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Welcome to another edition of Fact or Fiction! This week, Ari Lax and Brad Nelson give their takes on five pressing questions from the world of Magic, including the recent Standard bannings and the top card in the new set! Read their thoughts and vote for the writer you think won in our poll at the end!
1. The Saheeli Rai plus Felidar Guardian interaction is too good for Standard's long-term health.
Ari Lax: Fact. The Splinter Twin plus Deceiver Exarch combo was generally in check in Standard, and even then it wasn't ever fun or interesting to play against. This is a combo with pieces that are better independently and in a format with less powerful removal. Doom Blade costs double black these days and doesn't kill the new Titans. The worst part is that the bans that were just made were attempting refresh a format from a tight grasp, and if the Saheeli Rai combo ends up being too good, it is too good in a repetitive, oppressive way. They even banned Smuggler's Copter to make sorcery-speed removal better, and then this happened! We've all seen this before. Why do we have to deal with it again?
I also think this was a uniquely perfect opportunity to swing the axe on it. "Wait and see" is almost always the right response, but this mimics a known issue so closely. There is a very big chance you have to remove the interaction later; why wait for people to invest first?
Brad Nelson: Fiction. New two-card combos can always seem like they will be backbreaking to a metagame at first, but that's always due to the community not yet knowing all the potential answers. It might seem daunting to think you will have to hold up mana each turn to protect yourself from the combo just to see your Jeskai opponent cast Dispel, but trust me, there are alternatives to traditional removal that can stop the copying of Cats.
All three of these cards can be on the battlefield to protect you from the combo while tapped out. Two cause the copy Cats to enter the battlefield tapped, and Walking Ballista can sacrifice itself to kill Saheeli Rai before a copy of Felidar Guardian has a chance to boomerang her through the Aether. Sure, the opponent may be able to deal with them prior to “going off,” but that's just Magic. I see no true danger in this combo existing because of how vulnerable it can be and predict it will be a part of the metagame, but not on top of it.
I'm actually excited to see all the innovations people will have when trying to make it a competitive strategy. After all, I sure do love me a transitional sideboard!