Historic: how adaptation of Modern format will work in MTGA?

When we first started talking about rotation and renewal, we also introduced our plans for Magic: The Gathering Arena‘s non-rotating format, Historic. At the time, we announced that Historic would only be available as a Best-of-One Play queue, and there weren’t any plans to add additional events, older sets, or Ranked queues at that time.

. . . And today, we’re here to say that most of that has changed!

REWRITING HISTORIC

After considering some player feedback, we went back to the drawing board and decided on some core criteria for our non-rotating format, Historic:

  • It should feel distinct from other Constructed formats (namely Standard).
  • There should be some competitive aspect to it (i.e. Ranked).
  • Finding a balance for the long-term health of MTG Arena

But with great criteria comes great complications (or . . . something along those lines). How do we balance existing player collections while still making a format accessible to players who want to jump in? How do we make it feel distinct from Standard while balancing the development time needed to add older cards? If we add new-player queues for a brand-new format, what does that mean for the quality of matchmaking, including how long it takes to find a match?

Well, we put a lot of thought into these questions, and we’re excited to share the changes we’ve made.

NEW CARDS, WHO DIS?

Let’s start with bullet point #1: How can Historic provide a fun, unique digital experience that didn’t just feel like “Old Standard”? Well, the answer of “add new cards to Historic” may seem rather obvious, but we landed on a pretty awesome way to leverage MTG Arena‘s digital playground and growing catalogue of Magic cards.

Starting in November, we plan to add new cards to MTG Arena from across Magic‘s history for play in Historic formats and events. No restrictions on set, types, or rarities, no-holds-barred new. We also plan to do this regularly, starting with approximately 15–20 cards in November, with a reoccurring goal of adding more new cards every quarter after that. These cards will mostly come out independent of Standard sets (and we’ll get to that in second).

We know players would love to see entire sets added to MTG Arena, but speaking candidly, the development time required to add hundreds of cards from older sets, knowing that only a few may have a positive impact on Historic, was more time than we could honestly commit. Adding full non-Standard sets may come eventually, but right now, we’d rather focus on adding meaningful cards on a timeline players can look forward to.

We are working with Magic R&D to help ensure the new additions create a fun and interesting format, but we’re also interested in player feedback on which cards you’d be most excited to play with on MTG Arena. As we get closer to November, we’ll be looking for direct input from players on which cards to prioritize, so be sure to keep an eye out!

ONE FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS

On to bullet point #2: How can we add a competitive aspect to Historic? And, if you answered, “add a Ranked queue,” you’d be correct.

In addition to adding new cards to the format, we’re also expanding the ways in which you’ll be able to play Historic. First and foremost, we will add a Historic ranked queue for Best-of-Three play in December. Though the Historic ranked queue will contribute to the same Constructed rank as Standard, Historic decks will only be matched against other Historic decks. Initially, we plan to offer a Historic Ranked queue for a limited time (around 4 weeks).

When adding a competitive aspect to Historic, we want to be careful that we do so in a way that allows us to gauge the health of the format and the quality of matchmaking before diving any deeper. Once we get a feel for how Historic plays, we’ll look at adjusting how often Ranked play is available and whether Historic should have its own rank separate from Standard. Right now, we plan for it to be available for approximately the last four weeks of a card set, with the length depending on the time between set releases.

The other way we’re looking to expand on Historic play is by planning to hold at least one Historic event per month starting in November. Monthly events should range from Historic versions of Singleton and Pauper, to potentially entirely new ways of playing. We’re also planning for some of these events to be a way for players to add those new cards we mentioned earlier to their collection. Currently, the event we have planned for November will have an entry fee, but players will also receive copies of the new cards when they join. We’ll have more information on these events as we get closer to the November game update.

Until then, you can still use rotated cards in the Best-of-One Play queue as we announced back in June. While there will only be one “Play” option, decks that contain non-Standard cards will only match against similar decks, and vice versa.

HISTORIC COLLECTIONS

Of all the criteria we set, bullet point #3 was probably the trickiest to navigate. We want to ensure that players new to Magic can still learn the ropes and start their collection through Standard and Draft as the primary methods of play, with Historic available to seasoned players looking to explore more of Magic‘s rich history. But we also needed to look at the long-term impact Historic would have on MTG Arena as a whole, as we move toward supporting it as a true non-rotating format.

It’s a difficult problem to tackle, but to do so, we’re changing how Wildcards work for Historic cards. Starting after an update in November, crafting a Historic card will require you to redeem two Wildcards of the appropriate rarity instead of one. If a Historic card also appears in a current Standard set, players will be able to redeem one Wildcard for one copy of the Standard version, however, the Historic version will still require two. For example, you can play Luminous Bonds in Historic whether it’s the Rivals of Ixalan version or the Guilds of Ravnica version, but starting in November the Rivals of Ixalan version will cost two common Wildcards, while the Guilds of Ravnica version will cost one common Wildcard. Both versions will be playable in both Historic and Standard.

To give players some lead time on the transition, we’re not going to make this change until November, giving players time to craft any Historic cards at the current 1:1 rate.

And while Historic sets are currently still available for purchase in the store, we plan to limit Historic sets to the 45-pack bundle. Historically (no pun intended), this tended to be the most popular pack bundle for players looking to expand their collection. This will go into effect starting on September 26.

Limited Historic events will be available from time to time for players who prefer drafting as a way to expand their collection. We will have more information on entry price for Historic drafts later on. Historic cards and booster packs will continue to offer duplicate protection and contribute to Vault progress the same way that Standard sets do.

HISTORIC ROAD MAP

That’s a lot to cover, and there’s a lot more happening in the upcoming weeks. To summarize, players will still be able to use a Play queue on and after September 26 to play with either Standard or non-Standard decks, and players can expect the full launch of “Historic as a format” sometime in November. For a breakdown of our current plan, here’s all the important dates and the changes happening with them:

SEPTEMBER 26, 2019

  • IxalanRivals of IxalanDominaria, and Core Set 2019 rotate out of Standard.
  • Players will still be able to play with rotated cards in the Best-of-One Play Queue and Direct Challenge.
  • Players can continue to craft any card using Wildcards, at a rate of one Wildcard per card (1:1).
  • Players will still be able to purchase the 45-pack bundle with the Buy-A-Box promo for older sets; all other purchase options will be removed.

NOVEMBER 2019

  • Fully introduce Historic format.
  • Around 15–20 cards from Magic‘s history will be initially added to MTG Arena for use in Historic play.
  • Special Historic event focused on the additional new cards.
  • Additional Historic events, at least once per month.
  • Crafting Historic cards will increase to a rate of two Wildcards per Historic card (2:1).

DECEMBER 2019

  • Historic Ranked play begins, and Historic Traditional Ranked queues will be available for play. Wins in Historic Ranked play will contribute to that seasons Constructed Rank (there is currently no separate Rank for Historic and Standard Constructed play).

QUARTERLY (POST NOVEMBER 2019)

  • Additional cards added to Historic.
  • Special Historic event, focused on the additional new cards.
  • Ranked Historic Play

MONTHLY (POST NOVEMBER 2019)

  • Historic event (Pauper, Singleton, etc.)

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