[Welcome to another edition of Fact or Fiction! Today, Collins Mullen and Matthias Hunt are here to render their verdicts on five statements about the first two weeks of Dominaria Standard. Don't forget to vote for the winner at the end!]
1. With four copies in the Top 8 of the SCG Baltimore Open and a victory in the SCG Baltimore Standard Classic, W/B Aggro is the deck to beat in Standard.
Collins Mullen: Fact. At least for now. The success of W/B Aggro in Baltimore solidified it as a very strong option in Standard right now and people are going to take notice. I wouldn't be surprised to see it being the most popular archetype going into the next large Standard event.
But I think it is important to look at what happened to the "deck to beat" going into SCG Baltimore. U/W Control was the clear winner as the best performing archetype at SCG Atlanta, but it didn't perform well at all in Baltimore the weekend after. This is simply because people were ready for it and configured their decks to be able to beat Fumigate and Settle the Wreckage. U/W Control was everywhere during Day 1 of the SCG Baltimore Open, but almost nowhere to be seen in Day 2.
I wouldn't be surprised to see people figure out a good strategy against W/B Aggro and to see it underperform in the coming weeks. Because Standard has yet to settle into any consistency, the format will be changing week to week based on what was popular in the previous weeks.
Matthias Hunt: Fiction. Honestly, this can be answered either way depending on what we mean when say that something is the "Deck to Beat." To me, giving a deck that title is saying that it's simply doing one of the most powerful things possible in the format, which means it can run away with tournaments when left ignored. Storm in Modern is a great example of this. W/B Aggro isn't that, but it is a very good week two deck that I expect to stick around.
Our first Team Constructed Open with Dominaria showed us that Red decks and U/W Control were the decks to beat and W/B Aggro does this brilliantly. W/B Aggro uses cards like Heart of Kiran and Toolcraft Exemplar to create enough early pressure that it stands a real chance of racing a Mono-Red deck, especially when a Fatal Push is mixed in. On top of that, W/B Aggro does a great job of beating the types of removal we saw in week one control decks. The threats are either non-creatures, recursive, or very low to the ground, which strands cards like Essence Scatter. On top of that, W/B Aggro has a lot of vigilance and even main deck cards with hexproof from white.
All this made W/B Aggro great at beating the week one control decks, but will it be enough entering week three? That remains to be seen.
2. As the Standard deck of the winning team at the SCG Baltimore Open, G/B Constrictor is a tier 1 deck in Standard moving forward.
Collins Mullen: Fact. G/B Constrictor may just be the natural predator of W/B Aggro. I was very impressed with a few builds of G/B Constrictor during SCG Baltimore. They had a very strong proactive game plan during Game 1, where they could dominate the battlefield with large creatures, and after sideboard they had elements to grind through the bigger plans that W/B Aggro could present.
I expect to see a lot more G/B Constrictor decks moving forward, because the deck is inherently powerful and in an excellent spot moving forward. If everyone is planning on playing W/B Aggro next weekend, I would be very happy to bring G/B Constrictor.
Vraska, Relic Seeker, in particular, feels very strong right now. Not only does it fit very well into a bigger sideboard plan, but we're also seeing a lot of enchantment-based removal floating around right now, and Vraska can make it very difficult to rely on these enchantments to keep things off of the battlefield.
Matthias Hunt: Fact. G/B Constrictor's place in the metagame has been the same for the last year. It does well against aggressive red decks while being okay against control if it can dodge sweepers. I think the fact that Teferi, Hero of Dominaria has changed the stock control deck from U/B to U/W was bad news for Constrictor, but SCG Baltimore showed us that the deck is still viable at the top levels despite this.
What will be interesting to see is the interaction between G/B Constrictor and other decks attempting to play a midrange strategy. The strategy of "a bunch of threats and a few copies of Fatal Push" is being played by both G/B Constrictor and W/B Aggro and it will be interesting to see if they can co-exist, but if the matchup between the two decks remains close then I see no reason why not. G/B Constrictor punishes decks that can't reliably remove a 2/3 for two, and as of now there are still a lot of those decks.
3. As good as Goblin Chainwhirler and Hazoret the Fervent are, Mono-Red Aggro simply isn't a tier 1 deck in Dominaria Standard.
Collins Mullen: Fact. With so many decks in Standard having dynamic sideboard plans right now, it's a tough time to have one linear strategy that you have to stick to, even after sideboard. W/B Aggro, G/B Constrictor, and even R/B Aggro all have excellent plans against Mono-Red Aggro after sideboard which means it is time to adapt.
The removal spells seeing play right now even line up very well against the best threats that Mono-Red Aggro has to offer. Seal Away is a clean answer to Hazoret the Fervent and Cast Out/Vraska's Contempt can hit either Hazoret or Chandra, Torch of Defiance. These were the threats that Mono-Red Aggro is leaning on to be able to finish out the game and when there are so many easy answers to these threats, the deck is going to struggle.
I could see a Mono-Red deck have success if it had a plan to be able to compete with the common sideboard plans that we are seeing right now. Perhaps a Big Red deck could have success in the current metagame. But Mono-Red Aggro, as it exists right now, is going to have a tough time keeping up.
Matthias Hunt: Fiction. With everyone playing Lyra Dawnbringer now, I can't say I'd recommend Mono-Red Aggro, but yes, it's still tier 1. Mono-Red is keeping the rest of the format honest and at some point, if people stop playing it, then we're going to see decks get slower until Mono-Red is good again. In the meantime, what may happen is that Mono-Red Aggro evolves to be more resilient against the new Baneslayer Angel. Michael Yue had the right idea in his second-place list from the SCG Baltimore Standard Classic . His R/B Aggro deck barely touched any black cards, with Unlicensed Disintegration being the only black card in the main deck. This allowed him to still play Goblin Chainwhirler but also avoided having to have main deck answers to Lyra instead of having to register the very mediocre Fight with Fire.
4. Though we're only two weeks into Dominaria Standard, it's safe to say that Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is as good as advertised.
Collins Mullen: Fact. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is my pick for the strongest planeswalker printed for a control deck since Jace, the Mind Sculptor. It does everything you want it to. Its plus ability gives card advantage and tempo, something we almost never see in Magic. It also can remove any nonland permanent from the battlefield the turn it comes down.
We're only two weeks in, but Teferi is already seeing play in both Standard and Modern. While the U/W Control deck that Teferi was prevalent in for the first week of Standard might not be in the best position right now in Standard, the planeswalker itself is clearly powerful enough to find a home in Standard.
Matthias Hunt: Fact. I didn't give Teferi enough respect in my last Fact or Fiction . I'll take this opportunity to correct myself now: Teferi is one of the most powerful cards in Standard, and I expect it to see play in older formats as well. At first, I was skeptical of a five-mana planeswalker, but now I realize that I was thinking about it the wrong way. This is a three-mana planeswalker that you play on turn 5. Just the +1 ability by itself would be good enough for the card to see play, but when you add to that the fact that it can answer problematic permanents as well as win the game? Teferi is the full package.
I'm picking up my Teferis now because this card is going to be staple for the next eighteen months.
5. The Scarab God's days of dominating Standard are never coming back.
Collins Mullen: Fiction. Standard is nowhere near stable enough to make a claim that any archetype or card can't have its time in the sun. W/B Aggro was the perfect counter to U/W Control, because the threats lined up very well against Seal Away and Fumigate specifically. But the deck does not line up very well at all against Fatal Push and Vraska's Contempt.
If someone wanted to play a control deck in Standard right now, I would even recommend they go back to the removal spell-heavy U/W builds that we have seen in the past, and the natural finisher for those decks is The Scarab God.
Matthias Hunt: Fact. It was nice while it lasted but, in a way, we saw this coming. It may seem like a while ago, but The Scarab God wasn't always the king of Standard. When Hour of Devastation was released, the metagame was just wrong for a 5/5 for five, even with great abilities. Most decks were polarized to either be low to the ground (Zombies, Ramunap Red, G/B Constrictor) or to be playing for the late game (U/W Approach, U/R Control) and because of this, it was mostly seen as a way to break a Temur Midrange mirror.
Right now, it looks like we're in a similar place where the middle of the format is falling out. Without cards like Rogue Refiner, most decks are either aggro (six or less removal spells) or control (20+ removal spells) and that's just not the best environment for The Scarab God.
The Scarab God shines in a midrange deck where you can use a mix of removal and threats to build toward powerful four and five mana cards, but that deck is hard to play now. I think The Scarab God will still see play out of sideboards and as a finisher in control strategies, but in that regard it's competing with another five-mana mythic that--honestly--is just a better card.