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Most games of Magic, especially casual ones, are played with Constructed decks, made by the players before they arrive at game.

Description[ | ]

Constructed formats, as opposed to Limited formats, allow players to build decks from the entirety of the legal cards available in the specified format. Which cards are legal in a Constructed format is one of the main variations between the various formats. Usually these are partitioned by release dates.[1]

  • Standard uses cards from the most recent 4-8 sets.
  • Modern uses cards from the core set Eighth Edition (released in 2003) and all sets that were since then part of Standard at one point in time plus Modern Horizons.
  • Pioneer uses cards from Return to Ravnica (released in 2012) and all sets that were since then part of Standard at one point in time.

Eternal[ | ]

Eternal formats follow the basic Constructed format rules for deck construction, but expands the available cards to include virtually all published Magic sets.

  • Vintage is the only format to have a Restricted List. Each card on this list is limited to one per deck instead of the customary four. This is the only sanctioned format that allows the "Power Nine".
  • Legacy uses the same sets as Vintage, but only has a Banned List and not a Restricted List.

Vintage and Legacy were very closely related until September 1, 2004, when R&D decided that splitting the formats was a good idea. Certain cards formerly banned in Legacy were unbanned and the format was allowed to develop on its own. Legacy once had a reputation for being the "poor man's Vintage" but today has developed into a format very distinct from Vintage.

Pauper is an Eternal format with an additional restriction of having only commons. While casual for a long time, multiple sanctioned tournaments with qualifications have been held online.

Casual[ | ]

Commander is the pre-eminent format, and perhaps the most popular format overall, with a recommended ban list, 99 cards and a headliner card known as the eponymous Commander.

Retired[ | ]

Retired formats are formats which are no longer sanctioned.

  • Extended used cards from the last eight blocks and the last three Core Sets.
  • Block Constructed permitted only cards from a single "block" of up to three sets. Most tournaments only used the most recent block, but each block was potentially available, if announced ahead of time.

Rules[ | ]

From the glossary of the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

A way of playing in which each player creates their own deck ahead of time. See rule 100.2a.

From the Comprehensive Rules (June 7, 2024—Modern Horizons 3)

  • 100.2a In constructed play (a way of playing in which each player creates their own deck ahead of time), each deck has a minimum deck size of 60 cards. A constructed deck may contain any number of basic land cards and no more than four of any card with a particular English name other than basic land cards. For the purposes of deck construction, cards with interchangeable names have the same English name (see rule 201.3).
  • Constructed decks must contain a minimum of 60 cards. There is no maximum deck size, however, the player must be able to shuffle their deck unassisted.
  • Players may have a sideboard of at most 15 cards. Players may transfer cards between their sideboard and their main deck after each round of a match. The main deck must have at least 60 cards and the sideboard must not have more than 15 cards after these transfers, so often cards are exchanged on a 1-for-1 basis.
  • During sanctioned games, effects that access cards from "outside the game" refer to cards in the sideboard. Cards brought into games this way are returned to the sideboard after the game is over by default.
  • With the exception of basic lands (land cards that have the "basic" supertype) and cards like Relentless Rats, a player’s combined deck and sideboard may not contain more than four of any individual card, counted by its English card title equivalent.
  • A card may only be used in a particular format if the card is from a set that is legal in that format or has the same name as a card from a set that is legal in that format.
  • Cards banned in a specific format may not be used in decks for that format. Cards restricted in a specific format may only have one copy in a deck, including sideboard.

From the Tournament Rules (May 13, 2024—Outlaws of Thunder Junction)

  • 6.1 Deck Construction Restrictions
    Constructed decks must contain a minimum of sixty cards. There is no maximum deck size. If a player chooses to use a sideboard, it may not contain more than fifteen cards.
    Except for cards with the basic supertype or cards with text that specifies otherwise, a player’s combined deck and sideboard may not contain more than four of any individual card, based on its English card title.

Deckbuilding[ | ]

A general convention is to play 20-25 lands, and 35-40 spells, but there is wide variance in this aspect. In order to have the deck play consistently, many Constructed decks, or at least most of those used in tournaments, run four copies (known as a playset) of each card important to the deck, and run a maximum of exactly sixty cards. This causes the important cards to be drawn on a more regular basis, and helps the deck to be more reliable.

Netdecking[ | ]

With the growth of the internet over the years since Magic was first released, the sharing of decklists (known as netdecking) became more prevalent, allowing players to assemble and use decks without coming up with an idea and carefully refining decks themselves. Originally, Wizards of the Coast opposed this trend, but eventually embraced it, and even runs a daily deck feature on the game's website. The concept is still stigmatized by some in the community, although others have cautioned against this attitude.[2][3]

Netdecking contributes to the development of a clearly defined metagame in which a number of powerful deck archetypes emerge. Through netdecking, many players can immediately adopt similar or identical decks that have proven popular or effective, and it's more likely that many instances of the most popular archetypes will be present at a tournament with fewer variations between them. Because of this, the metagame of a Constructed format is much more important than the metagame of a limited format. This leads to decks sometimes being built simply because they will be good against popular decks; for example, if both kithkin and faeries are popular decks in standard, a player may be more inclined to run a giant deck with multiple copies of Thundercloud Shaman. Decks that are not very popular or common in the metagame are called rogue decks.

Team Constructed[ | ]

Team Constructed tournaments use Unified Deck Construction rules. This means that in addition to the usual single-deck construction rules, no individual card (based on its English card title) may be used by more than one player in the same team, with the exception of basic lands. For example, if one player is using Naturalize in a Team Constructed tournament, no other player on that team may have a Naturalize in their starting deck or sideboard.

Originally, Unified Deck Construction allowed for an individual card to be used by more than one player in the team, as long as the team's combined deck/sideboard contained less than four of them (unless the card was restricted or cards with text that specified otherwise). UDC rules were modified to the current configuration (only 1 copy of individual card) during the 2016 World Magic Cup. With this format change, WotC hoped to "level the playing field" and reduce affordability as a potential restriction of teams' choices in their decks as Modern is used as the construction portion.[4]

References[ | ]