Fact Or Fiction: The SCG Baltimore Triple Play

Brad Nelson and Ari Lax face off in the latest Fact or Fiction! Is Jeskai the best control deck in Modern? Is Temur Energy mandatory for the Standard seat at SCG Baltimore? And would Legacy be a better place without Deathrite Shaman?

[Welcome back to Fact or Fiction! We’ve put five statements before Brad Nelson and Ari Lax. Read whether they think those statements are fact or fiction and vote for the winner at the end!]

1. Jeskai is the best control deck in Modern.

Brad Nelson: Fact. I’ll answer your question with my own. Is there any other control deck in Modern?

Seriously, I’m rusty. Jokes aside, yes, Jeskai in some form is the best control deck at the moment. Gaining access to Path to Exile isn’t always a necessity in Modern, but Eldrazi Tron and Grixis Death’s Shadow have made it abundantly clear how important it is to get creatures out of there!

Now, as for which flavor of Neapolitan is correct, I’m unsure. Some keep it traditional with Sphinx’s Revelation as the “win condition,” while others want an easier shot at beating combo with cards like Geist of Saint Traft. Personally, I’d expect the more tempo-oriented variants to be stronger. Modern is extremely volatile by nature, so letting every opponent at least attempt to do their thing can be scary through a long event.

With all that said, Jeskai may be the best-positioned as it’s ever been, but I still consider it a bad deck choice. Why? Well, it’s control, and Jund Guy ain’t about that life!

Ari Lax: Fact…ish. Sure, why not. I’ve played against various Esper decks and been close to impressed at times, but the fact that the red removal doubles as burn to let you close swiftly with Snapcaster Mage / Lightning Bolt / Celestial Colonnade is nice compared to Fatal Push or “draw Inquisition of Kozilek on Turn 8 every game.”

Wait, were you talking about the Geist of Saint Traft deck? That’s not a control deck. Don’t try to convince me it is. And as long as you can play Thoughtseize, there is no chance I’m calling it the best midrange deck.

But if we are talking about “I like value enough to play Think Twice,” then yeah, Jeskai is the best.

2. Either Grixis Death’s Shadow or Storm will put up the best Modern results this weekend.

Brad Nelson: Fiction. First of all, it will be extremely difficult to evaluate which decks performed well. For example, my goal this weekend is to win a trophy without ever winning a match. My format? Modern! It’s just too difficult to know when certain decks won or lost.

So for a truer answer, no, these two decks are not well-positioned. As a one-week expert on the subject, I believe both of these decks are being targeted at the moment by the rest of the metagame.

All removal can kill the threats these decks dispense, and many of the strategies that these two preyed on months ago have long since been pushed out of the metagame. Now, I expect some to show up with these two decks, but I don’t believe they will do well, even though they are both extremely powerful decks.

Ari Lax: Fiction. Grixis Shadow is stupid good. Every time someone thinks they beat it, they really beat the 50 stock cards with bad flex slots people haven’t worked to fix. Then two weeks later it beats the crap out of whatever cool new thing they tried and they have to move on. We are coming up on the point where people should have figured out a way to beat 36 creatures, 24 mana with Snapcaster Mage in their deck, but who knows if anyone actually does it right when they could play Deathrite Shaman or Temur mirrors instead…

Storm is getting whammied from a lot of angles now. There are sideboard Rule of Laws, maindeck Meddling Mage, and worse. It’s good, but there are always angles to attack linear but good decks in Modern unless they are Eye of Ugin Eldrazi good.

A single great deck isn’t a good bet for the best results. Two… maybe? Grixis Death’s Shadow or Humans would have been a “fact” from me.

3. Teams that want to win SCG Baltimore should have a Standard player on Temur Energy.

Brad Nelson: Fact. Temur is simply too consistent, and that’s exactly what a team is looking for. The deck has game against just about everything, and even the mirrors are extremely complex thanks to the energy mechanic. I do expect other strategies to show up, like Ben Stark’s Desert Red, Ramunap Red, U/W/X Approach, and God-Pharaoh’s Gift, but Temur will still be the most-played deck by a wide margin. For good reason!

Ari Lax: Fiction. This is almost a statistical truth. Temur is definitely the most likely deck to win, and probably “more most likely” than its metagame share.

But what really matters in this Standard format is technical perfection. Having the right list, sideboard plan, matchup plans, and turn-by-turn plays matters more than deck selection. As long as you pass the bare minimum of “good enough to tussle with Temur and Ramunap Red,” you aren’t losing a ton.

It might not feel this way because so many games just end to Longtusk Cub curves, Ramunap Red curves, or Turn 4 God-Pharaoh’s Gift, but it really does count in the other games. Choose a good deck, get a lot of reps in, try a bunch of sideboarding stuff, and you will be fine.

4. Legacy is better off without Deathrite Shaman.

Brad Nelson: Fact. I almost wanted to write an article about this. Maybe even e-mail some of my friends at Wizards. Legacy is going to be a part of the Pro Tour next year, and right now the format is in shambles. Not even the good kind that can gain you two life. No, it loses you two life, because this card is downright a mistake. If you’re unaware of the issue, just look at the Magic Online lists popping up each day. It’s just a slew of four-color madness, all running this stupid creature.

Dig Through Time was busted, yes, but it got banned because all the decks were starting to do the same things. That’s exactly what’s going on in Legacy right now. The card might not be the most busted thing the format’s ever seen, but for the sake of variety it has to get banned. Soon!

Ari Lax: Fact. A Constructed format exists with a lot of options, but proactive fair decks are the best option. Things definitely beat them, but they are winning a lot just the normal way. Still, they get mana screwed enough of the time or have weird things happen to them and it is interesting.

Then everyone puts Deathrite Shaman in their decks and it becomes way too easy. They have mana that works all the time, threats all the time, interaction against weird stuff all the time.

This is literally the same story as it was with Modern. I’m fine with the repeat having the same ending.

5. The winning team of SCG Baltimore will have at least one Pro Tour Hall of Famer.

Brad Nelson: Fact. I’m well aware that with the release of Unstable, Danny’s trying to get me to eat a whole slew of stormed-off crow with this question. Buddy, you got me hook, line, and sinker. Seriously, who is going to stop Ben Stark, Brad Nelson, and Brian Braun-Duin? I mean, look, there are some good teams in this tournament. They’ll fight hard, even, but team events are about dominance and consistency, and there’s no better team under those metrics. All three of us win a very high percentage of our matches, which is exactly what has to happen for a team to consistently do well. We have that in spades!

Sure, these words will make our potential defeat even more savory to those on the outside looking in. Why do I know this? Well, that’s because I’m a part of Team Genesis, who has had to hear some of the other big teams constantly squawk about how good they are, yet we’ve been coming out ahead of them. Now, it’s not like we can use words to dispute their claims. No, we have to show it on the court, and that’s exactly what the rest of the competitors will have to do this weekend. We all know our bold claims make us out to be the enemy of the weekend, but there’s nothing better in this world than talking smack and backing it up. Ben Stark taught me that, and the student has become the teacher!

Ari Lax: Fiction. Seth Manfield isn’t a Hall of Famer for at least another eight months, and he also never loses.

Sorry, Brad.