Revisiting Standard Rotation

Posted in News on October 19, 2016

By Aaron Forsythe

When we introduced the new Two-Block Paradigm two years ago, we also introduced the twice-yearly rotation. This was done in order to sync up rotations with each new block. Previously, rotations were also synced up with each new block, but new blocks only came once a year. In that way, the once-yearly rotation that had existed for essentially the entire existence of Standard became twice-yearly.

We now believe that the twice-yearly rotation has resulted in a barrier to new or casual players, and, as such, we will be returning to a once-yearly rotation, effective immediately. This was the rotation schedule before we moved to the Two-Block Paradigm, and we believe players will appreciate the return to a familiar, yearly rotation.

That's the bottom line, but there is a lot packed into this decision. Below we'll talk about the primary issue we're looking to address, what the rotation means, and the implications for this shift.

The Issue

Beginning in 2016, the First Set of Each Block (the Fall and Spring Sets) Will Cause a Rotation

This in some ways isn't a change, but rather an adaptation to match the new Two-Block Paradigm. The first set of a block has always caused a rotation in the past. The Two-Block Paradigm just means that this now happens twice a year (in the fall and in the spring) rather than just in the fall.

—"Metamorphosis," August 25, 2014

Standard is a dynamic format—the metagame changes faster than any other format. That's true now and it was true when Standard rotated just once per year.

But when the rotation began to take place twice a year, we started hearing from players that it was more difficult to keep up. Yes, the change was exciting, but if play lapsed for a few months—as it often does for any number of reasons—players found it more difficult to jump back into Standard. More and more, players were seeing the twice-yearly rotation of Standard as a bug rather than a feature.

This is the opposite of how we want Standard to feel for new or returning players. Standard has long been the format we feel should be the most welcoming, and a twice-yearly rotation has put up a barrier that was not intended.

The Standard Solution

The solution we have come to is a simple one—we're going to return to a once-yearly rotation cycle, where Standard rotates a year's worth of sets (in this case, two blocks) with the second large set of the year (what many in the Northern Hemisphere call the fall set). This rotation will be implemented immediately with Kaladesh and going forward.

That means Kaladesh will be legal for two years instead of 18 months, and will rotate out of Standard with the release of the second large set in 2018. Aether Revolt will rotate out with Kaladesh. Meanwhile, there will be no rotation when Amonkhet releases in April 2017.

When Amonkhet is released, Standard will consist of the following blocks: Battle for Zendikar, Shadows over Innistrad, Kaladesh, and Amonkhet. When the next rotation happens, Battle for Zendikar and Shadows over Innistrad blocks will rotate out of Standard together. In this way, Standard will fluctuate somewhere between five sets being legal, and eight.

Why Now?

When we announced the new rotation in Mark Rosewater's "Metamorphosis" article in 2014, we did it in advance of the set it would affect, Khans of Tarkir. But now we're announcing it will affect a set that is already out. What gives?

In the instance of the "Metamorphosis" announcement, we were taking something away—Khans of Tarkir went from 24 months to 18 months in Standard—so we felt it was important to let players know before Khans of Tarkir was released. In this instance, we're giving something back—Kaladesh goes from an 18-month lifespan in Standard to 24—so we felt we could shift gears at this point. In this instance, once we identified the issue, we wanted to act as soon as possible to give those six months back to players.

So this is our attempt at being nimbler and responding to concerns in real time. We're trying to be more responsive and more open in our explanations for change where we can, and this is another step in that direction.

What Are the Concerns?

We recognize that this shift appears sudden, and with that, especially just two years after "Metamorphosis," there will be concerns from players for the play environment. That said, we have far more experience working with Standard formats that have two years' worth of cards than we do with the current 18-month length. We plan to lean on that experience as we transition back to a familiar rotation schedule.

We also recognize there is a concern for player perception that rotation is something we're going to be toying with repeatedly and often, leaving players unsure about what we'll do next. After all, Standard rotation was consistent until 2014 when we changed to the twice-yearly rotation, and here we are changing it again just two years later.

However, this change isn't a new frontier—it's a return to form. We tried something that we thought would be overall better for the environment, but we have come to realize it isn't, based on player feedback. We heard you, and we're willing to change back to the way it was, and back to the way that gave players the most positive experience.

Back to Where It All Began

The short version of this announcement is that we've heard your feedback on the Standard rotation we rolled out in 2014. We recognize that it caused issues for many of our players in keeping up with Standard, and that it simply left some players behind. And that's not what we want for Standard. It's not what we want for Magic.

Standard, especially, should be a welcoming format that allows players to play a variety of decks that promote fun, healthy gameplay. With the twice-yearly rotation, we got too far away from the welcoming part. So we're returning to the same play experience many of you are used to. We're returning to what we believe to be a better rotation schedule for the most welcoming, most widely played format in Magic.

This weekend at Game Day, you'll get to see the exciting, interesting, and inventive gameplay that Kaladesh brings to the table—and that gameplay will stay around for the next two years. We know we're looking forward to watching the format grow and develop.

We hope you enjoy Kaladesh Game Day, and we look forward to Kaladesh driving Standard for the next two years.

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