In case you missed the major MTG news from last weekend, this year, Standard is getting a major rules change. Or rather, Standard isn’t getting a major change, as rotation is being pushed back by a year. Shifting from a two-year to a three-year rotation, Wizards of the Coast is hoping to revitalize the format. Considering just how much Standard has fallen from grace in recent years, this is certainly needed. Whether or not Wizards of the Coast is going about it in the right way, however, remains to be seen.
Since the changes were first announced, MTG players haven’t been shy about voicing their concerns about the upcoming rules change. Many, for instance, have lamented being stuck with cards like Fable of the Mirror-Breaker for another year. Other players, meanwhile, have criticized Wizards for only addressing one of Standard’s many faults. Thankfully for all these concerned players, Wizards isn’t finished with Standard just yet.
In order to ensure Standard can return to its former glory, Wizards has even more compelling changes in the works. While these are currently shrouded in mystery, for the most part, Wizards has recently peeled back the curtain a touch. Discussing the upcoming changes in a discord Q&A (which was transcribed to Reddit) it seems the concerns of players are being addressed.
A Bounty of Bans
Following the rotation change’s announcement, many MTG players have shared the same concern about the format becoming too stale. Exemplified this year, when nothing is rotating out, there are fears that three years is too long for a card to remain in Standard.
As we mentioned before, this is especially concerning for exceedingly powerful cards like Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. While not as ubiquitous as Oko, Thief of Crowns, Fable is nevertheless dominant in the meta. Just look at its prevalence during Pro Tour March of the Machine for proof of that.
Subsequently, to combat this fear, many players have suggested that WotC needs to be more liberal with bannings. Providing a somewhat controversial method to shake up the format, increased bannings would nevertheless help create a diverse meta. It’d be just like everyone’s favorite format, Alchemy!
Thankfully for players who quite like this idea, Wizards of the Coast seems to be somewhat on board too. As, during the recent Q&A, MTG’s Principal Game designer and Game Balance Lead, Andrew Brown, revealed changes to bannings in Standard are in the works.
“Yes, we are going to update how and when bans happen. We want to be as clear and transparent with the community on when and why things are happening.” – Andrew BrownAndrew Brown | MTG Balance Lead
According to Brown, this means that bans, in Standard especially, will no longer happen without warning. Instead, Wizards plans to have “set dates ahead of time so that players don’t feel like they’ve had the rug pulled under them.” This will all be explained in greater detail during an upcoming Weekly MTG livestream.
Unfortunately, while this change to bannings is definitely something many players were after, the specifics haven’t been nailed down just yet. That being said, however, Wizards has detailed one of their main goals for this process. This is to “make Standard more accessible for more players.”
While the occasional banning may handle problematic cards, a three-year rotation poses a lot of other deck construction problems. For instance, as one questioner pointed out, Standard currently has a lot of mana fixing available to players. While this might not inherently seem like a bad thing it can cause the format to devolve into nothing but ‘five-color good stuff’.
Thankfully, Wizards is aware of this issue, and it’s one they’re working on. Unfortunately, without bans or rotation, there’s no putting the mana-fixing genie back in the bottle. What Wizards can do, however, is better support and promote more and two color archetypes.
“We are always on the lookout to disincentivize players to not just play all of the best rares in all colors. Some of the recent successes that came together nicely are cards like Lay Down Arms and Ossification. Keep on the lookout for more cards that push you to mono color or strategies that have a more dedicated theme that requires synergy like GW toxic.”Andrew Brown | MTG Balance Lead
Alongside concerns about the ever-expanding pool of land, there have been longstanding concerns that Standard is too expensive. Thankfully, the switch to a three-year rotation will help with this problem. After all, new cards will retain their usefulness, and their value, for an extra year. Unfortunately, however, while this will help, it’s hardly the cure-all for Standard’s financial problems.
Knowing this, many MTG players have suggested that Wizards needs to bring back Standard preconstructed decks. Technically, these already exist in the form of Challenger decks, which are released on a yearly basis. While these decks do help to give players a starting point, they’re also not good at all. Typically uncompetitive and not fantastic value, Challenger Decks are a far cry from the out-of-the-box playability and value of preconstructed Commander decks.
In theory, just like preconstructed Commander decks, revamped Challenger Decks could be a huge boon to Standard players. Especially if they also include brand-new cards that help develop underserved or underpowered Standard archetypes. Unfortunately for players who like this idea, however, Wizards isn’t the biggest fan due to their poor performance. That being said, however, Brown is in favor of them.
“I’m in favor of this, but given the poor performance of previous Standard Challenger Decks, we’ll probably need more input from retailers that think this will be a boon. I agree that Commander precon decks are a huge reason that format is so accessible, but those decks (almost) all contain some amount of brand-new content, which makes them appealing for all kinds of players. Challenger Decks lack that feature, which makes them a lot more niche.
It’s hard to say what’s the cart and what’s the horse. Maybe the decks would help make the format more prominent, which would then sell more decks, etc. in a virtuous cycle. Like I said, I like the idea and will be talking it through with the product teams.”Andrew Brown | MTG Balance Lead
Only Time Will Tell
At the end of the day, sadly, it’s too early to tell exactly what Wizards is planning for the future of Standard. If we’re to make a prediction, however, it seems that Fable of the Mirror-Breaker’s days in Standard are numbered. Considering this card is arguably the most dominant force in Standard right now, this prediction is hardly the spiciest in the world. Couple with that the talk of bannings, and a response from Aaron Forsythe, it certainly seems it’ll just be a matter of time.
“Can we keep Fable of the Mirror Breaker in Standard forever?
Look… Fable is a very cool card. It may actually be the most fun ‘best card in Standard’ I can remember. But, Standard thrives on change, and while we want to dial back the amount of change somewhat, there are still things that should change. Fable will not be legal in Standard forever, sorry to say.”Aaron Forsythe
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