Last week you may have noticed that Wizards of the Coast unleashed the ban hammer on not one, not two, but a whopping three cards in the Standard format. This change was so shattering that my college roommate, who hasn’t played in ages, told me that he heard some cards got banned in Type 2. If you don’t know what Type 2 is, thanks for making me feel old (and thanks to my college roommate for making me feel old as well).
But I’m not here to talk about the impact of banning Emrakul, the Promised End, Smuggler’s Copter, or Reflector Mage, nor am I here to talk about the banning in Modern of Golgari Grave-Troll and Gitaxian Probe. No, I want to talk about what I think is the far more important announcement that was made as part of last Monday’s shocking reveal.
Banned and Restricted announcements will now be made both on the Monday after Standard-legal set Prereleases and five weeks after a Pro Tour, also on a Monday.
I see two major impacts from this. The first one is pretty obvious, as it is the direct impact to Magic’s event schedule. The second one may not be so obvious and it relates to the secondary-market value of cards in Standard. But let’s start with the scheduling of events, which I talked about a bit last week.
Pro Tour Aether Revolt is being held from February 3rd through 5th (Superbowl weekend for the yanks). This means the next B&R announcement will come on Monday, March 13th. Between Pro Tour Aether Reborn and the release of Amonkhet, there will be four Standard Grand Prix events. Two of them will take place before the next announcement (Pittsburgh on Feb 10 and Utrecht on Feb 24) but two of them will take place after the next announcement (Shizuoka and Porto Alegre both on Mar 17).
So does it make a difference? I think so. I don’t think Wizards would reserve this new announcement window if it wasn’t for the express purpose of shaking up Standard in the middle of what you could consider a “season” for competitive Magic. One of the biggest complaints you’ll hear about halfway between expansion releases is that the format has gotten stale, or that the meta-game has been solved. An opportunity to ban (and more importantly un-ban cards) in Standard mid-season is exactly what Wizards is looking for here.
So during the Aether Reborn season, Wizards will have an opportunity to use data from the Pro Tour and two Grand Prix events to alter the format for the final two Grand Prix events before the release of Amonkhet. That set will prerelease on April 22nd and have its Pro Tour on May 12th giving us B&R updates on April 24th and June 19th. This means that the first half of Amonkhet Season (before June 19th) will feature five Standard Grand Prix (Montreal and Santiago on May 19 plus Omaha, Amsterdam, and Manila on June 2) and the second half (after June 19th) will feature… none.
Okay, maybe that wasn’t great planning. There will surely be SCG events and of course your local Friday Night Magic events, but the Amonkhet season could end up being a very awkward one if another mistake like Smuggler’s Copter found its way into that set. Hours of Devastation season has a similar problem with four Grand Prix prior to the September 4th B&R announcement and none in-between that announcement and the following Pro Tour.
Will Wizards change the format of some Grand Prix tournaments? I hope so. Changing the B&R lists, especially for Standard, mid-season is a good idea for hot-fixes to the meta-game, but without some high-level competitive play to see the results it may feel a bit lack-luster. Obviously this is all new for Wizards and the schedule for the year has been set for some time so we can’t really blame them for these discrepancies but I’d like to see them addressed in some fashion.
As I said earlier though, I don’t think this is the only impact we’ll see. The price of the cards that were banned trended down fast with Emrakul losing about 30% of her value and Smuggler’s Copter losing about 50% of its value in the wake of the announcement. The obvious question is: will the threat of Standard banned list updates occurring more frequently, will the value of cards in the secondary market be tempered?
The answer, in the short-term at least, is no. However, if Wizards began banning cards in Standard regularly every eight weeks or so, then yes, I think it would result in the overall price of the best cards in the format coming down because people will be reluctant to invest heavily in cards that may lose a lot of value quickly. Dealers will still need to move inventory though, so the prices could come down.
Is this a good thing? Is it a good way to synthetically control the price of the secondary market? Probably not, to be honest, because while frequently banning cards (or unbanning them) may help control the price ceiling, it may also instill a lack of confidence in the development team. If these actions continue to be in response to cards viewed as “mistakes” then confidence will wane.
But, if Wizards makes it clear that they want to shake things up occasionally, to avoid stale meta-games, then this could be a great thing and also have the side effect of putting a cap on secondary-market prices. Still, I think that for the time being we will not see many changes to the Standard list of banned cards like we saw last week.
What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.