(Three SHADOWY FIGURES gather in a TWILIGHT VOID.
Three personifications of MAGIC: THE GATHERING COLLECTIBLE TRADING CARD LIVING GAME.
MODERN, who strides towards the other two with an arrogant swagger and carefree vigor...
...STANDARD, a hunched older form that stomps forward wearily, still managing to emanate a sense of pride...
...and an especially mysterious CLOAKED FIGURE that lurks in the periphery, inconspicuous and barely noticed by the other two.
Standard ushers Modern towards a KITCHEN TABLE with two chairs, the only objects in the twilight void. Please remember: this is a twilight void.)
Standard: Greetings, Modern, and welcome to the Void. This is a place of great power that is reserved for the manifestations of non-physical concepts to hash out their differences. This kitchen table is the designated dueling grounds for Human planeswalkers to engage in combat. We have many things to discuss.
Modern: Wow, the old grand ritualistic significance of sitting across from each other in a shapeless void. The classic way to start off a mind battle. You might as well add a chess match into the mix before we turn gigantic and start punching each other. Your metaphorical arena is as stale as a Temur Energy mirror match.
Standard: If it isn't broken, don't fix it… I suppose you wouldn't know much about that.
Modern: You want to go there already after the year(s) you've had?
Standard: Can't we just sit down and be civil for a moment? You don't have to kill me on Turn 3.
(Modern sits down at the table and Standard sits at the other chair.)
Modern: Well? This really must be an extremely dour and serious conversation that we're about to have. I haven't seen you for a while, Standy, what's fresh? Certainly not your metagame.
Standard: Well, that's part of what I wanted to talk to you about today… Contrary to what you think, I'm not here for conflict… I actually… respect you… sometimes… and need your advice. You're hip and you're popular. We've always had a strained but reasonable relationship. Almost a symbiotic one, you could say. I feed you a few new cards every set, we help to cater to a wide variety of players, I provide players with a gateway to you, Modern… so maybe you could return the favor and help me out with a problem I've been having? Our successes and survival are intertwined.
(Modern pauses, considering for a moment.)
Modern: Sure thing. What's the problemo, Stan?
Standard: It's "Standard." Not Stan, not Standy, not Tandy, and definitely not Stand-Turd. Just Standard. As you know I've had some… issues... the last few years. It all started when Emrakul, the Promised End; Smuggler's Copter; Reflector Mage; and I had to… part ways…
Modern: You mean you... banned them!
(Standard recoils and gasps.)
Standard: Don't use the B-Word!
Modern: C'mon, don't be such a little B...aby. It's not a big deal, Old Man Stan. I do it all the time. Banning cards is fun. It feels good.
(Modern leans forward and peers at Standard. It points an accusing finger.)
Modern: ... and you liked it! I can see it in your eyes!
(Standard looks down uneasily and fidgets uncomfortably.)
Modern: You got a taste for blood and couldn't control yourself! I've always said you lacked good Control.
Standard: I managed to shake things up for a little while, and things got better, but have not gotten good enough. I'm kind of stuck with a stale metagame right now.
Modern: Doesn't sound like an issue to me. Just release a new set. Hurry up and drop Rivals of Ixalan already and the whole format shakes up again… maybe. Not to mention, I bet it has some juicy Humans and Merfolk for me. Also we could, both really go for a one-mana 0/1 explorer. That would be cool!
Standard: It's not always just about you! I'll still have Energy decks to deal with and Ramunap Ruins! And Hazoret the Fervent! Have you read that card? You're always satisfied with so little. If so much as two cards are playable in you from the new set, you're ecstatic. But I need so much more just to get by. If the new set is released and the existing entrenched archetypes remain largely unchanged, the players are really disappointed. It's an impossible task!
Modern: Well, what can you expect? There needs to be variations in power level and sometimes things get out of hand. You can't just make every new set more and more powerful. That means sometimes there are weaker sets that don't make much of an impact. Sometimes you go too far and make cards too good. Look at what happens when you try to push the power level. How many cards are banned in you again?
Standard: Currently just three. But a whopping grand total of five in just this past year alone! That's what's extra troubling, I can't let it happen again… no matter how… satisfying… it would be. Erm, you've had a lot of bans. How do you handle it?
Modern: Holy cow, you really are ban-hungry! I'm impressed. Maybe your nickname should be "Killer" Standwich. But you gotta pump the breaks a little, gramps, or you'll break a hip. Don't forget that this is a very unusual occurrence. It gets better. Isn't that what they tell people? You've been patient in the past; the last Standard bannings were Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Stoneforge Mystic way back in 2011. I was born that year! Just try being me with 35 banned cards in such a short time. Energy was a mistake, but you gotta tough it out and move on, because banning cards isn't your style. It's mine. I have so many banned cards that I can't remember them all! Remember Hypergenesis!? Now that was a real card!
Standard: Percentage-wise that's significantly less than…
Modern: Percentage, schmercentage, blurstrentchage. Do you know the hoops I have to jump through just to keep myself somewhat presentable to the average player? I'm trying my best to be a Turn 4 format over here and people are killing on Turn 3 left and right. It's nuts!
Standard: If I may suggest a more restrictive stance on fast mana?
Modern: Booooring. Listen, between you and me, I secretly love the quick combo kills and they're gonna stay if I have any say about it. Besides, I'm doing great! In fact, I'm going to take things one step further and unilaterally declare that Unstable is now legal in me. You heard me, everybody! That's completely canon! Unstable is now Modern-legal! And Force of Will!
Standard: That's outrageous. You don't have that kind of power! I think… we are just concepts here, after all… and you're just a power-mad, combo-focused maniac. The mere implications of Spike, Tournament Grinder alone… You'd doom us all!
Modern: Psych! I only meant Steamflogger Boss is legal. Haha, you sure are one gullible old manifestation. I still don't even know what a Contraption is.
Standard: Impertinent youth. I remember when you were just fancy Extended! Your recklessness will doom the whole Magic ecosystem. I am still Magic's premier format and you will treat me with respect!
Modern: Yeah, let's see how long that lasts… enjoy watching me and Draft enjoy ourselves at the next Pro Tour!
Standard: You keep your dirty rounds away from Draft! A Modern Pro Tour is surely a one-time thing… besides, how come the manifestation of a format with very old cards, such as yourself, is the young trendy one? I'm nothing but new cards, yet I'm being presented as a doddering old fool! Seems hardly fair or accurate, if you ask me.
Modern: Don't try to change the subject, old man. We weren't summoned to this place to get meta about our very existence. This isn't one of stories where we get self-reflective and question ourselves and then attempt to exercise our own personal agency to lash out at our handsome creator and escape.
Standard: Fine. Then let's let this be what it was meant to be from the start! Let's finish this grudge once and for all! With a deadly mental mind battle fight to the death!
(Standard summons a chessboard from thin air and they both begin furiously playing.)
Modern: Wait, why are we playing chess? I mean, come on. Look at us.
Standard: Hah, you're right, how silly of me! ...Stratego?
Modern: Heck yeah…wait, wait, wait. I feel like this is all the distraction. The real problem is still you. Just look at the most recent StarCityGames.com® Invitational Top 8! Six Energy decks and two Mono-Red decks! That's troublesome, to say the least. I kind of want to puke.
Standard: Well, err, perhaps… but don't forget the format was half Modern… so technically you're part of the problem too...
Modern: I'm part of the problem? The Modern side of the Top 8 was incredibly diverse, with only two duplicate copies of Grixis Death's Shadow and every other list being unique. Not to mention Gerard Fabiano's Temur Moon list, which was pretty much a completely brand-new deck. I couldn't ask for more. I'm a wide-open format and I'm great, Standerp.
You solidify and the best decks are self-evident within weeks. You have such a small pool of cards it's bound to happen and it will continue to happen. Information flows freely, and as time goes on, netdecking and information sharing just becomes more and more prominent and necessary to succeed.
In fact, you should be thankful that the completely dominant archetype, Temur Energy, is so fundamentally fair. It's inherently Jundy and midrange, not combinational and broken, and at least is a contrast to my awesomeness. At least you've got that going for you. Things could be much worse off if it weren't for the bannings keeping things in check. People will complain regardless, but I assure you, things could be much, much worse for you.
Standard: But I want more! It's not fair that people have to play Temur Energy because it gives them a 52.3% edge against the rest of the field! I want a wide-open format. I want players to be able to experiment and innovate. Why won't they brew and innovate with me? They do for you, even when it makes no more sense to! You can't tell me it's correct for people to not be playing Grixis Death's Shadow when it clearly has a 51.6% edge against the rest of Modern! I want imagination to flourish and bold technology to be rewarded. I want…
(Modern smiles wryly.)
Modern: You want… Modern? Oh, Sandy, I never knew you thought about me that way!
Standard: I think you can step down from your high Crested Sunmare. Haven't you heard of the Modern lottery in which your luck in pairings dictates the entire match? Or when your entire deck is invalidated by one sideboard card? At least a Temur Energy mirror match gives a chance for the more skilled player to get an edge! What's the point of being a Modern expert if you're just going to keep running into unwinnable matchups?
Modern: Pfft, who cares!? Besides if you're so afraid of getting bad matchups, just choose a deck with very few terrible ones. Reduce variance and all that, as the kids say nowadays. With all the deck choices and all the forms of interaction you have access to in me, you can make sure to mitigate the worst of the risk with careful planning. That's the benefit of having so many decks and cards to choose from. Just a little bit of elbow-grease and brain-grease and you'll be rewarded handsomely with a great tournament finish.
Standard: It's not fair. You're delusional, yet you keep growing and growing and it's never going to stop. Meanwhile, I'm just going to get solved over and over again. Thanks, Internet.
(Standard goes limp in defeat. Modern frowns.)
Modern: Listen, Standard… sometimes… occasionally... I want what you have. The weeks after a new set releases, you're the king. No denying it. If only there were some way to split the difference and to have the best of both worlds. Sadly, it just doesn't seem possible. It's good we both exist. We are both necessary to satisfy everyone.
(The Cloaked Figure leaps forward from where it was standing nearby, completely ignored.)
Cloaked Figure: If I may be so bold as to interject...
Modern and Standard: Who are you?!
(The Cloaked Figure removes its hood to reveal its face...)
Frontier: Never fear! It is I, Frontier!
Frontier: Forgot I was here, didn't you? Nobody remembers me and I'm sick of it! Look, I'm from Magic 2015 onward and you can brew anything your heart desires. The new card frame even clearly differentiates me so don't forget. It's like I'm meant to be!
(Modern and Standard stare dumbly in confusion.)
Frontier: Really? Nothing? I'm only the exact savior everyone's been looking for and I've been right here under their noses this entire time! I'm the best of both of you!
Modern: So… you're saying… you're a Magic format?
Frontier: Oh, come on! Seriously!?