What are the MTG formats?

Explore the diverse world of MTG formats with our comprehensive guide.

From the strategic depth of Commander to the competitive edge of Modern, the ever-evolving Standard, the timeless realm of Vintage, and the skill-testing Booster Draft, discover the unique characteristics and appeal of each MTG format.

Perfect for players looking to deepen their understanding or find their ideal playstyle in the Magic: The Gathering universe.

Let’s explore these formats to understand their distinct appeal.

1. Commander: The Social Strategist’s Playground

What is Commander format MTG?

Commander, also known as Elder Dragon Highlander (EDH), is a format that emphasizes creativity and social interaction. Here’s what makes Commander unique:

  • 100-Card Decks: Commander decks are precisely 100 cards, including a designated commander, which is either a legendary creature or a planeswalker.
  • Singleton Rule: No duplicate cards, except for basic lands. Each non-basic land card in the deck must be unique.
  • Multiplayer Focus: Typically played in groups of 3-4, Commander is as much about social interaction as it is about strategy.
  • Command Zone: The commander begins the game in a special area and can be played from there, returning if it’s destroyed or exiled.
  • Vast Card Pool: Almost all MTG cards are playable, with some exceptions.
  • Color Identity: The deck’s colors are restricted to those in the commander’s mana cost and abilities.

2. Modern: The Competitive Battleground

What is Modern format MTG?

Modern is the go-to format for players seeking a competitive experience with a vast card pool. Key aspects include: Modern is known for its:

  • 60-Card Minimum Decks: Players build a minimum 60-card deck, with a 15-card sideboard. Unlike Commander, duplicate cards are allowed, up to four copies.
  • Large Card Pool: Modern encompasses cards from 8th Edition onwards, with a ban list to maintain balance.
  • No Rotations: Cards do not rotate out of legality, allowing players to enjoy their decks for a longer period.
  • One-on-One Format: Designed for head-to-head competition, Modern is ideal for players seeking a challenging and competitive environment.

3. Standard: The Ever-Evolving Challenge

What is Standard format MTG?

Standard is the format for players who enjoy a constantly evolving game environment. It is defined by:

  • Rotating Card Pool: Standard includes only the most recent MTG sets, with older sets rotating out annually.
  • 60-Card Minimum Decks: Similar to Modern, Standard decks require a minimum of 60 cards and a 15-card sideboard, with up to four copies of each card allowed.
  • Dynamic Metagame: Due to the annual rotation, Standard players often experience a shifting meta, making it a format of continuous adaptation and discovery.

4. Vintage: The Timeless Realm

What is Vintage format MTG?

Vintage is a format where almost every card in MTG history is playable, making it a treasure trove for long-time fans. Key features include:

  • Almost Unlimited Card Pool: Nearly every card ever printed is legal.
  • Restrictive List: Instead of a ban list, Vintage uses a restrictive list, where certain powerful cards are limited to one copy per deck.
  • High Power Level: Due to the wide card availability, decks can be incredibly powerful and complex.
  • Preservation of History: Vintage allows players to use cards from all eras of MTG, preserving the game’s history.

5. Booster Draft: The Test of Adaptability

What is a Booster Draft format MTG?

Booster Draft is a format that tests a player’s deck-building skills on the fly. It involves:

  • Drafting Process: Players open booster packs, choose a card, and pass the rest to the next player.
  • Limited Pool: Decks are built from the cards drafted.
  • 40-Card Decks: Unlike other formats, Booster Draft decks are smaller.
  • Equal Footing: All players have access to a similar pool of cards, making skill and strategy more important than the card collection.


Each MTG format offers a different slice of the game’s rich and varied universe.

Commander blends strategic depth with social interaction, Modern and Standard offer competitive environments with varying degrees of card pool stability, Vintage is a nostalgic journey through the game’s history, and Booster Draft emphasizes adaptability and on-the-spot deck building.

Whether you’re a fan of high-stakes competition, strategic depth, historical exploration, or creative deck building, MTG’s diverse formats provide a world of possibilities, inviting players to find their niche in the vast universe of this iconic card game.

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