In today’s Latest Developments article, Tom LaPille eschews the “Mana Week” theme to spend some time describing an experimental new format: Modern. It’s defined as including all core, base, and expansion sets printed from Eight Edition onward (minus a banned list given in the article) – essentially all of Magic since the switch to the new card frames. Now I had already heard about the format when the participants in the Community Cup were announced, and my first response to this news was probably the same as many of you out there: “Yeah, okay. I guess that’s interesting, but whatever”. After reading Mr. LaPille’s article and giving it a little more thought, however, it started to sound more and more worthwhile.
Legacy and Vintage are the two “Eternal” formats in paper magic. Once a card or set becomes legal in such a format, it’s going to stay legal forever unless it gets banned. However, so many of the cards that really make those formats hum and give them their distinctive character have been out of print for a very long time (as many as 15+ years in some cases), and as time marches on, they will only become more and more difficult to acquire for players who want to break into the formats. There will eventually come a time (still quite far in the future) when it’s not even really price, but sheer scarcity of the cards that ends up having a greater effect, as the number of copies that have been lost or damaged over the years starts to catch up with what the metagame needs to support itself.
Modern isn’t just a model of an Eternal format that will be easier for players to get into right now, it’s also one that can be made to last. All of the included sets were manufactured with large and plentiful print runs. Players, now better aware of the value cards can gain over time, have probably been keeping better care and better track of them across the board. Most importantly, none of the included sets carry the stigma of being in thrall to the well-meant yet ill-conceived Reserved List policy. As the format endures, its depth and opportunity for innovation will continue to grow as Vintage and Legacy have been doing ever since the beginning (almost 20 years on, we’re still getting new cards that impact them significantly). Note that Modern already has a pretty good start in terms of depth, representing 8 full years of Magic and some of the most influential blocks the game has ever seen.
As I’m sure you can tell, all-in-all I’m feeling pretty optimistic about Modern’s prospects. Now I want to know how you feel about it. Is this a format you think you could get into? Do you think it’s sustainable? Will it siphon an unhealthly amount of interest away from Vintage and Legacy, or can they all peacefully exist side-by-side? The most important question of all: What deck are you going to play?