Ten Minute Magic (October 21, 2016) – Pro Tour Kaladesh, Changes to MTG Standard Rotation
Join Joseph Dunlap and Joe Butcher in this week’s episode of Ten Minute Magic, a bi-weekly podcast format that highlights recent news in the world of Magic: The Gathering and looks at recent content on Manaleak.com.
This is what’s going on in Magic: The Gathering this week…
1. Hall of Famer Shota Yasooka Takes Pro Tour Kaladesh Title
After a near-perfect run through the Swiss and Top 8, Shota Yasooka has been named Pro Tour Kaladesh champion. In a heavily aggressive Standard metagame where many felt Control would have a difficult time, Shota’s Grixis Control deck managed to fight its way through a field of aggressive and control decks alike to clinch 2nd total seed going into the Top 8.
The Top 8 provided yet another challenge, as no two decks were the same, making for an incredibly diverse field. After winning his semifinal match, Shota capped the tournament by defeating former Worlds champion Carlos Romao in an intense control mirror, Grixis vs. Jeskai with Fatcaster Mages smashing into the red zone and counterspells flying across the table. Shota won the final match 3-1, with a total record of 8-1-1 in Constructed and 5-1 in Limited.
Shota’s decklist was not finalised until the last possible minute, at which point he put together his own control brew and went into the Pro Tour with limited testing. Shota’s advice for players wanting to try out his Grixis Control deck? “Don’t try this at home.”
2. New Standard Rotation
On the 19th October, Wizards of the Coast made a huge announcement that will change the Standard format: Standard rotations will move back to the Once-Yearly paradigm in place of its current three-block method.
This change came about from Standard becoming too difficult to enter for casual or new players. Wizards stated that they believe the current Twice-Yearly Paradigm has resulted in a “barrier” to play that the Once-Yearly did not have, specifically having to remember when rotations would occur and which sets would rotate. As a result, the rotation will change back to its perceived healthier state. As Wizards states in the announcement:: “We started hearing from players that it was more difficult to keep up. … Players found it more difficult to jump back into Standard.” The resulting confusion was the exact opposite of Wizards’ goals for Standard as a gateway for beginning players.
Wizards of the Coast’s solution, in essence, is a simple one. They will change back to the Once-Yearly format, which is being put into place immediately as of Kaladesh and going forward. Kaladesh will be legal for 2 years instead of the current 18 months, and will rotate out of Standard with the introduction of the second large set released in 2018. Aether Revolt will rotate out with Kaladesh and will get 18 months of play rather than a year. When Amonkhet releases in April 2017, all Standard sets will continue to be playable.
This means, upon the release of Amonkhet, Standard will consist of the following blocks: Battle for Zendikar, Shadows over Innistrad, Kaladesh, and Amonkhet. When the September 2017 set releases, the Battle for Zendikar and Shadows over Innistrad blocks will rotate out of Standard at the same time. Due to this, Standard will noticeably fluctuate in size, with the range of available expansions changing from a sizeable eight, to the five most recent sets.
For more experienced players, this is simply a return to a well known policy. For newer players, this is the easiest way to remember the new rotation schedule: At the end of September of each year, only the sets printed in the past year starting with September of the previous year will be legal in Standard. No other changes will occur until the following September.
Whilst appearing rather sudden to most of us, Wizards of the Coast have recognised the potential perception that they will be toying around with Standard often, leaving players unsure as to what is going to happen next. Wizards, in response to this looming concern, have made clear that this will be a return to form for them and that they hold the player’s feedback and experiences as a priority within the game.
Reactions to the New (Old) Rotation Schedule, and What We Should Expect: An Editorial by Joseph Dunlap
We here at Ten Minute Magic focus on presenting the facts as well as community reactions over injecting our personal opinions on topics, though our listeners do enjoy when we provide commentary in our episodes. This week, however, Joseph offers up an opinion piece with his take on the changes to the Standard rotation schedule, or an editorial, if you will.
Just as the quick, twice-yearly rotation schedule was a point of contention among Standard players while it was in effect, there has a bit of disagreement as to what will come of the return of the once-yearly schedule.
Nothing but pure kudos and applause to Wizards of the Coast for this change. Good job. Bravo. Well done. https://t.co/NjJVthMQmB
— Tolarian Community (@TolarianCollege) October 19, 2016
The Professor of Tolarian Community College, for example, laudes the change and believes Standard has been slowly dying due to cards being Standard-legal for less time. Frank Lepore at ChannelFireball pointed out two upsides: cards retaining value for longer, and players being less confused about the rotation schedule. SaffronOlive of MTGGoldfish pointed out some pros and cons of the change: the new schedule will be friendly to budget players, but will have unintended consequences on the MTGO redemption schedule.
Unintended(?) consequence of rotation changes: new, shorter #MTGO redemption schedule even more impactful.
— Saffron Olive (@SaffronOlive) October 19, 2016
The general consensus among players is that cards will hold more value with a slower rotation schedule, though there is concern that oppressive decks will simply dominate the format for longer. The most popular example has been “What if Bant Company were in Standard for 6 more months?”, though this is not a perfect example as Collected Company, Dromoka’s Command, and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy would have rotated in September regardless of the rotation schedule. As part of the third and fourth sets of the season, they would not have been affected by this change. For the sake of clarity on this point, only the first block of the season – the September and January sets – are affected by the new rotation schedule.
This in part means that the second block of each season will forever live in the shadow of the first. It will be printed after the first block, and will rotate out at the same time. This was fine when the sets of a season consisted of three sets in the same block followed by a core set, but part of Wizards of the Coast’s reason for changing the rotation schedule was a shift to two blocks of two sets each year, and the elimination of the core sets. Now that Wizards has switched the schedule back to each September, the Spring-Summer block will never get its chance to shine outside the shadow of the Autumn-Winter block.
If the single mid-season rotation accomplished one thing, it would definitely be retiring fetchlands and Siege Rhino from Standard. https://t.co/qFTjbKfZMO
— Joseph Dunlap (@joseph_dunlap) October 19, 2016
For context, it’s safe to say we all agree the best thing that was accomplished by the one and only mid-season rotation, which occurred at the release of Shadows over Innistrad, was the retirement of fetchlands and Siege Rhino from Standard. Siege Rhino had dominated the format for almost the entire duration of its 18 month stay, and fetchlands enabled four-colour strategies while skyrocketing the price of top tier decks to near-Modern levels. The prominence of Siege Rhino kept Collected Company relatively under the radar for quite awhile, and it only began to shine in early 2016 with 4C Aristocrats. It was only after Siege Rhino rotated that Bant Company rose to the top of Standard, though Wizards gave it a nudge with some heavily pushed cards in the SOI block.
What can we expect with the new schedule? First off, if Standard is to remain healthy, the Autumn-Winter block should start off the season by introducing new archetypes without being too overpowered. In the last few years before the change away from the once-yearly rotation schedule, this became a problem with Innistrad, Return to Ravnica, Theros, and especially Khans of Tarkir introducing oppressively dominating cards and strategies. A healthy Standard should start off the season by establishing new possibilities for archetypes, then expounding these archetypes as the season unfolds.
The second block, if it must now live in the shadow of the first, should expand and morph the established archetypes while introducing a few of its own. Ideally, the most dominating cards of the format should be printed during the second block (such as Collected Company and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy), as the Winter and Summer sets will only be in Standard for 15-18 months. This creates some problems, of course, with which sets will generate the most interest for Eternal players.
The long lasting implications of this paradigm shift and how it will affect the two-block release structure remains to be seen. The hope is this will keep players more interested in the format, regardless of their budget, and that we will see a rise in Standard attendance after a noticeable fall-off in recent months. Engagement and enjoyment in the game we all love should be tantamount, at all costs.
3. Featured Magic: The Gathering Article
Our only article this week comes from Jason Coles: Let’s Talk About The Bomat Courier. This article looks in depth at the frequently overlooked creature and its effects on the game in regards to Card Advantage as well as providing a potential decklist for our hasty little friend. It was positively received across social media and on Reddit, and generated a lot of discussion.
Thank you for joining us in Ten Minute Magic. We would love to hear your feedback on the presentation, format, and length – as well as the topics discussed – so please leave a comment with your thoughts and we look forward to hearing from you. You can also connect with us on Twitter (@joseph_dunlap and @darth_mulligan), or follow @TenMinuteMagic to keep in touch and send us topics throughout the week that you would like to hear us cover.
Joseph and Joe