[Welcome to another edition of Fact or Fiction! Today, SCG Baltimore commentators, Cedric Phillips and Todd Anderson, take on five predictions for the weekend. Don't forget to vote for the winner at the end!]
1. With dominant performances at SCG Atlanta and the Magic Online Standard PTQ, U/W Control is the Standard deck to beat at SCG Baltimore.
Cedric Phillips: Fact. U/W Control was in the hands of the winning team at SCG Atlanta (Rudy Briksza). U/W Control put three players into the Top 8 of the Standard StarCityGames.com® Atlanta Classic (Kolaventy, Farrow, and DeCandio). U/W Control made the Top 8 of the Standard Magic Online PTQ (Autumn Burchett).
If you don't think players will be gunning for U/W Control in Baltimore, you're out of your mind.
That said, the things I'll be most interested in is how players adjust to the deck now that they know how good it is. Will players have more copies of Shalai, Voice of Plenty to combat Settle the Wreckage? Will players be better equipped to manage the dominance of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria? Will players be better prepared to handle the brute force of
Baneslayer Angel Lyra Dawnbringer?
I'm excited to find out!
Todd Anderson: Fiction.
Team tournaments are also a strange animal where victory as a group might not be reflective of one player's actual record. And while the Standard player on the winning team was playing U/W Control, I watched my teammate dismantle U/W Control over and over throughout the course of the two-day tournament. But you can't beat
Baneslayer Angel Lyra Dawnbringer with your Mono-Red deck every time.
That isn't to say that U/W Control isn't a great deck. I just don't think it should be considered the "deck to beat" when it looks much more like "just another deck in the format."
2. With four copies in the Top 8 of SCG Atlanta, Five-Color Humans has established itself as the Modern deck to beat at SCG Baltimore.
Cedric Phillips: Fact. Even though I can't win a match with Humans, I believe it is far and away the best Modern deck right now. I'm not quite sure it's as dominant as Grixis Death's Shadow was last year, but it certainly feels close.
My favorite kind of deck in Magic is an aggressive deck with numerous decisions, and Humans has plenty of them. What to take with Kitesail Freebooter, what to name with Meddling Mage, and how to sequence your threats is much harder than it appears. I get it wrong a lot so, trust me, I know. But if you're good at it, the wins will follow. Just ask Steve Locke, Jon Rosum, and my opponent in Fact or Fiction this week, Todd Anderson.
Todd Anderson: Fact. The problem with beating Humans is that Modern is just a wonky format full of countless decks that you need to worry about. Every deck in the format has bad matchups and good matchups. Humans, for example, is pretty embarrassing against Affinity, or any other linear strategy that doesn't fold to their disruptive creatures. But mostly Affinity.
My record in the event, playing Humans, wasn't exactly spectacular. I went 11-5 with two of my losses coming from the mirror, two coming from Affinity, and one coming from Burn (which I beat another time). If you want to beat Humans, I think Affinity is your best choice. With that said, Affinity might struggle with some of the other popular Modern decks since everyone has access to some killer sideboard cards against the archetype.
3. With three copies of Grixis Delver in the Top 8 of SCG Atlanta and years of dominance in Legacy, WotC should emergency ban Deathrite Shaman to make Legacy interesting again.
Cedric Phillips: Fact. What's even the point of leaving this card legal? What's the upside? That's the thing that's the most frustrating for me. The entire format is warped around Deathrite Shaman. You can't play a graveyard deck. You can't play an aggressive deck. And it's unreasonably difficult to win on the draw if Grixis Delver has Deathrite Shaman on the play.
We've gotten to the point now where players are playing some seriously strange decks to try and beat Deathrite Shaman. Turbo Depths? Mono-Red Prison? W/R Taxes? I'm not saying these are bad decks. I'm just demonstrating that players must play some seriously weird stuff to beat this stupid card.
And, yes, I'm still angry that it's a 1/2 for no reason. It shouldn't beat Goblin Lackey in a fight.
Todd Anderson: Fiction. (kinda) Years of dominance is a stretch. After all, we've gone through quite a few bannings in the last three years. Remember Treasure Cruise? Dig Through Time? Sensei's Divining Top? Grixis Delver has been particularly heinous in the last few months because everyone "figured it out." But I honestly don't think Grixis Delver is a very good deck. In fact, the Legacy player on my team has played Grixis Delver in the last three events, and their record has always been the worst of the bunch.
While Deathrite Shaman is a particularly bothersome card that breaks the color pie, I don't know if it necessarily warrants a ban. Personally, I'd love to see it banned if only to open up what kinds of Delver decks I'm allowed to play. At the moment, if your Delver deck doesn't also contain Deathrite Shaman, then you're probably making a mistake.
My guess is they'll ban Deathrite Shaman before the Team Constructed Pro Tour this Summer, if only to make coverage more interesting.
4.The Scarab God will make its inevitable return as the best thing to be doing in Standard this weekend at SCG Baltimore.
Cedric Phillips: Fiction. Not yet…but soon.
Look. The Scarab God is an absurd Magic card for Standard play. It won't ever make its way into Modern, Legacy, or Vintage, but that's totally fine. I think The Scarab God would have been a dominant card in almost any Standard format over the past ten years. So while it did next to nothing last weekend in Atlanta and on Magic Online, that's only because players are still figuring things out.
If I were a betting man (which I absolutely am!), sooner rather than later Brad Nelson is going to find the right shell for The Scarab God again. And once he does, it will probably be the best thing going for a few weeks. Don't think for even a second that a card with all that text has somehow been rendered obsolete.
Todd Anderson: Fiction. I haven't seen a single God-Pharaoh's Gift or The Scarab God in the last thirty or so matches of Standard I've played. I expect that trend to continue this weekend at SCG Baltimore, if only because people want to keep playing with the new decks. I don't think that The Scarab God is actively bad right now. How could it be? But my gut says that decks relying on spot removal, without access to a sweeper effect, are going to have a rough time beating these white and green decks. And you know what that sounds a lot like? You guessed it. A deck featuring The Scarab God.
I've seen a few Esper Control lists running around that have one or two copies of The Scarab God, and it could make a grand entrance this weekend, but I'm hoping the days of U/B or Grixis Midrange featuring The Scarab God are over. And if I'm being honest, I don't know if splashing a color for The Scarab God is as good as just playing more copies of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria or Lyra Dawnbringer in your perfectly fine two-color U/W Control deck.
Let some other cards shine, buddy.
5. Smuggler's Copter is safe to unban in Standard.
Cedric Phillips: Fiction. So as most of you know, I compose these questions for my wonderful staff to answer once or twice a week. Sometimes I troll them, but most of the time I ask legit questions that I find to be interesting for them to think about and for each of you to read and consider.
When I composed these questions on Wednesday, I thought this question was an interesting one. "Was Smuggler's Copter really that good?" is what I thought to myself. "Would it even be that good now?" I pondered aloud.
I played W/B Vehicles with Smuggler's Copter instead of Heart of Kiran (which is an absurd card, by the way) for twenty minutes, and it was one of the dumbest things ever. As a result, I'm going to let the principal from Billy Madison take things over:
"Mr. Phillips, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."
Todd Anderson: Fact, but please don't. For what reason would we unban Smuggler's Copter? Heart of Kiran and Aethersphere Harvester both see a ton of play. Do you really want all those aggressive decks to have an even better weapon at their disposal? The reason Smuggler's Copter was banned in the first place was because it was nearly ubiquitous. If your deck had fifteen or more creatures in it, Smuggler's Copter was right there in the mix.
With that said, the removal has changed since Smuggler's Copter got banned. And even though it would be everywhere, I don't know if it would be oppressive. But being oppressive isn't always the reason for a card being banned. I don't think anyone would argue that Smuggler's Copter was ever "too good" for the Standard format. It just resulted in some weird play patterns and deckbuilding decisions. But Heart of Kiran and Aethersphere Harvester put us in the same position. I mean, when was the last time you saw someone play a sorcery-speed removal spell that couldn't also target a vehicle?