Discussion in 'CPA/WOTC Magic Issues' started by Spiderman, Mar 13, 2017.
March 13, 2017 B/R Announcement
Oh, forgot this one was today. Thanks, Spidey.
Well, it's not surprising so I can't very well be disappointed again. They bothered to mention that they are apparently looking at Vintage, which is at least a little bit interesting.
The state of the formats as gleaned from this announcement:
Standard: It's bad but we don't know how fix it, so no changes
Modern: It's good, so we don't want to break it, so no changes
Vintage: It seems alright, but we don't know what to do until some of you people play some more games, so no changes.
Legacy: What's Legacy? Are you sure you didn't just invent a format that doesn't exist?
Legacy is still the format that I have the best grasp on, but at this point, there's really not much to say. Anyone with half a brain who looks at the format knows that some of the cards on the list are substantially less dangerous than some of the cards that have been powerhouses for the past several years. And yet other than a bit of a blip after Khans of Tarkir when WotC noticed that the blue Delve spells were running rampant across every single format and decided to take action, they've completely ignored Legacy. There's a perception in the Legacy community that the mothership just doesn't understand our format at all and that there isn't interest in it, nor representation for it. Some high-profile people with connections are passionate about Vintage, and so with stuff like the Vintage Super League, they at least get some level of interest. Legacy is the stepchild format. And that's one reason it's gotten to the point that I'd prefer to shift my own focus to Vintage. Legacy isn't in a completely unsalvageable spot, but everything I see other than glimpses of hope like Eternal Masters leaves me thinking that it's only going to get worse from here on. If they'd just give the format a chance, I'd prefer unbannings, one at a time, instead of banning anything yet.
Like I said, I've been trying to get into Vintage more. I've long been confounded by the way the format has developed, and I think that this whole time, the crux of the matter has been the fallout from the June, 2008 restrictions. Granted, there were already issues the prompted those restrictions, but they were such a sweeping change. With so many blue spells being hit at once, the format became a lot of Shops vs. Dredge, and both persisted as boogeymen of the format. This wasn't just through sheer performance, but also through demands put on sideboarding. I saw so many sideboards that were just a mixture of anti-Shops and anti-Dredge, with not a single slot left over for other matchups. And that led to a drop in tournament attendance at the same time that the popularity of the game as a whole was massively increasing. Maybe Vintage has bounced back a bit, but it's weird. And when I try to envision what should be done with the format, it's hard to justify anything. I mean, the dearth of data is one problem. Another is the gulf between paper Magic and MTGO, because for Vintage, MTGO now dwarfs traditional gameplay, but everything from the metagame to the competitive structure is completely different. Another problem is that some of the most logical changes are ones that seem past due. Mishra's Workshop might still be producing the best decks in the format, and this has been after Chalice of the Void and Lodestone Golem were both restricted on account of Mishra's Workshop. Trinisphere has been restricted for a long time for the same reason. Thirst for Knowledge was also previously restricted because of Shops decks, and was pulled from the list when Chalice was added. At what point, after multiple otherwise innocuous cards have to be restricted to balance a competitive environment, is Mishra's Workshop itself a candidate for restriction? Because I don't see the wisdom there. There is absolutely no way that cards like Trinisphere or Lodestone Golem would be considered too good in Vintage if Mishra's Workshop were restricted, but the card has been left unrestricted for so long that this is accepted. The Vintage restricted list is Fiddler on the Roof at this point. Why do they not restrict Workshop? But by now, they've created a metagame that partially relies on Workshop decks, so they couldn't fully get rid of them without completely upturning the whole format. And it's not like Standard where banning a card might make the people who recently bought playsets take a small financial hit. The way card prices are in Vintage, what happens to people if they restrict Workshop or unrestrict, say, Library of Alexandria, are card that is even more rare, but is less powerful. Looking at the paltry data that's out there, if anything would need to be restricted, it's something from Mentor decks. But what? Gush again? Gitaxian Probe? And what would be an unrestriction candidate in this environment? I mean, I have some ideas, but I just don't know. And none of my proposals would be things that would go over well.
At this point, I'd actually be OK with banning/restricting Monastery Mentor in Legacy/Vintage, but I don't really think it's warranted. The card sure is obnoxious, though.
I'll probably just continue to criticize Modern for its oversensitive banning of cards. But the format is highly popular and has some cool aspects. Maybe it deserves more than just ridicule. So, philosophically, what direction should the format go? I find myself wondering, if a card is no problem at all in Legacy and is or might be a problem in Modern, why is that? I don't mean that everything in Modern should be unbanned if it's not banned in Legacy! I mean that if a card doesn't even really get a Legacy presence and yet is perceived as a problem in Modern, something is missing, and before just up and banning everything, it might be worth determining what the distinctions are. For example, they've raised the point about Death's Shadow. And that deck would never fly in Legacy, in part because Swords to Plowshares would ruin it.
Standard has been bad for a while. I understand that having a combo deck on top must be frustrating for a lot of people, but Copycat has some serious competition and I'd argue that the deck's prominence is a mild side effect of the real problem. R&D should be fully culpable for this. But to be fair, the CoCo era was worse.
Update on Standard Explanation
Who is the target audience for this? Seems like no one is going to buy it.
I mean, I don't have a dog in this fight. I don't play Standard and don't really plan to. But I don't feel any need to believe that they are bad at balancing Standard. I don't need to think that they've messed up there to take umbrage with their approach to Eternal formats. Even if they were perfect about balancing Standard, their treatment (or mistreatment) of Eternal formats is still so clearly hamfisted.
But the people who do play Standard can speak for themselves. And they do. Loudly. I see complaints about Mardu Vehicles on basically every Magic site that isn't this one. This has to be one of the most hated Standard environments I've seen in a long time. Seek out the more shrill, Standard-focused corners of the community and they were probably screaming for Sam Stoddard's blood by now. They're unlikely to be lulled by a Sam Stoddard article glossing over the problems. They're not going to appease hardcore Standard players by saying, "Hey, don't worry about it." And they're not going to reel in players who were more on the fence by saying, "Yes, it is true that Mardu Vehicles and Copycat are the best decks, but it's not so bad."
Melkor's "It's bad but we don't know how to fix it, so no changes" summary still seems pretty apt.
It seems that they've got two different, but very similar situations in Standard that have caused a lot of the controversy...
1. While Smuggler's Copter was running rampant in Standard, WotC saw it and knew that Heart of Kiran was in the pipeline, but didn't do anything about it. So they banned one cheap, hyperefficient vehicle, and another one popped right up to take its place. Tournament Magic is, to a great extent, a game for thinking people. They pay attention to details. They value analysis and pattern recognition. So when they get fed up with Smuggler's Copter for what it accomplishes as a cheap, hyperefficient vehicle, and WotC bans it while also introducing yet another cheap, hyperefficient vehicle into the environment, that attracts some attention. The reaction, well, it's not good.
2. They acknowledged that before the set was released, they failed to notice the Saheeli Rai + Felidar Guardian interaction. I don't want to go so far as to say that being honest about it was the wrong move, but yikes, it sure seems like it didn't help endear them to Standard players. Personally, I really liked that Aether Revolt was a set that went heavier on interactions between cards and combo-enabling. I hope this doesn't make them shy away from it in the future. But yeah, if they're ostensibly balancing for Standard, completely missing the possibility of a two-card infinite combo really stands out as failure.
I don't know whether "ban cards" is a solution to either problem, but the roots of both problems seem to be the same. On the development side of things, there is some due diligence that just isn't being done. Others have already expounded on this better than I could. Smuggler's Copter is the most egregious example. It costs 2. It crews for 1. It's a 3/3 with flying. It loots on attacking or blocking. Those numbers are not subtle. They pushed the crap out of that thing. And then it turned out that it needed to be banned. That's a very clear failure of development. On the design side of things, they've taken a deliberate approach of keeping "police" cards for particular things out of the Standard environments where their sets are showcasing those things. A lot of people have been complaining about that too. I'd guess it's part of what has driven the popularity of Modern, where people have access to those answers. A lot of people wouldn't remember it and a lot of the people who do remember might not admit it, but when Mirrodin Block was in Standard, the environment, aside from the the presence of Skullclamp before it was banned (and perhaps despite that), was healthier than this Standard. Even though there were almost certainly more broken artifacts, they were kept in check by cards that preyed on them.
I totally think that WotC could turn this around, but if they want to appease Standard players, they have to show some recognition of those root problems and at least hint that they're addressing them.
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