Last week, a friend and I got into a pretty heavy discussion about Modern—a format that’s already controversial to begin with. It’s a polarizing topic, with people either loving or hating the format often mislabeled as an Eternal one. While some are considering alternate formats like Frontier recently, I think Modern is more sustainable than people may be giving it credit for, and that Wizards can do more to facilitate that sustainability.
First, let’s make clear what no one likes to admit: Legacy is not sustainable in the long term. It just isn’t. And this isn’t a negative mark against Legacy by any means. But without abolishing the Reserved List, there’s a clear ceiling on the format beyond just the price barrier—there are only so many dual lands in the world.
One of the strongest attractions to Modern is that these same restrictions don’t exist and never will, or rather, they can easily be corrected when they do. Modern Masters and Modern Masters 2015 were clear indicators of this. Every card in the entire format is eligible to reprint. Yes, some of the card prices stayed the same or increased a bit. The format is healthy enough to see an increase in demand if the product is available.
I’m under the impression that one of the biggest hindrances to the format is that Wizards doesn’t test for Modern when making new sets—they simply don’t have the manpower to do so. Standard is their bread and butter, so Modern will rarely get the attention that Standard does. The same would likely be true of Frontier.
This being the case, all new Modern cards have to pass The Great Filter of Magic (shout out to the Fermi Paradox!), which in this case is Standard. More to the point, that means if we ever want to see a new Modern card, it will have to exist in Standard first, and as such, we’re likely never getting more than one or two relevant (re: tournament caliber) Modern cards per set, if that. Maybe this is completely fine, but there’s no reason we can’t do better, especially if Magic players are already clamoring for a new format.
One easy suggestion is to make supplemental products like Commander sets legal in Modern. Of course, you might not want to make every supplementary product legal in the format, so perhaps you release Modern Commander or Modern Conspiracy, indicating that all cards contained therein are legal in Modern. This might seem strange, to have specific sets that contain Modern cards. Maybe it would get confusing. People wouldn’t know which cards from which set were legal. Well, I thought that too, until I realized it’s already the case in Standard…
I recently played a Standard Metallurgic Summonings deck that had copies of Disperse in it. I didn’t even know Disperse was legal in Standard, so I checked it out. Can you tell me what set it’s from? Turns out it was in something known as a 2016 Welcome Deck. I still don’t even know what that is, and I wouldn’t have known Disperse was legal if I hadn’t seen someone else playing it. But that’s not all! The Intro Decks that were released with Kaladesh also contained brand new Standard-legal cards that are available nowhere else, like the two alternate planeswalkers. The same is true with Aether Revolt.
If you didn’t buy these or Google the card list, you’d never know which cards they contain. I saw a list playing a card called Flame Lash, and I had no idea what it was, let alone that it was legal in Standard! Standard is intended to be the most popular and introductory of formats. It’s where new players are expected to start their Magical journey. If Standard can introduce format-legal cards through supplemental products, there’s no way Modern can’t as well, whose player base is typically much more informed.
The only issue is distinguishing which supplemental products were Modern legal and which weren’t, and I’ve already covered one way around this. But here’s another option: Make all cards that were released in supplemental products, whose first printing was past Mirrodin, legal in Modern.
Yes, this could be a somewhat messy proposition, but it would mean that cards like Leovold, Emissary of Trest were legal in Modern while cards like Brainstorm still weren’t. The point of legality for the format still doesn’t change—everything that was first printed past Mirrodin would be legal in the format. In fact, when I first heard cards from the Commander decks weren’t legal in Modern I thought it was confusing because the name of the format is quite literally based on cards with the “modern” card frame.
For this proposition, it would undoubtedly require some cards to be banned based on power level, but it puts us much, much closer to making Modern a better, more sustainable Legacy. And could you imagine some of the exciting decks we’d see the first few weeks or months after this change?
Baleful Strix and Shardless Agent would be fantastic in Modern. I think Baleful Strix would be a huge boon to U/B-based control decks, and it’s by no means overpowered. Shardless Agent is a little scarier with Ancestral Visions legal, but if it were legal in the format at the time, that would have a been a consideration when unbanning Visions. The point is that being able to actively design cards for one of Magic’s flagship formats by putting them in smaller, supplemental products has the ability to hugely impact the Modern metagame and can make it so that we don’t have to resort to always banning cards when something goes awry. We could actively print answers for these problems with power levels more adapted to Modern and less to Standard. It seems almost criminal to design cards like Dack Fayden, Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast, and Queen Marchesa only to have them legal in formats like Commander and Legacy, when they would easily be in the spotlight were they Modern legal. How cool would it be to actually be the Monarch in Modern?
Here’s one final idea: While Modern Masters sets currently consist solely of reprints, this doesn’t have to be the case. What if we allowed all cards in Modern Masters sets to be legal, barring bannings? “But Frank,” you’re thinking, “Modern Masters sets are already legal in Modern! That’s their entire purpose!” Well of course you’re correct, dear reader! But more specifically I mean, if a card is printed in Modern Masters, it is legal in the format excluding any relevant bannings. In this way, you’re free to include new or reprinted cards. Put Recruiter of the Guard in Modern Masters 2017. Splinter Twin from the original Modern Masters? Still not legal. Kaya, Ghost Assassin that I opened in Modern Masters 2017? Legal!
These are just a few suggestions for making Modern more robust and less stagnant, which is odd to say because I do love the format and think it’s quite varied. But we can do better, and that’s no reason to rest on our laurels when it comes to such a popular format. Modern exists in a weird space where it doesn’t get anywhere near the amount of attention and love that Standard does, and it also doesn’t get anywhere near the amount of new, playable cards that Legacy, Vintage, and Commander do.
Think about that—when a new set comes out, every format has access to it, so there’s no real advantage there. That set, however, was designed for Standard. So Standard gets the most out of it. When a new Commander or Conspiracy set comes out, those are designed for their respective formats, but Commander, Legacy, and Vintage get to use the cards. Modern falls in this weird area in the middle.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit one of the main reasons I support these changes is because I don’t play much Legacy or Commander, but I love the cards that are released in those products. I think a lot of people do. So why not let us play them in a format that already has potential turn-3 and -4 kills?
Do you guys see any holes in my suggestions? Do you think they could work? Chime in and let me know what you think and how we can make Modern great again! Thanks for reading and I’ll catch you later.