With today’s announcement of the new Historic format coming to Magic: the Gathering Arena in November, along with 15-20 “new” old cards from Magic’s history, Wizards of the Coast surprised players by revealing that the both the “new” cards and the cards rotating out of Standard this Fall (thus becoming Historic cards themselves) will require two Wildcards each to craft—rather than the usual one.

Update 9/13/19: Wizards has walked back the two Wildcard crafting cost for Historic cards.

The decision to double the cost for crafting historic cards was couched as part of “[f]inding a balance for the long-term health of MTG Arena.”

“We want to ensure that players new to Magic can still learn the ropes and start their collection through Standard and Draft as the primary methods of play, with Historic available to seasoned players looking to explore more of Magic’s rich history,” Wizards said. “But we also needed to look at the long-term impact Historic would have on MTG Arena as a whole, as we move toward supporting it as a true non-rotating format.”

This reasoning was met with some serious skepticism from the Magic community, and Chris Cao, Executive Producer of MTG Arena, went on Weekly MTG a few hours later to try and better explain the decision.

MTG Arena is “Standard-Focused”

(Skip to 20:50 if the embed does not do so for you.)

On stream, Cao said that MTG Arena was “Standard-focused” and reiterated that the reason why Historic cards would cost two Wildcards to craft was in order to maintain the game’s focus on Standard and preserve the “health of the game.”

“So let me talk about the health that we care the most about, which is when you log in, it’s fun to play Magic,” Cao said. “Because we are a head to head game, matchmaking is absolutely essential for [making that happen]. There has to be enough other people and enough other diversity [in player skill] to actually match you and create an experience that’s fun.”

“When we say ‘health,’ that’s actually the thing we’re most interested in,” he continued, “because that’s what tends to make Arena itself the best experience. So since we’re Standard-focused, we spend most of our time doing that for Standard.”

Historic Will Be a Part of MTG Arena’s Rotating Events

Though Standard is the main priority of the MTG Arena team, Cao said that they are committed to spending time on other game modes/event types, as well—but that they are cognizant of not diluting the player base between too many game mode matchmaking queues to the point where getting a good match becomes impossible.

“What we have to be careful of is the number of [events] that we run at one time, or how many people are playing any given one at one time,” Cao cautioned. “Because what can happen is, [the player base] can get diluted very easily [between the different queues for each event]. Sometimes you get the longer queue times as the only result, but an actual worse result is if you just get bad matchmaking and suddenly it’s just a blowout or suddenly something else just isn’t fun.”

“Giving you that on-demand, fast, fun Magic—we want to make sure that keeps happening as the core value of the game,” Cao said, and splitting MTG Arena’s player base into too many queues could reduce the number of people in Standard queues to the point where players aren’t getting good matches.

“We want to make sure that Historic is part of our overall rotation of events like what we bring in and move around,” he concluded, “and the 2x Wildcard [cost to craft Historic cards] is part of our strategy to do that.”

What Does This Mean For Historic?

When Historic was first announced, Wizards said that the format would only be playable in Best-of-One unranked queues. Combined with Chris Cao’s statement that Historic will be a “part of our [MTG Arena’s] rotation of events” and it appears that Historic is intended to be an inconsistently-available casual format.

At least for now. In their article revealing the Historic Wildcard changes, Wizards did say that these decisions were made “as we move toward supporting [Historic] as a true non-rotating format.” In the same article, Wizards also said that they were adding a Best-of-Three ranked queue for Historic for a four-week period in December, so it’s possible that they see Historic as an incomplete format at the moment—but one that could be able to transition into a “true non-rotating format” at some point in the future.

In the mean time, it seems like Wizards doesn’t intend for Historic to become one of the main ways to play Magic on MTG Arena and will do so by keeping it both available infrequently and more expensive to acquire cards for.

By making the format infrequently available and making cards prohibitively expensive, it remains to be seen if the Historic format will gain any traction against Standard and Brawl, which will come to MTG Arena with the release of Throne of Eldraine this Fall.

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