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Essential Magic Articles

The Major Formats of Magic

by Solpugid

I've seen a lot of posts on the eM forums asking about the different Magic formats. Some of these questions involve the benefits of one format over another, whereas a few people are completely clueless as to what T1 or Extended mean. This article is designed to clear up some of that confusion, as well as to examine some of the pros and cons of each format. Please understand that I will mostly be talking about these formats in terms of their relevance in tournaments settings, because that is where they are most likely to matter.

Constructed formats

Constructed formats are formats of play in which you build your own deck from pre-owned cards prior to entering a competition. There are a total of five common constructed formats: Block, Standard, Extended, Legacy, and Vintage. Each of these is covered in more detail below. All constructed formats use decks with a minimum of 60 cards.


This format contains the smallest card pool (number of legal cards) of any constructed format. The only Magic sets legal are those released for the current block. Ravnica block constructed, for example, would allow cards from Ravnica, Guildpact, and Dissension, but not from any other sets (such as 9th edition).

The benefits of playing Block include the constantly changing "decks-to-beat" and card pools, due to the rotation of the block each year. This rotation keeps the format fresh, and each new set released changes the format in its entirety. The downside, as you may guess, is that a deck built for this format will be legal in tournaments for a maximum of 1 year. Casual groups can of course continue using block decks, but be very cautious of when your cards are legal for more serious events.


This is perhaps the most popular of the constructed formats. The legal card pool includes the latest two blocks (including the current one) and the most recent core set (for right now, that would be 9th edition). Currently Coldsnap is also legal in Standard, as a sort of "bonus set", but this is a very rare occurrence.

The pluses to playing Standard are numerous. The format is very dynamic (constantly changing), so decks and strategies evolve quickly. New sets have large impacts, but not so much as to immediately make former decks obsolete (as is sometimes the case in Block). The negative side is that decks built for Standard are not used for long. Buying cards specifically for Standard tournaments will ultimately lead to many unusable cards, as often decks that are good in Standard become less attractive when they make the move to Extended.


Extended, short for Extended Standard (also known as type 1.X) is built from the most recent six or so blocks, as well as the last two or three core sets. The current extended includes Invasion block through Time Spiral block, and the 7th, 8th, and 9th editions of the core set.

This increased card pool makes for comparatively more powerful decks, simply because there are more cards to choose from when building. Cards legal in Extended remain so for about three years, which increases their use (more bang for your buck, so to speak). The downside is the relatively sluggish development of the format. Overpower decks usually remain so for quite a while, although the card pool is still small enough that new sets can give underwhelming decks the resources to become competitive.

Last edited 1/8/2007 5:06:13 PM Page 1 of 2  Prev  Next  Go to page:

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