Here a Format, There a Format, Everywhere a Format

They should've sent a poet

Editor’s Note: I’m going to be trying some small changes here on the Blog. First, WordPress has short link capability, but the only way you can get to it is by editing the post (the only spot to find it). That’s bad, so you’ll see a url at the beginning of these posts that relate to that particular post (this one is: for example). Makes it easier for me, for you if you want to copypasta the link to share with your friends, whatever.

Second, I’m going to use the Tags option more often now. I like how Flores does his “Concerning” at the beginning of his posts, so I’m going to be using the tags for that. It’ll be more humor related. If I feel like it, I’ll go back and add tags to old posts, but this is the point where I’m going to be using them more often.

Third, I’ve been planning on doing another facelift of this blog (again) and updating some of the buttons along the sides. Look for those in the upcoming weeks. Thanks.

The big “news” that came out last last weekend was not from the Rise of the Eldrazi pre-release (I hope everyone had a great time), but from MTGSalvation’s rumor board. Yes, this is a baseless rumor and we don’t know if it’s true or not, hence “the rumor” part. This is something that @Robjelf and I tweeted about a while ago (You’d get links, but until the Library of Congress starts to organize them, searching for the tweets is too much for too little effort) and while I thought it was going to take a couple years for it to materialize, it looks like it’s just happening months after the Reserved List announcement was made.

To the rumor:

First, some background.

The people at WoTC want to support Eternal formats at all levels of competitive play. Unfortunately, the format is simply too expensive for something like a Pro Tour and associated qualifier season to be economically viable. The price of key staples would be even higher they are now if they did this, due to increased demand. And because of the reserve list, they can’t simply print more.

So, a new format is coming. It will be released later this year, with high-level events next year and probably a Pro Tour in 2012, assuming the format catches on. Here’s how it will work.

1. Normal constructed Magic rules apply. This isn’t a special-rules format like EDH or Planechase.
2. All cards printed during Masques block and later blocks, plus associated core sets, are legal (except banned cards, of course).
3. Nothing ever rotates out.

One point of uncertainty. My source says they haven’t definitely decided on Masques block as the cutoff yet, but it will be around that time.

With the ability ro[sic] reprint staples if necessary, the people at WoTC hope they can make a non-rotating format which is accessible enough to use in a PT and qualifier season.

This is basically a “fixed” Legacy though starting (hopefully) with Masques Block.

And just like frilly toothpicks, I’m for Wizards doing this.

Oh, you wanted more? Fine fine.

Here’s the issue: with the Reserved List, it’s impossible to reprint staples that allow new players to get into a format. When there’s no new blood in a format because of the high barrier of entry, the format becomes stagnant and most likely dies (look at what is happening to Vintage). With the loss of being able to print Dual Lands in box sets like From the Vault, it’s becoming hard for Legacy to get new players. No one (realistically) was expecting Wizards to print Dual Lands in M11 or any core set, but that’s ok, that’s what those extra products that people were complaining about were supposed to do.

But with this new format, if Wizards wanted to reprint something from a while ago in a set (such as the Duel Decks), they can easily do that from Mercadian Masques forward because the Reserved List stopped with Urza’s Destiny. That’s right, if Wizards wants to get more copies of a card out without making it standard legal, the best way will be to put it in the Duel Decks, or even From the Vault sets. Because there’s no worry about what can and can’t reprinted, suddenly tournament players who thought of those release as “useless” and “just money grubbing” will suddenly make it so newer players can participate in a format that the tournament players can qualify for Pro Tours as well (Because they can mooch off of “teh noobs”, see?).

Evan Erwin talked about this on Friday and while I won’t rehash most of what he said there, I will talk about what most of you are worried about: the card pool. When Legacy first broke away from Vintage, the card bannings weren’t tied to Vintage’s restrictions for the first time, people were still complaining that Legacy would be the poor man’s Vintage.  After all, people were still trying to build the same decks they’ve always done because what works in one format sure works in another.

What most players will worry about if/(and most likely) when this new format hits are the differences between Legacy and “The Jan Brady” format. Common cards that see a wide variety of decks play will no longer be legal. Just like when people complained that Sol Ring and Vampiric Tutor weren’t legal for Legacy, they couldn’t build the same type of decks. Analogy time: Let’s take a look of what will be gone in Legacy to their already printed equivalent in this new format:

Pro Tip: You don't play this first turn

Wasteland -> Ghost Quarter/Dust Bowl/Tectonic Edge

Dual Lands -> Ravnica Duals

Swords to Plowshares -> Path to Exile

Force of Will -> Mindbreak Trap? Um, Disrupting Shoal? Pact of Negation?

Clearly, this last one is a real big issue. While each of those counterspells has some drawback that you can’t play it when you want to (Which is the clear benefit of Force of Will), there is no true analog that can be used to control the cards in this format. Evan suggested that it Force of Will should be reprinted. It has to be reprinted in a Standard Legal set because if it was printed in a FtV series, it’s still not a Standard legal set. Just like I said before, there has to be an equivalent that people can play.

This does mean that the Ravnica lands have a good chance at being reprinted either in a Core Set or expansion. Wizards chose the vague names so (shock) they could be reprinted without having issue with flavor settings (as evidence by this whole fiasco with the painlands in 9th Edition). That’s why you see the Zendikar Fetchlands also have vague names; they have a good chance sometime in the far future of being reprinted as well.

As for the new banned list, Aaron Forsythe gives it up:

I will state for the record that this list is a work in progress. I have no doubt that our efforts move the format in the direction we feel it needs to go, but at the same time I’m sure that all of our research, testing, and discussion did not nail down all the problems that a format with this many cards is bound to have. Creating a new format–which is basically what is happening here–will require time and effort, and with that we will need your understanding an [Sic] patience. We will be revisiting this list over the next year as a metagame forms around it.

I’m sorry, that’s what he was talking about when Legacy was first announced. However, the same thing applies to the new format. The only card that will knowingly start out banned is Skullclamp. Assuming that 6th Edition is not legal in this format (since it was released in the middle of Urza’s Block), and if you take a look at the already built decklists, there’s quite a few broken cards in there that would seem like they would need banning. Here are the Top 19 decklists from SCG Orlando with the cards (besides the 4 listed above) that won’t be legal in these decks.

  1. Goblins – Goblin Lackey, Price of Progress, Pyrokinesis
  2. Assault Loam – Mox Diamond, Crop Rotation, Tabernacle, Volrath’s Stonghold, Null Rod, Maze of Ith
  3. Merfolk – Back to Basics
  4. Counter-Top (Bant) – Swords to Plowshares, Blue Elemental Blast
  5. Bant – (Nothing new)
  6. Merfolk (+W) – Swords to Plowshares, Chill, Blue Elemental Blast
  7. Reanimator – Mystical Tutor, Show and Tell, Exhume, Reanimate, Perish
  8. Counter-Top (Thopter Depths) – Back to Basics, Moat, Enlightened Tutor, Swords to Plowshares, Sylvan Library
  9. Mono-Black Control – Diabolic Edict, Hymn to Torach, Reanimate, Sinkhole, Perish
  10. Counter-Top (Dark Bant) – Swords to Plowshares, Blue Elemental Blast
  11. Merfolk – (Nothing new)
  12. Dredge – Reanimate, Exhume
  13. Mono-Blue Control – Powder Keg, Morphling, Rainbow Efreet, Back to Basics, Propoganda, Impulse, Hydroblast
  14. White Weenie – Karakas
  15. Counter-Top (NO Bant) – Natural Order, Enlightened Tutor
  16. Eva Green (+W) – Hymn to Torach, Sinkhole
  17. Ad Nauseam – Lion’s Eye Diamond, Lotus Petal, Mystical Tutor
  18. Unknown
  19. Enchantreess – Argothian Enchantress, City of Solitude, Elephant Grass, Moat, Enlightened Tutor, Replenish, Concordant Crossroads, Serra’s Sanctum

Some of them (like Reanimator and Mono-Black) most likely won’t make it due to the restriction in card pool, so there’s no need to worry about banning cards from those decks. According to my best guess, here is a list of decks that (currently) will rock the Jan Brady format:

  • Storm
  • AEther Merfolk
  • Counter-Top
  • Dredge
  • AEther Goblins
  • Affinity
  • Thoper-Depths
  • Bant
  • Zoo

As you can see, there’s a good number of decklists to get you started out. I do fear that with nothing banned (besides the obvious Skullclamp) there are going to be some really good decks that will just be out of control. What do I suggest? I just don’t know just quite yet, requires playtesting (I do fear that Storm will be nigh unstoppable unless something is done).

But the important thing here is that in a few years, these won’t be the dominant decks. What ever happened to High Tide in Legacy? That used to be the deck for years when Legacy first came out. Threshhold was another popular one, but that’s morphed into Bant and Counter-Top and Natural Order. Metagames change over time, so what you think will be the hot deck this year might not be the one next year. What used to become a heavily combo oriented format is not dominated by creatures. The format changed from what everyone thought it was going to be and accepted the Banned list and now has it’s own complete identity from Vintage. This too shall happen to the Jan Brady Format.

I have a feeling that this Jan Brady Format is what WotC wished Legacy was. If it wasn’t for the Reserved List, I’m sure that Legacy would be even more popular that it is now. Except for a few cards (Goyf, Jace TMS, Baneslayer), I doubt that The Jan Brady Format will become too expensive for people to enter in and play. WotC will have the option to reprint the cards as they see fit, to help new blood into the format. While it’s unlikely that Goyf be straight up reprinted, in one of these “From the Vaults” or Judge Promos deals, I would bet on it rearing its ugly mug once more.

Some of you may be worried that there might be too many formats for people to keep track of. With this there’s Vintage, Legacy, Jan Brady, Extended, Standard, Block, EDH, 5 color and variants of all those (such as pauper). You want plenty of options as a player. If everyone only played one format all the time, it would get boring. If you complain that it’s going to get too expensive, you don’t have to have all the staples of all the formats in order to have fun playing the format. People want options and this gives it to them.

Yes, there’s a little work that has to be done, some tinkering with the details. I am in complete support of this format and would love to see this grow.  I believe we’ll see that the Duel Decks will get “better cards” that are format appropriate and we may see more reprints in Core sets of cards we never thought were coming back. Squished between big sister Legacy and small and cute Extended, the Jan Brady Format (Please tell me you at least get the joke now) will see a ton of play.

Of course, this is all just a rumor. I could’ve just waited a ton of yours (and my) time.

The comments are yours.

5 thoughts on “Here a Format, There a Format, Everywhere a Format”

  1. Very cool article, and I like the format proposed.

    Something to consider, though, using Force of Will as an example. Or Tarmogoyf. Wizards is most certainly allowed to reprint both. Would they risk upsetting the people that have “invested” in them at $50+/ea? Are they members an informal reserved list, based on price? Or in the case of Tarmogoyf, is it based on power?

    Would Wizards be willing to reprint every card *not* on the reserved list? I’d love to have a place to play with my Argothian Enchantresses.. With this new format, though, they’d still be stuck in Vintage-only decks…

    1. I don’t think anyone, in the long term, gets burned with reprints of something like Force of Will or Tarmogoyf. Players with them in their collection get more new blood buying into the format out of lower cost of entry, and second market dealers would make huge sums of money off the product that contains goyfs or Force of Wil. Seriously, you could reprint Tarmogoyf as a rare-even with the new set allocations-and he’d still move at $30 a pop.

      Look at the Frrom the Vault: Exiled release-dealers made good money on that selling at a price that met demand. Any duel deck/From the Vault release with either of those cards would have huge preorders well above MSRP, much less the wholesale cost. A new set with those cards would fly off the shelves faster than they could print it (again, making more money for dealers).

      The only losers are people who are sitting on these cards as an “investment” and have no interest in the game outside of seeing their cards rise in value. If that’s the segment that gets bent over with reprints, it seems like the one that’s least aligned with the longterm interests of the game.

  2. I’m all for this format-but not as a replacement for Legacy, but as a replacement for Extended as a sanctioned format. Extended has repeatedly devolved into Zoo vs. Stupid Combo Of the Season the last few seasons and no one would be surprised if that happened again. It’s a format that people play and build right now because Wizards makes people play and build it for PTQs. No one actually *wants* to play Extended, unlike Legacy, where popularity is soaring and people are actively looking to buy into the format (hence the rising prices).

    Thumbs up for the new format in that replacement role, though. The metagame will be more diverse and better and you’ll get better interest from the Legacy players, though there will be griping about shocklands+fetches-taking bolt damage to use a land sucks.

    Legacy is really healthy in the place where it is now-there are lots of regular regional events (both large like the SCG 5K Opens and small 16-65 man events), some GPs, etc. It doesn’t need meddling with and the format can find its own price equilibrium itself. If Wizards wants to lower the cost of entry into Legacy, they can do it via the following routes:

    a) Reprint the Onslaught Fetchlands. Will probably have to wait a bit since having both sets of fetches in the format sounds almost as degenerate as reflecting pool+vivid lands (oh wait). These are twice the price of Zendikar fetches and the costs add up.
    b) Reprint Wasteland in a Legacy-tuned FTV release. This is a cornerstone legacy staple with no substitute, and at current rates will be approaching the cost of Force of Will in about six months. This is a CRITICAL card for 3/4 of the decks, especially intro mono or two color decks that are popular since you can run less dual lands.
    c) Tarmogoyf is going to continue out of control. You can’t ban him because he’s one of the Great Regulators of Legacy, reprint in a $20 Dual Deck or something. You can’t reintroduce him to Standard without totally degenerating the format.
    d) Reprint Force of Will in Standard. It wouldn’t be broken because of the card disadvantage and lack of other tempo tools that are used in Legacy to mitigate that card disadvantage.
    e) Print alternative cards to Tabernacle and Moat. These cards really aren’t so ridiculously powerful that they couldn’t be replaced with different cards with equivalent outcomes but different flavor.

    One thing to keep in mind about the cost of Legacy is that two-color decks can really get away with just 4 duals, and three color decks can usually only run 7. Yes, that cost adds up, but the real cost barrier is Force of Will+Goyf+Fetches (if you need the non-Zen ones), which will run you just as much as the lands wound. If they can reduce the cost of those cards by half though reprints, the cost of a tier 1 Legacy deck versus a mythic-laden Standard deck isn’t too outrageous.

  3. I thought MaRo’s “choose your own standard” format, where you could pick any two blocks and combine them for your deck was the best idea I’ve heard for a format in which everything is legal.

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