The two largest Grand Prixs (and CCG tournaments ever) are Grand Prixs Las Vegas 2013 and 2015. Both of them featured Modern Masters. One month from this Saturday, on March 17th, Modern Masters 2017 releases.
On the weekend of MMA2017’s release, there will be two Standard tournaments. That’s normal—supplementary set releases don’t supersede GP weekends. However, the following weekend is Grand Prix Orlando, a Limited GP. It’s one week after the set’s release, just like the trio of MMA Grand Prixs in 2015 (there was a two week window between release and GP Vegas 2013). The format of GP Orlando . . . is Aether Revolt Limited.
Where’s the Grand Prix?
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed about the lack of a Modern Masters Grand Prix. They’re giant spectacles of events, drawing record-breaking crowds. They feature wildly powerful, often unexplored formats. They are historical, as those formats will only ever be showcased once.
For me, the raison d’être of a Modern Masters is selling product. Sure, Modern Masters is popular enough to sell itself on the merits of its Limited design and high card value, but having a high level tournament justifies the cost of spending several hundred dollars jamming drafts, or even going in on a box and practicing Sealed with actual product. When there’s no such incentive (as was the case with Eternal Masters), I lose most of my motivation to play the format (though admittedly, that may have also had to do with my cool reception of EMA Limited in general). The existence of a grand prix was a sufficiently strong motivator for me to get good at MMA2015—even though I couldn’t attend the event, I wanted to help my friends get as good as they could.
So yes, I am deeply disappointed that Orlando is not a Modern Masters event.
There are a host of factors that could influence Wizards and StarCityGames to not feature Modern Masters in Florida.
The Event Site
…is likely not an issue. The Orange County Convention Center has double the space of the Las Vegas Convention Center and slightly more space in its exhibit hall. I’d also wager that Orlando is a comparably accessible location to Las Vegas, given that Orlando is home to Disney World.
…is potentially an issue. The cost of Grand Prixs has increased substantially in the past few years, and a $200 Grand Prix doesn’t market itself well. That said, that cost of entry is comparable to the cost of a hotel and likely a fraction the cost of a flight. A Grand Prix that costs an extra hundred dollars isn’t something to ignore, but that said, record-setting crowds have paid premium prices for the past two MMA Grand Prixs. What’s to say they wouldn’t again?
…runs the best Limited events, hands down. ChannelFireball has done a great job running Limited tournaments and I mean them no disrespect, but SCG is king. I highly doubt that Wizards of the Coast would not permit SCG to run an MMA GP. That said, perhaps SCG would prefer to run an Aether Revolt event than an MMA one (but I can’t speak as to their motivations).
Wizards of the Coast
…is the most likely culprit. Shocking that, given that they organize their events and create the event schedule. Perhaps they felt Modern Masters Grand Prix put too much product into the world and undercut their desired pricing (that said, they did reprint Eternal Masters, causing its box price fall below MSRP, something MMA2013 and 2015 never did). Perhaps they want to focus their coverage more exclusively on the current format (though supplemental products tend to come out when formats have run their course and interest has diminished). Perhaps they want to avoid another pro drafting a foil Tarmogoyf on camera, rather than the correct pick. Perhaps they’re responding to player fatigue after this summer’s supplemental set duo. I don’t know whether any of these reasons apply, given that there has been (to the best of my knowledge) no official statement as to why Modern Masters 2017 is being passed over.
I don’t know what the story is behind Modern Masters 2017. That said, I’m still excited to witness the new spoiler season. I’m excited to see WU finally not be affinity—given the inclusion of Return to Ravnica and Innistrad, it’d be easy to envision an Azorious-style tempo/control deck or a spirit tribal deck. I’m excited to see cards like Snapcaster Mage and Liliana of the Veil be reprinted. I’m excited to explore a brand new Limited environment and potentially get some great new artwork for my cube. But I admit, I’m a lot less excited than I was for the past two Modern Masters. After all, why spend my time, energy, and money on MMA when I could spend it preparing for GP Orlando?
Here’s hoping that there will be an explanation of the changes, but I also understand there could be factors at play not meant for the public to know. Ah well, perhaps there’ll be another Masters Grand Prix, somewhere down the line.
And, as always, thanks for reading.
Zachary Barash is a New York City-based game designer. He’s played Magic since 1994, but went on a long hiatus, like most folks. He’s currently pursuing his MFA in Game Design at NYU and designs for Kingdom Death: Monster, a game that is most definitely not Magic.