Loran of the Third Path | The Brothers' War
22, Jun, 23

MTG Players Concerned Upcoming Sets May Ruin Premier Format

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Once the go-to and most played format in MTG, throughout recent years, the popularity of Standard has declined dramatically. Due to rising costs, a stale metagame, and a pesky global pandemic, players have been flocking to formats like Commander instead. Thankfully, despite its fall from grace on paper, Standard is still a thriving format on MTG Arena. However, this digital appeal evidently isn’t enough for Wizards of the Coast. 

Responding to the gradually declining player base, recently, Wizards of the Coast set out to save Standard. To do this, Wizards is implementing a multi-pronged approach that overhauls rotation and the format’s ban schedule. On the surface, these changes should fix many of the format’s worst problems. According to numerous MTG players, however, the upcoming changes could do more harm to Standard than good

Suspect Standard Solutions

Sheoldred, the Apocalypse
Sheoldred, the Apocalypse | Dominaria United

In order to combat Standard’s fading appeal, the main change Wizards is implementing is an overhaul to rotation. Rather than following a two-year rotation pattern, Standard is now switching to a three-year cycle. This means that for 2023, there is no rotation to the Standard format at all. 

On the surface, this change appears to fix many of the problems Standard has been experiencing throughout recent years. The cost of play, for instance, should be somewhat mitigated as players are able to invest in their cards for longer. Similarly, the format’s diversity and complexity should be greatly improved through the increased card pool.

Due to these major, much-requested benefits, in theory, the rotation changes should be a godsend for Standard. That’s the theory, at least… In reality, the changes could be incredibly detrimental. For better or worse, we’ve already seen the first symptoms of this. 

Shortly after the updated rotation schedule was announced, Wizards revealed new bans for Standard. Affecting Fable of the Mirror Breaker, Reckoner Bankbuster, and Invoke Dispair, there’s no doubt these bans were needed. After all, without them, MTG players would be dealing with a potentially dangerously stale meta for another year. 

Once again, this seems like a positive change on the surface, as Standard sorely needed saving from Rakdos Midrange. Unfortunately, however, bans in Standard aren’t all upside, as they make the format less approachable for new players. This is something Standard needs to avoid if it wants to become the go-to format in MTG once again. 

Thankfully, while Standard does have a history of occasionally banning cards, this is a solvable problem. WotC just needs to be careful about what they release in Standard sets. Unfortunately, however, due to how MTG sets are designed, this may take some time.

Too Long in the Oven

Witch's Oven | Throne of Eldraine
Witch’s Oven | Throne of Eldraine

For better or worse, typically, MTG sets are developed for roughly two years before being released. This long lead time ensures that sets are enjoyable to play and don’t completely break formats with power creep. Usually, this is a very good thing, however, in 2023, this long development time may be more of a curse than a blessing.

Due to when the Standard rotation changes were concocted and implemented, not every upcoming set was designed with the three-year rotation schedule in mind. This was recently confirmed by MTG’s Lead Designer, Mark Rosewater, via their Q&A blog, Blogatog

“The first set that had some knowledge of the [rotation] change (later in the process) was Polo, the first set of 2024.”

Mark Rosewater

To lay it out clearly, this means that both Wilds of Eldraine and The Lost Caverns of Ixalan were not designed around the three-year rotation cycle. In theory, this may not be a huge problem as these sets could provide new self-contained mechanics and archetypes. Alternatively, however, if these sets introduce new and powerful cards that wreak havoc upon Standard. 

After seeing this recent statement from Mark Rosewater, many MTG players on social media predicted the latter situation. Reddit user u/Tianoccio, for instance, assumed the worst, commenting, “Standard is going to be f*cked for a few years, is what they’re saying.” Thankfully, not every player was so pessimistic, however, users like u/MeepleMaster did note there may be potentially unintended consequences. 

“Probably means that multicolored will be a bit easier as they usually drip feed the dual lands out so we don’t have too many at one time”

u/MeepleMaster

Technically, it’s not confirmed that 2023’s remaining sets will have oodles of fixing. That being said, however, it’s practically a guarantee every MTG set has some rare lands nowadays. So much so that March of the Machine made waves by not having this common feature. Much to players’ chagrin, this may mean five-color good stuff decks become increasingly prevalent until 2024. 

It’s Not All Doom and Gloom

Etched Host Doombringer | March of the Machine
Etched Host Doombringer | March of the Machine

Thankfully while there are definitely some major potential problems, such as an influx of fixing or format-breaking bombs, 2023 isn’t a complete write-off. After all, as u/Stormtide_Leviathan points out, the lack of rotation should help significantly improve tribal archetypes. For better or worse, we should see this more after 2024, this is one of Wizards’ main goals for the three-year rotation strategy.

At the end of the day, we don’t know what Wilds of Eldraine and The Lost Caverns of Ixalan are going to do to the Standard meta. On one hand, they could be incredible additions to the format which shake up the metagame in interesting ways. Conversely, the power level of these sets could be rather lacking, thanks to the unaccounted-for rotation change. If this is the case, Standard MTG players may be left grinding through a stale meta for three, or even six months!

Mercifully, even if the worst hypothetical does come to pass, Standard isn’t entirely doomed to fail. After all, alongside the recent ban wave, Wizards has also announced new consistent post-release ban windows to fix problem cards. While bans aren’t a perfect solution, as we mentioned earlier, this should help curate an interesting and diverse metagame. 

Ultimately, as much as many MTG players are concerned, we don’t know what the future holds for Standard right now. For better or worse, we won’t know until previews begin for Wilds of Eldraine on the 15th of August. Until then, we’ll just have to wait patiently and enjoy the state Standard is in right now.

Read More: Mardu Colors Are Dominating Early Lord of the Rings Limited!

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