The Possibility of a Post-Modern Format

We all know that Standard has been doing great ever since the release of Guilds of Ravnica. There’s a plethora of archetypes, and within each of those archetypes are different pathways that one can take in the structure of their deck. It makes a healthy format that can shift and adapt to the changing meta. Wizards of the Coast seems like they are really kicking it into gear with the direction that they want to take Standard, and with Magic Arena reaching more people every day, Standard is quickly becoming the format of choice for most people.

All that being said, Standard still suffers from an issue that keeps a lot of people off of it, the fact that it is a rotating format. This is something that a lot of players can agree on, it is better to spend $600-$2000 on a deck, and be able to play it forever, rather than spend $200 every year to keep up with Standard. Overtime, it adds up, especially if you’re a player that likes trying several decks.

This is why I believe Wizards of the Coast is about to announce a Post-Modern format.

As a Modern player, this is something that I’m very passionate about. I will spend the extra dollars to get the exact version of the cards I want. I have foiled out my Scapeshift deck, and am working at getting all of the Expedition lands that I need for it, but I will never pick up any form of expensive or flashy promos or foils for Standard.

Because they will rotate.

Players such as myself just can not justify investing a large amount of money into a product that will not hold long-term value. This rule obviously doesn’t apply for multi-format staples (see also, Opt, Abrade, and Tireless Tracker) because those cards will hold some amount of value after they rotate. But creating a Post-Modern format that excludes most of Modern and includes more recent Standard sets would solve this issue. Cards that rotate in Standard now have a place to stay.

This raises an extremely important question; what set would be the starting point?

When Modern was first announced, there were 26 legal expansion sets and a handful of core sets. To put that in perspective, if we went that far back right now, than this Post-Modern format would begin with Magic 2012.

For those of you who have not heard of it before, there was an eternal Post-Modern format already, named Frontier. Frontier’s cut off point was Magic 2015, meaning everything printed in a non-supplemental set since July of 2014 was legal. The purpose of this was to create an eternal Post-Modern format that still had fetch lands. This format was popularized in September of 2016 when Hareruya began hosting weekly tournaments for it. Unfortunately, Frontier couldn’t hold it’s popularity in the west, and the Format was forgotten about once Magic Arena went into open beta.

So why did Frontier die? I think there are a few reasons.

First of all, a lot of people went into Frontier with the expectations of a Modern 2.0 format, when in reality, it was a Standard 1.5 format. When it became popularized, there were only 32 months worth of sets that were legal. There was only a five set difference between Frontier and Standard at the time, which just wasn’t enough to give the format it’s own personality with cool archetypes that we hadn’t seen yet.

Secondly, it wasn’t even the best Standard 1.5 format that it could have been. Let’s be honest, Standard has been bad for a very long time, and is just now getting better. Battle for Zendikar, Oath of the Gatewatch, Shadows Over Innistrad and Eldritch Moon all shared a common issue; they had very good threats, and very bad interaction. As a consequence of poorly designed sets hitting shelves for a year straight, Standard fell apart. Frontier was a way of saying “Let’s pretend that Khans of Tarkir didn’t rotate, and everything is fine”.

So barring those issues, what set should we start with for our Post-Modern format? I think we need to start with Magic Origins.

Starting with Magic 2015 would just make this Frontier, which won’t work. The biggest thing that comes out of moving forward a core set, is we get rid of the fetch lands. I do not believe that fetch lands are an inherently bad part of the game, though I do believe in order to craft a format with it’s own personality, we can’t have the same fetch-shock mana base that Modern has.

What about this format just being another Standard 1.5 format? After all, we do shave off four whole sets from what Frontier had, and Frontier suffered from this issue. I think this issue is also solved by the fetch lands being left out of the format. Frontier was a collection of the most powerful multi-color decks that could exist. This consisted of Four-Color Saheeli, Four-Color Aetherworks Marvel, Four-Color Control, etc. These types of decks I don’t think would function properly without the perfect fixing that fetch lands enable.

There are some arguments I’ve read that we could start with Khans of Tarkir and just ban the fetch lands, but that goes against something I believe in, that formats need to be fleshed out and discovered. I believe that beginning this Post-Modern format with a ban-list would be an unhealthy way to start it because of what it stands for. I believe that in order to experience the format, we need to explore it with every card that we can first. Only then can we decide what changes need to be made.

And starting with Origins means that we have 40 months of sets to start with, with every year bringing in four new large sets. This I believe will make for a good starting card pool that will begin as an interesting experiment, and develop into a whole new culture for Magic. This would also be an easy fix to cards rotating from Magic Arena, as people who play will still be able to do something with their cards that they’ve collected, instead of having them hang out in cyber space purgatory.

A new eternal format is something that I would be very interested in playing. It would allow us a whole new platform to develop on, bring some good nostalgia into our hearts, give all of the Arena data a place to go, and, most importantly, give us a good reason to start collecting all those foils.

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William Sawyer