Type X: What’s In A Name?

Posted in Feature on December 8, 2005

By Brian Rogers

In the multiverse of Magic: the Gathering, there are many different formats. Newer players normally start out exploring Standard, then once your have been around a while, Extended may be more to your liking. There are a lot of old time players like me around and some of them enjoy Vintage. Personally, I like to play Sealed deck or booster draft. Everyone has a favorite format. I am going to look at each of these different formats and help you decide which ones you might have the most fun playing.

There are several different sanctioned constructed formats; Standard, Block Constructed, Extended, Legacy and Vintage. For each of these formats, a legal deck must contain at least 60 cards, and there is no maximum deck size. No more than 4 of any one card can be used to build a deck for any of these formats. You are also allowed to use a sideboard for constructed formats. Your sideboard must always be exactly 0 or 15 cards at the start of a game. Also, cards in the sideboard must adhere to the 4 card limit, not duplicating cards that you already have 4 of in your main deck. These cards may be swapped into you deck in a one to one basis after the first game of any match.


Standard, or Type II as it used to be known, is the first format most new players learn about when they enter the arena of tournament Magic. Standard is used for many Friday Night Magic events, as well as State Championship events, Regionals, U.S. National and other national championships, and as a major part of Magic: The Gathering Worlds. Additionally, \standard is the most common tournament type to be run at small local tournaments around the globe. These factors combine to make Standard the primary format that most new players to Magic build their decks to match.

The two latest stand-alone expansions and the consequent follow-up expansion for Magic, and the most recent base set are legal for a Standard deck. Currently, 9th Edition, Champions of Kamigawa, Betrayers of Kamigawa, Saviors of Kamigawa and Ravnica: City of Guilds are all legal for Standard play. There are currently no cards banned in the Standard format, so any card that appears in any of the legal sets can be used.

Block Constructed

There is a Block Constructed format for every stand-alone expansion; however, normally only the most recent stand-alone set is used to run a Block Constructed tournament. Block Constructed tournaments do not allow you to use the core set, and only cards that come from one of the sets in that block are legal. Block Constructed is great for new players who only have cards from the most recent block; however, these tournaments are held less frequently than Standard events are.


Once you have a little more experience under your belt, and about the time that the old cards you started using when you first played begin to rotate out of Standard, the Extended format starts to look more appealing to lots of players. Extended offers a much broader field of battle encompassing every Magic set since Invasion™. Play in the Extended environment is much quicker than in Standard, and there are many more variables to deal with because there is such a large number of cards available in the format.

Because some of the cards legal for Extended have been out of print for several years, it can be difficult to build some types of Extended decks. However, continually, decks that first showed up in the much more limited Block Constructed formats pop up again in Extended. Often, these will be decks that were just missing one or two cards from being an awesome deck at the time. Then, someone finds some cards in Extended that work perfectly in the deck and turn it into a top-tier Extended deck.

The Following cards are currently banned from Extended play:


The Legacy format has recently been gaining more popularity. It was used as the format for some recent Pro Tour Qualifiers, which help with this greatly. In October of this year, the Masques, Urza, and Tempest™ blocks rotated out of Extended. Players who still want to play in a sanctioned tournament and use these older cards now look towards Legacy as a venue to do this.

Legacy is a wickedly fast environment. Many cards, listed below, have been banned in this format. Still, the format is dominated by lightning-fast red decks, and the competitiveness of other decks in the field are often defined by how well they deal with the brutal speed of these decks.

The following cards are currently banned from Legacy play:


One of the hardest formats to master, Vintage encompass cards from every Magic set ever release (ok, not Unglued or Unhinged, but everything else). Vintage is a format where a turn one kill is not only possible, but it is the ideal. Sometimes still called Type I, Vintage has some of the most powerful card ever printed legal for play, however a unique feature of the Vintage format is that in addition to having some banned cards, there is an entirely separate list of restricted cards. The cards on this list are legal for use in your Vintage deck, but you can only play one of each. These are some of the most powerful cards ever found in the multiverse; Black Lotus, the Moxen, Library of Alexandria and all of the most powerful spells ever printed.

Vintage was also once called Classic, but when 8th Edition came out with that same name, the name was updated. This is a format not for the meek. Vintage is highly competitive and games are often over in 1 to 3 turns, however they can last 30 minutes. That is a long time to wait while you see how your opponent is going to defeat you. It can also be difficult to find the cards you need to build a good Vintage deck. Some of the power card that first appeared in Alpha can sell for several thousand dollars.

The Following Cards are banned in Vintage:

There are also several cards restricted in the Vintage format:

Limited Formats

Now we are getting to my favorite types of formats. There are two types of limited formats, Sealed Deck and Booster Draft (you may also remember Rochester Draft, well I am not going to mention it in this article, but it is a lot of fun to play too). For each of these formats, the rules change a little bit from constructed. First, instead of a 60 card minimum deck size, in limited formats, you only need to have 40 cards. Also, the requirement of having no more than 4 of any one card is lifted, however, getting even 3 of any one card is difficult to do.

Seal Deck is just that, a deck build from some amount of seal Magic Packs. Normally, seal decks are built from a tournament pack of a stand-alone set or the base set, and two booster packs of sets from the same block or the base set. Sometimes at prereleases for subsequent expansion from a stand-alone, organizer will use three booster packs instead. You then use the cards you open plus any amount of basic land to build a deck. Any cards not used are then in your sideboard.

Booster Draft starts with only 3 booster packs. You open your first pack and pass it around the table, letting everyone take a card from it in turn. As your pack travels around the table so does everyone else’s. You get to take one card ever time a pack gets to you, then you send it on. Once you have finished drafting the first pack, you open the second, however, this time you pass it the opposite direction. Then you open the third and go back to the original direction. Once you have drafted 45 cards in total, you build a deck using as much basic land as you need. Any cards not used are your sideboard.

In a limited environment, your sideboard can be any size, it isn’t limited to 15 cards. Also, it is always assumed that there is an infinite amount of basic land in your sideboard (for logistical purposes, most tournament organizer do not provide an infinite amount of land to each player for his or her individual sideboard). When using your sideboard during games 2 and 3 of a match, you do not have to switch cards in and out evenly. As long as you deck is at least 40 cards when you are done sideboarding, then your deck and sideboard are legal.

Team Formats

Two-Headed Giant is a popular new format that allows two player teams to compete against other teams is a unique battle that has all four players playing in one game. These events can use any type of constructed format or limited format. For limited formats, these is a shared card pool with which the team builds a deck and normally they get more packs to work with than an individual would. If you are playing Two-Headed Giant, you have to follow the banned or restricted list for the format you are playing. However, Erayo, Soratami Ascendant is also banned in whatever format you might be playing. This card has proven too easy to abuse in a team format.

There is also a team sealed and booster draft format in which 3 player teams compete. These events are similar to the individual versions where players play one on one games, but get to interact as a team during drafting and deckbuilding.

Magic Online Formats

Because of the limited number of set available in the Magic: the Gathering Online environment, and the highly diverse number of players out there looking for an opponent, MTGO offers many interesting formats. Though I am not going to detail all of them now, I recommend you check out all of the cool stuff on the Wizards of the Coast website about all of these formats; Classic, Open, Prismatic, Singleton, Tribal Wars & Vanguard.

Magic in any form is a great game and I have enjoyed playing it in many different formats over the years. Give all of these formats a try with your friends because each one opens up a new door to the multiverse. As for me, I will always be looking for a chance to draft, so let me know when you’re free and maybe we can crack some packs and play a game!

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