The Academy: Magic Formats

Format refers to the types of decks you’re allowed to play-and when you’re supposed to build your deck. In Constructed formats, you bring your own deck made from whatever Magic cards you want, so long as you own them. In Limited formats, everyone starts out with the same number of booster packs or tournament packs and has to build a deck from just those cards.



When you enter a Constructed event, you have to build your deck in advance. (You can’t change decks after entering an event.) You build a Constructed deck using any of the cards you own, but most formats only let you use cards from certain sets.

A Constructed deck has at least sixty cards in it, and it can’t have more than four copies of any cards except basic lands. You can use a fifteen-card sideboard in Constructed play. After the first game of a match, you can swap cards in your sideboard for cards in your deck. That way, you can make your deck better against your opponent’s deck.

The most common Constructed formats are Standard, Extended, and Block Constructed.

  Standard. The Standard format is the most popular format in the world. It uses only the most recent basic set and the two most recent blocks. In Magic Online the Standard format will allow only cards from the Seventh EditionTM set and the OdysseyTM and OnslaughtTM blocks. As of March 19, 2003, Seventh Edition, Odyssey, TormentTM, JudgmentTM, Onslaught, and LegionsTM sets were legal in Standard. You can check the DCITM Web page for up-to-date information.

  Extended. The Extended format allows the use of older cards, starting with the TempestTM and Sixth EditionTM sets. Since the oldest cards available on Magic Online are from the Invasion set, the online Extended format includes all cards available in the game. At this time, no cards available online are banned in Extended.

  Block Constructed. A Block Constructed format uses only cards from one block-a large expansion and its two small expansions (when they’re released). For example, Odyssey Block Constructed decks use only cards from the Odyssey block, which includes the Odyssey, Torment, and Judgment expansions.


When you enter a Limited event, building your deck is part of the competition. You have to build a deck using only the cards you get during the event, and you get to keep all those cards.

There’s usually a time limit for building your deck. A Limited deck has to have at least forty cards. You can play as many copies of any card as you have. In Limited play, all the cards that aren’t in your deck are in your sideboard. You can change your deck after the first game of a match, but it returns to the way you submitted it at the beginning of each match.

The three most common Limited formats are Sealed Deck, Booster Draft, and Rochester Draft.

Sealed Deck. Sealed Deck is the easiest format for beginning players to play. You just open your cards and build the best deck you can out of them. In most Sealed-Deck events, you get a tournament pack and two booster packs. That’s thirty basic lands and seventy-five other cards.

Booster Draft. Booster Draft is more complicated than Sealed Deck. Each player at the table starts with three unopened booster packs. Instead of just opening your cards and building a deck, you and the other players at the table have to draft the cards for your decks.

At the start of a Booster Draft, each player opens a pack and picks the card he or she wants from it. (You can’t see the cards that the other players draft.) Then each player passes the rest of the pack to his or her left. You pick up the pack that was passed to you, select a card, and pass the rest to your left. This process continues until all the cards have been drafted.

Next, each player opens a second pack, but this time, you pass the pack to your right. After all those cards are drafted, you open the third pack and pass to the left again. At the end of the draft, each player has forty-five cards-and unlimited basic lands-to build a deck with.

Rochester Draft. Rochester Draft is a lot like Booster Draft, but there are a few important differences. Instead of each player opening a pack at the same time, only one pack is open at any time. That pack is laid out face up, so you’ll see all the cards drafted at your table. Also, the draft order reverses after everyone at the table has taken one card from the pack.

Let’s say that eight people are starting a Rochester Draft, and they’re numbered from one to eight clockwise around the table. Player 1 opens the pack and lays it out on the table. After everyone has had a chance to see the cards, player 1 drafts a card. Then player 2 drafts, and so on around the table.

After player 8-the person to the right of the player who opened the pack-has drafted a card, player 8 drafts a second card and drafting continues back to the right until all the cards have been drafted. (Since there are only fifteen cards in a booster pack, you won’t get a second card from a pack you open.)

Player 2 opens the next pack, and so player 1 gets the eighth and ninth picks from that pack. This process is repeated until everyone at the table has opened one booster pack. Then player 8 opens a second pack, but drafting starts to the right. Player 7 opens a pack, and so on. Player 1 is the first to open his or her third pack, and drafting starts to the left for the rest of the packs.

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