1, Aug, 23

MTG Pro Tour Showcases Troubling Power Creep Problem

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Article at a Glance

The MTG Pro Tour didn’t have any new breaking archetypes, but a lot of Modern’s best showed up with some new tech and took names. Rakdos Scam was largely considered the best deck coming into the event and, even though it was the most popular deck in the tournament and only one copy got into top eight, that copy took down the entire tournament in the hands of Jake Beardsly, the first player to win his first Pro Tour appearance in 17 years. Congrats to him, its a huge accomplishment!

Even though Magic put on a fantastic tournament, many observers took away a different point. Even though many archetypes of old have managed to keep up with the times, the most impactful cards are all brand-spanking new. After all, the two most impactful cards of the entire tournament were just released at the beginning of June!

While metagame change is undeniably a good thing, at least in my opinion, it still brings up the awkward question of power creep. Is it necessary? How much do we need? Many MTG players seem concerned that power creep is going a bit too far.

Concern Over Power Creep

Even though the Pro Tour just concluded, evidence of power creep was blatantly available as soon as the metagame analysis was announced on magic.gg. The two most played cards being The One Ring and Orcish Bowmasters from Magic’s most recent release, honestly, makes the presence of power creep undeniable.

Past that point, though, of the 20 most played cards at Barcelona’s Pro Tour, 11 of them were released in the last two years. Many of the cards that have withstood the test of time are the various Fetch lands that create such incredible mana for the Modern format. If we do not include lands in this count, ten of the thirteen remaining cards were released in the past two years. Some players see this as an invalidation of the remaining 20 years of the Modern format’s history.

The Winning Decklist

Just like the most used cards in the format, the decklist that actually won the Pro Tour had a disproportionate amount of new cards in it as well. Taking to Reddit, ihut claims that 28 (I’m counting 30) of the 40 nonland cards in the main deck of the winning decklist were released in the last two years. These cards include:

  • 4 Fury (June 18, 2021)
  • 4 Grief (June 18, 2021)
  • 4 Orcish Bowmasters (June 23, 2023)
  • 4 Dauthi Voidwalker (June 18, 2021)
  • 4 Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer (June 18, 2021)
  • 4 Fable of the Mirror-Breaker (February 18, 2022)
  • 3 Undying Malice (November 19, 2021)
  • 3 Feign Death (July 21, 2021)
  • No, Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger was not released in the last two years.

They claim that power creep goes further than just the competitive stage, however:

“I see the same with my casual commander games, where all the new cards from the precons and recent sets have started to really dominate the board and replaced a lot of older cards. Commander deck building seems to have become: pick a strategy and find all the enablers WOTC has printed in commander-focused sets/precons.

Where does this leave Magic in the next few years? Is there enough design space left in commander to still make 20+ interesting precons per year without resorting to just blatant/excessive power creep? Will Modern in three years still contain any of the same non-land cards it does currently?”

ihut

Other Players’ Opinion

The responses to this Reddit post have mostly been that of agreement. Honestly, if we’re just looking at the recent Pro Tour numbers in the context of cards released in the last two years, its pretty difficult to refute that this isn’t an active issue. However, many players do not think Magic has always been this way:

“A few years ago I used to say that Magic didn’t have a power creep problem, it was just that where the power resided had shifted. While it was easy to point something like Baneslayer Angel going from being a $50 card that dominated standard in its first printing, to effectively a bulk-rare when it reentered standard, that’s not really the whole picture. When Baneslayer was first in standard it was also there with cards like Ponder, Preordain, and Lightning Bolt, cards that would be seen as too powerful now.

At this point in time though, power creep is a big problem.”

FreeLook93

Baneslayer Angel’s change in status in the Modern format was heralded by many players as a strong example of power creep in the format. We’ve even compared Baneslayer Angel to a newer card in Magic. As stated above, during the card’s original printing, Baneslayer Angel was a format-defining force. Once it was reprinted, it was completely unplayable, and has continued to be so to this day.

Outside of this, players strongly agree that power creep is currently defining Magic as a whole:

“Lol this is what I was going to comment. There’s really not any debate or discussion to be had here xD”

kalladdin

“By god yes, and anyone who thinks otherwise is delusional. Eternal formats got rotated in the past few years to an unprecedented degree.”

elppaple

We’ve discussed multiple times the idea of ‘forced rotation‘ in the Modern format as a result of Modern Horizons Two. This is not a controversial opinion by any means – asking a majority of Modern players how Modern Horizons Two affected the format will get this response a majority of the time.

Basically, this means that the contents of Modern Horizons Two was so strong that it completely flipped the entire format on its head. Since the format was completely redefined around the new set, older strategies were rendered completely irrelevant, and, essentially, ‘rotated’ out of the Modern format.

Read More: Pro Tour LOTR Showcases Meta-Warping Adaptations!

A Little Was Necessary

Creatures, in particular, have definitely suffered power creep the most, but creatures also used to be absolutely terrible. A great example of that is this is taking a look at the recent Cardmarket video with MTG guru Frank Karsten. One of the two historic world championship decks they are playing contains 2/2 creatures with downsides. The other has banned MTG cards like Recurring Nightmare. From this perspective, creatures did need some help.

Unfortunately, according to sales patterns for Magic, Wizards of the Coast is also incentivized to keep power creep as a way to sell products, at least according to many MTG players:

“The thing is WOTC are basically incentivised to power creep. Firstly underpowered sets do not sell well. Secondly with stuff like Modern Horizons, how are you going to justify the price point if it doesn’t have a significant impact? Thirdly, their business model is basically depending on sets like that creating new reprint equity, otherwise Masters sets will become a tough sell at the rate they are putting them out.”

ozza512

Recent sales announcements from Hasbro certainly support this opinion. It was recently revealed that Modern Horizons Two is the best selling product in MTG history, racking up $300 million in sales. This also happens to be the most blatant example of power creep in Magic’s non-rotating formats in quite some time.

The question remains whether there is a better way for Magic’s formats to evolve while keeping their historic card pools relevant. I honestly do not know if there is an alternate answer to this question – besides, potentially, supporting a format like Premodern more strongly (while not adding supplemental sets to it).

Read More: MTG Eldrazi Unbound Upgrades, Tips, and Gameplay Review

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