Feature Article from Seth Manfield

Fact or Fiction: 20 Questions About Modern

Seth Manfield

8/15/2018 11:02:00 AM

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This week I'm trying something new: a straight-up Fact or Fiction-style article where I ask tough questions, and give my own opinion on the answer. Disclaimer: these questions are controversial or else they wouldn't be interesting, so I'm sure not everyone will agree with me. Some questions are broad, while other hone in on specific cards or decks. I'm interested on the feedback I receive, as that will help determine whether I write another article like this in the future!

Q1: Is Modern accessible to the average Magic player?

Verdict: Fact

This is a tough one to answer, as we are playing a game that does have a large financial cost associated with it, especially at higher levels of play. The Modern Masters sets do indicate an effort to drive costs down by having more old cards in circulation. Inevitably this does mean that cards that don't get reprinted go up in price on the flipside. The biggest reason I'm going fact here is that it is possible to choose a budget conscious deck and still succeed in this format. It is also nice that there is no single card that is much more than 100$, which is something compared to absurd prices of formats like Legacy, where there are cards that simply can't be reprinted.

Q2: Is Humans the best deck in Modern?

Verdict: Fiction

There is no clear top deck in Modern. Humans is the most heavily played archetype, but I'm not convinced that makes it the best deck. Personally, I have a great individual record against the deck, though I often choose to play Jeskai Control.

Q3: Does Militia Bugler make Humans a better deck than it was before?

Verdict: Fact

Even though the addition of Militia Bugler is relatively recent, the results are in, and this is an improvement to a deck that was already very good. Similar to this list from the previous Pro Tour, I don't advocate for playing a full playset as they can be clunky in multiples. This card allows you to find specific hate pieces against combo decks like Ironworks and Storm, which is nice to have access to, and is great with an Aether Vial in play.

Q4: Did KCI get better with access to Sai, Master Thopterist in the sideboard?

Verdict:Fact

Sai, Master Thopterist is a great card to have after sideboard, because it allows you to have a backup plan of winning with creatures. There are also loops that involve making infinite thopters, that you can do even with a card like Kambal, Consul of Allocation in play. Many decks are going to be taking out most or all of their removal vs you, and Sai provides a way to get real card advantage.

Q5: Is Negate worth playing in KCI?

Verdict: Fiction

While I am a fan of Sai, Master Thopterist, the other blue cards I'm not convinced on, when looking at Ben Stark's list from Pro Tour 25th Anniversary. The Negates being a two mana Counterspell can be awkward. One of the best uses for your Counterspells are to play an Ironworks with five mana available, and then have a one mana counter to stop the opponents Counterspell. Negate costing on additional mana is a real cost. I recommend either Dispel or Guttural Response.

Q6: Is Modern the most diverse competitive format?

Verdict: Fact

Modern is the format with the most unique viable decks. When going over the top 50 decks in the format I wouldn't be surprised to see any one of them win a large scale tournament. The result of having such a large card pool does allow for the creation of more decks, and we are lucky to have power levels reasonably distributed across these different decks.

Q7: Dredge is obsolete with other strong graveyard decks in the format

Verdict: Fiction

Even with Vengevine decks and Hollow One doing well I'm not one of the people that thinks Dredge is strictly worse than those other decks. It is true this is a deck that could be stronger with Golgari Grave-Troll still in the format, but it still has a ton of resiliency. Conflagrate is a great way to deal with opposing creatures, and Darkblast provides an additional form of interaction.

Q8: The Greater Gargadon list is the best version of Black-Red Vengevine

Verdict: Fact

I have seen versions of this deck without Greater Gargadon in them, and I believe this is a big mistake. Greater Gargadon gives the deck a completely different angle of attack, along with playing around big sweeper effects. The trick of sacrificing creatures to Greater Gargadon and then putting them back into play, while getting Zombies from a Bridge from Below is pretty absurd.

Q9: The Vengevine Deck is Broken

Verdict: Fiction

While some of the draws the Vengevine deck has are completely ridiculous, the deck also has a fail rate. When the deck looks good, it seems amazing, but I believe this is simply another deck in the format. It is good and strong enough to play, but other decks can adapt and put cards like Grafdigger's Cage in their sideboards.

Q10: Modern is a format that is not skill intensive

Verdict: Fiction

Some of the games can be high variance, where you have very little control, but that is often the case regardless of format. On the flipside there are many games and matchups in Modern that are very interesting. You can also actively make a deck choice based on wanting to interact with your opponents, as control decks are some of the best choices to reward skill.

Q11: Jeskai Control is old news, White-Blue Control is the better deck

Verdict: Fiction

While White-Blue Control is currently the more popular control deck, this is very metagame dependant. Both decks have different strengths and weaknesses, and I don't believe one deck is better than the other based on power level. Jeskai is the deck I want against Humans, but White-Blue Control having access to powerful sideboard cards like Rest in Peace is quite important. I can see either deck being the better choice dependent on the expected metagame.

Q12: Splashing in Tron isn't a good idea right now

Verdict: Fact

I am someone who has happily splashed in Tron, as the cost is seemingly low, yet I don't recommend doing so right now. One of the reasons is there isn't any one card that I feel the deck really wants from other colors. Having a bit of black for Collective Brutality is important if you expect Burn, but right now the deck isn't hugely popular. Playing a lot of Forests is also important against White-Blue Control because they are attacking you with Field of Ruin and Path to Exile.

Q13: Ancient Stirrings should be banned

Verdict: Fiction

Ancient Stirrings is one of the best cards in Modern, and goes in a number of the top decks, but that doesn't mean it should be banned. The format is actually quite healthy right now. Decks like Ironworks would likely not exist without this card in the format.

Q14: Storm is better without any fetchlands

Verdict: Fiction

Perhaps more than any other question I have been asked over the past couple weeks, if playing without fetchlands is the way to go in Storm. I believe that fetchlands do make the deck better. This is a tough concept to fully prove, as the lifeleoss is a real cost. However, the primary argument, is that Storm is a deck that needs a critical amount of spells, and this means not wanting to topdeck lands especially the turn you are going off.

Sometimes finding an untapped fourth land is useful, but I find myself more often looking for a key card like a Ritual or Manamorphose. By playing fetchlands you are able to thin out a couple of lands from your deck, and are thus less likely to draw them later on. Considering the deck is full of cantrips, and you are going through a large portion of your library this is quite relevant. Not playing fechlands makes flooding a bit more likely. I have a lot of respect for Caleb Scherer and the work he has put into this deck, but I am going to advocate for what I believe to be correct.

Q15: Bant Spirits is a better deck than straight White-Blue Spirits

Verdict: Fact

Having seen both versions of Spirits in action, I do believe that the Bant version with Collected Company in it is better. Collected Company is just an absurd card in this sort of deck, as you want the majority of plays to come at instant speed, and being able to put two creatures into play, including possible lords, will throw off combat math.

Q16: Jund is still the best Thoughtseize deck

Verdict: Fiction

After the unbanning of Bloodbraid Elf there was a ton of hype around the emergence of Jund. The unbannings ended up having much less of an impact than players thought they would. Jund is a fine deck, but the power level is not higher than the other Thoughtseize decks. Reactive black decks like Jund have generally not been doing as well in the current metagame, as many decks have been built to largely play off the top of their libraries. Personally, my favorite Thoughtseize deck at the moment is Grixis Death's Shadow, but I don't believe there is one that is clearly the best at the moment.

Q17: Modern is a format where brewers can thrive

Verdict: Fact

I do believe that it is possible to brew up great Modern decks that other players have not thought about yet. Just look at the Ironworks deck or the new Vengevine deck, these were not decks that were largely on players radars. Then after a big tournament result they popped up, but whether it is an innovation to known archetypes or creating a brand new deck, there is room for innovation. The best time to try out new strategies remains after a set release, as there are often hidden gems lurking.

Q18: The Most Underrated Deck in Modern is Hardened Scales Affinity

Verdict: Fact

The Hardened Scales deck hasn't been around the format for that long, so players are still sleeping on it a little bit. Online though it is putting up big results and is one of the best decks to play against Humans. The power level is high as quick wins are easy to come by, and the modular mechanic is bonkers alongside Hardened Scales. The manlands do great work in this deck, similar to their use in regular Affinity decks.

Q19: The Best Aggro Deck in Modern is Burn

Verdict: Fact

Personally, I have been a longtime advocate for Burn, and as far as pure aggression this is my recommended archetype. For newer players this is always the deck I recommend picking up and trying as it is relatively easy to play.

Q20: Wizards will never make a change to the Modern card pool outside of banning individual cards

Verdict:Fiction

This is mere speculation, but I do believe there is a chance in the future we will see the creation of a new format, and the Modern format could split into two different formats. At a certain point continuously adding new set after new set could have consequences, we are not there yet, but in a few years I wouldn't be surprised to see something like this happen. I remember the days of the old Extended format, which became essentially the current version of Modern.

Thanks for reading,
Seth Manfield