When the original Modern Masters came out, many in the community took it as a sign that Wizards of the Coast cared about the Modern format and showed that commitment by reprinting many of the expensive format staples like Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant. They also highlighted Modern Masters at an incredibly large Grand Prix tournament held in Las Vegas. Everyone was happy, or so they thought.

The reality is that Wizards was incredibly cautious as they took their first forays into paper reprints of very expensive cards. The print run on Modern Masters in 2013 was very short. The content covered fell short of Zendikar block meaning there were no fetch lands. Sure, there were some great inclusions, but it was clear that Wizards was just getting their feet wet in a brave new world.

Modern Masters 2017 is a by-product of two interesting developments. First, it’s safe to say that after two editions of Modern Masters, two editions of Conspiracy, and one edition of Eternal Masters, Wizards has a much better idea of the short and long-term impact that reprints have on the community and the secondary market. Second, Wizards has been under attack since canceling the Modern Pro Tour for supposedly failing to properly support the format.

Who Cares About the Secondary Market?

Okay, a lot of people care about the secondary market. Plenty of players have a significant amount of money invested in ~*~ #mtgfinance ~*~ and plenty of secondary market movers such as Star City Games do too. But there are also a few groups of people who don’t care about the secondary market. The first group is the largest and that’s casual magic players. The secondary market only impacts them insomuch as it costs them to add new cards to their kitchen table decks. The second group is Wizards of the Coast, who don’t really see a huge increase in profits thanks to the secondary market.

After years of reprinting valuable cards into booster packs it seems like either Wizards figured out they can be much more loose with their reprints or they decided they don’t care about tanking the value of Modern staples. After all, why should they? When you look at Modern as a format, or Legacy or Vintage for that matter, you are playing a balancing game between two forces. On the one hand is the desire among people who want to play the game to be able to play it with actual cards instead of proxies without requiring a second mortgage or a maxed-out credit card. On the other hand is the desire among people who invest in Magic cards to maintain the value of their collections.

Wizards of the Coast seems to have decided to stop keeping that scale balanced in the middle, preferring to tilt it all the way towards letting people play Modern instead of propping up an artificially inflated secondary market. Can you blame them? Even those of you who have significant money invested into Modern as a format—which would you prefer? Do you want to be able to make a profit off of cardboard or do you want people to be able to share your enjoyment of the game? I have a feeling the majority of you would take the latter.

But I Thought Wizards Doesn’t Care if People Play Modern?

Nothing could possibly be further from the truth. Wizards wants everyone to be able to enjoy Magic in whichever way suits them best. That’s why they put so much effort into understanding the Spike, Jenny, Tammy, Vorthos, and Mel psychographics. They want people to play Magic. They want everyone to play Magic. It doesn’t have to be Standard Magic. But if they could get everyone to play Magic, why wouldn’t they?

Modern was created to fill a need that has existed almost since the game began. It’s a format that does not give an advantage to players who’ve been around long enough to own the most powerful (Legacy) cards. It also does not give an advantage to players who are able to buy the latest shiniest cards. Instead, Modern allows people to build up their collection at their own pace, pick the cards and decks they like to play, and enjoy Magic.

Two things ruined this for everyone. The first, which has been addressed above, was the rapidly rising price of entry into the format. The second, which we’ll address now, is the Pro Tour. Modern, unlike Standard and Legacy, was not really developed to be a competitive format, not really. Most of the cards in Modern were never tested together competitively. That still remains true as Wizards does not test new Standard cards against the larger Modern card pool. The results of the few Modern Pro Tours were predictable but very detrimental for the format.

The banning of cards like Deathrite Shaman, Birthing Pod, Splinter Twin, and Eye of Ugin changed the way Modern is consumed by the Magic community. Little by little this was no longer a format that allowed people to build up their collection at their own pace, pick the cards and decks they like to play, and enjoy Magic. It became a format where people needed to follow tournament coverage, buy and sell according to market trends, check out top performing decks, read theory articles, and continually rebuild their decks—all to play at their kitchen table.

There will never be another Modern Pro Tour. Modern isn’t meant for the highest levels of competition. It’s meant for the most casual of Magic players. Those who have no desire to invest in Legacy, no desire to compete in Standard, no desire to spend a fortune on Magic. Putting the format on the Pro Tour will result in cards being banned, will result in prices going up, and will result in the format being less enjoyable.

So if you want to see support for Modern as a competitive format, you’re going to have to look elsewhere than Wizards of the Coast. They have little to no incentives or resources to make that happen. But, if you want to see more support for Modern as a format that can be enjoyed by everyone? Then I think Wizards of the Coast has got your back.

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.

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