Maybe I shouldn’t take Magic so seriously

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Hello everyone, welcome to trophy hunting with Misplacedginger. Normally, I would be doing a video on my new Modern deck I’m playing for GP Toronto, or a different and exciting archetype I like for Standard, but after the banned and restricted announcement we received on Monday, January 15th, I had some things to say.

I was in class when I first read the announcement, and I was taken aback for a couple minutes. I had won a Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier a couple weeks back with Temur, had played Temur at Nationals in October, and I was planning on playing a energy variant for the next couple months at least.

I don’t even know if I want to continue playing Standard, it’s still something I’m thinking about, even though I played only Standard on Magic online, almost 10 hours a day for 2 years.

It’s hard for me to say I didn’t see this coming, Melissa DeTora published an article comparing energy to Affinity from days past, an archetype that now has a secure home in Modern, one where people still ramble about banning cards such as Arcbound Ravager, or Cranial Plating, because the deck is too fast, or resilient.

How did these decks become comparable?

Full disclosure, I think energy was a mistake. I also believe it’s no where near as powerful as Affinity. I don’t even think it’s as powerful as Jace, the mind sculptor, by itself. Let alone with Stoneforge mystic, or Squadron Hawk. Or Batterskull, or Baneslayer Angel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I think back to the first “New age” Standard bannings, the Delirium deck featuring Emrakul had just came second at a PT, and U/W flash was only in top 8. Move forward a couple months and Emrakul and Smuggler’s Copter were the most played decks online.

Why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both cards created game play where wins and losses were very dependent on a players specific choices; one mistake and you could lose the match, but play almost perfectly and it was hard for you to lose. Deckbuilding, meta-gaming and sideboarding became very important, as the cards were so powerful they needed powerful answers. Eventually, the best players found the best ways to build these decks and similar play patterns were happening; Emrakul or Copter was cast and whoever made the first mistake lost the game.

Complaints happened, and these cards were banned. Same with Felidar Gaurdian, Aetherworks Marvel, and now, Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner. Don’t get me wrong, all of these cards are extremely over-powered in their respective formats, but, at what point does a card get banned?

The problem is, I don’t know the answer to that question. I’ve been thinking about it all day, and I will probably think about it for a long time, as many players will. Wizards has created a precedent that is very dangerous, I’ll outline it to those who don’t know exactly what I’m talking about.

If you present to me 3 decks, deck A,B, and C, I will play all 3 decks to find out which is best. When I find out A is best, lets say 55% over B, 65% over C, I will play this deck until it is no longer good. If I find everyone else comes to this conclusion, and either changes their deck to beat A, or, starts playing A, I will try to change the deck to adjust in such a way where I can continue my win percentage. Thus, a metagame is created.

When I take said deck A into a league, GP, or even just FNM, I want my deck to have 100% win percentage, even though it is near impossible. I would like to believe the majority of us do. Whether it’s to win prizes, get gratification, or just show that we can build or tune a deck and pilot it to win. Putting in work and dedication reduces the variance in the game, to say that the more you play the better you get, the less play mistakes you make. I am very for the idea of hard work = reward, why would you put in effort if not for a good result?

Unfortunately, these last couple months and last couple bans have showed me that hard work and perseverance to tune a deck to the best it can be to get close to a perfect win percentage is more a punishment, than an achievement. As a self-titled ‘Grinder’ of Magic, this disincentives me to want to achieve higher levels of play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I want to believe I had a hand in banning Felidar Guardian, but I don’t have the data to prove it. I can say, I had the most amount of fun I’ve ever had playing magic during that season. All my plays, deckbuilding and sideboarding mattered, and it showed when I lost, and won. I finally found a place in magic where my hard work and knowledge was paying off, where variance mattered less because I was optimizing all my plays for me to win the game. In some sense, I’d even say I peaked, not in a negative way, but more in a “found my flow” kind of way. Such that Baumeister and Nelson have top 8’d almost every Standard GP this year, when you give good players options and time, they will usually make the right one.

In the article Ian Duke wrote about the matter, it shows that Temur/ Temur Black energy had almost a 50% win percentage against the field of 11 other decks, dominating the metagame as a whole. To me, this seems like the kind of deck I would want to play as someone who enjoys winning. The data shows that many others feel the same way I do about the matter, as Temur/ Temur Black energy held around 30% of the meta game on Magic online, more than most “most played” Standard decks of the past, enough for two cards to become banned.

Given all of this info and this specific circumstance, I am the most upset about this ban, as to me, there was nothing “broken” about Temur/ Temur Black energy, it was just consistent and popular among people who were winning, arguably, the ‘better players’, the Baumeister’s and Nelson’s of the magic community.

As a player aspiring to play on the Pro Tour, I am confused. My goal is to play the best Magic you can, to reduce variance and have the highest win % possible, the info in Duke’s article suggests that those parameters are just justification for bannings.

If I’m not trying to win, why should I attend the next nationals, PPTQ, or Grand Prix, especially with rising costs?

If I’m not trying to win, why should I watch the Pro Tour, if they just ban the deck that won the last event?

If I’m not trying to win, why should I buy cards, especially with packs that contain banned cards?

Although my concern lies with this ban, it also with the future of magic. If a younger Derek was subject to these bans when he played Abzan Control after Theros, I don’t know if he’d be playing now. I heard whispers of it the last seasons in Standard:

“I want to play this sweet Saheeli cat deck, hope it doesn’t get banned”

“Marvel didn’t win the PT, it probably won’t get banned”

“I just built mono red to beat Temur, hope it doesn’t get banned”

I’d like to think that most magic starts at the store level, when people are just getting into the game they need a place to hangout and get comfortable in the community, just like they need to comfortable in the game. Standard is the best format for newcomers, the cards are usually in print and circulating well through the stores, each person has copies from Draft or simply just opening boxes for fun with friends. I find it hard to believe that many newer players will find refuge in the idea that if their cards are too good they will be rendered not tournament legal, to make it “more fun and exciting” for them. Even as a long term player, I’m nervous to trade into a deck, or invest my time to learn a new archetype. How can you convince a newer player to play standard when you don’t believe you want to play it yourself?

Finally, I’d like to point out, that I don’ believe this ban will “solve” anything. So to say, those complaining energy was too strong don’t have a grasp on Standard as a whole. For the past few years, and as long as I can remember, there has always been a boogeyman in standard; one deck everyone knew was the best, and dominated the format. It’s possible they were not as popular as Temur and energy variants, but I also don’t believe data was as prevalent back then. I’m speaking on Bant Coco, G/W Midrange, Esper Dragons, Abzan Control/ Midrange, Jeskai Black, Abzan Re animator, Ravnica Jund, Delver, Wolfrun Ramp, ect.

To me, it seemed, the best players were always playing the best deck, or, the best players were playing a deck to beat the best deck; metagaming if you will. These respective formats were problematic in themselves, but to not play those decks during those times was just outright silly usually, and mostly incorrect. I think this also is true with Temur, and Hazoret Red to an extent, not playing either of these strategies, or close variants is a silly concept.

What I’m trying to say here is that I’m not sure where we stand as Standard players, especially the kind looking to win a lot of matches. As I’ve outlined about I think having a “best deck” creates important decisions that maximize competitive game play and reduce variance. So, when I think about travelling to big tournaments to compete, and then think about all of these bans, I arrive at these questions:

Does Wizards really want us to compete at a high level ? Should I be taking Standard less seriously ? Is the goal not to maximize the competition in Standard?

Given these circumstances, I’m obviously not happy with the way Standard has progressed. To me, it used to be a high-level format with important deckbuilding, metagaming and sideboard options, but with the recent bans I’m much less trusting in Wizards ability. I don’t know what this means going forward, and thus, I don’t know if I’ll be playing much standard as a result. I hope this article outlines my thoughts well enough to make me not seem insane, whether the bans needed to happen or not, I don’t think this is a good look.

Aside: I don’t blame wizards for this. I don’t think there is anyone to blame for this. I think this is a product of poor testing and a lot of complaining, but no one is directly at fault. The developers wanted to push the scale, and Maro specifically had the idea for energy to be a new mechanic. I personally love the idea, but like the Affinity or modular mechanic, it may have been to powerful for it’s time. It’s easy to blame Wizards, but I don’t think that’s right, even though I am upset and I may not play Standard in the future, I think it is important to look at this critically, without them we would have no games.

Aside aside: I would to believe also, there is an alternate universe, where energy isn’t banned, or Felidar Guardian and Smuggler’s Copter can roam free, to punish people for their poor plays and bad deckbuilding. Another deck for another time, if you will.

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