Mythweaver Poq
15, May, 24

MTG Players Frustrated By Failed Format Update

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Article at a Glance

Earlier this week, Wizards of the Coast shocked the MTG playing world with a surprisingly major ban announcement. Despite expectations of no changes, Wizards decided to ban 56 cards from Legacy, Vintage, and Pauper! Almost all of these bans targeted the much-maligned Sticker and Attraction mechanics due to their play issues.

Thankfully, for once, many formats were in need of a dramatic change to curb an overpowered menace. Looking at Standard, Modern, and Pioneer, each of these formats is in a good spot, with little need for change. In theory, this should make everything hunky dory, but, while popular, these are hardly the only formats in MTG.

While Timeless and Historic will soon be shaken up from Modern Horizons 3, Brawl is a different beast on MTG Arena. Much like Commander, this format has a dedicated ban list, aimed at preventing un-fun cards, rather than purely overpowered menaces. For better or worse, this often leaves Brawl untouched, as it was during the latest Banned and Restricted update.

Now the dust has settled from the latest monumental bans, it seems this lack of action may have been a mistake. With a few key overpowered cards running rampant, this fun-focused format undeniably needs help.

Missing the Mark

Renata, called to the Hunt

In the latest Banned and Restricted update, Wizards didn’t give Brawl much mention. Found at the very end of the article, Wizards only highlighted two cards that could potentially cause issues. These cards being lightly discussed followed a wider investigation into the power of “non-Commander cards,” which is long overdue.

Within the article, Wizards specifically noted the power of Mana Drain and Paradox Engine. Since both cards are capable of facilitating massive plays, it’s no wonder they should be considered when assessing a deck’s power. According to Wizards, this is exactly what’s being done already, as “our matchmaking-focused approach is handling these cards well.”

In theory, the MTG Arena matchmaking system is the biggest up-side for Brawl, as it should ensure games are balanced. When everything is working well, high-power decks and low-power janky decks are kept separate, allowing them both to flourish. Unfortunately, despite the matchmaker’s potential, it’s hardly perfect all of the time.

While Wizards has clearly been investigating non-Commander cards, it currently feels like Commander choice is the only thing that matters. In theory, this should work well, as different Commanders are obviously on different levels. Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice, for instance, is worlds apart from the power of Renata, Called to the Hunt, right?

Unfortunately, contrary what you may expect, both of the above cards are seemingly considered tier-1 options. If you happen to be a Renata player like u/-Goatllama-, this can put you in some absolutely horrific matchups. Unfortunately, this incredibly frustrating situation isn’t a one-off problem as it’s worryingly common.

Mistaken Matchmaking

Mythweaver Poq

Following Wizards’ comments during the Banned and Restricted update, Reddit user u/ILikeGreenAndBlue pushed back against what was said. Flat out disagreeing with Wizards, ILikeGreenAndBlue stated “Their matchmaking focused approach is objectively failing.” Showcasing this, ILikeGreenAndBlue showcased three Brawl decks, each with an over 75% win rate on MTG Arena.

Despite their win rates, Mythweaver Poq, Voja, Jaws of the Conclave, and Crucias, Titan of the Waves aren’t in Arena’s infamous “Hell-Que.” Instead of being where they arguably belong, these cards run rampant in lower tiers of matchmaking, picking up easy wins. Should you be on the receiving end of this, you’re likely not going to have a pretty miserable time.

As u/Glorious_Invocation attests, this makes a lot of otherwise fun Commanders completely unplayable if you want to keep up. Sadly, this problem extends to cards like Rin and Seri, Inseparable, who is an “adorable yet mediocre Commander.” Bafflingly, even though they’re far from overpowered, Rin and Seri are another supposedly “Tier-1” option up against turn-four winning decks.

Given the prevalence of this problem, it’s no wonder many MTG players are seriously frustrated by Wizards’ lack of action. While Arena’s matchmaking system has potential, clearly, it’s not working as players would like. This, in turn, has created a wider problem of mass conceding on MTG Arena.

Due to the wonky Brawl matchmaking, it’s not uncommon for MTG players to concede upon seeing their opponent’s Commander. Since Brawl is a casual format with no ranked system, there’s very little punishment for this action. Worryingly, this has made conceding multiple matches the go-to way of finding a suitable opponent you want to play against. You just have to hope your opponent feels the same way about you.

Pervasive Problems

Rin and Seri, Inseparable

Currently, the trend of mass conceding is already a problem that makes Brawl particularly un-fun on MTG Arena. Unfortunately, this problem may only get worse once multiplayer launches on Arena in 2025. If the matchmaking isn’t fixed by then, this problem is going to become a lot more pervasion and frustrating.

Thankfully, since multiplayer is likely at least a year away, Wizards still has a decent while to fix things. That being said, clearly making a faultless matchmaking system is a lot easier said than done. After all, as Wizards has been investigating, non-Commander cards can have a huge impact on a deck’s performance.

In theory, non-Commander cards could be what is causing problems already. Since powerful staples like Proper Shortcode Usage is:

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Mana Confluence[/tootlips] are more accessible through Wildcards, including them may unintentionally increase a deck’s power. Sadly, while there’s a chance this is what’s happening, we just don’t know for sure.

Currently, to keep the system from being exploited, the matchmaker’s calculations happen behind closed doors. This means you won’t know what power level or tier your deck is at until you try to play it. Annoyingly, this makes refining a deck’s power level up or down even more of a struggle than normal.

Hopefully, Wizards of the Coast can simply improve the matchmaking system to the point the current issues vanish. Ultimately, this is pretty much all we can hope for, as there’s little players can do to help. Ideally, pointing out problematic Commanders could have their matchmaking tier adjusted, but there’s no telling when that will happen.

An Alternative Solution

Show and Tell

Given Wizards’ recent statement, it appears we’re going to be relying on MTG Arena’s matchmaker for quite some time. Should Wizards want to mix things up, however, there are alternative solutions available. One of these could be properly showing a deck’s rating, both while you’re building it, and at match start.

If every card on MTG Arena had a power rating as you put it into your Brawl deck, fine-tuning a deck would be significantly easier. Whether you wanted to increase or decrease the power of your deck, doing so would be a breeze. Alongside this, when facing an opponent, you needn’t concede right away since you could see their deck’s power, ideally, matches your own.

Unfortunately, while this system does have a few significant upsides, there are a lot of problems. For one, the work required to build this kind of database would be an utterly immense undertaking, far beyond what Canadian Highlander has done already. Furthermore, if this system needed to understand and properly balance combos, while not punishing individual cards, it’d require even more work.

Sadly, since MTG Arena doesn’t have infinite development resources to spend, we can’t ever imagine this system being introduced. As if the work required wasn’t problematic enough, it could also ruin deck building. After all, if you can see how powerful each card is, there’d be little reason not to jam the highest power cards together and call it a day.

Thankfully, while this novel suggestion may be a bust, there is something players can do in the meantime. Rather than relying on the matchmaking system, finding opponents via social media or at FNM events keeps you in control. Much like physical Commander games, when you know your opponent you can discuss your deck’s power properly and tweak accordingly.

The Waiting Game

Ultimately, while Wizards evidently has some work to do, we’re just going to have to wait and see what happens. Right now, it appears that Wizards is happy with the state of the matchmaking system. Sadly for those who don’t agree, there’s no telling when Wizards may change their tune and implement changes.

Hopefully, once Modern Horizons 3 is done hogging development resources, we’ll see some major changes happen. In theory, these could take place during the next ban announcement, which will take place on June 24th. Even if nothing gets banned in Brawl, we can only hope we’ll get some added explanation about what’s going on behind the scenes.

Read More: Wizards Accidentally Leaks Bloomburrow Card Two Months Early

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