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Magic: The Gathering is a complex game with a variety of formats to choose from, each with its own unique set of rules and strategies. Whether you're a seasoned veteran or a newcomer to the game, understanding the different formats and their gameplay styles can be the key to finding the perfect fit for your playstyle. In this article, we'll break down the rules of the most popular official MTG formats and discuss who they're tailored to, giving you the knowledge you need to make an informed decision about which format you want to try before you ever step foot in store!


Standard the most popular format, featuring the latest sets from the past 2 years or so. This format is perfect for players who want to stay up-to-date with the latest cards and strategies! This format follows all of the normal rules of deck construction - meaning you build a 60-card minimum main deck with a sideboard of up to 15 cards, with no more than 4 copies of any one card across your entire deck list (excluding any basics). Each year, new Magic sets are released and added to Standard. Phyrexia: All Will Be One and March of the Machines are both Standard-legal sets; special sets like Unfinity or Lord of the Rings: The Tales of Middle-Earth are not. Whenever fall releases begin, normally in mid- to late-September, the 4 oldest sets will rotate out.


This non-rotating format allows cards from 2003's Eighth Edition and forward. It's a great option for players who enjoy using powerful and iconic cards from Magic's recent history! This format follows all of the same deck construction rules as Standard format, except you can use any cards from the last two decades of Magic – excepting, of course, those on the banned and restricted list. You can find a link to that at the bottom of this article! 

Tuesday Night Modern is also the longest-running weekly event at Gamers XP. You can come in any Tuesday night at 7pm to try out your deck at a casual event with a competitive community!


Pauper is another non-rotating format, but only common cards are allowed. It's a great option for players who want to try something different and experiment with unusual card combinations, and decks can be built on a budget as they’re comprised entirely of the most easily available cards in the game. Any version of the card is legal as long as it was at one time printed as a common, and it follows all other standard deck construction rules.This is also the fastest-growing format in the store right now, and we’re holding our first-ever Pauper tournament on April 29th! You can get more details about that event here, or come out on Wednesday Night to try it out for yourself!


Commander is a fun multi-player format where players build 100-card decks around a legendary creature (or in some cases, planeswalker). This is also an eternal format, meaning that your cards will never rotate out of legality. It's a great option for players who enjoy casual multiplayer games and want to try out unusual card combinations. 

Deck construction is different when you’re building Commander – not only is it a 100-card deck, but you can only have one of any specific card (excepting, of course, your basic lands). Not only that, but the cards in your deck have to match the color identity of your commander! This means that you can only play cards with mana symbols that match those displayed on your commander. This format lends itself to powerful combos and a lot more strategy than most Magic games, as you’re dealing with three opponents at once.

This is the easiest event to find if you want to play at Gamers XP – we hold Commander three days a week, plus 2-Headed Giant Commander on Saturdays! Thursday and Friday are Commander pods where you battle it out against three other players of your skill level for the glory of an extra pack (and score a set booster just for playing), and Saturday’s free event Commander Day is a community-focused event where you can win up to a Collector’s Pack just for playing four games over the course of the day.

Two-Headed Giant

This is a relative unique format where two players team up to battle against another two-player team. Each team has a shared life total, and players can work together to create devastating combos. You can strategize and share information with your teammate as you play!

You can play Two-Headed Giant with Constructed, Limited, or Commander decks – meaning there is no specific deck building requirements for it; you just follow the requirements of the format that you’re choosing to play.

While we occasionally hold Two-Headed Giant Sealed events (like during March of the Machines Prerelease Weekend), we hold Commander Two-Headed Giant every Saturday!

Sealed Deck

Now for our first Limited format! In Sealed (Meagan’s personal favorite), players receive a certain number of booster packs and must build a deck using only the cards they opened. It's a great option for players who enjoy the excitement of opening new cards and the challenge of building a deck on the fly.

In Sealed, you build a 40-card minimum deck instead of 60. In addition, you’re not held to the maximum 4 of any one card rule – you can play as many copies of a card as you open in your packs! You also don’t build a specific sideboard; your sideboard is the remainder of your sealed pool, and you can make whatever modifications you want to your deck from that pool in between games.

You can try this format out during any set release – like during March of the Machines Prerelease Weekend!

Booster Draft

In our last (also Limited) format, players take turns selecting cards from a communal pool of booster packs. It's a great option for players who enjoy the strategy of building a deck on the fly and trying to anticipate their opponents' moves.

The deck construction rules are the same as they are for Sealed, but you end up with a much smaller pool – so choosing carefully while you’re drafting is important! Each time you open a pack, you will choose one card from that pack (without showing any other players) before passing it to the player sitting on your left and being passed a pack from the player on your right. You will continue this until every card in those packs has been chosen, and then open a new pack and do it all again, this time passing to the right. Normally Draft is done with 3 packs, but sometimes there will be special events with more packs in rotation. However many packs there are, you continue the same process, alternating directions, until all packs are gone. Then you get to build your deck with the cards that you hand-picked! You can try your hand at drafting pretty much every week during Friday Night Magic!

No matter what type of Magic: The Gathering player you are, The Gamers XP has a format that can cater to your playstyle. Whether you're looking for the latest cards and strategies in Standard, the deep card pool and competitive play of Modern, or the budget-friendly fun of Pauper, we have you covered. If you prefer team play, our Two-Headed Giant format is perfect for you. For those who love the excitement of opening booster packs, our Sealed and Draft events are always popular. And, of course, Commander remains a beloved and unique format that has something to offer for every type of player. We hope this article has provided some clarity and guidance for choosing your next Magic: The Gathering format, and we look forward to seeing you at The Gamers XP for your next game night!

Ready to start building your deck? Make sure you check the ban list for your favorite format first!

After that, head over to our Singles Store and start building. We’ll see you soon!


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