picked up a few interesting items from the Consortium.
2 Temple Bell
1 Crystal Ball
Instants and Sorceries: 16 – Jace specializes in manipulation of minds and reality. He has come to accept the idea "kill or be killed".
3 Jace's Ingenuity
4 Mana Leak
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Terramorphic Expanse
2 Mystifying Maze – Jace sometimes sends an opponent on a journey through the maze of its own mind; the creature is spent when it comes back to itself.
Sideboard (with explanations where needed): 15
1 Leyline of Anticipation – One should anticipate starting with this leyline when up against another mind-mage.
2 Leyline of the Void – One should make void heavy graveyard recursion, graveyard manipulation, and other deathly tricks he learned about during his time with Liliana.
2 Temple Bell – Jace likes to manipulate his own mind, too. He is a mind-mage after all.
3 Cancel – Against slower witted, sorcery-wielding mages.
2 Mind Control – Against large creatures that Garruk likes to hang out with.
1 Plains – For style points
4 Solemn Offering – Having spent time healing with his elf healer friend Emmara Tandris, Jace has learned to channel his energies into defeating one of the only strategies he knows would stop him – mind sanctification.
Jace with the Consortium
Ajani Goldmane Green-White
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Terramorphic Expanse
3 A jani Goldmane
2 J uggernaut
4 A jani's Mantra
1 N ature's Spiral
1 I nspired Charge
3 G oldenglow Moth
4 O bstinate Baloth
4 L eyline of Vitality
3 D ay of Judgment
4 M itotic Slime
4 A jani's Pridemate
1 N aturalize
2 E lixir of Immortality
Well, the most obvious thing is that the cards I selected spell out AJANI GOLDMANE. I started with Ajani, who is my favorite Planeswalker (although I like him when he is more vengeful) and his namesake cards. They had life gain related abilities, so I looked at all the colors to make a sort of life gain deck to make Ajani's Pridemate huge and also make Ajani pump out a very large Avatar. After selecting most of the cards I noticed that it would only take a very small amount of work to find the few missing letters to spell Ajani's name and still stay on theme. So I found another large creature to attack with (Juggernaut), a couple of situational cards (the one ofs) and made the manabase. I like that the deck has a lot of synergy with ways to protect Ajani, plenty of ways to pump up the Pridemate and the deck buys enough time with all of that lifegain to find the cards it needs to set up a daunting board position.
Ajani Goldmane G/W
Chandra Nalaar: "Impulsive, passionate, and short-tempered, Chandra Nalaar is the quintessential fire mage. As a source of immense and unpredictable power, authority figures seek to control her, conflicting with her need for freedom. As Chandra brings her wild inner fire to world after world of rules and structures, the results are sure to be explosive."
"But wait!" you may exclaim, "this deck isn't mono-red! It doesn't even have the word 'Chandra' in any of its cards! How could this possibly be Chandra's deck?" A good question -- let me break the deck down a bit.
The goal of this deck is to put the player in Chandra's shoes. The player takes on the role of Chandra Nalaar, which means her planeswalker card is right out -- Chandra can't be both a player and a card at the same time, or continuity would be broken and they would probably both be put into the graveyard a state-based effect. Since the deck relies on the player-as-planeswalker concept, this Chandra probably represents what she would look like pre-Mending, when the planeswalkers were less restricted to particular colors of magic. This allowed me to focus less on Chandra's traditional color palette and more on what'ss most important to Chandra Nalaar as a character and a person -- freedom and choice.
Ideologically, Chandra represents impulsiveness, creativity, and total freedom from the rules and regulations typical of her opposed colors, blue and white. To turn Chandra's ideology into a deck, I had to find cards from M11 that represent freedom from rules imposed both by the opponent and by Magic itself, as well as choice to play what you want, when you want, how you want. I also opted to stock the deck with many different cards as two-ofs in lieu of a more standard list with more duplication, on the theory that a deck based on freedom and choice should have lots and lots of different cards.
Diabolic Tutor: Freedom requires having options, and no effect opens up more options than no-restriction tutoring. Whether you want to play a land, a creature, or a blazing spell, Diabolic tutor gets it for you.
Fling, Cyclops Gladiator: Magic's combat is filled with rules, from declare attackers to combat damage. Sometimes it's useful to be able to bend or break those rules. Sometimes there's a battle you really, really want to see happen, but your pesky opponent won't declare blockers the way you want him to. Cyclops Gladiator lets you get around that by declaring one of his blocks for him. Fling is there for the opposite situation, when you really don't have time to clash creatures and you just want to bash some face.
Lightning Bolt, Pyroclasm, Thunder Strike: These are grist for the Diabolic Tutor wheel. A piece of spot removal, a piece of mass removal, and a piece of combat trickery together provide a wide range of options during a tutoring session.
Reverberate, Clone: Sometimes a red mage sees something really cool, something awesome and amazing that didn't quite make it into her own deck. Clone and Reverberate are there for those moments. Clone can get you access to an pretty creature the opponent sets on the table, or can double the presence of one of your creatures if you really need it. Reverberate plays a similar role, with the obvious differences in card types. Again, freedom is the key -- anything on the table is fair game for copying.
Leyline of Anticipation: This fantastic leyline gives Chandra freedom from the constraints of casting speed. No longer shall her summonings be limited to the main phase.
Wild Evocation: Sometimes, you just can't get spells out of your hand fast enough. For an impulsive mage, nothing is more frustrating than having your creativity stifled by a mana bottleneck. Wild Evocation speeds up the process a bit by giving you an extra spell every turn.
Crystal Ball: A bit of a reusable tutor Lite, Crystal Ball ensures that you can continuously draw what you want, when you want it. Choosing your draws opens up casting options and frees you from the chance inherent in a randomized deck.
Jinxed Idol: Sometimes, Chandra's penchant for impulsive acquisition can get her in over her head...
Acidic Slime, Manic Vandal, War Priest of Thune: Many of the most powerful enchantments and artifacts work by changing the nature of the game or by restricting your resources and your options, forcing you to play the game that your opponent's deck wants to play. From Æther Flash to Winter Orb, Magic is rife with enchantments and artifacts looking to put you down. Chandra doesn't like cards that put her down. Acidic Slime, Manic Vandal, and War Priest of Thune all share Chandra's view, in their own way, and help her clear the board of particularly restrictive permanents.
Birds of Paradise: Birds opens up many, many casting options and frees Chandra from restrictions of color. Four copies are included as a nod to functionality, as they make the deck's wild color base much more manageable.
Fauna Shaman: Like Diabolic Tutor, Fauna Shaman lets you pick your plays, no matter what creature you draw. Like Crystal Ball, its ability is conveniently reusable.
Platinum Angel: This powerful finisher provides freedom from... well, pretty much everything! Damage, decking, and Doors of doom are all nullified by Platinum Angel, giving Chandra more time to do what she wants.
Water Servant: Make-your-own creature! While not as versatile as Morphling, Water Servant maintains the ability to craft itself into any of several different power/toughness arrangements, so Chandra can have a beefy blocker when she needs it and a bristling aggressor when she wants it.
Liliana Vess: Chandra herself cannot appear in her own deck, but she could still use an ally in her rovings. What better partner than Liliana Vess? She's ambitious, she's unscrupulous, and most importantly, Liliana does what Liliana wants, making her a perfect ideological ally for Chandra. Even better, her -2 ability mimics that of Diabolic Tutor, adding even more versatility to Chandra's arsenal.
And there you have it -- the perfect deck for Chandra Nalaar.
Augury Owl x2 (Sadly there are no sprites in M11, as Jace seemed fond of them. Still, he seems like the type who'd appreciate the information provided by the owl)
Azure Drake x2 (These are here mostly for defense, and because Jace seemed to have a fondness for drakes in Agents of Artifice)
Call to Mind x4 (Mental manipulation? Sounds like Jace.)
Conundrum Sphinx x3 (Efficient creatures which take cards from the top of you opponent's deck and can combo with augury owl and preordain--albeit rarely--is a yes. Besides, Jace's "big creature" in Agents of Artifice was a sphinx)
Jace's Erasure x4 (As though having his name in it wasn't enough, Jace's kill condition is milling, so these are a must)
Jace's Ingenuity x4 (Again, his signature on the spell is helping a lot here. Combos well with Jace's Erasure and not terribly with Call to Mind)
Mind Control x2 (As far as I know, Jace has never actually mind-controlled anyone in the books or comics, but it certainly seems within his grasp. Besides, he's in the picture)
Preordain x2 (Admittedly divination isn't precisely Jace's thing, but information and card-drawing is. I settled for only two because they're not the most flavorfully appropriate)
Redirect x4 (I prefer to envision this as Jace using illusions or mental trickery to make you THINK you're bolting him, or doom blade-ing his sphinx, while in reality you just launched it at your own creature, whose last thoughts are confusion and terror at what looks like a sudden betrayal. I know that's not really the flavor on the card, but...)
Sleep x2 (Another of Jace's tricks in Agents of Artifice, and like there he will probably use this more to keep his opponent's creatures from hitting him than so that he can go all-out with his drakes and owls)
Traumatize x2 (Clearly this is Jace's signature "mental lobotomy" move from the book...other than his planeswalker ability, anyway)
Jace Beleren x3 (The star of the deck)
Unsummon x3 (This is hard to justify flavorfully, but helps Jace keep from getting overwhelmed. Perhaps he wiped the creature's memory and left it drooling in an alley somewhere, until its friends find it and get it to a healer--ie, re-cast it)
Sorcerer's Strongbox x2 (Flipping coins isn't really Jace, but drawing cards is. And with the quote about locking away memories? How could I resist?)
Mystifying Maze x4 (Again, I envision this more as Jace's mental magic leaving the creature trapped in an illusory or mental maze)
Island x17 (No explanation needed here, I hope)
Some notable mentions and explanation for cards I avoided:
Black Cards: Black's discard cards could also fit Jace thematically, and would notably widen the rather restrictive card pool, but discard has traditionally been Lilliana's domain, and besides, though the teaser for Agents of Artifice may talk about Jace choosing between darkness and light, he never really seemed all that interested in black mana. Jace, like all the core planeswalkers, is pretty thoroughly in his one color, and so dual-chrome decks weren't really an option.
Cancel: Despite being blue, and printed on counterspell, Jace doesn't strike me as all that good with counterspells. He doesn't use a single one in Agents, and I don't think he really does much with them in the comics, either. Further, he didn't even seem to have that strong a grasp of spellcraft in Agents, leading me to wonder whether or not he even really could counter very many spells. The same goes for the other counters in 2011.
Foresee: With all the scrying and card-drawing in the deck this seems a good choice. Maybe it's the art, but I just have more difficulty associating this with Jace flavorwise then I do preordain.
Ice Cage: I strongly considered Ice Cage with a mention of it flavorfully being an illusion, dream, or memory manipulation. I eventually decided that was too much of a stretch.
Phantom Beast: As an illusion, this feels appropriate, but was left out in part due to space restrictions and in part due to the fact that Jace never seems to actually summon anything like it.
Tome Scour: Though the milling would be appropriate for Jace's deck, the flavor behind it didn't mesh very well, and nothing interesting and more appropriate immediately lent itself to me.
Congratulations to our five winners. And slightly smaller congratulations to the forty runners-up:
||Robert D. Lingenfelter II
||Dwight de Ono
Before we leave, the judges would like to share the following fascinating facts:
- We received over 750 entries.
- Only 3 entries included decks with all five Planeswalkers.
- White-green was the most popular two-color combination, followed by blue-black.
- Four entries tried the acrostic gimmick (first letter of each card spells something out).
- Two entries thanked Monty Ashley by name. (You're both welcome! Although I wasn't a judge, so this is the first I've heard about it.)
And if you didn't win, take heart. You can always go to the theater and buy your own ticket to see Magic: The Gathering in Disney's The Sorcerer's Apprentice!