This Historic Ranked period is around a month old, and we've been eagerly looking over the feedback and data we're gathering on the new format. We're generally happy with what we're seeing there, with good play rates and a fairly healthy-looking metagame balance. Only a couple decks are more than 5% of the meta, and, for the most part, win rates are showing a good, healthy spread. There are a couple outliers here, though, that we will be addressing (more info on that below).
We're happy with how the cards in Historic Anthology 1 have been adopted, where several have found roles in key decks, and the additions have enabled some fun new archetypes. We're seeing the new cards appearing in over 20% of the decks used in high-level Historic play, which is a good sign we've landed about where we wanted to be: good, useful options, but not something that has warped the format around it. Burning-Tree Emissary has proved the most popular of the new cards, showing up in both Gruul and Jund shells. The Soul Sisters archetype has also proven popular, using Soul Warden and Serra Ascendant to complement a mono-white life gain package.
Overall play in Historic is tracking slightly lower than we'd like to see, which largely seems to be coming from players preferring to play Best-of-One over Best-of-Three. Somewhat surprisingly, we saw about three times the rate of games played in the Historic launch event (Best-of-One) than we do in the Historic Ranked Queue (Best-of-Three). This suggests that while Best-of-Three is the most competitive way to play, the majority of our players still prefer Best-of-One. And this holds even in the Historic format, which we expected to attract more competitive-minded players. With this in mind, we're looking at expanding the importance of Best-of-One play in future Ranked Historic periods.
Cards We Are Suspending in Historic
Getting back to those outliers in win rate and diversity, there are a few cards we've identified as being problematic in the Historic meta, and we'll be taking action to address those. None of the cards we're acting on here will come as a surprise:
- Once Upon a Time – We're seeing much the same thing in Historic that we saw in Standard and Pioneer: Once Upon a Time is very prevalent in any top decks playing green, and it is leading to green in general being overrepresented in the meta. Suspending it (more on what suspending means below) should help bring greater deck diversity.
- Field of the Dead – Similar to Once Upon a Time, Field of the Dead is constraining Historic in much the same way it affected Pioneer: it's having too large of a damping effect on controlling and reactive deck options. Suspending this should allow a wider variety of deck archetypes to be viable in Historic.
- Veil of Summer – Much as we saw in Standard and Pioneer, Veil of Summer's high efficiency is proving stifling to the overall metagame by neutralizing too many counter-play options. Suspending this card should bring more diversity to the answers and decks performing well in Historic.
- Oko, Thief of Crowns – We wanted to give Oko a chance in Historic, but the data is showing similar, though less severe, issues to what we saw in Standard. He's not nearly as prevalent in the meta (only around 15% of the decks), but several of these decks are seeing win rates in excess of 55% in high-level play. This suggests that meta share could quickly grow, so we're suspending Oko now to prevent that.
The Historic card pool is currently somewhere between Standard and Pioneer (with a few quirks of its own). Over time those differences will increase, but for now it makes sense that cards having shown themselves to be problematic in those formats would also be problematic in Historic.
Unlike Standard and Pioneer, Historic is a digital format. This means we have additional options for how we address these cards, and instead of banning them outright, we're using a new mechanism called suspension.
What Suspension Means
Historic is evolving rapidly, both from general play and because it's receiving new cards fairly regularly. To support it properly, we need a way to control the balance that works well with Magic's history of using bans and restrictions while allowing more flexibility to adjust as Historic changes.
Suspending cards gives us that mechanism. For gameplay purposes, a suspension works like a ban, in that the card will not be legal to use in the format while it is suspended. But unlike how we handle banning cards, we plan to use the flexibility that the digital format provides to move cards onto and off of the suspension list more commonly. The "off of" portion there is important. Suspension isn't a final verdict, it's an indication that we think this card may be causing issues, and we'd like to see what the meta looks like without that influence.
Suspension is also a temporary measure. All the cards we're suspending here will be removed from the suspension list by or before the Ranked Historic queue returning in March. Some may be returned to the playable pool (likely because we believe the new environment provides the appropriate answers or countermeasures), and the rest will move to being fully banned.
How Suspensions Will Be Used
We are actively monitoring the card and deck stats in Historic and regularly evaluating whether we feel like there are issues there that need addressing. For this first Historic period, we're tending to keep a light touch, reacting less and seeing how things develop naturally. But in the future, we're likely to move cards on and off the suspension list more frequently.
In a format like Historic, it's always our preference to provide answers to a problematic card rather than ban it, and that's one of the roles the future Historic Anthologies will be serving. In some cases, a combination of new answers and an evolving meta will let us remove cards from the suspension list, but where we feel like that's not happening (or at least won't happen for a while), we'll move cards from suspended to fully banned.
When cards are fully banned in Historic you will receive Wildcard reimbursement as normal, with the caveat that you won't receive multiple reimbursements for the same, individual card.
For example: A player has collected two copies of Card X when it is banned in Standard, and they receive two Wildcards at that time. Later, the card is also banned in Historic. Though they still have two copies, they won't receive additional Wildcards because they've already been reimbursed for the copies they have. However, if they had crafted (or otherwise collected) more copies between the Standard ban and the Historic ban, they would receive reimbursement for those new copies after the Historic ban.
The Future of Historic
We feel like Historic is in a healthy place and developing well, and these suspensions should help it continue to grow in diverse and interesting directions. To help that along, we have several upcoming Historic events and more on the horizon.
We'll be running our first Historic Ranked Draft with Dominaria from January 3–16, where you can help complete your Dominaria collection or just enjoy one of Magic's all-time top Draft formats. We'll also be capping off this Historic Ranked period with a high-stakes Constructed tournament for January 11–13, so bring your best deck and compete for a top prize of 40 Historic packs and more. The regular Historic Constructed events will begin on January 16, as Theros Beyond Death releases and Ranked Historic moves to the offseason while the focus shifts to Standard. Then in March we plan to release Historic Anthology 2 and Ranked Historic will return.
We've got a lot more planned for Historic later in the year, and we're actively working with the tabletop studio (R&D) to design the remastered sets we talked about last update. To answer one question, we see a lot about these sets, they are being designed to support both Constructed and Limited play, but we'll talk more about that as we get a bit closer. Until then, thanks for being a part of Historic's debut!