Ranking My Favorite Magic Formats



1. Team Tournaments

Team tournaments are just the best. Win or lose, the whole journey of preparing, solving the format, travelling and hanging out together combines all the things that make Magic fun for me. The Pro Tour 25th anniversary where we got second and all the Team Limited GPs we played with Shuhei, Corey and Andrew Baeckstrom are some of my absolute best memories from all over the years.

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2. Cube Draft

Cubing is my favorite way to play casual Magic. It basically combines the old school formats like Vintage and Legacy with Draft and you get the best of both worlds! I also appreciate the part where I get to constantly update my Cube with cards from new sets.

One big added benefit of having a Cube I found is that almost all the old cards tend to gain in value over time, so to some degree it feels almost like an investment. Imagine getting cards like Gaea’s Cradle or Legacy duals for your Cube or EDH deck five years ago, thinking Magic can be an expensive hobby sometimes. Looking at the value of these cards today, you would probably be able to easily buy a car when you finally decide to let go of it. If you think of any other hobby, the opposite is almost always true. If you buy equipment for skiing or golfing and want to get rid of it five years later, you’ll be happy if you get a fraction of what you paid.

3. Draft

Limited in general is my favorite way to play Magic. In Constructed, things can get repetitive and the format can sometimes become stale quickly. In Limited, every draft is different; you always end up with a different deck built around mostly different cards.

What I like most about draft is that it really rewards paying attention to little details. After you open your first pack, you have to make a big decision about what to first pick out of a pack where there are usually a couple other strong cards, so the choice isn’t easy. You have to make a mental note of what cards you’re passing to the person behind you, which card they’re most likely to take and what they’ll pass behind them.

For example, imagine you open a pack with a Merfolk Looter and three Doom Blade-like black removal spells. Normally, both are first pick quality cards, but Doom Blade might be a bit better. But if you consider that the next two people behind you are also extremely likely to pick Doom Blade, it suddenly makes more sense to pick the Merfolk Looter! That way, you’ll likely put the next three players behind you into black, fighting for the same color, while blue should be wide open for you in pack two.

Merfolk Looter  Doom Blade

But that’s not even scratching the surface of all the important things that matter. You also have to think about the cards you’re being passed - for example, what is the rarity of the card that is missing in the pack after the person in front of me made their first pick? If you can narrow it down to a common missing, with a very strong uncommon still being in the pack, you can probably figure out which card it is exactly because there usually aren’t that many busted commons in a set.

You also have to remember all the cards you’re passing during the draft and make the best effort at trying to play around them during the games. Did you pass two white sweepers to your left during the draft and now you got paired against the person who was sitting directly behind you? If they play a Plains, chances are very high that they’ll have both of those sweepers and you should try to play around them and bring in your discard spells or Negate after sideboard.

Negate

Speaking of sideboarding, that’s another huge part of Limited, especially Sealed. I regularly sideboard three to five different cards in every matchup. It’s probably the most underutilized part of Limited that a lot of players tend to skimp on because boarding in an entirely different color or going through 50 cards in your sideboard in Sealed during a match can be a lot of work.

Overall, drafting is the most fun and tests a complex variety of your Magic skills, from creativity to attention to detail. I’m very happy that right now on Arena we’re starting to see more Limited Opens and Draft Challenges and hopefully this trend will continue moving forward.

4. Historic and Explorer

I really like what Wizards is doing with Historic and Explorer at the moment. With new sets constantly coming in and all the Historic/Explorer Anthologies that add extra cards into the formats, they found a good formula on how often to update the format to keep it fresh.

5. Legacy

I really like the Legacy format, even if I don’t get to play it very often because it’s usually not a big part of the competitive system. Still, all the Legacy GPs I’ve been to were super fun because you get to play with some of the most iconic from Magic history, but also because in my experience, the Legacy community are some of the absolutely most chill and friendly Magic players I have met. Whether you’re enjoying playing competitively or pimping your all-foil Japanese deck, everyone seems to be having a good time.

6. Standard

I like Standard mostly when rotations happen and no one really knows what the best deck is. Perfect time to brew and get rewarded for creativity. I have always enjoyed playing Standard after rotations at the Pro Tours when everyone was excited to watch the coveage and see all the new cards and decks in action. With most of Standard games happening on Arena these days, the format gets solved and can become a bit stale pretty quickly though. The good thing is that getting into the format is relatively easy because you don’t need to learn 20 different decks to be able to compete.

7. Modern

One thing I like about Modern from a collector’s view is that once you build a deck, you’ll be able to use it for a long time because the format doesn’t change that much. From a competitive viewpoint though, there are just so many different decks that preparing for a big Modern tournament can be quite challenging. Seriously, there are probably 30 to 40 different decks that can win a Modern tournament on any given day, but you only get to play with 15 sideboard cards, which can make the tournament sometimes a big matchup lottery.

8. Alchemy

With all the constant changes and 6 different versions of each card, I often find myself confused about what is actually going on in this format. It’s not that I don’t like it, but keeping up with it can be really challenging.

You might be asking why is Commander not on my list. The simple answer is that I have just never gotten around to playing it. A lot of my friends are into it and it seems like a fun format, but with all the PT, GP and Arena tournaments being constructed and draft, that is just what I have been focusing on my whole time playing Magic. I might give it a shot down the road though, especially now that I have all the sweet boxes for it from Ultimate Guard!


Want to learn more about other Magic: The Gathering formats? Follow this link for a complete overview.

Author: Martin Juza

Magic the Gathering Hall of Fame, Member of Team CFB UltimateGuard

Martin learned to play Magic at a young age after he saw some of his classmates playing it. Once he learned, he built a beginner deck and ever since then, he’s been hooked. Considered one of the top players in the world, his busy travel schedule made him become a real Magic Globetrotter, representing the game worldwide. Learn more about Martin.