The new set of planeswalkers is quite interesting, but at the same time hard to evaluate. Their creature form is not exceptional, but then they do some serious work once they flip. What is important is to understand whether it’s worth it to get to that point.
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
Merfolk Looter has never been impressive in Standard since it was reprinted in Tenth Edition, and this one is not much different, it can’t really block and it definitely can’t trade.
Let’s take a glance at him in the current meta:
UB Control/Esper Dragons
This is the deck where Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy can most naturally fit. It helps fuel the graveyard for Dig Through Time, but once you start delving cards away is harder to ignite his spark. Aside from that scenario, I do not think is that hard to maneuver him to reach 4 cards in graveyard and flip him, especially post-sideboard when people board out their removal spells.
I don’t expect Jace to live long enough in game 1 to provide an activation because cards like Bile Blight, Ultimate Price, Wild Slash, or Draconic Roar have no other target and your opponents will be glad to turn on an otherwise dead card. Once the cheap reactive stuff is gone though I aspect it to shine.
Even though this deck seems to be forgotten, it still exists, and this card is great here for the same reason it would be for control decks. People will board out their spot removal spells against Jeskai Ascendancy Tokens because of the lack of creatures, and your Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy will survive and do his job.
Also it is synergistic with Jeskai Ascendancy because he can be untapped to loot again.
As I said at the beginning, it is not easy at all to flip these planeswalkers, but it looks like but Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy might be one of the easiest, since in the midgame you will have no problem getting 4 or more cards into your graveyard once you activate it. The most difficult part is for him to survive a turn, that’s why I believe he is mostly sideboard material.
Once you flip him, you get the payoff:
Jace, Telepath Unbound
5 Loyalty: It’s a great way to start!
+1: Up to one target creature gets -2/-0 until your next turn.
This evokes the first ability of Jace, Architect of Thought, but it is way worse.
It is only effective if your opponent has a lone creature—but that’s not unreasonable if your deck is filled with removal spells.
I would not say that he defends himself, but at least he tries to.
-3: You may cast target instant or sorcery card from your graveyard this turn. If that card would be put into your graveyard this turn, exile it instead.
This Snapcaster-like ability is really good and it’s definitely the focal point of this planeswalker. This ability differs slightly from flashback, such as when your opponent Remands your spell or if your spell has buyback it will stay in your hand and won’t get exiled. Aside from these unlikely events, the maximum value here is flashing back Treasure Cruise or Dig Through Time for infinite card advantage.
-3 though is a quite a lot considering the fact that it is a 2-turn process, but in the end is definitely worth it. The fact that you need an untap step to flashback a spell is good design, because you can act with full mana up, and in Standard the average mana cost is much higher than it is in Modern.
-9: You get an emblem with “Whenever you cast a spell, target opponent puts the top five cards of his or her library into his or her graveyard.”
Well, 9 is a lot and once you reach the ultimate the game is still pretty loseable. Also, with such a powerful -3 ability it’s a clear sign that nobody will work up to his ultimate.
At the end of the day though, you still have to consider Jace as a 2-mana card, and for this price he does a hell of job: he is cheap, efficient, and can bury your opponents in card advantage if left unchecked.
I hope I gave you new ideas and new points of view to look at this card.