The very first rules that a player must heed are the formats of play. A
format is a set of rules that can be altered to balance the strength of the
cards and create new experiences when playing Magic. This guide will
cover the most popular DCI-sanctioned formats, though the number of
ways in which you can play Magic: The Gathering is vast.


The most typical style of play is known as Constructed play. Constructed
play is known for the starting life total of 20, 60-card decks, 15-card
sideboards, and ban lists. The current triad of Constructed formats
includes Standard, Modern, and Eternal.

Standard play is the most popular and most accessible format of the game.
Standard-format decks may only include the latest cards; no cards before
the latest and the previous two set blocks of cards are permitted. When
the first set in a new block of cards is released, both sets of the oldest block
are dropped from Standard. It is rare that cards need to be banned from
Standard tournaments.

Modern is a format that appeals to expert players who wish to play in a
format with more legal cards than Standard but less than the entire Magic
catalog, as in Eternal. Most cards released before Mirrodin are illegal in
Modern play, but the easiest way to tell if a card is not allowed is by
looking at its border.

Cards released before Mirrodin bore blocky borders before changing to the
"Modern” border. The list of cards banned in Modern is small but important to keeping the balance of power in competitive play.
 The Eternal formats of play are for those who dare to wish to harness the
 power of the ancients; nearly every Magic card in existence in allowed in
 Eternal formats. Legacy is a format that allows every Magic card to be built
 into a deck except for those registered to the official ban list.
 Vintage is the ultimate format of Magic, featuring few bans and utilizing a
 list of restricted cards. A Vintage deck may have only one copy of any card
 on the restricted list.
 Magic: The Gathering players can challenge themselves to Limited play, in
 which competing players must build a deck from a limited pool of cards
 before waging magical war.
 This is a great mode of play for skilled planeswalkers who want to battle
 on equal grounds, since no one may bring their own pre-constructed
 decks. There are two DCI-sanctioned formats of Limited play, and both
 concern 40card decks, 15-card sideboards, and life totals of 20: Sealed
 Deck and Booster Draft.
 In Sealed Deck play, each player is handed six 15-card booster packs^ from
 which they can add cards to their Limited decks. A player may use any
 amount of basic lands from outside of the draft when building their decks.
 Bans are rare in Limited formats since it is unlikely for someone to exploit
 over-powered cards outside of Constructed play.
 Unlike Sealed Deck play, the Booster Draft format adds a competitive twist
 to the deck-building stage. In Booster Draft, players gather around a table and are given three 15-card booster packs.
 Instead of opening all of them at once, a player will open their booster
 pack, discard any promotional cards, keep one of the cards for themselves,
 and pass the remainder of the booster pack to one side, accepting the pack
 passed from the other side.
 After all of the cards in a pack have been drafted, players repeat the
 process with their next booster pack, this time passing to the opposite
 side. After the third and final round, deck-building commences and play
 can begin.
 Recently sanctioned by the DCI and revolutionized by Wizards of the
 Coast, Commander^, known previously as Elder Dragon Highlander, is a
 wild multiplayer format. Each player⁵s 100-card deck must have only one
 copy of any card other than basic lands. In addition, there must be a
 legendary creature which will act as the player's chosen commander.
 The commander is a special creature that resides in the command zone.
 When this creature leaves the battlefield for any reason, its owner may
 choose to return it to the command zone to be cast again later. A
 commander costs two more colorless mana to cast for each time it had
 been previously cast from the command zone.
 The mana cost of the commander also determines the colors that can be
 played in the deck. Cards that require another color to be cast or to
 activate the cardos abilities may not be built into that deck. Combined with
 the singleton rule mentioned above, deck construction for Commander
 decks includes card choices that are known to be unpredictable, fun, and  stylish 

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