Force of Will: Nervous Yet? A Reply To Peter Jahn

I make contradictory points in this article. Why? Because depending on what the DCI does next, Nether Spirit either is or isn’t a good Extended card.

Peter Jahn spent some amount of time and effort replying to my last article. It occurs to me that my effort wasn’t clear enough, since a reply was warranted focusing on the price of buying into Extended: This obscures what I feel is a more important point. I hope to put that point into as much simplistic clarity as I can muster, while following with my own reply to some of Peter’s article.

I tried, unsuccessfully as it appears, to point out that investing in dual lands and their price was but a”symptom” of the real problem – which still exists, even after reading Peter’s article. That is, even after Peter’s reply, we still remain in limbo as to what the DCI will do with the future of Extended. Peter says:

 “Wizards understands that the reason that the format is so exciting is that the dual lands make multicolored decks possible – without being broken. They make the format interesting. They are one reason that people who have been playing for a while keep playing. Type 2 may suffer from sets like Masques, but Extended is always interesting. I am convinced that Wizards understands this, and that Extended will continue to be all about several expansions, plus the duals. Blocks may rotate out, although Wizards has not said when this will necessarily happen… But the duals should stay. I would hope the next rotation will happen only when the format has problems, so I don’t have a problem with not knowing when that might happen.”

Peter really likes extended and takes the time to explain why. I think the high point of the format is just what he claims it is – the duals. However, I also must believe that if that is the high point of Extended – and if after this season they drop the boom on the dual land”exemption,” Peter would be disappointed. (This says nothing for the appearance of the Apocalypse pain lands, which now completely mirror the duals.)

And there lies the crux: While Peter dismisses the worry that dual lands could disappear, I still believe it still remains – and my feelings are that any dismissal that has as its focal point a discussion of price is not helping to address what I see as a deeper problem. I tried to point out, I believe, that we shouldn’t have any apprehension regarding the future of Extended. The only reason that the apprehension exists is because we have not been given any word from the DCI on its feelings or foresight on the matter of the inevitable next Extended format rotation. There is seemingly no forward-thinking plan by the DCI on when that format will need even the most minor overhaul or what the extent of those changes would be. Similar to the symptom of the uncertain cost of Extended is the uncertain future of how the DCI plans to approach this year’s Regionals with the numbers of expected participants in relation to last year’s near fiasco.

Card Numbers

Peter says…

“There is another reason that Wizards rotated the sets as they did, and it is the same reason that T1 cannot be a PTQ/Grand Prix format. There simply are not enough cards. Stephen D’Angelo has some interesting statistics on his site. What they show is that the number of cards in existence is not large enough to support all the PTQ players – if they were trying to play T1, where having the Power Nine is a huge advantage. Here are the approximate numbers of each card ever printed:

Each Power Nine card: 23,000

Each dual land: 312,000

Each Legends rare: 19,500

Each Ice Ages rare: 202,000″

In most cases if one even played a two-color deck the optimum would be four of the proper dual land. Divide 312,000 by four and you get 78,000. There are thus 78,000″sets” of dual lands, as opposed to 23,000 sets of the Power Nine. This leads to a question that I think that few players would be hard-pressed to answer accurately – namely, at what point do the numbers of a”staple” card fail to support a format in relation to the number of participants? My belief is that the DCI should outline this as well, as actually defining cards as Vintage. Type One is labeled as a Vintage format – and, in my opinion, since dual lands were specially exempted from the last Extended rotation they are in effect Vintage cards.

I think a DCI definition is in order concerning the specific age at which a card becomes Vintage. If we were to apply an idea that stems from what the rumored initial Extended idea of what Vintage cards would be, we would find that that would give us cards that were not printed in sets within the last four expansions and two basic sets. Thus, the Odyssey, Invasion, Masques, and Urza’s blocks would be current, and anything previous would be Vintage.

Realize that I only use these demarcations as examples. I don’t even know that I would make the current crop of cards that recent, but I only advocate that the DCI create a clear line between newer cards and cards that are a part of Vintage formats. This necessity is created as much by the DCI’s own policy to make Vintage different from non-Vintage formats as by the age and availability of cards themselves.

At some point, Peter and I agree: Supply and demand sets the price for cards, which is the reason that dual lands are one of the better investments in the game…. As long as they have a desirable format to be played in. We know – we have seen it repeated over and again – that when a card is eliminated from a desirable organized format, its resale price drops. If duals were dropped from Extended, the price for them would likely go down, but they would still have value – like the Power Nine. They are good cards and folks would play them in Type 1, 5 Color Magic, or even at the upstairs Tuesday night grand melee. Still, what I feel is that Wizards and the DCI have always wanted the Pro Tour and its qualifying tournaments to lead the way in inspiring people to play Magic and buy cards – and thus, to leave such a qualifying format as Extended with such an undefined future is unsettling at best.

Again, I advocate that the price of competing in Extended, which for me was only a consideration in relation to its unknown future, was but a symptom. The questions that I ask myself repeatedly are:”Where is Extended going? What will Regionals be like this year? What the heck was that poor nice Asian fellow really disqualified for?”

Are you catching the overriding theme here? Could it be that there seems to be a pervasive feeling that the DCI is just a tad irresponsive to its members?

I know; maybe I’m going overboard here. I know that things pretty much aren’t all that bad and are actually getting better – but the feeling that I still have is that the DCI is generally a little sluggish and perhaps a bit too secretive. Could it be that a touch of poor planning could be lumped in there as well?

Call me Issue Boy, Jr.


As Peter focused on the price of participating in formats, I feel a need to enjoin further in that discussion. It has some merit here I think in relation to my deeper point.

When I first wrote my article, the price of the game was a consideration that I tried to use to make my deeper point. In this, I attempted to try to not think like a guy sitting on a middle-aged man’s wallet. Peter looks like a middle-aged man. I could, as a more-or-less middle aged man with a middle-aged wallet myself, could, without too much trouble, finish collecting up a full set of dual lands. If they were then axed from Extended, it wouldn’t bother me all that much.

In this, I can easily agree with Peters reply. What I do feel may still be at odds are the points at which newer players enter the game and how they buy into the full game.

Generally, new players don’t scope out the game and decide that an old format is the place to start. We’ve all read the stories of how the from the most important Pro players to the most faithful casual players on how they got started.”Oh, a friend introduced me to the game and then I bought a few packs.” They almost always start with a few packs. Then, competitively they usually move to Standard Constructed and/or draft, then Block Constructed, then they probably think that they can build up some cards for Extended.

The crux of Peter’s point was that Standard is more expensive than Extended. It is often an argument that Standard is the most expensive format. I think this stems from the fact that the bulk of the cards are new (with a few reprints) and that the bulk of the competitive cards must be gotten new each season. The Standard pool is always based on the new, and the new must be bought new. Thus, when the format undergoes change, a new group of cards are needed and must be bought all over again. Type One players often make an”investment” argument that hinges on the investment in a static format over the changing one. In Type 1, once the investment is made in the old power cards, one is more or less set and doesn’t have to keep investing in keeping up with a changing format like Standard. This argument was approached as well by Peter in regards to Extended.

There are, perhaps, however some counterarguments.

Since I started up with this game again around two years ago I have generally bought about two boxes of each set, spending about $150. I may add about $50 for odd singles, so I spend about $600 on each block. From that, I generally can cover almost all of the top Standard decks. In two years, I have spent roughly the amount of money that would have bought me one top tier Type One deck. From my investment, I have created a whole gamut of competitive and fun Standard decks along with a similar amount of Block Constructed decks. I feel that this puts the reward for my investment above what I would get from simply buying the cards for one deck that will likely always be good – that is, the killer type one deck. This says nothing of the fact that where I am type one play is non-existent.

What this leads to is a matter of personal preference and/or practicality on how one wants to make their gaming investment. I have, for the most part, chosen a Standard investment. Peter argued from an Extended point of view.

There is, however, perhaps something we can get to concerning these ideas.

Extended was formed, at least how I understand it, to help card owners who had bought cards for standard play have those cards remain of playing value to the player.

I hope I can address this specifically.

Here are the Standard decks Peter listed:

Peter talked about Standard and Extended as if they were almost completely separate. They aren’t. Extended encompasses the Standard pool. What we find with this idea is that Standard decks were or are often the basis of successful Extended decks. He gave us specific examples.

The Tinker deck that Peter bought into has been played straight into Extended.

Further, Replenish was the basis of the feared ‘21’ or ‘Blackjack’ Extended combo deck – which basically got Replenish banned from that format. He outlined how much of the ‘Rock’ deck transferred to extended. Urza’s block was fast, eh? Of the more modern decks, modern Extended White Weenie decks owe at least some allegiance to Counter Rebels, often sporting Sergeants and Steadfast Guard along with the current Meddling Mage. I don’t know that MachineHead makes any transfer… But then that is a deck that relied on the banned Dark Ritual.

What I’m saying is that Peter’s Standard investment is – or was, in a way – supposed to be protected by Extended.

Now I will use Nether-Go to make a perhaps contradicting point.

Nether-Go, or Probe Go, would probably be a decent deck for Extended if it weren’t for one card – and that card is the generally known to be under-costed, overpowered, perhaps out of flavor for its color, Swords to Plowshares. This old-time powerhouse from Ice Age almost singularly makes Nether Spirit a bad extended card. The Swords under-costed removal mechanic is singularly devaluing a later card of some merit. This brings us to perhaps a point that an Ice Age rotation would make one, if not more, of the investments Peter has made in recent Standard environments that much more viable in Extended. This, in turn, would make things more competitive for the people who just joined up recently and started playing competitive PTQ Magic.

Let’s say something else that most people will agree with: The most current game has slowed down. Similar cards are often reappearing in newer sets, but they now cost more. This follows much of the history of the game. The earliest Magic, without bannings and restrictions, was frighteningly fast. Type One is still the”fastest” environment, followed by Extended, and then Standard. From this, I hope we can see that the most current Standard decks are almost doomed to fall into a void in terms of entering Extended – and if the decks fall in to such a vacuum, then it follows that most of the cards will, too. In terms of”value,” we have to ask if this is right and fair.

So that’s what I’m asking.

I understand that this looks contradictory. Trust me, I have struggled to put this forth in an understandable and compelling way. On one side, I argue towards the continuing value of Standard cards that can make the jump into Extended – and then turn right around and talk about the same card’s loss of value in relation to more powerful older cards. Does this contradiction perhaps finally illustrate the point that not knowing the future of Extended leaves us all a little nervous? This uncertain nature is brought forth because the DCI is leaving too many questions about the future of the game unanswered.

There is a lot of good concerning Magic, and particularly Extended right now. At the moment, it appears to be the games most vibrant format; it may be that I am thinking just too far ahead. Peter felt strongly enough to reply with what was a hope that things”don’t change” in relation to Extended. In the end, I feel for that side – those who would like to keep Extended as it is, or at least like keep it sailing merrily along. I especially feel for places like Star City that make their way on secondary card sales. I just believe that the current Extended, among other things, can’t last – and I want a heads-up from the DCI on the future.

I don’t want any format dropped. I only want organized magic to be, or at least appear more inclusive. I want the Vintage tag to be clearly defined with the reasons that this distinction is outlined. This would perhaps clear up why Vintage seems set apart from the qualifiers and why Vintage cards excluded from a current qualifying format, while being basically ignored as a format in and of itself.

We know that these ideas have some definition in relation to the value and accessibility of aging cards, but currently we have to grasp at how to put these ideas together for ourselves. In this Peter Jahn focused on the cost of obtaining cards for a certain environment. What I want is for you to think about the cost of participating in an environment where the future is – I think needlessly – ill-defined.

I certainly think we can be more informed of where our governing body at least thinks this game and its organized play is going. I hope on this you agree with me.