Magic: The Gathering has undergone a large number of overhauls to their Modern format lately. From banning Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and Faithless Looting to including the infamous Stoneforge Mystic, Modern has been shaken up to a degree that… Might be beneficial to Magic as a whole?
Hear me out, just for a second or two. What I’m about to say might put things into a much more positive light.
The Early Eras
So, I started playing Magic: the Gathering in 2001, back when games like Yu-Gi-Oh! were coming out in America, and the Pokemon trading card game was still coherent. My friend Danny taught me this game by getting me a Seventh Edition starter deck and promptly kicking my keester every time with the blue and/or white ones. To this day I can’t see a Vizzerdrix without thinking back to my early losses. I recall being drilled on untapping my lands, lest I suffer “mana burn”, a concept which has been out of Magic since 2009.
Which, coincidentally, is when the Golden Age of Magic began.
Approaching the Golden Age
While I started officially in 2001 and didn’t have my first real tournament experience until 2007 when I placed second in an Extended tournament, it wasn’t until 2009 when I began to get serious about the game. I was in high school and had a decent “rogues’ gallery” of friends to play against. I knew their decks in and out, but never looked at the metagame until the Shards of Alara expansion came out. I then saw what happened at the World Championships where a Naya deck defeated a Jund deck by being the perfect counter to the dominating archetype. This sort of echoes every so often, such as in Minneapolis earlier this year, where a Mardu build defeated a meta filled with Hogaak decks.
Anyhow, my friend Holden and I went out and recreated these decks as best as we could and played in a Friday Night Magic standard event. My friend piloted a Naya deck and I used Jund, to the extent that, as was almost foreshadowed, my friend placed far better than I did. But the point of this consideration is that while I was certainly trounced, I learned a lot about deckbuilding.
The Golden Age
Soon thereafter, I met one of my good friends and, now, a fellow writer of Magic news, Rich Cali. Rich has placed very well on the Star City Games circuits in the past, We met at a Worldwake prerelease tournament, where we matched up and he beat me handily. (We eventually went to undergrad together and he taught me a lot about my favorite format, Commander. Nowadays he is a huge enthusiast of Delver of Secrets, and took first at Star City Games Syracuse at the Legacy Open back in March.)
Around the time we were living our best collegiate lives, Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic were seeing their infamous run in Zendikar/Scars of Mirrodin Standard. By the end of this season, both would be banned from that Standard rotation prematurely, when Innistrad would rotate in.
Where Am I Going With This?
Fast forward a few years. Modern has been introduced to Magic and Jace and Mystic were nowhere to be seen, Faithless Looting was enabling a plethora of grave-based strategies, and Hogaak was running rampant. The magic of Magic: the Gathering was losing its appeal to Modern players, where some MagicFests were at their lowest numbers for given locations in a long while. Extended was a long-dead format (and it still is).
However, the banning of Hogaak and introduction of Stoneforge Mystic to Modern breathed new life into what is arguably the most popular format in the game (note: while I believe that distinction actually goes to Commander, it’s not as frequently sanctioned as Modern so we have little data supporting the claim). Why is this?
The first MagicFest Modern event since the shake-up took place in Indianapolis, Indiana just last Friday. Of the top four teams, a number of things stand out to me, namely that no one deck archetype is that much more dominant than another. Stoneforge decks are most prevalent but ultimately this is probably due to the fact that people wanted to try the newest toy in the format. I even had seen a Jund deck up in the ranks, as well as a couple of Burn decks (I miss playing Burn – that’s the deck I played in Scars of Mirrodin/Innistrad standard).
A Second Golden Age?
Things started flooding back to me when I started researching for this article and saw the diversity of the format. I admittedly don’t even play Modern, but I do appreciate its relevance. I saw the decks all sort of coexisting and, personally, I got a bit emotional.
Today, at this very moment, we are experiencing a good age of Magic. It may not be the Golden Age proper, but it’s safe to say that it’s up there with that time. What do you think? Feel free to explain your stance in the comments.