How Much Format Diversity is too Much?

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When it comes to evaluating Standard formats we often use diversity as a defining metric. Typically, formats with a dominant bogeyman and only a handful of other decks are considered bad, and formats with tons of viable decks are considered good. At times when you can't play FNM without losing to Delver, we hate Standard. At times when we can't place our opponent's deck off of the first 2-3 turns of a game we love it.

Using diversity as our only metric while analyzing the results of SCG DC tells us that this format is feaking great. Assuming that you're a reasonable human being, you can literally play whatever you want. It's hard to say that that's a bad thing.

There is some downside though. In particular, this range of decks is difficult to manage for an experienced player and can be outright overwhelming for a newer one. It can be difficult to grok that you need to go into a tournament ready to handle Battlewise Hoplite and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon.

In the English language there's a colloquialism that would call overwhelming diversity "too much of a good thing". Personally I'm enjoying this first look at post-Fate Reforged Standard, but I can see why some players would find preparing for a tournament looking at this extremely diverse data frustrating.

I'm interested to know what percentage of people prefer the format exactly as it is and which like a little more predictability. Which of the following best represents your ideal Standard?

Lorwyn-Shards of Alara- In which the mana was good to play a wide variety of decks but the format was largely dominated by Faeries and Five Color Control.

Scards of Mirrodin- Innistrad- In which UW Delver was the dominant deck that pushed most other decks out of the format.

Return to Ravnica-Theros- In which Black Devotion was widely considered the best deck, but basically everything was playable.

Current Standard- Thus far it looks like you can play anything, though some cards and strategies are clearly defined as pillars.

I look forward to seeing justification of votes in the comments as well as examples of other Standards that people favor and why they prefer those formats. Or if you really hate Standard, I'd be interested to hear what the format would need to do to appeal to you.

Ryan Overturf

Ryan has been playing Magic since Legions and playing competitively since Lorwyn. While he fancies himself a Legacy specialist, you'll always find him with strong opinions on every constructed format.

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14 thoughts on “How Much Format Diversity is too Much?

  1. Gotta be Innistrad – RTR (pre-M14). To be fair that was my first format so I don’t have much to compare it with, but I liked the diversity there. There was Junk Reanimator as kind of the boogeyman, but still really beatable, with a very strong UW Control deck, Jund was super strong, and you had to be prepared to fight Hexproof. If I’m not mistaken GB rock was a thing too. Lastly and most importantly – Aristocrats was top tier as well, which is my favorite deck of all time (though again, to be fair, not a huge sample size). The variety of styles of top tier decks really won me over as well as the fact that it wasn’t just Aggro – Midrange – Control, there were also weirder decks like Reanimator and Aristocrats.

  2. Scars – Innistrad might have been more fun (something about the card pool really appealed to me) but I cast my vote for current standard because I like the idea of balance. But I do miss my Puresteel Paladin card advantage engine, Snapcaster/Fog shenanigans, Hellrider beats, and zombie hordes.

  3. I really miss the caw-blade era. It rewarded tight play and in some cases innovation. I made my absolutely favorite deck during that era, which utilized tumble magnets and venser to completely shut off the sword advantage engine of caw. It played 2 creatures and generated an insane amount of mana using proliferate. I also really miss the entire block of zendikar that was included in that standard. Decks today have too high a concentration of rares. Commons and uncommons used to be more well designed and saw play in large numbers. Outside of lands, my last standard deck had 2 non-rares, including lands it was 6 non-rares.

    1. I was working on a deck for SCG Reguonals and I have to agree with your point on commons. Ever since “Mythic” was first developed there has always been at least one deck super-saturated with rates and mythics.

      It was a total biff on my part not to include caw-blade era as a poll option. That’s a great example of a low-diversity format.

    1. I’d have to admit that chance is on your side, Type 2 has been around since ’94 and roughly every 3 months there’s a change to it, which means roughly 20×4 = 80 different Standard formats since its inception. My money would be on “not the current format” too.

      That said, how are people so stupid they think this is an appropriate way to discuss things? Provide arguments if you want to be taken seriously.

  4. I loved playing 5-color decks in Lorwyn-Shards! Before Jund was discovered, there were so many decks to play–once one made the decision not to be the Fey Menace.

  5. Most enjoyable format to me was Scars-Innistrad as well…I LOVED casting Primeval Titan and played almost every variation of Wolf-Run (original, Blue, Black, White).

  6. I believe the problem with current Standard is not that it’s too diverse, but that it’s not diverse enough. Thoughtseize + Courser puts such a stranglehold on the format, not unlike Sphinx’s Revelation + Supreme Verdict of last year. While other deck types can still compete, there’s no doubt that the black-green midrange core defines current Standard. Wizards openly acknowledged that it was a mistake to put Thoughtseize and Courser in the same Standard. This is partly due to power level, and partly due to the fact that both cards take away a lot of (and sometimes all) hidden information. Thoughtseize in particular should have been left to the eternal formats. It’s a very oppressive card to have in Standard.

  7. Innistrad-return was my favorite format. It was balanced while still being powerful. To me it was the height of the metas, multiple control lists (Esper, Jeskai, UW), multiple midrange lists (Jund, Aristocrats), reanimator, multiple aggro (RG, GW little kid, big red), naya blitz, hexproof, and people who shouldn’t be playing maze’s end. The format was quite close to as diverse as the current one… but it felt 1 or 2 turns faster. It takes a long time to decide when the game is over, if you even figure it out by the time you draw your last card in the current format. It’s been said a lot but this is a midrange format. As an aggro player, your pray to get past efficient creatures while your opponent get’s to set up their strategy with super powerful utility blockers. As a control player, you don’t know you’ve taken control of a game. Currently, everything is slowly powerful. in Innistrad-return, everything was powerful, it truly felt like one step slower than modern. this is two steps back, but we do have a new set, and with it a new slew of decks.

  8. Favorite standard environment for me was Innistrad RTR, but that was mostly for the personal reason of feeling like I had broke the format from the moment Lotleth Troll was spoiled until the moment when Gravecrawler rotated out.

    Bg Zombies was so underrated and underplayed throughout that time, and all the while I was crushing the meta AND getting to play one of the funnest decks I’ve ever played. It could come out of the gates like Mono Red by curving into 2/1 into Troll into Gerralfs Messenger, drain life points like Aristocrats with Bloodthrone Vamp and Blood Artist, grind out all the midrange with Gravecrawler and Lotleth Troll, and even did a decent Sphinx’s Revelation impression with Disciple of Bolas! It wasn’t until towards the last few months of the format that the deck was even acknowledged as a thing, let alone good! Darwin Kastle even referenced one of my 4-0 daily deck-lists in one of his articles : D

  9. I think standard diversity is good. It’s an indicator that the mechanics of the latest set are complex enough that it’s taking a long time to “solve”, and Wizards hasn’t printed any egregiously powerful cards, or perhaps, they’re all powerful in their own way.

    Although, I can see Abzan midrange becoming the new “boogeyman” like Jund has been in the past. The package is too sweet with Caryatid, Thoughtseize, Frontier Siege, Rhino, every good planeswalker right now except Sarkhan, and some great removal/card draw.

  10. I liked my Dream Halls deck in Tempest / Saga Standard best (discarding Birds to drop Verdant Forces and Soul Wardens to drop Serra Avatars…), but I also still have a weakness for the Equiluren deck that I built to replace it when the Halls were banned. My Flailing creatures based mana denial deck for Masques / Invasion was pretty nice too, Port, Hoodwink, Crosis Charm, Stone Rain, for some reason I seem to think Thran Turbine was in there too, but that can’t be right (or I cheated)).

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