This week I was going to take a glimpse into some fun, off beat decks that you can assemble for a fairly cheap price tag and have fun playing at your LGS that will leave your opponents scratching their head asking what just happened. Mark Rosewater and Wizards of the Coast made a major announcement yesterday that have delayed my plans of introducing fun new decks to talk about how standard is going to be changing in the coming years. This announcement was huge and it certainly is not a Disney Fairy Tale as there has been a decisive split in the magic community regarding the changes.
In case you happen to live under a rock that shelters you from Magic news far and wide I’ll give you a brief overview of the changes that we are about to see happen in the world of Magic the Gathering.
#1 We will now have TWO blocks released per year
You might know how currently right now we get one block per year that contains 3 sets, marked by a large set in the Fall and then followed by a random variety of other sets, normally small, large throughout the season? Well the Khans of Tarkir block will be the last to follow this format, following that we will get TWO blocks per year, but each block will contain only two sets. We will get a big set in the Fall and a smaller set near the start of the new year. Our spring release will then be the big set of a brand new block and the summer release will be the smaller set that compliments the new block. So in essence we are now going to have two, two set blocks per year.
#2 You guessed it; this means we will no longer have core sets
Personally I am okay with this as I have never been a big fan of the core set, it didn’t provide enough complexity, and it merely served as a nostalgic compliment that had issues standing out on its own (with a few notable exceptions like M15). If you are however a fan of the core set, the summer of 2015 will be the last core set released, so enjoy it. Wizards will certainly do something else to introduce new players to the game… I imagine through something like bringing back starter decks.
#3 Standard will rotate twice per year and cards will stay legal for 18 months
Cards in Standard will no longer be in play for a two year period. With the release of the new block in the Fall and the new block in the Spring standard will rotate out the back two sets. This means that standard will be constantly changing and will always have 5 or 6 sets legal at a time. Khan’s of Tarkir will be splitting into “two parts” for the rotation, with the first set and the second set being part of one rotation, while the second set and the final core set will make up the other part of the rotation. To give you a better idea, this means that standard will take a massive shift every 6 months.
What does this all mean for me as a player?
Here is where I guess it gets a little bit touch and go as the opinions are very, very different. The only thing that I can do is try to provide my opinion and take a look from a more objective stand point as to what this could mean for Standard and for you as a player. To get it out of the way I guess I will tell you my opinion on the changes; I am a fan.
Deck building is what I love to do and standard is my favorite format, it may not have the card pool that the eternal formats have, but what it does have is a changing landscape that puts your talents of being able to evaluate cards and find synergies to the test. I truly love this challenge and I am more excited by the fact that these changes will make that love and that skill all the more important. As a person who has been running Monoblue Devotion since the Theros block came out, I understand what happens when a deck goes stale and this isn’t the first time. Remember Faeries? Remember Jund? Remember Valakut Ramp?
These are decks that topped the format and just sat there, doing their thing and dominating a format with very little competition and everyone plus their dog was running them. I like that a quicker rotation will eliminate that issue or at least make it shorter term. I also like that we have four flavour filled and exciting sets to draft and no longer have to worry about the hit or miss that is core set. Again from a deck building perspective; limited is a very attractive feature so draft will get that much more exciting.
Okay, enough about me what does this say for you? I think I am going to break this down into three distinct communities to talk about it. The Pro’s or the Pro Hopefuls, the Casual to Semi-Casual Player, and the Local Game Stores!
The Pro’s and the Pro Hopefuls
Knowing that Pro Tours will contain a bunch of limited and three of them a year will be Standard is a pretty big deal with this new announcement. For the most part pro players are loving it, I can barely find a negative comment amoung them. Why? Well to start they often have larger play groups, easier access to cards, and quite frankly more dedication to finding out what works and what doesn’t work. This means a constantly changing and evolving format that is harder to figure out and brings a lot more depth to the game and allows many more ideas to flourish. As a Pro Hopeful myself that is a very enticing prospect.
In a lot of ways many of these players won’t be as affected by the biggest impact this could have and that is on the wallet. They will be more diligent with rotation, shrewd with their trading, and with playgroups, sponsors, and stores they sometimes just straight up have the access to the cards. So while it certainly will be a strain on a few wallets here and there, overall the thought of a more exciting play environment is one that they appear to love.
The Casual to Semi-Casual Player
This is a very, very large population of the magic player base. A lot of these player have been turned off by the standard format and prefer more eternal formats like Modern, EDH, or Legacy and some of them just like to play standard at their local game store during FNM’s or maybe other large tournaments. This base is very apprehensive about the changes and it doesn’t seem like it is going to attract them to standard anytime in the near future. The main thing we talk about here is “value for the card”.
A quicker rotation schedule means that a card is going to retain its value for a shorter period of time. It also means that it is going to become more expensive to keep up with the format as it will be changing so often. I argue that in some ways the fun, inexpensive rogue decks stand a better chance in this format … but for those players who like to wait and see how the PT turns out and then net deck, this could very well become an expensive proposition. There is also speculation on both sides to what it will do to card prices. Are cards prices going to go up because they are playable for a shorter period of time? Maybe the will drop because they are playable for a shorter period of time and the need to rotate and the variety of the format will keep things too competitive and fresh?
We can really only speculate about the economy of the new rotation until it starts up. I do tend to subscribe to in general card prices will remain lower as when you have a more varied format they actually tend to because there isn’t as many individual power cards. But I could very well be wrong. One thing I know for certain, is standard cards that are released that manage to break into legacy or modern ARE going to be more expensive than they normally would because that shorter rotation provides that much added value to the cards.
The Local Game Stores
Now I stated that we could only speculate about the economy of the new rotation, but in the past 24 hours this is an area that has been doing a lot of speculating. After I read the article, I was on the phone with a few owners of a few different game stores who I am friends with and I received the same reaction from each of them… apprehension. There is some serious worry about how this will affect the secondary card market in singleton selling and also how it will affect player bases. They are concerned about price spikes that make it much harder to move cards and perhaps even more worried that the rotation and the constant changing of the format will begin to price players out of standard.
Modern and Legacy provide great “spike sales” a big purchase here or there, or a couple singleton’s here or there. Standard is what truly drives the sales of Magic base and like Wizard’s your local game store is a business and they have to make money in order to provide you with business. If the rotation starts to price players out that could very well effect their sales and perhaps in an unsustainable way; many players who price out leave the game altogether and don’t drop into eternal formats, even EDH is becoming an expensive proposition these days.
But of course that is looking at the doom and gloom side of things. There is the OTHER side of the spectrum that it could have the opposite effect. A wide and diverse standard where there are many more options could actually see prices stay the same, but bring in a wider crowd who enjoy the varied environment and having the ability to try their new ideas. Instead of seeing major spikes in card prices, there might be a more sustainable minor spike, one or two dollars across the board that actually increases profits and sales. Trust me when I say though, I am amoung the minority of optimistic people.
So what does it all mean?
Well we don’t really know. There are a lot of variables to take into account and it will probably be two or three years before we truly understand the impact that these changes have. We know the economics of Magic are going to shift and we know we are going to be entering an era where standard is more diverse, is richer in flavour, and constantly changing. The game is evolving and we can’t improve a game without evolving and Magic has truly withstood the test of time and I am looking forward to this next chapter. I’d love to hear your comments, questions, thoughts and opinions so feel free to ask.
Remember you can always comment or hit me up on Twitter at Josh_Bickle if you have any questions or would like to see a particular card or deck discussed!
Until next time. Keep on Searching!