[Welcome back to Fact or Fiction ! Today, 2014 SCG Tour® Players' Champion , Brad Nelson, and 2016 SCG Tour® Players' Champion, Jim Davis, give their takes on five statements inspired by the latest Banned and Restricted announcement by Wizards of the Coast. . Read their responses and vote for the winner at the end!]
1. Unbanning Jace, the Mind Sculptor was a good decision.
Brad Nelson: Fact. Good is a relative term. What one perceives as good may contradict another's opinion as they deem it bad. For example, Shaheen Soorani thinks this unbanning is good since he will only play control decks. I, on the other hand, would normally consider this a bad decision since I don't want to play with control decks. That said, as a newly formed Eldrazi Tron player, I'm okay with this decision as Reality Smasher trumps the hell out of Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
As for Modern, I'm unsure just like everyone else. It may make the games more fun, but also could put a damper on the format. Luckily Modern is Modern, and by that I mean a giant dumpster fire of a format. There's a million decks that don't interact well with each other, and for many that's the selling point. The unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor perpetuates the fact that threats dominate answers in the format. WotC's decision to bring this card back just goes to show that they want Modern to be the format where you do cool stuff, and hope it's better than the cool stuff your opponent's doing.
Honestly, I'm fine with that.
Jim Davis: Fiction. Wow.
Wizards of the Coast has suffered from a pretty poor timing problem lately, often doing the right thing but at the wrong time or for the wrong reasons.
Given the rampant success and appeal of the Modern format, people have been clamoring for a Modern Pro Tour for a while. With a year of failed Standard formats in the books, WotC decides to give us a Modern Pro Tour... just as Standard finally finds its footing as the best it has been in a long time. Now after a very successful Modern Pro Tour featuring perhaps one of the most diverse and exciting metagames in the history of the game, WotC decides to drop this bombshell.
I'm very torn on calling this decision fiction because I've been a pretty staunch advocate for the unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor in Modern for the last year or two. Ever since I spent some time piloting the Jeskai Nahiri deck a few years ago and wondered if I would even play Jace, the Mind Sculptor over Nahiri, the Harbinger, I've considered the fact that a four mana, sorcery speed card that doesn't have a strong impact on the battlefield and is bad when you are behind is not going to break the Modern format in half.
So why fiction?
I'm not going to lie I was very close to fact on this one, but it just seems foolish to me to mess with a great thing. Modern right now is pretty much the apex of what one could want in a format: there's a truckload of playable and different decks, all strategies are viable, the players who are putting in the time are winning, and it's a blast to watch because you never know what is going to happen yet. When you've got things balanced more perfectly than you ever have before, it feels weird to change it up.
I think Jace, the Mind Sculptor is a reasonable unban, I just think the timing is poor.
2. Unbanning Bloodbraid Elf was a good decision.
Brad Nelson: Fact. Bloodbraid Elf isn't going to be that good. It was a symptom of the disease we know call Deathrite Shamanitus. That mana dork ruined the format, but we unfairly blamed Bloodbraid Elf for its indiscretions. I don't even think the card's going to make waves in the format as I've played a little with it in the VS Series and was extremely underwhelmed.
Jim Davis: Fact. Wait what?
What about "When you've got things balanced more perfectly than you ever have before, it feels weird to change it up."? Didn't you just say that if the format is already great why mess with it?
Yes, but I also said I was extremely close on the matter because I feel that Jace, the Mind Sculptor is probably a safe unban. So why am I more okay with Bloodbraid Elf? Put mildly, Bloodbraid Elf ain't got nothing on Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
Bloodbraid Elf is a great Magic card that will certainly see a ton of play in Modern, but I don't think it ever needed to be banned in the first place. Bloodbraid Elf died for Deathrite Shaman's sins before everyone realized that Deathrite Shaman was actually the problem, and has been a casualty of that crossfire ever since. Yes, Bloodbraid Elf into Kolagan's Command is very good. Yes, Bloodbraid Elf into Liliana of the Veil will be as good as it ever was. However sometimes you're just going to cascade into a worthless Fatal Push or Abrupt Decay, or worse, be dead (or effectively dead) the turn after you cast it. Bloodbraid Elf is a great tool but just doesn't put away games like Jace, the Mind Sculptor does.
It's going to be a lot of fun to see how Bloodbraid Elf fits into the Hollow One/Vengevine decks, as well as how it plays with all the new tools that have been printed since it was unfairly locked away.
3. With the unbanning of Jace, the Mind Sculptor, blue-based control deck will now dominate Modern.
Brad Nelson: Fiction. Dominate is a strong word. Will Jace, the Mind Sculptor control decks over-perform in the initial weeks? Probably, but I'd imagine the best Jace decks will eventually become tempo-based. That's what happened with Jace, the Mind Sculptor in Standard all those years ago, and I'd imagine the same will happen in Modern. It's just difficult for a control deck with Jace, the Mind Sculptor to keep up with a tempo deck with the same card. Options are important, and the midrange decks have more of them as they also have avenues to pressure opposing Jace, the Mind Sculptors with cards like Geist of Saint Traft.
Jim Davis: Fiction. We seem to be past a point of any one deck or archetype dominating the format, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor won't be changing that.
There are too many powerful things happening in Modern for blue control to ever hit the level of domination, as there are too many powerful proactive strategies that you need to be able to answer. Without the ability to defend itself or you from the many broken things that can happen on turn 4 or 5 of a Modern game, it's going to be an extremely risky proposition for a blue deck to be tapping out for Jace, the Mind Sculptor in a lot of matchups. We've seen this with Geist of Saint Traft, and that card costs three mana! You can't just play Jace and back it up with a Force of Will like you can in Legacy.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor is honestly better in midrange strategies and decks with more proactive plans that can get him out early and in conjunction with other threats. If you're already struggling to deal with the Tarmogoyf or whatever threat your opponent has presented and then they play a Jace, the Mind Sculptor that's a crux that's very hard to escape.
Jace will change the face of what value-based decks look like in Modern, but it won't be all control, all the time. (Sorry, Shaheen!)
4. With the unbanning of Bloodbraid Elf, Jund will be the midrange deck of choice in Modern
Brad Nelson: Fiction. Honestly I have no idea. Like I should just be answering this question as "Jund Guy" saying things like, "OUR PROMISED ONE HAS RETURNED", but the truth is Jund never really did anything for me. It took a long time to realize this since I was always doing "okay" with the deck, but I never got to accomplish anything with the deck. Even after years of playing it. I just think B/G midrange decks aren't that good. "But Reid Duke did well with Abzan" is what I think many are thinking, but the question to ask yourself is if Reid Duke played Taking Turns would you also jump off that bridge? Yeah, didn't think so!
Jim Davis: Fact. Jund may not be the final form of whatever the best midrange deck in Modern ends up being, but it will certainly be the starting point.
Jund has fallen by the wayside lately, with both Abzan and Mardu taking up the majority of the Thoughtseize/Fatal Push/Liliana of the Veil slice of the metagame, but Bloodbraid Elf puts quite a bit of wind back into its sails.
Both Abzan and Mardu utilize Lingering Souls as a major part of their long game plan, giving them the edge they need in any sort of attrition-based game in fair matchups. Jund, while a bit better against the unfair decks of the format thanks to a slightly faster clock and Dark Confidant, has historically struggled against Lingering Souls because it ends up just not having the material to come out ahead in the grind.
Bloodbraid Elf changes that dynamic, both in providing great battlefield presence and card advantage right away, as well as over and over again in conjunction with Kolagan's Command and perhaps Liliana, the Last Hope. Jund will now be able to grind with the best of them, while also maintaining its slightly more aggressive stance.
While Jund is likely to be the midrange of choice to start, I wouldn't be surprised if the best midrange deck ends up being Sultai with Jace, the Mind Sculptor joining forces with the usual green and black midrange tools.
5. In light of today's announcement and detailed explanations, you're excited about Modern's future.
Brad Nelson: Fact. After extensively testing for Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan I can now say I love Modern and think it's a great format. I just don't think it's a good format for high-stakes competition. I don't want to travel far for the format since it's difficult to consistently do well. As a professional player you have to try to maximize your edge as much as possible, and Modern has made it difficult for most of us to do this. That doesn't mean the format needs to be "fixed" though. After all, it's my opinion. The format's extremely enjoyable to play casually as you don't play against the same three decks over and over again. You also get into more unique game states so you rarely have repeat play patterns.
These unbannings won't change Modern, which is a good thing. Sure they may cause new decks to be played, and invalidate others, but all cards are guilty of that. A good shakeup every once and a while is a good thing for the format. I may continue to play Eldrazi Tron, but am excited about playing against Jace, the Mind Sculptor, as I've never had to think about how to play against the card before. That sounds fun to me! It also sounds fun completely bashing Jund players trying to play 3/2 haste creatures into a sea of powerful Eldrazi.
If the unbannings were today, you'd probably have found me at #SCGINDY this weekend doing battle. That goes to show you just how excited I am!
Jim Davis: Fact. While I am surprised by timing of the unbannings, as a Magic player and content creator, format upheaval is always exciting.
There are now a million questions that I have about Modern, and finding the answers is a blast! I get to stream my brews, write about how I think things are going to turn, and of course enjoy playing on a brand new battlefield in every tournament I attend. Creating content is even easier when they basically hand you a brand new toy and tell you to play with it and talk about it.
After a rough 2017, Magic is off to a great start in 2018. I can't wait to play more Standard, and I was already excited about Modern and now we've got even more to chew on. Say nothing of possible Vintage, Pauper, Legacy, and No-Ban-List Modern events too!
Excited is a good word.