Modern As We Know It!

Two SCG Tour voices enter to do battle! This weekend in Dallas promises to be a tournament of consequence for the entire Modern format! So what can we expect? Matthias Hunt and Ryan Overturf weigh in!

#SCGDFW March 10-11!

[Welcome back to Fact or Fiction!
Today, SCG Tour commentators Matthias Hunt and Ryan Overturf
give their takes on five statements inspired by their thoughts on SCG
Dallas this weekend. Read their responses and vote for the winner at
the end!]

1.Given Dmitriy Butakov’s win at the Magic Online Championship,
G/W Hexrpoof is the deck to beat at SCG Dallas.

Matthias Hunt:
G/W Hexproof is the type of deck that wins a tournament when you least
expect it. On the flip side, G/W Hexproof is also a deck that goes 0-2 drop
when everyone expects it. It was a great metagame call that led to Butakov
winning the Magic Online Championship with such a linear gameplan, but I
wouldn’t expect it to happen again. Add his win to the fact that we also
had Dan Ward winning a Grand Prix with the same deck? Too many people are
thinking about their matchup against a Slippery Bogle. The fact that one of
our five questions this week is about G/W Hexproof should be a warning sign not to play the deck! Expect cards like Spellskite, Back
to Nature, and Engineered Explosives to be showing up in sideboards this
weekend and stay away!

Ryan Overturf:
The results of a small, invite-only tournament are almost never going to
translate to larger tournaments. G/W Hexproof was an excellent choice for
the Magic Online Championship because Bloodbraid Elf Jund was clearly a big
winner with the unbans that would be well-represented in the field, with a
handful of other players likely to be playing Jace as well. These decks are
flush with spot removal, and G/W Hexproof is the sort of deck that has a
great matchup against that sort of thing while also not being a deck that
players pack much sideboard hate for. The best cards that these decks bring
to the table against you are discard spells and Liliana of the Veil, which
are all covered by Butakov’s maindeck Leyline of Sanctity.

At SCG Dallas, you’re going to see a wider range of decks. Decks that kill
at a faster clip than G/W Hexproof in addition to decks like Tron that pack
more meaningful interaction in the form of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. Beyond
that, G/W Hexproof has always been a deck that I’ve been generally okay
with as a “bad” matchup, as the deck has a long history of losing to itself
given that it’s trying to draw a specific mix of stuff without having much
in the way of card selection. At the Magic Online Championship you’re just
trying to get lucky a handful of times against a field that you’ll have a
pretty good read on. Succeeding with G/W Hexproof at an Open is a much
taller order.

2. With how heavily played Jund was played at the Magic Online
Championship, you expect Jund to be the most played deck at SCG

Matthias Hunt: Fact.
Well, we are in Dallas so you can never count
out Burn… But in all seriousness Jund is in a great position and everyone
knows it. I’m going to throw around some non-scientific numbers and
estimate that the unbanning of Bloodbraid Elf gave Jund an extra 3-5%
against the field in game 1s and an extra 5-7% in sideboard games. Take the
historically bad Tron matchup as an example. Jund is still unfavored in the
matchup, but on the play they could cascade into a Fulminator Mage on turn
4 followed by cascading into a Kolaghan’s Command on the next turn. Before
Bloodbraid Elf was around, the Tron player would have time to rebuild, but
that’s no longer the case. Will this draw happen all the time? No. Will it
beat turn 3 Tron? Again, no. Matchups, however, are a game of percentages,
and Jund’s percentages are looking better than ever.

Ryan Overturf:
Listen, for all of the Bloodbraid Elf apologists out there and mentions
that “Bloodbraid died for Deathrite Shaman’s sins,” it tends to get lost in
the shuffle that Bloodbraid Elf was a mainstay of one of the most
oppressive decks in Standard history. People would build their entire deck
around the idea of trying to beat Jund and they’d still lose to Jund half
the time. Jund has picked up several very powerful tools since Bloodbraid
Elf was last legal, and you’d better believe midrange players are thrilled
to combine their Bloodbraids with Kolaghan’s Commands and Liliana, the Last
Hopes. The general increase in power level for Jund also makes it easier to
squeeze some Fulminator Mages into the sideboard, which will allow Jund to
win a good amount of games against Tron while also giving them a nice edge
against other fair decks trying to go long. If Jund isn’t the most played
deck in Dallas, it will only be because it is underrepresented.

3. Lars Dam’s Grixis Control deck is the best Jace, the Mind
Sculptor deck in Modern.

Matthias Hunt: Fiction.
I like the cut of what Lars is doing. Playing a deck of Jace, Snapcaster
Mage, and 20+ instants and sorceries is something I can get behind. I’ve
seen a lot of Jace decks recently play him alongside other threats like
Collected Company, Tarmogoyf, or Spell Queller, and I think Lars’ deck
better maximizes the planeswalker. Where I still have questions goes back
to the other card that came off the banned list. Right now in Modern, we’re
seeing a war between the two best value engines – Bloodbraid Elf versus
Snapcaster Mage – and the Elf is winning all the battles. Lars may have the
best Jace deck, but that’s not going to matter much if it doesn’t beat
Jund. I think SCG Dallas will answer a lot of questions here.

Ryan Overturf:
This is another example of a great Magic Online Championship metagame
call. It seems to me that the unbanning of Jace means you no longer have to
play lousy cards like Ancestral Vision and Sphinx’s Revelation in your
Modern deck. That said, Ancestral Vision is great if you expect everybody
else to be fighting fair. They’ll give you time to actually resolve your
draw three instead of, you know, killing you. I like Dam’s Dire Fleet
Daredevils. They’re really good in fair mirrors, and they have two power
and first strike which makes them great at blocking Bloodbraid Elf. That
said, I have no intention of ever trying to maindeck that card because I
don’t want to try to Daredevil my opponent’s Sylvan Scrying or Burning

Independent of Dam’s specific list, I’m more interested in the question “Is
Grixis Control the best shell for Jace in Modern?” I haven’t figured out a
list that I like just yet, but as you might expect, I’m leaning yes. The
range of answers available to Grixis can cover your bases very well, and
the raw power of Snapcaster Mage plus Kolaghan’s Command has proven itself
time and again in Modern. The biggest concern continues to be Tron and/or
Eldrazi, which Jace does very little to help with, though that’s going to
be a consistent thread for most every Jace deck.

4.Something unexpected/unforeseen will win SCG Dallas.

Matthias Hunt: Fact.
The unbannings have definitely shaken up the Modern metagame and continue
to do so. Just looking at the top performing online Modern decks from last
week, we can see things like U/W Tempo, Temur Midrange, U/R Kiln Fiend, and
Bloodbraid Naya all succeeding. While I don’t expect these all to be “real”
choices, I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one of them has potential.
When it comes down to what I expect to do well in Dallas, I would look for
Jund, Burn, Tron, and Affinity to all be there on Day Two, but if I had to
guess which deck wins the trophy I would pick “none of the above.” There’s
too many angles of attack right now to confidently predict the metagame.

Ryan Overturf: Fact,
with a question mark
I mean, it’s a Modern tournament. I think Jund is the best deck going into
the weekend, and I also think that G/R Eldrazi is a great choice right now,
but ultimately the field will still be pretty wide and you have to win a
lot of rounds to hoist a trophy. Would I take Jadine Klomparens on Jund
over the field? I’d be inclined to. Could Taking Turns, Burn,
Storm, some Collected Company strategy, B/W Smallpox or any of a bevy of
other decks also win? Of course.

If “unexpected” just means something other than the deck to beat, then the
odds of an unexpected deck winning are about as high as they ever are in
Modern (see: very high). If it means something that we’ve never seen
before, then I’m slamming the Fiction button.

5. You’re surprised that Bloodbraid Elf has had a bigger impact
on Modern than Jace, the Mind Sculptor thus far.

Matthias Hunt: Fact.
I’ll take my lumps on this one. I believe that Jace is on its own a more
powerful Magic card than Bloodbraid Elf and as a result, I predicted that
it would be more relevant in a format with such a large card pool. The
truth, however, is that Bloodbraid Elf has been more impactful. What I
would learn from this is to not underrate just how important context
matters when talking about individual cards. Bloodbraid Elf had a home
waiting for it in Jund, where Jace has been tried as a two-of in a variety
of blue strategies. I still believe that by June we’ll be seeing more Jace
than Bloodbraid, but right now that clearly isn’t the case.

Ryan Overturf: Fiction.
I said as much when the announcement dropped. The issue that I’ve
consistently had with Grixis Control in Modern is that I can’t beat Ulamog,
the Ceaseless Hunger and I can’t beat Cavern of Souls naming Eldrazi. I’ve
messed around some with Jace in Modern hoping that Jace would make it
easier to justify putting Blood Moon in my deck. Ultimately, drawing Blood
Moon with only a four-mana Brainstorm to reset my draws fell on the wrong
side of the “have to/get to spectrum”, and the deck just played too many
cards that were bad too often. Do you know what you have to do to make
Bloodbraid Elf good in your deck? Produce four mana with at least one of
which being red and at least one being green. You can screw it up, sure,
but finding the right Jace configuration has a much smaller margin for
error given that your Bloodbraid Elf deck almost assuredly can win the game
much faster.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor is definitely good enough for Modern, and is seeing
some success peppered into various decklists. So far what I think we’ve
learned is that the best Jace shell is most likely proactive, a concept
that Ross Merriam did a great job
highlighting this week
. While I believe it’s also true that Jund lists haven’t been optimized
just yet, their power boost was more immediate and obvious. It’s possible
that Jace ends up performing better than Bloodbraid Elf down the road,
though this wouldn’t be the first time that Bloodbraid Elf eclipsed Jace in
a Constructed format.

#SCGDFW March 10-11!