Magic: the Gathering


MTG Standard Q&A: Ban System, Rotation, Challenger Decks and more!

, Comment regular icon0 comments

Get all your questions about MTG Standard answered in this article! Learn more about the ban system, rotation, and Challenger Decks, as well as other topics. Everything was revealed in a recent q&a with MTG devs!

Writer image

revised by Tabata Marques

Edit Article

Through another q&a, Magic: The Gathering devs took the lead to explain more details about the controversial decision regarding 3-year rotation, which was made public in the last week. Check out here all the questions and answers!

Are bans going to be more aggressive?

AndrewB: This is a complicated topic, we are currently still developing our philosophy around bannings. One of our main goals for this new system is to make standard more accessible for more players. I can say that we will ensure that banning events will not be on a less predictable cadence. We plan to have set dates ahead of time so that players don't feel like they've had the rug pulled under them. This Tuesday I'll be going over much more of the banning philosophy with Blake and Huey on Weekly MTG.


Is the banning philosophy likely to get a change then? Do you expect a change to happen for standard's banning philosophy?

Andrew B: Yes, we are going to update how and when bans happen. We want to be as clear and transparent with the community on when and why things are happening.

Were the next sets (Eldraine, Ixalan) designed with a 3-year standard in mind?

Aaron: Not exactly, but I don't anticipate that being a problem. Once we realized we wanted to make this change, we figured a little uncertainty on how the next year's sets would mesh with MID/VOW year was worth it as opposed to waiting another year to make the change.

We're always thinking about formats larger than Standard as we put card sets together, so we don't anticipate any problematic interactions between those two years' cards. And our process now is fully up-to-speed developing for a three-year format.

Will the formats for RCQ's and the Regional Championships be changing to standard to emphasize this revamped focus on standard?

Huey: The current cadence of one round of each of our major tabletop competitive formats (Standard, Pioneer, and Modern) is the plan for year 2 of our Regional Play system. We have no plans to change the formats to coincide with this announcement.

Fundamentally, we are interested in elevating tabletop standard to a popular and frequently played format, as we know many of you here want as well. However, we are not interested in doing that by knocking down other formats or creating less opportunity to engage with them. We ARE interested in providing additional opportunities to engage with standard, on a regular cadence, both at the store level, as well in other larger stand-alone events.

As we said in the initial announcement, the change to rotation is step 1 in what, we believe, is a multistep process, and while my team and I are working towards the things I just mentioned, I don't have more concrete details to share about the progress on them today.

Have the decks in the Future League been designed around this change?

Aaron: They will have been fully starting a year from now, with the set code named "Rugby". This coming year, starting with Wilds of Eldraine, is the transition year when things will be a little less predictable on our end. But that just means it's more exciting!

With the Triomes, Pain lands, and Check lands (I think got the terminology right) remaining in standard, do you have a plan to keep the format from devolving into five color rare piles?

AndrewB: This is something we think about a lot and look to constantly fight against. We are always on the lookout to disincentivize players to not just play all the best rares in all colors. Some of the recent successes that came together nicely are cards like Lay Down Arms and Ossification. Keep on the lookout for more cards that push you to mono color or strategies that have a more dedicated theme that require synergy like GW toxic.


It’d be worrying if the main way you wanted to disincentivize 3-5 color piles was by pushing everything else to their level, because that level is quite high. Can we get an assurance that this isn’t the case?

AndrewB: Its hard to make assurances as our job is mostly predictive. We try to do this, but aren't always successful. My philosophy around this predictive nature is, "if we can figure out the perfect thing to do, it's not deep enough for our player base."

Do you have any intentions to increase accessibility of Standard cards on paper like more frequent Challenger decks (i.e. 2 drops/year) to give it the same player injection as Commander?

Aaron: I'm in favor of this, but given the poor performance of previous Standard Challenger Decks, we'll probably need more input from retailers that think this will be a boon. I agree that Commander precon decks are a huge reason that format is so accessible, but those decks (almost) all contain some amount of brand-new content, which makes them appealing for all kinds of players. Challenger Decks lack that feature, which makes them a lot more niche.

Do standard challenger decks perform poorly because Standard itself is doing poor, or does Standard do poor because of lack of accessible and exciting challenger decks?

Aaron: Right, it's hard to say what's the cart and what's the horse. Maybe the decks would help make the format more prominent, which would then sell more decks, etc. in a virtuous cycle. Like I said, I like the idea and will be talking it through with the product teams.

How do you plan on supporting local game stores hosting standard again?

Huey: We agree that the local game store is the lifeblood of the Magic play ecosystem. We also agree that it's important that LGS have the desire to run our standard play programs. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of specifics today about what additional programs or support might look like today, but we are working on it and will have more to share in the not too distant future.

Why did you decide to go to a 3-year rotation instead of lowering the power of standard to make it more accessible with a 2-year rotation instead?

Huey: When we investigated the struggles that tabletop standard had been having recently, the rotation being short was the biggest piece of feedback we received in terms of pain points. Dealing with what our players told us was the biggest challenge to their participation was what, we thought, was the best first step in rejuvenating tabletop standard play.

Will there be any consideration for either the return of blocks or two large set blocks (like recent Ravnica) or a return of core sets to allow for there to be less parasitic mechanics in a 3-year standard?

Aaron: The nature of bouncing around between settings does mean mechanics aren't meshing together in Standard as well as they did in "block" days, no doubt about it. Going to three years will help us alleviate that, by letting us hit mechanical space from year 1 again in year 3 and bolster older themes and decks with new material. It is definitely top-of-mind for us as a benefit of this change.


In block world, mechanics were often stretched too thin just to do something novel or weird. That wasn't great, and those sets never really sold well as a result. I do think "room to breathe" really means "there aren't enough good cards with this mechanic to make a deck out of" which is fair, and I think we can solve that by revisiting the mechanics again a year or so later in some other set.

Would this have any impact on the decision to have rare land cycles in sets? As in, perhaps fewer sets would have rare land cycles, since they'll be available in standard longer?

AndrewB: Great question, something close to my heart ❤️ We constantly plan ahead at which lands will be legal in standard and have adjusted our philosophy accordingly. We plan to have a similar cadence of releasing dual lands so don't expect much change there. We will be increasing the level of utility lands and colorless lands in our future sets. We really love it when there is a choice between a greedy mana base vs interesting utility lands.

What made you change the rotation for Standard and not Alchemy? I thought that Alchemy was Standard but with a bit more cards and rebalanced cards to allow more diversity?

Aaron: The truth is that tabletop and Arena operate at different speeds. A deck can be found to be "too good" or "too bad" through thousands of Arena games before players even get the cards together to play it in tabletop. We want to leave Alchemy operating fully at the "speed of Arena", for an audience that plays a ton and wants more frequent--and larger--changes. I'll let Arena folks talk more about why they left Alchemy alone in their forums, but it makes a lot of sense to me.

Can we keep Fable of the Mirror Breaker in standard forever?

Aaron: Look... Fable is a very cool card. It may actually be the most fun "best card in Standard" I can remember. But, Standard thrives on change, and while we want to dial back the amount of change somewhat, there are still things that should change 🙂 Fable will not be legal in Standard forever, sorry to say.

When and how will the questions I ask here be aggregated and answered?

WOTC_Community: Oh hey, something I can answer! So, you can see the kind of format we have here for taking in questions and answering them in threads, with follow-ups as we're able to. After the Q+A is over we'll archive this channel for folks to check out at a later time. We may also explore seeing about compiling these answers into a central place like a Daily MTG article. As always, if you have feedback on these kinds of sessions, please drop them in general chat and @ me, or send a DM my way directly!

With the former system, the largest period between set releases was in summer with up to 4 months, which built interest towards the rotation and the big changes in September, this year without rotation, do you plan something to give players a big thing to look forward in September with long months without changes in standard?


Aaron: We hope everyone will enjoy The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth which will be available this summer in both tabletop and Arena. I'm certainly looking forward to drafting it a ton on MTGA.