How to Play Magic Part 13: More Formats

A lot has changed in magic during the first full year of this blog, including the introduction of some new formats, which is why I am doing another formats post. Last time I posted on this subject Pauper was an unofficial format, but it is now recognized as an official format. Today I have more new formats to introduce to you, so lets begin.

Penny Dreadful

Last time I failed to mention Penny Dreadful. Penny Dreadful is a format only found on Magic: The Gathering Online. It consists of cards that cost 0.01 tix (the in game currency). This can include cards of all rarities. Every 3 months the format rotates as follows: cards that fall in value to 0.01 tix rotate in and any that rise above that price point rotate out. Because of this rotation, there is no need for a ban list. Other than that, it’s just a basic 60-card constructed format.


Oathbreaker is a 60-card singleton constructed format similar to Commander. Instead of a legendary creature to lead your deck, you choose a planeswalker as your Oathbreaker and an instant or sorcery as your Oathbreaker’s signature spell. These cards are set aside in the command zone. As in commander, the cards in your deck and the signature spell must be within the same color identity as your Oathbreaker. The command zone tax of 2 generic mana for each additional cast is still in effect and you can only cast your signature spell while you control your Oathbreaker. As the signature spell resolves, it goes back to the command zone, not the graveyard or into exile. Since decks are lead by planeswalkers, the alternate win condition of commander damage does not apply to the format and life totals start at 20. As for card legality, you can use cards from all of magic’s history with the exception of cards found on the format’s ban list which is maintained by the format’s creators.


Historic is a new format released exclusively on MTG Arena this year. It was announced in January of 2019, but only went live in November of the same year. Since Arena is so new, the cards within its database are cards that have been through standard within the last 3 years or so and since standard rotates and players spend time and physical money to buy packs and acquire their cards, the game needed a format where players can still play with those older cards after they rotate or else players would just keep throwing money at the game only to have to rebuild a significant portion of their collection with new cards after rotation. Imagine spending $100 on packs and cards only to have that investment disappear once rotation came around. In the physical world, you would still have the cards to do with as you please (sell them, hold on to them, or use them for other formats), whereas in the digital world, they would just disappear. Historic helps to remedy this problem by giving players a place where they can still play with those older cards. The format is so new that cards only go back as far as Ixalan right now, but there was an addition of a handful of much older cards to make the format more interesting. There are plans to extend the format, but announcements regarding this are often vague. It’s a typical 60-card constructed eternal format. Rather than a ban list, Historic has a suspended list. The cards that are on the suspended list cannot be used, but could easily find themselves off the list as the format expands and evolves. Cards that continue to be a problem will become banned. The reason for a suspended list is that the format will be expanding in 2 directions: forwards with the release of Standard sets and backwards as older cards are added.


Pioneer is a format that was also introduced in 2019. It’s a 60-card constructed eternal format that only goes back to the Return to Ravnica block (late 2012). The format will serve as a midway point between Standard and Modern. Remember Modern goes back to 2003 with 8th Edition and Mirrodin while Standard is only the most recent sets. Lots of good cards have come out of Standard in the past few years, but only a small handful of them were strong enough to see play in Modern. Pioneer also gives Standard players an easier route into an eternal format.

There are all kinds of ways to play a game of Magic. To learn about more ways to play, check out some of my previous posts on formats. To take a more in depth look at the more popular formats, specifically Modern and Commander, you can check out my deck analysis series which will soon include Pioneer.

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