We need to talk about Standard.
For most Magic: the Gathering players, talking about the current state of Standard is like documenting a fall from grace. The past three years in particular have been a cause of concern due to the ever-increasing power creep each coming set has brought to the format. I started playing MTG in 2017 with the pre-release of Aether Revolt, a fantastic set which brought with it a host of amazing and unique cards and abilities that I’m still nostalgic for (PRINT MORE ENERGY CARDS YOU COWARDS). Revolt is a fantastic mechanic that got completely overshadowed in standard by Energy decks, Saheeli-Cat combo, and Aetherworks Eldrazi decks. This then started the trend of WOTC having to ban multiple cards as they warped the format around them without printing any sort of legitimate counter for those decks (They easily could have printed Suncleanser in Ixalan to combat Energy decks but let’s wait until M19’s release to sell more Aether Revolt and Kaladesh packs). I want to use this article to vent and explain why it is important to have balance in Standard as it is a format that many MTG players begin their experience with the game. A lot of people talk negatively about Standard and have since moved away to other formats like Modern and EDH where their cards and decks are less likely to get banned to oblivion and back. I have been playing a lot more standard after the recent bannings but is that because the format isn’t warped around a certain card and playstyle anymore? Let’s try to look into the problem that Standard is facing.
The main problem is that Standard, in recent years, has become such an up and down format, going from an extremely warped format to being a fair and open space that happily allows for creative freedom to be expressed. Since 2017 there have been over 20 bannings in Standard which is absurd! This is terrible for the player because it makes every financial decision for the game pointless as all those expensive cards which they saved up for and got the courage to buy and play at your local FMN now become obsolete and financially worthless as their price plummets. It also strips away at any confidence players have in the format as they will give up with Standard as they cannot keep up with the constant bans. WOTC's response to these doesn’t help either. An example would be Oko, a card that increased in value exponentially during its time as a legal card, only to be banned and for R&D and WOTC to be like “Oops! Sorry, we messed up."
This isn't a post against bans. It is a post that is more against mass bannings as a means to fix an ongoing problem in Standard. It is here to address how WOTC use mass bannings as a "fixed it" button at the moment. I feel as if there are more options to explore to consider before resorting to a straight out banning of cards.
One idea that I have borrowed from my time previously as an avid Yu-Gi-Oh player is the idea of a restricted list, making it so you can only play with 1/2/3 copies of a card. That way, instead of banning a card out of formats, destroying decks and strategies, you still stop a card from becoming a problem and format warping. I firmly believe this would have stopped cards like Nexus of Fate and Oko, Thief of Crowns from becoming the problem that they were. Of course, there will always be cards which deserve an outright ban due to their power and incredible synergies (Looking at you Omnath, Lotus of Creation…) but I believe that a restricted list could help with the power and reach of some cards. This allows them to be moved away or towards further restriction depending on newer cards being printed and certain cards rotating out, keeping a more balanced and healthier approach to addressing problem cards. Another idea that I had would be to allow a randomly selected amount of players to be invited to test cards before their release. This way you can see how the cards play against certain decks and cards in the current meta and try to address if they will become a future problem. All players approach the game with different play styles so it would be interesting to collect data on how different players use these cards. This is an idea that if executed by WOTC would need testing as I’m not sure it would be any different from inside testing at R&D. These are just a few examples that I feel might help with Standard as I feel the main driving force that pushes players away is how active WOTC is with the ban hammer.
What do you guys think about the current state of Standard and the future of the format? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below and tell me your concerns for Standard and how you would try to fix them? Or do you not see any problems and are fine with the bannings, do you think they are healthy for the format? Let’s have a discussion!