Re-Evaluate Your Perspective On Bannings

Today I will attempt to outline my perspective on the recent Modern bannings, and hopefully provide an interesting counter-argument to the general emotionally charged language running around the Internet. As always, my opinion is my own, and I present it to you not in an attempt to argue or sway others to my side, but rather to inform, as best I can, regarding the process that leads me to my opinions. My opinion, yours, and everyone else’s are all equally respected and valued, with the caveat that they originate from a foundation based on fact, with as little bias as possible. My goal for this article is not to change minds, but rather to provide insight into the formative process of a constructive opinion.

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Who defines “balanced”?

Most of my points will center around rhetorical questions, because if the goal here is to be as unbiased as possible, I have to admit that I don’t know the right answers. Instead, the best I can do is posit questions and attempt to answer them as best as I can. Magic players (of which I consider myself a member) often throw around the term “balanced” to the point that it has become a buzzword that carries no real meaning.

In the context of a format of Constructed play, balanced can mean many things. Return to Ravnica block Standard was widely considered a highly “balanced” format, with Mono-Blue Devotion, Mono-Black Devotion, and U/W Control each sharing prominent positions at the top tier. While these decks were solidly better than the rest of the field, they were comparable in power level to each other. Without a clear “best deck”, tournaments in this time period were approached with the notion that multiple archetypes were capable of taking home the trophy.

Players that enjoyed the intricacy of deckbuilding and gameplay defining RTR Standard would undoubtedly define that format as “balanced”. Players not interested in playing one Balanceof the “Big Three” would disagree, saying the power level gap between Tier 1 and 2 was too wide. So who is right? Without a clear, definite set of outlined rules and characteristics to define a format’s identity, there really is no way to distinguish a format as being “balanced” or not. While highly valuable, weeks and weeks of metagame information, statistics, and long-winded semantics by content writers can only move the discussion so far, at which point we reach a horizon where all that information falls away, leaving only opinion. Is a three-archetype Tier 1 balanced? What about a Tier 1 that contains five archetypes? What about when Tier 1 contains two archetypes, but Tier 2 contains 20 different decks, each capable of beating one of the top-tier decks with the right planning? Can you truly answer those questions with any certainty, while at the same time removing all bias and prior opinions from the equation?

What exactly does a “healthy” format look like?

This topic shares similarities to the previous discussion on “balanced”, but it’s important to distinguish the differences between the two. Can a format be healthy without being balanced? Vice versa? What characteristics must a format have to be considered healthy? Is it format diversity? Room for variation regarding card choice and deck selection? Or something else entirely?

Innistrad Standard, due primarily to the presence of Vapor Snag, required almost every creature to boast an enter-the-Sickenbattlefield effect to even be considered playable. With only a small percentage of creatures in the available card pool actually “viable” for tournament play, can we call Innistrad Standard healthy? Delver decks were definitely powerful, but so were Zombie decks, R/G ramp strategies, and many others. In my opinion, the “healthy” stamp of approval changes frequently, and can be influenced by public perception, metagame shifts, and new cards entering the pool. The Modern format where almost every deck had to find a way to play Ponder/Preordain was considered unhealthy. Why? It both increased the velocity and consistency of decks that employed those cards and put unnecessary pressure on other strategies to keep up. Normally, the feeling of being “punished” by not playing a certain card or strategy is a solid indicator that card or strategy is unhealthy.

What is the long-term goal of a format?

As competitive players interested primarily in playing and winning games, we often focus only on the present, or perhaps the near future, when thinking analytically about a format.

Is Affinity overpowered right now? Am I forced to play Blood Moon in my sideboard or die? Is playing any archetype other than Amulet Bloom this week a bad choice? If you answered yes to any of these questions, call the format police immediately!

One thing we must remember is that format conditions are constantly in flux. We can all remember weeks where Affinity was Public Enemy #1, where we had to make room for Blood Moonextra copies of Blood Moon in our sideboard, where the top tables of an event were seemingly nothing but Infect. Every single week, conditions shift to a point where the right archetype, the right 75 can absolutely dominate an event. Stanislav Cifka destroyed an unprepared field with Eggs, a deck that while strong, was by no means overpowered. The matches weren’t even close. Justin Cohen did the same thing with Amulet Bloom. While both of those decks ended up being banned, in Eggs’ case it was due to tournament logistical issues, and the jury is still out on the Amulet ban. The point to take away here is that the snapshot of a format on any given week could be argued as being “unhealthy” in one way or another. Intervention becomes necessary (or at least justified) when these conditions stretch beyond a certain period of time. Jund was top dog for too long, as was Birthing Pod.

Can you remember a time where you didn’t have to go back and change your sideboard because you have no way to kill a Deceiver Exarch through a Spell Pierce? When you chose Nature’s Claim over Creeping Corrosion because it hits Splinter Twin too? When Spellskite was arguably the best sideboard card in the format for any deck because of its myriad uses, primarily against Splinter Twin and Infect? Since the creation of Modern as a format, Splinter Twin has been there, and players have been scheming and playing against it forever. Is four years enough time for a deck to be on top (or close) before it is pushed aside for something else to take the spotlight? Who decides?

Wizards’ Objectives

Wizards of the Coast is not evil. Regardless of their handling of Magic Online, they are also not stupid. As a rational adult speaking to other rational adults, I shouldn’t have to provide that disclaimer, but reading some comments on the Internet has me wondering. While they are a business with the primary motivation of making money, that doesn’t mean they are some evil corporation plotting and scheming to stab us in the back and twist the knife while we cry out for help. Name one successful business that is actively trying to piss its customers off. Wizards of the Coast obviously believes they are making the best decision possible, so before yelling and screaming, let’s try and figure out where they’re coming from. Whether that changes your opinion on matters or not isn’t important, but at least we’ll then have something more constructive to add to the conversation than “we can’t trust WotC to do what’s best for the format” (an actual comment).

We’ve established Wizards is interested in making money, as they are a normal business and not insane. Wizards does this by selling cards, and bringing new players into
Prosperitythe game so they can then sell them cards. Arguably the best platform that Wizards uses to market their game is the quarterly Pro Tour events. Regardless of what we may think, regardless of how much we lament the poor commentary, the Pro Tours exist not for the professional players, not even for us, but rather for new players and those unfamiliar with the game. Wizards works extremely hard to craft a particular narrative and generate interest in these events, as their cost of operation is high, and the stakes even higher. A Pro Tour that nobody cares about will generate no interest, and potential new players will go back to playing Hearthstone instead of buying into and growing this great game of ours. More than almost anything, I believe Wizards is terrified of new players coming into Twitch chat, seeing a thousand variations of “Standard sux” and “ResidentSleeper” and heading back to whatever they were doing before.

Wizards has a heavily vested interest in crafting format interest year round, and this process is heavily exacerbated by the spotlight that the Pro Tour places on the mystical definitions of “format health” and “balance”.

A while back, Wizards of the Coast attempted to make the move to remove the Modern format from the Pro Tour circuit. While the language surrounding this was unfortunately unclear and relatively poorly handled, their motivations for this change came from the understanding that Standard Pro Tours are vastly more interesting for the majority of the existing player base and almost all new players entering into the game. New players start with Standard first, and some eventually make the move into Modern. To a new player, the complex Modern interactions on-screen can be daunting and downright scary. It sounds silly, but seriously put yourself in a new player’s shoes and attempt to figure out what is happening when one player suddenly casts Primeval Titan on Turn 2, or makes a million 1/4’s, or cascades into Living End, or casts Scapeshift.

We’ve established Wizards is heavily interested in public perception heading into these spotlighted events. Modern, as a non-rotating format, has the unique danger of becoming abundant growth“stale”, where most entities are already known and flashy “new tech” is rare. New players (and whether we admit it or not, most of us) are not interested in hearing commentary for an entire weekend about the intricacies of the top archetypes’ specific deck composition. It’s much more exciting to hear about the new Amulet Bloom deck, or storylines about the scrappy underdog decks attacking the big players. Those unfamiliar with production might not realize that a lot of time and effort goes into finding and nurturing storylines and talking points for any big event like the Pro Tour. You see it during NFL playoff games. You see it at the Olympics. As humans, we are drawn to the drama of the stage, and it’s the commentators’ jobs to cultivate this interest if possible. Pay close attention to this Pro Tour’s commentary, and you’ll hear the re-iteration of a few talking points over and over. Wizards is trying to tell a story with these events, and they can’t do that if the story is “all these decks are the same as last year”.

Sinister Motivations?

This brings us to now. Whether we agree or not, Wizards feels strongly that Splinter Twin‘s performance and effect on the format for the past four years have been significant enough that they would like to move forward without the Twin strategy. I hope players understand the Pro Tour influences the timing of bans only, and not the subject. Splinter Twin and Summer Bloom weren’t banned because a Modern Pro Tour is coming up and Wizards wants to “shake things up”.Splinter Twin Twin and Bloom were banned because of the quantifiable effect that they were having on the format, and if a ban has to happen then timing that ban right before a Modern Pro Tour helps to craft an interesting narrative.

It’s important to make that distinction because many players are of the opinion that “if this is how it’s going to be then I’d rather not have Modern Pro Tours”. While it is possible that Wizards would be more “lenient” in terms of letting Splinter Twin last longer in the format were a Pro Tour not taking place soon, I still believe Splinter Twin and Summer Bloom would have been banned eventually. Removing Pro Tours from the Modern repertoire of events does lessen the spotlight on the characteristics of the format by a significant amount, but in my opinion would do more to hurt the format than help it. I feel this way because when Wizards makes a public statement, I read it. Splinter Twin wasn’t banned to make the Pro Tour more interesting, it was banned because it was having a negative effect on the format in Wizards’ opinion. In the interest of format diversity, Splinter Twin is banned. Just because a side effect of this ban results in a more interest Pro Tour, we shouldn’t be grabbing our pitchforks.

Needs of the Many or Wants of the Few?

So, I’ll restate: Wizards is attempting to generate more interest in a format in an attempt to craft an enticing narrative to bring new people to the game. While it’s difficult to quantify hypotheticals like this, let’s try for just a minute. If Wizards’ banning attracts 1,000 new players into the game, but forces 1,000 players into changing their preferred deck from URx Twin to something else, is it worth it? Ex-Splinter Twin pilots would undoubtedly say no, but step away from bias for a second. Would your opinion change had you not been playing Twin before? If so, why, and if not, why not? While there are definitely a lot more than 1,000 Splinter Twin pilots out in the world, does that number change anything? What if it was 1,000 new players at the cost of 15,000 Splinter Twin pilots? I’m sure you could expect some of those players to quit, but what about the undefined other ex-Modern players out there disenfranchised with the format that might be convinced into picking up a deck now that it looks like things will shift around a bit?

How much value should we place in “value”?

I could write a whole article on this topic, but I’ll try and keep it concise. I’ll preface this topic with a disclaimer that I have no paper magic collection, but have had substantial collections many times in the past and know full well the heartbreak associated with losing a deck to banning (I had just finished building Pod when it was banned). Get your pitchforks ready, because in my opinion, arguing about value gains and losses is irrelevant to the big picture.

Magic is an expensive game, as we all know, but many of us delude ourselves with the notion that we can play for free, or somehow cheat the system and get our money back. greedWe pay money for cards, and once we make that exchange, we should let go of that notion of “worth” while those cards are in our position. I have trouble sympathizing with players upset with the falling values of Splinter Twin and Scalding Tarn. You bought/traded for those cards to play with them. Were you ever intending on selling them? Had the bannings not happened, were you planning on selling those cards next week? Does it really matter that card values rise/fall while they are still in your collection? A $15,000 Magic collection is not worth $15,000 while the cards are sitting in your binder. Their worth is defined entirely by the value that you associate with their usage, not some number a few websites put next to a card image online. Anyone that’s actually sold out of a collection will know that they can only ever get 50-60% of that glorified “retail” price anyways, unless they have some connections or are willing to do a lot of work.

I spent $399 for a Playstation 4 at launch. I paid a buddy $40 to wait in line for me in the freezing cold to get it at midnight because I couldn’t go Gifts Ungivenmyself due to a work commitment. I bought Battlefield 4 at launch for $60, along with a few other games. The value of that game system, and those games, and the hours I spent playing them is not equal to what I paid for them, or what they are worth today. When Sony announced a price drop from $399 to $299, when I noticed Battlefield 4 going for $30 on Amazon, I didn’t lament my “lost value”. I paid for the product because I wanted to enjoy it. I cheered for the price drop because it meant more people would buy the system, which means more games, more potential friends, and the promise of a brighter future for the console as more developers work to create games for the influx of gamers. I eventually got tired of Battlefield 4 and moved on to other games. I don’t look at Battlefield 4 on my shelf and consider it worthless because I don’t play it anymore. I’ve no intention of calling EA and demanding they do something to help me recoup my lost “value”.

The way Magic players hold on to this notion of value to justify their hefty expenditures is understandable, but comes from a state of mind that is desperate to hold onto some semblance of control. An exchange of goods for goods is, by definition, an act of relinquishing control of one good in exchange for control of another. By all means, please continue this discussion of what is best for the community and the game at large, but leave your personal motivations regarding your unique perspective on card worth out of it.

Conclusion

Should Splinter Twin have been banned? Was it a “good idea”? I don’t think we can actually accurately answer that question, but if you’re asking if I approve, my answer is yes. I understand the fear associated with bans. I understand the confusion regarding Wizards’ unclear motivations. To me, it seems obvious their intent is to promote an exciting narrative for the upcoming Pro Tour, and the recent bannings serve as the removal of a potential danger (in Summer Bloom’s case) and the creation of an undoubtedly exciting shake-up in the format that will make for an exciting event to watch.

If Wizards intends to do this every year, as I think they have clearly shown, I believe they should officially say so, though I understand their hesitation to anger a clearly vocal player base. Misinformation and confusion will only serve to promote fear and hesitation, and if they feel strongly about an issue (which they clearly do, if they are confident enough to sponsor a banning) they should stand confidently behind their decision rather than timidly hoping players won’t get angry. For the first time in four years, I’m excited to watch a Pro Tour that doesn’t have the shadow of Splinter Twin looming over it. I have absolutely no idea what to expect, and I can’t wait.

 

Trevor started playing Magic in 2011. He plays primarily online and studies Architecture at UNCC. Recent paper Magic accomplishments include a 2015 Regional PTQ win qualifying for Pro Tour: Magic Origins and a Day Two performance at GP Charlotte. He also streams weekdays at twitch.tv/Architect_Gaming! Follow him at twitter.com/7he4rchitect and architectgaming.wordpress.com!

45 thoughts on “Re-Evaluate Your Perspective On Bannings

      1. Perhaps you should be more informed before writing articles that are so woefully inaccurate. Have you not heard the comments by Aaron Forsycthe etc. Have you not read articles by Frank Karsten, Dickmann etc

        1. To be fair. A lot of the information is spread every where across social media.

          And it was difficult for me to piece together. That Pod cast essentially tied everything together.

  1. I don’t buy the Battlefield 4 analogy here, because you were able to use the game as much as you wanted until you chose to stop playing it. That’s not what happened to Twin players. A closer analogy would be if you bought Battlefield 4 and three days later the manufacturer announced they are releasing a mandatory patch that intentionally crashes the game upon startup. You’re telling me you would just say “oh well, that’s really on me for trading resources for this game, and I wasn’t guaranteed to actually be able to play it”? Of course not! You’d demand a full refund. You didn’t just trade your money for the physical disk the game comes on, but the implied future value of playing the game and support from the manufacturer if it stops working. Likewise, it’s ridiculous to pretend Magic players are merely purchasing cardboard with their money. If that’s all it was, nobody would buy cards for $100. People are also purchasing (or *think* they are purchasing) an implied value of getting to play decks that use these cards. Is that written in a contract somewhere? Obviously not. But let’s not feign ignorance as to why people are angry that they don’t get to play with or recoup monetary value from cards they paid a lot of money for.

    That’s not to say that I actually disagree with the bigger point you’re trying to make; I actually agree with you. Wizards cannot be constrained by individual people’s financial concerns when it comes to the B&R list. I think it’s very fair to point out that people have the wrong impression about what they are buying when they purchase cards (ie, there should be no expectation that you will be allowed to use these cards indefinitely, that they will maintain value, and that a ban will not necessarily have any warning). But let’s not disparage people for having the wrong, but I think natural, impression in the first place. And that’s apart from questions Sheridan brought up in his articles earlier this week that separate the questions of “is Wizards justified in these kinds of bans” (yes) with “is it healthy for the format and future growth of Modern to make surprise/shakeup bans” (unclear at best). I think we really just need R&D to be a lot more transparent in their thinking on bans, and I strongly endorse the idea of a “watch list” for players to at least know if their deck *could* be banned in the next update or two.

    1. Copying this from my comment on Reddit:

      Obviously we all care a great deal about our collections, what we spent on them, the time we spent cultivating and going to battle with them. My point is that I believe we should check that at the door when discussing bannings that are enacted with the intention of bettering the format and the game at large, because players’ unique opinions regarding the value of their collections is polarizing and never moves the discussion in any meaningful direction. Because one player lost some money on Twin/can’t play Twin is almost always paired with another player who just gained value on Through the Breach and can now play (insert deck that folds to Twin) now that’s its gone. I just don’t think it contributes much to the discussion, that’s all. Obviously Twin players with an emotional and financial investment into this topic will disagree, but my goal with my article was to hopefully inspire readers to set aside those biases and think about the situation analytically.

  2. Overall a great piece, even if I disagree with some elements of the article. Just some things I was thinking about when reading through:

    The article claims “More than almost anything, I believe Wizards is terrified of new players coming into Twitch chat, seeing a thousand variations of “Standard sux” and “ResidentSleeper” and heading back to whatever they were doing before.” It also states “We’ve established Wizards is heavily interested in public perception heading into these spotlighted events.” I totally agree with both of these statements, but disagree with how they have been framed with respect to the update. It seems like banning Twin is one of the worst things Wizards could do if public perception is an issue. Twitch chat is bound to be completely overrun with ban discussion as a result of this decision. There will also be a large segment of Modern, even if not necessarily a majority, who will speak out against the format specifically because of this ban. That segment is likely to be larger than the group that would have spoken out against Modern before the ban and if the ban didn’t go down.

    Because of this, the ban seems counterproductive on the PR front. We can’t know that with certainty, but the arguments against it on that dimension are at least as strong as those for it.

    Additionally, I think it could have spoken a bit more about the communication issues surrounding the ban. I’m comfortable saying that Modern players didn’t really know PT support would dictate ban timing and maybe lead to more bans (or at least more expedited bans). I’m also frustrated that most of our communication around the ban comes via unofficial Twitter channels and scouring articles for morsels of data. Where are the official updates and statements? I understand Wizards wants to minimize liability and manage expectations, but they’ve gone too far in the opposite direction.

    These issues are front and center in the ban, and although you touch on them, I think they are much more a factor for the anger than just the loss of Twin in itself.

    That said, happy to read some refreshing optimism on the ban. Always important to add other viewpoints to such potentially lopsided discussions!

    1. Honestly, people aren’t talking about the Pod or Deathrite bans much anymore, and it’s probably true that this will blow over. There will be cool new decks at the PT, people will be hyped about Eldrazi, and only already enfranchised players will really lament the loss of Twin. I agree with you that they could communicate things better, but I also have come around to the same perspective as in the article. On the whole, PT, even if it means more bans is net positive for Modern. This is as an ex-Twin player. Despite being initially quite disappointed, I’m more excited about Modern now than I have been in a while. It’s fun trying to predict the meta and decide what to play next!

      1. The difference is that Pod and DRS definitely needed to be removed from the format. Removing Pod actually did increase deck diversify. There is a reason they all DRS a one mana Planeswalker.

          1. Burn, zoo, uw mid range, grixis, delver, etc… Im not a twin or pod player but while pod was around it functionally invalidated all other creature decks; why play mono green stompy, gwx anything, etc.. When you can just play pod? Pod was the card that allowed what would otherwise be a competitive mid-range value creature deck to be the best creature deck while also being one of the best combo decks. While i dont think Twin was as oppressive given that it filled weaker part of the meta counter based control; they are similar in that if you wanted to play either value based creature or counter control decks it was very hard to justify not playing either pod or twin. While pods banning did open up space for the wave of creature based decks we see now to flourish, I dont think the same will be true of the banning of twin. If only because creature spells are inherently more powerful than the reactionary control spells available in the modern card pool. Twin only made these cards seem better than they actually are because of the game ending combo; you cannot rely on remand or mana leak to control the game in the classic draw go style there potency is simply to quickly eclipsed by the cheap and efficient creature spells in the format.

    2. I think that timid approaches to formats that need to be solved is more dangerous for the game than bans. As Magic players we can accept bans if we know it’s bettering the game. Obviously, our opinions on whether bans makes things “better” or not are different, usually dependent on whether we have an investment in the matter.

      I would love to see what Wizards could do with a “chopping block” Modern, where top decks get taken out for 6 months and then brought back in on a cycle to mix things up. If we knew what was coming it would make for an exciting, fresh powerful format that doesn’t get stale, where we’re looking at more than just new set releases as factors that can mix things up. I think players could get on board with that, if we can work to change the culture that places wallets before the “good of the game”.

  3. Good on you for reading Wizards’ public statements! That’s not something we see much of anymore. Also totally agree about “value” – onlookers must think all Magic players are stingy hobos. (Sometimes I even do.)

    1. Sadly, it’s harder to trust those statements today than it was in previous years. The update itself made zero mention of the Pro Tour. But the relationship between Pro Tours and bans is very present in AF’s explanation of factors at play in the decision. This omission justifiably confuses and upsets players. It’s still important to read Wizards’ statements, but we also need to look beyond them and even challenge those statements based on other evidence.

      1. I’m not sure they need to mention the Pro Tour for us to realize that it’s a contributing factor to recent events. Not the sole reason, but definitely part of the process. Its frustrating to continually see Wizards make PR errors with their official statements, but that’s my only real issue here.

  4. I would like to reply to two particular points you make in your article:

    1) The idea that the loss of card value is irrelevant. I do not think your analogy to game systems and electronic games is a good one, in large part because of the reasonable expectations people have when making financial decisions. I will echo an earlier commenter’s good point that you buy into cards based on the belief that you will be able to continue playing them. See, for example, the price of cards for Amulet Bloom failing to reflect the power level of the deck because of the expectation that it would be banned. If Wizards had come out after PT Fate Reforged and said “we swear on the reserved list that we will never ban Amulet Bloom,” what would the prices have been for Primeval Titans and Amulets of Vigor?

    Beyond that, however, consider a different analogy: buying a house. People are willing to spend huge amounts of money (years worth of income) to buy a house in large part because they have the reasonable expectation that they will be able to sell it at some point in the future, whether that be to move, upgrade, downgrade, retire to a seniors’ home, or whatever it may be. People would assuredly not spend years worth of income on a home if they did not have the expectation of being able to sell it at the end and recoup a fair proportion of that investment. Who would pay $200,000 for a house if they knew they’d only get $20,000 when they left? People would still be willing to buy in, since houses are nice, but their willingness to pay the going rate is absolutely predicated on that house retaining sufficient value, even if they have no intentions of leaving.

    No reasonable person is treating investment in pieces of cardboard the same way as they treat investment in real estate, but it’s certainly true that their willingness to pay, and pay the sums of money that they do, is influenced by the implied promise that their cards generally retain their value.

    2) On coverage
    I may be in the minority, but when the Olympics come on I look for the channel that puts the focus on the sport rather than the athletes- even for sports I don’t know much about. I can’t stand football coverage because of the way they dramatize things through storyline rather than gameplay. (I could make a comment about what this says about how intrinsically exciting football is or isn’t to watch, but that’s neither here nor there.)

    That said, even if it isn’t what I would want, what prevents WOTC from doing the same? StarCity has certainly learned how to promote their players, and many of these guys are basically high-end FNMers who have nevertheless become (Magic-playing) household names. Having deck consistency in at least one format can even be used as an advantage for coverage.

    In the same way as Joe Lossett is personally identified with Miracles, why not let Patrick Dickmann be personally identified with Splinter Twin and Willy Edel be personally identified with GBx and so on? Why not play up the roles of the decks, treat them as almost personalities in themselves for coverage purposes- the sneaky Twin deck, the solid Rock deck, the blistering fast Burn deck, the elusive Boggles deck? If they are aiming at newer players, let these new viewers know that Modern is wide open and there’s a deck that encapsulates what they want to stand for somewhere out there. Mark Rosewater has talked about letting players see themselves in the cards, and a non-rotating format like Modern gives people an opportunity and an invitation to personally invest themselves into an archetype in a way that Standard can never allow. We could celebrate that, rather than worry about how many times people play out Affinity vs. Jund at the PT.

    I am not a fighting game player, but I watch coverage from major events from time to time. Even for games that are relatively centralized around one character or a few, the coverage teams rarely focus on how often they see the same selections or how many times they’ve seen the matchup. They build storyline around how the character plays and what the player likes to play. Could WOTC not learn to do the same?

    Of course, people naturally want to see diversity in deck selections in coverage, but the Modern format has almost never in its history been so skewed that there was no way to put different decks on display with good decisions by producers. I think of the GP before the Treasure Cruise ban, where the top 32 certainly did not feature 10 or more copies of UR Delver, but every match on camera for round after round was somehow a Delver mirror. That is the most skewed event we’ve had in the past two years, and WOTC still could have chosen to show a wide variety of archetypes, if only somebody had looked at the decklists.

  5. Actually, if you think about it, Twin is really oppressive to play against. You constantly fear to get blown up out of nowhere, just because you don’t have the answer here and now. It makes you not play your cards and do what your deck wants to do. It makes you not play magic. Is it actually okay when all the match revolve around is Twin combo? Really?

    Well, as combo player myself, I can say it’s just the nature of the deck. But in Twin’s case it’s not the only thing that deck can do. Playing at instant speed almost all the time, it can control game all the way. How many other decks can do the same? Not that much, it’s for sure.

    1. Good control deck and tempo games are not a thriving archetype in Modern current. It’s not just Twin being really “oppressive”, but any good control deck could do the same. It’s just a part of the game. As a former Grixis Twin player, there were plenty of bad matchups. What I liked most about my deck was the ability to control those non-interactive, linear deck, which I personally don’t like. Twin was a way to regulate those so-called glass cannons, which IMO, is not fun to play against.

      1. Agreed.

        Those non-interactive, linear deck take away what a Magic game is.
        Magic is a strategy game and I hardly think decks that have minimal interaction and (mostly) ignore what you opponent is doing is interesting and, frankly, are quite frustrating to play against.
        You might as well play alone if your intention is simply cycle eggs or say “3 in your face” regardless of what your opponents do.

      2. Well, when you play against a control deck, it’s rarely you just lose on the spot by tapping out. Sure, control player can then answer your actions and swing the board state, but you still in game and can figure something out about what situation you are in. But against Twin you straight up lose by making that sort of mistake.

  6. I am pretty sure that the ubiquity of the twin combo as the best thing to be doing with blue is indicative of a bigger problem with how heavily slanted design is toward keeping control from being oppressive in Standard formats. When the best blue deck is the one that makes it to the late game by virtue of threatening a turn four win, that means they need to make grindy blue decks better in Modern.

    I’ve come to learn that, WotC is often one step ahead of me with recognizing an issue even if they address in a way that I do not agree with. When I used to care about mtg a lot more, I e-mailed MaRo a couple times with concerns about design trends that he responded to very generously. One of the last times, he assured me that spell-filled interactive blue permission decks would be making a return to competitive play in the coming year. A bit later, Delver dominated an entire season and a while after that UWx flash and UB were ubiquitous.

    With they are continuing to design with players’ preferences in mind(WotC has always been keenly interested in customer feedback, for example: Ice Age starters included surveys). I bet everyone can guess what fair strategy has been making players salty since day one: Uxx decks with counters. It is hard to say what they will do, but the r&d team operates from a very long view that is quite different from that of a player.

  7. Great article! I agree that the loss of value is irrelevant. This game is not meant to be part of your retirement portfolio! Sure, you can make/lose money on cards, but that is no different than any other collectible/hobby. A ban list is no more of a harm to value than any other market force – reprints, deck hype, errata, ebb and flow in the meta, etc… This is something everyone has to accept when playing competitive modern. I think that many of the players who do not have a problem with what just happened are relatively silent compared to the outcry of the vocal minority. And it is probably a minority, although I don’t know of a very good way to measure that. People who are pissed off are going to make the most noise, so any metric (posts, polls, etc) you could use is heavily biased toward those who are upset.

    Your analogy with the PS4 system and games you bought is spot on. MTG is a game. It is a collectible game made by a ‘for profit’ company. Can you blame wizards for any of their choices? I think to do so is very naive and idealistic. We aren’t talking about a political system and this is not a democracy, and it won’t ever be. To assume so is ludicrous. Also, for others to think they know what is in the best interest of this company is arrogant and foolish, especially since they know next to nothing about these decisions, and have no right to know either. Being a consumer of a gaming product gives you no special rights or knowledge about how a company operates. If people are really that unhappy, then they can just walk away from the game – it is simple. I would bet that this will not happen, and like Trevor said – the benefits will outweigh the small percentage that actually do.

    This is a hobby – and it is not worth getting upset about. From a market perspective, even with the slight volatility that a ban introduces to your collection as a whole – your cards are likely increasing in overall value anyway. If you really want to look at mtg as an investment, then use the same principles that investors use – diversify. This could be compared to focusing on one bad stock, while the entire market is rising. Invest across the market, and not in one stock if you want to be protected from this sort of volatility. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket (deck). People who lost splinter twin as a strategy are doing fine anyway, unless they bought into the deck very recently. If they did – they probably are at a slight loss, but they still have very good cards they can easily trade to get into other decks, or start brewing a deck of their own. I could go on and on about how silly the financial loss argument is, but I think it is clear to reasonable people already.

    Trevor, your article represents the most mature perspective on these announcements I have read to date. People need to manage their expectations – the game will probably be more fun now, the pro tour will be interesting, and a whole host of other silver linings will likely unfold at the cost of some unhappy twin players. I think it is unrealistic to think that because you have a tier 1 deck, that your pile of cards will always be a safe investment (time, money, emotions, whatever) – and that is the premise that everyone is upset about. This expectation is silly, and it set people up to take a hit. People do need to understand and accept the risk they take on pouring a ton of money into magic cards in general tier 1 or not. These bans are now more of a factor to consider when purchasing cards (slightly more, considering the financial losses are still extremely minimal and the overall market for modern seems to be seeing significant growth at this time). This is not a bad thing, just something to accept moving forward.

    People need to give this a lot more time before they make up their minds one way or another.
    I am very excited to see what happens next.

    1. How many thousands of dollars is it reasonable to expect to invest in order to be secure in your knowledge that you can continue to play a non-rotating format in Magic: the Gathering?

      You talk about having a “portfolio of decks.” What about people who are on a limited budget?

  8. When I originally heard about the ban, I was furious, concerned for the format, and couldn’t even focus on the prerelease. However, after a few days of thinking, analyzing, and reading different viewpoints, I’ve found that my perspective had changed considerably. The article sums up my new viewpoints better than I could’ve–thanks Jordan!

  9. “Can you remember a time where you didn’t have to go back and change your sideboard because you have no way to kill a Deceiver Exarch through a Spell Pierce? When you chose Nature’s Claim over Creeping Corrosion because it hits Splinter Twin too? When Spellskite was arguably the best sideboard card in the format for any deck because of its myriad uses, primarily against Splinter Twin and Infect? Since the creation of Modern as a format, Splinter Twin has been there, and players have been scheming and playing against it forever.”

    Isn’t that true for Affinity and Burn too?

    I think shouldn’t be a problem that, in a NON-ROTATING FORMAT, some decks are pillars. Sometimes metagame favorites one, sometimes another one. Wha’ts the problem in this?
    Also, if this is a problem then wizard should ban Cranial Plating, Lightning Bolt and Tarmogoyf too.

    1. As a URx player but not a twin player im indifferent to it being gone. It was generally bad given the amount permission and removal non-twin URx decks run. Actually I will miss it as it was one of my best match ups.

      Im more reponding to your saying ban bolt? While it is one of the top 5 removal spells in modern I’m of the opinion that it has slightly diminished in prominence given the rise of XTron and Eldrazi decks. I only play online but the paper players do observe the online meta and it does influence the paper metas. That said bolt is rather terrible in both match up in any deck other than burn. I board them out consistently in both match ups you need to be doing something to impact the board and disrupt their mana development in the early turns and bolt is bad against anything they have resolved.

      I think XTron and Eldrazi decks will likely dominate the next pro tour slaming 6 & 7 drops on turn three seems to be the best thing you can be doing if your not on burn atm.

    1. I couldn’t disagree with you more, Anonymous.
      This is one of the best Magic articles I have ever read. I have been playing Magic since the release of Fallen Emprires. That was back in 1994, for those of you who weren’t playing back then. I have read many, many great articles over the years but this one is among the top 10 best I have ever read.
      It is clearly presented as an opinion, not as a fact. The purpose is clear, it want to provide an alternative perspective. And it is VERY well argumented. Unlike the reply here above, but I should not have to point that out.
      This is the kind of content that has me coming back to the Modern Nexus every day. Keep up the good work, Trevor!

      1. Honestly how can this be considered a good article? Nearly all examples given are off, all assumptions are wrong and the conclusions therefore also miss the point.
        Examples?
        Here you go: “PT coverage is for new players”
        Oh really? So the succession is: Buy a starter, then watch pro tour?
        Wrong!!

        Or the retarded Playstation example. How would you feel if thex banned the system 3 month after launch because they want to sell the next gen?

        Or what should constitute a ban. What is important to the game.
        There is just one important thing: that the game is fun. And fun comes from meaningful, game deciding interaction.
        All reasons given in the article are irrelevant to the banworthyness.

        So if that’s the best you read since 1994, then I really don’t want to know what sites you visit.

        1. I get it. You don’t agree. That’s ok. That doesn’t make it a bad article. There are more opinions in this world than just yours. You may want to read the second line of the article again: “As always, my opinion is my own, and I present it to you not in an attempt to argue or sway others to my side, but rather to inform, as best I can, regarding the process that leads me to my opinions.”

          I agree with the examples given. You don’t. It is a matter of opinion, not a matter of fact. I think the Playstation example is spot on. Think about what value means. And if you paid alot of money for your collection, you did not pay it to Wizards. Cards you buy from Wizards cost the price of a booster pack. They have no obligation to maintaining prices on a secondary market, that is your own responsibility. If tomorrow the whole world decides to quit Magic, your collection will be worthless. But that is not in the interest of Wizards at all. This is exactly the point Trevor makes. It is sacrificing the needs of a few for the needs of the many an the long term health of the format. Wizards is not in the business of pissing people of. They want to continue the succes of Modern just as much as you do. They just have a different opinion on how to achieve this.

          I value this article highly because it is well written and voiced in a factual, mature -and to me- convincing manner. It is a breath of fresh air from all the emotional overreactions in which, just like you do above, the writers present their opinions as facts.

        1. Well the article changed my mind. And I value that very highly. Not a lot of Magic articles have actually changed my mind about something over the years.

          I was also surprised and upset Twin was banned. It really is unprecedented. I understand people are still upset. I can see it in the language and the tone of the reactions above. It is understandable. And if you don’t agree, if you are still outraged, you will not like it. That’s fine too. The decision is very controversial and may remain so for a long time to come.

  10. I support the banning of splinter twin. The printing of goblin dark-dweller with splintertwin is going to take the archetype to a imba level that will more or less kill linear strategy. The archetype of amulet bloom and splintertwin is not killed, it was just made less consistent and slower by a turn or 2. I believe when we talk about pillar, we shouldn’t describe it via an archetype but rather a strategy. The reason being meta is considered healthy when there is a balance of aggro, control, combo and anything in between. When a particular strategy is defined by an archetype, we have a problem of less diversity.
    Wizard might not have fared well in term of communication which result in people buying into an archetype that was subsequently banned. A watch list is nice to have but it also made it too predictable. What keep magic interesting is the variance and the adapting we player need to have. If for 5-10 years you keep playing against the same archetype, there is no room for creativity and improvement.
    As of the value of cards. I believe that cards have no value to you if you are not utilising it, unless you are a speculator or trader which indirectly affects your profit. A ban of this sort could actually help regulate the price of cards as some cards are getting so expensive and in demand that the price are just going up and not coming down which stop new player from entering the format because of the prohibitive price tag. A shake up can steer players to explore other archetype which will drive down the price.
    Also with the same archetype keep being at the top, things do get stale. Piloting affinity for 1 year plus, I have to admit I do get bored with the metagame when there isn’t much shake up. Do I expect ban in affinity? I do. But I also know it open up room for innovation and new strategy to adopt. That will keep the archetype interesting and not stale after a year or 2. I have played other tcg games before, often it is the staples card that cause a format to be stale. Therefore I believe in times to come, staple cards will be candidate for banning. As much as we ate a non rotating format, the banning and unbanning of cards will give us some fresh air along the way and keep things interesting. I am excited about the new meta with splintertwin gone.

    1. The second line of your reply demonstrated your lack of understanding of the format. Thank you for being direct like that- some people write blocks and blocks of text before coming out and explaining that they’re out of touch with the format, so it was polite of you to be upfront about it.

  11. Your view what the Pro Tour is for is just wrong. It is NOT for new players or to showcase Magic to new players.
    New players have no chance to know what’s going on there – most new players don’t even know what formats are.
    Prereleases and FNM is for new players.

    The PT is for the enfranchised players to gibe them something to strive for. To give a meaning to the pursuit of piloting the best deck.
    The prove for my claim:
    If they abolished PT and GP, casual and new players wouldn’t even notice. They don’t care for tournaments. They rather play their brother at the kitchen table with the cards they have.
    The people that care are the same that post here: the enfrancised players. And the PT is the show for them to motivate them to stay with the hobby.

  12. Stop trying to be rational. It’s boring. We want to go through our 5 steps and then end up accepting out fate.

    Everyone knows that there are reasons to have Twin bannad. But we also need to work through the implications without someone telling us what we already know but don’t want to think about before we decide it’s ok!

    Let us grieve in peace.

    With that said it’s still a good article. But atm I just get annoyed at people trying to explain how we’re basically idiots for having emotional reactions to something we’re invested in. I won’t even bother to argue with how we shouldn’t complain if our collection loses value because of bans though. You’re an idiot if you don’t realise that Magic is a CCG and if the value of cards would become too unpredictable, this game would go to an early grave. Comparing it with video games would make sense if that game has any second hand value to speak of and you lost that because they stopped supporting it.

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