Over the past few years, it has been no secret that the Standard format in MTG has been struggling somewhat. Significantly fading in popularity compared to Commander, paper play of Standard has all but dried up. Due to this, in 2022, hope for the format was at an all-time low, however, in 2023 Wizards started to turn things around.
To get MTG players actually interested in the format again, in 2023, Wizards made a pair of Standard saving changes. Dramatically altering the Standard rotation schedule, and implementing fixed windows for bans, Wizards provided some much-needed consistency to players. As useful as they were, however, these changes hardly made Standard the go-to MTG format overnight.
Thankfully, knowing their work isn’t over, Wizards has more plans and changes up their sleeves. Set to be introduced in 2024, these upcoming developments might just do the trick and save Standard once and for all. That is the hope, at least…
Saving Standard 3: This Time It’s Personal
In a rare change of pace, last weekend, Standard has been all the rage already. This was thanks to the Magic World Championship XXIX which took place in Las Vegas. Utilizing Standard as its feature format, this blockbuster event actually made people care about the format for once.
As enjoyable as the Magic World Championship XXIX was, however, one tournament was hardly going to reinvent the format. In fact, the majority of the decklists were all things we’ve seen before. Subsequently, Wizards needed to do more if they actually wanted Standard to stick around in the long term.
Acknowledging this demand, Wizards of the Coast didn’t disappoint following on from the grand final. Releasing an article titled “The Next Steps in Revitalizing Standard,” Wizards set their sights on a new venture: play. Following on from making the format a more sound investment, Wizards now wants people to actually enjoy it.
Standard Showdown Is Coming Back!
Rather than just asking nicely that everyone return to Standard willingly, Wizards is dangling one hell of a carrot. Reintroducing a slate of classic events and tournaments, there’s actually good reason to play Standard. Well, there will be, at least, once the new suite of changes actually gets introduced in 2024.
Alongside the launch of Murders at Karlov Manor in Q1 2024, Wizards is reviving the Standard Showdown event series. As the name suggests, this weekly event is about all things Standard and offers prizes for participation and victory. Supported by Wizards of the Coast, the Standard Showdown events will be run every single week at WPN Stores.
In terms of rewards, Wizards is promising “Special promos and other prizes for players who participate and win.” On the one hand, these could be awesome and lucrative rewards to truly treat players of the format attending these events. Just imagine getting a special printing of Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, or Beseech the Mirror for instance!
Unfortunately, while either of these high-value cards would be a great reward, there’s no telling what Promos Wizards will print. It’s equally likely, for instance, Wizards could just reprint Quick Study or Not Dead After All. Whatever happens, these promos probably won’t break the bank like Legacy tournament cards. This is thanks to just how many Standard Showdown events should be running.
Alongside the plethora of weekly Standard Showdown events, Wizards is also shifting Store Championships to Standard Constructed. To stop players from needlessly waiting, this change will come into effect with The Lost Caverns of Ixalan. Similarly offering promos and prizes to participants and winners, this change should hopefully get the ball rolling.
Standard Tournaments Galore
As if the return of Standard Showdown isn’t enough to entice MTG players, Wizards has also confirmed a number of high-level events. The first of these will be a series of Qualifier and Open events in early 2024.
Kicking things off in February, MagicCon: Chicago is going to feature a massive Standard Open tournament for players to enjoy. Offering $75,000 in prize money, this event is sure to get players interested in playing the format. Even if a competitive deck can cost around $400 nowadays.
Following on from this major tournament, the third round of the 2023–24 season Regional Championship Qualifiers will be Standard. Running from January through to March, these high-level tournaments will obviously be even more incentive to play the once-failing format.
For those thinking that Wizards still isn’t doing enough, worry not, as there’s one more tournament in store! In 2024, Pro Tour Outlaws at Thunder Junction will feature Standard as the constructed format. With full coverage provided by Wizards, this event should hopefully keep interest high in the format.
As if all this wasn’t enough to revitalize Standard play, it seems Wizards of the Coast isn’t done yet. Ending their recent article, Wizards stated that there are “more improvements to come.” Currently, it’s unclear when these improvements will be introduced, however, it’s nonetheless positive to hear.
Is This Enough?
Following the rotation and ban changes, the new Standard events and tournaments are definitely welcome and positive. The question remains, however, is Standard Showdown and a few competitive events really enough to save Standard? Judging by the comments across social media, it’s unfortunately far from the ideal Standard-saving solution.
As much as a few players celebrated new tournaments, there’s still one major problem with Standard currently; the price. While semi-competitive Mono Red decks do exist, most decks cost upwards of $300-$400. On the high end, you can potentially spend upwards of $600, and that’s without even foiling the entire thing out!
Pointed out by players such as u/Tazo101, Wizards has created this problem themselves thanks to leaning on Commander. Supporting this beloved format with new and high-powered cards, Wizards has unleashed bombs that everyone wants to play. Thanks to this, the price for cards like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse has reached astronomical levels. A playset of Shelly will set you back at least $280.
Unsurprisingly, in the eyes of most players, this is a serious problem. Even if you can use these bombs for three years, this is still an immense amount of money to spend. So much so, in fact, that it’s easy to look toward other non-rotating formats like Pioneer. Hell, you could even get into Modern with a Burn or Tron deck instead of buying into Standard with Esper Midrange.
Unfortunately, while most MTG players would love for Standard, and every format, to be cheaper, it’s not easily done. Wizards has long gone on about reprint equity and value, making Standard Masters sets ultimately untenable. Even if every powerful card was reprinted yearly, boxes would likely cost so much that they’d largely be ineffective…
What Can Be Done?
With Standard seemingly destined to always be expensive nowadays, it begs the question, how can Standard really be saved? Unfortunately, there isn’t really an easy answer to that, however, MTG Arena could be one solution. While Standard has faltered on paper, on MTG Arena, the format is still alive and well. So much so, in fact, that it even dethrones Commander as the most played format in all MTG.
As noted by u/boozkoo, converting MTG Arena’s Standard players to paper could be a godsend for the format. To do this, Wizards could expand promotional XP events, or even amp them up further. Hell, ideally Wizards could offer MTG Arena codes in paper packs, however, as u/Darrelc notes, that may be a long shot.
Unfortunately, while some MTG Arena players could be convinced away, Arena does have a lot going for it. Offering convenience, the potential for free-to-play enjoyment, and its own tournaments, there’s little need to go outside. As a result, converting MTG Arena’s most dedicated players into paper Standard enthusiasts may be easier said than done.
Ultimately, as nice as the new tournaments are, it’s clear that more needs to be done. Hopefully, Wizards can make that happen in the future, however, it may need to happen sooner rather than later. After all, while weekly Standard Showdown events will be nice, they’re only successful if people actually attend. It’s not going to be as simple as build it and they will come.