There's so many things going on in Modern these days it is easy to lose track of The Truth (trademark GerryT) . The format is prone to outbursts of nonsense, metagames so wide that even the top decks are things you have played five matches against in a week of Magic Online testing, and so many decks that it is near impossible to comprehend the metagame at large.
I'm not going to pretend to have a perfect idea of how the format works, but I spent a month testing it for Pro Tour 25th Anniversary. These are some of the false beliefs I had leading in that were dispelled by testing, and some of the opinions I've seen floating around that are just wrong.
Lie 1. Stitcher's Supplier Is the New Busted Tool R/B Vengevine Needed
Matt Severa went into detail on R/B Vengevine last week, and his squad with Gerry Thompson weren't the only ones trying it for the Pro Tour. My team put a lot of work into R/B Vengevine, with about half of us actually playing it. One of the things we did as prep was lay out 100 random opening hands then label them as keepers or mulligans.
A Stitcher's Supplier trigger hits a Bridge from Below or Vengevine one-third of the time. If you don't have a Viscera Seer to retrigger it, you are probably failing to find a relevant effect. If you do have the sacrifice outlet, congrats, you are a slight favorite to put a Vengevine or Bridge from below in your graveyard on turn 2. Hope you have all the other pieces to do something awesome. A second actual Supplier doesn't help much either as turn 2 Seer plus Supplier means you are past the second creature Vengevine trigger before your later mills occur. (Maybe that's an odd argument for Greater Gargadon as it isn't a creature cast?)
If you are taking until turn 3 to hit something and get your engine going, that's just not what your deck is trying to do. Play Dredge if slow and steady is your speed. R/B Vengevine is about crunching people with threats on turn 1 or 2.
Yeah, Stitcher's Supplier is a Zombie for Gravecrawler. Casting Gravecrawler from graveyard as a 2/1 isn't a big deal. Gravecrawler honestly isn't even that good unless you have Bridge from Below and Viscera Seer, and then you will definitely have a different Zombie.
Really, Stitcher's Supplier wishes it could be Putrid Imp. Honestly, I would take a one mana 0/1 with the text "When this enters the battlefield, discard a card," which unfortunately is not part of the 1993-style throwbacks being printed this year.
Lie 2. Militia Bugler Lets Humans Out Grind Opponents
Truth: When has a 2/3 creature out-ground people in Modern?
That's quaint. You realize the entire point of the Lightning Bolt decks is to blank stupid creatures like this, right? I literally spent years of my life trimming random doofuses from my Birthing Pod decks to play enough cards that actually mattered against a Tarmogoyf, or I guess Young Pyromancer these days.
Where Militia Bugler is good is when you need another fractional copy of a big hitter. Militia Bugler lets you play like you have extra Thalia's Lieutenant in your deck. This will push your average clock up a bit, but not quite enough to race combo. It will make you great at breaking stalls, which might matter in mirror matches and against Hollow One. But Militia Bugler isn't grinding out any true attrition deck these days.
Okay, you might grind out a Jeskai player, but the only reason "Jeskai isn't a playable deck" wasn't a lie on this list is because that's already been established as a fact.
Lie 3. Modern is Inherently Open. Or Not Open.
Truth: Modern is probably the format where deck selection is driven by round-by-round results filtering the still in contention metagame the most.
One of the deep puzzles of tournament Magic that has captured my attention the most over the last couple years is the idea that the metagame of an event changes over the rounds played. The initial case for this was Affinity always crushing the early rounds of an event, but then ending up losing in the last couple to litter the top 32. It crushed the metagame at large, but by the time round thirteen rolled around it wasn't great.
Modern at the top tables come the end of an event is fairly predictable. Look at the metagame spreadsheet, add some percentage to the top decks, done. There's always an oddball or two, but things are pretty defined.
It's the early event that gets you. People joke about how they wouldn't have to play against Puresteel Paladin if they just had three byes, but there's a kernel of truth there. The importance of playing a deck with broad spectrum power matters a lot in the early rounds. The best four or five decks in the format are legitimately just better than the rest of the decks in the dark, and you get a lot of equity just bonking people over the head with that fact.
You have to prepare for a Modern event as if it was both an open metagame event, choosing a powerful deck, and a defined metagame event, choosing a deck that will win at the top tables.
Since it was Todd Anderson arguing one side and Ross Merriam arguing the other , I'll call this as them being both wrong. Also both being right, but they were both wrong too. And for good measure, I'll sneak in another "this is why Jeskai is bad" reference.
Lie 4. Mardu Pyromancer Is A Fair Deck
Truth: Calling a Modern deck "fair" these decks might just be a euphemism for "bad."
The Jund-y decks of Modern have been heralded as fair for a long time. I'm unsure that still applies, especially with Mardu Pyromancer.
Many games don't end in the true attrition way where you exchange cardboard and end up plus a card. A lot of games end due to Mardu spewing out something the other player just can't beat, whether it's answer or threat.
Part of this is just how Modern is these days. Ironworks and Tron aren't decks you beat by trading cards. Even Humans is moving in that direction due to Militia Bugler.
More so, Mardu is just full of cards that are more conditionally unbeatable with Faithless Looting tying it together. More Blood Moon, less Dark Confidant.
Lingering Souls is not an inherently interactive card. Your opponent can either ignore it, or they literally can't do anything that interacts profitably with it. It is never a two-for-one as if you ever have to trade cards, for Spirits you die.
When categorizing the best Modern decks I lumped Mardu Pyromancer with U/W Control as fair decks, but given my statements on U/W Control shifting to be less of a raw fair deck it might be time to do away with the notion all together. It's unfair threats and unfair answers all around.
Lie 5. My Non-KCI Combo Deck Beats Humans With…
Truth: It doesn't.
I've tried it all. Storm with removal? Yeah, hope they don't just have more things and a clock. Oh wait, they usually do. Ad Nauseam with Bontu's Last Reckoning? Phantasmal Image my Kitesail Freebooter.
Humans just has so many disruptive cards. The only reason Ironworks has things on lock is that Engineered Explosives is so darn good knocking out all of the things interacting with you. Also Ironworks has a bunch of backup answers to reopen lines and save time. Maybe I'm underestimating Grim Lavamancer as a tool out of Storm, but you can't take game 1 with it so I might be justified by default.
But what about…
No, G/R Scapeshift is also too slow. Yes, even when you draw Anger of the Gods because that isn't a combo piece like Engineered Explosives is. Amulet Titan might be the only thing close as yet another Engineered Explosives deck that has a slightly more deterministic, immediate kill. Even then, I'm skeptical when statements like "You need a Territorial Allosaurus in your deck" are involved.
Lie 6. U/W Control is a Favorite Against Humans
Truth: It's dead even at best.
There's this ingrained idea that control decks with sweepers just beat tribal decks. The vast majority of the time this is right.
But Humans? That's a completely different case. I skipped percentages talking about U/W Control last week , but I wouldn't consider Humans any better than "extremely close."
Since Jeskai is fairly favored against Humans, it is probably good to look at this as a study of differences.
U/W Control does have a ton of sweepers compared to Jeskai, but they are in a bit of a bind. Terminus is so much better than Supreme Verdict or Wrath of God, but that makes you want to condense down on card names in the face of Meddling Mage. Terminus also has a critical weakness to Aether Vial on two charge counters, letting Humans instantly drop a Meddling Mage or Kitesail Freebooter in response to the miracle trigger and stop the sweeper.
The bigger difference is probably just the raw density of spot removal. U/W Control gets to play a lot of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and other insane cards, but it trims down to five spot removal and two Snapcaster Mage to do so. One of the huge edges Jeskai has is that Kitesail Freebooter and Meddling Mage just die to whatever other answer they have. If they draw a sweeper, it is just going to happen. U/W Control can't assure that. It loses games to Meddling Mage Terminus, Phantasmal Image copy and name Path to Exile, and keep those out of combat until the lethal attack.
That doesn't mean there aren't things U/W Control can do to fight back, but you look really dumb in the games you lose. Like, literally do nothing and die dumb. And there's a fair number of those. It's the price you pay for winning against the metagame at large. Half the time you draw Terminus on time or flashback Path to Exile and easily win, half the time you die on turn 4 with two Logic Knots to their Cavern of Souls.
Maybe half is an overstatement. A number crunch of the team Pro Tour showed U/W Control teams won less than 40% of their matches against Humans teams. There's a lot of confounding factors here, and I'm sure people did stupid stuff with their lists to make it worse. But this should be a wakeup call to anyone playing U/W Control: You need to make concessions to the Humans matchup or you will lose to the default best deck in the format.
Lie 7. Anything Can Win in Modern
Truth: Modern is brutal, and successful rogue decks are usually exploits of specific metagames.
Good Modern decks are really good. You don't just doof your way to a win against Humans or Ironworks or Tron.
Yeah, it's cool that Hardened Scales Affinity or Bant Spirits are playable decks, but when it comes down to it the people with perfect selection and high Pro Tour stakes on the line chose the known best decks.
You aren't required to sleeve up one of the six best decks, but you need a very good reason to not do that and expect to win. Just doing Modern power level things is not a reason, at best its a prerequisite. Have you found a gap in sideboards with a strategy that wins against opponents lacking a specific hate card? Did a removal spell disappear from the metagame that suddenly makes a specific permanent a huge issue? Do you actually out compete Humans or Hollow One head to head?
If your goal is leaving with a trophy don't lie to yourself and play Saheeli Rai because it sounds cool. Play a deck that stacks up to the best of the best.