CEDitors Note: Hello everyone, and welcome to the very first edition of Fact or Fiction! In this column, two Premium writers will answer six questions
provided by yours truly on Magic related topics. At the end, you have the opportunity to vote on who won the head-to-head battle. This week, we have
recent MOCS champion Gerry Thompson doing battle against Collected Company enthusiast Brian Braun-Duin!
1.) After a runner up performance at Grand Prix Shanghai and a win at the Open Series in Dallas, G/R Dragons should be talked about as a tier one deck
in Standard just like the various Abzan decks, Esper Dragons, and Atarka Red.
– Fact, for now: Magic formats tend to be cyclical, and this Standard is no different. I played Abzan Aggro last weekend at the Open
Series in Dallas, which has been cutting on Hero’s Downfalls and Ultimate Prices for things like Dromoka’s Command and Abzan Charm, neither of which touch
Stormbreath Dragon. Several other players picked up on that fact and were able to capitalize on it for the weekend.
We need to recognize that Stormbreath Dragon is a threat again. G/R Dragons isn’t exactly a resilient deck, so once people are prepared for it again, it
won’t perform well anymore.
– Fact: Standard these days is an extremely cyclical affair. Esper Dragons started getting pushed out from dominance by all these super
grindy Den Protector decks that have access to hits like Thoughtseize and Abzan Charm. When you started to see decks playing a removal mix that looks like
four copies of Abzan Charm and only two copies of Hero’s Downfall, it was only a matter of time before Stormbreath Dragon started body slamming some people
again. It wasn’t that G/R Dragons simply wasn’t a good enough deck and that’s why it fell off the radar; it was more that it struggled hard to beat Esper
Dragons, which was being incorrectly lauded as the second coming of Caw-Blade. Esper Dragons is not Caw-Blade, it started to fall off in terms of its share
of the metagame pie, and G/R Dragons came roaring back.
G/R Dragons might end up cycling out of prominence just as quickly as it re-entered, however. If people are expecting to see a lot of Stormbreath Dragons,
there could be a huge resurgence in cards like Ultimate Price to shut it back down again. One of the big keys to success in this Standard format is either
to stay one step ahead of metagame shifts and pick the deck that’s going to be good for the next tournament, not the deck that was good last tournament. Or
you could just do what I do and play Siege Rhino every week. Metagames shift and shift back all the time, but Siege Rhino rarely gets bad. It still drains
for three and has a 4/5 trampling body, regardless of whether G/R Dragons is the new deck du jour or not.
2.) Yuuki Ichikawa won Grand Prix Shanghai with a 61-card Abzan Control deck. 61-card maindecks have a negative stigma around them, but with this win,
more players should consider this approach.
Gerry Thompson – Fiction
: Patrick Chapin and I did this experiment before, playing as many as 66 cards in our maindeck. While it’s not necessarily wrong to play more than 60, you
need a good reason to justify why you’re doing it. If you don’t have a reason, playing more than 60 cards doesn’t make any sense.
Ichikawa won because he’s great and his deck’s great, and I doubt his 61st card made a big impact one way or another.
Brian Braun-Duin – Fact
: I’ve long been an advocate of the classic 41/18 in Limited. Seventeen lands and 23 nonlands tends to be the industry standard mix for land/spell ratios
in Limited. Sometimes, however, you want slightly more than seventeen lands, but you don’t want to get stuck playing 22 spells and eighteen lands and risk
flooding out. That’s where the 41/18 comes into play. You still have the same number of spells, but you have slightly more lands by virtue of having one
more card in your deck. I actually played 41/18 in nearly every single draft I did during triple Khans of Tarkir Limited, including both of my
decks at the Pro Tour. That was one of my most successful Limited formats, and I think being willing to go out of the box with 41/18 helped me a lot.
I don’t see why this same logic can’t also apply to Constructed. Sometimes you might want a better mix of lands and spells, and just adding in another land
without cutting anything can help smooth out draws. There are also situations where 60 cards just simply isn’t enough to fully encapsulate everything you
need for a deck. I have considered playing 61 cards in Modern Birthing Pod many times. There have been times where I wanted to add in a card like
Restoration Angel, but I didn’t want to cut any cards from my deck to dilute from the core of the strategy. I don’t think playing an extra card or two
matters nearly as much as people make it out to. You have slightly reduced odds of drawing your best cards, but sometimes when you have the ability to
tutor through your deck, the value of having one extra bullet for important matchups makes it all worthwhile. Also, when people ask me to send them a 75
for a weekend, I usually respond with “It’s gonna be a 76 instead.” Now, there might not be as much of a backlash if I ever follow through on that threat,
and that seems totally worth it for me.
Gerry Thompson – Fact
: Collected Company compares pretty well to Bloodbraid Elf. In the best case scenarios, you’re up a card, up two mana, and have a significant tempo
advantage. Digging six cards deep is also no joke, so you can find a creature that solves a problem for you.
Obviously the card has downsides, but so did Bloodbraid Elf — You just have to build your deck with the card in mind, and it will likely pay you
Brian Braun-Duin – Fact
: Is there a level above fact? Is “this is a basic truism” an acceptable response? Can I tell you that I hold this fact to be self-evident, that not all
cards are created equal, and Collected Company is on the good end of the scales of judgment?
The past week I’ve done nothing but play Collected Company in every format except Standard. I am what you might call Cuckoo for CoCo. The card is simply
amazing. I’ve been having a lot of fun and also success playing with Collected Company in Modern and even split the finals of a local Roanoke Legacy IQ
with Collected Company last weekend. More than that, it’s also a blast to play. There are few things more fun than spinning the Collected Company roulette
wheel and seeing if you hit, double hit, or go busto. I think we’re just hitting the tip of the iceberg in terms of how to build around this card as well.
It’s not intuitive exactly how many creatures you should be playing and also what kinds of creatures they should be. Is it worth playing cards like Elvish
Mystic, Birds of Paradise, or Wall of Roots in your Collected Company deck? Should every creature be a powerful threat on its own, or should you use the
card to fuel a synergy-driven strategy? What is the low end of creatures to play with Collected Company? What is the high end? We haven’t really answered
those questions yet and still Collected Company is putting up results. I imagine the card will see a lot of play and put up a lot more results once we
start to actually figure out how we’re supposed to build around it. I’m excited. Are you excited? You should be. Eternal Witness, baby. Doesn’t get better.
Time to dust off my GP Richmond Playmat.
Miracles is the deck to beat at SCG Worcester.
Brian Braun-Duin –
: This may be a surprise coming from me. Miracles is the deck I am almost certainly playing in Worcester myself, unless something else strikes my fancy in
the meantime. I love Miracles. I recommend it to everyone. I tell people it is the best deck in the format all the time. The only thing is, I don’t think
that’s actually true anymore. The reason isn’t that people have adapted their normal decks to beat Miracles. Pshh, please. Adding two cards to your
sideboard isn’t going to take Miracles from a bad to good matchup. Maybe it evens the scales some, but I’m still banking on Miracles.
What changed is that a new Omni-Tell list hit the market. Shouta
Yasooka top 8’d Grand Prix Kyoto with this deck a few weeks back, and the deck looks amazing. I have long felt that we are building combo decks wrong in
Legacy. We keep playing the same Storm lists that we’ve played for years. Is it that there isn’t another, better way to build Storm, or are we just lazy or
incapable of figuring it out? I’d argue the latter. Shouta really Showed us up and told us how it was done with this list. This deck is miles ahead of any
other Omni-Tell deck I’ve ever seen. Why bother with crap like Enter the Infinite that does literal nothing except in very specific situations where we
could instead just be playing four copies of Dig Through Time that finds the win for us when we don’t have it, and wins the game for us when we do. It’s a
brilliant deck, and I suspect that this is simply the best deck in the format right now until we end up figuring out exactly how to attack it. Or until
someone finds out how to actually build a Storm deck that’s well-positioned for the current field and that isn’t just the same list from 2012.
Gerry Thompson – Fact
! Miracles is by far the best performing blue deck in Legacy, and it doesn’t seem particularly close. The other blue decks vary wildly in playstyle, but If
Miracles isn’t outperforming all of them combined, it’s damn close. Something has to be done. I might be biased, but I recommend Abrupt Decay and Jace, the
Mind Sculptor as ways to fight them.
Brian Braun-Duin –
: Dromoka’s Command is really good. Four powerful modes for just two mana is a hell of a deal, and this card has been proving itself time and time against
in Standard since Dragons of Tarkir came out. I don’t want to be the one caught playing Outpost Siege, Chained to the Rocks, Banishing Light, or
god forbid something like Purphoros, God of the Forge, and get pants’d by Dromoka’s Command over and over again. Courser of Kruphix seems like the only
enchantment that has really still hung in there. Even still, Courser play is at an all-time low, and that has been one of the most defining cards of
Standard for an entire year now.
If Courser can barely hang on to format dominance against the power of Dromoka’s finest, how can mediocre cards like Banishing Light ever hope to compete?
Cards like Whip of Erebos and Mastery of the Unseen have also started to go the way of the Dodo thanks to Dromoka’s Command giving them the middle finger.
I suspect that Dromoka’s Command won’t be that great afterTheros rotates out, but following an enchantment-themed block, well, it’s pretty damn
Gerry Thompson – Fiction
: Just like with Stormbreath Dragon, the format will eventually cycle to a point where Dromoka’s Command isn’t as popular as it is right now. At that
point, all the enchantments are free to come out and play again.
However, when I’ve been building midrange decks as of late, I have been omitting Courser of Kruphix and any other enchantments whenever possible.
6.) You agree that Serum Visions should not have been reprinted in Modern Master
2015 and is better off as a
Brian Braun-Duin – Fiction
: Unless Serum Visions is going to be in Magic Origins or the following set, it really should have been in Modern Masters 2015. It’s a
very popular card from a set that wasn’t terribly popular ten years ago. Get some more back into the market and make it easier for people to get into
Modern. If even the Modern commons are expensive to get a hold of, how are new players expected to get into the format? I would also accept unbanning
Ponder, Preordain, and a bunch of other cards, but that’s probably not gonna happen.
Having an FNM Promo will help increase supply some, but not nearly enough. Having it released in an actual set would do a lot more to reducing the demand.
Also, not everyone enjoys playing with promo versions of cards and vice versa, some people will go out of their way to collect the promo version, meaning
that it may not actually affect the price at all. I’m hoping WOTC has a vision for this card, and we don’t get stuck drinking the serum.
While having another promo is nice, I don’t think it will do much to help Serum Visions get into the hands of the people that need them. I wouldn’t be
surprised if Serum Visions ends up in a different product at some point, because it not being in MM2015 is quite the surprise.