Since first launching back in 1993, Magic: The Gathering has undoubtedly come a long way. Creating thousands of cards, billions of dollars, and even new games like MTG Arena, Magic looks like a completely different game in many ways. Despite this, however, many MTG players still enjoy the same old formats that existed at the game’s launch.
While Standard, Vintage, and Draft are undeniably the classic trio of MTG formats, many more have been created since then. Commander, for starters, was conceived by players before it snowballed into being the most popular format around today. Alongside this, we’ve also had more recent additions such as Alchemy, which have struggled to reach the same success.
Despite the trials and tribulations of MTG Arena’s latest format, it seems Wizards isn’t done creating new ones. Judging by recent comments from Wizards staff, there might be a new MTG format on the horizon for Arena. Positively, unlike Alchemy, MTG players might actually be interested in this hypothetical new format.
Arena Vintage Soon™?
Recently, there has been a surprisingly large amount of demand for a new format on MTG Arena. This follows the recent No Ban List event which thoroughly delighted players. As the name suggests, this two-week-long event completely removed Historic’s ban list, allowing anything and everything to be played.
Offering a smorgasbord of broken and incredibly enjoyable decks, the No Ban List event was incredibly well received. For better or worse, however, there was no telling if it actually meant anything. It easily could have just been a fun event prior to Wilds of Eldraine’s launch. Equally, however, it could have been a test by Wizards for the future of MTG Anena.
Pinning their hopes on the latter, many MTG players wished for the event to return as a genuine format. Unfortunately, however, the chances of that happening appeared to be rather unlikely, as unbanning cards seemed more viable. Despite this expectation, however, MTG Arena players may be in for some good news. It seems Wizards really is considering a brand new format!
Speaking in a recent Q&A, Jay Parker, Wizards Director of Digital Game Design, hinted at this intriguing possibility. Fielding questions around Fetch Lands and the No Ban List event, Parker revealed Wizards is definitely working on something. As presumed by Metallix87 on Discord, this could be an “Arena Vintage” where a lot more cards are playable.
Responding to Metallix87’s question, Parker stated “It’s an idea we’re exploring and judging player interest around.” From this, it appears that, should enough players show the required interest, they may actually get their way! Considering the amount of players who enjoyed the No Ban List event, Arena Vintage definitely seems like a good idea.
On the surface, it seems like the main reason behind Arena Vintage would be, fun. While the format should certainly promise this, there is a much bigger reason behind its implementation. For better or worse, primarily thanks to Bonus Sheets, MTG Arena has a lot of banned cards. Ideally, many of these banned cards could be legal in Arena Vintage.
Kept out of Historic in order to ensure the format is interesting and enjoyable, these cards are literally unusable. Currently, on MTG Arena, 27 cards are almost completely unusable on MTG Arena. As time goes on, this list is undoubtedly going to expand, thanks to additional Bonus Sheets, combos, and new sets.
One set in particular, in fact, is the main driving force behind much of the demand for Arena Vintage. The capstone of the 2023 release calendar, Khans of Tarkir is coming to MTG Arena by the end of the year. Unlike the Remastered sets players have seen before, this set release is a carbon copy of the 2014 paper set.
As those familiar with Khans of Tarkir will know, this means that MTG Arena will be getting the five ally Fetch Lands this year. Iconic in Modern, many players are understandably excited to play with these cards. Unfortunately, however, there is a major problem with that hope. We don’t know if the Fetch Lands will be Historic legal when they launch yet.
When asked about this question repeatedly, Wizards hasn’t given a clear answer. Instead, it’s often noted that the topic is still in discussion. While this unknown is frustrating, it seems that players should be able to enjoy Fetch Lands. Either they’re legal in Historic, or they’ll be part of Arena Vintage, if, or when, that launches.
One Format In, One Format Out
While MTG Arena may be getting a new format soon in the form of Arena Vintage, it’ll also technically be losing one. In late 2024/early 2025, the Explorer format should be no more. Instead, this format will be replaced by a tournament-ready version of Pioneer. Having been promised for years, unsurprisingly, many players are excited about this upcoming release.
Unfortunately, while many MTG Arena players are already excited, there is still a long time to wait. Disappointingly, during that at least year-long wait, it now seems there might not be anything to tide players over. Speaking in the recent Q&A, Jay Parker stated it’s “TBD” if there will be any more Explorer Anthologies before Pioneer Masters.
Should this TBD result in a no, Explorer may stagnate somewhat with interest predominantly propped up by Pioneer Masters. That being said, however, there are still plenty of MTG sets that release in a year, potentially adding new Explorer/Pioneer playables. Through this, hopefully, the format can be kept fresh and exciting, even without a dedicated new anthology.
Ultimately, for both Explorer and Arena Vintage, we’re just going to have to wait and see what happens. After all, for now, the future is shrouded in maybes and TBDs which could really mean anything. Hopefully, for the good of Arena, players will get all the content and formats they desire, however, there are only so many development resources to go around.