white plume adventurer
5, Dec, 22

MTG Players Up in Arms with EDH Ruining Competitive Play

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The format usually takes a back seat to anything more recent in card legality, but Legacy has had a lot of attention over the past few weeks. A new breakout deck has hit the format, which caused all kinds of commotion on the secondary market. Cards that may not have been balanced for competitive play are showing up in a big way, and it’s starting to take a toll on the competitive format. Players aren’t happy about it, and things are starting to unfold in an unexpected way. Let’s take a look.

Was MTG Initiative Balanced for 1V1 Play?

seasoned dungeoneer

We covered its effect on the marketplace a little while ago, but a new strategy has started a massive wave in MTG’s Eternal Formats. It took some time, but people are beginning to realize that Initiative from Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur’s Gate is an incredibly powerful mechanic in 1V1 play.

This discovery didn’t necessarily start in Legacy but instead in Pauper. An emergency ban had to be issued because a strategy designed to turbo out an MTG Initiative creature as early as turn one was completely taking over the format. We wrote more about that here.

MTG designer Gavin Verhey tweeted out this statement, shocked that a card he designed for the Party Time Commander deck won a gigantic Legacy tournament this weekend with over 500 players in attendance. Putting aside the incredible impact on Legacy for a moment, the recent victory may make the Party Time Commander deck a great buy right now. Not only does this deck have the Commander all-star Black Market Connections, but Seasoned Dungeoneer has jumped from being a monetarily irrelevant card into a volatile $5 bill that can go for as much as $15 in the right place at the right time. Tack on a new-to-Arena Mutavault and a Skullclamp, and there’s much value to be had here.

While I personally love seeing new, unexpected cards bring some churn to a format that could potentially become very stale, a lot of Legacy players aren’t too fond of losing to cards meant for Multiplayer, and it’s partially because the Initiative could be seen as a three-mana Planeswalker emblem.

Before we go any further, this may be unclear if you don’t know what Initiative actually does. You can find that out here.

The Community is Split

white plume adventurer

There seem to be two main camps of players who are being impacted by the introduction of Initiative into Legacy in the forms of Seasoned Dungeoneer and, perhaps, the even more problematic, White Plume Adventurer. The first camp, as shown above, is quite frustrated by the effect that Initiative has on Legacy. To make things clear, things may be a bit played up here. Initiative is definitely good in Legacy and seems to have an “overtuned” feel in the format, but it’s not singlehandedly ruining this Eternal Format. Remember that you can easily lose to a Storm player on turn one in this format.

Initiative does, however, create a mechanic that attacks the format on a different angle that is incredibly hard to interact with. As stated by Twitter user Patrick Green: “Three mana cards should not be creating effects that permanently alter the game. There was a time where Emblems only came on Planeswalker ultimates. Monarch was at least on 4+ mana cards.” Once Initiative is established by one of these cards, it’s there for the rest of the game. There is no way to turn it off.

Initiative is also a lot harder to steal in a 1V1 game, especially when your Initiative creatures untap themselves on your opponent’s turns. These are valid concerns, but again, more disgusting play patterns are already available in the format.

Some players were irritated by the tone of Verhey’s tweet regarding “accidentally ruining a format.” While Twitter user Facematt is an example showcased above, there were more tweets in this category:

“My fun card designed for multiplayer accidentally made Legacy unplayable. Wow!!!” – @wheredmyjuulgo

“”I did not have that on my bingo card” is precisely the problem.” – @ChinamanLX

“Supplemental products in Legacy have a very high hit rate of giving Gavin surprised Pikachu face” – @TandyMTG

Unfortunately, the tone of Verhey’s tweet gave the outlook to some of the community that these cards aren’t being tested in Legacy. While the tone of the tweet may have been received negatively, Verhey’s creation has, undeniably, created some change in the Legacy format. Change that, I would argue, was needed.

Is this a Good Thing?

It wasn’t too long ago that the Legacy community was worried about Izzet Delver’s absurd win rate in the Legacy format. Yet, as shown by results following these concerns, MTG players are capable of adaptation. The majority of significant Legacy tournaments directly after this concern were won by lands decks, an entirely different archetype.

While Gavin’s tone may have come across as inappropriate to some, this tweet also shows that Gavin acknowledges the impacts of the cards he is making. He could have easily not commented on how his card design was impacting Legacy in a way that may have not been intended. This acknowledgment should, hopefully, lead to supplementary Commander products being tested with Eternal formats in mind. This could, in turn, create opportunities to showcase interesting new cards that bring something more interactable to the format. If Initiative, as a mechanic, were more easily interacted with in 1V1, there wouldn’t really be an issue here. Regardless of whether Initiative is a problem for the format, I think it’s a win for it because people are actually talking about Legacy. People can start diving into Magic Online and see whether this goofy Commander mechanic will really be the end-all for Legacy. Chances are, like usual, players will be able to adapt. If not, bans are an emergency way of creating any needed changes to keep a format interesting.

How Good is MTG Initiative in Legacy?

From Twitter User @FadedMTG

There also seems to be a bit of a fear of ‘forced rotation’ coming from the impact of these MTG Initiative cards. This fear emerged from the Modern Horizons sets released in recent times. The power level of these sets was so high compared to the Modern format that they single-handedly warped the entire format, essentially creating a ‘rotation‘ in a format that is not supposed to rotate. This occurred because the cards provided by the new set were so powerful that, in order to remain competitively relevant in the format, you needed to play with them, or you would lose to them.

This definitely does not arrive at the level of a ‘forced rotation’ yet, but it is a deck that the Legacy format will need to adapt to. Admittedly, the recorded data on mtgmeta.io suggests that Initiative dominates many common matchups, including the UR Delver deck that many considered a problem not too long ago. The deck’s bad matchups against Nettle Elves and Painter prove that the deck can be beaten, but it is going to force a lot of adaptation from all the other archetypes commonly seen in the format. Keep in mind that this data is based on a relatively small sample size, so biases involved by piloting errors will affect these percentages more than average.

As brought up by this particular Twitter user, the ‘forced rotation’ that impacted Modern hit a lot different than the rise of MTG Initiative cards in Legacy. The Horizons sets completely warped the Modern landscape, and any decks that existed before Modern Horizons were either eliminated by the metagame or were heavily warped with new card additions. For now, the rise of Initiative has only created one relevant deck.

This is all overshadowed, however, by the fact that MTG Initiative did win one of the largest Legacy tournaments in recent memory over the weekend. In the unlikely situation that this deck cannot be adapted to without it becoming a polarizing force in the format, some changes may need to be made. Ultimately, this series of events has only illuminated an unexpected event shining a spotlight on a format that needs more attention. This, ironically, may solve the exact problem that created the controversy in the first place.

Read More: Wizards Reveals Dozens of Incredible Reprints! Are they Worth it?

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