Since leaving online play exclusively for paper, my experience has been somewhat interesting. As a preface to this article, I should note here that I played Modern relentlessly, along with Commander. Magic Online allowed me to ignore the game's most popular format in favor of some other, less popular, formats. For me, Modern is an absolute blast. The presence of control is somewhat limited. There are a lot of combo decks. Many of the decks are easy to understand and easy to play. The Modern metagame, though constantly evolving, boils down to two factors: how fast you can win and how much you can disrupt your opponent's gameplan.
This is different from standard where combat is the most important factor to consider. Even if Sphinx's Revelation is an awesome card, you can't win by drawing a lot of cards that don't take down your opponent's life total. At some point, you're going to need to do damage, even if all you're doing is hitting with Augur of Bolas. While I personally prefer the different approach that Modern invites, it seems many players struggle to grasp the different philosophy required to win in Modern.
In Modern, Thoughtseize on turn 1 is incredibly valuable because you can disrupt someone's storm deck. In standard, turn 1 Duress will hurt their deck, but it won't be the end of the world for them. Instants and sorceries are utilized to support a beatdown strategy, rather than to win the game all by themselves. This necessarily arises from the small card pool of standard. Epic Experiment just isn't powerful enough with a two blocks and a core set to work with. I believe one answer could be to expand standard to include an extra core set and an extra block. This could be done by simply not having a rotation one year. Players wouldn't complain. All their expensive mythics would keep their value for a bit longer, and, let's face it, it's easier to keep playing with the deck you have than to buy a whole new build every year. Modern staples also have a way of increasing in value over time so that if you do invest in cards like Gifts Ungiven, their price won't suddenly plummet because they can't be played anymore. From an investment standpoint, Modern makes a lot more sense than Standard.
Since Modern doesn't have this drawback of rotation, players need only buy their decks and play them for as long as they want. So far, the format of Modern is diverse enough that no one deck has emerged as being stronger than another. Playing Jund is expensive and playing Robots might be boring (depending on your perspective), but you can also play effective budget builds like Red Deck Wins and Soul Sisters. Those decks don't require fetch lands and shocklands, just the normal basic mountains and plains that most card shops keep in stock at the back of the store in a big cardboard box. Even so, Modern as a format has not yet caught on in paper. With all the advantages the format presents, why should this be?
First and foremost, all the players I've come across in playing standard in paper profess that they only play standard. This was easily explainable by the fact that people love new things. Every effective marketing strategy is based around this one aspect of human nature. An old product is only sold when something different is done to it, making it new once again (ie, a remastered album or a movie with new bonus content). This is why movies make their majority of their money at the opening weekend of its showing. After a week passes, the film is already old and the people who were motivated by the newness of the product have obtained their satisfaction. So it is with standard, only the format is measured in one-year intervals instead of one-week intervals. When I discussed magic with a player who had a good standard deck, they weren't sure whether Zendikar was in Modern or not. The block was old, and it wasn't new. Wizards of the Coast will have to overcome this hurdle if they want to make Modern successful.
Modern Masters appears to be Wizard's answer to this problem. With a new art on Tarmogoyf, the hope is that by selling Modern-legal cards, people will be passing around Modern staples from trade binder to trade binder. Having these cards may motivate players to fill out their decks. I've often heard it said that a certain card, such as Living End was "hard to find" because no one had a physical copy of it. This usually happens because people are winning and buying packs of the newest standard core set or block. Reprinting older sets like 9th Edition will lower the value of the cards therein, and let's face it, very few people would buy packs like this because the cards inside wouldn't be as valuable as the pack itself. Temporal Adept is a fun card to play in Commander, but it is nowhere near powerful enough for Modern. Nor is anyone going to trade for it, given that it's a bulk rare which isn't standard legal. The only answer, then, has to be putting Modern staples in players' binders and in store's cases.
Whether players are actually interested enough in Modern Masters as a set to buy it in paper- that's another question. It basically comes down to: do you care about Tarmogoyf? I remember people buying up packs of Worldwake like there was no tomorrow just to get their hands on a Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I tried my hand at it on occasion (but did not succeed). People in my playgroup used to call this version of the planeswalker "big Jace" and "Jace, the Bank Sculptor." In his heyday before he was banned, he reached up to 100 dollars in value. Then, after his banning, he dropped again. Now he's back up to 100 like nothing happened. I would predict that Tarmogoyf would operate in much the same way due to the popularity of Legacy in paper, card hoarders, dealers stocking up on cards and players making new decks as they are introduced to the format. Any worries about Tarmogoyf losing its value should, in the long term, be put to rest. It is a mythic rare in its new printing, as opposed to a rare in Future Sight. Since there are only 15 mythic rares in the set (the same number as Return to Ravnica), players will have to dig deep to find Tarmogoyf. While a pre-release promo card has not yet been set, it can be assumed that they continue giving out rares instead of mythics. Thus far, at a guess, the promo card appears to be City of Brass.
So what happens after Modern Masters is released? Even assuming that it is a success, stores will have to invest time and energy into hosting Modern events. Players who commute to their local magic store will have to either choose between Modern or Standard or arrange their resources so that they can afford the gas money to visit both. The tournament environment of Modern events will likely be such that packs of standard cards will be given out. This may be a problem for some players, in the same way that it is a problem online when players who enjoy Legacy matches get rewarded with packs of Return to Ravnica after chasing down a lot of obscure and expensive cards. Ideally, Wizards of the Coast should print a version of Modern Masters each year if only to give Modern players a valuable prize for their efforts. There are enough rares and commons to go around, and not many people are going to complain about the drop in the price of Oversoul of Dusk or Nyxathid. The only design challenge for sets like this would be to keep from printing too many copies of cards such as Noble Hierarch, and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker while still offering enough value in the sets to make it worth players' time to acquire them. Cards you may or may not see would include Pact of Negation and Bridge From Below. These are all cards that remain staples in the formats in which they are found and, as such, should continue to keep their value as people continue to build netdecks.
Additionally, large dealerships such as Star City Games will have to commit to Modern- if only to put a lot of information out there which will give people an idea of what to build. Legacy is an older and more expensive format than Modern, yet Star City's Legacy events always do well. Thus far, Modern is listed as a side event for Star City events under a single elimination format. I believe a swiss format would draw in more players, simply due to the fact that some decks have bad matchups but will dominate the rest of the field, as is usually the case when Urzatron runs into an efficient burn deck. I also suspect that winning first place in a tournament like this, while gratifying, does not carry the prestige with it that a top 8 finish would. From my own personal experience at playing in various Overdrive! events, single elimination actually means that if you have land issues or you have bad draws or your opponent has just the right answer at the right time, you're eliminated. This does not provide an accurate evaluation of your deck as a whole, only of how your deck performed at any given time. Ideally, your deck should be working in the best way it can, but every tournament player has been on the losing end of mana screw at least once.
A better solution might be to have "Modern Pods." These would be eight or sixteen player maximum events where you play three rounds and three rounds only. This would not be a two-day marathon event where you can get 24 points and still miss out on prizes. Rather, you play in a competitive manner for a short amount of time- about the time it would take to host an FNM event- and then you finish up. Events like these would be ideal for people who aren't keen on playing Commander competitively but have a Modern deck they want to try out. These would take longer to arrange than the single-elimination tournaments but they have the potential to attract a different audience.
Perhaps it should not be surprising that Modern has not really caught on to the extent that Standard or Legacy has. It does have, let's be honest about this, a feeling of "you have your format now, so stop complaining and buy your Huntmaster of the Fells." There's a certain sense of passive dismissal here, as though both store owners and players are perfectly happy with their rotating format. They don't want to change. Of course, when Extended was actually a format that people bothered using, its dismal failure sparked Gavin Verhey (among others) to create a new format: Overextended. More about that format here.
As one of the people who got "in on the ground floor" as it were with some of the first Overextended events, I saw how exciting it could be. Destructive Flow and Legacy Weapon were suddenly good together! Swans of Bryn Argoll and Stuffy Doll? Why not? If it works, play it. This was unlike any other format I had seen in Magic before. Things were exciting. People turned up in droves to play these events and, for the briefest of moments, even my unusual Kokusho, the Evening Star and Extraplanar Lens deck performed well. That excitement is still there. Even with a balanced, designed set like Return to Ravnica, standard still becomes solved easily. Wizards keeping top 8 lists to themselves hasn't improved this feature of magic for while there are still a few paths left to explore in standard, everyone knows by now that if you play red you play Hellrider and if you play reanimator, you play Angel of Serenity and if you play green, you play Thragtusk. There's no getting around these simple, basic facts. Overextended offered a release from the tedium of format staples to completely unexplored ground. Though Overextended bowed out to Modern, the variety is still there. Even with the Invasion, Odyssey and Onslaught blocks gone, you still have events where a Death's Shadow deck can go 4-0.
It takes more than just store owners and online dealers to make Modern work, however. It takes each individual player willing to show up and do the funky things they do with their decks to show that people are interested (as Gavin points out in his article). Remember that Magic is largely a grass-roots game. By this I mean that individual people, by gathering together and making their voice heard, can make significant change in the game itself. Wizards of the Coast cannot afford to ignore the players who play the game, for without the players, Wizards is just printing cards for no real reason. If players don't care about the game anymore, the best mythic in the world turns from a powerful game-winning card to a piece of cardboard- no better than a coaster. The same can happen with formats. Even with the best of intentions, if players aren't invested in the format, any format can die a slow, painful death (as Extended did). If a store owner doesn't host a Modern event, host your own- even if it's informal. Once people see how fun Modern can be, it's almost certain they will keep playing it.
As for myself (once the snow lets up in my area), I'm going to try and make Modern a stronger format at my local store. It starts with introducing people to the format, showing them how interesting all the interactions can be. It might even mean carrying around a trade binder full of Modern staples so people can put their decks together. I might have to play at FNM's and catch Modern matches in between rounds. It may also mean showing up to other events, such as the weekly Commander league. However, if I don't do it, who else will? There is no one else and, to be perfectly honest, I'd like to free people from what I can only call "the sickening tyranny of rotating formats." Okay, perhaps that's a little melodramatic for a card game but you get the idea.