[Welcome to Fact or Fiction ! This week, Modern Dredge enthusiast Ross Merriam and SCG Tour® curmudgeon Ryan Overturf take on five pressing questions about the state of Modern after the conclusion of SCG Columbus. Read their answers and vote for the winner in the poll at the end!]
1. With a win at Grand Prix Dallas '16 and an SCG Tour® Top 8 at SCG Columbus, Skred Red is the best Blood Moon deck in Modern.
G/R Land Destruction, any of the Blue Moon variants (Breach, Kiki etc.), a stock U/R Storm list with four randomly selected cards from the maindeck replaced with four copies of Blood Moon (fingers crossed I still have a Grapeshot!), a repeat of the last deck but with Counters Company in place of U/R Storm...
And I don't think Abzan Company is good as is!
I think I've made my point.
Ryan Overturf: Fiction. If your primary goal on a given weekend is simply to Blood Moon people, then Skred Red is arguably your best choice. It presents a healthy mix of robust threats and Skred is still among the best removal spells in Modern once you establish that you're playing mono-red. That said, Modern is extremely diverse and Skred Red doesn't offer much flexibility. My pick for the best Blood Moon deck would be Kiki Moon. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot to like about Skred Red, but it just doesn't offer anything as versatile as Snapcaster Mage nor as powerful as a combo kill.
If we dig a little deeper and consider decks that sideboard Blood Moon as "Blood Moon decks" then I would also rank U/R Gifts Storm ahead of Skred Red. It's nice that your Blood Moon won't hinder your mana development when your deck is mono-red, but the power boost that you get by adding blue cards to your deck is undeniable. Mind Stone into Koth of the Hammer is nice and all, but your opponent will always get an untap step after you hit them for four. The same can't be said of lethal Grapeshots.
2. With only twelve copies in day two of SCG Columbus, Tarmogoyf is no longer a premiere threat in Modern.
Ross Merriam: Fact. The story of the last year of Modern has been that of Fatal Push. Its effect on the format took a long time to play out because it fundamentally reshaped Modern as we know it. Its introduction was initially overshadowed by the banning of Gitaxian Probe and Golgari Grave-Troll (RIP), but with the rise of fair Death's Shadow decks and the evolution of the format as a result, we have now arrived at a Modern that is not the same as it was a year ago or two years ago, and that's a bad evolution for Tarmogoyf.
Tarmogoyf was a premier win condition in midrange decks because it plays offense and defense effectively and easily dodges Lightning Bolt, the previous default one-mana removal spell. Green's place as a support color for black in these decks almost entirely hinged on the presence of Tarmogoyf and Abrupt Decay as the best answer to opposing Tarmogoyfs.
With Fatal Push supplanting Lightning Bolt, Tarmogoyf is much easier to answer and Abrupt Decay's stock similarly decreases. While green lives on in various Collected Company decks (notably, these style of decks have never wanted the vanilla efficiency of Tarmogoyf), what was once thought of as potentially the best creature ever printed has lost its home and is barely playable. It's a Fatal Push world now, and we have to accept the new reality or be left behind.
Ryan Overturf: Fact. There was a time when players would stretch their manabases to include Tarmogoyf as their only green spell and Tarmogoyf was considered a significant advantage when comparing two otherwise similar decks. That's just not the world we live in anymore. There are a lot of factors at play here. Fatal Push impacted Tarmogoyf's relative power level some, and the existence of delve threats that dodge Fatal Push pushed players towards different low to the ground strategies. Chief among these strategies is Grixis Death's Shadow, which features a one-mana creature that somewhat effortlessly outclasses Tarmogoyf. There's also the matter of Eldrazi decks big and small. Whether I'm casting Reality Smasher or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger, I probably don't sweat your two-mana creature all that much.
When Tarmogoyf was at its peak, it was significant that it outsized basically everything. It doesn't anymore, and it has more vulnerabilities. I don't think that we're at the point where Jund or Abzan decks should move away from Tarmogoyf, but I also don't see the fact that these decks have access to Tarmogoyf being much of a draw.
3. Blood Sun will change the way players build their manabases in Modern.
Ross Merriam: Fiction. Blood Sun may win some games because it hoses fetchlands and other utility lands, but hate cards is never a dominant strategy, because playing with them is never better than playing the cards they target over the long term. Playing hate cards is a tacit concession that you can't beat someone by playing legitimate Magic and need to resort to bush league tactics to have a chance.
Also, in case you haven't noticed, fetchlands are fundamentally broken. They combine with various dual lands to create incredibly consistent manabases of three or more colors while synergizing with a staggering number of cards and abilities. If they were to be removed from the format, a huge chunk of the Modern banned list could come back.
If you're going to go through the trouble of cutting your fetchlands and utility lands, why aren't you just playing Blood Moon and locking your opponent from playing spells entirely?
Ryan Overturf: Fiction. I play a lot of fetchlands in my Modern decks. Am I worried about losing to Blood Sun? Kind of, but that fear is speculative. In order to lose to Blood Sun, players have to cast it. Given that Blood Sun costs three and doesn't negatively impact a lot of viable Modern decks on the level that it would have to to warrant tapping three mana for it, I don't expect to see many maindeck copies. Not to mention that just sequencing your fetchlands before your other lands would mitigate a lot of the potential damage. This is the play pattern that Serum Visions rewards anyway, so sequencing fetches first is hardly a cost.
The most obvious spot for Blood Sun seems to be as a tool for Tron decks to fight Ghost Quarters and Field of Ruins. If we start seeing Tron decks going heavy on Blood Sun and beating Ghost Quarter decks convincingly, then we'll probably see some more significant shifts. I'm skeptical that this will happen, and even if it does I think that Blood Sun would cause players to put away their Ghost Quarters more than it would cause them to put away their fetchlands.
As for the immediate future, Modern doesn't make dramatic shifts quickly unless something is broken. I won't change anything about my manabases until tournament results actually give me reason to worry.
4. Even though it lost playing for Top 8 at SCG Columbus, Mono-Green Devotion is a viable deck choice for Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan.
Ross Merriam: Fiction. I like Mono-Green Devotion in an aesthetic sense. I would play it if I thought it could win. But it's just not a good enough deck to consistently compete in Modern. It has explosive draws that can win some games, and cards like Wistful Selkie and Courser of Kruphix can help it play through disruption, but it's fundamentally weak to that disruption and not consistently fast enough to compete with the other non-interactive decks in the format. It's not doing anything uniquely powerful in the format while also being straightforward to play against. That combo is a recipe for disaster.
Ryan Overturf: Fiction. I suppose "viable" isn't a very strong endorsement, but even then I'm not convinced of Mono-Green Devotion as a contender. If a friend told me they were playing Mono-Green Devotion at the Pro Tour, I would consider it my duty as their friend to talk them out of it. It's a deck that proactively dumps its hand as quickly as possible and hopes that this wins the game. Sometimes it looks mighty impressive, but far too often the deck just casts some mana creatures and some medium planeswalker while they lose to basically any deck in the format. It presents weaker average starts than Tron while also having fewer redraws. Mono-Green Devotion is certainly more of a true combo deck than Tron, but if you want to cast every spell in your hand and win the game you'd have a hard time convincing me that this was a better option than Storm.
When exploring the Modern format, one thing that you come to accept is that the overwhelming majority of decks are exactly fine. Many of these decks present the occasional absurd hand that makes you want to believe that you've found something special, and Mono-Green Devotion definitely presents some starts that will trick you into believing that the deck is great. Don't fall for it. It's just another one of the fine decks that you can play if you want to.
5. With its victory at SCG Columbus, Jeskai Control is now the deck to beat at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan.
Ross Merriam: Fiction. Modern right now doesn't have a deck to beat. It hasn't had a best deck for over six months. Is Jeskai Control good? Yes. Are people going to put it into their testing gauntlets? Yes. But no one is bending over backwards trying to combat it when it's likely to take up a maximum of five percent of the field. Modern is too diverse a format to devote that kind of energy to a single archetype.
Instead, Modern is about metagaming for macro-archetypes like disruptive midrange, fast combo, or big mana and having a loose plan for individual matchups that are relevant and deviate from the other decks in their class. Control on the whole has been on the rise in Modern for a few months now, so I expect players to work toward combating it, but at the end of the day Jeskai Control is just another little fish in a big pond.
Ryan Overturf: Fiction. Jeskai Control isn't really ever the deck to beat in Modern. It wasn't even the deck to beat when Shaun McLaren used it to win Pro Tour Born of the Gods! The Modern metagame generally revolves a lot more around the average speed of the most played decks at the time, and Jeskai Control's ability to win on turn 30 doesn't exactly set the pace for the field. It's a great deck that is well positioned, but despite the finals mirror-match at SCG Columbus I would be amazed if the deck was more than five percent of the Pro Tour field.
I would be looking at Caleb Scherer's third place deck if we're talking about the deck to beat right now. U/R Gifts Storm is fast when it needs to be and very capable of going long when faced with disruption. This combination of speed and resilience is unparalleled and is extremely important in a format as diverse as Modern. Once you establish that U/R Gifts Storm is the deck to beat there are plenty of tools available to try to hate it out, and Jeskai Control is indeed one of the hardest matchups for Storm. Ultimately though, I would operate under the assumption that Storm is the deck to beat right now and expect it to be one of the most, if not the most, represented decks at the Pro Tour.