Newbie Guide to Magic The Gathering Tournament Formats

Even if you don’t play in tournaments, the tournament deck building formats for Magic The Gathering can still be useful guidelines to follow if you enjoy dueling with other Magic players. Here’s a brief overview of how all of the different deck building guidelines work for each format.

Vintage (“Type 1”)

Vintage allows cards from just about every set of Magic ever printed. There is a “banned list” of cards not allowed at all (usually due to “ante” abilities that were quickly discontinued) as well as a “restricted list” of cards for which you may only include one copy in your deck. This is the only format to contain a restricted list. As Vintage contains cards from even the oldest sets of Magic, players often use “proxy” cards to represent cards they do not actually own copies of, in order to take money out of the deck building equation.

Legacy (“Type 1.5”)

The Legacy format allows cards from all Vintage legal sets. Cards deemed too powerful are banned from this format, and there is no restricted list. This is a somewhat less expensive deck building format than Vintage for this reason.

Extended (“Type 1.x”)

This format includes the last four years worth of Magic block sets and core sets. At the writing of this article, that includes Lorwyn/Shadowmoor block, Shards of Alara block, Zendikar block, Scars of Mirrodin block, M10 and M11.

Standard (“Type 2”)

This format includes half the cards of Extended: two of the most recent Magic block sets and one core set. That is currently Zendikar block, Scars of Mirrodin block, and M11.

Block Constructed

Any block can be used for a block constructed format. Zendikar block constructed would include Magic cards only from Zendikar, Worldwake, and Rise of the Eldrazi.


Unlike constructed formats, a Limited event does not require you to build a deck prior to the tournament. You are provided with sealed packs of Magic which you will either draft off, or open up and make a deck with. This format allows for creative use of cards not normally used in constructed formats due to their lack of overall power.

The Best Formats For New Players

If you’re a new Magic player, you will want to stick with Standard, Block Constructed, and Limited formats as these do not require access to an enormous card pool. As your collection grows, then you may consider expanding your deck to compete against other formats of tournament decks.