Fact Or Fiction: The Green, The White, And The Ugly

It’s that time again! Two of the brightest minds in the Magic business are ready to debate the biggest questions surrounding #SCGORL! Will G/W Tokens be unstoppable? Is Merfolk a real Modern deck? Does Brad look better with a beard than Tom does without?

Hello, everyone, and welcome to another edition of Fact or Fiction! We gave two columnists five statements and asked them, “Fact or Fiction?” Check out their answers below and vote for the Fact or Fiction winner at the end!

1. G/W Tokens will win the Standard Open at #SCGORL this weekend.

Brad Nelson: Fiction. Agreeing with this statement would mean that I believed that G/W Tokens has a 51% chance or better at winning #SCGORL. Even though I believe that the deck has the highest chance to win the event over any other, that doesn’t mean it is dominating this format like this statement would suggest.

G/W Tokens is the best deck in a format that hasn’t tried to aggressively attack it. Cryptolith Rite showed up for a hot minute but somehow took more heat than G/W Tokens. This caused the format to react to it rather than the real menace, G/W Tokens. Now that we know what the real threat is, we will slowly see the format revolve around defeating it.

I’ve got my Dragonlord Silumgars ready. Do you?

Tom Ross: Fact. I’m saying fact on this one because it’s probably a little more than a 50% favorite to win, based on the recent success of the deck. Honestly, W/R Humans is probably the fourth-best deck and one that has a lot of trouble with G/W Tokens, so I believe my win at #SCGATL to be more of the exception than the rule. #SCGATL brought a host of decks that tried to attack G/W Tokens, like U/R Flyers, U/R Eldrazi, W/B Control, and U/W Spirits. These decks are somewhat soft to W/R Humans. I think W/R Humans will see a boost in popularity following my win in #SCGATL, but G/W Tokens will be even more successful this weekend than ever.

2. There is still a top-tier Standard deck that no one has found yet.

Brad Nelson: Fact. There are two ways to look at this statement, and both of them come with an answer of “Fact.” For starters, we can look at a metagame like a free-flowing entity. For every action there is a reaction, and every healthy Magic metagame has cards and strategies that can topple the Tier 1 metagame. That means that new decks will come to power once we figure out how to defeat the High Sparrow…I mean, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.

The other way to look at a format is to understand how finite it is. We only have each combination of cards for roughly three months. That’s not a lot of time when you really think about all of the format’s moving pieces. There are just too many cards for me to believe that we always find the best things you can do with the cards. Sometimes we do, and that causes cards to get banned. Other times we don’t, and you find us constantly finding new strategies to defeat those that do not change. Within all of this chaos, there must be a few gems that get missed or forgotten.

Tom Ross: Fiction. I may be pessimistic on this one. As a brewer, I’ve wracked my brain looking over the cards in Standard and haven’t found much outside of that’s already been developed as tech. We saw Martin Muller go extremely deep into the tank and emerge with the Mono-Blue Prison deck. While Mono-Blue Prison is cool and capable of collecting a few wins, it’s far from a Tier 1 deck. Ditto U/R Flyers or U/R Eldrazi.

I think there are new archetypes to be found, mostly because of certain cards becoming stronger (like Rattlechains), but for those decks to only be a flash in the pan.

3. Sideboarding in this Standard format is more important than it has been in years.

Brad Nelson: Fiction. Sideboarding is,and always has been the most important aspect of competitive Magic. That said, it’s actually less important now than it has been in years. Each deck has most of what it needs in the maindeck with slight upgrades after sideboarding. Even cards like Tragic Arrogance that are impactful sideboard cards are simply shoved in every sideboard that can support them as well as even in the maindecks of some of these permanent-based decks.

Right now we live in a Standard metagame that consists of a G/W Planeswalker deck, decks revolving around Collected Company, a Human beatdown deck, and Control decks revolving around Languish and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. All of these decks have sideboards because them’s the rules, but they are not that reliant on them, nor do those sideboards change their gameplans significantly. That’s what you get in a format ruled by an aggressive planeswalker that comes down as early as turn 4.

Tom Ross: Fact. Gone are the days of “easy” hate cards like Choke, Rest in Peace, Celestial Purge, Shatterstorm, or Kor Firewalker that attack a certain color, card type, or strategy in or of someone’s deck.

Now we have an outmaneuvering of someone’s core strategy, like with W/R Humans sideboarding in Needle Spires and Reckless Bushwacker to fight the maindeck (or sideboarded) sorcery-speed sweepers. I used to love sideboarding in a land with Boss Sligh when I wanted the curve of the deck to increase. Now having land in the sideboard of W/x Humans is commonplace.

Gerry Thompson’s build of G/W Humans can morph into a G/W Control deck with multiple Planar Outbursts and Linvala, the Preserver or lower its curve with more two-drops like Declaration in Stone, Den Protector, and Enlightened Ascetic. We see a shifting of deck construction post-sideboard to become a 60-card deck that matches up well against the opponent’s post-sideboard.

Gone are the days of loading up a sideboard of hate cards for the decks you expect to face. Each sideboard card now has multiple purposes against different decks. I’ve been sideboarding differently even against the same matchups in Standard based on what I think my opponent will be doing or what they saw Game 1. Sideboarding is deeper and more difficult now in Standard than it’s ever been.

4. Modern Merfolk has been putting up first place finishes at Grand Prix, SCG Tour® Classics, and IQs like crazy lately. This deck is now part of Modern’s top tier.

Brad Nelson: Fiction. Not being proficient enough in Modern, I asked my friend Bard “The Jund Guy” Narson for guidance on this difficult question. I decided to simply use his response as my own.

Did you mean to say Tier 1? Because there is a better chance that those damn flounders are a chain retailer providing an assortment of unique imported furniture, home-decor items, and tableware than one of the best Modern decks in the format. It’s a crying shame that anyone would even consider Merfolk to be a good deck in the format just because it’s winning a lot of events. Modern isn’t where results dictate actions. Go play some stupid Standard if you want to “diversify” your range. Modern is where the big boys and girls take pride in their weapon of choice and don’t buy into the outside World’s opinions of “tier” or “metagame.”

Let me rephrase the question, then. Is Merfolk good?

Hell no! I remember the days when Merfolk was a good deck. Back then, though, we called it Mono-Blue Devotion. The only good thing about Merfolk? Post-Lightning Bolt ,they provide a healthy balance of protein and Omega-3 fats the medicine men are preaching about. They can keep their damn seas to themselves!

Tom Ross: Fact. Though I can’t identify why, it’s suddenly more successful than before. Maybe there are more people playing Islands, so islandwalk is stronger. Maybe people are softer to Spreading Seas with their Eldrazi Temples or Urza lands. In any case, Merfolk is winning and needs to be respected going into #SCGORL.

5. The Top 8 results for recent Modern events are incredibly diverse. This is the healthiest this format has been since its inception.

Brad Nelson: Fact. Wizards has done a great job with Modern. Everyone has their own opinion of the format, but it’s impressive to see a format using over ten years’ worth of cards be so diverse right now. Of course, there will be instances of dominance like we have seen in the format’s past, but for the most part that’s been kept in check. Right now the format is filled with a high volume of playable strategies, which is exactly what Wizards set out to do when the format was designed. It’s also one of the most popular formats the game has to offer. I for one am impressed with how far this format has gone and happy that the game has finally found a formula to keep my rotating cards more valuable.

Tom Ross: Fact. It’s taken a long time for Wizards of the Coast to get Modern right, and this is the closest they’ve gotten to having a perfectly healthy format. Abzan Company is commonly regarded as the “best deck” in Modern, and still it doesn’t have overwhelmingly good finishes compare to the rest of the field.

There’s still much innovation to be done with Nahiri, the Harbinger and room for many aggressive tribal decks to pick up Top 8s, like Allies, Elves, Merfolk, and Slivers. When the winning decks are creature decks or creature-combo decks that can be easily disrupted, then you have a format with a lot of play to it.

I like the banned list just the way it is for now and see no need for any further change until someone comes along and significantly breaks it.