Perhaps one of the greatest things about Magic: the Gathering is that it can be played in so many different ways.
Players who like fast games, players who like slow games, players who are and are not competitive, and collectors each have formats to enjoy playing in. One such format is Modern.
If you want to play in Modern, however, there are only particular sets you can use cards from. So which MTG sets are legal in Modern?
We’ll give you the full list and more. Here’s what you’ll discover in this guide:
- A basic description of Modern and its rules
- Which MTG sets are legal in Modern
- Which cards are banned
- Our recommendation on whether or not you should play this format
What is Modern?
Modern is a style of Magic in which players use decks they created before the match.
The decks cannot be made from any cards used before Eighth Edition. They also cannot contain any cards from the Modern ban list, which is maintained here.
We will also discuss banned cards in Modern further in greater detail.
Other than limiting the sets you can use and banning some cards, there aren’t a whole lot of rules about how to create your deck. It just needs to have at least 60 cards, and you need to be able to shuffle it by yourself.
You can make decks greater than 60 cards, but that isn’t necessarily recommended.
For one thing, your deck becomes harder to shuffle the larger it is. And for another, the more cards you have, the less likely you are to draw a card you need.
You may also use a sideboard in Modern. A sideboard consists of fifteen cards that aren’t actively used in the deck, but could potentially be switched into the deck between matches.
Last, you cannot have any more than four of one card in a Modern deck. Basic lands are the exception to this rule.
MTG Sets that are Legal in Modern
Because Eighth Edition was a long time ago, and Modern includes every single core set and expansion since then, there are a lot of sets legal in the format.
We’ve included a list of the legal sets below, as well as links to where you can find them. For the most part, we've included links to booster boxes, but some of them, due to rarity of the set, are booster packs instead.
That being said, here is a list of the MTG Sets that are legal in Modern as of January 2020:
- Mirrodin – Since the plane this set was named after is the metal plane, Mirrodin concentrates on artifacts. It was also the very first set to feature equipment, which is a type of artifact used commonly today.
- Darksteel – This set picks up the story from Mirrodin, and as such, Darksteel also has a strong artifact theme. In particular, indestructible darksteel artifacts appear frequently in this set.
- Fifth Dawn – As part of the Mirrodin block, Fifth Dawn continues to carry the same mechanical elements. You’ll discover a lot of artifacts in this set, as well as a prismatic five-color theme that provides a lot of multi-color support.
- Champions of Kamigawa – Based on feudal Japan, Champions of Kamigawa has a lot of spirits and legendary creatures. In fact, every rare creature in addition to a few of its uncommon creatures is legendary, making it a good pick for growing your collection of potential Commanders.
- Betrayers of Kamigawa – Similar to the previous Kamigawa set, Betrayers of Kamigawa is based around Feudal Japan again. However, this set focuses primarily on ninjas, with the new ninjutsu mechanic that allowed players to put ninja creatures from their hand onto the battlefield tapped and attacking.
- Eighth Edition – You’ll find a ton of cards in the Eighth Edition set. That’s because it had a total of 357 possible cards, with prints that were from every expansion set all the way back to the first set, Alpha.
- Saviors of Kamigawa – Feudal Japanese themes continue to dominate in Saviors of Kamigawa. It also was the very first set to feature the Kirin creature type, and brought a lot of useful cards for sideboards into the game.
- – With Ninth Edition, polls were held to determine which cards would be included as reprints. Because of that, this is a set full of popular strong cards from previous sets.
- Ravnica: City of Guilds – Guilds are a popular mechanic today, thanks to Ravnica: City of Guilds. It was the earliest set to focus on two-color guilds, and featured four of the ten guilds used today.
- GuildPact – Furthering the well-received guild theme, Guildpact added three new guilds to the game. These included Orzhov, Izzet, and Gruul.
- Dissension – The final three guilds were introduced in Dissension: Azorius, Rakdos, and Simic. It also brought back the split mechanic, in which a card is split into two separate spells with opposing themes.
- – Predictably, Ice was the theme of Coldsnap. Because of this, you’ll find there are plenty of snow-covered lands and a snow mechanic used throughout this one.
- Time Spiral – The past was the theme in Time Spiral. Therefore, many of the cards referenced previous fan favorites and the symbol for the set was an hourglass.
- Planar Chaos – In Planar Chaos, you’ll see elements referencing alternate realities. This is portrayed in its 45 “timeshifted” cards, which exhibit normal cards being reprinted, but with a different feature, such as a change to color, as if they came from another dimension.
- Future Sight – The last in the time-focused Time Spiral block, Future Sight is all about what’s coming. Because of its theme, Future Sight made references to card types that didn’t even exist yet at the time of its release, hinting at what was to come in the game.
- Tenth Edition – For the first time since before fourth edition, black-bordered cards returned to a core set in Tenth Edition. Also, it was the first core set to have legendary creatures, which means it’s a solid choice for growing your Commander card pool.
- Lorwyn – Planeswalker cards were born in the legendary Lorwyn set. Since its introduction of this brand-new card type, planeswalker cards have been a staple of the game.
- Morningtide – As with Lorwyn, Morningtide is steeped in Celtic lore and mythology. Its theme is the classes of the races of Lorwyn, which includes rogues, soldiers, shamans, warriors, and wizards.
- Shadowmoor – Because Shadowmoor takes place in the plane of the same name, which is a reflection of Lorwyn, many of the mechanics here are inverted Lorwyn mechanics. For example, you’ll find -1/-1 counters abundantly here, as opposed to +1/+1 counters used frequently in Lorwyn.
- Eventide – Eventide continued the Celtic feel of the immediately previous sets, oftentimes mirroring Shadowmoor with its -1/-1 counters. It also introduced Noggle, a new creature type at the time.
- Shards of Alara – This was a set of firsts. For one thing, it introduced the mythic rarity level, and for another, it brought out the earliest multi-colored planeswalkers.
- Conflux – Similar to Shards of Alara, Conflux resumed the multi-color and mythic-level themes. It furthered the creation of multi-color cards by adding five-color cards to the game.
- Alara Reborn – History was made in Magic: the Gathering with the release of Alara Reborn. It was the first MTG set to contain only multi-colored cards.
- Core Set 2010 – A lot changed with the advent of M10, or the Core Set for 2010. It strived to bring story-laden flavor back to core sets, and as such, included many cards designed with feel foremost and mechanics second.
- Zendikar – If you had to describe Zendikar, one good way would be to call it the land set. With mechanics like landfall, full-art lands, and fetch lands, this one was all about how players worked with their land cards.
- Worldwake – One of the things you’ll notice right away as you look at Worldwake is that its booster boxes and packs are among the most expensive in the game. This was a hugely popular set, and it birthed arguably the strongest planeswalker in the game: Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
- Rise of the Eldrazi – In Rise of the Eldrazi, the story details the release of the horrendous Eldrazi from their prison on the plane of Zendikar. Due to the story, you can fully expect to find lots of colorless and powerful Eldrazi cards in this set.
- Core Set 2011 – Rather than using a lot of reprints, approximately half the cards in M11 were brand new. Many of the five original planeswalkers are also portrayed on many of the cards, even if the cards themselves were not of the planeswalker type.
- Scars of Mirrodin – Predictably, Scars of Mirrodin returns to the mechanical plane of Mirrodin, where players witness the war between the native Mirrans and invading Phyrexians. Thanks to its setting, this set has a lot of strong artifacts to draw from.
- Mirrodin Besieged – Because of the in-story war underscoring the set, Mirrodin Besieged prominently features the two sides: Mirrans or Phyrexians. It uses a persistent combination of artifacts and Phyrexians accordingly.
- New Phyrexia – Wizards of the Coast did something especially interesting with New Phyrexia, and actually let players vote for what the outcome of the war between Phyrexians and Mirrans would be. Players voted for the Phyrexians to win, and the set was named for that victory, and thusly includes a larger number of Phyrexian cards than Mirran ones.
- Core Set 2012 – M12, the Core Set for 2012, brought back planeswalkers and added the hexproof trait. Hexproof creatures or permanents are protected from being targeted by your opponents’ spells, making it superior to shroud.
- Innistrad – Mention Innistrad, and many Magic players will go misty-eyed with nostalgia. This set dove into the horror plane of Innistrad, and contained a lot of vampires, werewolves, and zombies.
- Dark Ascension – Innistrad was a massive hit, and Dark Ascension revives its gothic feel. It created tribal lords for each of the main tribes in the block: ghosts, humans, vampires, werewolves, and zombies.
- Avacyn Restored – The presence of angels and humans in Avacyn Restored is magnified, somewhat reducing the overall gothic feel of the Innistrad block. It also added the ability Miracle, which makes it possible to cast a spell for a reduced cost.
- Core Set 2013 – For the first time since Tenth Edition, legendary creatures come back to a core set in M13. There are also a handful of planeswalker cards in this set, so it’s great for those seeking to collect them.
- Return to Ravnica – Previously, the guilds in Ravnica had been a huge success, and Return to Ravnica likewise stirred excitement in fans. It includes five of the guilds of Ravnica: Azorius, Rakdos, Selesnya, Izzet, and Golgari.
- Gatecrash – As a complement to Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash consisted of the five remaining guilds. It has Boros, Dimir, Gruul, Orzhov, and Simic, which leads to it being perfect for growing your pool of multi-color cards.
- Dragon's Maze – As a small block that used all ten of the Ravnica guilds, Dragon’s Maze had to be balanced by being a slightly lower-power deck. However, it does feature all the guilds and the possibility of pulling expensive shock lands.
- Core Set 2014 – With the motto of “Ignite Your Spark,” M14 largely frames Chandra as the main influence. If you’re looking for sets about this popular planeswalker, you can’t afford to miss this one.
- Theros – In Theros, an intriguing Greek aura was used to inspire the set as a whole. As a result, you can find gods, heroes, monsters, and the titanic struggle between them depicted throughout these cards.
- Born of the Gods – Within Born of the Gods, the story of Xenagos, a planeswalker who intends to ascend to godhood, is portrayed. The same theme of gods, heroes, and monsters is carried on here.
- Journey Into Nyx – Devotion was a big mechanic in Journey Into Nyx, which allowed enchantment-creature god cards to manifest when you had enough permanents of a particular color. This was also the end of the Theros block, leading to a break from Greek Mythology for a period of time.
- Core Set 2015 – Duels of the Planeswalkers, MTG’s video game, and M15 were closely entwined. Perhaps because of the video game influence, many important video game figures were asked to help design cards, like Diablo’s designer, Justin Gary.
- Khans of Tarkir – Sets that center on multi-color cards seem to do well, as was the case for Khans of Tarkir. This set is filled with legendary creatures and cards with three different colors on them.
- Fate Reforged – You can expect to find lots of wedge three-color cards in Fate Reforged, as well. That’s part of what makes it great for multi-color support if your collection is lacking in this regard.
- – If you love dragons, you can’t go wrong with stocking up on cards from Dragons of Tarkir. This set is loaded with dragons, and contains cards that have mechanics that care about how many dragons you have.
- Magic Origins – Fans of Gideon, Jace, Chandra, Liliana, or Nissa shouldn’t hesitate to consider Magic Origins. As the name implies, this set details the beginnings of these legendary planeswalkers.
- Battle for Zendikar – Zendikar Expeditions lands are included in Battle For Zendikar, which includes shock and fetch lands. There’s also a heavy focus on colorless cards and their interactions in this set.
- Oath of the Gatewatch – A strong underlying theme to Oath of the Gatewatch as teamwork. Because of that, this set was built really well for two-headed giant games that have players complete in pairs rather than against each other.
- Shadows Over Innistrad – Players get to return to the dark and horrific plane of Innistrad once again in Shadows Over Innistrad. The same tribes appear frequently in this set: spirits, zombies, vampires, werewolves, and humans.
- Eldritch Moon – Ever-popular Lovecraftian cosmic horror fills Eldritch Moon to the brim. Madness-inducing Eldrazi run amok through the set, and you’ll find appropriate mechanics such as delirium and madness.
- Kaladesh – Within this set, players are taken to Kaladesh, a plane full of intricate and beautiful machines. This set also notably includes a series of Masterpiece cards, which are both gorgeous and valuable for collections.
- Aether Revolt – The story from Kaladesh is continued in Aether Revolt. Vehicles which can be crewed by creatures are a recurring type throughout the set.
- Amonkhet – When it comes to Amonkhet, many of the cards were built to pay homage to particular imagery before mechanics were taken into consideration. This is called top-down design, and as a result, Amonkhet’s cards call to mind ancient Egyptian artifacts and exploration.
- Hour of Devastation – Nicol Bolas rises to a terrifying glory in Hour of Devastation. In addition to featuring this draconic planeswalker frequently, you also have the potential of pulling Masterpieces from the Amonkhet Invocations series.
- Ixalan – The overarching feel of the Ixalan set is one of exploration and treasure-hunting. Interestingly, there are also a bunch of dinosaur cards in this set.
- Rivals of Ixalan – Orazca, the City of Gold, is being battled for in Rivals of Ixalan. For that reason, this set consists of mechanics such as the City’s Blessing creating treasure tokens.
- Dominaria – With special attention paid to legendary cards, and even a slogan of, “Gather legends,” Dominaria was, predictably, the legendary set. This is a great pick for those seeking to add in bulk to their candidates for Commanders.
- Core Set 2019 – Dragons are again a common symbol in M19. The underlying story is about the beginning of Nicol Bolas and his twin, Ugin.
- Guilds of Ravnica – Fan favorite guilds again crop up in Guilds in Ravnica. You’ll find cards supporting Dimir, Selesnya, Izzet, Golgari, and Boros within this set.
- Ravnica Allegiance – To complement the previous set, Ravnica Allegiance, which also places an emphasis on guilds, includes the opposing guilds. Azorius, Rakdos, Gruul, Orzhov, and Simic all appear in Ravnica Allegiance.
- War of the Spark – If you could describe Dragons of Tarkir as “the dragon set,” then you could surely define War of the Spark as the planeswalker set. Every single booster pack in this set comes with a planeswalker card.
- Modern Horizons – Because of the almost 40 returning mechanics that Modern Horizons resurrected, this isn’t a set that’s as beginner-friendly as others. Unlike most other sets, it also didn’t have a corresponding story in the Magic universe.
- Core Set 2020 – As fans could guess from the box, M20 pays special attention to the planeswalker Chandra. It also has quite a few color hate cards, which are cards built to resist or quash the effects of other specific colors.
- Throne of Eldraine – Like Lorwyn, Throne of Eldraine pays homage to fairytale-like elements – however, Throne of Eldraine’s inspiration comes from Arthurian legends and Grimm-style stories. Adventure and faeries are commonly recurring elements throughout the set.
- Theros Beyond Death – Once more, Greek mythology is painted all through the Theros Beyond Death set. If you’re a fan of gods, whether for flavor or simply because they tend to be strong, this is a good set to look into.
Banned Cards in Modern
Sometimes, specific cards emerge as too powerful for various formats. This is often due to game-breaking mechanics.
An example of a commonly banned card is Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. Although it is legal in Modern, it is banned in Commander and Duel.
The following cards are those currently banned in Modern as of Janurary 2020:
- Ancient Den
- Birthing Pod
- Blazing Shoal
- Bridge From Below
- Chrome Mox
- Dark Depths
- Deathrite Shaman
- Dig Through Time
- Dread Return
- Eye of Ugin
- Faithless Looting
- Gitaxian Probe
- Glimpse of Nature
- Golgari Grave-Troll
- Green Sun's Zenith
- Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis
- Krark-Clad Ironworks
- Mental Misstep
- Mox Opal
- Mycosynth Lattice
- Oko, Thief of Crowns
- Punishing Fire
- Rite of Flame
- Seat of the Synod
- Second Sunrise
- Seething Song
- Sensei's Divining Top
- Splinter Twin
- Summer Bloom
- Treasure Cruise
- Tree of Tales
- Umezawa's Jitte
- Vault of Whispers
So should you play Modern?
Like with other formats, the answer is dependent on your play style and personal preferences. If you’re an experienced Magic player familiar with old and new mechanics, Modern could be right up your alley.
It’s also a fun format because you have an extremely wide array of sets to build decks from. Truly, the options are just about endless, and you’ll be able to express your creativity with Modern decks.
However, if you’re new to the game, you might be a little overwhelmed by all the options. This doesn’t mean, though, that you couldn’t still use the format as a way of deepening your Magic knowledge.
Curious about which booster boxes are best to buy to grow your Modern collection? Take a look at our guide on the subject.