The Pro Tour is over and Sphinx’s Revelation has once again demonstrated that overwhelming card and life advantage can trump disruption, aggression, and decks with actual win conditions. We’ve also seen next year’s Pro Tour and Grand Prix schedule.

Next year, all four Pro Tours will be Standard/Limited. There will be no Modern or Block Pro Tour next year.


I’m really sad about this.

I’m not sad to see Block go; the format was rarely played. Block was mostly restricted to the one Pro Tour (and an errant Grand Prix here and there). It hasn’t necessarily been a good predictor of the following years’ Standard (which seems to be the primary goal of having it be a Pro  format).

The loss of Modern, however, strikes a blow.

I love Modern. I love watching it, I love playing it, I love its power level, I love watching its metagame. …clearly, I am biased.

Eternal Flame

Modern is a nonrotating format, like Legacy, where cards hold their utility over time. Compare this to Standard, where all cards are only tournament-viable for two years (unless they’re valuable in Modern, Legacy, or Vintage). A player can own one Modern deck and always be able to play it at a tournament (barring bannings) until the end of time, Magic, or Modern. Modern allows for a higher power level, a more diverse assortment of decks (its card pool is much bigger than Standard’s and grows with every expansion), and more recognizable archetypes over time.

The question I have for Wizards is why. Why give the Modern Pro Tour the axe? Here’s what my cursory research has turned up.

Compulsive Research

Mark Rosewater said the following:

“…[W]e believe the Standard format leads to the best Pro Tours. Note that we are not abandoning Modern as a format and there will be many opportunities for it to be played.”

It makes sense that Wizards would want all Pro Tours to be the best Pro Tours. However, I’m not certain that I subscribe to the (and pardon my semi-formal) logic  of:

1. Standard Pro Tours are the best Pro Tours.

2. If a Pro Tour is a Standard Pro Tour, then it will be the best (type of) Pro Tour.

3. Therefore, if all Pro Tours are Standard Pro Tours, then all Pro Tours will be the best Pro Tours.


4. If all Pro Tours are Standard Pro Tours, then the Pro Season will be the best Pro Season.

Will Standard Pro Tours be as exciting/good when they come four times a year, rather than twice (which is a recent development)? Will they be as exciting when they differ only by one set in the Winter, Spring, and Summer? Will each expansion shift Standard enough for each Pro Tour to feel distinct? We’ll see next year.

I prefer variety and am more excited by the concept of the one 2014 Modern Pro Tour more than the 2014 Standard Pro Tour that adds Born of the Gods to Standard… but perhaps that’s just me (a person enjoys Modern significantly more than he does Standard).

Balancing Act

Tom LaPille added a fair amount of perspective to the discussion.

It’s absolutely true that having a Modern Pro Tour will force Pro players to do their best to break the format. Once the format is broken, it can only be fixed by a massive change (such as bannings or the printing of a format-defining card [that will likely deserve a ban], like Deathrite Shaman or Stoneforge Mystic). This, however, presupposes several things:

  1. Modern doesn’t change much in a given year (since Modern Pro Tours were only once a year; though if it remains a World Magic Cup format, it has half the amount of time to change).
  2. Modern is broken or is almost broken.
  3. Bannings are bad for a format.

I don’t have the vast amount of information that Wizards has access to, so my perspective is limited, but I don’t subscribe the first or second points.

Modern has changed a fair amount in the past year—granted, muchly due to the banning of Deathrite Shaman and the unbanning of Wild Nacatl and Bitterblossom—but also due to an evolving metagame. We’ve witnessed the resurgence of Splinter Twin, the overwhelming sideboard response to Robots, the waxing and waning popularity of Tron and Scapeshift, the various builds of UWR cycling through popularity, and the shifting of BGW Pod from a combo deck to a midrange deck (to say nothing of the various Tier 1.5/Tier 2 decks, including but not limited to: Storm, Boggles, Living End, Infect, Merfolk, Tokens, and Soul Sisters).

As for bannings, they’re certainly unenjoyable (particularly for people who own decks that revolve around cards like Seething Song and Second Sunrise), but I appreciate Wizard’s willingness to change the format up whenever it’s perceived to be stale. Ideally, the format would change enough each year that the metagame would shift naturally and bannings would be unnecessary. That’s impossible to promise, however, so I’m happy that Wizards will intervene to keep the format vibrant when Standard and the metagame fail to change Modern.


How many Modern players exist at lower levels? Modern requires a far more substantial financial commitment than Limited and Standard, one I would not expect of most casual players (to equate being casual with being lower level, which may or may not be apt). Of this set of players, how many don’t rely on the Pro Tour for advice for the format, or aim for the Pro Tour by playing in Grand Prixs, PTQs, or SCG Modern events? Will these players keep playing and buying into Modern when there’s less to aim for and follow?

Will more competitive players keep playing Modern when they can instead grind Standard (the undisputed Professional Constructed format) and better prepare for higher level play? If this change causes people to stop playing Modern in favor of Standard, won’t that make it harder for lower level players to find opponents/tournaments?

I question why a store would ever run a Modern PPTQ over a Standard PPTQ. For starters, Standard is more accessible (which, granted, is a strength): Standard is cheaper to buy into and has more easily obtainable cards (because it’s what players are cracking in Limited). Standard is likely more profitable for stores running PPTQs (since players will more often be in the market for Standard singles than nonrotating Modern cards). For the more competitive players, the Pro Tour (which everyone competing in a PPTQ is aiming for) will always be Standard, so players are better served by practicing the format they’re competing to compete in.

Droning Bureaucrats

I could drone on about this forever, so I’ll instead wrap things up with a few short thoughts.

  • If you’re at all interested in Wizards’ perspective, check out Peter Shmanka’s chat with Aaron Forsythe. It’s an excellent read. Wizards is obviously interested in the community’s response and how this change is received next year.
  • Wizards has been doing an excellent job of reprinting Modern staples lately, between the shocklands in Return to Ravnica block, Mutavault in M14, Thoughtseize in Theros, Chord of Calling in M15, and all of Modern Masters. It’s strange that they’ll be supporting the format less.
  • This change will support Standard-legal Limited and Constructed more (since Standard will likely be even more played) and discourage supplemental Limited sets like Modern Masters and Conspiracy (which will be less worth buying into due to Modern cards seeing less play).

I’m curious how you feel about these changes. Am I crying wolf when in fact there’ll be just as many Modern Grand Prixs, FNMs, and (hopefully) PTQs? Will the change affect your playing, buying, or selling habits? How do you feel about it? Please share in the comments below.

As always, thanks for reading.

—Zachary Barash — Join the livestream!

Zachary Barash has been playing Magic on and off since 1994. He loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He’s a proud Cube owner and performer, improvising entire musicals every week with his team, Petting Zoo. Zach has an obsession with Indian food that borders on being unhealthy.

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