Wizards of the Coast has announced that Magic: The Gathering’s Standard format will be moving to a three-year rotation cycle starting this Fall with Wilds of Eldraine. The change will move Standard away from the two-year rotation cycle that has been used since the format’s inception.

Don’t miss our coverage of the weekend’s other news: “From Cute to Brute” is the next Secret Lair Commander deck (and is available on Monday, 5/8), plus Doctor Who, Lord of the Rings, Commander Masters, and Wilds of Eldraine previews!

“Standard is, and has long been, vital to thriving local game stores,” wrote Vice President of Design Aaron Forsythe. But, “[e]ven in the context of Magic growing leaps and bounds over the past few years, tabletop Standard hasn’t kept pace.”

“It concerns us when tabletop Standard gets left behind despite Magic’s tremendous growth,” he continued. “Time and time again, we’ve heard from players and local store owners that they believe a healthy, well-liked, well-attended Standard is still incredibly important to their experience and their success.”

As a result, Wizards is “rolling out multifaceted plans over the coming months” to revitalize Standard—starting with moving the format to a new three-year rotation cycle.

The New Three-Year Rotation Cycle

The first step of Wizards’ plan to revitalize Standard is to “extend the lifecycle of all cards in Standard by one year” by adding a year to the traditional two-year rotation cycle.

In practice, “[t]his means that with the release of Wilds of Eldraine [on September 8, 2023], there will be no Standard rotation for this year only. The following year in 2024, Innistrad: Crimson Vow, Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty, and Streets of New Capenna will rotate out of Standard,” Forsythe wrote.

He believes that this will have to main impacts: it “will give current Standard cards more longevity” and “will allow mechanics and archetypes to be more effectively built on over time.”

“Time and again, we hear that players want to play with cards they love and enjoy longer,” Forsythe explained. “Standard is our only rotating format, and while keeping it fresh is important, we also feel that there’s a more effective middle ground.”

Additionally, he stated that transition away from the block model (the history of which is explored below) removed “some ability to build on mechanics and themes within a set.” With an additional year to keep sets (and their mechanics) in Standard, Wizards “can find more opportunities to build up or revitalize archetypes.”

The combination of both impacts, Forsythe argues, “can lead to more diversity, longer-lasting archetypes, and enough competitive churn to keep players engaged.”

The hope is that these changes will also help “create an environment where decks are more ‘color(s) and mechanic’ (like Green-White Toxic or Blue-White Soldiers) and less midrange.”

“The rest of the plan is currently undergoing iteration and will roll out as we finalize it,” Forsythe concluded. “While later steps are still in the planning stages, we felt it was important to share this change as early as possible once our plans around rotation were locked into place.”

The Origin of the Two-Year Rotation Cycle

Debuting in 1995 as “Type 2,” Standard’s innovation was to create a Magic format that “rotated” cards out of the format every so often. Standard’s early rotation strategy was originally based around “blocks”—the idea that multiple Magic sets were designed together to form a “block” of sets, usually telling the same story and/or set on the same plane. These blocks were made up of three sets (Fall, Winter, Spring), followed by a Core Set (Summer), then a new block would begin in the Fall.

Standard would therefore define itself by limiting players to cards from the two most recent blocks and the Core Sets that followed them. After the release of a the first set in a new block each Fall, the oldest block in Standard, as well as its Core Set, would rotate out of the format.

A visualization of Standard’s two-year rotation cycle, featuring a once-a-year rotation in the Fall.

The first major change to the block structure came nearly 20 years later in August 2014, when Head Designer Mark Rosewater revealed that Magic would be adopting a two-set block structure and discontinuing Core Sets.

As a result, Rosewater also announced that Standard would be changing its rotation strategy. Rather than rotating four sets out at the same time once a year in the Fall, Standard would rotate twice a year at the beginning of each new two-set block, rotating out the two sets that made up the oldest block.

A visualization of Standard’s proposed two-year rotation cycle, featuring a twice-a-year rotation in the Spring and the Fall.

The new two-set block rotation was going to start in the Spring of 2017 with the release of Amonkhet that April.

This new approach to rotation was met with immediate skepticism and eventually intense opposition. In October 2016, six months into the two-set block rotation (and after only two rotations), Director of Magic R&D Aaron Forsythe reversed the decision and reverted Standard to its one-yearly rotation cycle.

The next year in June 2017, Rosewater revealed that Wizards was scrapping the block structure altogether and moving to a more freeform approach featuring standalone sets on different planes (though he left the door open to occasionally spending more than one set on a single plane) and would be bringing back Core Sets.

A visualization of Standard’s new “blockless” set structure.

In the end, Standard barely managed to move away from its original rotation strategy in practice. Today’s announcement is second time Wizards has said it would change how Standard rotates but will likely be the first time they actually succeed.

Alchemy Will Continue With a Two-Year Rotation Cycle

Alchemy, the MTG Arena-exclusive rotating format, will not be following tabletop and digital Standard in changing its rotation strategy. Instead, it will remain on the same two-year rotation cycle that rotates out four sets every Fall.

“Our objective with Alchemy has remained: provide a format for our digital-first players who are looking for an ever-evolving and fresh Magic meta,” Wizards said.

There are three principles that underly keeping the two-year rotation for Alchemy, according to Wizards:

  1. “Alchemy is a very different environment than a tabletop format”
  2. “Alchemy is built for our digital-first, high-volume players”
  3. “A two-year rotation will help keep the Alchemy meta dynamic and fluid”

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