Hey everyone. As many of you may have heard, there are some big changes happening to Magic next year. For those of you that don't know what I'm talking about, check out Mark Rosewater's article explaining the changes here. Many players have voiced their opinions on these changes and for the most part they have been positive. Today I'm going to give my opinion on the changes and why I think they're good for Magic.
For reference, here's a quick rundown of the changes:
- Change #1: Beginning in the Fall of 2015, Magic Blocks Will Be Two Sets Each
- Change #2: Beginning in the Fall of 2015, Magic Will Have Two Blocks Per Year
- Change #3: Beginning in 2016, the Core Sets Are No More
- Change #4: Beginning in 2016, the First Set of Each Block (the Fall and Spring Sets) Will Cause a Rotation
- Change #5: Beginning in 2016, Standard Will Be Three Blocks Rather Than Two Blocks
Okay, it does sound a little overwhelming at first, but overall I think these changes are a great thing for Magic. I've been playing Magic for a long time. I haven't been playing from the very beginning like a lot of people I know, and I even used to be called the "baby" of my playgroup, having only played since Tempest was released in 1997. Now I'm considered a seasoned veteran with 17 years of experience under my belt. I've drafted every single Magic set since Urza's Saga and I definitely can say a lot about what worked and what didn't.Limited
While I've always enjoyed drafting three set blocks, we have always drafted with them significantly less than we've drafted three packs of the large fall set. Here's an example.
Theros came out last fall. Since its release I have been drafting the set at least once a day and even two to three times on some days. I really never got sick of it and seemed to find something new with each draft I did. We were drafting three packs of a large set, 249 cards. That's actually quite a lot to work with. Born of the Gods was released and we had something to add to the depth of Theros draft. It didn't change the format that much but it did give us a fresh perspective on the format.
By the time Journey into Nyx came out, I was really sick of Theros. After all we had been drafting it for six months at that point and many of the drafts were starting to run together. That's never something you want with a limited format. One of the things that is awesome about draft is that no two games are ever the same! When you are on your 500th draft with Theros packs, even with two additional sets mixed in, things start to get boring.
Testing for Pro Tour Journey into Nyx in Atlanta was a good indication of how we felt about the draft format. I went to Atlanta with about 12 draft sets of Theros so I could practice drafting with my team and get a good feel for the format. I left Atlanta after the Pro Tour with about 14 draft sets, more than I started with. I did exactly one practice draft for the Pro Tour. No one was interested in drafting because the format was redundant and boring. We knew Theros and Born of the Gods inside and out, and Journey into Nyx didn't really add very much to pick orders or how the games played out. Once we knew what the cards did, there was really no reason to do any more drafts.
After the Pro Tour I didn't draft Theros anymore and instead drafted a ton of Vintage Masters on Magic Online (one of the best formats I've ever drafted) and waited to get my real life draft fix when M15 came out which brings me to my next point: Core Sets.
I always look forward to drafting the latest Core Set for a few reasons. It's usually a fun, laid back format with much less interaction than the full block that year. There isn't a Pro Tour attached to it (except this year), so you don't have to worry about testing it and mastering it. The problem with Core Set draft formats is they tend to get old very quickly. I drafted M15 very heavily while testing for Pro Tour M15 but I haven't touched an M15 booster since then (well to be fair I did add some M15 packs to a multiplayer Conspiracy draft I did, but that was only because we didn't have enough Conspiracy boosters to go around). The point is Core Set draft isn't as deep as full block draft and gets boring after a few weeks. I don't see myself drafting again until Khans for that very reason.
I've been looking back at all of the Magic Sets I've drafted over the course of my Magic career and honestly my favorite formats have either been two-block or one-block formats. My favorites of all time are Modern Masters and Vintage Masters and it's really hard to compete with those, but I also really enjoyed Lorwyn, Shadowmoor, Zendikar, and Innistrad Blocks which were all two block formats. I also really liked Rise of the Eldrazi which was a standalone large set. It's almost as if Wizards knows what they're doing with these changes.
In fact, most of the three block sets I've drafted, while I've enjoyed them for the most part, got really boring after the third set got thrown in. One exception to that for me is Ravnica and Return to Ravnica blocks. I absolutely loved those formats, especially the original Ravnica block. I used to always look forward to when Magic Online did "throwback drafts" and allowed us to draft older formats and I used to be glued to my laptop whenever it was Ravnica's week.
This new change to Magic's set releases will only be a good thing as far as limited is concerned. Formats won't get stagnant as they previously did and if they do, a brand new block will be right around the corner.Constructed
I think the changes are overall great for constructed as well and they eliminate that Lull in the Summer where people don't really want to play much Magic. Summertime is when the Core Set is released and it's meant to shake things up and make the format fresh. The problem is by that time the cardpool is so big that it generally doesn't change anything at all. Take Pro Tour M15 for example. The whole point of the Pro Tour is for Wizards to showcase the new set to players and spectators and to get people excited about what the set can do in Standard. The problem with M15 is that it didn't really change the Standard format much at all.
Our team began our testing for Pro Tour M15 two weeks before the actual event. We wanted sufficient time to test all of the possible decks and potentially break the format. About a week into our testing we realized that we were just playing all of the same decks we played back in October: Monoblue and Monoblack Devotion, Esper Control, GW Aggro, Jund, and Monored. The Core Set added a few things to existing decks like better manabases for midrange decks. Rabble Red was created out of the previously existing Monored archetype and Nissa, Worldwaker was a main component in one of the Top 8 decks, but overall the decks remained the same and many teams came to the same conclusion. There were some teams that didn't have a "team deck" and just played whatever they were most comfortable with, and some players played the same deck that they played at Pro Tour Theros. The Core Set added some new cards but overall nothing really changed.
Now that the Pro Tour is over, a lot of players are really sick of Standard. I don't feel like playing with or against Monoblue, Monoblack, Jund, and Esper anymore and don't even look forward to going to events. I'm going back to my hometown to visit my family in a few weeks and coincidently there is a WMCQ taking place within a five hour drive from where I'm staying. At first I was making plans to attend the event but then I realized that there isn't a single deck that I want to play. If I'm not going to enjoy playing Magic then what's the point? In the end I decided to just stay home. I have a feeling that this attitude is not something that Wizards intended but with the format being as stale as it is right now, I just think my time will be better spent not traveling five hours to the WMCQ. As someone who loves playing Magic, this is not something that I ever expected to happen.
Players are really sick of playing not only the same archetypes and strategies, but also playing with and against specific cards. How many times have you groaned when your opponent played a turn one Thoughtseize followed by a turn two Pack Rat? How about when your opponent played a Sphinx's Revelation for seven? Last year it was Thragtusk and the year before it was Delver of Secrets and Primeval Titan. Players just want these cards to leave already!
With the new Standard formats rotating every 18 months instead of 24, this situation will rarely happen. Every six months we will have a fresh perspective of the format. A new set will be added to the rotation while an entire block will be leaving, so Standard will always be new and exciting. I've heard plenty of complaints about how your Standard cards will be losing value because you are losing six whole months of playability out of them, but I actually don't think that's true at all.
Remember when Theros rotated into the format last year? Not only did we get an entire new set of cards to brew with, but we also had to re-evaluate existing cards to see how they matched up with the new cards. No one played Pack Rat, Frostburn Weird, Planar Cleansing, and Tidebinder Mage last year, but Theros gave us tools to make those cards great. Now, every six months we will have to re-evaluate cards from two different blocks. That actually gives you more value and playability out of your Standard cards. I believe that overall there will be more innovation and more decks to choose from. With more playable decks in Standard overall, this change could also increase the budget options available in Standard. As of right now, the only cheap, competitive deck to play in is Rabble Red. If you're a budget player and you hate beatdown decks, you're going to have a really hard time enjoying the current format, so this change is a positive one for players with a limited income.
I can't argue that you will be losing six whole months of playability out of your Standard collection and the cards will go down in value sooner, but with Magic constantly changing and overall being more fun I think the value will balance itself out.
Finally, I think that this new rotation policy will improve Modern and Eternal formats. With Standard cards rotating out more quickly and thus decreasing in price, it means that they will be much easier to pick up for Modern. Additionally, Wizards will be less reluctant to reprint powerful cards with Modern in mind because they won't "ruin" Standard for two whole years. As we all know, Thoughtseize was reprinted mostly because $80 for a one mana discard spell was outrageous and Wizards wanted the card to be more accessible. I wouldn't say that it ruined Standard but the card was more frustrating to play against than not. I hope that this policy change will bring more reprints to the table as I'd love to see the Onslaught Fetches come back.Conclusion
Overall I have nothing negative to say about this new set release policy and see nothing but positive outcomes resulting from these changes. What I don't like is having to wait an entire year to see these changes in action. Wizards definitely exceeded my expectations with these changes and I'm really looking forward to see how they play out.
Next week I'll be taking a look at some Khans spoilers. I won't be playing much Magic until the new set is released next month but I'll definitely be checking my computer when the new spoilers go live. I can't wait for Standard to rotate and start building decks for Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir. See you next week and thanks for reading!
Melissa DeTora@MelissaDeTora on Twitterwww.facebook.com/melissa.detora on Facebook