Understanding Magic’s Many Formats
Today I am going to rank all of the most popular Magic formats from worst to best. This might not include every possible format, but this is every Wizards supported format. To get right into it we’ll start with number 1…
- Modern – Modern to me is the greatest format Magic has had in an extremely long time. Cards that are modern legal are anything printed since 8th Edition which was released in 2003. With so many cards there are a lot of decks that can be made and Modern is a format where nearly anything is viable. If you want to play control then there are decks ranging from UW Control all the way to something like BW Gideon Planeswalker Control. If you want to play Combo there are various combo decks such as Valakut or Ad Nauseum. Aggro has A TON of options as well with Humans or Hollow One being the best of those options at the moment. Modern truly can offer every experience, be that casual brews at FNM or competitive tournaments with Magic’s best pros.
- Cube – Cube is a format that’s an awesome treat once a week or so. Cube draft is a custom draft format made from the most powerful spells in Magic’s history. It’s not surprising to open a pack and see 15 mythic rares, but cube can offer so much more than just that. Common/Uncommon cubes are popular as a way to make a cool format that isn’t as expensive to put together. Set themed cubes are awesome as well being they recreate players favorite draft formats of the past including Innistrad or Rise of the Eldrazi to name a few. (If you’d like to know how I build cubes you can find my cube here.)
- Standard – Standard is Magic’s most staple format. This is the format that is the most accessible of any of the constructed formats, and the one you can most easily find tournaments for, namely Friday Night Magic (FNM). Standard stays fresh year after year with new sets being introduced into the format every few months. Between the new sets, rotation, and cycling older sets out of the format once per year, it’s usually pretty fresh. This is also the most competitive format as each year at least 3 of the 4 pro tours showcase standard alongside a new set release to push the format to evolve.
- Booster Draft – If Standard is Magic’s peanut butter, then Booster Draft is its jelly. Booster draft changes just as often as standard and is also showcased at every Pro Tour. Booster Draft is also a great way to get cards from the new sets, as you open three booster packs every time you draft. The only downside of draft is that it can be a bit pricey if you like to draft often. Most card stores will run a draft from about $12 to $15. If you do 2-3 booster drafts a week that can add up, but it’s worth it if you grow to love it like I have!
- Commander – While I rarely play commander it’s clear that among those who play Magic a few times a week, it is by far their most loved format. Commander lets players choose a legendary creature and craft an entire deck around that card. This translates to nearly endless possibilities in a game with 20,000 cards and 800 legendary creatures. What makes this lower on the list for me is that Commander is a multiplayer encourage format which isn’t my personal style.
- Sealed Deck – Sealed deck is a format where a player opens 6 booster packs and makes the best 40 card deck they can. Sealed deck is the format played on day 1 of limited Grand Prixs, meaning sealed deck is present at the highest levels of play. Sealed deck is another good way to acquire cards because it is also the format of choice for prerelease events at local stores. It’s not as popular as many of Magic’s other formats, but has cemented itself into the history of our game and is here to stay.
- Brawl – Brawl is Magic’s newest format and came exploding onto the scene and players have loved it since day 1. Brawl is very similar to Commander, but with a few differences. Commander can take cards from all of Magic’s past, but Brawl limits players to only those sets legal in standard. Players can also choose either a legendary creature or a legendary planeswalker as a commander instead of being limited to only creatures.
- Legacy – Legacy is Magic’s premier format for embracing the entire history of the game. Legacy tournaments are often won by cards being separated by over 20 years in age. Legacy was my favorite format for years since it is so strategically deep and every turn presents so many choices. Over the years, I have slowly lost my love for legacy as it became supplanted by modern, but if free spells and powerful combos are your thing, there is no better place to look than legacy (if you can afford it!) Deck pricing is what keeps this format from being higher on the list.
- Pauper – This was until recently a Magic Online-only format. Pauper is a format where players can only use cards that have been printed at common. Pauper will have one of it’s biggest paper events at SCG Con this June showcasing a format players have been asking for to be supported in paper for years now. The format is still thriving on Magic Online and continues to be on the verge of breaking through to more mainstream play.
- Vintage – Vintage is a format that is only rumored to exist. Vintage has no banned list, only a restricted list meaning that any card in all of Magic’s past can be played in this format. If legacy was lower on the list due to cost restriction than vintage is the extreme case of that. Vintage decks can cost over $20,000, as many of Magic’s rarest and most expensive cards are vital for decks in this format. Vintage has one large event per year that takes place at Eternal Weekend and a relatively lively online scene being the costs are much more manageable online. Vintage is a fun format to play but is low on the list due to availability concerns.
- 1v1 Commander – This is another Magic online-only format. This format follows the exact same rules and card pool as Commander, but is 1v1 only. This is my favorite version of commander being I enjoy the competitive leaning of a 1v1 format. Brawl has recently taken over the place of 1v1 commander, but there is still a good amount of players who love this format for what it is, a great mix of a competitive environment with a casual theme.
- Momir Basic – This is truly a Magic Online-only format. This format can only be played on Magic Online due to its nature. Momir basic uses the Momir Vig avatar (here) to generate a creature at random based on the cost spent to activate the ability each turn. Momir basic is a format the helps players learn complicated combat situations being you’ll never know what will be next to out and have to adapt on the fly.
Team Formats (Sealed and Unified Constructed) – Team formats are the same as their respective single player formats, except that players share the cards available. In unified constructed players can only have 4 of a single card among the entire tea. In team sealed deck 3 players open 12 packs and make 3 decks to the best of their abilities so it’s extremely accurate to say that resources are truly shared among players in this format. I would have put these formats on the list, but they are derivatives of other formats so I put them as an honorable mention instead. They’re a ton of fun, but aren’t quite unique enough to break into the list!
Until next time,
The author recommends:
Daryl is known for his love of all things Temu and can normally be seen waiting for standard tournaments to end so he can indulge his real loves for both Modern and Legacy. This normally is not the best strategy for a Magic player, but it has proven somewhat successful, resulting in multiple Pro Tour appearances as well as a handful of top 8’s on the SCG Open circuit and Grand Prix stage.