After years of dwindling popularity and growing costs, Wizards of the Coast is finally saving Standard! Or rather, that is their goal, at least. So far, however, Wizards’ efforts to breathe life into the floundering format haven’t been entirely well received. The change to a three-year rotation, for instance, has been lamented by MTG players for keeping the format’s decks stale. Similarly, the upcoming ban changes have been criticized by some players, rather than showered in praise.
Thankfully for Wizards, the upcoming changes to Standard aren’t all bad news. In fact, as much as players like to complain, they should be a major step toward improving the format. That being said, however, Wizards’ work is far from over. After all, while it may be the flavor of the month, Standard needs a lot of fixing to reclaim its former glory. Subsequently, it seems Wizards of the Coast may have their work cut out. Luckily for them, however, MTG players have plenty of suggestions about what can be done.
Mixed History. Bright Future?
Within the wide world of Magic: the Gathering, preconstructed decks are nothing new. In fact, they’ve existed as part of the game since some of the earliest sets, such as 1997’s Tempest. For this set, Wizards created the first-ever preconstructed 60 deck, which contained three rares and nine uncommons. Giving new players an easy way into the game, these products were incredibly useful, although not the most popular. Due to this, preconstructed decks have undergone a number of changes throughout the years.
First reinvented into Intro Packs for Shards of Alara, the original preconstructed decks would later be reinvented once again. Becoming Planeswalker decks following the release of Kaladesh, MTG’s original preconstructed decks were given another chance at life. Unfortunately, however, it wasn’t meant to be, as in 2020, Planeswalker Decks would be scrapped in favor of preconstructed Commander decks.
Partly thanks to these decks, Commander has since exploded in popularity to become the most played format on paper. Thanks to this success, some MTG players are suggesting that preconstructed decks are the fix that Standard needs.
Since the change to Standard rotation was announced, this suggestion has been proposed by numerous players across social media. More recently, however, Reddit user u/ManyOtter made this idea the focus, rather than just an easily missed comment. Asking “With Standard rotations getting longer, should WotC start printing decks from Pro-Tour?” ManyOtter proposed an interesting solution. One that, in the eyes of some players, could be the fix that would fix Standard’s woes.
Preconstructed Decks to the Rescue
Explaining the merits of their idea, ManyOtter noted that their suggestion has several major benefits alongside being deeply enjoyable. For starters, as the Commander decks have proven, preconstructed decks can be incredibly beneficial for new players. Giving them an interesting, potentially even competitive viable, place to start from, these decks help mitigate the barrier to entry. With the pool of Standard cards growing by 1000 over the next year, this will be all the more important.
Alongside being ideal for new players, ManyOtter briefly touched upon how more preconstructed decks help existing players. Stating that these decks could “[cap] the price of the best cards,” the benefits are clear. After all, no one wants to be paying $80 for a competitive mana base. Especially not when you’re already spending $100 on a playset of bombs like Fable of the Mirror-Breaker.
Due to these steep costs, getting into Standard can be incredibly difficult and unappealing, especially when compared to non-rotating formats. As a result of this, several players were quick to agree that something needs to be done. Reddit user u/Dragonfire14, for instance, stated, “If Wizards want their game to be played more, especially in competitive 1v1 formats, the barrier to entry needs to be cheaper.”
“$80 for a single Sheoldred is too damn much! $80 for an out-of-the-box ready Rakdos deck that can play at top-level games would get people playing.”u/Dragonfire14
While numerous players concurred that preconstructed Pro Tour decks would be ideal, others noted that anything is better than what WIzards is doing right now. “They can make Challenger Decks that are more realistic, that’s for sure,” u/kingfede1985 commented. Released roughly once per year, Challenger Decks are almost what players are after, a viable and affordable preconstructed Standard deck.
Unfortunately, however, these decks are far from perfect as they’re hardly tournament viable. As a result, they are often pulled to pieces by reprint-hungry players, rather than actually played and enjoyed.
Price to Performance
Thanks to the explanations by ManyOtter and many others, it’s clear that preconstructed Pro Tour decks could do a lot of good. This, however, doesn’t mean that the idea is faultless. While it may seem good on the surface, there are a number of major problems. Each one of these could stand in the way of this product’s success. For starters, and arguably most importantly, the price of these preconstructed MTG decks would be a huge factor in their appeal.
Theoretically, this may not seem like a problem, as making these decks cheap would make Standard more accessible. In reality, however, u/lupin-san points out, there isn’t really a right answer as every option has drawbacks. “Price this too high because of the value they have, and the intended audience can’t afford them. Price them too low, and they are bought out by sellers as soon as the case of product is opened.”
Technically, in order to save Standard, and help out other formats too, there is a right answer: make them cheap. Alongside, this, however, Wizards also has to print, a lot of these decks, in order to have supply outweigh demand. This set is vital to the process, as if not enough are printed, they’ll simply be snapped up by players who strip the decks for parts. Unfortunately, however, while this solution would help players, it isn’t perfect.
While MTG did make a billion dollars throughout 2022 alone, at the end of the day, WotC is a business. Subsequently, the decisions they make need to be profitable. As good as they seem, there’s no guarantee that preconstructed Pro Tour decks would be. Especially so if they’re being printed in incredibly high volumes in order to guarantee prices drop.
Unfortunately for fans of these potential preconstructed decks, the problems don’t end there. As u/shorebot notes, for instance, “products take time to develop and manufacture.” Even if Wizards was taking and printing a decklist, production, and shipping still take time. Beyond just being a frustrating wait for fans, at worst, the meta may have moved before these decks release. In this instance, these decks will effectively be useless for competitive MTG play which defeats much of their purpose.
At the end of the day, with Standard deck prices surpassing $400, it’s clear something needs to be done. Doing just that, however, is evidently isn’t all easy. Thankfully, however, it seems Wizards is at least aware of this problem. After all, the cost of Standard was one of the many reasons behind the initial rotation change. With even more Standard fixes and improvements in the works, hopefully, the format will be able to return to its former glory. While this is the hope, until Standard actually gets cheaper, it’ll likely continue to be a digital-first format for the time being.