[Welcome to Fact or Fiction ! This week, Rampaging Ferocidon apologist Patrick Sullivan and weight lifting DudeBro Cedric Phillips take on five pressing questions about SCG Dallas this coming weekend. Read their answers and vote for the winner in the poll at the end!]
1.Given the recent banned and restricted announcement, Approach of the Second Sun is the Standard deck to beat at SCG Dallas.
Patrick Sullivan: Fact. This would my choice for any Standard event this weekend. I suspect people are going to be focused on creature decks that try to be bigger and better on the battlefield, and Approach typically swallows up those strategies. I think there is a powerful incentive for control decks to be without creatures in Game 1 due to Profane Procession, along with a few other cards. And the major reason that Approach was a fringe player prior to the bans was its weakness to pressure + Negate; what if that kind of strategy is low in representation on the heels of the Energy bans? A few of the new creatures seem plausible for a creature conversion plan after sideboard as well-Azor, the Lawbringer, in particular.
Cedric Phillips: Fiction.
If I wasn't in the booth this weekend, I'd be testing various builds of God-Pharaoh's Gift. That deck got second place at Pro Tour Ixalan, the two decks that were better than it (Temur Energy and Ramunap Red), don't really exist anymore, and one could argue that this archetype actually got better with Rivals of Ixalan. If someone has had the time over the past four days to find a great build of God-Pharaoh's Gift, I think they're going to crush the Standard portion of SCG Dallas for their team.
2.With its dominance at SCG Columbus earlier this year, Jeskai Control is the Modern deck to beat at SCG Dallas.
Patrick Sullivan: Fiction. There are so many Modern decks, so giving any one specific deck "Deck To Beat" status is rare; normally you have to five or six at the top of your list. Jeskai had a great performance last time we covered Modern, but a control deck with a bunch of Bolts isn't the hardest thing to metagame against. I would expect more big mana strategies, more "combo" decks that don't care about creature interaction (Dredge immediately comes to mind), maybe a little bit more four-toughness creatures, etc. Jeskai is very good but exploitable; I wouldn't ignore the deck by any means, but I wouldn't go overboard trying to beat it either.
Cedric Phillips: Fact. Honestly, I don't think Jeskai Control's performance at SCG Columbus was a fluke. Benjamin Nikolich's finishes with the deck were consistent for a long time and then he finally broke through to become a champion. The fitting thing about his win was that he had to beat his own creation in the finals in order to hoist the trophy.
Jeskai Control isn't a terribly expensive deck to build and its game plan is relatively straightforward - kill or counter all the things and win eventually. I know that type of gameplay isn't for everyone, but many people have been begging for Modern to have a good control deck and now it finally has one. As such, I expect Modern players to gravitate towards that strategy, especially if they had the opportunity to read Nikolich's primer from earlier this month .
3.Behind the power of Deathrite Shaman and Brainstorm, Grixis Delver is the Legacy deck to beat at SCG Dallas.
Patrick Sullivan: Fact. Much like with Miracles about a year ago, it feels like we are approaching a "solved" Legacy, with Grixis Delver at the top of a rapidly shrinking list of viable decks. The deck is fantastic in absolute terms and doesn't have an obvious weakness that is easy to capitalize on. It features many of the format's best cards and plays with enough interaction that it can play back against almost any of the oddball cards or strategies someone can run into during a long Legacy tournament. It would be my recommendation for this weekend--or any other, for that matter--and I would be surprised if we went through another six months with this deck entirely intact.
Cedric Phillips: Fiction. Look I get it. Deathrite Shaman and Brainstorm are probably the two best cards in Legacy if you ignore fetchlands. But if you've been keeping track of Team Constructed events on the SCG Tour® in 2017, Lands was a killer in those tournaments. And if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense why.
The players who play Lands? Jody Keith, Kevin King, and Jarvis Yu - experts with the deck. The decks that Lands cleans up on? Any Delver variant and most decks that are trying to cast Brainstorm honestly-assuming Brainstorm is capable of being cast honestly. Decks that combat Lands? Kind of nonexistent, and Lands isn't popular enough for players to play a deck that solely beats it. If you're great at playing Lands, you and your team get a lot of advantages in a tournament like SCG Dallas, and I expect that whatever team wins this weekend, their Legacy player has resolved a bevy of Life from the Loams.
4.You expect Rivals of Ixalan to have a huge impact on the Standard portion of SCG Dallas.
Patrick Sullivan: Fact. It's a different question if any of the tribes produce viable decks; I'm most optimistic about Pirates and Merfolk, but it wouldn't surprise me if none of them hit, at least for the time being. But Standard only has so many legal sets, so just from a percentages perspective, quite a few of the cards should hit, and the bans open up some space as well. If nothing else, Ravenous Chupacabra will have a huge influence on what creatures people decide to play (even if Chupacabra isn't that heavy on representation), some of the other removal is quite good and will inform threat selection over time, and Dire Fleet Daredevil has a chance of really shaping the spells that get played (or even if some decks choose to play spells at all.)
Cedric Phillips: Fact. Normally I'm pretty bearish on new sets and their immediate impact on Standard, but with the banned and restricted announcement changing the landscape of Standard entirely, I actually think Rivals of Ixalan is going to have a huge impact on Standard, assuming everyone can get the cards in time for the tournament.
Pre-bannings, I wouldn't have ever given a deck like Merfolk, Vampires, or Pirates a chance. Now that Temur Energy and Mono-Red are significantly worse? I think these tribal decks all have a shot. Jim Davis has a sweet looking U/W Heroic deck that he wrote about on the Select side that would have never seen the light of day five days ago. Post-bannings? Sure, why not! And these four new decks that I speak of all have a lot new cards from Rivals of Ixalan.
So, yeah, I think Rivals of Ixalan is gonna have a huge impact on the Standard portion of SCG Dallas.
You expect Rivals of Ixalan to have a huge impact on the Modern and Legacy portion of SCG Dallas
Patrick Sullivan: Fiction --My crude-but-usually-effective methodology: do a quick search for all the zero and one mana cards in the set plus the lands and the two mana or less sideboard cards, and go from there. Nothing in the set jumps out at me from that framework, so I'm not optimistic about Rivals making a big impact in the non-rotation formats. The one exception to all of this is Blood Sun--maybe it isn't quite good enough (I think it is) or maybe it's too hard to find decks that want it (I don't think that's true, either); but if that card becomes at all prevalent, it could be the most influential card to enter these formats since Fatal Push.
Cedric Phillips: Fiction. I'm pretty sure the answer is no. Power level-wise, Rivals of Ixalan is a pretty tame set. A few Merfolk might make their way into Modern Merfolk, but past that, I don't really see much else from the set working itself into Modern or Legacy. Tribal sets like Rivals of Ixalan and Lowryn + Morningtide before it generally don't have an impact on older formats, and I expect that trend to continue.
If I had to pick a card to have an impact from Rivals of Ixalan in the Modern or Legacy portion of SCG Dallas, I'd pick Blood Sun, but I'm not even a big fan of that card so I'm making that guess mostly in the dark. Hopefully someone will prove me wrong with some busted combo involving a Rivals of Ixalan card that I've clearly overlooked.