When I first started playing Magic, my dad always used to ask me the same question, “why doesn’t everyone just play with the best cards?” I think this is a pretty common impression that non-Magic players have about the game, that some cards must be clearly better than others. It takes a long time to understand the concept that there are tens of thousands of unique cards, that these cards work differently depending on what other cards you’re brewing them with, that these cards can only be used in the context of a very strict resource system and that these cards all have their own strengths and weaknesses when facing different strategies.
Someone who is a bit more familiar with Magic than my dad could however ask the question, “if certain cards work better together than with other cards, why doesn’t everyone just play the best decks?” There are a few obvious answers to this question and a few more subtle answers.
The textbook answer to this question would be that Magic formats are in a perpetual state of evolution. Competitive environments are usually defined by a handful of top decks that consist of a metagame, and new decks or strategies become viable in environments cultivated by these metagames and push existing top decks out of prominence. Understanding this ebb and flow, and being able to accurately predict it, is a great way to stay on top of a format and find some tournament success.