Last updated on September 24, 2021

Angel of Renewal - Illustration by Todd Lockwood

Angel of Renewal | Illustration by Todd Lockwood

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 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.

MTG Standard Rotation: What Is It?

Field of the Dead MTG card art by Kev Walker

Field of the Dead | Illustration by Kev Walker

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.

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 newest set in Standard is Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, which was officially released on September 24, 2021.

The Next MTG Set

The next change to (paper) Standard will happen on November 19, 2021 with the release of Innistrad: Crimson Vow.

MTG Standard Rotation in 2022: 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 Dominaria United, in Fall 2022. Here are the sets that will make up Standard 2022 (current rotation):

In fall of 2022, when Dominaria United releases, we will lose Zendikar Rising, Kaldheim, Strixhaven: School of Mages, and D&D: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms.

If you’re a bit lost, here’s a helpful graphic to help you visualize Standard rotation:

Source

Don’t Forget the Ban List

Last rotation, there were quite a few cards on the Standard banned list. With several sets rotating out, Omnath, Locus of Creation is now the only banned card in Standard. It isn’t much of a list anymore.

Don’t put banned cards 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.

Let’s Talk Reprints

Disdainful Stroke MTG card art by Deruchenko Alexander

Disdainful Stroke | Illustration by Deruchenko Alexander

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 Innistrad: Midnight Hunt are Unruly Mob and Duress.

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 Innistrad: Midnight Hunt would be Borrowed Time, which is a functional reprint of Banishing Light.

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: AFR; STX; KHM; ZNR; M21; IKO; THB; ELD; M20; WAR; RNA; GRN.

All About the Last Rotation in 2021

Standard rotation happened last with the release of the Innistrad: Midnight Hunt set in September 2021, marking the 89th MTG expansion. And then there’s what was lost to Standard; the sets that were rotated out. Here’s what we lost in 2021:

What Standard Rotation Means for You

Persistent Petitioners MTG card art by Jason Rainville

Persistent Petitioners | Illustration by Jason Rainville

Now we come to the part where I talk about how Standard rotation affects you and deck building. I won’t go into too much detail, but I will cover some of the basics that you should keep in mind. Oh, quick side note actually: we’ve got a guide to the best cards in the new Standard, so make sure to check that out to stay ahead of the competition.

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.

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.

On Paper

Plummet MTG card art by Aaron Miller

Plummet | Illustration by Aaron Miller

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.

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.

Online

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

MTG Arena has a slew of special events and changes to their starter decks each year to help ease players transition into the new Standard format. This has become pretty normal now, ensuring as smooth a transition as possible over each rotation.

MTGA 2021 Upcoming Renewal

Renewal includes gifting you with extra cards, packs from newer sets, and sleeves. Plus the new player decks get an overhaul to make sure they still work in Standard after rotation. These are 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.

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.

Rotating Out

Memory Lapse MTG card art by Greg Staples

Memory Lapse | Illustration by Greg Staples

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. See you then!

3 Comments

  • jim bob March 6, 2020 7:48 pm

    whats funny is that when you describe what standard would be like without a rotation, you basically just describe legacy/vintage. all those problems you mention for 83 sets in standard don’t seem to be a problem for legacy/vintage.

    • Dan Troha March 8, 2020 2:12 pm

      Fair point – I’ve updated the intro accordingly.

  • Owen July 28, 2021 5:25 pm

    Thanks for the explanation. The visual with the icons is a great quick reference.

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