Fact Or Fiction: Eldritch Moon Release Week Edition!

Todd Stevens may be new to the party, but that doesn’t mean for a second that he won’t put Ross Merriam in serious Jeopardy! Who do you think makes the most compelling Eldritch Moon arguments?

Welcome to another edition of Fact or Fiction! Two writers answer five questions in their own inimitable ways. At the end, vote in the poll for your winner of the head-to-head! Today’s Select edition of Fact or Fiction features Ross “I’ll Be on Jeopardy! on Friday” Merriam and Todd “My Necktie Can Beat Up Your Necktie” Stevens.

1. An Emerge Deck Will Win #SCGCOL.

Ross Merriam: FICTION. Winning a Magic tournament is hard, and even if a well-tuned emerge deck happens to be the best deck in the room, the smart money is on an established, popular deck with a proactive gameplan taking the trophy.

That being said, Elder Deep-Fiend and Distended Mindbender have been very impressive in my testing and I would not be at all surprised to see decks featuring those cards in large roles doing well. If some strong players put the work in for Week 1 and come out with a tuned list, they could certainly take down the event and I would not be the least bit surprised, but to suggest that it is the most likely outcome is too hasty.

Eldritch Moon is a powerful set and we will see plenty of new cards play significant roles in Standard in the coming months. Just give it some time.

Todd Stevens: FICTION. An aggressive deck will win #SCGCOL. Now, I do believe there will be at least one emerge deck in the Top 8, but I’ve learned my lesson over the past year of betting against aggressive decks in the first tournament of a new format. It’s very difficult to have a new deck such as emerge tuned well enough to win the first Open of a new format, especially when your opponents get to see your decklist during the Top 8 and know your exact gameplan, but it’s not impossible. Kozilek’s Return would be a big reason why an emerge deck would win #SCGCOL, so if you are on the aggressive side, make sure you have a plan for it.

2. G/W Tokens and W/R Humans Will Still Be the Most Successful Standard Decks Once the Format Shakes Out.

Ross Merriam: FICTION. As I noted above, these will likely be two of the most successful decks in the early weeks of the format, since we already have tuned lists of each archetype, but the power of Eldritch Moon will fundamentally reshape Standard, and after the Pro Tour I would be very surprised if these decks continue to have the success they had last season.

It’s also important to note that W/R Humans was not the second most successful deck of Shadows over Innistrad Standard; that distinction belongs to Bant Company, which dominated the format before the Pro Tour and continued to be a major player afterward. W/R Humans was only more successful if your name is Tom Ross and you wear a leather jacket. You’re not Tom Ross and you can’t pull off a leather jacket.

The emerge cards along with Emrakul, the Promised End should be great against G/W Tokens, which has minimal interaction and will struggle with strategies that can effectively go over the top of it in a reasonable timeframe. These Eldrazi also represent cheap enablers for Kozilek’s Return, and any increase in that card will stifle Humans. U/W Spirits received so many powerful tools that it should be a top contender as well.

It will only be a matter of time before properly tuned versions of these decks are found and the landscape of Standard is permanently changed. You had your time, Zendikar, but to quote the great philosopher Charles Barkley: “Father Time is undefeated.”

Todd Stevens: FICTION. G/W Tokens is dead. Long live G/W Tokens. G/W Tokens was the perfect deck in a format that was built around creatures attacking on the ground, but that is no longer the case in Eldritch Moon Standard. From Mausoleum Wanderer to Gisela, the Broken Blade, a bevy of evasive creatures have entered Standard and will end the reign of G/W Tokens as the best deck in Standard.

W/R Humans, on the other hand, will still be one of the most successful Standard decks, if not the most successful. W/R Humans is perfectly positioned to start this new format, as the deck can easily outrace U/W Spirits, G/W Tokens, and Collected Company decks. The real test will be to see how popular U/R Emerge will be and if Kozilek’s Return can wipe out the Human menace.

3. The #SCGCOL Standard Open Top 8 Will Be Nearly All Aggro Decks.

Ross Merriam: FICTION. The oft-repeated wisdom of playing aggro decks early in a format is now bordering on cliche. It’s also an oversimplification of reality. You don’t need to be a focused aggro deck in order to prey on untuned lists; you just need to have the ability to be proactive. G/W Tokens could hardly be mistaken for an aggro deck in the way we think of W/R Humans as one, but it plays very proactively with its planeswalkers and can rely on the power of its threats coupled with a reasonable curve to win games regardless of what the opponent is doing.

Ramp archetypes also do this effectively and they certainly aren’t aggro decks. It’s a wider class of decks that tends to perform best in the early tournaments of a format: proactive decks. Aggro, ramp, some midrange variants, and even tap-out control decks all have proactive gameplans and thus can effectively punish untuned decks.

What you want to avoid is playing a deck where the difference between two Ultimate Price and three Grasp of Darkness versus three Ultimate Price and two Grasp of Darkness is a big deal. If you’re attacking with Sylvan Advocates and Tireless Trackers, that difference is fairly minimal, but if you’re trying to grind out your opponent with Read the Bones, you’re going to run into problems unless you’re a savant and read the metagame closely.

The G/B Midrange decks with all four of those cards aren’t aggro decks per se, but they can play games aggressively when needed and that’s the key. You should have the ability to close games quickly, but it’s not mandatory.

Todd Stevens: FACT. Before Eldritch Moon, Standard was already turning into an aggressive format as #SCGORL, the last Standard Open, had three white Humans decks in the Top 8. Besides adding new tools for the aggressive decks, such as Incendiary Flow and Thalia, Heretic Cathar, brand-new aggressive archetypes will enter the format. U/W Spirits will absolutely be a Tier 1 deck with maindeck counterspells and Spell Queller, making it even harder for the control decks to rely on Languish. I wouldn’t sleep on Mono-Red or Mono-Black Vampires either.

4. Eldritch Moon Cards Will Make an Appearance in the Top 8 of the Modern and/or Legacy Classics.

Ross Merriam: FICTION. It’s Week 1 of the format and everyone is eager to work on a new Standard format. That doesn’t leave much time to update Modern and Legacy archetypes with new cards, especially given how intricate many of the more powerful Eldritch Moon cards are.

Combine this with the fact that none of the new cards seem to obviously slot into existing decks in either format and I think it will be a few weeks before we see the potential of Eldritch Moon in Modern and Legacy.

Todd Stevens: FICTION. I’ll be really interested to see if anyone breaks Eldritch Evolution in Modern, but I doubt it will be the very first Classic after being released. It is a build-around card that may take a little time to experiment with to find the most successful shell. Elder Deep-Fiend is another card that I believe will make an impact on Modern in due time and I will be testing it in Bant Eldrazi going forward. Thalia, Heretic Cathar is the easiest card from Eldritch Moon to slot into existing Death and Taxes archetypes in both Modern and Legacy, and would be my pick as the card to make an appearance in the Top 8 of either format this weekend.

5. Eldritch Moon Has the Highest Power Level of Any Set in Standard.

Ross Merriam: FACT. Finally they got one right! I was getting worried there for a second. Collected Company; Gideon, Ally of Zendikar; and Reflector Mage are all powerful cards, but a significant part of their power comes from how easy they are to make work. Reflector Mage can slot into nearly any U/W deck and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar has found homes in decks as wide ranging as W/R Humans and W/B Control.

Normally one of those decks would not be able to make good use of a given card, but Gideon doesn’t require any real setup or follow-up to be effective so it can slot into both. Collected Company requires a lot out of deckbuilding, but let’s face it, creatures are great, so playing with more of them isn’t that difficult and you don’t need that many expensive ones when you can put Company at the top of your curve.

The rate and reliability of these cards is what makes them so efficient, but that is never what the most powerful thing is. The most powerful decks always require a lot of synergy and setup to make work. A four-mana planeswalker with three relevant abilities is always going to be good, but late in the game it’s not going to be better than Emrakul, the Promised End.

The most powerful cards can win games by themselves, even from severely disadvantaged positions. Elder Deep-Fiend can completely change the course of a race and Distended Mindbender can strip your opponent of their two best cards while stabilizing the battlefield. Delirium takes a lot of effort to achieve, but you are paid off handsomely with cards like Ishkanah, Grafwidow.

No one is doubting the power level of Eldritch Moon. The question is going to be whether the power of these cards can overcome the brutally efficient and consistent cards that currently dominate Standard.

Todd Stevens: FICTION. Eldritch Moon has the second-highest power level of any set in Standard, but there is still a set that stands head and shoulders above the rest. Oath of the Gatewatch singlehandedly changed the landscape of Standard, Modern, and Legacy when it was released and was powerful enough to be the reason Eye of Ugin was banned in Modern. There is no way to expect a future set to have as much of an impact on the Eternal formats as Oath of the Gatewatch had, so let’s compare the two from a strictly Standard point of view.

Each set had two planeswalkers that are similar on power level; I would consider that to be a wash. Both sets have other powerful mythics that will be Standard staples, from Emrakul, the Promised End; Ishkanah, Grafwidow; and Gisela, the Broken Blade to Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet; World Breaker; and Kozilek’s Return. In my opinion, the real power level of a set is determined by the depth of the rare slot, which is why Eldritch Moon is the second most powerful set in Standard.

Oath of the Gatewatch has all of the various undercosted Eldrazi creatures, as well as Standard staples such as Sylvan Advocate, Goblin Dark-Dwellers, and the creature-lands. It even has Reflector Mage, the single most hated card in Standard. Now, Eldritch Moon is no slouch, and I expect Spell Queller, Elder Deep-Fiend, and Thalia, Heretic Cathar to be format defining all-stars that will have their impact known Week 1.