Where Modern Goes from Here

Posted in Event Coverage on April 24, 2016

By Aaron Forsythe

As you've no doubt heard by now, we no longer plan to use Modern as a Pro Tour format as of 2017. Modern will continue to be a big part of our Organized Play offerings, both at the premier level and otherwise, but it is no longer a good fit for the Pro Tour.

So why isn't it right for the Pro Tour? It comes down to our goals for the events. The first is that we want to reward good drafting, innovative deck building, and tight gameplay in unestablished environments. Second, we want to highlight the newest card set. To those ends, we positioned the Pro Tour events just a couple weeks after each new set comes out, which both provides the fresh new proving ground for our players and showcases each new set in a premier-level setting right at the beginning of its life cycle.

As time has passed since Modern's inception, some cracks started to appear that made us question its relevance to the Pro Tour. Our top players pointed out to us that Modern wasn't often about innovating or solving the puzzles presented by a new card set, but rather it rewarded huge numbers of repetitions with established decks, and while that kind of play can be interesting and is relevant to a lot of the Magic audience, it wasn't what the Pro Tour was supposed to be about.

In order to try to present the players with a new environment to explore, we'd implement the changes to the banned list that we had identified throughout the previous year right before the Pro Tour, which often cast a shadow of dread over the impending Pro Tour for many of the format's fans, as the spotlight of a Pro Tour accelerated the rate at which we'd ban problematic cards in the format. On top of that, the skill of the pro players combined with the high incentives of the event really accelerated the tuning and development of the best decks (such as this year's Eldrazi menace) to a large degree, which isn't great for a format that is designed to change very slowly over time. We'd rather let those deck evolutions play out over months on Magic Online or at store-level events, as that accelerated metagame pace often just means speeding up more changes to the banned list as well.

For all those reasons, we made a move to eliminate the Modern Pro Tour once before, for the 2015 season. That decision was met with a chorus of boos, and was quickly rescinded. So why are we doing so again?

The main reason is that we've made Standard a lot more dynamic than it was in 2015, primarily by moving to two blocks per year (with corresponding format rotations). Now four Standard Pro Tours should deliver a large variety of decks across the year, and there is significantly less need to break up potential stagnation with a variant format.

What We Want Modern To Be

In the wake of the recent Splinter Twin banning / Eldrazi dominance / Eye of Ugin banning / Ancestral Visions and Sword of the Meek unbanning series of events, I am frequently asked what we want Modern to be as a format. My answers to these questions should be seen as guidelines that we use to help our thinking internally, but they are not infallible policies. Should players' attitudes toward the format change over time, we're likely to adjust our guidelines as well.

Modern should:

  • Be a fun way to play Magic (first, and easy to forget, but very important!)
  • Let you tap into your collection to expand upon established decks and familiar strategies from Magic's recent past
  • Offer different types of decks and gameplay than what you typically see in Standard
  • Not rotate, allowing you to keep a deck for a long period of time
  • Consist of cards that we are willing and able to reprint

Those are the easy ones. Beyond those, Modern should:

  • Have a diverse top-tier metagame featuring over a dozen archetypes
  • Not be dominated by fast, non-interactive decks (consistent kills before turn four are a red flag)
  • Be at a power level that allows some newly printed Standard cards to affect the format (we don't have other ways to introduce cards into the format, and we like it when cards or decks can transition)
  • Have as small a banned list as possible that accomplishes all the previous goals

There's room for interpretation in many of those statements—intentionally—but this paints a clearer picture of how we see Modern.

So What Is Standard?

For comparison, here are some of the ways that we define Standard internally:

Standard should:

  • Be a fun way to play Magic
  • Let you play with the newest cards and discover new strategies
  • Showcase the themes, mechanics, and flavor of our most recent sets to further immerse players into the planes of the latest sets
  • Change significantly and dynamically with each new card set and rotation
  • Be well-tested and curated to provide depth and balance and minimize the potential for bannings
  • Provide constant new deck building and gameplay challenges for players of all levels

There you have it—Standard and Modern, our two most-played Constructed formats. We want to use each one in the places that are best for that format and for Magic as a whole—hopefully you'll agree that shifting the Pro Tours all to Standard does just that.

Thanks for reading!

-Aaron

@mtgaaron

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