REVISED: Why I *HAD* No Confidence in Aaron Forsythe, Sam Stoddard and Mark Rosewater

Update 27-Apr-2017:

People learn from mistakes, and doing so is not easy.

Following the emergency ban, I’m going to renounce the conclusions of this article and say that my confidence in these people is restored.

There’s been lots of debate on Reddit as to how relevant MaRo is to development, as obviously it’s not his core role at WotC. I generally associate him with development decisions because of his public comments on the matter. Perhaps I’m wrong, and in that case, Mark, I apologize.


Six more weeks, and it is another awful B&R update.

The Legacy and Vintage changes have been contentious online, but are at least reasonable. I may not have made the exact same changes if I were in charge of R&D, but all of them are defensible decisions drawn from analysis of real data. Miracles and Mentor were both between Tier 1 and Tier 0, and both were crowding out other deck options.

Neither needed a ban/restrict, but both were in the range where a ban/restrict was perfectly justifiable.

I make no complaints about either decision.

Likewise Modern’s ‘no changes’. It’s not in line with my personal wishlist, but it was a perfectly reasonable decision and one I do not fault.

Sorry, Sensei’s Stalling Top. I won’t mourn you much.

It is the Standard ‘no changes’ entry that demonstrate a staggering degree of incompetence from Wizards/Hasbro management.

Standard is in crisis, to a degree not seen since the days where an oppressive aggro deck, Arcbound Ravager Affinity, was so dominant that eight cards were banned in one day.

Local stores that used to rely upon Standard sales to survive are dropping support for the format entirely. Mine (a fairly small store) no longer runs any Standard events, has dramatically lowered buylist prices on Standard cards, and where they used to open six cases of each new set for singles they presently plan to open at most two of Amonkhet.

Fortunately for the staff and the owner, my LGS’s Commander playerbase has grown and so the store is able to survive.

Everywhere I ask, players that used to love Standard are giving up on the format.

The format has become completely solved. Either you play Saheeli Combo, or you play Mardu Vehicles, or you lose.

There is no room to innovate, no room to explore, and no room for Amonkhet to impact the format except by improving CopyCat’s manabase and giving it anti-artifact hate. Manglehorn changes nothing as CopyCat is already used to killing Thalia, and both die to the same cards.

The format is less diverse than the mess of Affinity Standard, less diverse than Caw-Blade Standard, and less diverse than Legacy was when Treasure Cruise Delver was Tier 0.

Six weeks ago, a simple ban on Fellidar Guardian along with a ‘Oops, we screwed up’ article would have solved the format’s problems. There would have been complaining, and some individuals might have quit Standard over seeing their deck being banned out, but stores would not be abandoning the format.

That would be a minor mistake and a forgivable one. Just like the printing of Skullclamp was a mistake quickly rectified and forgiven.

But doubling down on March’s bad decision today leading to 13 unnecessary weeks of a lame duck format?

That is not a minor mistake.

If Wizards want to win me back to playing Standard again, they need to demonstrate an ability to change. They need to make more serious amends than just making the right decision next time.

The decision makers responsible for this decision need to be demoted to ensure that this debacle does not happen again, and once competent people replace them, it is time for damage control.

Until the next banned list, Standard GPs should have their format changed to a functional format.

Limited is one option, but I suggest alternate banlist Standard, with a four card banlist:

  • Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
  • Emrakul, the Promised End
  • Snugglecopter
  • Fellidar Guardian.

This format might not be perfect, but it will allow Amonkhet cards to shine, and will not be solved from Day 1 until Day 49.

Wizards/Hasbro will then need to aggressively win people back to Standard by burning some reprint equity on extremely high quality promo cards (such as an FNM Mishra’s Bauble, a full-art Path to Exile, Fatal Push or Lightning Bolt, or a repeat of the Expedition prize packs).

And this damage control will need to be done fast, before stores that are reliant upon Standard card sales pay for Wizards’/Hasbro incompetence, and card store employees that rely upon Magic for an income wind up on the scrapheap because of the incompetence of some managers at Wizards/Hasbro.

Rightly or wrongly, the public faces of R&D and the B&R list are Mark Rosewater, Sam Stoddard and Aaron Forsythe.

They may not be the decision makers responsible for this decision, and many online believe Rosewater has no part in it. (If that is true, Mark, and you read this, I am sorry).

If one or more of them aren’t responsible, this is the right time for them to disown the decision and distance themselves from it, and to salvage credibility within the playerbase.

But if they are responsible for this decision, they should return to what they are good at – card design for Limited environments – and find competent people to replace them in controlling decisions about competitive play. Those replacements should look into damage control – including allowing stores to sanction events with locally-set banlists, and/or emergency bans.

Wizards/Hasbro and lots of local game stores rely upon Standard to create interest in new cards, because for them, Standard is where the big money is. Standard sells sealed packs, and chasing the singles demanded by competitive play both drives stores to open cases of product, and provides resale value for drafters.

I’m one of many players Standard has now lost.

I’m open to being won back to Standard, but Wizards need to first demonstrate that they are competent at making an interesting format.

I do not see that happening as long as Mark Rosewater, Sam Stoddard and Aaron Forsythe run the show. While they retain my respect as card designers, I have lost confidence in their ability to manage Magic organised play.

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3 thoughts on “REVISED: Why I *HAD* No Confidence in Aaron Forsythe, Sam Stoddard and Mark Rosewater”

  1. Yeah, they’re trying to manage a format that they screwed over with the three to two block change. They have cards in Standard together that they never intended to be played in the same Standard format. It’s going to take time. If it isn’t fixed by this time next year, then I’d worry.

    1. I disagree with this analysis.

      Saheeli and the Cat are in the same mini-block.

      Marvel and Emrakul were always going to have a year together.

      Gideon is the only card that causes trouble that got extra time because of the rotation change. He’s an issue, but not the worst problem in Standard right now. (He is, IMO, the second worst, and I would have him taken out back and shot at the next B&R update, but I will not fault someone that disagrees)

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