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I started playing Magic (or started again rather) just after the Theros set had come out. The standard format was defined to include the Return to Ravnica block and the entire Theros block of which the last two sets had not come out.

I do not think Wizards of the Coast has made any official announcements yet so I'm asking for what may happen based on what has happened in the past. When can I expect Standard to change and what should I expect? Is it likely that the Theros block will remain in and the Return to Ravnica block will drop, or are the changes unpredictable?

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3 Answers 3

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Standard rotates once a year, in the fall. New cards printed in a core set or expansion set stay in Standard for between one to two years after their printing.

Currently, the normal set release schedule is:

  • One block (like Theros) on a yearly cycle: one sets each for fall, winter, and spring.
  • One core set (like M14) each summer.
  • A couple of specialty products throughout the year, like Commander decks or Modern Masters. These aren't part of Standard.

Both the structure of Standard and the release schedule have varied over time, but there's no particular reason to think Wizards of the Coast will change them anytime soon.

Modern-day Standard environments consist of:

  • The current block.
  • The previous complete block.
  • Any core sets released since the previous complete block.

The cards in Standard rotate once a year, when the first set of the new block is released in the fall. At its smallest, Standard is one old block + one set from the new block + one core set. At its largest, just before rotation, Standard is two complete blocks + two core sets. Because rotation happens in the fall, the cards in the summer core sets effectively "age out" the fastest (after about 1 1/4 years).

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The format rotation is pretty predictable (although subject to change at WOC discretion).

Cards allowed (aside from cards that get banned on an individual case basis):
- Cards from 2 most recent story-related blocks
- Cards from any Core set released after the older story-related block in standard.

Example (from May 13, 2014): Current standard:

Return to Ravnica
Gatecrash
Dragon's Maze
Magic 2014
Theros
Born of the Gods
Journey Into Nyx (effective May 2, 2014)
Magic 2015 Core Set (effective July 28, 2014)

When the story-related block is released (after Magic 2015 Core Set) Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash, Dragon's Maze and Magic 2014 will cycle out.

A new Story-related block and its first set are usually released every Sept/Oct each year (2 new sets of the block follow after 3-4 months each). Core sets usually come out in June/July. Each story-related block is in 'Standard' for about 2 years. Later sets in block and the core sets usually cycle out in about a year.


In 2016, it is planned to change the release schedule of new cards and block rotation for the standard format. Standard will consist of the last 3 blocks and each block will rotate out after 18 months.

http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/mm/metamorphosis

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These answers were correct at the time of writing, but several changes have made them no longer fully correct.

First, Wizards moved away from the 3 set block and 1 core set model. While this doesn't change when and how often rotations happen, it does change how consistent and synergistic the cards in a single standard meta are, which is probably some small part of what lead to...

Second Wizards of the Coast has made a change to the rotation schedule, among other changes, in order to try and revitalize standard. This year had no rotation in September at all, adding a third year of cards into standard. It's expected that there will be a rotation this coming September, but not yet clear if it will keep the three years of sets or will rotate out the earliest two years to go back to the usual 2 year cycles (most likely Wizards does not know yet, and will make a decision based on the effect the change had on standard)

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  • While an update to this 10-year old question was certain due, I don't see any reason to speculate that the change from a 2-year rotation to a 3-year rotation is anything but permanent (or at least very long term). Sure, they might eventually change their mind, but they wouldn't even be able to fully assess the impact without doing at least one full 3-year rotation (so 2026 at the very very earliest). You might also include a link to the "Revitalizing Standard" announcement article (posted 5/7/2023).
    – BradC
    Mar 19 at 16:25
  • @BradC The announcement of the change was poorly received by those people who do play standard (mostly arena players) in a way that WotC both has and hasn't responded to before and backtracked or reverted the change. A lot of standard players were unhappy that oppressive cards were going to remain another year. It's very possible that this extension will do more harm, to standard than good (though the pressure to run standard events at competitive levels may hide the difference either way)
    – Andrew
    Mar 19 at 18:15
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    A non-trivial number of players treat any change made by WotC as certain doom for their favorite format :). Sure, anything could change in the long run; my main problem with your answer is your implication that this fall's standard rotation is up in the air, and as far as I can tell that's your speculation with absolutely no hint of support. Feel free to add any quotes from WotC employees to the contrary.
    – BradC
    Mar 19 at 19:06
  • One further point about the 3-year rotation: it gives the game designers a new way to balance Standard (besides banning problematic cards). The set development timeline is long enough that under the 2-year cycle you can't design new cards to counter/balance problematic cards/themes/strategies, because they'd have cycled out before the newly designed set is released. 3 years, however, is enough time to design and release new sets that will interact with cards currently in standard.
    – BradC
    Mar 19 at 19:10
  • "A lot of standard players were unhappy that oppressive cards were going to remain another year." But if they change it back, standard players will be unhappy that they get less time value out of cards that were required for the Standard meta but unplayable in eternal formats. (Consider, for example, the secondary-market price history of Vraska's Contempt.) Mar 20 at 18:32

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