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! This week, former Player of the Year Brad Nelson faces off against the most famous Magic player with a Homestar Runner reference for a Twitter handle, Todd Anderson.
1. An Emerge Deck Will Win #SCGCOL.
Brad Nelson: FACT. I hate making call shots like this since we live in a world where anything can happen. That said, what's happening right now is gigantic monsters are tearing through creatures' chests and making a mess out of things. I wouldn't be shocked at all if we saw a deck based around Elder Deep-Fiend or Distended Mindbender completely dominate the first weekend Eldrich Moon is legal. Both cards are exceptionally powerful, and we haven't yet figured out how to contain them. The only card I can think of right now that might be up for the task is Thalia, Heretic Cathar. Players might be too concerned with how to break emerge that they forget to tune their manabases to not get obliterated by this annoying Human.
Todd Anderson: FICTION. It is rare that a deck built around a new mechanic is able to win the first Standard tournament, and especially so when we already have a relatively deep format. If emerge was the big reveal mechanic in Shadows over Innistrad, I might be inclined to vote “Fact.” With that said, I think there are too many cards that punish decks that are reliant on emerge. Instead, I think an existing archetype with an emerge card in it (Cryptolith Rite, Bant Company) has a much better shot at winning the tournament than an entirely new archetype built around it (U/R Emerge).
With that said, I do think Emerge is incredibly powerful, and many of the rares with the ability are going to make big waves in Standard. I just don't think we've found the right shell for them, but it shouldn't take long. Do I think an emerge deck will win #SCGCOL? No. Would I be surprised if an emerge deck won the event? Also no.
2. G/W Tokens and W/R Humans Will Still Be the Most Successful Standard Decks Once the Format Shakes Out.
Brad Nelson: FICTION. Stick a fork in them; they're done. For starters, W/R Humans was never a successful deck. Tom Ross is a successful player which made it look like the deck was good, but it wasn't. Even if it wasn't a bad deck, it was not even close to being one of the best decks in the format. It had worse results than almost every deck in the format if you ignore Tom Ross double hoisting trophies like it's 2014. Wanna fight about it?
G/W Tokens on the other hand was an unbelievably good deck for its time, but I'm confident it will lose a lot from Eldrich Moon being released. The deck didn't gain anything new, yet every other known and currently unknown deck did. Cards like Thalia, Heretic Cathar; Elder Deep-Fiend; and Distended Mindbender cause a serious issue for this deck. Now we have seen a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar deck thrive in every iteration of Standard since its existence, but I don't think it stays with G/W Tokens. It will move on and find a deck that has a much better chance at beating some of these powerful cards.
Todd Anderson: FACT. For starters, I don't think W/R Humans is all that great to begin with. If you take Tom Ross out of the equation, I don't know if the deck is viable. I do think the deck is well-built, but it is remarkable that Tom seems to be the only person capable of putting up a great finish with the deck (outside of that one Grand Prix a few months ago). It does pressure slower decks in the format and will take advantage of people trying cool things with Eldritch Moon. I expect it to do well in the first few weeks of this new Standard format, but that's about it.
G/W Tokens, on the other hand, will still be a powerful force. Most of the new spells from Eldritch Moon don't line up well against a strategy like G/W Tokens, and the deck is flexible enough to adjust once the metagame stabilizes. Decks that are traditionally good against G/W Tokens get consistently pushed out of the metagame by G/W Tokens once they adapt. More copies of Den Protector. More copies of Tragic Arrogance or Planar Outburst. We've seen it before, and we'll see it again.
3. The #SCGCOL Standard Open Top 8 Will Be Nearly All Aggro Decks.
Brad Nelson: FICTION. The only aggressive deck that I see performing well week one will be Bant Humans. The deck got exactly what it needed in the form of Thalia, Heretic Cathar. This card most likely will be great for the entirety of its time in Standard, but no week will be as good as the first. This card could very well define how we design manabases, but we won't know until we know. We will shine a light on this card this weekend, which will be the true test to how powerful this deck will get with this amazing tempo-enabling beatstick.
Outside of Bant Company, I predict Gerry will have convinced drones and drones of followers into playing with Elder Deep-Fiend. That may have sounded like I was throwing shade at Gerry, but I'm trying to imply that he is putting a lot of work into his lists. I'm also on the Elder Deep-Fiend bandwagon and actually speculated on the card when it was priced between fifty cents and a dollar. Of course I want the card to get as broken as I thought it was busted when I first read it. That's why I don't think aggressive decks will do that well right away. Kozilek's Return found a new buddy and everyone wants to get them together this weekend.
Todd Anderson: FACT. It really depends on your definition of an “aggro” deck, but I do think there will be a strong showing from creature-based decks in the Top 8 of #SCGCOL. With Collected Company being one of the major players in the format and W/R Humans preying on weak, cobbled-together strategies featuring new cards, aggressive decks will take the spotlight.
Much like Humans decks, Atarka Red or Mono-Red has traditionally done well in the opening week of Standard. While splashing another color might be difficult at the moment, and especially so with an allied color, I wouldn't be surprised if someone built an aggressive Mono-Red Aggro deck that smooshed the entire room. There are some new goodies from Eldritch Moon that they could put to good use, and the deck can mostly build itself at the moment. W/R Humans might be a better choice as far as aggressive decks go, since we have a cookie-cutter outline for it already. If you want to add some Thalia, Heretic Cathar, it shouldn't be too difficult to find room.
4. Eldritch Moon Cards Will Make an Appearance in the Top 8 of the Modern and/or Legacy Classics.
Brad Nelson: FICTION. An Eldrich Moon sighting in the Modern Classic will hinge on whether Jeff Hoogland makes Day 2 of the Open or not. If he fails to get through, I could see him doing some wacky thing to his Kiki Chord deck. He'll realize it was a mistake before Round 3, but it won't matter since he will still find ways to win games with that deck. There's no chance if Jeff makes it to Day 2. Modern and Legacy are very powerful formats and the cards in Eldrich Moon are just too expensive to find play in the format. Powerful they are, but expensive they cost.
Todd Anderson: FICTION. Unless I'm missing something, people are going a little overboard in giving Eldritch Moon credit for being a great set for Modern. Cost-reduction cards are generally more powerful with a larger card-base, but I don't know if emerge is good enough to do the trick. On the other hand, if any one card could make a huge impact, it is Eldritch Evolution. Alongside Myr Enforcer and Frogmite, or just Delve creatures like Gurmag Angler, Eldritch Evolution threatens to do some insane stuff without a huge investment.
Unfortunately, Eldritch Evolution is pretty mediocre in a field full of Remand and other counters, so it might be kept down if blue is on the rise. If any card could push itself through into the Top 8 of a Modern or Legacy Classic at #SCGCOL, it is definitely that one. There are few things in Magic I like more than putting Griselbrand onto the battlefield, but I could also find an easier way of doing that in Modern and Legacy. The trick will be combining Eldritch Evolution with a coherent maindeck strategy, acting as a new variation of Splinter Twin (but with fewer combo pieces). I can already see Snapcaster Mage into Eldritch Evolution, putting Thrun, the Last Troll onto the battlefield. Feels good, man.
5. Eldritch Moon Has the Highest Power Level of Any Set in Standard.
Brad Nelson: FACT. I don't even think it's close. Dragons of Tarkir has the Dragonlords, who over some amounts of years that's not worth fact-checking have become the most powerful beings on Tarkir. They rule the entire plane and followers from far and wide literally follow them wherever they go.
But the decision to follow takes all the fun out of controlling, doesn't it?
Origins was the story of five rascals who kept getting themselves into the craziest kinds of trouble. This story took us to ten different planes, where we got to watch this wild bunch learn of their true potential. All five of them started as naive youngsters, but their journeys through space and time allowed them to become more powerful than they ever imagined.
“Then I killed them. The End.”
On Battle for Zendikar we saw the Rise of Eldrazi…….card Eye of Ugin skyrocket in price. Outside of that the only thing memorable about that set was Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. In all honesty that set wasn't good at all. No wonder they added the Battle lands. We lost our minds at fetchland/Battle land Standard and completely ignored the fact that this set sucked!
Finally we get to Oath of the Gatewatch. The culmination of the planeswalkers finally defeating the Eldrazi after like five years of conflict. We saw this species evolve into some of the format's more powerful midrange creatures. The story of this epic war came to life before our very eyes as we saw planeswalkers getting slaughtered by Reality Smashers and minds ripped apart from Thought Knot-Seer. Luckily the good guys prevailed and we finally defeated them! No longer do we have to worry about Eldrazi taking over Standard! No way they continue this storyline!
Todd Anderson: FICTION. While it's powerful enough to get a lot of attention, there is very little in this set that terrifies me. When a set is released that makes me wonder if I'll want to play Standard in such a hostile format, then I know it is busted. Emerge is a scary mechanic, to be sure, but requiring the sacrifice of another creature is a steep cost. Luckily, many of the emerge cards trigger when you cast them, so you don't get absolutely annihilated by a counterspell, and it isn't too difficult to find a sticky creature to sacrifice. With that said, I don't think emerge will be dominant.
Honestly, I think the nod goes to Oath of the Gatewatch. If you take a quick look over the set, you'll see many cards that currently see play in Standard, and will continue to do so for some time. It will be hard to trump these:
And the list goes on. We may see some dramatic shifts in Standard playability once Dragons of Tarkir and Magic Origins rotate from the format, but it is going to take a lot of convincing for me to say any set in Standard is more powerful than Oath of the Gatewatch.