Dead Weight
21, Nov, 23

New and Improved MTG Standard Still Has a Lot of Problems

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In case you’re not up to date with all the latest news in every MTG format, recently, Standard saw a monumental change. In order to combat the format’s flaws, Wizards overhauled the rotation calendar, moving to a three-year cycle. This means that, for 2023, nothing changed in Standard, outside of a few bans.

At first, this change was heralded as the next best thing, as Standard seriously needed some major changes. Now that this rotation is in place, however, it’s not exactly been the overhaul that players were expecting. In fact, rather unsurprisingly, very little has changed in Standard since the new rotation came into place.

After two months of this complete lack of change, many MTG players have already had enough. 

Same Old Standard

Boseiju, Who Endures

Considering the new rotation was only introduced with Wilds of Eldraine, the new Standard hasn’t been around for too long. Despite this, complaints from MTG players are already coming in thick and fast, as Standard has been seriously stagnating. Dominated by the same lands, bombs, and archetypes that players have seen for years, Standard hardly feels like a rotating format anymore.

Having enough of this, u/flyingoctoscorpin recently took to Reddit to vent their frustrations with the once-popular format. Stating bluntly that they “hate it,” Flyingoctoscorpin lamented the current, incredibly samey, state of the meta. “So many cards and yet I see the same cards over and over. Standard already feels stagnant not even a week after new cards are injected…” 

After dishing out these harsh criticisms, Flyingoctoscorpin went on to ask the community about how they felt. Unfortunately for Wizards of the Coast, the sentiment from most MTG players on Reddit was the same, Standard is simply bad right now. One of the main reasons for this, as players like u/Mysterious-Lion-3577 highlight, is the woeful, or rather excellent, mana base. 

Thanks to the lack of rotation, Standard is currently loaded with absolutely incredible lands. The Triomes from Streets of New Capenna, for instance, offer incredible fixing for any deck. Alongside these, the Legendary Lands from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, are practically auto includes within most decks. As if that wasn’t enough, the Innistrad Slow Lands offer even more reliable fixing. 

Due to this overabundance of incredible lands, almost every deck can have access to all the best spells. Unlike precious rotations where multi-color decks were a risk, now, you’ll almost always have the mana you need. Unsurprisingly, thanks to this trend, powerful cards dominate even more than usual, making things feel stale fast. 

More Options, Less Fun

Sheoldred, the Apocalypse

While the expanded mana base of Standard is undoubtedly a major problem, it’s hardly the format’s only flaw. As u/bunc points out, for instance, the current power level is also part of the problem. Due to Standard being loaded with bombs, the actual pool of cards is much smaller than you might initially think. 

“My issue comes down to too many cards fighting over 60 slots in your deck. It’s not enough for a card in a new set to be good, it needs to be broken as it is competing against Wedding Announcement, Sheoldred, Farewell, etc.” 

u/bunc

For better or worse, while the barrier to entry is incredibly high, new cards have made their way into Standard. Initially, this is incredibly exciting, as the format sorely needs a shake-up from any new deck or archetype. Before too long, however, these new cards either fade away or become part of the problem. 

Due to Standard being so hyper-optimized as a 60-card format, only the best cards from ten sets make the cut. This, in turn, leads to another problem, as the best cards tend to have multi-format appeal, leading to substantial demand. As many MTG players will know, this demand leads to high prices, making Standard worryingly expensive. 

Currently, a meta Standard deck can easily set you back between $400 to $500, which is no small investment. In theory, the three-year Standard helps with this problem, as now you get to use these cards for longer. This, however, misses the point about why Standard cards are so expensive.

In most cases, since Standard is played so little on paper, it has very little impact on the financial markets. For better or worse, this would allow players to sell off their powerful cards post-rotation at little loss. While technically the same potential for selling and reinvestment is still true today, the major problem is really the upfront cost.

 Same Problems, Longer Rotation

Quintorius Kand

Unfortunately, despite the major problems with Standard having been known for some time, the three-year rotation hasn’t really fixed any of them. In fact, it may have even made the format worse overall, as nothing has changed, or perhaps will change for 10 more months… Thankfully, however, there is some glimmer of hope on the horizon for Standard.

For starters, currently, not a single Standard set is designed with the three-year rotation in mind. In theory, once sets that were designed around the new rotation are released, things should get better overall. Unfortunately, however, the first set to be designed with the three-year rotation fully in mind is Bloomburrow. In case you’re unaware, this set doesn’t release until Q3 2024

Beyond Bloomburrow being a long way away, Standard will also be filled with non-optimized sets for even longer. It will take until 2027, for instance, for Standard to only include three-year rotation-designed sets. By the time that happens, there’s a very real chance that rotation has changed again…

While the Standard rotation schedule in 2027 may be unknown, thankfully, we don’t have to wait that long for change. For starters, The Lost Caverns of Ixalan has just been released, bringing with it a new dinosaur-themed and improved Boros archetypes. Hopefully, these decks can actually find a foothold and expand the current metagame, rather than being a flash in the pan. 

Alongside this potentially temporary positive, Wizards isn’t done with Standard just yet. Promising more competitive support and sanctioned events, hopefully, the once great format will see a renaissance. For that to truly happen, however, it seems Standard still has a long way to go…

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