Wizards will be offering either a flashback draft league, a flashback Standard gauntlet, a CUBE league or prerelease / Release events each week. Here’s the schedule so far.
The new Flashback Leagues are still draft, and still you-keep-the-cards. They are 12 TIX / product plus 2 TIX / 120 Play Points. However, they are no longer single elimination. Now you play until you have three wins or two losses. Prizes are 150 play points for three wins and 70 Play points for 2 wins. The leagues run one week.
The Throwback Standard Gauntlet events provide a random choice of prebuilt decks from a past standard environment. These will function like the Pro Tour Gauntlets – you won’t need to own the cards. The entry fee is 10 TIX or 100 Play Points. Prizes are in Play Points: 150 for 3-0, 100 for 2-1, 40 for 1-2 and 10 play points as a bad beats award.
Craig’s basic idea is that, instead of banning cards to fix a format, Wizards should add some targeted hoser cards when necessary. You should read his explanation – it’s well thought out. The TL:DR version is that bannings hurt card values and create too many feel bads, but adding cards can give other archetypes ways to fight backs. I think this makes a ton of sense. Wizards has often had cards that are not in boosters packs but are Standard legal; most recently the cards in the learn to play packs from core sets. In other words, it’s been done. Wizards could have been better at letting players know about those cards, but that’s not going to be a problem if Wizards were to announce emergency card additions as part of, or as alternative to, a B&R announcement.
Craig recommended adding the following cards to Standard, right now, to fix the format. For his explanation of why, and what the cards would do for the format, read his article. It’s worth it.
We can quibble over the exact cards, but the concept of having hosers for problem archetypes makes a lot of sense. More sense, in many ways, than bannings. However, I think that the cards that Wizard would use as “emergency additions” to formats need to follow certain rules, and that at least a couple of Craig’s cards violate those rules.
In order for the cards to be effective answers to problem archetypes, players have to be able to get their hands on them. This could be more of problem because they will not be in booster packs of the current sets. That’s why they need to be added to the format, after all. For players to get the cards, they should be cards that have been reprinted often, were common or uncommon, or both. Duress and Pithing Needle are not Standard legal, at present, but both have been reprinted many times and are cheap. Most of Craig’s list is fine on this count, although Runed Halo could be a problem. It is already $10 in the paper world, and might be unavailable if it were suddenly to become a Standard staple without being reprinted. And if emergency additions are to work, they cannot wait for Wizards to do a new print run of the needed cards: getting a special print run together takes months.
My second rule would be that the cards need to be Modern legal. Right now, all cards in Standard are also Modern legal (unless specifically banned.) Propaganda and Prophetic Bolt would do great things in the current Standard, but are not Modern legal. (Ghostly Prison
– the white Propaganda – is Modern legal.) Maybe Propaganda and P-Bolt should be Modern legal, but I don’t think emergency additions are the best way to add them to the card pool. Once the Standard format rotates, those emergency additions will be moot and hard to find. (going to search the Wizards website for old listings? Good luck.) The cards that were part of the learn to play decks for the M15 Core Set appear in Gatherer for the set. Trying to find that Propaganda was Modern legal because it was an emergency add in the late spring of 2017 would be worse. Or maybe not. My recommendation would be to limit emergency adds to Modern legal cards, and use something like the Modern Masters sets to add cards to the Modern pool if those cards don’t work in Standard, but that’s Wizards call to make.
The third rule should probably be that the cards be fairly straight-forward and contain only evergreen mechanics. We are talking adding cards to Standard, after all, which is supposed to be relatively accessible. Cards like Glacial Chasm
or Surgical Extraction
might be very good answers in certain metagames, but adding cumulative upkeep or Phyrexian mana to the list of mechanics players need to know, just for one or two cards, is probably too much. Still, using only evergreen mechanics is not much of a limitation. Most of the necessary effects have been printed in simple form. If not, maybe Wizards should print them, to have in their arsenal for emergency additions.
The concept of Emergency Additions seems sound. The actual cards fall into certain types. I’ll cover those types, and the cards that could fill the bill for each of those types. Let’s look at those types.
: Sometimes archetypes become oppressive because the format does not have enough legal answers. The trick is to choose narrow cards – cards that hit the target with minimum splash damage. Craig recommended adding Rending Volley (one mana, instant, 4 damage to target white or blue creature) to the format. Rending Volley is a cheap, instant speed way to kill Felidar Guardian in response to a Saheeli activation, and is unlikely to affect other archetypes. Alternatively, imagine adding Dismember
to the format. Dismember would also be a one mana answer to the cat, but it would have a much bigger impact on the format. Another example – if you need an answer to Heart of Kiran
, both Oxidize
would work, but Oxidize would have much less impact on the format as a whole. Fortunately, there are plenty of narrow, targeted removal spells in print for Wizards to choose from.
: Sometimes, the ability to get problem cards out of players hands is the only way to fight some archetypes. This can backfire, however. In some metagames, Thoughtseize
might be the way other decks nerf a combo. In others, it might be the way graveyard decks get rid of answers like Rest in Peace. Discard is a two-edged sword. That said, when the format needs it, Wizards should be able to add Duress, Inquisition, Thoughtseize and the like on an emergency basis. Having a one mana discard spell that hits Planeswalkers and something else (enchantments maybe?) could be worth printing, just to add it to the emergency additions toolbox.
: I use “Lobotomy effects” to refer to all the cards that let you search through a player’s library to remove critical components. So far, they have generally been too slow (e.g. (Jester’s Cap)) or require a target (e.g. Surgical Extraction
). Even something like Lost Legacy
is not good enough, although you would think it could fight the CopyCat deck. Nonetheless, Lobotomy effects are worth keeping in the toolbox, in case some very weird metagame requires them.
: In current Standard, all of the current “problem” decks rely on activated abilities, whether that is crewing a vehicle or using Saheeli to flicker something. Cards which can turn off those abilities, or at least slow them down, could make those decks less dominant. Cards that turn cards off include Pithing Needle
and Phyrexian Revoker
, as well as Auras like Arrest
(creatures only), Suppression Bonds
and (Faith’s Fetters). Alternatively, Wizards could introduce cards to make activated abilities more expensive, like Suppression Field
. Even something old school, like Gloom
, (white spells cost 3 more to cast, activated abilities of white enchantments cost 3 more to activate) could be an answer to Copycat, but better if it hit Saheeli’s loyalty abilities – and it is not Modern legal.) Damping Matrix
also falls into ability hoser category, but Wizards will more often need to nerf a Planeswalker, which the Matrix (creatures and artifacts only) cannot do.
: Wizards will continue to play around with graveyard themes, and occasionally one of those themes will become the next Dredge. Knowing just how much graveyard hate to print, in advance, to keep the archetype in check, but not crush it, is hard. Adding just enough to slow an existing archetype if it proves better than expected is much simpler, and more accurate. Wizards has a ton of cards that interact with graveyards to varying degrees: everything from Carrion Beetles
to Coffin Purge
to Scrabbling Claws
to Withered Wretch
to Rest in Peace
. Craig recommended Tormod’s Crypt for the current metagame, since it interacts well with Improvise in addition to fighting Delirium, but there are a lot of options.
: I cannot count the number of times I have seen 14th
and so forth in a booster pack and wondered why it was there. I know that Wizards likes to put some artifact destruction in every format in case some artifact proves to be too good, but the simple fact is that Demolish and friends are never good enough to make constructed play, even as an answer to a broken artifact. Demolish is just too slow. I also realize that Wizards cannot print Shatter
in every artifact-heavy set. However, having the ability to throw in some effective spells to kill artifacts and/or enchantments when they get out of hand would be very useful.
: If a format is out of balance, adding a cheap counter could, in certain rare cases, fix it. Cards like Cancel
and Mana Leak
are certainly readily available. If the format needed them, inserting them as emergency additions is probably better than waiting for the next rotation. And probably better than having Mana Leak in limited. At least, I think so.
: In my opinion, one of the biggest problems with some recent formats has been that the mana is just too good. Even aggro decks, nowadays, are three and four colors. I don’t really want to go back to the days of mono-color decks, but we may have swung too far to the other side. Having to make some concessions to a stable and reliable mana base can limit archetypes. Cards like Blood Moon
or the super-powerful Back to Basics
are probably too much, but having something like Ghost Quarter
or Molten Rain
in the format might keep the really greedy mana bases in check. What I’m looking for is something to bring back some balance. Not being able to cast any spells is no fun, so Wizards should not bring back wholesale land destruction or Blood Moon, but having a four color combo deck killing on turn four or five is also not fun. The trick is to have something that slows down getting all your colors, while not preventing it. Besides, of course, printing fewer multi-colored lands, which would be the actual solution to the problem. At least, that’s my opinion.
I am not going to discuss Propaganda and Prophetic Bolt – Craig did that already. If you don’t know why they would be good in the current Standard, read his article.
The following is a list of all the non-promo, non-foil cards on MTGO that retail for more than $25 per card. These are the big ticket items in the world of MTGO. Still a shade over sixty cards on the list. About fifty if you exclude duplicates.
The big number is the retail price of a playset (4 copies) of every card available on MTGO. Assuming you bought the least expensive versions available, the cost of owning a playset of every card on MTGO is $ 24.210. That is down about $200 from last week.
Played a bit of Modern Cube last week. I had that wonderful experience of being two picks into pack two when my garbage Internet crashed for half an hour. On the other hand, I got to draft Modern Masters 2017 at my LGS last Friday. Set is great, and the drafts were a lot of fun.