Fact Or Fiction: A Banner Week For Modern

Was getting rid of Splinter Twin the right thing? Was keeping a few banlist hopefuls out of the format for another season really the way to go? Will Eldrazi trample over #SCGATL and #PTOGW? We ask Brad and Tom to debate and weigh in!

It’s time for another edition of Fact or Fiction! In this column, two Premium writers will decide whether or not the following statements are fact…(wait for it…) or fiction! After it’s all said and done, you, the reader, will get a chance to vote for the winner of the debate! Today we have two pro Magic veterans and VS Series stars: Brad Nelson and Tom Ross!

1. Banning Splinter Twin was a good decision.

Brad Nelson – Fact

I initially thought this was a bad decision for all the same reasons presented on social media. Splinter Twin seemed like a great deck in the format to act as the safety valve for linear strategies. Without something to punish this highly dense subsection of the format, we would be left with tournaments filled with “go for the throat” strategies. It just didn’t feel right to me to ban a turn 4 combo deck in the format Wizards preached was as fast as they wanted to go. This is especially true when Splinter Twin was so good at beating some of the other, faster combo decks.

Much like most decisions from Wizards, I came around to the idea after some deep contemplation on the subject. Banning Splinter Twin wasn’t a decision based on solely on the deck’s power level but what impact it has on the format as a whole. Modern is very much a “broad strokes” format, which is why it’s always so difficult to see the whole picture when looking at a single card or strategy. It’s so complex, in fact, that there’s no way it could ever be proved that any banning/unbanning decision Wizards makes is correct or not. We just have to play the game presented to us and hope the decisions they make are better than average.

There are things that make sense as to why Splinter Twin should have been banned. It’s not only the “best” deck in the format based on win percentage, but it also has taken over the color blue. Sure there are other decks that exist in the color, but an extremely high percentage of them are Splinter Twin-based strategies. It’s also been this way since the incarnation of the format. The deck has been around from the start and always been a threat. It might not have dominated at any given time, but it sure wins the award for most dominant over the span of the last four years. Wizards probably thought it was time to see what this format was like without everyone having to play Rending Volleys and Spellskites and I for one stand behind their decision.

Tom Ross – Fact

I don’t think the combo of Splinter Twin plus a Deceiver Exarch-esque creature was oppressive. I do think something drastic needed to be done to shake up the stale format. Modern could easily function with Splinter Twin being legal but I like the choice to axe it to meet the reasonable public outcry to get rid of it.

Certain decks will get better now that Splinter Twin is no longer a combo piece and I think that’s good to keep people guessing. Twin decks were such a huge and familiar part of the metagame. Decks will undoubtedly show up to beat whatever decks that Twin preyed upon.

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker is still around to combo with, albeit more slowly, and I’m sure some people will stick to their guns and play a version with it for the combo. Perhaps Kiki-Chord decks will gain more popularity. If a heavy creature-combo deck is doing well, that’s fine by me.

2. Ancestral Vision should have been unbanned in Modern.

Brad Nelson – Fact

Ancestral Vision might seem like an innocuous card to those who have never played with the card in past formats. It takes forever to get going, is a terrible topdeck, and doesn’t always get you out of bad situations. Even with all its shortcomings, this card is still tournament-worthy and something Wizards has the right to be afraid of. I just personally think it is a decent card for blue to have in the format.

Sure, it would suck if one of the best decks in formats just suspended this on turn 1 and began countering and killing everything until turn 5. That would obviously suck to play against, but it is a strategy that’s been nonexistent in Modern for some time. I would love for a true control deck to be possible in this format of high-powered linear strategies, and unbanning Ancestral Vision would help make that dream a reality. I just know I would be playing with fire if the decision was up to me and Wizards was more responsible to never strike that match.

Tom Ross – Fiction

While I would’ve loved to see Ancestral Vision get nabbed with a Wasteland Strangler or Blight Herder, I don’t think it’s the time for it to come off the list.

There were initial fears surrounding Ancestral Vision’s brokenness with Cascade cards like Bloodbraid Elf, and the ban purposely weakened the potential Faeries deck that was so good in old Standard and Lorwyn Block Constructed.

Blue has historically been the strongest color and the danger of overpowering blue is just too high. Ancestral Vision might be fair enough now, but the evidence certainly isn’t clear enough to unban it.

3. Stoneforge Mystic should have been unbanned in Modern.

Brad Nelson – Fiction

Stoneforge Mystic is far too powerful to exist in Modern. I could go into detail why, but it’s just much easier to state that it was banned in a Standard format. Do you know how difficult it is to get on a Standard banned list? Not many cards ever have the right to call themselves “The Mistaken,” but Stoneforge Mystic was one of them. Not unbanning this card was the correct decision for Wizards.

What Wizards did wrong was make Stoneforge Mystic the Grand Prix promo that started this whole mess. This would have never even been a thought in our minds if Stoneforge Mystic hadn’t taken foil form as this year’s Grand Prix promotional card. I don’t think I’m alone when I thought that the Grand Prix foils should always be a Modern-playable card since there really isn’t that much need for a Legacy-only white card. No offense, white, but you aren’t blue.

Tom Ross – Fiction

Even without Umezawa’s Jitte, there are still various Swords and Batterskull. People have easily forgotten how good of a Magic card Stoneforge Mystic really was/is.

Stoneforge Mystic is the kind of card that limits design space for future cards. If Wizards of the Coast decides to print a really strong equipment, they’d have to re-ban Stoneforge Mystic all over again.

It wasn’t a particularly smart move to make Stoneforge Mystic the Grand Prix promo when it’s not a legal Modern card, but that’s no reason to unban it. Stoneforge Mystic is a really, really good card that needs to stay right where it is: locked up and away from Modern.

4. #PTOGW will have at least one Eldrazi-oriented deck in the Top 8, proving that Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple are too powerful to have around.

Brad Nelson – Fact

Eldrazi-based decks have begun to pick up a decent following in the past couple of weeks and have started to over-perform based on initial public appeal. What’s amazing is that the next set is specifically catered to this strategy and two of the decks more difficult matchups just got the boot. It would be stupid to predict zero Eye of Ugin strategies will make the Top 8 of the Pro Tour, since everyone is going to be trying to break the deck. Metagaming is what normally would correct this issue, since everyone will be looking for the counter to this deck, but there isn’t really a concrete “best” variation of the Eldrazi deck so nobody is going to be playtesting against the same versions. Can’t really hate it out if you don’t exactly know what it looks like. #PTOGW is going to be a fun one to watch, especially thanks to how many Eldrazi will be center stage.

I’m not sure if these lands are too powerful to have around, though. I only want things banned when they disturb the functionality of the format or prove to win an unfair amount of the time. Screams for bannings when they aren’t essential to the survival of the format are just lazy. Just because the Gatewatch haven’t figured out how to beat the Eldrazi menace doesn’t mean we won’t either. Let’s buckle down, understand our enemy, and attack!

Tom Ross – Fact

There are multiple ways to build an Eldrazi deck: Heartless Summoning, Process-heavy with Blight Herder, or with white for Path to Exile and Lingering Souls. I wouldn’t be surprised if teams come up with more variants too.

Thought-Knot Seer will add additional power to an archetype that’s gaining a lot of momentum. Having a 4/4 on turn 2 with two Eldrazi Temples is outrageous. I’d already thought the Eldrazi decks were good before Oath of the Gatewatch, but now it’s tough for anyone to not be a believer in the deck’s raw power.

I think an Eldrazi deck will be one of the top decks at #PTOGW and I bet two make the Top 8.