The Indifference Curve

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Posts Tagged ‘Standard

Rising Waters, Sunken Hope

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Have you noticed it? It’s creeping up all around you. Prices have been slowly climbing to untold-of heights. First Innistrad block started shooting up. Now Legacy’s starting its climb. And soon, in a few months, we’re going to see the effects hit Modern when PTQ season starts. The entire MTG price floor is rising due to increased demand, and we’ve just started to feel the impact.

Some people have been calling this a bubble. Those people are wrong. This is not a bubble. This is the end result of Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 and Return to Ravnica. The sold-out prereleases nationwide were a harbinger. The player base has expanded dramatically in the course of a few months as players both old and new have entered (or re-entered) the game’s player base. This is going to have enormous implications for all three major constructed competitive formats.

First off is Standard. This is going to be the one least affected by these issues. The cards pre-RTR are simply just going to be annoyingly expensive until they rotate out of Standard. That’s all. We’ve seen this happenen with Scars block last year, but this is hitting harder due to just how large the player influx was this year. RTR block, however, should be priced at a point that makes sense due to the ability of prices to hit “Box Equilibrium” from dealers simply cracking product and redeeming MTGO collections. You think the prices of Shocklands are low now? Just wait a few months. You won’t believe how low they go.

Next up is Legacy. Don’t believe there’s a demand increase? Just go take a look at JTMS, Polluted Delta, and The Abyss. Oh, and Underground Sea. The format’s edging ever closer to that point where it shuts out more people than it’s worth, but unfortunately I don’t think Modern’s in a position yet to take the “Eternal Format of Choice” mantle away if the PT results are anything to go by.) I’m very curious how the attendance disparity between SCG D1/D2 will evolve this year, as at some point, the barrier issues in the format are going to start creating issues trying to run a tournament series half-based on the format. The manabases are the critical issue, and while reprinting fetches would help, the duals are just going to keep going up up up, and at some point, the players “sitting on the sideline” will force a change. The question is just how big that untapped player volume is right now.

And finally, we get to Modern. If you thought prices were bad now… you have no idea what we’re in for. What’s happened to Legacy courtesy of the SCG series will happen to Modern, courtesy of PTQ season, and I have every expectation that we’re about to get a severe price shock to the format’s staples. Players are going to be eagerly awaiting the impact of MTGMM on accessibility. It’s going to be viewed as the format’s salvation, in a way.

But sadly, I don’t think it’s going to be enough. Tarmogoyf is already around $85-100. I expect that price to rise. And with it, I expect Modern Masters to both a) quickly sell out and b) not have the market impact they’re hoping for due to the unexpectedly massive player influx from RTR. This product was planned out before they could have know that was coming, and I strongly suspect that it’s going to underperform in re-adjusting the market, at least with that particular Green Llhurgoyf.

So what,as players, should our reaction be to all this? Simple- if you need it, get it now. You’re already late to the game if this price level rise is new to you, but luckily, most people who aren’t dealers haven’t quite caught wind of just how seismic this shift in demand is. With any luck, you’ll be able to get what you need before the rising price tide puts a severe damper on your ability to pick up a brand new deck.


Written by kirblar024

October 22, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Cavern of Souls and the “Counterspell Problem” in Standard.

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Cavern of Souls, in the matter of less than 24 hours, has created an enormous amount of discussion and outcry. Some believe that people are over-reacting, and indeed, they probably are in a format like Legacy, where Wasteland is there to punish greedy manabases. But the outcry over the card has more to do with how R&D’s recent decisions over the past few years have led to a place where countermagic, despite their best intentions, has become the best method of interacting with opposing cards, despite their public desire to see it diminished in effectiveness. And thus, with the prospect of a card that completely blanks any card with “Counter Target Spell” on it is legitimately terrifying to people.

But what exactly has led to this point? The issue here really starts not with Counterspells, but with R&D’s stated goal of “Making Creatures Good”. At the beginning of the game’s history, Creatures were, indeed, underpowered relative to other classes of cards. Over time, R&D has slowly been ramping up the power level of creature cards to get them on a level equal to the other card types.

In addition, R&D discovered that counterspells were frustrating to a large portion of the player base, as it felt “better” to them to have a creature taken out by Wrath of God or Doom Blade instead of a dastardly Counterspell. This led R&D to attempt to gradually scale back the power level of countermagic. They’ve printed less of them and made them less efficient, so that decks consisting of 20+ counterspells are no longer really viable in format. However, there have usually been a few decent ones kicking around each format, so that the threat of a counterspell is always there.

However, in recent years, the push to make creatures better has begun to work at cross purposes with R&D’s other goal of reducing the prevalence of weakening counterspells. Two methods in particular have increased the marginal value of countermagic relative to other forms of removal, and in the process, forced decks to lean on the few counterspells they have even harder in order to interact with their opponent’s cards.

The first trend that has led to this has been a steady increase in in the power level and tonnage of “187” creatures with “Enters the Battlefield” abilities. First introduced in Visions, and quickly adopted and expanded upon in future Magic expansions, these “Virtual Vanillas” have spell-like effects when entering the battlefield. Cards like Cloudgoat Ranger, Sea Gate Oracle, or Acidic Slime all leave their controller up a “Card”, even if the creature is subsequently removed with a spell like Lightning Bolt or Doom Blade after it enters the battlefield. Because of this, the relative value of Countermagic compared to other types of traditional damage or destruction-based removal has actually increased because of the added marginal benefit of keeping the creature’s “spell effect” off the battlefield as well. The cycle of Titans is the best possible example of this. If you take out any of the cycle (Except Frost Titan) out after they enter the battlefield, your opponent is still “up” 1-2 cards, and if they’ve attacked? 2-4! Because of this, players in Standard have had to rely on countermagic as the primary means of fighting this attrition war.

But card advantage isn’t the only reason that players have reacted so strongly here. The introduction of mass amounts of Hexproof creatures into the Standard environment over the past four sets has created a situation where again, players have been conditioned to use countermagic over other forms of removal if they want to interact with these creatures. With Hexproof creatures, they are unable to be targetted by an opponent once they enter the battlefield, blanking cards like Doom Blade. But unlike the Shroud creatures like Blastoderm, that previously graced the battlefields of Magic, who were able to be chump blocked for days, the Hexproof ability allows the creature’s controller to attach Auras and Equipment that provide evasive abilities to their Hexproof creatures, making it nearly impossible to interact with the creature once it resolves without an instant speed disenchant effect and a handy blocker. This natural resistance to both blocking and spot removal again creates a stuation where counterspells become the simplest answer to a creature with Hexproof, as the chances of interacting with the creature while it is in play are then restricted mostly to sweepers, which are relatively narrow, often inefficient, and have a great deal of issues in the current standard environment due to mechanics like Undying.

And thus, is it any wonder that a large number of players are immediately concerned by Cavern of Souls? The move towards strong 187 and Hexproof creatures has created a situation where the value of the ability to interact with a creature before it hits the battlefield far outweighs the value of attempting to interact with it once it resolves. Despite weakening counterspells overall, R&D has steadily increased their marginal value relative to other forms of removal and interaction over the past year. And now, with many players seeing them as the*only* defense they have against the hexproof and ETB creatures in the format, suddenly a card appears that threatens to shut that entire line of play down without a single non-land card slot being used up in the process.

Is it any wonder that panic has erupted? R&D has, despite their best efforts, steadily increased the marginal value of countermagic even as they’ve reduced the power and number of individual counterspells. Now, with players perceiving that the best class of interactive spells is about to be rendered obsolete, they fear that Standard may become a format where you are simply playing “at” your opponent, trying to race or out-trump them , rather than a format where you can expect to interact or interfere with their gameplan in any reasonable manner. And given what we’ve seen of Standard lately, with control decks on life support, I do not believe that fear to be unwarranted or irrational.

Written by kirblar024

April 18, 2012 at 12:39 am

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