Two years ago, Wizards eliminated the Modern and Block Pro Tours. Few shed a tear for Block Constructed, but many, yours truly included, argued for the Modern Pro Tour’s importance. The Modern Pro Tour was swiftly re-instituted, just before Wizards announced a primary reason for the change: the two-block paradigm, where Standard rotates twice a year instead of once, and is in constant flux.

Splinter Twin

The discussion of whether Modern should be a Pro Tour format was reignited earlier this year, just after Splinter Twin‘s ban (as well as Summer Bloom‘s thoroughly expected ban) and right before Eldrazi became the best Modern deck of the Pro Tour (and possibly of all time). The high-profile banning of Splinter Twin, a year after the high profile banning of Birthing Pod, made the community wonder whether the Modern Pro Tour justifies its cost—annual bannings, often of a core card from a top-tier deck that’s not considered degenerate. This instituted an unpredictable kind of rotation, where every year a deck might be banned or severely weakened.

These discussions are relevant once more, as once more Wizards has eliminated the Modern Pro Tour.

Look at Me, I'm the DCI

This time, the change appears likely to stick. The past two years of bannings have made people feel punished for playing high-performing decks and investing in a ‘permanent’ format. Pros seem to strongly prefer to play and break Standard than Modern. Standard Pro Tours should have lots of novelty, whereas Modern Pro Tours feature many of the same (non-banned) decks. Compared to last time Modern was on the PT chopping block, there are now many more loud voices arguing for four Standard Pro Tours and far fewer clamoring for the maintenance of the Modern Pro Tour.

Banners Raised

When I heard the announcement, I raced to my keyboard to once again raise the banner (certainly not the Standard) for Modern. Modern is the only nonrotating format that you can play at every level of Magic, from learning the ropes at FNM, to a Regional Pro Tour Qualifier or Grand Prix, to the Pro Tour. It’s the only nonrotating format which Wizards can reprint any card for. It’s the most popular Constructed format after Standard. It’s nonrotating, which is good in and of itself; you can play the same deck for years and not have to constantly keep up with the metagame or buy/trade for new cards.

Modern needs a Pro Tour so that it can be showcased as a serious, important format and be perceived as on equal standing with Standard. Modern needs a Pro Tour so that players can have deck continuity from LGS to PT. Modern needs a Pro Tour so that all four Pro Tours aren’t the same format (particularly the small set PTs).


These arguments (which I’ve made before) don’t have the same weight they used to. The anti-Modern PT crowd have a lot more merit to their arguments than they did in 2014. I do hate the uncertainty that pre-Pro Tour bannings bring to the format. I do bemoan the disappointment these regular bannings sow among people who thought they were playing fair (enough) Modern decks. The past several months have been awful for the format: when Eldrazi ran rampshod over Modern for three months, I stopped playing paper Modern completely. Now that the Eldrazi are gone, it’s been difficult making time in the schedule to play Modern again (even though I’m excited to sleeve up Jeskai). While I’m sad that Modern will be getting less coverage, I’m not as motivated to fight against the tide as I was two years ago.

There’s a lot of reason for Standard to be the only top-tier Constructed format: Standard is heavily curated and thoroughly tested to be deep, balanced, varied, and fun. It has a finite lifespan, so an unbalanced format will rotate and be heavily changed every six months.

Modern is likely doomed to have the wrong amount of balance and novelty: either it’s marginally or incrementally changed by sets like Fate Reforged, which gave Ugin, the Spirit Dragon to Tron and Tasigur, the Golden Fang to Grixis, or massively changed by sets like Khans of Tarkir or Oath of the Gatewatch, which triggered the bans of Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time, and Eye of Ugin. If Modern only changes incrementally over a year, Pro Tours aren’t different enough, but if it does, the format has likely been warped by a single card or mechanic and is in need a ban (or a dedicated hate card unlikely to be printed in a Standard set in time). Standard works better as a Pro Tour format, because it’s designed for that purpose.

Pensive Minotaur

All that said, the loss of the Modern PT shouldn’t affect Modern very much; there will still be Modern Grands Prix, StarCity Opens, and FNMs to give people Modern to watch and be inspired by. Pros will continue to compete in, build decks for, and write articles about Modern tournaments. Modern still has a massive, entrenched, and invested community and remains the only nonrotating competitive format unhampered by the unrestricted price ceiling of Legacy. Modern can and will survive this.


All that being said, it appears that the loss of the Modern Pro Tour, the recent release of Enter the Battlefield, and the Pro Tour itself (including an astoundingly stacked and diverse Top Eight) have all been overshadowed by the sudden change to Platinum status, the highest rung of the financial ladder of pro play.

I won’t expound too much on it, because Reddit and Twitter are still ablaze on the subject and a whole lot is being said without any dialogue with Wizards of the Coast. I hope that the matter is swiftly and amicably resolved, ideally to everyone’s benefit. Change can be a terrifying thing, even if it’s ultimately for the best. On the other hand, mistakes can be made and wrongs righted. There is a way out that will satisfy Wizards of the Coast, professional players, and the community at large; there’ll need to be a cool-headed, civil discussion once the initial firestorm dies down to find it. Here’s hoping that happens and the game we love will be the better for this sudden change.

And as always, thanks for reading.

—Zachary Barash

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, improviser, and game designer (currently going for an MFA in Game Design at NYU). He has an obsession with Indian food that borders on being unhealthy.

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