I don’t usually figure that I am the type of person that gets all reflective. I very much live in the here and now. I focus on what is in front of me, what needs to be done, and I try very much to not get ahead of myself. However, every once in awhile something happens to me that forces me to sit back and really take stock of where I am and what I am all about.
As some of you may be aware, during the day I am a teacher. I love my job. I love working with my students as they grow into outstanding young men and women. I relish their successes, and I genuinely feel for them when they falter and stumble. I wouldn’t trade the job for anything. If you aren’t familiar with schools, it takes a lot of planning year to year to be able to keep a school running and publicly funded schools need to ensure that they have the appropriate number of staff for their site. In my school area we start that process in April and it doesn’t get fully resolved until August and even then can be a kind of up and down affair.
A year ago, at this time of year, I opted to move from a safe and sure thing at a solid school in order to search out a new job and some new experiences because I thought my teaching was getting a little on the stale side. I landed a job at a small school and have been forced to not only take a much larger leadership role than anticipated, but also challenge myself with my teaching and new subjects that I haven’t taught before. The experience has been healthy to say the least. Sadly, the staffing process for next school year has just begun and I found out that my small school is shrinking a little bit further and that I am now supernumerary. That means that I’m out a job and will need to look for a new job for next school year.
Am I a little sad to leave? Yes. I have been afforded some tremendous opportunities and I have really enjoyed my experience. However, staring down the barrel of forced change doesn’t feel so bad. I’ve done this before, just a year ago, BY CHOICE, and done well. Surely I can find myself another new job now that I NEED to go and find a new job. Desperation can be a very powerful motivator, but so is the prospect of change.
Many of us resist change. It scares us and makes us tentative. However, I have seen that change can be extremely positive in my professional life leading to greater enjoyment of what I love to do. Does it still scare me? You bet, but I am learning more and more to accept this change and to try and use it to my advantage and to improve myself.
How does all this discussion of change pertain to playing Magic? I think it is very straight forward. Change in Magic is good. We all love the change afforded us on account of rotation and a new block. This is a type of forced change that impacts most of us who play this game and helps to keep the game fresh and interesting at every level. To see the recent transition in Standard away from 4-colour insanity to more modest 2 and 3-colour decks has been refreshing. We see new cards, new combinations, and new abilities that will help redefine how we think about Magic.
We can also see this sort of forced change through things like the recent Bannings and Restrictions. Adding new cards to the card pool of a format like Modern goes a long way to help freshen up a format an unlock new potential combinations that will make the environment more enjoyable.
However, for every instance of someone getting excited for change, we see other things where players complain about all sorts of changes. I can scroll through my Twitter feed and see people complain about all sorts of Magic issues on a daily basis. I understand that some changes may not feel positive, but I would ask players to at least keep an open mind. Play points may not be all bad for MTGO. MTG finance might be more predictable at some point down the road. Less coverage of GPs may not be a bad thing instead of competing with everyone on Twitch for the attention of Magic players. But if we all complain about such things instead of embracing some of these changes, or at least giving the people who planned the change the benefit of the doubt, then we are limiting ourselves.
Then there is the question of change that you have brought upon yourself by choice. This might be the most difficult area because many times it is unclear how we, as players, can change and grow. However, perhaps it is a matter of becoming more attuned with the story of the game and paying more attention in that realm to help deepen your appreciation for the game. Perhaps it is uncovering a new fun podcast or website for inspiration. Maybe you just commit yourself to spending more time playing a given format into to try and grow your skill and understanding. Regardless of what you have chosen, making those first steps down the path of change can open up countless opportunities and be something that pushes you to be better.
For me, I look at the next few months of impending change as a positive. Am I sad? Yes. I hate to leave my school. I’m also sad when I take apart old decks from formats that I enjoyed and had kept together for nostalgia, but sometimes those cards can be put to better use elsewhere. However, the new possibilities that can exist from this change can be very positive. I like building new decks and I enjoy new challenges professionally. Things will be stressful and tense in the next few weeks as I attend interviews, but that’s part of the challenge and one I look forward to facing. I can’t wait and I am hoping that there is a perfect dream job out there for me somewhere. In the meantime I am going to enjoy the time at my current school, enjoy a little Magic, and get ready for whatever may come my way.
@bgray8791 on Twitter
Wizards has dropped a bomb on us. Let’s take a look!
Announcement Date: April 4, 2016
Effective Date: April 8, 2016
Magic Online Effective Date: April 13, 2016
Eye of Ugin is banned.
Ancestral Vision is unbanned.
Sword of the Meek is unbanned.
Lodestone Golem is restricted.
Next B&R Announcement: July 18
As we approach the release of a new set, Wizards of the Coast examines tournament results from each competitive format. If a format becomes very imbalanced, or too many games are not interactive, we examine the cause.
Here are our changes:
Since Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, Eldrazi decks have been dominating the Modern tournament environment. At the Pro Tour, Eldrazi were represented in six of the Top 8 decks, including Jiachen Tao’s winning deck. On the weekend of March 6, three Modern Grand Prix were held, in Melbourne, Bologna, and Detroit. There were 24 players who had Top 8 performances, fourteen of whom were playing Eldrazi, including two of the three winning decks.
Results on Magic Online are quite similar. Eldrazi decks are running rampant. The format is very imbalanced, and far from a healthy mix of competitive decks.
While the Eldrazi decks have a lot of powerful cards, the powerful draws are generally based on the mana acceleration from Eldrazi Temple and Eye of Ugin. Rather than ban multiple creatures, we find it preferable to ban a single land. We made our choice by examining how one would build a deck, and how it would play, with the land that remains legal.
If Eldrazi Temple is banned and Eye of Ugin is legal, the deck focuses on playing multiple lower-casting-cost Eldrazi per turn. A discount of two mana for each Eldrazi becomes a discount of four or more over the course of a turn. The deck becomes more explosive, more focused on a single build, and the powerful draws are still not interactive.
If Eye of Ugin is banned and Eldrazi Temple is legal, the mana supports a more diverse set of builds. There still is a small percentage of games with two Eldrazi Temples powering out huge plays. However, there are more games where only one Temple is drawn, and the deck is powerful yet beatable.
We also considered that Eye of Ugin is played in other decks, most notably “Tron” decks using Urza’s Power Plant and similar lands. While the Eye does add a lot of late game power to the deck, the core gameplay of the deck—casting large threats with the Tron lands—remains intact. It is regrettable that banning Eye of Ugin also impacts these Tron decks, but weighing everything in consideration, we feel this is the correct solution to the Eldrazi menace and makes Modern the most fun overall.
For these reasons, Eye of Ugin is banned in Modern.
When Battle for Zendikar and Oath of the Gatewatch were in development, the development team knew that all the Eldrazi creatures in the block would be more powerful in Modern because of these two-mana lands. While there was some risk that Eldrazi decks could be too strong, there was also the possibility that a fun new competitive deck would emerge. At the Pro tour, only about eight percent of the field played Eldrazi deck—the same amount played Infect, and more played Burn or Affinity. It was not clear to most professional players that the Eldrazi deck was too strong, or even as strong as the alternatives. In such a big format, it is very difficult to know how strong a deck will turn out before holding high-level tournaments, and much of the enjoyment of Magic for many players is seeing that play out. Ultimately, as the results of the Pro Tour and Grand Prix have shown, the Eldrazi deck has proven to be too strong and has had an unhealthy effect on the format.
We also looked at our banned lists for cards that could increase the richness of the format. Currently, the format tends to favor aggressive decks and quick-kill combo decks. We looked for cards that tend to work best in slower decks.
When the initial banned list was made for Modern, we looked at decks that had dominated similar formats and used those to guide our process. While there is some risk that these cards will cause further problems, we think that risk is small. Sometimes unbanning these cards doesn’t create any change in the competitive metagame. In that case, players who love playing that deck now have a new deck to work with.
Ancestral Vision is a very efficient card-drawer. Historically it has been strong in decks using the cascade mechanic, which immediately casts Ancestral Vision from the deck to draw three cards. It has also been strong in blue-based decks that are playing a longer, attrition-style game. With the current banned list, including Bloodbraid Elf, the types of cascade cards usually played with Ancestral Vision are not available. While there are some control decks that would use Ancestral Vision, it is an underplayed portion of the metagame. To allow for an increase in the number of blue-based control or attrition decks, we are unbanning Ancestral Vision.
Sword of the Meek makes a powerful, but slow, combination with Thopter Foundry. This combination was part of a format-dominating deck in the Extended format that Modern replaced. However, another element of that deck (Dark Depths, used with Vampire Hexmage) is also banned. Sword of the Meek might enable some slower combo decks, perhaps of the combo-control variety. It could be used as an alternate win condition in Lantern Control, which is powerful when unexpected but not currently a large part of the metagame. To allow for an increase in the number of controlling combo decks in the format, we are unbanning Sword of the Meek.
We continue to see an imbalanced metagame. In particular, Mishra’s Workshop–based decks continue to be significantly overrepresented, reducing the competitive metagame. While this issue could be solved by restricting the namesake card, if possible we would like to keep the deck at a competitive level, but played to an extent that the format is more diverse overall. Lodestone Golem leads to some of the less-interactive games. We are hopeful that limiting Workshop decks to one copy of the card leaves the deck at an appropriate strength. For that reason, Lodestone Golem is restricted.
Announcement Date: January 18, 2016
Effective Date: January 22, 2016
Magic Online Effective Date: January 27, 2016
Summer Bloom is banned.
Splinter Twin is banned.
Cloud of Faeries is banned.
Next B&R Announcement: April 4, 2016
Wizards of the Coast examines tournament results from each competitive Constructed format. When a format becomes imbalanced, or too many games are not interactive, we examine the cause.
Here are our changes:
We look for competitively viable decks that frequently win before the fourth turn. The Amulet Bloom deck has reached a performance level that is consistent with those criteria. In the past year, Justin Cohen finished second at Pro Tour Fate Reforged and Benjamin Miller made the Top 8 at Grand Prix Oklahoma City. At the StarCityGames.com Cincinnati Open, with over 1,000 competitors, Bobby Fortanely won and Bill Comminos finished in the Top 8.
This deck frequently wins before the fourth turn. With an Amulet of Vigor, a Summer Bloom, a bounce land such as Simic Growth Chamber, and another land such as Gemstone Mine, the deck can generate seven mana for additional plays on turn two. Primeval Titan, or Hive Mind with a Summoner’s Pact, can end the game very quickly. For these purposes, we are treating a turn-three Hive Mind with a Pact (which forces your opponent to pay 2GG next upkeep or lose the game) as a turn-three win.
We looked into which card could be banned to reduce the frequency of the very early wins. When the deck generates seven mana on turn two, there are a lot of cards that could lead to a quick finish. So we focused on the cards that lead to that explosive mana, and that led us to choose between Summer Bloom and Amulet of Vigor.
Since either card would be sufficient, the issue turned to what possibilities remained after either card was banned. Banning Amulet of Vigor leaves a Summer Bloom ramp deck. Banning Summer Bloom allows Amulet of Vigor with tapped lands. While it was not clear that either of these has all the tools to form a competitive deck today, the deck with Amulet of Vigor is more distinctive and has more potential as more tapped lands are printed. Azusa, Lost but Seeking is a potential replacement for Summer Bloom, but it is less efficient—so while there is a deck to play, it won’t have frequent turn-three wins.
For those reasons, Summer Bloom is banned from Modern.
We also look for decks that hold a large enough percentage of the competitive field to reduce the diversity of the format.
Antonio Del Moral León won Pro Tour Fate Reforged playing Splinter Twin, and Jelger Wiegersma finished third; Splinter Twin has won two of the four Modern Pro Tours. Splinter Twin reached the Top 8 of the last six Modern Grand Prix. The last Modern Grand Prix in Pittsburgh had three Splinter Twin decks in the Top 8, including Alex Bianchi’s winning deck.
Decks that are this strong can hurt diversity by pushing the decks that it defeats out of competition. They can also reduce diversity by supplanting similar decks. For instance, Shaun McLaren won Pro Tour Born of the Gods playing this Jeskai control deck. Alex Bianchi won our most recent Modern Grand Prix playing a similar deck but adding the Splinter Twin combination. Similarly, Temur Tempo used to see play at high-level events but has been supplanted by Temur Twin.
We considered what one would do with the cards from a Splinter Twin deck with Splinter Twin banned. In the case of some Jeskai or Temur, there are very similar decks to build. In other cases, there is Kiki-Jiki as a replacement.
In the interest of competitive diversity, Splinter Twin is banned from Modern.
The format currently has poor color balance. Of the ten most played nonland cards, nine are blue; the tenth is Lightning Bolt. We looked into the cause of this.
The Esper Familiars deck uses Sunscape Familiar and Nightscape Familiar to reduce the cost of blue spells, which include “free spells” such as Cloud of Faeries and Snap. Combined with the bounce lands, this means the “free spells” effectively produce mana. Here is a typical winning position: One casts Ghostly Flicker targeting Cloud of Faeries and a Mnemonic Wall, netting mana and getting back the Ghostly Flicker. Once enough mana is produced, the Ghostly Flicker can target a Sea Gate Oracle instead of the Cloud of Faeries, repeatedly looking for Sage’s Row Denizen. From there, the flickering mills the opponent’s deck.
Because of all the card-drawers here, it is difficult for non-blue decks to defeat this deck. It pushes the metagame to the imbalanced state where blue is heavily overplayed. Cloud of Faeries is likely the most problematic card in the deck.
In the interest of color diversity, Cloud of Faeries is banned from Pauper.