Hypothetically Modern: The Premise

Back during the December Changes post I hinted at an upcoming series going over what would happen if certain things changed to the card pool in modern. It’s time to go into a bit more detail on that series….

I love modern as a format and I love having the ability to brew new and interesting decks when cards get added. Doing tests for checking potential “new” cards seems like a lot of fun to me, and we’ve had some cases where cards have shown up from supplemental product or just being reprinted. While many cards will not be joining the modern card pool due to the limitation of having to be printed through a standard legal set, it is always a possibility that Wizards changes to allow cards printed in a Modern Masters set to be legal in modern if they were not already, or to just start allowing supplemental product cards to be legal (and then increasing the size of the ban list, as some of them would be busted).

Identifying Cards

The first thing that I do when looking to test new cards for Hypothetically Modern is figure out what cards would be a good fit. Mostly this is just selecting sweet cards that I feel would have an impact on the format. Once I’ve picked a card to look at closer, it’s time for me to guess where I think it is in regards to the power level of the card versus the format. I want to make sure I’m selecting cards that aren’t no brainers as far as being too powerful (Dark Ritual) or not powerful enough to have an impact on the format (Righteous Confluence). Next I want to make sure that the card will make a significant impact to the deck(s) it’s being slotted into, for example Fiery Confluence is a good option (as it would be tested as a 4-of in burn) while Meren of Clan Nel Toth is a poor example as it would likely only show up as a 1 of in many black/green midrange decks. Another consideration is just how many decks any given card will fit into. While Fiery Confluence would likely slot into a lot of decks, it would really only have a significant impact on burn decks (maybe). Something like Vindicate however would fit into a number of decks, which then means I need to come up with multiple lists and run each of them through the gauntlet. This is part of the reason why I plan to publish every other week for this series, as it should give me plenty of time to do enough testing on cards with broader applications, or to do multiple cards that are more narrow such that I can get a number of posts ready in advance (you know, in case real life happens I can still keep to the schedule).

There is also the option of doing banned cards and seeing how they would impact the format if removed from the list. While I’m sure I will do some banned cards, they will be few and far between. The first problem is that I wish to avoid doing anything with a card that just ends up unbanned shortly after my article goes live (this is why I’m not touching anything until after the next announcement). Second is that many of the banned cards have no business in the format, and are not even worth testing (Hypergenesis, Skullclamp, Mental Misstep).

Testing Process

The testing process is different depending on the card and the deck it’s being tested for. The easiest to test for is the non-interactive decks, where the biggest concern is how fast can the deck win without interaction and how consistent is it. Outside of these easy cases it becomes much more difficult, where I end up playing a ton of games with a new and/or improved deck against a gauntlet of top tier decks, favoring the matchups that are typically on the harder end of the spectrum for the chosen archetype. Then we review the data after the testing to determine just how safe the new addition would be.

Currently my plan is to do this testing against myself on Cockatrice. I have no friends to help me and it’s not practical for me to take the Caleb Durward approach of doing it on MTGO as I don’t have the cards there. Most of the time I don’t think that having perfect information at all times will damage the integrity of my tests, though certain cards could be very challenging to accurately determine where they fall (I’m looking at you, Cabal Therapy).

Solo vs. Groups

Most of these articles are designed as single additions to the card pool. There are certain cases where a post would detail the inclusion of multiple cards, so long as those cards make sense to be added at the same time. A good example of this is Astral Slide, as the reprinting of the lands with cycle (Tranquil Thicket and such) would almost assuredly accompany the reprinting of the card in question. A poor example of this is Veteran Explorer, which would currently be too weak in my opinion to change anything but would become absurdly powerful if certain other cards also were added to the card pool (Innocent Blood, Cabal Therapy). While it is possible that I will at some point include some of the poor examples, they will likely end up being tested multiple times with different potential additions.

Chris Wendelboe

Chris is a level 2 judge from Ashland, New Hampshire. He enjoys Scapeshift, modern, and putting on the best events possible.