frank karsten magic: the gathering MTG metadata data wizards of the coast gp data win rate stopped prevented forced

Many players rely on tournament data to help prepare their Magic: The Gathering (MTG) decks. From choosing sideboard tech to switching decks entirely, having lists of successful decks and knowing how well they did is a huge resource. Pros and casuals alike use this information. I myself like to use it to help improve my Modern and Standard decks. Players especially have been scrutinizing the data from the latest Pioneer tournaments. The format is extremely volatile at the moment, and so players need to quickly adapt to keep up. This data helps to keep the metagame from becoming too one-sided, but now that very data we rely on could be going away. Seemingly Wizards of the Coast is now putting the kibosh on data sharing, especially among prominent personalities like Frank Karsten.

No more analysis allowed

Frank Karsten is a former professional player and an MTG hall of famer. He currently works for ChannelFireball, using his doctorate in mathematics to break down the metagame and its matchups. However, Karsten has revealed he is no longer allowed to analyze the tournament results data.

He is now limited to only posting lists that are 11-4 and better. No comparisons of win rates, no list of the top played cards, nothing but just top deck lists. These instructions do not come from ChannelFireball, but rather the “data owners” (presumably Wizards of the Coast):

It seems Karsten wasn’t the only one asked to stop publishing breakdowns. According to EpicStream, MTGGoldfish was also asked to stop doing format breakdowns. Site content manager Saffron Olive had this to say in response:

Why limit the data?

There a couple of theories out there on why Wizards of the Coast has suddenly decided to limit data. The most likely one is they are attempting to slow down or prevent format solving, i.e., determining the best possible decks for the current meta. No new decks arise, and the decks played don’t really change much either.

The arrival of MTG Arena has only hastened format solving, as players can get many games in a short period at any time of day. By limiting the data, they presumably hope that players will try to brew more if they can’t figure out the best deck from raw statistics. However, data is what allows players to adapt to the best deck and force change. Knowing what deck is the counter pick to, say, Dimir Inverter in Pioneer can help to shift the metagame away from that one deck.

Another prevailing theory is that WotC hopes having access to fewer decklists will encourage fans of the game to watch their promoted streamers and events. With lack of insight into the metagame, they’ll have to sink insight from people who play a lot online, aka Twitch streamers. Watching the GP events themselves (when they’re actually covered and get views) can also provide some insight into what’s hot and what’s not.

It will be interesting to see how this decision will impact the future of deck-building. What do you think of this decision? Should Frank Karsten still be allowed to analyze results, or does this just promote more “netdecking”? Let us know in the comments!

Tyler Pieper
I'm a veterinary student based out of Illinois. I enjoy (and sometimes stream) Shadowverse and MTG in my spare time. Follow me on twitch at https://www.twitch.tv/elpieps

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