Hello, readers. Today I want to take the time to address a grassroots movement sparked by the release of Eternal Masters, the so-called “Eternal Format.”
For many this has been a long time coming. It’s the community responding to the inherent issues of both Modern and Legacy at the same time. It’s a culmination of years of conversations among players, and many ideas as to how a new eternal format can accommodate and include today’s playerbase.
It’s a proposal for a format that won’t have the long-standing issues of the Reserved List, and which could lend itself to being supported in a meaningful way. It’s a format built on the foundation of powerful interactions, self-regulation, and reasonable prices.
I wanted to address many of these points about Eternal in the face of both long, constructive conversations and a fair amount of scrutiny. Some have volunteered to be a part of this project with the hope of the format ultimately receiving recognition from Wizards of the Coast. Eternal at its core could be a new solution to a bevy of old issues when it comes to the current eternal formats, and very well redefine what the term means in today’s community.
At some point I want to bring everything to the table and address all aspects, whether positive or negative, about Eternal. Every new format will have growing pains, scrutiny and praise, and I don’t want to leave anything out. Many players have their fair share of praise and skepticism, so in the interest of being inclusive to all those points I want to write this article (and many more) to be as informative as possible.
Inception and Ideology
Eternal would essentially be taking from both Legacy and Modern in the sense that it would add ten more years of Magic to the Modern card pool. At the same time, players would be able to enjoy all the great interactions from Legacy with cards like Wasteland, Force of Will, and even Brainstorm.
This is clearly a different landscape than just “shocklands in Legacy” or “adding Force and Wasteland to Modern.” It features a lot of great aspects from both formats, while removing the stranglehold of the Reserved List.
Even before this format was called “Eternal,” it has long been a topic among Magic players. One of the concepts behind this format was the dialogue around what Legacy would be like without the Reserved List. This has been a narrative for quite some time, with a constant back and forth between players and Wizards on how the Reserved List directly affects all of us and the formats beholden to it.
When Eternal Masters (EMA) was announced on February 16, all of these conversations immediately came back to the forefront. With a fair share of hype came a host of new questions.
The most important was simply, “What if…” What if WotC releasing EMA is a gateway to the re-definition of what “Eternal” means? Could there be a new format to finish the three-format cycle that once was Standard-Extended-Legacy?
Many would argue the solution to “no-Reserved List Legacy” was the Modern format, but I don’t think that’s true. I think Maro’s response implies that Modern was created for a reason, but that the solution doesn’t stop there. Modern has its own issues, from price spikes, to regulation via the ban list, to card pool.
Whether players want to admit it or not, the Reserved List will always add a hard cap to Legacy and Vintage as formats and remain “something we have to deal with,” to use the words of Mark Rosewater. Debate all we want, but Eternal as a format (whether it’s ever picked up by WOTC or not) is more realistic than the Reserved List going away. Eternal, like Modern, can be a format where everything is reprintable as well.
“Eternal” is not the name of a format, real or imaginary. #thetruthisoutthere
— Aaron Forsythe (@mtgaaron) February 16, 2016
The community is willing to step forward, and many think Wizards of the Coast is fully pushing us to do so. This fairly innocuous tweet by Aaron above could have many different connotations. Eternal might not exist yet for anyone at Wizards, but surely the community can spearhead its creation.
For those claiming it would be lame, what about duals over shocks is the most appealing. You still have busted things to do.
— chris vanmeter (@Chris_VanMeter) February 17, 2016
With some dedication and hard work this could be made a reality. Aaron’s tweet came at a very coincidental time, when the main Magic website was running an informative article by Quinn Murphy about “Making your Own Magic Format”. Perhaps this is WotC encouraging us as a community to go forward with the project. Perhaps the truth is out there after all.
With the Reserved List never going away it would be advantageous for Wizards to cultivate a format like Eternal. It’s a win-win situation. They keep the promise they made to us (the Reserved List), and gain the ability to increase the supply of cards via Eternal/Modern Masters.
Everything is on the table at this point, and their promise doesn’t go any further than, “this is a list of cards that won’t be reprinted.” It’s been a long time since 1996, and the community is larger than ever. That issue alone is of great concern, considering there’s approximately 75,000 playsets of dual lands and a reported 20 million Magic players worldwide.
This way the Reserved List can remain intact but doesn’t have to be relevant to the question of prolonging the game and making sure it continues to thrive. Eternal was created knowing those issues, and unlike Legacy, it never has to overcome that—it is the solution.
Tracing an Outline of the Format
At this juncture the Eternal format is set up with the following core rules. More information can be found in the subreddit link provided.
- Cards from expansions and special sets (like From the Vault, Magic: The Gathering—Commander, Duel Decks, Conspiracy, etc.) are legal in the Legacy format on the date of release of the expansion or special set.
- Original Banned List: The ban list starting point should be the ban list for legacy as it currently stands. This will be looked at in the future to see what else needs to be changed.
- The following cards are banned in Eternal tournaments:
All cards from the reserved list
All cards of the card type “Conspiracy”
All cards dealing with Ante
Dig Through Time
Oath of Druids
Eternal is its own distinct format even if it shares cards and concepts with both Modern and Legacy. Shocklands in Legacy would be a disadvantage, leaving players at a loss because they wouldn’t be on an even playing field.
It’s also better than just adding Force of Will and Wasteland to Modern to solve its issues. It’s adding additional card pool to a format that some say it desperately needs, in order to combat the constant fluctuations and banning that regulate Modern.
I wanted to showcase a couple of community-provided decklists to let people see what some of these decks would look like in Eternal. There’s a myriad of archetypes to already choose from, and I will provide the Reddit subforum where this all takes place at the conclusion of this article.
What’s really important to note is that any/all of these archetypes have to be tested and as many games as possible need to be played in order for the community to better evaluate where Eternal is headed. In the meantime we can discuss the obvious changes behind Eternal as a format.
Eternal RUG Twin by Brianbgrp
Well, this is a very intriguing list. Not only would Modern players be able to enjoy their Splinter Twin copies again, they could pair them with a bevy of new spells unavailable to them in Modern. Let’s talk about some of the changes here.
So, here we have a lovely blue value package. Ponder and Brainstorm could very well be coupled together in a variety of different ways in Eternal, and pairing them with Splinter Twin seems extremely potent.
I have to say that this very archetype could be one of many that pushes the envelope on power level with these new Legacy/Modern hybrid decks.
Having access to such powerful deck manipulation tools to find copies of Splinter Twin would clearly be much more portent than the Modern version. And it would seem some players have experimented with Twin in Legacy already. The one caveat is that with additional card pool and other decks capable of running their own copies of Force of Will, the format could self-regulate this deck.
It would be up to the community to discuss and consider whether its consistency and power level was too much. What the Eternal community would try to do is make sure a deck like this is on the radar, and go forth with a process determining if/when it needs to be dealt with via a banning—hopefully with a clear and transparent approach, and with concrete tournament data to back up said decisions.
It’s great that in a situation like this, a format with this high power level and larger card pool is able to produce such potent decklists. From the looks of it Twin could already be a strong contender in the Eternal format.
Eternal Nic Fit by Fivebone
Here I think we have another fantastic blend of what an Eternal format decklist would look like. This deck takes powerful strategies from both formats and melds them together into a capable and fun decklist. This would have never happened when you just work with the Modern card pool.
Without the barrier of cards like Bayou or any other dual lands this could be a reasonable goal for a player who was already playing Legacy, or a player already playing Modern. It’s the perfect blend of cards, considering it’s a similar mana base to what a Modern deck would look like, with the addition of powerful spells known to Legacy.
I think these are the perfect sort of decks to showcase when players ask what this format is all about, and how it’s different regarding the broad umbrella of player concerns. Each deck illustrates the perfect blend of the two formats Eternal is trying to accomplish.
As you can see they don’t just fall easily into “Modern plus” and “Legacy plus” categories, but truly constitute a novel format. There are plenty more examples of deck-building by a wide variety of users that are also great examples of Eternal as a format.
One last point I wanted to address upfront as well: the subject of Burn as an archetype. I can say it likely will be a very powerful strategy in the format from the start. At the same time, with proper testing, and with results in hand it would be a subject to address like any other archetype. That’s how the community plans to resolve issues in Eternal, with transparency and data-driven analysis to help solve issues in the format. Burn would be no different.
Call to Arms: Playtesters and Support
What’s most important about the “Eternal” movement is the requirement of an immense amount of testing under the confines of the Eternal format rules and structure. A sub-reddit was created that can be found here.
Players and readers have already subscribed, but there’s room for plenty more. None of us, including the community members who’ve stepped forward, can really get meaningful data or feedback without plenty of testing, matchup reports, and tournaments results. It’s that specific and important data that can lead an open dialogue as to what really needs to be changed, and more importantly, why.
Data like this can help us address concerns about the format such as, “Is Burn too strong in Eternal”—but again that requires more than adequate data and matchup results in order to properly address those issues. No one ever claimed this was going to be easy; we’re re-creating and re-defining a term everyone has grown accustomed to. It’s essentially taking from two existing formats but going in a new direction.
Eternal is a short-term and long-term commitment. The short-term being having fun by enjoying a vast card pool and self-regulating strategies. The long-term goal is minimizing the barrier that will always be the Reserved List. It’s addressing those issues that can never be solved directly. It expands on the shortcomings of Modern, and adds an additional format players could navigate through. Many could and likely will argue against the format and be taken aback at what this format represents and what it’s trying to accomplish. Change is hard, and I as well as others fully understand that. At the same time, the band-aid has to come off at some point—it’s going to have to sting in order for the long-standing issues to get better. There will always be points of contention, but when the dust settles the Eternal format can at least address some of the core issues that plague Modern and have all but killed Legacy.
The cost barrier of Legacy (which I will talk about again in detail) would be lifted by making every card reprintable, and the supply of these cards can be increased by sets like Modern Masters and now Eternal Masters. Modern’s issues would be addressed with a different attitude to the banlist, and by an expanded card pool. This will theoretically lead to a more stable metagame—one that isn’t dictated by bans and overpowered strategies. A myriad of new questions will arise, and they should be asked when a project of this magnitude comes along. Although I’d have to say that Eternal does a great job at solving a lot of issues on its own just by coming into existence and becoming a community project. The format could become what Modern strives to do, and what Legacy should have been by today’s metric—featuring diverse decks, powerful interactions, self-regulation, and reasonable prices.
Thanks for taking the time to read this introduction to Eternal, and I hope to see people continue to be a part of this community-driven project. It’s grassroots movements like this that have the real potential to make change, and from that hope does indeed spring Eternal.
Maybe this format can be a great short- and long-term solution. I will continue to write about this here at QS, and will continue to address many different topics when it comes to the format.
For instance the name of the format itself has already been a point of contention; the name “Eternal” was chosen in response to Eternal Masters being released. The community overall agreed the name Eternal already had momentum, and just sounded better than other names pitched, like “Heritage” or “Unreserved.”
Even with Wizard’s definition of Eternal defining formats like Legacy and Vintage, definitions can always be changed. With additional dialogue and voicing legitimate concerns it will only help Eternal along as a format.
– Chaz @ChazVMTG