Magic: the Gathering has millions of loyal fans and players.
Over the years, numerous ways of playing this legendary card game have been developed. One of those play styles, Standard, is well-known and recognized from casual to professional play.
However, only particular sets of cards can be used for Standard. So which sets are legal in Standard?
We’ll give you a comprehensive list of the legal sets for Standard as of January 2020. Additionally, we’ll provide you some extra information if you’re new to the game.
Here’s what we’ll provide details on:
- A beginner’s quick introduction to MTG
- Details on what the Standard format is
- Discussion on why rotation exists
- A list of legal sets for Standard as of January 2020
- A list of the current cards banned in Standard
So let’s jump right in.
An Introduction to Magic: the Gathering
You probably already know about what Magic is if you’re searching for information on which sets can be used in Standard.
This isn’t necessarily the case for everyone, though, so we’ll give some background on the game.
The trend-setting card game Magic: the Gathering was born in 1993. It’s a rather complicated game, but we’ll give you the run-down on the basics.
In MTG, at least two competitors play to reduce each other’s life points to 0. You can think of your life total as HP (hit points), if you’re familiar with that concept from other games.
Damage to life totals is achieved through playing aggressive spells or attacking with creatures. Both these must be done by spending mana.
It’s also important to mention that is far from the only way to win the game. There are cards with conditions on them that let you instantly win if you meet their requirements.
What is Standard?
Now that you know more about Magic, we can discuss Standard.
Basically, Standard is one way of playing MTG. It involves using only the most recent sets of cards, and the oldest allowed sets rotate out every fall, only to be replaced by future ones as they are released.
There are also rules for how each Standard deck must be built. Each one must have at least 60 cards.
Standard doesn’t place restrictions on the maximum number of cards you can use in a deck. However, you do need to be able to shuffle your deck without help, which indirectly limits the amount of cards you can use.
Aside from shuffling, using more than 60 cards in Standard is often not a good idea. As you increase the number of cards, you decrease the chances of drawing into what you need when you’re backed into a corner.
Why Rotate Out Sets?
Given that there are so many beloved sets in the past, you might be wondering what the point of rotating them out like that is.
Essentially, it’s to keep the mechanics of the game simple. Older sets often employ mechanics that aren’t used in new cards, and to keep track of all those different interactions would be incredibly hard.
Furthermore, many of the most powerful cards created are from the first sets. When the game first came out, it was hard to say how strong certain aspects, such as card draw, would be.
Because of that, some older sets are massively over-powered and would dominate the format if they were allowed.
Which Sets are Legal in Standard?
At the time of writing this, which was January 2020, there are currently six legal sets in Standard.
Those sets include the following:
- Theros Beyond Death
- Throne of Eldraine
- Core Set 2020
- War of the Spark
- Ravnica Allegiance
- Guilds of Ravnica
You can monitor which sets are legal in Standard on the official site right here.
Which Cards are Banned in Standard?
Just like most sets aren’t allowed in Standard, so, too, are some cards from the permitted sets banned.
When a card is banned from a format, it can no longer be used in that format officially. You may still use it in casual games with friends however you please (provided they agree with its use), but you would not be allowed to use it in formal events or tournaments in the format it was banned from.
Most of the time, the reason for banning a card from a format is that it became overused and overpowered in that format. If it becomes so pervasive that the only way to stand a chance is to use that same card in your own deck, the game loses its fun and variety.
That being said, these are the current banned cards in Standard:
- Field of the Dead
- Oko, Thief of Crowns
- Once Upon a Time
- Veil of Summer
Keep in mind that this is the most current banned list updated on November 18, 2019. The banned list changes as new sets and strategies emerge, so it’s wise to keep an eye on it.
You can monitor it yourself here.
So Why Play Standard?
Every person has their own favorite format for a variety of reasons.
Standard is great to get into if you want to stay on top of each recent development in the world of Magic: the Gathering. It requires you to explore and learn the newest cards and mechanics.
As sets tend to be cheapest right when they come out, it’s also wonderful for introducing new players on a budget.
However, playing Standard long-term can become expensive, as it requires you to buy cards from the newest sets constantly in order to make legal decks. Decks that once were legal also become illegal in Standard fairly quickly.