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Bad Standard, Mystery Boosters, Evolving Pioneer, Dead Legacy

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Today is Mythic Championship VI, and unlike previous Mythic Championships and Pro Tours, I'm not doing my normal predictions article. Why?

Oko, Thief of Crowns

Frankly? Standard is a disaster.

Making predictions like "There will be more maindeck copies of Noxious Grasp than basic Plains in top 8" isn't exactly fun and I can't recall a time I've felt less connected with Standard. I've also played approximately zero games of Standard since Mythic Championship V and the banning of Field of the Dead (which was barely three weeks ago, things sure happen fast these days) as the format feels completely lifeless, but at least an Oko, Thief of Crowns ban feels imminent.

Veil of Summer
Teferi, Time Raveler

How does this happen? How do we get Oko, Thief of Crowns, and to a lesser extent Veil of Summer and Teferi, Time Raveler? Didn't we just hire a big, new play-testing team after the debacle that was Kaladesh?

I wish I had good answers.

I find it hard to believe anyone could play with Oko for more than a few games and not feel how warping it is. Blanking the text box of every cool creature or artifact you want to play just feels awful and making everything into a 3/3 doesn't really create interesting game states either. Whether it's making the +1 into a -1 or only allowing the +1 to only target your own stuff, something needed to be done and wasn't.

Standard is so important to Magic, but even more so right now because of how controlling they are about what you can actually play on MTG Arena. Wizards of the Coast is seemingly trying their hardest for Draft and Standard to be the only constantly supported modes on MTG Arena. This is an issue in and of itself, but aside from the problems with what they're doing the result is that if Standard is bad, then MTG Arena is subsequently bad as well. There's a lot of weight on Standard's shoulders right now, and when it's not good we really feel it.

Something needs to change... again I guess.

Mystery Boosters!

From something dreary to something a bit more unexpected... the reveal of what the Mystery Boosters contain!

When Wizards of the Coast announced they were doing a new product called "Mystery Boosters" they were very clear that there would be no spoilers, previews, or information about what the product was before its release at Magicfest Richmond yesterday. With the never ending stream of Masters sets that have been so common lately it would be easy to think it was something like that, but we ended up with something much different:

While full information is still forthcoming, Mystery Boosters ended up being a sort of Chaos Draft, featuring many different cards from the history of the game, but with a wild twist. There is a "play-test" card in every pack, which is made to look like an internal R&D play-test card with some fairly wild abilities and mechanics. These cards are not legal in Constructed, but offer a really fun twist on the normal draft experience that has Mystery Boosters feeling like something halfway between Chaos draft and an Un-set.

There's been some grumbling about Wizards buying a bunch of repacks and selling them in new booster wrappers, but realistically this is a pretty cool product that doesn't just feel like another Masters set of Wizards essentially printing money. There is definitely a fatigue point when it comes to new products and something like Mystery Boosters is a decent middle ground that doesn't have us scrambling to buy even more new mythic rare planeswalkers for all our decks in various formats.

I don't know if I'll ever open one, but Mystery Boosters seem cool.

Pioneer Begins To Evolve

I've been jamming a ton of Pioneer lately and having a great time and Wizards of the Coast has stayed true to their word that they would be very active and engaged with their ban list. As such, we've seen our first cards that join the Khans of Tarkir fetchlands on the Pioneer Ban List:

Felidar Guardian
Oath of Nissa
Leyline of Abundance

Felidar Guardian makes a ton of sense, as I'm sure most people expected it to be on initial ban list. Two card, Splinter Twin-style combos put a huge amount of strain on the format, forcing decks to play certain types of interaction or be cold to the combo as early as turn three. With both cards being very reasonable value cards as well, it certainly felt more like a "when" than "if" scenario for one part of the Felidar Guardian combo to be banned.

The more odd bans are Oath of Nissa and Leyline of Abundance, two cards that if you polled a random sample of ten players at a Modern tournament maybe half of them could tell you the exact text of. Mono-Green Devotion was quickly proven to be one of the most powerful decks in the format, with Nyxthos, Shrine to Nix powering out Nissa, Who Shakes The World as early as turn two thanks to Llanowar Elves, Leyline of Abundance, and Burning-Tree Emissary. The deck took second in the first Pioneer PTQ in the hands of Todd Anderson and was by far the most winning deck in Pioneer leagues according to Wizards of the Coast.


So why not ban Nyxthos?

This is what I expected, but it appears that Wizards of the Coast is very invested in keeping devotion enablers intact for what I can only assume is a return of the mechanic in the next Theros-themed set. However the goal here is pretty much the same- powering down the Mono-Green Devotion deck and removing the truly busted starts that Leyline of Abundance could produce in conjunction with Nyxthos. Mono-Green Devotion is still likely one of the top decks in the format, which will make it look silly if they need to move on the deck again, but for now this is what we've got.

Pioneer has been one of the most exciting Magic developments of the last few years, and with it taking the big stage at SCGCON in a few weeks we are just seeing the beginning. However, when one rises one must fall...

Legacy Pronounced Dead 11/7/2019

It's been a long time coming, but Legacy could never hope to survive the reserve list. Now with Pioneer pushing hard to become a serious tournament format, something had to give.

The SCG Tour, where Legacy was essentially resurrected as a format, has decided to drop Legacy from most of their events in favor of Pioneer. Team events will now be Standard / Modern / Pioneer, and it is unlikely we will see any Legacy events at all except for special one shot events at SCGCON. The format has simply gotten too expensive and awkward and wasn't worth carrying anymore with a new, better option available.

Honestly? I say good riddance.

Wrenn and Six
Arcum's Astrolabe
True-Name Nemesis

I used to like Legacy a lot, but it has felt like a total mess over the last year or so. Wrenn and Six this, Arcum's Astrolabe that, Commander card this... and this is all on top of the fact that if you don't already have Legacy cards or a strong network to borrow them from that actually trying to assemble a deck is quite the task. Paper Legacy just kinda sucks.

The good news is that Legacy is far more accessible on Magic Online, with both no reserve list and a large player pool to draw from at any given point that doesn't require the logistics of setting up a paper tournament. Having Legacy and Vintage be mostly relegated to Magic Online and occasional big events like Legacy/Vintage Championships makes a lot of sense.

So is Legacy actually dead? Sorta, but it lives on in the only way it makes sense to as long as the reserve list stands.

So Much Stuff

Is it just me or does it feel like much more "stuff" happens in Magic now than it use to? It feels like every week there's a new set, a new product, a new banning, a new format... it gets to the point where it's almost overwhelming. It's been less than a month since the last Mythic Championship and now we've got another one happening today, a card has been banned, a new format has been announced, a new set released... there's never time to breathe.

Well for now I turn my focus to Modern and Pioneer for my last big tournament of the year at SCGCON, and hope for a miracle run and victory to qualify me for my fourth SCG Tour Player's Championship. I can't wait to play Pioneer on the big stage!