Battle lines drawn

It doesn’t seem that long ago since we were talking about magic’s latest fan created format. In the article ‘A New Frontier’, we talked about Hareruya and BigMagic’s latest project, if the community needs a new format, and even created our own unique brew. Since then, the web has been all a buzz over Frontier, but not all that content has been positive. The community has been divided, with some singing Frontiers praises as the savour of eternal play, why’ll other have come out condemning it, saying that it is a broken format that should just disappear. It’s no secret that magic players can be a passionate bunch. But with all that, both good and bad, who can say who is right? Is there even a right side to this argument? Well in the interest of being fair and open, we decided look at some of the pros and cons of Frontier, and allow you, to make up your own mind on whether you should start sleeving up for Frontier this Friday.

Pros

Frontier is cheaper and easier to get into than modern.

There is a reason Frontier starts with cards from M15 onwards. It wasn’t until very recently that Wizards of the Coast started to print cards in more diverse languages. Now for most of you reading this, that will make little difference. But for those of you who don’t use English as a first language, it makes all the differences. When Modern staples like Liliana of the Veil and Goblin Guide have limited, or even single print runs, they become hard to come by, that’s no secret. But imagine not been able to speak English, and due to the limited foreign language printings, getting hold of even a single copy of these cards in Japanese, Korean or Russian, becoming next to impossible. Luckily for Frontier players, Wizards started printing more cards in different languages right around M15. And when demand is high, but the supply can keep up, the price of singles, even staples, remains low.

There are less ‘broken’ cards in the format.

A few weeks before an upcoming Pro Tour, all magic players, especially Modern ones, hold their breath, waiting to see which, if any cards become banned from competitive play. Since Modern uses cards from 8th Edition, and Legacy through to Vintage use cards from all magics history, it’s common for ‘broken’ combo’s and synergies to form over the years. The lovely people from R&D love to try new things, and sometimes, mistakes are made. Storm, Dredge, even Affinity for Artifacts have all been such mistakes. Now, Wizards do ban some cards, trying to keep the game fair. When these mechanics existed in a format, they warp it as each and every one of us try to bend them to our will. Without them, we are all kept a little more honest.

My collection stays relevant for longer.

Whenever we reach the end of a Standard season, we all do our best to empty our trade binders of all the soon to be ex chase rares. For greatest value of course. Not all cards are created equally, and Standard powerhouses like Sylvan Advocate, will sometimes fail to find a home, especially when fighting for a space in your deck against cards such as Tarmogoyf. So, when a format, such as Frontier, allows these cards to stay relevant long after they rotate, they give even more incentive for people to invest and collect than before.

Cons

The decks a stale and boring.

Most people have pointed out that some of the top decks in Frontier, are just rehashes of the greatest hits of Standard. It is true that decks like Atarka Red and Mono White Humans have been prelevant in many top 8 reports. Why’ll this my may not seem like such a bad thing, there is a point to be made here. New formats promise new decks, and new architypes. But, when we are given the chance to use cards from recent Pro Tours, the temptation is strong to fall back on what has work before. Yes, some new additions are included in these decks that we didn’t get to use first time around, but when you add Smugglers Copter to Atarka Red, it feels like not much has changed after all.

It’s just four and five colour aggro.

Including Khan’s Blocks fetch land, and Battle for Zendikars duel lands, it is very easy to put together decks that use only the best cards from all the colours of magic. Decks like Rally and Jeskai Black are powerhouses that can, and will only get better as more and more cards are added to the format. So why is this an issue? Modern is full of multi coloured decks and they don’t rule over all. So no problem, right? The issue here is the lack of hate cards. When someone plays a highly aggressive deck in modern, or goes all in on four or five colour good stuff, they run the risk of going up against cards like Ensnaring Bridge or Blood Moon to slow them down. Burn hates Kor Firewalker,

Dredge falls to Rest in Peace, and Affinity can be stopped dead in its tracks by Stoney Silence. When every deck has a counter, the meta should stay healthy. But with none of these available in Frontier, these heavily dependent multi mana decks, may just become unstoppable.

Its take people away from official formats.

Larger play groups may not find this to be too much of an issue. Some people out there at smaller hobby stores, have reported that when people find a new format, the play group becomes divided. Those trying the new format, and those sticking to the more established Standard and Modern. This can be a real problem, when you only have eight to ten people coming down to Friday Night Magic. The lack of attendants already makes it harder for events to ‘fire’, but when the group is divided, it can prevent DCI registered games from even taking place.

The Outcome

So, is Frontier the savour of eternal play? Is it a broken format? Who is right, and who is wrong?  

Well, I think both statements are right.

No, I’m not just sitting on the fence. Each side has valid points. Modern is difficult to access, and has some truly ‘broken’ cards. Frontier has its fair share of issues too, whether it is the lack of hate cards, or repeating decks from earlier standard seasons. But in all the hoopla and need for people to make their voices heard, we have missed the bigger picture.

When you crack a booster of magic card, they become your cards. What you do with them after that, is up to you. Some of you out there play competitive magic, week in, week out. Others collect the cards with no intention of playing the game. We, as a community, are as diverse and complex as the game that binds us. When there is more than one way to experience this fine game, we open it up for more people to enjoy it, and that can’t be a bad thing. The issues come when we tell people their way of having fun is wrong. At that point we stop becoming a community, and truly become divided. Yes, Frontier has its issues, but it’s still in its infancy. Players will figure out all the kinks, and it has all the time to become a great addition to the game. Yes, it might mean that people in your play group might try new things and stop playing Modern or Standard, but this has happened before. Eventually, the local meta settles, and people find the balance between the formats. I have had the pleasure of being able to play magic for over ten years. I have seen this before, and it’s not the end of the world.

The thing we should be doing is to encourage more people to play the game as a whole. Because when we do that, we grow the community, fire off more events, and keep this great game going for years to come, and when we do that, we all win.

Leave a Reply