[Welcome to another edition of Fact or Fiction! In this edition, longtime Magic veteran and SCGTour commentator Patrick Sullivan takes on the Editor-in-Chief of SCG Danny West! They'll debate all the latest news and previews from Ixalan and more!]
1. A Temur Deck Will Win Grand Prix Washington DC This Weekend.
Patrick Sullivan: Fiction --It takes quite a state of affairs for me to bet on a single deck instead of the field. Brad, BBD, and Corey had quite the performance at Grand Prix Denver, but I still think there are too many decks, and too many ways to adapt, to expect a repeat. I don't anticipate a giant metagame shift, but a little bit more ramp, a bit more Torrential Gearhulk, and some different card selection from the Red decks should push down the deck's relative power level. I wouldn't be shocked if Temur Energy won, but I think the smart money is on the other side.
Danny West: Fiction- I think the deck is the closest this format will ever come to solved. Maybe all Standard formats should be this short...
Here's what I'm gathering from people I trust: Ramp is a lost cause, the metagame blue control decks aren't working, and nobody remembers Vehicles existed. I'm going deep: I think the Jeskai Approach deck is going to sneak up on the tournament and win. The red decks are also going to be good as usual and it'd be nice to bring this format full circle with a Zombies win (assuming people have finally stopped paying attention to it). Either way, Jeskai Approach on Sunday. Boom.
Making Planeswalkers Legendary Was a Good Move.
Patrick Sullivan: Fact --This one is tricky, with lots of pros and cons on both sides. I really dislike rule sets where two similar classes of card have similar-but-not-quite-the-same functionality, and the previous version of Legendary vs. Planeswalker rules was a perfect representation of that. If you were starting from the beginning, I think making Planeswalkers legendary is a no-brainer. So, what are the tradeoffs?
Functional errata sucks.
I'm most sympathetic to this argument, and cards like Lay Bare the Heart and Untaidake, the Cloud Keeper working differently than the type line suggests is a major cost. Fortunately, it is errata across the entire card type. Future Planeswalkers will be printed with Legendary on the type line (helping the education process), and Planeswalkers are easy to believe as legendary cards to begin with.
Power level concerns.
This sounds more abstract, as no one I've heard has made a compelling case that "These two [Jaces/Gideons/Tibalts/whatever] are busted together," and Wizards can simply develop future Planeswalkers around the current rules set. If some interaction emerges in Modern or Legacy, who cares? Those formats are so hostile to high-mana cards that I doubt it would be downside if the future played out that way. When the rules change, power level of previous cards changes, too. Mogg Fanatic got worse when damage on the stack no longer existed, and Braid of Fire got better when mana burn went away. Complaints surrounding these interactions turned out to be much ado about nothing, and I expect the same here.
Because many of the Planeswalkers with the same names come from different worlds, storylines, timelines, etc., it doesn't strike me as the biggest abstraction to have multiple heroes with the same name in play at the same time. People made the argument that it didn't make sense for both players to control a Tolarian Academy, but the improvement in gameplay justified the minor blow to flavor there. And honestly, the game already lets you put Bonesplitter on a River Boa and Remove Soul a Soulless One; some leaps of faith are not new here.
Danny West: Fiction- If they'd been legendary to begin with, sure. To me, the issue is the ongoing insulation within Magic development. They're not going to be legal as commanders? Are we serious?
Someone really important wanted to get this Jace card through. It goes for maximum flavor at the cost of mass hostilities to rules eloquence, established format traditions, and the textiles industry. Was this really the best way to execute this effect? Couldn't we have had three or five or seven Jaces (like we haven't already) in a way that doesn't cause you to break the rocking chair?
I'm so tired of insular rules. You can't explain games of Magic to people without saying "except" four times each sentence now. "This planeswalker is that planeswalker but they're both legends now, except you can't use them as your commanders in that format where legends are commanders." Equipment, Planeswalkers, Vehicles. Quit adding card types. Grow the game in other ways. You're making a mess.
And enough with the flavor qualms. My Hedron Crab is swinging a giant hammer built by Elephants. Put the little guy on a Flying Carpet while you're at it.
3.A Marquee Dinosaur Card Will Be A Major Standard Player.
Patrick Sullivan: Fact --The current Standard format is pretty hospitable to large creatures, with red removal so prevalent and card advantage/terminates/counterspells not being a dominant strategy. Plus, I'm sure Wizards knows how much money there is to be made by making a few dope dinosaurs. Burning Sun's Avatar, Carnage Tyrant, Ripjaw Raptor, and Gishath, Sun's Avatar all seem at least plausible, and there are still more previews to come.
Danny West: Irrelevant- The only fact and fiction here is that Carnage Tyrant is a fictional mythic and that is a fact. Is it really that unimaginable to have a game without the battlefield? Who made this card? And who made it mythic? It has some keywords and an orange symbol. What the hell happened to New World Order? Seriously, the mythics in this set are a trainwreck.
Giant dinos at rare, but if you want a truly exciting mythic, you'll have to hope you pull the ultra cool drunken nobodies up past their bedtime card. The idea that this card could outclass a Stormbreath Dragon makes me physically sick.
4. An Already Previewed Ixalan Card Will Make an Impact in Modern or Legacy.
Patrick Sullivan: Fiction- -Not a strongly-held opinion, but both formats are so fast that new cards that cost two or greater are almost always non-starters. I suppose I'm the most bullish on Shaper's Sanctuary, Old-Growth Dryads, and Ashes of the Abhorrent, but I would bet against each one individually making a significant impact on any older format.
Danny West: Fact- Hunter Nance is going to jam one of these Merfolks into his deck for at least two tournaments and there's nothing any of us can do about it.
5. Hostage Taker's Templating is Concerning.
Patrick Sullivan: Fact -- Not because of the confusion surrounding errata, as the printed version's functionality is so plainly stupid that no reasonable person would ever believe that Hostage Taker worked that way, to say nothing of the flavor fail of a Hostage Taker taking themselves hostage. I've worked on games that have made similar errors in the past, and it is usually emblematic of some systemic issue--design asking for changes too late in the process, poor communication with the rules team, files being insufficiently reviewed, etc. Hostage Taker is a different type of failing than Felidar Guardian and not nearly as damaging, but I would be surprised if they were wholly unrelated.
Danny West: Fact- Patrick is going to have countless insight into this kind of workflow, so I'll speak to my gut and try not to get squashed.
I think there's a hole in the net. There's a fundamental job that's not being done, and if it's not done, it screws up the game. Now, this has an innocuous fix because the functionality of the card is beyond obvious. I embrace the practical "come on, you get it" philosophy when it comes to minutia. But if we're just putting crayons all over cards anyway, why the hell was Felidar Guardian allowed to help sustain a format's ruin? The kids at the kitchen could play with it fairly, and we could've errata'd it and had it cleanly removed in 2,000 reteweets.
Something in this process needs to change. And who knows what other templating debacles await us in the remainder of the set? Stop reviewing templating before lunch!