29, Dec, 23

Nostalgic MTG Arena Inclusion Was an Unexpected Flop!

Article at a Glance

A lot of MTG Arena’s biggest changes throughout 2023 came right at the end of the year. Timeless is undoubtably the biggest change to happen on MTG Arena in quite some time, and that change is, in large part, is thanks to the introduction of Khans of Tarkir onto the MTG Arena client. Fetch Lands came with this digital re-mastery, and these lands are so powerful that they can completely flip formats on their head. In order to keep Historic, more or less, the same, Fetch lands would be pre-banned in the format, making them a major difference between Historic and Timeless.

In this way, Khans of Tarkir’s MTG Arena debut can be argued to be a huge success. Players seem to be having a ton of fun with MTG Arena’s new Vintage format. The same thing, however, cannot be said for Khans of Tarkir’s Premier Draft format. According to statistics from 17Lands.com, this format may be incredibly unpopular!

Khans of Tarkir

Many MTG players considered Khans of Tarkir to be one of the best Limited formats in the game’s history, and looking at data from 17Lands certainly adds some supporting factors. There are certainly some powerhouses in the format, but nothing quite like the most harmful Limited bombs of 2023 that just blow a game out of the water. Khans of Tarkir Premier Draft also happens to be one of the slowest Premier Draft formats on MTG Arena in its entire history, with the average game ending after ten turns. This means players aren’t forced to try and Draft exceedingly fast decks, and can seriously try every single strategy available in the format, regardless of how slow it is. It also gives more time for decision making to impact the state of your games.

Despite this, Khans of Tarkir seems to be quite unpopular compared to 2023’s other Limited formats. This was pointed out by Twitter user Jake Browne.

As shown in the above post, when comparing popularity of all the core sets introduced on MTG Arena this year, Khans of Tarkir falls far behind. The graph showcases the amount of games for Premier Draft in the first two weeks of each format’s availability. Khans of Tarkir doesn’t even have half the results of Lord of the Rings, which also underperformed heavily in the digital Limited department despite being the bestselling set in MTG history. That said, Quick Draft seems to be within normal range.

It’s difficult to know why this is the case, but Khans of Tarkir Limited certainly feels a lot different than the other Limited sets released in 2023. The format is much slower than the other sets compared above. Cards are overall a lot less powerful as well, putting a lot more agency into decision making from the players’ end.

One factor we suspect that may impact Khans of Tarkir’s digital popularity, however, is that there’s simply not a lot of value in collecting many of the set’s cards.

Lack of Value

There are certainly some format-breaking cards in Khans of Tarkir. After all, Fetch Lands led to the creation of an entirely new constructed format on MTG Arena!

Delve is also an incredibly broken mechanic. Treasure Cruise’s introduction to MTG Arena means that Pioneer Izzet Phoenix lists are basically complete. Dig Through Time can make its presence known in control strategies, and even some more niche strategies like Neoform Atraxa can see play in Explorer thanks to Hooting Mandrills coming to the client. Treasure Cruise and Hooting Mandrills are even commons, making crafting them incredibly easy!

Aside from these cards, however, none of the Khans of Tarkir’s cards see much competitive play. To make things worse, the cards that do see competitive play may do so in rather unpopular digital formats.

Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time should primarily see play in Explorer, Historic and Timeless. Fetch Lands can only see play in Timeless, and the other Delve cards are likely to follow the same trends. Aside from enjoying the Draft format itself, one major incentive for MTG Arena players to engage in Limited is to expand their collection. This is where an issue may rise for some players. Are Khans of Tarkir cards that valuable to the average MTG Arena player?

This graph was released as part of an article from Wizards of the Coast named State of Formats in MTG Arena. Do note that this article was released back in September, before the release of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan, so it is a bit out of date.

That said, this graph does indicate a trend that could explain the lower play rate of Khans of Tarkir and even Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth. Standard is, by far, the most popular format on MTG Arena. This was followed by Historic, but the release of Timeless may have changed things a bit. Regardless, Explorer is the least popular format by some margin, bested by even the infamous Alchemy format, which was twice as popular as Explorer in early September!

This means that the most popular format in MTG Arena doesn’t get anything from Khans of Tarkir or from Lord of the Rings. None of these cards are Standard legal, meaning that MTG Arena players who care about the Standard format exclusively have no incentive to collect these sets.

Timeless has almost certainly thrown a wrench into these format statistics, but Standard likely remains the most popular format on MTG Arena by some margin. Additionally, a majority of the inclusions from Khans of Tarkir have the largest impact in Timeless and Explorer. Throw in the fact that Treasure Cruise and some of the other Delve cards are easily craftable, and there aren’t many prizes to acquire for your collection by drafting Khans of Tarkir.

All this being said, we do not know for a fact that this is having an impact on Khans of Tarkir’s Draft popularity. It is only a possibility.

More Data is Out There

At the end of the day, there’s a lot more data to analyze for those interested in having their questions answered. 17Lands.com remains the best resource for MTG Arena data relating to anything Limited, and exploring that platform even further can reveal more about the lack of popularity for the Khans of Tarkir Limited format, despite it being named one of the best formats in history. There’s certainly a lot more digging to do than we did, and we encourage players who care about digital Limited formats to become more informed.

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