Why Modern is my Favorite Format

As far as my opinion is concerned: modern is the best format in Magic. There are a number of reasons why people dislike the format, but the upsides heavily outweigh the downsides. Let’s break it down….

Cons

  • Ban List: Yes, the ban list for modern changes periodically. Yes, certain decks have taken a hit from this. Over the time where I have been following modern as a format, I have never doubted the positive impact on the format from a ban list change. Deathrite Shaman was super oppressive, gave black a mana dork, hated out entire archetypes, and enabled plays that were generally just too strong for the for the cost (that is, playing a mana dork). Birthing Pod, while I think was a sweet deck, has been over-performing for a very long time now and winning big events consistently. The toolbox nature of the deck allowed it to adapt to any meta and conquer it, despite what the other decks were doing.
  • Price of Entry: Magic cards are expensive. Many of the modern staples have risen in price since the creation of the format and it creates a huge hurdle to entering the format depending on what deck you would like to play. For many players, entire decks are out of their price range because of the cost of things like Tarmogoyf, Liliana of the Veil, and Dark Confidant. The silver lining here is that while there are some very expensive decks in the format, there are also a number of cheap options that are still very competitive (infect and burn being the primary two).
  • Lack of Events: With the high cost of entry, the question has been raised to me multiple times “why should I invest in a format when I can barely ever play it?” For me this is the largest hurdle to the format, as there just aren’t that many consistent modern events around. A big part of this is likely just stores needing to support the format more, though this is hard when you can’t even get tournaments to launch. While regular REL events may be hard to find and don’t get amazing attendance, the opposite is true for the more competitive events. To my knowledge the largest PPTQs in the state have been modern (though the 1k PPTQ in Concord on 2/22 will likely change this), and GPs draw more players than the mainstay of regular REL that is standard (3 of the top 10 GPs by attendance were modern, the highest attendance standard GP is 12th). Let’s also not forget at the last Legacy SCG Open there was a standard and a modern premiere IQ on Sunday. Modern had higher attendance….
  • Combo is King: This is the most “false” of the statements about modern. Many people think of the format as being dominated by cards like Splinter Twin and Ad Nauseum, and that it is like playing solitaire and seeing who gets their combo first. The truth is that there are a ton of viable decks in the format and players can generally find a deck that is to their liking and be able to tune it to have a fair chance even against their poor matches. Perhaps this line of thought will change now that newer players get to play with combo decks in standard, which may have been one of the initial things that led to people being scared of combo.

Pros

  • Cheaper than Standard: That’s right, I believe that modern is cheaper than standard in the long run (especially with the new block structure change). If you want to be a competitive standard player you must invest anywhere from $100-$500 every six months to maintain your standard deck as cards rotate out. This is not the case with modern. The format only changes when new cards are added or when cards get banned (which I think is very unlikely at this point). So if you drop $700 (number out of thin air) on a deck for modern, your cost to maintain that deck is going to be close to $0 every six months. While the initial investment is higher, you end up saving money in the long run assuming you plan to be playing Magic for a number of years.
  • Variety: I would consider this standard format to be the best standard I’ve seen since I got back into Magic (during Innistrad). The variety of decks that are competitive and sheer number of options is very refreshing, especially compared to last season. Modern blows this level of variety out of the water. You have multiple options for aggressive decks, a variety of combos, powerful midrange options, and control all being viable. A counterargument is that there are really only about six or seven tier 1 modern decks at any given time, however I feel that the margin between tier 1 and tier 2 in modern is much smaller than in standard. In modern you can play a “tier 2” deck and still be competitive with the tier 1 decks if you know your deck and the matches. However in standard the tier 2 decks have a much lower chance of competing with the tier 1 decks.
  • Powerful Cards are Fun: I find playing with powerful cards to be very rewarding. The only way to get the same feeling in standard is to either play Siege Rhino or Jeskai Ascendancy. In modern pretty much every deck is built on the backs of cards like this.
  • Reprints are Helping: Wizards has made it clear that they are going to help make modern staples available. Cards are showing up in standard legal sets, things like modern masters, and pre-built product like the commander decks and modern event deck. While the price to enter legacy will continue to get worse and worse, the cost for modern should rise and fall over time as cards are reprinted.

Now is one of the best times to buy into modern as a format with the fact that the mana bases are so cheap. Having sets of shocklands and the Khanslaught fetchlands will go a long way towards being able to build decks at a reasonable price. Modern is a format that is here to stay and many believe will end up being the replacement for legacy in the long run. Why not check it out?

Chris Wendelboe

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