Assessing the Modern format

Discussion in 'General CPA Stuff' started by Oversoul, Dec 22, 2017.

  1. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    In the Tendrils of Agony thread, Psarketos posed an interesting question about decks reacting to an opponent who doesn't aim for a kill condition, but instead uses an infinite combo to gain enough life to stay out of lethal range, uses cards to make the player hexproof, and uses some form of graveyard recursion to avoid decking. I came to the conclusion that it depends on the particular build the Storm player is using, because while outracing the "lockdown" would be the likeliest course of action, other options, such as disrupting components of the control engine while building up to a combo kill, outright controlling the board and keeping the lifegain from ever emerging, letting the lifegain happen, but then generating infinite storm count to supercede it, and using some other route to victory (poison counters, or perhaps Laboratory Maniac) are also possible.

    It's come up before, but some of this, with the Magic theory development and teaching Psarketos has been involved in, uses Modern as a kind of baseline. The reasons for this haven't been discussed here, but I think I could guess some of them. Perhaps not. In any case, he said this...

    Well, nothing wrong with not playing the Modern format, and I don't think that Psarketos thinks that there is, but I wanted to address it anyway, because it gets at the nature of formats and how important they are, providing an environment in which gameplay happens. Before I stalled on trying to submit new Comboist Manifesto articles, one of my most ambitious plans for it was a series tentatively labeled "Format Wars" in which I'd analyze the pros and cons of different formats, both officially sanctioned and community-led (this would be at least 15 articles, but probably more). That didn't happen last year and it didn't happen this year. I allow for the possibility that I might return to it at some point, but I have no plans for it anymore. Anyway, I do think about formats a lot.

    There's a glib response to questions about Tendrils of Agony in the context of Modern deck opponents and my general lack of emphasis on Modern. Tendrils of Agony isn't legal in Modern. And out of the 24 other cards I posted for Magic Memories, neither are 21 of them. But if I'm being honest with myself, that sort of thing is really only a minor consideration. There's a lot more to it.

    It's true that I don't play Modern and haven't built decks for the format. It's also true that I've ragged on the format for its ban list. So I'm sure that I've come across as very critical. I've softened a bit on this in recent years, but not because I think that the format has gotten better. It's because of what I've seen from the players. Modern is wildly popular among newer players, returning players, and even has its following among long-time player who prefer the pace of the environment. And I don't want to "yuck" other people's "yum." Especially not when I see how much Modern means to new and returning players, how it really gets them involved, motivates them. I think that's great. My problems with Modern have nothing to do with the players. In fact, they're really mostly the same problems I have with other formats. It's not specific to Modern. It's how WotC manages tournament gameplay in general. Modern just provides some highly visible examples of the symptoms. Modern isn't the cause...
  2. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I'll admit that over Christmas weekend, I somewhat lost my train of thought on this. Let's see...

    I want to comment on the following issues. By "issues" I don't necessarily mean "problems." These are more points of discussion that are important when it comes to looking at the Modern format as a whole.
    • The Modern Ban List
    • The history of Modern as a tournament format
    • The Modern card pool
    • Modern's effect on the secondary market
    • Modern compared to other formats
    • The future of Modern as a non-rotating, non-"Eternal" format
  3. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    At the simplest level, Modern can be distinguished as a format by three parameters.
    1. Starting the card pool with Eighth Edition.
    2. Only allowing "Standard" sets into the card pool, so cards released in non-Standard products (Planechase, Commander, Conspiracy, etc.) are not included.
    3. The Modern Ban List.
    Here's the current list...

    Ancient Den
    Birthing Pod
    Blazing Shoal
    Bloodbraid Elf
    Chrome Mox
    Dark Depths
    Dig Through Time
    Deathrite Shaman
    Dread Return
    Eye of Ugin
    Gitaxian Probe
    Glimpse of Nature
    Golgari Grave-Troll
    Great Furnace
    Green Sun's Zenith
    Jace, the Mind Sculptor
    Mental Misstep
    Punishing Fire
    Rite of Flame
    Seat of the Synod
    Second Sunrise
    Seething Song
    Sensei's Divining Top
    Stoneforge Mystic
    Splinter Twin
    Summer Bloom
    Treasure Cruise
    Tree of Tales
    Umezawa's Jitte
    Vault of Whispers
  4. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    I don't intend this as an interruption but instead as a footnote to your earlier note on Modern as baseline. Both the high school kids and some older friends with older collections shared some reasons for gravitating to Modern. First, it sets a framework that everyone can understand and plan for. Second, those of us who happened to have Bayous or Underground Seas tend to treat them as investments rather than playing cards, making Legacy more theory for us than kitchen table. Third, almost everyone I play with has more interest in the Standard format than I do, which means they tend to build Standard decks they enjoy and then enjoy the process of converting and modifying them to Modern once Standard rotates, a kind of long, shifting context engineering of decks along lines that first strike them as fun in the more constrained format.

    As you probably know, I am going to agree with a lot of your critique of Modern despite the Balefire deck being my favorite right now (it will very likely showcase a few of the weaknesses you point out in the format). This past week I have been playing with a new concept, Block Constructed Frontier, that I like the potential for. Only one deck built with that framework in mind so far, Tarkir Blue Tempo, and it cost $13 :)
  5. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Let's categorize that stuff!

    Cards that are banned in Modern and also banned in Legacy
    Dig Through Time
    Mental Misstep
    Sensei's Divining Top
    Treasure Cruise

    And that's it. Five cards. Notably, there are exactly zero cards that are both legal in Modern and banned in Legacy. One inference that we could draw from this is that the Legacy list has to take care of a lot more baggage from earlier eras of Magic when there were more broken cards. We might also notice that, since the Modern list is much longer than just those five cards, something else is going on to add so many other cards to its list, cards that are not a problem in Legacy.

    Cards that are banned in Modern and are staples of competitive Legacy decks
    Chrome Mox (TES, BR Reanimator)
    Cloudpost (12Post, MUD)
    Dark Depths (Lands, Loam, BG Depths)
    Deathrite Shaman (several decks)
    Dread Return (Dredge)
    Eye of Ugin (Eldrazi, 12Post)
    Gitaxian Probe (several decks)
    Glimpse of Nature (Elves)
    Golgari Grave-Troll (Dredge)
    Green Sun's Zenith (Maverick, Elves, Nic Fit, Stompy, Loam)
    Jace, the Mind Sculptor (several decks)
    Ponder (several decks)
    Preordain (several decks)
    Punishing Fire (Lands, Loam, Czech Pile, Jund)
    Rite of Flame (TES)
    Stoneforge Mystic (Death and Taxes, Blade Control, Maverick)
    Umezawa's Jitte (Blade Control, Czech Pile, Death and Taxes, Maverick, Eldrazi, Merfolk)

    Well, that covers a lot more! What we see from this is that a large chunk of the Modern Ban List consists of cards that make regular appearances in Legacy tournaments. Presumably the cards are banned in Modern for the same features that make them good in Legacy. They're strong cards, but are they too strong? I contend that this category is a mixed bag in terms of potential power and issues. Chrome Mox, Gitaxian Probe, and Rite of Flame are all banned to keep Storm in check, but the two strongest Storm cards don't even exist in Modern. Dread Return and Golgari Grave-Troll are used almost exclusively in Dredge decks fueled by Ichorid, but Modern doesn't have Ichorid. Stoneforge Mystic and Umezawa's Jitte are both popular, but are mostly used alongside each other (Mystic is good because it can tutor up stuff like Jitte and Jitte is good because Mystic can find it as part of an equipment package). Modern bans both cards.

    Cards that are not currently popular in Legacy, but were banned in Modern for dominance
    Bloodbraid Elf
    Summer Bloom

    Really just those two. Interpret that how you will. On the one hand, perhaps it makes some sense that most of the dominant cards that had to be banned in Modern turned out to also be good in Legacy. Having only two standout cases that don't fit the profile could be considered good. On the other hand, to a Legacy player, the idea of Bloodbraid Elf or Summer Bloom being broken is laughable. Bloodbraid Elf isn't even the best Cascade creature in Legacy (Shardless Agent has seen more play). And Summer Bloom is considered harmless.

    Cards that were banned in Modern because they enabled fast decks
    Blazing Shoal
    Seething Song

    Not that I don't take issue with any of the stuff in the previous categories, but here's where I think we start to go completely off the rails. These cards did not produce dominant decks. What they produced were decks that could, potentially, result in fast glass cannon combo kills. The decks were not necessarily good, but the Modern Ban List was crafted with the philosophy, in part, of making third-turn kills prohibitive. To a Legacy Storm player, the notion that the problematic mana accelerant is not Dark Ritual or Lion's Eye Diamond (which don't exist in the format), but Seething Song, is ridiculous. Rite of Flame and Chrome Mox are arguably in this category, but I left them out because they're key cards in TES, which is still a decent deck in Legacy. Outside of that one deck, they're virtually gone in Legacy.

    Cards that were banned even though they weren't dominant, because WotC didn't like what they were doing to tournaments
    Birthing Pod
    Second Sunrise
    Splinter Twin

    Well, I may criticize Modern, but this category sort of outs me as someone who has paid close attention to the format. Uh, guilty. But we'll come back to that later. To summarize the history here, none of these cards was ever dominant in Modern, but they started to get close and distorted the environment in ways that WotC did not like. Second Sunrise enabled decks that rose from obscurity to the level of "pretty good" but they took a long time to kill opponents, which often meant matches ran out of time. After a few high-profile cases in which pro players derided the long turns and slow kills, WotC acted and banned the card. Birthing Pod and Splinter Twin were both hugely popular and successful, but were held in check by other archetypes. WotC didn't like the gameplay patterns that these decks created. In both cases, the offending card was banned alongside other cards that actually did put up the numbers to demonstrate a level of dominance (Pod was banned at the same time as the Delve spells, and Twin was banned at the same time as Summer Bloom), so there was the vague, implausible excuse of "With X banned, Y would be a problem, so we'll ban both."

    Cards that were never given a chance in Modern
    Ancient Den
    Great Furnace
    Seat of the Synod
    Tree of Tales
    Vault of Whispers

    Mostly artifact lands. And to be fair, artifact-based "Affinity" decks (no actual Affinity cards included, they just call the deck that) have been among the most successful Modern decks of all time, even without those artifact lands. Hypergenesis was one of a series of cards. Alongside Ancestral Vision, Bitterblossom, Sword of the Meek, and Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, it was included on the original Modern Ban list because it was known, in part from the Extended format, to have powerful synergies. Those other cards all eventually came off the list. Hypergenesis is still there. The idea with Hypergenesis is to rush out a 3-mana Cascade spell in a deck with no 1-drops and no 2-drops, hitting Hypergenesis and dumping the contents of one's hand onto the battlefield, which hopefully means enough creatures to kill the opponent. You can build it in Legacy if you want, but it's quite gimmicky and unreliable.
  6. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    While "this card is playable or banned in Legacy" is a statement that might have some import, it doesn't really describe why a card is banned in Modern. To be more thorough...

    After Khans of Tarkir introduced the Delve card advantage spells, Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time, aggressive blue/red decks with lots of instants and Delver of Secrets dominated Vintage, Legacy, and Modern. In Vintage and Legacy, Dig Through Time was initially left alone, and then it was discovered that it was arguably even more broken than Treasure Cruise. In Modern, both cards were banned after a few months. The exact setup they enable varies from format to format, but the problem is always the same: very cheap instants and sorceries can churn through a deck finding the appropriate efficient threats and answers to establish a fast clock and disrupt the opponent, and alongside fetchlands it is feasible to start firing off these Delve spells within the first few turns. This provides more access to card-drawing and card selection, which either ends the game by clearing the way for threats or, even if the opponent is able to do something, leads to enough spells being cast that the graveyard fills up and enables another Delve spell, and then another. Cheap, fast, insurmountable card advantage.

    Sensei's Divining Top enables some neat tricks and has applications for different control and combo decks. The reason that it was banned in Modern was that it was a carryover from Extended, where the card had been banned for the CounterTop lock. Sensei's Divining Top + Counterbalance in a deck with shuffling effects (fetchlands) lets a control player sit back and counter threats without using spells, while also regulating topdecks. It was a powerhouse in Legacy and Top was eventually banned there too.

    Skullclamp was banned in Standard, then Extended, then this carried over to the original Legacy Ban List and the original Modern Ban List. The card is bonkers.

    Mental Misstep is a super obnoxious card. I hate it, but the effects of banning or not banning it are actually rather nuanced, and go beyond the scope of my analysis. To summarize, Mental Misstep heavily punishes decks that rely on one-drop spells, but decks eschewing one-drops are already disadvantaged int tournaments against more efficient decks, so decks run one-drops anyway, but run Mental Misstep to counteract Mental Misstep. Then decks that can successfully compete without being vulnerable to Mental Misstep prey on the decks that run Mental Misstep, as it is a dead card against them. Other decks can prey on those decks, but then are vulnerable to decks running Mental Misstep. This leads to a situation, which happened in Legacy in 2011 and still affects Vintage to this day, where games are filled with Mental Misstep wars, because Mental Misstep is the best counter to Mental Misstep. So instead of playing the game like normal people, players are holding Mental Misstep in anticipation of Misstepping the Misstep that Misstepped their Missteps. Whatever.

    Chrome Mox, Gitaxian Probe, Rite of Flame, Ponder, Preordain, and Seething Song are all banned for the sake of keeping Storm in check. Although the two best Storm cards are not legal in Modern, Grapeshot is a viable Storm kill, and Modern Storm decks are able to use Past in Flames to achieve large Storm counts.

    Cloudpost is part of a mana ramp setup usually called 12Post. Used alongside Glimmerpost and Vesuva (copying Cloudpost), it is possible to generate large amounts of colorless mana very quickly. Historically, preferred uses for this deluge of mana included the Eldrazi titans and Karn Liberated. 12Post strategies tend to get outraced by good aggro and combo decks, but control and midrange decks can be overwhelmed when such powerful cards hit the board. In Legacy, Cloudpost is vulnerable to Wasteland and, to a lesser extent, Rishadan Port. Modern doesn't have either card.

    Dark Depths is used in Legacy and Vintage with cards that exploit its ability without the need to pay to remove ice counters. Usually, these methods consist of Thespian's Stage (copying Dark Depths, but not coming in with ice counters) and/or Vampire Hexmage (removing all of the counters at once). Pretty strong.

    Dread Return is used in Vintage and Legacy Dredge decks, which use Ichorid, Narcomoeba, and Bridge from Below to get creatures onto the battlefield without casting spells. Dread Return isn't cast from one's hand, but flashed back and used to get some creature with a game-winning effect. The use of Dread Return outside of Dredge decks is rare. Some fringe Legacy combo decks that dump their own libraries into their own graveyards employ it as a win condition, but that's about it. It has never been legal in Modern, and its best potential application there is uncertain. Personally, I suspect that Dread Return would be a powerful card in Modern.

    Eye of Ugin was banned after Eldrazi aggro decks took over Modern. The card did dominate. It made a big splash in Legacy too, but has been held very firmly in check because Legacy, where decks hoping to live the dream with free Eldrazi Mimics copying Reality Smasher ran up against disruption like Wasteland and Cabal Therapy.

    Glimpse of Nature sure is good in Legacy Elves, a deck that enjoys the unfettered use of Gaea's Cradle and Natural Order. It has never been legal in Modern and I have no idea if it'd even be good there.

    Golgari Grave-Troll was actually unbanned in Modern for a bit. Then Prized Amalgam was printed and there was actually a viable Modern Dredge deck. WotC couldn't have that, so they banned Grave-Troll again. The deck was not really that good.

    Green Sun's Zenith was banned to promote diversity in Modern green decks. All of the good green decks were running the same package because of GSZ, so WotC solved that non-problem by banning the card.

    Jace, the Mind Sculptor was also on the original Modern Ban List. It had recently been banned in Standard and was something of a boogeyman at the time. The Superman of the early 2010's. A latter-day Morphling. No real basis for the ban.

    Punishing Fire is reusable direct damage, enabled by its synergy with Grove of the Burnwillows. Kind of like Cursed Scroll or Hammer of Bogardan. Except, you know, two cards instead of one. But seriously, it's a pretty good engine. After Modern's initial banning spree, Jund decks were able to generate more value than anything else left standing, so Punishing Fire was banned to curtail them. Bloodbraid Elf was banned later for the same reason. Jund isn't a problem in Legacy because not everything else is banned.

    Like I said, Stoneforge Mystic and Umezawa's Jitte go together. In Legacy, Stoneforge Mystic is employed with an equipment toolbox, which pretty much always includes Jitte. Other popular choices are Batterskull, Sword of Fire and Ice, and uh, that's about it. A very fun and fair strategy is to get Jitte equipped to True-Name Nemesis. Stoneforge Mystic and Jace, the Mind Sculptor were part of an oppressive Standard deck and were thrown on the original Modern Ban List because, like I said, they were boogeymen at the time. They threw Jitte in there too, just to be sure.

    Deathrite Shaman was another casualty of the era in which Jund decks dominated Modern after everything else was banned to slow the format down.

    Summer Bloom was exploited with Amulet of Vigor in land-heavy ramp combo decks. These decks kind of dominated Modern. Sort of. People thought they were going to, anyway. Probably not, though.

    Blazing Shoal was used with Infect creatures to swing for lethal. No one does this in Legacy because it's unreliable. But Modern has fewer tools to stop it, people weren't running those tools anyway because the combo's usage wasn't very well-known yet Modern was still a new format), and it was banned because it was mean.

    Birthing Pod and Splinter Twin are two peas in a, oh wait, uh, thing. They alternated roles and competed against each other as premier decks of the format, adapting and evolving over time. Birthing Pod performed well, but never could take over the format, despite years of trying and different incarnations in different metagames. After it was banned at the height of its popularity, many Pod players sold their newly depreciated decks and migrated to playing Twin. Like Pod, Twin decks were able to keep abreast of the competition as new sets and strategies came into the format, but true dominance was never acheived. Then Twin was banned and a bunch of players ragequit the format. Fool me twice and all that.
  7. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    As a kind of fan of Legacy for well over a dozen years now, I have a pretty good idea of what I want out of the format. That doesn't mean that I have 100% certainty regarding what should and shouldn't be banned in the format, let alone that others should agree with me at about it at all, but my ideals are, by now, well-formed. However, when it comes to Modern, I ask myself...

    ...what would I want out of the format? What are the long-term goals? What should the card pool look like? Are there old cards that should be reprinted? Would a certain focus for new sets help the format? Should it really never rotate? Should Modern be more like Extended or more like Legacy? Is the "turn 3 kills are too fast" rule of thumb espoused by WotC even practical?

    And so it goes. In the past, when I've analyzed Legacy, perhaps some of my interests and ideals were implicit, but at least I had them. With Modern, there's not much point in my saying "X should be unbanned" or "Y should be banned" unless I know what the goals are. Also of note: I've long had issue with ban list decisions by WotC across multiple formats. It's like they have a hammer and are trying to use it as a scalpel. And fundamentally, in one important sense, it's not their fault! Just the one sense, though. What I mean is that WotC, understandably, want to tailor competitive formats to have the kind of gameplay they have in mind for those formats. They have a vision for how the game should look, and they want tournament games to match that vision. Setting aside whether that vision is good or whether I agree with it, they have something in mind. And once cards are in an environment, the only tool they have to make adjustments, the only lever they can pull, is to ban cards. It's simply the only option available. That's why, when WotC explains ban list decisions, it often has something like, "We wanted to promote diversity, so we banned Card X and Card Y." And, granting the proposition that some tournament format really is too stale and static, encouraging a greater diversity of deck archetypes might really help make things more exciting. I can see the appeal. Banning a couple of cards not only might not be an especially effective way to go about this, but it might not work at all, and it's also possible that WotC wouldn't know which cards to pick. So yeah, they might make the perfect cuts by swinging that hammer around, but it isn't a good bet.

    I consider WotC to have a specious methodology when it comes to ban list decisions in general. To clarify, that isn't so simple as "they suck at making these decisions." I'm not making a euphemism. What I mean by specious methodology is that they have some ideas that don't seem to correspond to reality. An excellent recent example is that earlier this year in Vintage, they restricted Gitaxian Probe and Gush. The explanation went...

    At that time, Workshop decks were easily the strongest performer. Players were baffled that WotC thought restricting cards not present in Workshop decks would somehow weaken Workshop decks. They were also skeptical that Mentor decks would be weakened by the restrictions of Gush and Gitaxian Probe. In the SMIP podcast, while discussing recent tournament results and the restriction decisions, Stephen Menendian pointed out that one of the Mentor decks they mentioned from a notable top 8 appearance wouldn't have been affected by the restrictions anyway because it was only running a single copy of Gush and no copies of Probe. After the changes, to the surprise of no one outside WotC, Workshop decks and Mentor decks did not diminish, but were doing better than ever.

    It's not just that the move didn't work out. It's that the reasoning was bizzare. It just didn't make sense. Modern isn't the problem here. It's systematic. It's been going on for longer than the Modern format has existed. But a combination of factors leads Modern to really stand out in this department. I've attempted to cover the individual cards, but a common theme for so many of them might be "Why is this card that wasn't ever a problem for any other format a problem for Modern?" Tautologically, different formats are different, yes. I get that. Everyone gets it. But historically, there's been some level of overlap, some kind of grounding to most of this. So Tinker is banned in Legacy because the card is severely broken and was known to be a huge issue in formats where it was once available, formats that had fewer ways to abuse Tinker than Legacy now would. It was banned in Extended, it was banned in the old Type 1.5, it was restricted in Vintage. It wasn't banned in Standard, but some of the cards that were used alongside it were banned and it probably should have been banned over them. It's not really a shock that the card was banned in Legacy. We can process that. It's consistent. Or arbitrarily picking another card, let's see, how about Jace, the Mind Sculptor? It was not banned in Legacy, but it did become a strong card in the format, and it was banned in both Standard and Extended, where it was able to allow control decks to efficiently take over games faster than they otherwise could. Legacy had more answer to the card and more archetypes that were strong against it. Modern, being closer to Extended at the time, could reasonably be expected to be in the same boat as Standard and Extended on this matter. Unlike Legacy, it could have been the case that JTMS was too much for Modern. Fine. We can make sense of that too. I'm not even commenting on whether the card should or shouldn't be banned in Modern now, just noting that I can see the pattern there, that the logic can be traced.

    Now what about Blazing Shoal? The card was never problem in any other format. It's not even really preferred in Legacy Infect decks because there are more reliable options. That doesn't make it out of the question! Modern is different. And Standard never had Blazing Shoal and Blighted Agent in the same environment. We could posit that perhaps Modern provided a new, unique environment in which Blazing Shoal was able to find a powerful niche and good answers to hold it in check weren't available. But we don't have a pattern indicating that, and we don't have results demonstrating the problem. In fact, Modern saw bans on six cards at the same time, all when the format was barely a month old. The one major tournament that had taken place wasn't dominated by Blazing Infect. It wasn't dominated by anything, but Blazing Infect did get one spot in the Top 8.

    Personally, I think the ban on Blazing Shoal is laughable. But it's not about just one card. I disagree with plenty of decisions. I can find something to disagree with in almost any format. WotC have sneered at player inquiries regarding potentially unbanning Mind Twist in Legacy. They think the card needs to stay banned and I think they're completely, 100% dead wrong on that. It's not that Blazing Shoal is banned in Modern. It's that the Modern Ban List is filled with Blazing Shoals.
  8. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I've always suspected that the Modern Ban List was a bit messed up. But initially, I didn't have anything substantive to back it up. The recent development of unsanctioned "No Ban" tournaments has been informative. Such a concept would be completely impractical in Legacy. Every competitive decklist would start with playsets of Black Lotus, Ancestral Recall, and some combination of Moxen, Sol Ring, Mana Crypt, and Mana Vault. I'd imagine a lot of Yawgmoth's Will, Surgical Extraction, Mental Misstep, Time Walk, and Draw-7 spells would be floating around too. Nope. Not good. Not a real game. And hardly anyone could afford it anyway. Modern, though? Results from attempts at No Ban List tournaments have varied, but it seems like every report I've encountered has failed to show anything truly dominating. The format might not necessarily be ideal. Ubiquitous Mental Misstep messes with things, and Delve spells also lead to a lot of brokenness. But the format seems to support aggro, tempo, combo, aggro-control, and even some midrange stuff. Some of these results have shown a more diverse environment than real Modern has been at times. Part of that is almost certainly due to a greater level of uncertainty and interest in experimentation than is present in the official format.

    Really though, the results capture a more promising picture than I'd have hoped for. By that, I mean it could easily have turned out to be the case that Modern with its current Ban List produces lousy gameplay, but that Modern with too few bans gets out of control. There shouldn't be any expectation that a No Ban List variant would be a good environment. Instead, somehow, it actually looks pretty fun and looks considerably better than the official format. It's lousy with Mental Missteps, and Skullclamp decks might constitute a kind of boogeyman for the format, but really not as much as I'd have thought! It's cool. And that makes it all the more frustrating that so many cards are banned. The only real goal, the only purpose behind banning these cards, which we now know don't produce dominant decks, seems to be mostly boil down to "We want the format to be a couple of turns slower than Legacy." And if that's the goal, well, I just have two things to say...
    1. I don't like it.
    2. We could still make a lot of adjustments, both banning existing cards and unbanning safe cards, that would bring the format in line with that vision.
  9. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I've said a lot about the ban list, and I don't want to overdo it. But before moving on, I want to make two further points...
    1. Although Modern is a very popular format, its Ban List has been a problem because players have lost faith in the format because of erratic decisions by WotC. Modern decks are expensive, and I personally knew players who bought into Birthing Pod decks in 2014, only to lose their investments after the market essentially crashed on Modern Pod components, and who then recovered and moved on to build Splinter Twin decks, only for Splinter Twin to be banned a year later. That kind of double whammy is extreme, but I really felt bad for those guys.
    2. Like Legacy and Vintage before it, Modern has become a format with a kind of mixed casual/competitive audience. Many of Psarketos' posts reflect that. When it comes to tournaments, there's a recurring dispute in the community over the virtues of "make ban lists as small as possible." I find myself pretty comfortably in the camp that dislikes ban list chaff. But some prefer a more cautious approach. This being the CPA, though, I do think it's worth pointing out that for casual players, trimming ban list chaff is good because it means we get tools to work with, even if those cards don't pan out in the tournament environment. Historically, this was my motive in calling for the unbanning of Land Tax in Legacy. I didn't really think the card would affect competitive tournament decks, but having it off the list meant a casual old-fashioned Land Tax deck could technically be Legacy-legal.
  10. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Modern was created in 2011, but the story of its origins goes back much further. In 1997, the Constructed formats were Type 1 (Classic), Type 1.5 (Classic-Restricted), and Type 2 (Standard). Type 1.5 was just meant to serve as a powered-down version of Type 1, and it wasn't really that relevant anyway (although it was the first tournament format I ever played in). Type 2 rotated frequently and there was player interest in being able to hang onto decks for longer, but not in a format with the old, old cards. Keep in mind that print runs for the first couple of core sets and expansions were very small and even the players who had been around in 1994 didn't necessarily own the most valuable deck components for building tournament decks in Type 1 or Type 1.5, which generally consisted of anything useful from Limited/Unlimited, Arabian Nights, Antiquities, and Legends that hadn't already been reprinted. But most players had tons of the mid-90's expansion sets and reprints. And so Type 1.X (Extended) was born. Extended meant players could play with their old cards, but not with their old, old cards.

    Conceptually, the idea made a lot of sense at the time, but WotC kept changing it. The Extended card pool was inconsistent from the start, with WotC grandfathering in dual lands, then rotating them out, shortening the rotation period, then lengthening it, then shortening it again. It was a mess. As an afterthought, they actually managed to do one very clever thing. Instead of rotating a new set in and an old set out, they had sets rotate in normally with release, but rotate out in batches not tied to set release dates. This meant that, at one point, you could have built your deck and kept it, making revisions to it if you wanted to as new sets entered the format, but not needing to take any cards out with rotation, for eight years. Not that anyone was likely to do that, but that's a considerable level of freedom for deckbuilders to work with in a rotating format.

    That batch rotation system was interesting, but they got rid of it and changed Extended to rotate in the same manner as Standard, but with a much bigger pool (seven years). Then in 2010, for whatever reason, WotC eventually settled on changing Extended to be DOUBLE STANDARD exactly. Only the most die-hard players were interested in such a format. Why play Double Standard when you can play regular Standard with much more support and opportunities?

    When Modern was announced in 2011, WotC swore up and down that they weren't replacing Extended with it. But it was similar in many respects. Extended was once a format that covered roughly eight years of Magic sets. Modern started out as the last eight years of Magic sets. Extended offered players the chance to keep using their cards that had rotated out of Standard, but kept out the very old, hard-to-find cards. Modern did the same. The big difference: Modern wouldn't rotate. It was explained that, because of the Reserved List, Legacy was prohibitively expensive. The hope was that Modern would let players keep using their cards, but without the Reserved List getting in the way. Of course, as we know by now, Modern ended up not being very affordable (in the first several minutes of this video, a popular Magic YouTuber builds a wall out of expensive board games on his desk that retail for the approximate dollar amount it would take to purchase a Modern deck).

    Modern got a kind of trial run (with a shorter ban list) at the Community Cup, then was introduced to the general public as a sanctioned format. It got one big tournament in Pro Tour Philadelphia, and while my own reaction to the new format was dismissive, the results at the time were promising. The turnout was diverse and there was no real dominance. So then WotC added six more cards to the ban list. From there, they took a very hands-on approach to Modern bans, despite protest from the players.
  11. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I don't want to report extensively on individual tournaments. The information is out there, and that goes beyond what I'm trying to do here. Briefly, prominent Modern tournament decks have included...
    • Urzatron (using the Urza lands to cast Eldrazi or big colorless planeswalkers)
    • Past in Flames Storm (blue/red card and mana acceleration ramping into multiple casts of Grapeshot)
    • Affinity (an artifact-based aggro deck that tends not to use actual cards with the Affinity mechanic, but it's similar to older decks that did)
    • Grixis Suicide (beats people down with fast Gurmag Angler and Death's Shadow)
    • Red Deck Wins (sligh, really)
    • Dredge (instead of using Ichorid + Bridge from Below, Modern Dredge has Prized Amalgam and Bloodghast, also using Life from the Loam to fill one's hand for a big flashed back Conflagrate)
    • Eldrazi (shut down by the Eye of Ugin ban)
    • Twin Exarch (shut down the by the Splinter Twin ban)
    • Melira Pod (shut down by the Birthing Pod ban)
    • Amulet Bloom (shut down by the Summer Bloom ban)
    • Eggs (shut down by the Second Sunrise ban)
    • Scapeshift (enabled after the Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle unban)
    • Jund (strong aggro-control responsible for the banning of Punishing Fire, Deathrite Shaman, and Bloodbraid Elf)
    • Merfolk (blue aggro powered by Aether Vial)
    • Zoo (generally white/red/green, temporarily caused Wild Nacatl to be banned)
    • Living End (cycles big creatures, then uses a Cascade spell to bring them all back with Living End)
    • Abzan Evolution (successor to Pod decks, using Eldrith Evolution as a toolbox spell and running tons of creatures)
    • Ad Nauseam (combo deck using Angel's Grace or Phyrexian Unlife to Ad Nauseam for one's entire library)
    • Elves (and other similar decks powered by Chord of Calling and Collected Company, usually attempting to go infinite with Devoted Druid and Vizier of Remedies)
    • Titan Breach (wannabe Sneak Attack deck)
    • Lantern Control (hilarious prison deck that uses artifacts to filter the opponent's topdecks)
    • Jeskai Midrange (generally relying on disruptive creatures and Geist of Saint Traft to take over the board)
    • Infect (like a classic stompy deck, but with Infect creatures)
    • Reanimator (in Modern, a key card for this is Goryo's Vengeance)
    There are some other notable ones. A distinguishing feature of the environment is that even though Modern is deliberately curated to be slowed down, control decks do not dominate. I attribute this to the dearth of good control spells in the format. If I'm being honest, I'm a bit jealous that this format has such a depth of viable tournament combo decks. However, the success of aggro and combo at the expense of control has led to an environment criticized as "ships passing in the night." Many of the Modern matchups involve decks that aren't really trying to do anything to stop each other, so both players are trying to execute their own win conditions, paying attention to the opponent only insofar as it relates to establishing a clock. After all, if you're playing Infect Stompy and I'm playing Valakut Scapeshift, we're both probably looking to go for a kill as soon as possible, rather than trying to outplay each other.
  12. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Just yesterday, I corrected someone on something I've seen numerous times. Many players mistakenly refer to Modern as an Eternal format. This is understandable, as "eternal" is a word that means "unending" and one of the features of Modern is that the card pool never rotates, as Extended once did and as Standard still does. But WotC coined "Eternal" to refer to formats that allow every black/white-bordered Magic set. The only official Eternal formats are Legacy and Vintage. Modern's card pool is constrained in three respects, as I noted in a post that is now way up above this one because I rambled on about the Ban List for so long. The Modern format is distinguished by...
    1. Starting the card pool with Eighth Edition.
    2. Only allowing "Standard" sets into the card pool, so cards released only in non-Standard products (Planechase, Commander, Conspiracy, etc.) are not included.
    3. The Modern Ban List.
    Well, I've said a lot about the Ban List. But what about the other two parameters? The second one is ultimately far less important, but it also more nuanced. I'll address it later. The first one is simple. There's a line. Any card ever printed in a Standard set on the new side of the line is added to the Modern card pool. The other cards are on the old side of the line, and therefore are not Modern-legal.

    From the beginning, WotC acknowledged that the Reserved List was the impetus for this. Legacy was growing in popularity and they predicted, correctly, that without reprints, older Legacy tournament staples would become inaccessible to players. So Modern was meant to solve that problem...

    But they didn't start the beginning of Modern with the end of the Reserved List. I think because most people don't pay too much attention to what's on the Reserved List and when cards were added to it, that point gets lost in discussions. So Legacy becomes "the format with the Reserved List problem" and Modern becomes "the format without any Reserved List cards." However, the last set with Reserved List cards was actually Urza's Destiny and the next set was Mercadian Masques. And at one point, it was being considered as the starting point for the new Modern format.

    Whatever the extent to which this explanation worked in 2011, it has since become decidedly hyperbolic. A "new card frame test" would be useless as a guideline for an aspiring Modern player. Many, many cards printed with the new frame are illegal in Modern. Likewise, many, many cards printed with the old frame are legal in Modern. But all that aside, there is some sense to their choice. The dramatic changes to the card frame in 2003 provide a prominent, easy-to-remember place to draw a line. Also, 8th Edition was released for Magic's 10th anniversary, so this means everything after the first ten years is on the new side of the Modern line. I really do think that, at the time, this made a lot of sense. But it's been a while, and in hindsight, well, I'll just quote one of my own posts from last year...

  13. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    Recently, I had a conversation in which someone thought the cutoff for Modern was, at least roughly, around the time that Magic design became "reasonable." I pointed out that the first Modern-legal expansion contributes nine cards to the Modern Ban List. Regardless of whether those cards should be banned, yeah, Mirrodin was bonkers. In my post that I quoted from last year, I said that the cutoff looks like it's in a bad spot. I still think that. Not everyone is going to agree. We all have our own perceptions and opinions on this. Still, I don't think that any sane person's reaction to the Modern cutoff is, "It is good that we get Arcbound Ravager and also good that we do not get Goblin Warchief. Both of those things are good things."

    To be clear, my proposal isn't "No Reserved List Legacy" or "Modern, but starting at Mercadian Masques." My proposal when it comes to the Reserved List is always, without hesitation, to kill the damn thing post-haste. But that's a different topic. It just happened to draw my attention to Mercadian Masques as a Modern cutoff and how much that would change the format. As things are now, Mirrodin is perpetually a "new" set forever, while Scourge, printed four months earlier, is perpetually an "old" set forever. Now that both sets are about fourteen years old, the distinction seems silly. Tying it to the card frame change, now that the card frame has changed again since then and will probably change again, also loses a bit of its edge. Any line is arbitrary, but the one that was picked, in hindsight, has some problems...

    ...or does it? Looking at environments in which those old cards were/are legal, contrasting them with Modern, the gameplay is totally different. Legacy and many older formats had Dark Ritual and made good use of it. In Modern, Rite of Flame and Seething Song are banned. Modern lacks Counterspell, and it's also rare to see any kind of hard control deck in the format. The cards in that long list I made in the quoted post, on top of a great deal of other old cards, could be reprinted at any time. And indeed, some of them have been, just not in a Standard product. WotC have very deliberately kept Counterspell out of Modern. At one point someone, I think it was Mark Rosewater, mentioned that players think Counterspell isn't too good for Modern, but that they are wrong to think so. It would seem, in addition to their decisions regarding the Ban List, their decisions about what cards to reprint are made intentionally to craft the format into the kind of format that they want it to be.
  14. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    As was emphasized all those years ago when WotC first introduced the Modern format as an experiment, the starting point is arbitrary. There's no objectively perfect answer, and different points would have their own strengths and weaknesses. As a Legacy enthusiast, perhaps my "I want to play with my old cards" inclination biases me toward thinking that the earliest starting point possible is best. Based on the management of the Ban List, it seems entirely likely that my own interests are in irreparable conflict with the vision WotC has for the format, and many of the cards I think of fondly, as perhaps valuable additions to the format, would be banned anyway.

    But, ignoring the card frame the 10th Anniversary and all that, focusing strictly on the cards, what does the current starting point offer when compared to other possibilities? To be cheeky, I'll say Bribery and Ensnaring Bridge. But that's a little too silly. The exact composition of the first core set in the format is really one of the least important parts of establishing a cutoff. Being more realistic, what does the August of 2003 cutoff achieve?
    • It blocks Tendrils of Agony, which might be of personal interest to me specifically. But we're being realistic, so the fact that Dark Ritual and Lion's Eye Diamond, which power Storm decks in other format, are also left out matters more for that kind of combo.
    • It blocks most of the good cards that would enable a competitive Goblins archetype. While some other tribes, like Elves, Merfolk, and Faeries got far more out of Lorwyn/Shadowmoor blocks, Goblins really hit its zenith in Onslaught Block, which is pre-Modern.
    • On a similar note, Wizard tribal is affected, if that would even matter.
    • It blocks the Odyssey Block Madness and Threshold stuff. Also the Incarnations, which often get lumped in with Threshold.
    • It blocks Ichorid as an option for Dredge decks, which is huge.
    • It blocks Cephalid Breakfast, which might not matter.
    • It blocks the original Wishes.
    • It blocks Rishadan Port, which would presumably be viable in control decks.
    • It blocks the last set to include Dark Ritual, Counterspell, and Brainstorm.
    • No Invasion Block stuff, most of which doesn't matter at all, but some cards like Fires of Yavimaya and Pernicious Deed could find niches.
    • It allows for the Mirrodin Block broken craziness, some of which is tempered by bans.
    • It allows for the Dredge mechanic.
    • It allows for the Ravnica Block shocklands.
    • It allows for Kamigawa Block, but all of the good stuff from those sets is banned anyway.
    The starting point was set in 2011 and it's too late now, I suppose. But hypothetically, if it's up for discussion, I do think it's notable that shutting out popular tribal stuff from Onslaught Block, the first sets to have tribal themes that were actually any good, while letting in perhaps the most infamous broken block of all time in Mirrodin is an unfortunate consequence of the current starting point. One notion I've considered is that starting the cutoff at Invasion would seem to give some support to popular decks without allowing for the older stuff now deemed offensive to "Modern" sensibilities, such as Dark Ritual and Counterspell. But I don't want to just preach to my bias of allowing more cards. Like I said in my old post that I quoted, I think Time Spiral would probably be the worst point to pick. It's my favorite block of all time, but it has a lot of stuff that is thematically and mechanically a throwback to old Magic sets, making it just about the least Modern-appropriate content in Modern. In fact, setting the cutoff after that stuff might be the best solution for the apparent vision WotC has for the format. Affinity, Dredge, and Storm would all be gone in one fell swoop. The tribal stuff from Lorwyn/Shadowmoor would be left intact. They'd even get rid of the horror that is Blazing Shoal. :rolleyes:

    Out of the current Modern Ban List, most cards would be gone. All that would be left...

    Birthing Pod
    Bloodbraid Elf
    Dig Through Time
    Deathrite Shaman
    Eye of Ugin
    Gitaxian Probe
    Green Sun's Zenith
    Jace, the Mind Sculptor
    Mental Misstep
    Punishing Fire
    Stoneforge Mystic
    Splinter Twin
    Treasure Cruise

    Obviously Punishing Fire wouldn't be a problem anymore, and some of the other cards might be safe too (assuming they aren't already). I know this is never going to happen and this is all idle speculation, but given the benefit of hindsight, it's striking just how big of a difference the 2003–2007 stuff makes. Not even for Modern specifically, although that's what started this thread. Just in general.
  15. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    So there's a Ban List keeping cards out of Modern. There's also a set cutoff, and older unreprinted cards are excluded from Modern. And then there are these...

    All of those were printed way after the 2003 cutoff for Modern. A few of them are reprints, but most of them were originally printed with a Modern frame, and never existed in the old card frame. Several of them didn't even exist until after the Modern format was created, and some of them have been printed several times since the inception of Modern. None of them are on the Ban List. And yet, none of these cards are Modern-legal. All of them have made a huge splash in Legacy or Vintage.

    Clearly this has nothing to do with Modern's stated goal of providing a long-term non-rotating format that isn't impacted by the Reserved List. Rather, WotC decided early on that Modern should only allow cards from Standard sets...

    In the case of reprints, I can sympathize with this. I'm happy that Mana Crypt got a much-needed reprint in Eternal Masters and wouldn't want Modern to cause a "veto" on that. But many of these products contain brand new cards, and some of those cards have had annoying effects on Legacy and Vintage. It hasn't been necessary to ban Leovold or True-Name Nemesis, but they have been two of the most format-warping, overbearing, obnoxious cards in Legacy. I don't think it's a coincidence that they appeared in sets that were never going to be Modern-legal.
  16. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    I blame Tolarian Academy and the "Combo Winter" of 1998 and 1999. We've now got decades of history of combo decks and their performance across many formats. Sometimes a combo deck is too strong and something needs to be banned. Sometimes combo decks are major contenders in formats. But a lot of the time, combo decks are second tier, unreliable "Johnny" decks that do interesting things but are ultimately preyed on by something else, their good performances exaggerated and their failings downplayed. But the combo situation in that one time period was so over-the-top that combo decks went from something people thought could be cool to a constant boogeyman of the game. It's no secret that my views on combo decks differ from those officially espoused by WotC. My response to that Melissa DeTora article about combo should serve as a clear indication of that. However, in most of the history of Modern, combo decks have been doing pretty well!

    I've said that one of my complaints about the format is that I'm a little bit jealous. In Legacy, combo decks have found it difficult to compete with fast, disruptive aggro-control archetypes. In contrast, Modern has been some of the most fertile soil for combo decks out of any popular Magic environment. Even the aggro decks seem kinda combo-ish. This, uh, is not exactly a criticism. I said that I was assessing the format, not lambasting it! To some extent, the depth of combo options in Modern is a good thing. I do not really a have a problem with it. Well done, Modern.

    Now, briefly returning to that Ban List, most of the cards on it have these properties...
    • They were banned to weaken, slow down, or eliminate certain combo archetypes.
    • They are not a problem in Legacy.
    That doesn't describe every card on the list, but it does fit the majority of them. Why would a card be a problem in Modern but not Legacy? Usually, I think it's because Legacy has tools to keep combo in check. That's why even though Legacy has a better card pool to build combo decks, they never dominate the format.


    Those are some powerful disruption cards that were never printed in any Modern-legal set. None of them are on the Reserved List and all but one of them have been reprinted with Modern card frames. I don't claim that any one of these cards is solely responsible for keeping any one Modern card, banned or otherwise, held in check in Legacy. It's more complicated than that. But it does seem that these cards, and others like them, potentially "police" Legacy for some brands of degeneracy. They stabilize it.
  17. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    When Legacy was a brand new format, one of the things that I was worried about was that some old, expensive cards not on the Ban List would take over the format and make it too expensive for most players. The cards I had in mind were things like Moat, The Abyss, Nether Void, and Candelabra of Tawnos. Even as late as 2010, I was apprehensive about an unban on Illusionary Mask. I don't have exact figures, but back then, the cards I was so worried about pricing people out of the format were selling for somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 apiece. Revised dual lands weren't cheap, but they hadn't yet spiked. I had a friend who bought full playsets of all Revised duals for $400 total. So that was averaging $10 per card, and I thought that was nuts. To say it all now, it seems so naive.

    Legacy isn't the only format that uses old cards, and some old cards are valued primarily as collector's items. In recent years, I suspect that the market for Commander has caused card prices to rise. Vintage growth, Old School, marketplace speculation, and Reserve List buyouts might also affect these things. But the perceived value of cards in the Legacy format has to be the biggest culprit.

    Modern was introduced in 2011, and the claim was that without baggage from the Reserved List, WotC could support the format better than they could do with Legacy. And they did reprint cards! Lots of them, actually. They've done it in Standard sets, in the Modern Masters series, and in other products. And yet, Modern in 2018, less than seven years into the format's existence, is out of control. The inflation of Modern card prices is already worse than the situation was for Legacy at the time Modern was introduced. That sounds crazy, but I don't see any way around it. Some of the the worse offenders only got a single printing, like Snapcaster Mage. But the vast majority of expensive Modern staples have been reprinted at least once. Evidently, it hasn't helped.

    To be clear, when it comes to this problem, Legacy does have it way worse. But Legacy card prices climbed to absurdity over the course of thirteen years with the baggage of the Reserved List and, until recently, with a seemingly hostile policy toward reprints in general. Modern is much younger and has come with the supposed bonus as a format that card supplies can be kept available by reprints. So it looks like the exact opposite situation, at least superficially. What gives? The answer, in a word (that won't get changed to "oink"), is "shenanigans."
    Psarketos likes this.
  18. Oversoul The Tentacled One


    So, let's say that I am the humble proprietor of an international business involved in the sale of cardboard rectangles and cardboard rectangle accessories. We'll call my little venture, um, Moon Village Games. Seems like a good name. Now, we at Moon Village Games have taken an interest in the Modern format of Magic: the Gathering. The Modern format, as I've emphasized far too much in previous posts in this thread, has a card pool that goes back to sets starting with 8th Edition in 2003. But a whole lot of the Modern playerbase, and really a whole lot of the Magic playerbase in general, weren't purchasing new cards in the first few years of those sets, and really for several years after that. Actually, as I've heard it, the Magic playerbase experienced a dropoff in 2004, and then a resurgence many years later. This means that, as Modern has grown, it has dramatically increased the demand for tournament staples from sets that were printed during a lull in the game's history, with print runs that reflect that lull. Wizards of the Coast could flood the market with reprints, but they do not do this. When they announce a new Modern Masters set, there is rampant speculation in the community that they will reprint some expensive card. Let's say that card is one of the most expensive cards in the format. Let's say it's worth $120 or something like that. But maybe with all the buzz going around that it's about to be reprinted, the price has gone down a bit. People are nervous to spend so much on a card if the supply might soon go up, because it sounds like a bad investment. So maybe it's now going for more like $110. Over a Moon Village Games, we stop listing it for people to buy it at all, but we offer to buy it for more than we had been offering before. And then we raise our buy price a bit more. Naturally, some people get suspicious about this. Why would I be raising my buy price on a card that's about to get reprinted? A reprint would make the card's price go down. But many people just take advantage of the opportunity. I have my agents going to big Modern tournaments and offering brand new, crisp $100 bills for copies of the card, and even more people are willing to take advantage of the convenient opportunity to grab some cash in exchange for a card that is going to be reprinted anyway. The new set comes out and, lo and behold, the card does indeed get reprinted. The supply goes up. Also, as it so happens, the print run on the new set was quite small and the card was reprinted as a mythic rare in this set, so the new supply of the card is insignificant next to increasing demand. Suddenly I have a bunch of copies of the card in stock. My buylist price goes back down. Will I sell the card for $120? I think not! $130? Nah. $140? Still too low. Much too low. I have the market cornered and too many people will have to buy from me if they want the card, which they do. Future reprints and the diminishing usage of the card in tournaments as the Modern format evolves eventually crash the price, but by then I've pocketed my money. It wasn't a gamble, though. Not really. I had contacts at WotC. I knew that the card was going to be reprinted before the general public did, and I knew the exact size of the print run far in advance. And that's just one card. Over the years, I'm able to use my large capital and advance knowledge to make moves in business that most people could not, manipulating the prices of cards so that I can turn my accurate predictions of the future into cold, hard cash. Accurate predictions that are made with the benefit of a cheat-sheet. This is sometimes known as insider trading. Specifically, I am engaging in the practice of frontrunning, using my insider knowledge to make big buying and selling decisions before other people, who are not privileged with such information, have a chance to act. Other merchants in the industry, not having as much insider knowledge as I do, might have their own agents inside my organization or ones like mine, and would quickly follow suit with their own business decisions, acting on the assumption that I am making good decisions based on my own insider knowledge and that if they can use their partial information and mimic my decisions, they can also profit. Their behavior is tailgating. The details behind my market manipulation are necessarily clandestine, but the pattern of behavior is apparent, and knowledgeable outsiders are able to put 2 and 2 together. The United States Securities and Exchange Commission comes knocking on my door, as my business practices are illegal. I am under investigation and might go to jail.

    The previous paragraph is all pretty much true. I mean, not the name. I made up Moon Village Games. And not me. None of this applies to me personally. And the prices are rough approximations I came up with just now because it's been a while and I can't remember the real numbers. But the rest has been common knowledge among Magic dealers for years now, with increasingly more evidence coming to light confirming what everyone already suspected. Oh, the part in bold is totally wrong, though. Sure, those business practices are illegal. And the SEC would enforce this if I were dealing with important, adult matters like commodities, natural resources, or corporate stocks. But Magic cards are game pieces, not serious business. And so here we are.

    None of this is unique to Modern. This market manipulation stuff is surely much older than 2011. And maybe it was naive to be discouraged that Modern starting out in 2011 as "the non-rotating format that we can keep affordable with reprints because it doesn't have the baggage of the Reserved List" turned out to be a way to funnel money from ordinary players into the pockets of market insiders. But what is specific to Modern is how much this crap is core to the format's identity. I don't know how much the Reserved List has to do with it. Really, it might be that Legacy and Vintage both started out with relatively little involvement by the big-time card sharks and then, although they get involved, they eventually stopped investing so much in those formats. But they've had Modern in a death-grip since its inception.
  19. Oversoul The Tentacled One

    We may not know the exact identities of the people responsible for this, how many of them there are, and their exact methods, but it seems clear that the broken market for Modern tournament cards exists for profit, not as an accident or a mistake. I am convinced that the same forces are behind the upholding of the Reserved List. It's sad. Despite all that, I do think that the Modern Masters series and other clear efforts at reprints are good. There's some evidence that even these are really just serving the business interests of those with advance knowledge and capital. But I'm not going to throw the baby out with the bath water. I'm optimistic like that. Reprints help, ultimately. We just need more of them. And perhaps not at Mythic Rare. But a mythic rarity rant is a subject for another thread (in case you couldn't guess, I sure to hate the mythic rarity).
  20. Psarketos Metacompositional Theoretician

    Mythic rarity really does stand out as a game play issue as it currently intersects with the economics (inflated secondary market) of Magic. When I come up with some unusual deck idea only to discover that the mechanic requires a Mythic rare, I know it is going to be unlikely I actual build and play it. Unless it is the best card, Worldfire, which only costs a dollar and a quarter US!

    Or the single Masterpiece Cloudstone Curio I had to trick out Balefire with, because it is too beautiful a card to not do so :)

    Edit: I have been looking at what I think the best Modern starting boundary would be, and I have settled on Ninth Edition. Clears some older elements, whether banned or just Eternal Sway type shenanigans, while including the Ravnica block that for me helps define the flavor of the format.
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