For the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering, there are a number of formats which provide rules for deck construction and gameplay. The tournament formats officially sanctioned by The DCI fall into two categories, Constructed and Limited. The Constructed formats are Vintage, Legacy, Extended, Standard, and Block Constructed. The Limited formats are Sealed Deck and Booster Draft. A wide variety of other formats have been designed by players of the game for custom gameplay or cost reduction. The standard method of play is one-on-one using a deck of at least 60 cards, with no more than four copies of a single card (other than basic lands). However, even some of the official formats deviate from these rules, as the Limited format has a minimum deck size of only 40 cards and does not have a four of a kind limit.

Official formats


Vintage, formerly known as Type 1, allows cards from all the sets that are legal for constructed play. Vintage maintains a small banned list and a larger restricted list. Unlike in the other formats, the DCI does not ban cards in Vintage for power level reasons. Rather, banned cards in Vintage are those that involve ante, manual dexterity (eg – Chaos Orb), or subgames (eg – Shahrazad). Cards that raise power level concerns are instead restricted to one per deck.[1] Because of the expense in acquiring the old cards to play competitive Vintage, many Vintage tournaments are unsanctioned and permit players to use a certain number of proxy cards. These are treated as stand-ins of existing cards and are not normally permitted in tournaments sanctioned by the DCI.[1]


Legacy is the other eternal constructed format. It also allows cards from all legal sets, but unlike Vintage, it maintains only a banned list, and cards are banned in Legacy for power level reasons. The format evolved from Type 1.5, which allowed cards from all sets and maintained a banned list corresponding to Vintage: all cards banned or restricted cards in the old Type 1 were banned in Type 1.5.[2] The modern Legacy format began in 2004, as the DCI separated Legacy's banned list from Vintage and banned many new cards to reduce the power level of the format.[2] Wizards has supported the format with Grand Prix events using the Legacy format and by including the format in the World Championships.[3]


Extended, formerly known as Type 1.x, consists of the last seven years of block rotations and core sets. With each fall set release, one year's worth of sets rotate out of the format. Any additional sets released between rotations are automatically added to this format's card pool.[2] This system was implemented in March 2008 to balance the format's card pool, synchronize the rotation with Standard, and make the policy easier for players to remember.[4] The current Extended rotation consists of the Mirrodin, Kamigawa, Ravnica, Time Spiral, Lorwyn-Shadowmoor, Shards of Alara, and Zendikar blocks, the Coldsnap standalone set, and the Ninth Edition, Tenth Edition, and Magic 2010 core sets.[2]


Standard, or Type 2, is one of the most popular formats. Previously this format consisted of the most recent core set and the two most recent block rotations. With the release of Magic 2010, the standard rotation policy has changed. Now there will be only one rotation per year when the fall set is released.[5]
The current Standard set includes[6] Shards of Alara block (Shards of Alara, Conflux, Alara Reborn) the Magic 2010 core set, Zendikar, Worldwake and Rise of the Eldrazi. When Magic 2011 is released, it will join Standard.

Block Constructed

Block allows basic lands and only the cards in the most recent block rotation. Block formats are defined by the cycle of three sets of cards in a given block. For example, the Ravnica block format consists of Ravnica: City of Guilds, Guildpact, and Dissension. Only cards that were printed in the sets in the appropriate block can be used in these formats. The most recent complete block, Zendikar, consists of Zendikar, Worldwake, and Rise of the Eldrazi.


Limited tournaments are based on a pool of cards which the player receives at the time of the event. The decks in limited tournaments need only be 40 cards; all the unused cards function as the sideboard. In sealed deck tournaments, each player receives six booster packs from which to build their deck. Depending on which sets are to be used in a sealed deck event, the distribution of packs can vary greatly. For example, a Magic 2010 sealed deck event consists of six Magic 2010 boosters, but a sanctioned Shards of Alara block sealed deck event will consist of two Shards of Alara, two Conflux, and two Alara Reborn booster packs.

In a booster draft, several players (usually eight) are seated around a table and each player is given three booster packs. Each player opens a pack, selects a card from it and passes the remaining cards to his or her left. Each player then selects one of the 14 remaining cards from the pack that was just passed to him or her, and passes the remaining cards to the left again. This continues until all of the cards are depleted. The process is repeated with the second and third packs, except that the cards are passed to the right in the second pack. Players then build decks out of any of the cards that they selected during the drafting and add as many basic lands as they want. Booster draft tournaments are somewhat prone to collusion, as players can hold the cards their neighbors need at the expense of their own deck building.

Alternate Formats

Casual play groups and even Wizards of the Coast have developed many alternative formats for playing the game. These formats are designed to accommodate larger numbers of players, to allow two or more players to work together as a team, or create specific requirements for deck construction. They are distinct from the officially sanctioned formats such as Legacy, Vintage, Extended, Standard, or Block Constructed which are organized by the DCI and merely define the available card pool, not change the rules of the game.

Many of these variants are popular in tournament play, though not all have support from Wizards of the Coast, several of the variants have also been implemented in the official online version of Magic: The Gathering.


The simplest format is the free-for-all, where players sit in a circle and vie with those around them to be the final surviving player. One variant is "Star" [1] (also called "Pentagram," "Five-Point," "Rainbow" or "Five-Player Star") and involves exactly five players, each playing one of the colors of Magic and trying to defeat the two diametrically opposed players. Theoretically, the five decks should be equally balanced, so that the game is based more on skill than on deck strength. Another variant involves limited attacks, where the player can only attack the player on his left. This means that the players must eliminate all other players before the final two players can directly attack each other. Team-based play is also popular. "Two-Headed Giant" is a team game where pairs of players share turns and life totals. In "Emperor", two teams, each generally composed of three or five players, play to ensure their central player (the "emperor") outlasts the other. In "Kings & Knights", teams of two go head to head, with one player acting as king and the other as knight; in this variant turns generally alternate per team (rather than one team's king and knight taking their turns back to back), and a king can not engage in combat, whether offensively or defensively, until his or her knight has been defeated. In June 2005, rules for handling multiplayer games were added to the official rulebook, and "Two-Headed Giant" team play is the first multiplayer variant to be sanctioned by the DCI.[7]


In this variant, each player has a special card that affects the game. These cards change the players' starting life total and cards in hand, and have additional effects as well. Vanguard initially began with special oversized Vanguard cards, released as part of various promotions. Although three cycles of cards were made, interest never caught on due to relatively low production and lack of sanctioned tournaments. The cards featured depicted major characters from the storyline of Magic, including Gerrard Capashen, Karn and Squee. A new version of Vanguard was eventually added to Magic Online, with a player's avatar filling the role of the oversized physical cards[2]. Players are given a standard set of avatars and can receive more as entry and high-finishing prizes in release events.[8] New avatars are regularly added as new sets of Magic cards are released, each depicting a card from the set. The wider availability online, combined with occasional tournaments, has made online Vanguard more of a success than its physical predecessor. One recent addition to the standard Vanguard format is Momir Basic, which involves the Momir Avatar which allows a player to discard a land card to get a random creature into play. All Momir Basic Decks are constructed entirely of basic land.

Alternative deck construction

Various alternative rules can be used to govern the construction of decks. Some of these variants have become so popular that unsanctioned tournaments have taken place at various Magic tournaments and gaming-oriented conventions such as Gen Con.
* In one system, players are allowed to use only one of each card instead of the usual limit of four. This variation is called "Singleton", "Highlander" (named after the catchphrase "There can be only one" of the movies), "Legendary" (in Magic, there may only be one of any legend card in the game), or "Restricted" (tournament formats with a restricted list insist that decks have no more than one of those cards) Magic. Some players of this format require that the decks have a minimum of 100 cards, ban sideboards, and institute a special rule for mulligans with hands having either too many or too few lands. [3][4][5][6]
* In Rainbow Stairwell, players make a 60 card deck utilizing 6 of each basic land, or 2 of 10 different multiple color producing lands, along with six cards from each color and the artifacts. These six cards must have a converted mana cost ranging from one to six, with each card taking up one of six slots.
* In the "Pauper's Deck" or "Peasant Magic" variants, all rare cards are disallowed, and players must construct decks using only the more commonly available cards. Peasant Magic was created by Rob Baranowski who felt that players with limited access to cards should still have an opportunity for competitive play. Tournaments for this format have taken place at Gen Con since 2001.
* In "5-Color" or "Prismatic Magic", players must build very large decks (at least 250 cards) and accommodate a minimum number of cards of each color. This format was first developed by Kurt Hahn and several other players in the Milwaukee area. [7] 5-Color is managed by the 5CRC which while not affiliated with Wizards of the Coast or the DCI, does organize tournaments, has its own list of banned and restricted cards and has a world championship held at Gen Con. It also supports ante cards, an initial component of the rules for Magic that has since been deprecated. When Magic Online was under development, this format was requested by many users, and it was added as "Prismatic" with slight differences, including the minimum number of cards of each color and no support for ante. An additional "big deck" mulligan is also standard online, allowing players to compensate for hands with too many or too few lands.
* In order to alleviate problems with the mana resource system, some play variants include rules for building decks without lands. These variants often include other compensating controls, such as restricting players to one spell per turn (as in "Type 4" or "DC-10"), or in using spell cards themselves to be played as lands and produce matching colored mana.
* "Mental Magic" also referred to as Mind Magic is one of the more extreme variants, in that cards may be played as any card in the game with the same mana cost.
* One draft Variant is Reject Rare Draft which has each player donate 45 rare cards (the same number as in 3 regular boosters) and then draft as normal. This variant was developed at Neutral Ground, a gaming store owned by Brian David-Marshall, a columnist for Wizards and noted commentator in the Magic world.
* Permanent Magic is a variation where instant and sorcery spells are banned. (Which can also be combined with Restricted Magic.)
* Backdraft is a draft variant where each player tries to build the worst deck possible because each player will be giving another player that deck to play in the tournament. To avoid mana problems, players choose what lands to add in the deck they are "backdrafted". Additionally, house rules may restrict backdrafters to 3 colors maximum.
* Mini Magic is a constructed variant where decks are built with a maximum card limit of 15 and a maximum hand size of 3. Because of the small deck size, the state-based effect where the game ends if a player is unable to draw a card from his or her deck is ignored. Select cards are banned in this format due to their heightened power level given the limited deck size. Alternatively, Mini Magic may be drafted using a single booster pack per person.
* Legends Deck: all players play using the same deck that is generally made of 300 or more cards, All cards other than basic lands are played as though they are legendary, meaning that only one can be in play at a time. Legends decks have been known to get so large that they must be divided into two or more stacks to prevent it from toppling.
*Cube Draft—A cube draft is a draft variant similar to booster draft, but rather than using factory sealed booster packs, packs are created by taking fifteen cards at random from a pre-selected pool of cards. Typically, the card pool, known as the cube, is an amalgamation of many of the most powerful cards from throughout the history of Magic, and may include, for example, cards from the Vintage restricted list. Theoretically, a cube can be as small as 90 cards, though most cubes include at least 360 cards in order to support a eight-player draft. Cube drafting gained popularity after being featured as a format in the Magic Invitational.
*"Riviera Live Draft" -- Using a large Common Library, players "draft-as-they-draw". Flexible, controlled land drawing allows opportunistic change of strategy in mid-game.
*"Live draft" -- Another "Live draft" form - With no personal libraries (could cause problems with for instance Clash).
*"Elder Dragon Highlander (EDH)" -- Decks are 100 cards (including your General), highlander (no duplicates except basic lands), and feature a "General". The General must be a legendary creature, and all cards in the deck can only have mana symbols on them from the General's colors (from its casting cost). The General is not included in your library; it can be played as if it was in your hand and returns to the "command" zone whenever it would be put into a graveyard or exiled.
*"Mana Drop" -- Players are allowed to play as many lands as they wish from their hand during their turn. This allows more powerful spells to be cast sooner in the game. Sometimes it is modified to force players to play a land as soon as it comes into their hand.
*"Type 4" -- Players randomly draft a 45 cards deck from a large card pool similar to cube draft never knowing the cards included in their deck. Players get infinite mana but are only allowed 1 spell per turn (1 each turn, their own and 1 during each opponent's turn). Starting Hand is 5 cards. Players will often forbid access to spells with X in their mana cost unless it doesn't mean instant kill a player. Example, Earthquake would be banned but Flowstone Slide is ok. Repeatable effects are also controlled so not to create an instant win (example, no Kumano, Master Yamabuchi and the like)
*"Schizo" -- Players form teams (usually teams are of the same size). Play runs normally as if playing Two-Headed Giant but teams share cards as if they are each others. Team members may tap each others' lands for mana and count each others cards for cards that count. (Blanchwood Armor counts all the forests for the entire team instead of just the player that controls it) A team's life can be either 10 + 10 * (Number of People on the team) or 20 for each team member.


  1. 1.0 1.1 {{Cite web
    | url =
    | title = DCI Floor Rules
    | accessdate = 2006-09-30
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3
  4. {{cite web
    | url =
    | title = Low, Devin. "A More Consistent Extended Rotation"
    | accessdate = 2008-05-16}}
  5. {{cite web
    | url =
    | title = Recapturing the Magic with Magic 2010
    | accessdate = 2009-09-13}}
  6. {{cite web
    | url =
    | title = Standard Format Deck Construction
    | accessdate = 2009-09-13}}
  7. {{cite web
    | url =
    | title = Two-Headed Giant Tournament Fact Sheet
    | accessdate = 2006-09-30 }}. The rules were sanctioned with the release of Saviors of Kamigawa (June 2005), and the first major two-headed giant tournament took place in November 2005.
  8. {{cite web
    | url =
    | title = Magic Online Vanguard
    | accessdate = 2006-09-30}}