[Welcome back to Fact or Fiction! Today, SCG Tour® commentators Matthias Hunt and Ryan Overturf give their takes on five statements inspired by their thoughts on SCG Dallas this weekend. Read their responses and vote for the winner at the end!]
1.Given Dmitriy Butakov's win at the Magic Online Championship, G/W Hexrpoof is the deck to beat at SCG Dallas.
Matthias Hunt: Fiction. G/W Hexproof is the type of deck that wins a tournament when you least expect it. On the flip side, G/W Hexproof is also a deck that goes 0-2 drop when everyone expects it. It was a great metagame call that led to Butakov winning the Magic Online Championship with such a linear gameplan, but I wouldn't expect it to happen again. Add his win to the fact that we also had Dan Ward winning a Grand Prix with the same deck? Too many people are thinking about their matchup against a Slippery Bogle. The fact that one of our five questions this week is about G/W Hexproof should be a warning sign not to play the deck! Expect cards like Spellskite, Back to Nature, and Engineered Explosives to be showing up in sideboards this weekend and stay away!
Ryan Overturf: Fiction. The results of a small, invite-only tournament are almost never going to translate to larger tournaments. G/W Hexproof was an excellent choice for the Magic Online Championship because Bloodbraid Elf Jund was clearly a big winner with the unbans that would be well-represented in the field, with a handful of other players likely to be playing Jace as well. These decks are flush with spot removal, and G/W Hexproof is the sort of deck that has a great matchup against that sort of thing while also not being a deck that players pack much sideboard hate for. The best cards that these decks bring to the table against you are discard spells and Liliana of the Veil, which are all covered by Butakov's maindeck Leyline of Sanctity.
At SCG Dallas, you're going to see a wider range of decks. Decks that kill at a faster clip than G/W Hexproof in addition to decks like Tron that pack more meaningful interaction in the form of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. Beyond that, G/W Hexproof has always been a deck that I've been generally okay with as a "bad" matchup, as the deck has a long history of losing to itself given that it's trying to draw a specific mix of stuff without having much in the way of card selection. At the Magic Online Championship you're just trying to get lucky a handful of times against a field that you'll have a pretty good read on. Succeeding with G/W Hexproof at an Open is a much taller order.
2. With how heavily played Jund was played at the Magic Online Championship, you expect Jund to be the most played deck at SCG Dallas.
Matthias Hunt: Fact. Well, we are in Dallas so you can never count out Burn... But in all seriousness Jund is in a great position and everyone knows it. I'm going to throw around some non-scientific numbers and estimate that the unbanning of Bloodbraid Elf gave Jund an extra 3-5% against the field in game 1s and an extra 5-7% in sideboard games. Take the historically bad Tron matchup as an example. Jund is still unfavored in the matchup, but on the play they could cascade into a Fulminator Mage on turn 4 followed by cascading into a Kolaghan's Command on the next turn. Before Bloodbraid Elf was around, the Tron player would have time to rebuild, but that's no longer the case. Will this draw happen all the time? No. Will it beat turn 3 Tron? Again, no. Matchups, however, are a game of percentages, and Jund's percentages are looking better than ever.
Ryan Overturf: Fact. Listen, for all of the Bloodbraid Elf apologists out there and mentions that "Bloodbraid died for Deathrite Shaman's sins," it tends to get lost in the shuffle that Bloodbraid Elf was a mainstay of one of the most oppressive decks in Standard history. People would build their entire deck around the idea of trying to beat Jund and they'd still lose to Jund half the time. Jund has picked up several very powerful tools since Bloodbraid Elf was last legal, and you'd better believe midrange players are thrilled to combine their Bloodbraids with Kolaghan's Commands and Liliana, the Last Hopes. The general increase in power level for Jund also makes it easier to squeeze some Fulminator Mages into the sideboard, which will allow Jund to win a good amount of games against Tron while also giving them a nice edge against other fair decks trying to go long. If Jund isn't the most played deck in Dallas, it will only be because it is underrepresented.
3. Lars Dam's Grixis Control deck is the best Jace, the Mind Sculptor deck in Modern.
Matthias Hunt: Fiction. I like the cut of what Lars is doing. Playing a deck of Jace, Snapcaster Mage, and 20+ instants and sorceries is something I can get behind. I've seen a lot of Jace decks recently play him alongside other threats like Collected Company, Tarmogoyf, or Spell Queller, and I think Lars' deck better maximizes the planeswalker. Where I still have questions goes back to the other card that came off the banned list. Right now in Modern, we're seeing a war between the two best value engines - Bloodbraid Elf versus Snapcaster Mage - and the Elf is winning all the battles. Lars may have the best Jace deck, but that's not going to matter much if it doesn't beat Jund. I think SCG Dallas will answer a lot of questions here.
Ryan Overturf: Fiction. This is another example of a great Magic Online Championship metagame call. It seems to me that the unbanning of Jace means you no longer have to play lousy cards like Ancestral Vision and Sphinx's Revelation in your Modern deck. That said, Ancestral Vision is great if you expect everybody else to be fighting fair. They'll give you time to actually resolve your draw three instead of, you know, killing you. I like Dam's Dire Fleet Daredevils. They're really good in fair mirrors, and they have two power and first strike which makes them great at blocking Bloodbraid Elf. That said, I have no intention of ever trying to maindeck that card because I don't want to try to Daredevil my opponent's Sylvan Scrying or Burning Inquiry.
Independent of Dam's specific list, I'm more interested in the question "Is Grixis Control the best shell for Jace in Modern?" I haven't figured out a list that I like just yet, but as you might expect, I'm leaning yes. The range of answers available to Grixis can cover your bases very well, and the raw power of Snapcaster Mage plus Kolaghan's Command has proven itself time and again in Modern. The biggest concern continues to be Tron and/or Eldrazi, which Jace does very little to help with, though that's going to be a consistent thread for most every Jace deck.
4.Something unexpected/unforeseen will win SCG Dallas.
Matthias Hunt: Fact. The unbannings have definitely shaken up the Modern metagame and continue to do so. Just looking at the top performing online Modern decks from last week, we can see things like U/W Tempo, Temur Midrange, U/R Kiln Fiend, and Bloodbraid Naya all succeeding. While I don't expect these all to be "real" choices, I wouldn't be surprised if at least one of them has potential. When it comes down to what I expect to do well in Dallas, I would look for Jund, Burn, Tron, and Affinity to all be there on Day Two, but if I had to guess which deck wins the trophy I would pick "none of the above." There's too many angles of attack right now to confidently predict the metagame.
Ryan Overturf: Fact, but with a question mark I mean, it's a Modern tournament. I think Jund is the best deck going into the weekend, and I also think that G/R Eldrazi is a great choice right now, but ultimately the field will still be pretty wide and you have to win a lot of rounds to hoist a trophy. Would I take Jadine Klomparens on Jund over the field? I'd be inclined to. Could Taking Turns, Burn, Storm, some Collected Company strategy, B/W Smallpox or any of a bevy of other decks also win? Of course.
If "unexpected" just means something other than the deck to beat, then the odds of an unexpected deck winning are about as high as they ever are in Modern (see: very high). If it means something that we've never seen before, then I'm slamming the Fiction button.
5. You're surprised that Bloodbraid Elf has had a bigger impact on Modern than Jace, the Mind Sculptor thus far.
Matthias Hunt: Fact. I'll take my lumps on this one. I believe that Jace is on its own a more powerful Magic card than Bloodbraid Elf and as a result, I predicted that it would be more relevant in a format with such a large card pool. The truth, however, is that Bloodbraid Elf has been more impactful. What I would learn from this is to not underrate just how important context matters when talking about individual cards. Bloodbraid Elf had a home waiting for it in Jund, where Jace has been tried as a two-of in a variety of blue strategies. I still believe that by June we'll be seeing more Jace than Bloodbraid, but right now that clearly isn't the case.
Ryan Overturf: Fiction. I said as much when the announcement dropped. The issue that I've consistently had with Grixis Control in Modern is that I can't beat Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and I can't beat Cavern of Souls naming Eldrazi. I've messed around some with Jace in Modern hoping that Jace would make it easier to justify putting Blood Moon in my deck. Ultimately, drawing Blood Moon with only a four-mana Brainstorm to reset my draws fell on the wrong side of the "have to/get to spectrum", and the deck just played too many cards that were bad too often. Do you know what you have to do to make Bloodbraid Elf good in your deck? Produce four mana with at least one of which being red and at least one being green. You can screw it up, sure, but finding the right Jace configuration has a much smaller margin for error given that your Bloodbraid Elf deck almost assuredly can win the game much faster.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor is definitely good enough for Modern, and is seeing some success peppered into various decklists. So far what I think we've learned is that the best Jace shell is most likely proactive, a concept that Ross Merriam did a great job highlighting this week . While I believe it's also true that Jund lists haven't been optimized just yet, their power boost was more immediate and obvious. It's possible that Jace ends up performing better than Bloodbraid Elf down the road, though this wouldn't be the first time that Bloodbraid Elf eclipsed Jace in a Constructed format.