Last updated on December 11, 2020
Clockspinning | Illustration by Zoltan Boros & Gabor Szikszai
Standard is arguably the most popular and widely known MTG format, likely due to its dynamic and evolving gameplay. In it, you use a minimum 60-card deck with no more than four copies of any one card except basic lands from the most recently released sets, created with your wildest dreams in mind. Minus the handful of banned cards, that is.
But what is Standard rotation, and why should you care? Well, read on, as we’ll answer both of those questions and much more below.
Field of the Dead | Illustration by Kev Walker
MTG Standard Rotation: What Is It
Standard rotation is, quite literally, the rotation of cards in and out of Standard play. When it comes to the schedule, it’s pretty straightforward: every fall, Wizards of the Coast rotates out the current sets of cards that can be used in Standard and replaces them with a handful of new sets.
Otherwise, we’d currently have a grand total of over 80 sets available in Standard, and a staggering amount of over 18,000 unique cards. That’s why older formats like Legacy and Vintage exist.
Standard rotation allows newer players to access and use recently printed cards without needing to worry about acquiring all the really old and expensive stuff.
Understanding Standard rotation is important for managing your collection so you know when to sell and when to buy. And so you can determine which decks should demand the investment of your hard-earned cash or wildcards on MTGA.
Time Walk | Illustration by Amy Weber
What’s in Standard: Current Sets
There are currently five sets in Standard. Let’s take a quick look at these, and then we’ll dive in a little further:
The Newest Set
The current newest set in Standard is Zendikar Rising which was officially released on September 25, 2020.
The Next MTG Set
The next change to Standard will happen on February 5, 2021 with the release of Kaldheim.
MTG Standard Rotation in 2021: Upcoming Sets
We’ve talked about what’s in Standard right now, but what about what is to be? When is Standard rotation for MTG going to be this year, and what is that going to look like?
For MTG, the next Standard rotation will take place with the release of the two (as-of-yet) unnamed Innistrad sets in Fall 2021. Here’s the sets that will make up Standard in the next rotation:
This means we’ll be losing Throne of Eldraine, Theros: Beyond Death, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, and Core Set 2021.
If you’re a bit lost, here’s a helpful graphic to help you visualize Standard rotation:
Don’t Forget the Ban List
As very briefly mentioned earlier, there are currently several cards banned in Standard MTG. This is a historically high number and reflects a major change in the way WotC is managing the Standard environment.
The banned list was last revised on October 12, 2020, and consists of:
- Cauldron Familiar
- Fires of Invention
- Oko, Thief of Crowns
- Once Upon a Time
- Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath
- Omnath, Locus of Creation
- Lucky Clover
- Escape to the Wilds
Don’t put these in your deck! A fun thing to note is that as a “consolation prize,” MTGA will award you with wildcards if you own a card that got banned. Yay.
The new rule is:
Once per game, any time you could cast a sorcery (during your main phase when the stack is empty), you can pay 3 generic mana to put your companion from your sideboard into your hand. This is a special action, not an activated ability.
Formerly, companions could be played without paying any additional costs, directly from your sideboard.
Let’s Talk Reprints
There are also reprinted cards that are reintroduced from older sets, sometimes with new art or a different rarity level. So, you’ll occasionally be able to use cards that were available in previous rotations again. Some examples from Throne of Eldraine are Opt and Fling, but my personal favorites are from the Core Set are Leyline of the Void and Planar Cleansing.
There are also functional reprints, which is when a card’s function stays the same, but the name and art change. An example of this from Throne of Eldraine would be Charmed Sleep, which is a functional reprint of Claustrophobia.
Unfortunately, there’s over 200 reprinted cards between all the sets currently in Standard, so we won’t be listing them all out here. If you’re curious, you can check out the following links for a full list of reprints and functional reprints in each set: ZNR; M21; IKO; THB; ELD; M20; WAR; RNA; GRN.
Disdainful Stroke | Illustration by Deruchenko Alexander
All About the Last Rotation in 2020
Standard rotation happened last with the release of the Zendikar Rising set in September 2020, marking the 85th MTG expansion. And then there’s what was lost to Standard. The sets that were rotated out. Here’s what we recently lost:
What Standard Rotation Means for You
Now we come to the part where we talk about how Standard rotation affects you and deck building. We won’t go into too much detail, but we will cover some of the basics that you should keep in mind.
First, let’s talk about deck building for Standard in general. The first thing to know is that Standard is a constructed format, meaning that you create a deck using Standard-legal cards from your collection. Standard decks must be at least 60 cards, and although there is no specific maximum deck size, you have to be able to shuffle your deck in your hands without help.
Beyond that there are only three restrictions on what you can have in your deck: no more than four copies of any one card save basic lands (unless specifically stated otherwise on the card, like Seven Dwarves), that they’re not banned in Standard, and they’re part of a set currently in Standard or an older reprint.
Persistent Petitioners | Illustration by Jason Rainville
You also get a sideboard, which is an optional 15 cards that you can bring along with your deck. Between best-of-three (BO3)/”traditional” matches, you can swap cards from your sideboard into your main deck to better counter your opponent’s deck and strategy. This is typically a 1:1 trade, but it doesn’t have to be.
That about covers the basics that you should know for Standard deck building. But, what about managing your collections, whether digital or IRL—or both?
Managing your MTG Collection
Confession time: I’m a card collector. And not even in the cool “I have copies of all these awesome and rare cards” way. It’s almost borderline hoarding, where I buy cheap packs of cards from the dollar store whenever I see them because I don’t care what I get I just want more cards. It’s a weird obsession, and I’m not sure what it is about Magic cards that seems to trigger this in me, because I’ve never collected anything else and I absolutely hate clutter.
That being said, I do know a thing or two about finance and trading, which comes in handy for managing your MTG collections. Selling and buying is part of the game for most players, so knowing when to buy new cards and sets and when to sell your old cards is crucial. We’ll first touch on selling your paper cards first since there’s more moving parts, and then we’ll talk about managing your MTG Arena collection.
Right after rotation, most of the popular cards in Standard would have already started to see their value go down. Their demand is mostly tied to their use and legality in this format, after all. There will be some exceptions, most notably cards that are prominent in Commander or Modern. Other things that affect the price of a card are reprints in new sets or being banned. The former because reprints means more of the card exists and so it’s easier to get a hold of, and the latter because if the card is banned then it can’t be used and so there isn’t much use in paying for it.
Plummet | Illustration by Aaron Miller
When the time comes to rotate, it’s best to sell your Standard staples before rotation happens, but not right before. Prices don’t just drop overnight; they usually start to go down leading up to the rotation, so right before probably won’t net you the highest price.
For cards that work in Commander or Modern, these sometimes see a small dip in price right around rotation, but usually rise back up to more than what they were valued at before. So, for Commander staples and Modern staples, it’s best to hold onto these and sell them after rotation instead of before.
For MTG Arena, managing your card collection is a lot simpler. You can’t sell your old cards and the only way to get specific cards is by crafting them with wildcards, which you can’t outright buy, so there’s no way to buy individual cards like you can in paper Magic.
The sets and packs sold through the MTGA client by WotC are digital commodities and short of limited time offers there can be an infinite number sold, so supply and demand don’t really factor in as much. When Standard rotates, you’ll have to settle for using the old cards in Historic.
The best way to manage your collection and keep your spending to a minimum in Arena is by participating in drafts and events to win free packs and cards to bolster your collection. You can also keep an eye out for discounts and premium bundles in the store that might offer a bunch of stuff for a cheaper total price than if you bought them individually. You can also get free cards and packs by redeeming promo codes.
Renewal Rewards and Events
Last time rotation happened, with Throne of Eldraine in 2019, MTG Arena had a slew of special events and changes to their starter decks to help ease players transition into the new Standard format. It sounds like this is going to happen again for 2020’s rotation.
Renewal will include gifting you with extra cards, Zendikar Rising boosters, and sleeves. Plus the new player decks are getting an overhaul to make sure they still work in Standard after rotation. These will be automatically added to your collection if you already finished the new player experience.
Impact of Rotation on Power Level
Because new MTG sets are released throughout the year and Standard rotation happens in the fall, there’s a period right after previous sets are rotated out when fewer sets are available for use in Standard. There’s a pretty big power difference between having five sets available (right after rotation) versus having eight sets available (right before rotation). Going back to what we said earlier regarding why Standard rotation happens, more available sets and thus more available cards offer more opportunity when done in moderation.
Memory Lapse | Illustration by Greg Staples
It’s as simple as having less vs. more cards to choose from, and so less vs. more possible combos, less vs. more potential synergy, etc. Things start to get out of hand when you add sets indefinitely, which is why older sets get rotated out every year. Compare the power level of Standard to that of Modern or Pioneer, for example.
But there’s no denying that the few months we have with those extra four sets offer much more potential than when we only have five.
With all of that said, we’re about ready to wrap this up in a nice little bow and call it done. Standard rotation is a simple concept, but it has some pretty big impacts on Standard play in MTG, both online and in paper Magic. There’s plenty of moving parts and lots to look forward to with new sets released every season. What are some of the things that you’re most looking forward to in Magic this year? Let us know in the comments below.
If you play Standard and don’t yet have our free deck tracker for MTGA, Arena Tutor, what are you waiting for? It’s awesome and it will help you start winning more!
And don’t forget to bookmark this page and check back to keep up to date on every Standard set and rotation, as we’ll be updating when we get new info and new sets come out.