What We Learned—Format Stagnation (April 8)

Hello reader! What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. The goal is to take some of the events and articles polluting the Magic world, strip out the chaff (tournament reports, game theory, economics) and give you our superior opinion. Complaints are encouraged.

This week at least three local Magic players told me they were sick of Standard. They had various reasons for their disdain, but ultimately they were all prepared to just play Modern for the next few weeks leading up to the release of Dragon’s Maze. I can’t say I was too surprised by this. Gatecrash came out roughly two months ago, but with a plethora of high-level events these days, the meta-game settles pretty quickly and by this point in the release cycle the Standard format has become stagnant.

Now, personally, I don’t buy into this, because plenty of different decks are still winning tournaments. However, I completely understand the mentality of players who grow bored of the format after only eight weeks of existence. This is especially true for the Spring sets, because the set from two Falls back (Innistrad) has been Standard legal for 18 months now. That’s practically infinite time in Magic years. Cards like Unburial Rites and Snapcaster Mage have been around for the same period of time it takes most infants to start building a small vocabulary, and they’ll be around for another six months yet.

Yawn.

When I was very young, thirteen years old to be exact, I quit Magic for the first time in my life. I couldn’t keep up. I had a small allowance and things moved too quickly. In October of 1996, Mirage was released. I bought some starters and really enjoyed it and even got a box for Hanukkah. Then things took a turn for the worse. In February Visions came out, and I didn’t have enough money saved up to get a whole lot of cards. Then, in March Wizards released Fifth Edition and in June they released Weatherlight. In retrospect that wasn’t awful, but at thirteen I was overwhelmed (and studying for my Bar Mitzvah) and took a break from the game (which lasted three and a half years until Invasion was released).

Nowadays we get 90 days between set releases and in some respects that is a very small period of time. For example, it can result in very short print runs, especially for the last set in a block. On the other hand, 90 days could be a very long period of time. If you play, for example, regularly at Twenty Sided Store, then you’re playing twice a week. Throw in a couple PTQ’s and you will have played 25+ tournaments in the same format from set-to-set. Apply this to the length of time the Fall expansion (Innistrad) is around and you will have played around 200+ tournaments in which Snapcaster Mage has been standard constructed.

There isn’t a cure for this phenomenon. If you’re bored of Standard it’s perfectly cool to play Modern or draft or Commander or Legacy or whatever you want for a couple weeks. I don’t think there’s anything Wizards could do either. Two months might be better for rotation, but logistically it would be a nightmare and more players, especially casual players, would get overwhelmed. For now, I recommend you just enjoy a month off of Standard and expand your horizons.

The Quick Hits

  • Heather Meek has everything you need to know about Grand Prix: Sin City, which is less than three months away! [LegitMTG]
  • Ever wished you could express your current emotional state as a Magic card? Now you can! [Gathering Magic]
  • MaRo kicked off April Fools over at the Mothership with a revisioning of the game’s mechanics. [Making Magic]
  • Not to be outdone, the MTGO team introduced MTGO Buddy, the full MS Word Paperclip treatment for MTGO. [Arcana]
  • The final bit of fun had by WotC on the first of April involved a new judge call system. I approve. [DailyMTG]
  • For a moment I thought someone forgot it wasn’t April Fool’s day anymore, but apparently Monsters vs Heroes is a real thing. [Arcana]
  • Part two of Abe Sargent’s top-100 multiplayer cards is up! Read it! [Gathering Magic]
  • LegitMTG is launching a new webcomic, and you can be in it, if you’re into that kind of thing. [LegitMTG]
  • Josh Krause interviewed MTG artist Liz Nugent for SCG. She makes cute art. Enjoy. [StarCityGames]
  • TCGPlayer had some solid pieces on emotions and game-play, starting with this piece by Lowry… [TCGPlayer]
  • … and continuing with this one on tilting by Jackie Lee … [TCGPlayer]
  • … and concluded by Melissa de Tora’s article on team building. [TCGPlayer]

Wallpaper of the Week

We got our first Dragon’s Maze wallpaper this week with the artwork from Maze’s End, which will be the pre-release promo for Dragon’s Maze. The artwork in the wallpaper is the art for the promo, not the normal art, as indicated in this older Arcana. Personally, I am thrilled to have a wallpaper that doesn’t focus on a single subject as we’ve had for several weeks now. Maze’s End is a lovely piece of art with a gorgeous sunrise over Ravnica.

Grade: A

The Week Ahead

By now you’re all bored with Gatecrash limited and the current Standard environment, so it’s high time you learned to play Netrunner.

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Comments
4 Responses to “What We Learned—Format Stagnation (April 8)”
  1. Matt Jones says:

    It’s funny, I usually want standard seasons to go LONGER, for there to be more time between sets. It’s clearly a capitalist scam (or, you know, just how capitalism works, which is almost invariably a scam) to pump out a set when people get “sick” of something. I’d bet the sickness is a symptom of being scammed. Anyway, I think Standard is dope, presently, and have few complaints (other than how frustrated you’ll see I am in my article later today). The frustrations should lead to dialogue and innovation.

    I agree a quicker rotation would be a nightmare and I’d totally just stop playing Magic. Shit moves too fast as is. There’ve gotta be dozens of answers to problems in the current Standard environment. Dig, everyone! Dig!

    Spoiler/speculation season drives me batshit crazy. I am so not looking forward to hearing everyone’s (mostly) lousy ideas of what new cards can do. Let’s get these cards and jam them in some decks and see, that’s what I say! HOORAY!!! But seriously, speculation is nuts.

  2. I’m also not ready for a new set yet, Standard is still pretty interesting to me and I don’t want to have to take the customary month long break while I acquire cards from the new set. Thankfully, DGM won’t have new duel lands to exacerbate this process.

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  1. […] week, Rich Stein discussed the ins and outs of format stagnation and Zac Clark posted his take on the Standard meta as we wait […]



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