Today I'm going to talk about everything I'd change about Magic if it were all up to me. The title is intended to highlight the level of fantasy involved in this exercise as well as a self-aware level of childishness and naivete about some of these changes; while I'll acknowledge practical concerns, there may be a lot of points that aren't realistic or that too many others wouldn't like. While some ideas might be a bit pie-in-the-sky, I intend for this to offer serious ideas that I think are worthy of real consideration as well. Let's start with the easiest changes to implement:
Changes to the Banned and Restricted Lists
Paradoxical Outcome is a card I expect WotC will restrict fairly soon. It's basically a better version of cards like Windfall that are already on the restricted list in this format, and there's no real reason for it to remain legal as far as I can tell.
I'd want to carefully monitor all the cards being unrestricted here, but I think it's unreasonable to restrict four different artifacts that are fine in Legacy just because Mishra's Workshop, a card more powerful than the vast majority of the restricted list, has immunity because it's worth a lot of money while leaving Shops as the best deck. I think Vintage would still see Mishra's Workshop + artifacts as a defining strategy even if Mishra's Workshop were restricted. Bazaar of Baghdad is another card that simply isn't reasonable on power level and weirdly has immunity.
I think both lands considerably hurt the format, and I'd hope that restricting both of them would open the format up to substantial reimagination and rejuvenation, and I'd try to promote its rebirth on Magic Online.
I'd remove the legality extended to supplemental products includingPortal, Portal: Three Kingdoms, Conspiracy, Planechase, all the Commander products, and whatever else wasn't legal in Standard when it was first released. I feel like the development process on these cards is too lax and most of the cards that show up in Legacy just don't feel like real Magic cards. I want Legacy to be a celebration of Magic's history, and these cards feel wrong to me. This is the kind of change I know simply won't happen.
I'd remove 8th Edition and 9th Edition from the list of legal sets. They're easy to distinguish because they're the only white-bordered sets that are currently legal, and cards like Choke simply don't match the feel of Modern design present in the rest of Modern.
As I'll get to later, I think shuffling your library once a game of Magic has started is bad for the game in all cases. It basically adds "loading screens" to the game play experience that simply decreases the fun of the game, and it also serves to reduce the most fun kind of variance: playing with different spells each game. That said, I don't think it's reasonable to remove all search from Modern, but I think the fetchlands collectively are the biggest offenders and offer the least benefit in the aggregate.
As to the unbannings, this is a different position than I've taken previously, but I think we should try to err toward allowing any card that encourages a longer game for a while and only remove them again once they prove problematic. Last weekend's No Banned List Modern Open certainly informed this, but I think it's possible that I'm being too conservative about Stoneforge Mystic just because it's such a clear mistake that it was ever printed.
Unban Aetherworks Marvel.
Ban Goblin Chainwhirler.
Like Bloodbraid Elf, Aetherworks Marvel was just a misfire. Energy was a poorly balanced mechanic, but time has shown that it was the enablers rather than the payoffs that were the problem. With Eldrazi out of the format and the banning of Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner, Aetherworks Marvel has no need to remain banned.
Goblin Chainwhirler may or may not be the most offensive card that currently leads to the dominance of Mono-Red and R/B strategies in Standard, but regardless of its precise power level, the card is good enough that it's reasonable to expect it to see ubiquitous play throughout its time in Standard, and it provides so much pressure against playing one-toughness creatures that it just creates too large of a constraint on the format. I don't see a path forward for Standard that doesn't involve eventually banning Goblin Chainwhirler.
New Design Direction: Searching and Token Basic Lands
From this point forward, I'd stop printing any cards that search a library for any reason. I'd print cards that create basic land tokens (I'd expect people to just use unsleeved basic lands to represent these tokens most of the time, but specific land tokens could also be included in boosters), and Rampant Growth variants moving forward would just create land tokens. Beyond that, I'd lean on looking at the top X cards of a library where I want that kind of effect. I think Magic might already be moving in this direction, which is great, but I'd make it a hard rule immediately.
As mentioned above, I think the downtime in the middle of a game while waiting for a player to search and then shuffle their library is just wasted time, and games are more fun the less time needs to be wasted in the middle. This would also be a huge boon for coverage as well as minimizing the opportunity for shuffle cheats.
New Organized Play Philosophy
Never remove players from eligibility for an event based on success. I understand why players aren't allowed to play in qualifiers for events they're already qualified for, but I think a history of accepting the current solution has led to a blind spot about how horrible it is for the game.
Game stores rely on Alpha Customers, the kind of customer who will bring a group of friends to a store and help organize and grow a local community. In Magic, these are usually the most dedicated players and the most likely to succeed in local tournaments. The policy that exists currently removes those players from their local scenes, which cripples the growth of those communities. The fact that it's considered weird for a pro player to show up at FNM or a Prerelease, and they'd have no reason to show up at a PPTQ as they wouldn't be allowed to attend, means that pros have little to no connection to their local communities. This means they're not there to teach newer players, to normalize their extremely high levels of investment, and they're not at local tournaments just to act as a draw for aspiring players to have a chance to pick their brains.
I speak from a lot of personal experience here. The fact that I don't play in local tournaments means that most of the players I know locally are people I met years ago or people they introduced me to who they met at local tournaments. When I organize events at my house rather than the local store because I want to play with people I know, I pull the most invested players out of local communities and into private communities, which creates a further barrier to aspiring players to get an in to the top level of their local communities since those often happen in private.
We must find another approach. Pros should be strongly encouraged to show up and participate in local events of all types, but this isn't just about pros. A kid might plan their schedule for months around attending PPTQs with a group of their friends, then win the first one and find themselves unable to hang out with their friends or build additional tournament experience for the rest of the season. A temporary ban shouldn't be a reward for winning a tournament. The fact that it is creates a culture where the aspiration is not to play in tournaments, which makes the tournaments feel undesirable, on top of all the other problems.
But if we just let everyone play, how do we avoid rampant collusion and pros just conceding to their friends in events they don't care about to help their friends qualify?
This is a serious concern. Maybe the solution is to move away from winner-take-all qualification models. Maybe we just need to award points for finishes of various types and offer qualifications based on accumulation of points. If done properly, this decreases the importance of any single match to remove the impact of a concession. We could further reduce the problem by finding a way to use these points in some way that benefits players who are already qualified, so that they want them as well, like allowing them to apply (at a reduced rate?) to future qualifications.
This change would require reworking the Organized Play structure to some extent, but I think the philosophical change is absolutely critical. Note, for example, that while the SCG Tour® does involve qualifications for Invitational tournaments, it does not include a mechanic that bars qualified players from playing any other tournaments.
Changes to Pro Club
I'm not exactly sure what the solution is, but I don't think the current system is where things will or should end up. Moving to quarters instead of years as the period for earning pro points does some really good things, like making each Pro Tour as important as the others and minimizing concessions, but the current system is extremely confusing and difficult to plan for. I've basically had no idea what my pro status was like moving forward this season, and this direction completely invalidates the philosophy behind the event cap. Matt Severa is a working professional who plays professional Magic as a hobby and recently qualified for Worlds as the Constructed Master. With a wife and a full-time job, he has to be careful about which events he attends, and while he's on track for Platinum and it's almost impossible for a Grand Prix finish this quarter to help him attain that goal, he still feels like he shouldn't skip a Standard Grand Prix because he might need the points later down the line when this quarter is the oldest one that applies if he doesn't do as well in Q1 and Q2 next year as he did this year.
I personally wasn't an advocate for the GP cap, but many players were, enough that it was implemented and this change seems to accidentally rather than intentionally revert that decision, while really making it worse for players than it ever had been because it's so much harder to predict the future and know where you're at, especially since the change is explicitly intended to allow WotC to make changes to the program faster so players have even less confidence about what they're investing in. This doesn't feel sustainable.
Ultimately, I think we have a good amount of evidence that years are simply too short for the level of variance that exists in Magic to determine levels based on annual success; the sample sizes are too low and we've seen too many of the absolute best players fall from Platinum to Silver after an aberrantly bad year.
Maybe what I really want to see is a system that exists on top of the current system for WotC to reach out to players with additional contracts, asking pros to do more to promote the game and paying them for that work. Leave a system like the pro levels that exist in case a player wants to just play the game and earn rewards for it, but for those of us who are trying to make a stable income in a predictable fashion, offer some kind of job security in exchange for commitment to attend events and involvement in promotional services like seminars, signings, promoted tweets, whatever might benefit the game.
Bring Back Invitational Cards
I don't really care about the invitational itself, but I think "your likeness on a card" is a fantastic prize to exist in Magic somewhere. I'd probably attach that prize to Player of the Year, which is currently just a title, but I'd be fine with it as a prize for the World Champion instead. The important part is that I think it should still be possible to earn.
I don't think it's important that players get to design the card, though it would be cool if they could offer some comment on what kind of card they'd like it to be, and I understand that it can be awkward to fit into some worldbuilding, but I think there are enough supplemental products and stuff that even if it can't be worked into a Standard release, it could easily be available somewhere once per year. History is such a serious motivator for a game that competitors are so passionate about where prizes really aren't that huge, and nothing offers tangible history like being made into a card.
Regarding digital Magic offerings, obviously, things need work here. Personally, Arena hasn't appealed to me and I'm not sure what the best path forward is at this point, so while I'm certainly not intending to imply that everything is fine by omitting it from this list, I'm honestly at a complete loss as to what the best way forward is at this point. Delegation is important in any leadership, and if I were in charge of Magic, this is a place where I'd have to reach out and trust other people.
Similarly, this certainly isn't an exhaustive list of changes I'd make if I had the power, just things that immediately come to mind. While there are some changes that may be popular that I wouldn't make, like removing the Reserved List, there are certainly a lot of ideas that I'd absolutely support and simply didn't think to include.