A lot has been happening recently regarding the infrastructure of new Magic, the Khans of Tarkir set spoilers, and the various subjects at PAX Prime. I have been off in my own little world trying to bring as many cool brews as I can to the format before it rotates here in a couple of months. As a result, I have not really gotten to share my thoughts on the current plan for organized play and the current plan for Magic as a whole, so I figured I would do so today in one sweeping effort.
If there is a particular topic you are interested or some that you aren't, each should be clearly labeled so that you can jump around as you see fit. I tried to briefly explain what each is about but hopefully all of this has been at the forefront of water cooler talk by now and we are all well acquainted.The New Standard Rotation
This is probably the biggest change to hit anywhere as it impacts casual players all the way up to the Pro Tour. If you do not know by now, Standard will now rotate twice a year using a new block structure that leaves us with two new set blocks twice a year and no more core sets. That is a very brief explanation, so if you want to be fully caught up to speed, there are articles on the mothership with help for you.
The way I see this issue is that we can really look at it in two parts. The first is the change to block structure. Big set, small set, big set, small set is a pretty nice rhythm to get into and is something that Core sets never really allow for. While I am a big fan of where Core sets have moved in recent years, I am so because they have become more and more like that of expert sets. New cards in the core set, reprinted mechanics, and robust limited play were all things that expert level sets were doing for us. The Core set was moving more and more toward that direction and in general, along with great design, that is why we were loving the new Core set style.
In the new world, we lose that Core set, sure, but we gain what we wanted all along; another expert level set. It gets to have all the cool mechanics we love and the lore backing it up that makes blocks so fun.
There is an argument that Core sets exist to usher in new players, but that is not really all that true. As someone who has worked in multiple card stores, let me tell you that when a new player walks into the store looking to get into Magic, if the Core set is not the most recent set released, they have no interest in it. They want cards that are going to be legal for as long as possible and they want to get in on the same level as everyone else. Are new players supposed to come in on our terms 3/4s of the year? Obviously not.
Once the Core set is gone and we move to four expert sets a year, the 2/2 structure for two blocks a year totally fits. They could keep the current model and release a gimmick set as the fourth set every year, but they didn't like what third sets were doing, functionally and financially. Once you agree to move to a "two set block, two blocks a year" format, you just cannot keep the same rotation. That would be four blocks in Standard at a time which starts to feel like old Modern. The number of sets is fine, but the number of blocks gets to be a bit much.
Besides, the old system was created in a world where information was much slower to travel and metagames did not develop as quickly. Things get stale a lot more quickly these days as there are thousands of people trying to break the format at all times online and decklists are available at the click of a mouse.
This creates an actual need for faster change and the six-month faster-overall two year rotation is not a big enough factor to upset collectors in my opinion. As the game continues to grow, cards will continue to sell.
It is also just nice having consistent rotations. No explanations of awkward Core Set tag alongs that get involved with certain rotations and stuff. Now, you know exactly how long each and every set is sticking around and I like that. I think it should make keeping up with Standard easier on newer players overall.Fetchlands in Khans
So, if you were not aware and not on any social media sites, then spoiler alert: the original Onslaught fetches are being reprinted.A lot of people have asked me how I feel about the reprinting of fetchlands. This is a pretty big topic to cover, but I will try to touch on all of the relevant points as I see it.
First of all, I am a firm believer in cards being available for the people to play more so than anything else. This is a game. A game is meant to be played. This game happens to have some older formats that heavily rely on fetchlands as the Lifeblood and defining feature of the format. When the prices of cards like that reach an absurd number, there is barrier to entry into the format. Eventually, with less and less people able to enter the format, it slowly dies out.
If you do this to enough formats you eventually end up killing the game altogether. Or, you could take a different route which is to just ban all of these expensive cards, but that would "betray the collector's trust" in the same way, if not worse, than reprinting them would.
Keeping Legacy healthy and reprinting one of the most iconic land cycles ever seems positive to me. There are arguments against the shuffling that they cause and whatnot but I just don't see it. I am all for Wizards reducing shuffling where it isn't needed, but at the end of the day, this is a physical card game and there is going to be shuffling. Period.
In terms of what the fetchlands mean for Standard, I am actually not a big fan of them being reprinted into this environment. Fetchlands do require shuffling which generally has a negative interaction with scry, the most prominent mechanic of the last block and the mechanic found on the other cycle of 10 dual lands. That might make for some awkward interactions at times, but it does look to play well with cards like Courser and the delve mechanic, so it might all balance out.
They will be used as fixers of course, but without shocklands in the format, they won't be all that exciting in Standard. These will have some upside over traditional painlands and some downside, so expect them to fall into a similar area.
In Modern, these don't actually change all that much as five fetchlands and ten shocklands already made for excellent mana. This will help some decks fight against Blood Moon with more reliable basic searches and a few decks will love the upgrade, but I wouldn't expect any new deck to pop up as a result of these reprints.
I am glad that they decided to come up with new art for these and they are already on a new border and frame. This will help to keep the original Onslaught fetchlands in demand, especially with the foil star shooting across the face. Those fetches are still going to go down in price, but this is something that will help them a little bit at least.Standard Pro Tours
The initial shift to make all Pro Tours Standard next year makes some sense. Standard is the most popular format after all and it gets the best viewership. The idea seems less good when you consider the environment that is created and how the spectacle becomes much worse when the format is dull or repetitive. The various weekly or monthly series are nice, but the Pro Tour is special and it wants to be so much more than that.
I personally am a fan of two Standard Pro Tours a year, at times when the format is drastically different such as during the two block shifts or something along those lines. I would like those other two Pro Tours to be something different though, to keep Pros on their toes and to drive these formats for other places. Where is Modern without the Pro Tour? A couple of Grand Prix a year are all that remains? Sounds pretty lame if you ask me.
As a brewer, I want there to be as many points of novelty as possible. These come when a new large set releases or when a set is rotated out. When that happens, the metagame tends to be less solved and deck building gets rewarded. Once a format has been explored though, it is really tough for a deck builder to find an edge these days. This shift in the way Standard is run does give more rotations which equates to more points of novelty. That means that all Standard Pro Tours would certainly be better under the new system than the old, but I still think it lacks excitement, especially as a player.
I was quite happy to hear that the first Pro Tour next year has been reverted to Modern. If nothing else, it is good to know that the powers that be listen to us when it comes to things that directly impact the game we love. Sometimes we get our gripes wrong, but in this case, I fully support the cries for diversity of formats and am glad they were heard.New PTQs
This is a change for a little further back but is something I never got to discuss. This involves the shift from individual PTQs in cities to a bunch of store level PTQs that feed into a larger regional PTQ that then feeds into the Pro Tour.
In general I think this is a great change. Currently, the PTQ is almost a lifestyle you must commit to. You need to be willing to travel multiple weekends a month to play in a tournament where it is first or burst. In the New England area this is quite the grind and they are driving a few hours usually. Compare this to Colorado where outside of our typical Denver PTQ, the next closest location is over five hours away and most other locations are over eight hours away; that requires a huge dedication to the game and is not something that a father or full-time worker can really afford to do.
I think that smaller, store level PTQs allow people to set aside a few hours or maybe a day on the weekend and go give getting on the Pro Tour a shot. If they win, they get to schedule everything for the Regional PTQ ahead of time. That means requested time off, or a babysitter whatever it may be. This new system is so much more practical for the people who can't make Magic their job and it turns out, that is most people.
I expect there to be some real kinks at first. Some stores are just not going to know how or have the capability to run a PTQ. That said, once things get ironed out and regulations get put in place, this seems like a positive step for the community as a whole.
Remember that once you get to these Regional PTQs, you will often only need to make Top 8 to qualify for the Pro Tour. That is a lot easier than a traditional PTQ and will make these events really fun to attend if you and your friends happen to qualify.
I think that giving Silver players an auto-invite to the Regional PTQ is a great benefit to award people who put in that level of effort. Silver is a division of the Pro Player's club that does not get much love even though it is a hard thing to achieve and this is a nice bonus for those players.Wrap Up
With Standard quickly coming to a close and a rotation looming, I have not been putting much effort into new brews. Next week I expect to bring you an article with updates and discussion on my most played Standard decks and then I expect the conversation to shift to Khans of Tarkir. As always, thanks for reading!