Announcing the Pioneer Format

Oversoul

The Tentacled One

Remember that time they announced a new format called Modern that totally wasn't going to replace Extended? Well, now they're announcing a new format called Pioneer that totally isn't going to replace Modern. :rolleyes:

But seriously, this is concept is an idea a lot of people have been floating for a long time. I don't think we can really tell what it will turn into. But it's coming, apparently.
 

Spiderman

CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant
Staff member
Moving to General because I don't think this is an issue yet ;)
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
I mean, on the one hand, I don't really pay that much attention to which board a thread is in and I'm happy to let you organize them however you like. :)

On the other hand, your winking emoji makes it seem like I blundered by starting the thread in the wrong place, but not to worry, you've fixed it for me. And in that case, I definitely don't understand the system at all. I mean, just looking at the first page of the other board, we've got such "issues" as "Nothing was banned in March" and "Hey guys, I got emailed a survey and then took that survey." I didn't think that those were in the board because they were "issues." I just figured that they were over there instead of over here because of the official tie-in, that if the topic was a "WotC" topic, it went in the "WotC" board. I wasn't aware that "issue" was the important part, nor clear on how such benign threads were ever issues to begin with.

It just seemed like the posts about official WotC announcements usually went to the other board. Announcements for B&R changes (or lack thereof), for the London mulligan, and even for a silly poster that WotC printed and sent to local game stores (OK, that last one was also thread I started). This is like those, or at least I thought it was. :confused:

Anyway, issues forthcoming or not, this is only third time a new official constructed tournament format* has been announced since the foundation of the CPA, so it seems like a pretty big deal. I don't really have interest in playing this format myself, but I thought it would be of interest. Never really cared for Modern either. I didn't back when it was announced and I still don't, but that format has become hugely important to most of the Magic community these days. I suspect that Pioneer is either going to falter and be viewed as a mistake or it's going to succeed and cannibalize some of the playerbase from Modern, Standard, or both. I wouldn't think that it'll be a roaring success while also complementing those two other formats. But maybe WotC does think that. Guess we'll see...
 
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Spiderman

CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant
Staff member
I think you're overthinking the emoji meaning :rolleyes:

There's no real formal system. Frankly, the B/R announcements in general don't have to be in Issues either. But I suspect at one point, there was some mass discussion about one announcement, probably when there were a lot more players here and interested in such things, that from then on, the announcements stayed. The others you mentioned were also probably also missed by me if I was really serious about categorizing everything.

So.... frankly, this is not a hill worth dying on for me. If another mod wants to move it back because it fits their idea of Issues better, so be it. I just have a particular idea about things that may strike my fancy of where things go and this was one of them at one of those times. <shrug>
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
I think you're overthinking the emoji meaning :rolleyes:
Oh, I know I am. But overthinking things is fun! :geek:

There's no real formal system. Frankly, the B/R announcements in general don't have to be in Issues either. But I suspect at one point, there was some mass discussion about one announcement, probably when there were a lot more players here and interested in such things, that from then on, the announcements stayed. The others you mentioned were also probably also missed by me if I was really serious about categorizing everything.
Ah. Gotcha.

So.... frankly, this is not a hill worth dying on for me.
Me neither. I mostly just brought it up because this happened before with a thread I started in "Issues" (I remember it coming up but do not remember which thread) and I was trying to discern what the categorization was. I am 100% cool with it being haphazard or inconsistent. Again, I don't pay that much attention to which board stuff is in since I tend to check them all anyway. Probably the only thing that made me notice was the combination of me posting the B&R announcement around the same time in the same board and then you noting that you moved the one announcement thread while the other stayed. I think I'd have brushed by it without even noticing if it hadn't been for that combination of events.

If another mod wants to move it back because it fits their idea of Issues better, so be it. I just have a particular idea about things that may strike my fancy of where things go and this was one of them at one of those times. <shrug>
I mean, maybe I'm overreaching, but I guess that the logic could be that the B&R changes have historically been "issues" in the sense of argument between members over what should or shouldn't have been banned, etc. Whereas as an announcement for a new format isn't really a "baggage" thing. Nothing was "wrong" that needed changing. It's just something new. So I could see a kind of sense for how the one is "issues" category and the other isn't...
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
By the way, I don't mean for the stuff in the previous posts as criticism of you as a mod. I worry that it reads that way, but I think you're doing great. (y)Well, now I kinda wish I hadn't derailed a thread about a new format that might potentially become a big deal soon. Oops. Anyway...

The most obvious things that come to mind are the Modern format itself and the unofficial "Frontier" format. In fact, Pioneer is so similar to Frontier (even the name is close) that I'd imagine some of the initial top decks are going to be ports from Frontier tournament play. No fetchlands, though...
 

Spiderman

CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant
Staff member
Anyone play this and/or interested in the Banned/Restricted announcements for these? Apparently they'll be every Monday for a while and then get folded in the regular B/R announcement...
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
So, although I'm not invested in this format, I do think that these are bad choices from what I can tell.

Notably, I was impressed with the initial choice to ban the five Khans of Tarkir fetchlands. Those fetchlands (along with the five for the other color-pairings, which were outside this particular card pool) have generally plagued other formats and enabled a kind of aristocracy of deck archetypes that can exploit them. Essentially, fetchlands produce the most flexible manabases for a minor cost in life, and this means that the decks able to exploit them in other ways get an edge over the competition. Making it harder to punish greedy manabases also warps metagames in other ways. Without fetchlands, Brainstorm would no longer dominate Legacy and Deathrite Shaman would certainly never have been considered bannable. Treasure Cruise and other Delve spells also don't get the free boost that comes from fetchlands. Because multicolor decks get consistent access to mana-fixing while acrruing other advantages, cards that tend to be optimized in monocolor decks tend to fall by the wayside. Overall, despite any other reservations I had about the idea of Pioneer as a format, I was glad that WotC finally dealt with the truly broken cards that have been allowed to roam free in every other format. In my book, WotC started out strong with their management of Pioneer.

But yesterday's announcement perfectly encapsulates all the stuff they usually get wrong. I say this with the caveat that WotC made the decision a few years ago to selectively publish MTGO data. So we only have the data that they choose to share, while they have all of it. I don't think it's too blunt to say that this issue is entirely on them. It's worth noting, but ultimately, that was their decision so here we are.
  • Preliminary MTGO data shows a field that looks strategically diverse and also underdeveloped. It was so early in the life of the format that top players hadn't really figured things out. My examination of some of the successful archetypes indicates that some of these decks just weren't optimized to compete against one another. This should be wholly unsurprising and outright anticipated. If people don't know what the format will look like, they won't be able to build their decks with an eye toward beating the top dogs. A deck that performs extremely well initially might fall off the map on its own, with no bans whatsoever, once people figure out that other decks are better or retune other decks accordingly.
  • In trying to build decks for this format, players are naturally going to look to possible archetype imports from other formats. This is a pattern that we've seen before. When Legacy was created, the first decks were obviously copied from old Extended formats with a few lists getting inspiration from the old Type 1.5 or from Vintage. When Modern was created, most of the decks for the new format were concepts copied from Extended, with a few decklists being based on Legacy decks. As time went on, more of the field was occupied by original decks not derived from other formats, but this kind of thing takes a while. Given that, we should expect that most Pioneer decks, at first, would be concepts from old Standard formats, with perhaps some other decks based on Modern archetypes and maybe even some entirely new ideas. The use of Felidar Guardian in "Copycat" combo decks was a very well-known and successful archetype in an old Standard environment. It should be expected that a lot of players would gravitate toward such an archetype initially. But we don't even know if that's the best combo deck in this format, let alone a potentially dominant one. The combo hasn't dominated Pioneer so far. There's no reason to ban it and every reason to expect that it'd be a popular choice early on.
  • Leyline of Abundance is such an utterly innocuous card in every way that banning it is ludicrous. Ian Duke basically had to tell us that they think Nykthos is a problem, but that they don't want to ban Nykthos because they like it too much. This is silly. WotC used to have more comprehensible criteria for which cards got banned, but more recently, they've become bolder with this approach of pretending to be able to predict and shape the future of Constructed formats. I'm reminded of the time when Necropotence was getting banned and restricted in every format because it powered "Trix" combo decks. Also, the time when Survival of the Fittest was banned in Legacy because of Vengevival decks, or when Sense's Divining Top was banned because of Miracle-based control. WotC took a straightforward, no-nonsense approach of targeting the obvious "enabler" (in their words). I didn't always agree with their decisions, but when I did not, it was because I didn't think that the decks in question were problems or because I thought more time would allow the issues to sort themselves out. But it would have been wrong to target instead some other card and cite some hope that in the future, the card that was the obvious problem, the card that was spared, would go on to be part of a healthy format. It would have been silly to ban Donate instead of Necropotence, Necrotic Ooze instead of Survival of the Fittest, Terminus instead of Sensei's Divining Top. And it's silly to ban Leyline of Abundance instead of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. If green mana-ramp is too strong in Pioneer, we all know which card has to go. Don't trim around it.
  • Thinking back, every time WotC had a line in a ban announcement about what they hoped would happen in the future, they got it wrong. Can't actually think of a time that their reasoning worked out. With that in mind, I now suspect that the best prediction to make is that Nykthos should be a problem going forward. WotC seems to be batting 0.000 so far on this specific point. Might as well guess that they messed up again. I mean, not really, but it's a strong consideration now. I'm not actually saying that Nykthos will prove to be broken in Pioneer. I'm just saying that I can't believe that WotC staff haven't learned to stop using phrases like, "Our hope is that in the long term, Nykthos can add diversity to the metagame as part of fun and healthy devotion strategies." That kind of statement has gone wrong in the worst way enough times that I'd have thought they'd have learned by now.
  • Banning Oath of Nissa at the same time as Leyline of Abundance is a repetition of another annoying WotC blunder. The old "Better nerf this deck by banning two cards from it at once, in case on isn't enough." If you think one isn't enough, then the problem was really Nykthos, wasn't it? It's absurd to say, "These Nykthos decks are broken. Something needs to be done. We need to ban a card from these decks to weaken them. Not Nykthos, though, because it could be fun and healthy later. Let's ban Leyline of Abundance to slow them down. But maybe that alone won't be enough. So let's also ban Oath of Nissa, just to be safe." And yet, that's practically what they've done here. This kind of approach wouldn't be tolerated in any setting where a decision-maker is properly being held accountable. It's baffling.
  • The statements on Oath of Nissa are surreal. The card is part of the package of the Nykthos-based monogreen devotion decks, but WotC cites the card's ability to colorfix planeswalkers as part of the problem. Since the monogreen decks demonstrably do not exploit this part of the card's text, it should be a non-issue. Really makes it seem like they're not even paying attention to their own format.
 

Spiderman

CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant
Staff member
I know they did their first announcement ;) I was trying to gauge whether there was interest enough to post it here. I actually don't know if there's interest for the regular B/R announcements anymore but that's just a habit now. Since Pioneer will get folded into those at some point, it'll get picked up then but if anyone was actually interested now, I would have posted it to keep them informed.
 

Oversoul

The Tentacled One
I know they did their first announcement ;) I was trying to gauge whether there was interest enough to post it here. I actually don't know if there's interest for the regular B/R announcements anymore but that's just a habit now.
I figured that if there might be a lot more of these announcements in the near future, I'd just comment on them in this thread rather than creating a new thread every Monday for Pioneer updates. If you'd rather post announcement threads, I can of course post anything I think of in the relevant threads. ;)

Reading my previous comments here, I'm kind of developing a theory that part of the disparity between my own analysis of formats and that of WotC is a major difference in our evaluation of the likelihood of duopolies in competitive formats. This could be kind of an interesting "Magic Theory" writeup, maybe. I think WotC tend to worry that every format will devolve into duopolies between two co-dominant archetypes; it's been called "the deck vs. the anti-deck." In contrast, my own assessment is that duopolies in formats with large card pools are probably rare in the long run, easily disrupted, and mostly only manifest for a long time in unusually mismanaged circumstances.

That's me reading between the lines somewhat. WotC isn't likely to come out and present such an analysis themselves. Also, there's no bulletproof argument for either side here. I think I could make a plausible case for my own view, but it's pretty speculative and there's always room for doubt. Hm, I'll have to think about it...
 

Spiderman

CPA Man in Tights, Dopey Administrative Assistant
Staff member
figured that if there might be a lot more of these announcements in the near future, I'd just comment on them in this thread rather than creating a new thread every Monday for Pioneer updates.
Yeah, since they'll be every Monday, we can just link to them and comment to them in here.
 
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