In the past few weeks, given the change in PPTQ format, I found myself discussing the current state of Modern with friends and acquaintances alike. As expected, the responses I got were extremely varied. As I spoke with people at my local game store, online via Facebook, and at larger Magic events, I heard a range of opinions. As I heard what these people had to say, I realized that when looking at Modern and discussing it as a format, you have to take into account a large amount of variables and information. I want to talk about those things today.
Firstly, people commented a lot on how much fun the format was. To some, the Modern format is a lot of fun because just about every archetype and strategy is potentially viable. Whereas in Legacy there exist cards that “police fun” so to speak, and prevent the success of people piloting decks with wacky combos or glass canon strategies, no such thing exists in Modern. While there are cards and decks that you should be aware of when theory crafting, these cards and decks do not restrict the success of other cards or decks in the format. To others however, this range of deck diversity within the Modern format was a bad thing. Some people I spoke with despised the fact that there were so many decks that were viable in Modern, because it began to create an effect where sideboards were becoming more and more similar between different decks. This is due to the fact that a large amount of threatening decks in a format leads to more broad answers to decks in sideboards. These broad answers are typically more flexible and can be played in more decks. I think that both the players who have found the Modern format to be fun and the players who found the Modern format to be not fun have valid arguments. More viable decks can make the format more exciting to watch and play, but at what cost?
For reference, the most recent Modern Classic in Baltimore boasted twelve different archetypes within its Top 16: Dredge, Affinity, Kiki-Chord, Burn, Zoo, Bant Retreat, Merfolk, Temur Delver, 5-Color Aggro, Soul Sisters, Infect, G/R Tron. This is an extremely impressive pool of decks to see, and this swath of decks is not entirely uncommon to see at Modern events now-a-days. But look at these decks again and consider having to construct a sideboard with answers to all of these decks. It becomes even more difficult when you consider the large amount of viable decks in Modern not represented here. Furthermore, hedging is dangerous as well due to the large amount of decks in the format. This is why both camps of people have valid arguments when speaking on the “fun” level in Modern right now.
The next thing that has to be addressed is the health of the format. Right now, I would say that Modern is a fairly healthy format. Wizards has acted like “big government” in regards to Modern, swooping in and banning anything that becomes oppressive in the format. There are still people who complain that Pod or Twin should not have been banned in Modern, and that is fine – Wizards of the Coast cannot make everyone happy. But now consider Legacy for a moment. Legacy is an example of Wizards of the Coast acting like “small government” and not banning relatively oppressive cards and decks like Miracles. Is that what we want in Modern? There are still insanely powerful decks in Modern – just look at Ad Nauseam, Infect, Goryo’s Vengeance Combo. But there are no oppressive decks. Once again, I have spoken to people in two camps regarding this issue. Some believe that Wizards should let the format be free and stop banning cards, while the other camp is in favor of these regulations Wizards has put on the Modern format. While I personally would have liked some decks and cards to stick around that have been banned recently, I think that the pros of having a highly regulated format like Modern outweigh the cons of it – see Legacy if you need convincing.
Overall, I think the state of the Modern format right now is fairly healthy. There are no oppressive cards or strategies, and Wizards of the Coast has shown that they will ban cards or strategies that become oppressive moving forward (remember the wrath of the Eldrazi?). Furthermore, while Modern is not a cheap format (and buyouts and price-spikes are to be expected in any unregulated market) Wizards has done a good job in showing that they care about the affordability of Modern, and that they want to do their best to knock down barriers of entry to the format. These are all things that point to longevity in a format, and things that point to the health and well-being of a format.
Let me know what you all think though. Is Modern in a good place right now? If so, do you foresee Modern remaining healthy? Is Wizards doing a good job at making sure that Modern remains a healthy format or could they do better? I want to know your thoughts.
Until next time.
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