New Eternal Format Announcement: Historic

Today we got the announcement that I have been waiting for ever since Kaladesh and Amonkhet rotated out of Standard: the next eternal format is here. Announced earlier today on the mother ship, Historic will be a non-rotating format that includes all Standard sets from Ixalan block forward. So what do we know about this format so far?

Well… That’s actually it. In the article, they noted that while Kaladesh and Amonkhet will not be legal right now, they may have plans to make them legal in the future. From the article; 

 

While we are still interested in finding the right way to bring these sets back to MTG Arena, we’re holding off for now. We made this decision because the current Standard meta is pretty healthy right now, so we hope this will naturally lead into a healthy non-rotating format as well. As more sets are released and the historic meta develops, we’ll continue to evaluate when it might be the right time to add these sets. They’ll be back one day, just . . . not right now.”

 

While they say it is for the health of the format, I believe that there are multiple factors keeping them from reintroducing the sets, so let’s quickly talk about those.

The first thought that comes to my mind is player backlash from Magic Arena. You see, when Kaladesh and Amonkhet blocks rotated out of Standard, it coincided alongside the closed beta account wipe. For those unfamiliar, when Magic Arena moved from closed beta to open beta, each player’s account was wiped of their collections. Because of this, everybody lost all of their cards on their accounts, including what they owned from Kaladesh and Amonkhet. They may be afraid of backlash from the public due to people having to re-buy the cards they would want to play.

I don’t think this is a huge factor to them, but it could be a possible fear of theirs.

The second thought that comes to my mind is power level. While Amonkhet block was not historically powerful in and of itself, Kaladesh had some, how do I put this delicately, balancing issues. Not only did Energy dominate Standard resulting in the banning of three separate cards; Aetherworks Marvel, Attune with Aether, and Rogue Refiner. Now, these are just the Energy cards that got banned, lest we forget Smuggler’s Copter and Felidar Guardian also being banned. Need I go on?

These bans were brought on by multiple decks however. All of the Energy cards were from roughly the same deck, Temur Energy proving that the Energy mechanic was pushed, while the Saheeli Rai + Felidar Guardian combo proved that Splinter Twin was a little too good for Standard. Smuggler’s Copter is simply a poorly designed card. It’s an above curve creature that loots when it attacks or blocks, that can slot into basically any deck. 

These decks were all too good for Standard, but what about Historic? Personally, I don’t believe they would cause any issues. A lot of good hate cards have been printed since, Energy loses very hard to Solemnity and Sun Cleanser, while Price of Betrayal is a descent hate card against the mechanic. Rampaging Ferocidon was actually designed as a way to fight the Saheeli combo decks. And there have been so many artifact hate cards printed since then that I can’t even list them all here. I truly believe that power level is not a problem for these two blocks, especially when taking into consideration the point of eternal formats; 

  1.  Give rotating cards a home after they leave Standard. 
  2.  Allow an alternative to Standard that is a higher power level.

The heightened power level of eternal formats is what gives them their appeal. Modern is significantly more powerful than Standard, Legacy is significantly more powerful than Modern, and Vintage is significantly more powerful than Legacy. It’s a cycle that increases in power level simply as a symptom of having more cards being added to their pool.

They claim they want the health of Standard to flow into Historic, and while this is a noble intention, I believe they are hindering the format significantly by not allowing one of the more powerful sets they’ve “recently” released to be a part of their new eternal format. By doing this, they are impeding Historic’s right to identity. What I mean by this is the very same problem that I have with this format.

As it stands, Historic will share very few differences from Standard for at least a year when a whole new block is legal alongside the already rotated blocks. Historic will not be able to shape its own identity for an entire year after it was created, being simply considered Standard+, whereas making Kaladesh and Amonkhet legal would immediately cause for drastic changes in the meta.

And if those changes happen to be bad, they have a little something called the Banned and Restricted List to help them out.

When Modern was first created, sets that had left Standard years prior were legalized for the format, and while some had to be banned, the remaining card pool instantly gave Modern a definitive identity when compared to Standard that proves even to this day to be a crucial part of Modern. By denying Historic its identity, it will be a very boring format for its first year in this world.

Now, I am extremely excited for this format to have its own identity and for it to be a completely different format than Standard, I just wish I didn’t have to wait an entire year for it to happen. Whatever the reason for keeping these two blocks from Historic, it is absolutely inspired by one thing; Fear.

Fear of creating an unhealthy meta, fear of allowing powerful cards into their new format, fear of player backlash after losing their online collections, but the fear driving this choice is what will restrict the format to its dull Standard+ shape for the immediate future. I wish they were more interested in taking risks to allow the potential for a distinct and new format, but unfortunately fear is driving them away from that. After all, they are a business at the end of the day, and taking risks is a bad business choice in a lot of circumstances, but with a card game like this, risks have to be taken, sacrifices must be made, and from the ashes, a most beautiful thing can be created.

Let’s hope that these fears will wear away in the future, and let’s hope that Historic can will shape into another format that’s just as fun as Modern.