All Paper Magic Formats RANKED

O.K., this is going to be a wild one… I’m sure that I will hate on some people’s favorite formats, and for that I’m sorry (not actually that sorry).

I was going to use my super computer to analytically break down the formats and rank each according to in-depth, sophisticated data sets. Unfortunately, my two-year-old niece needed the batteries from the CPU to power a toy monkey that plays the drums so I’ll go with subjective criticism instead.

Speaking of powering down the old computer, I’ll be ranking the formats in terms of how good they are in paper (so not on MTGO), which will factor in cost and opportunity to play.

Here is the arbitrary DeMars scale for ranking the formats. I’ll give each category a score between 1 and 7, with 7 being the best and 1 being the worst. There are 7 different formats: Limited, Standard, Modern, Legacy, Vintage, Commander, and Pauper, and so for each category I’ll give each format a different score (no two formats will earn the same score in the same category). I’ll tally up the total scores of all five categories and rank them. Here are the five categories I’ll be comparing:

Gameplay – Are the games fun and interactive?
Metagame – Is the metagame static or does it shift around?
Deck Selection – How many strategic options do players have?
Opportunity – How easy is it to find a tournament to play the format?
Affordability – How much money does it cost to build a deck?

The List

Keep in mind that most of these formats fall very close to each other in terms of points and how I feel about them. I tried to be as objective as possible but ultimately how I feel about the formats heavily influenced the scores I gave.

#7. Standard

Gameplay – 2
Metagame – 1
Deck Selection – 1
Opportunity – 5
Affordability – 6
Total = 15

Standard earned its highest scores in categories regarding how accessible it is. The format isn’t particularly expensive and it is widely played. There are lots of large-scale events to travel to as well.

I feel like I have become a broken record complaining about Standard over the past few years. It becomes solved too fast. There are only ever a few playable decks. The format is dominated by a handful of cards that outclass the rest of the cardpool. New year, same complaint.

We may have reached a point where the other formats are inherently better than a format whose defining feature is a tiny card pool. Standard is the most exciting format on the planet for two weeks, but other than that I’d rather be playing something else. Am I wrong? I would love to hear a defense of Standard in the comments.

I actually believe that the current Standard is one of the better ones in recent years in terms of balanced decks and good gameplay, and I’m still yawning. In terms of playable formats, I wonder if others share my assessment that Standard is taking a backseat to other options.

#6. Vintage

Gameplay – 7
Metagame – 4
Deck Selection – 3
Opportunity – 1
Affordability – 1
Total = 16

Vintage really suffered in some predictable ways. There are few actual opportunities to play the format and the cards are ridiculously expensive.

Black Lotus is a lot like a classic vintage car that gets taken out of the garage once a year for the dream cruise.

Personally, I find actual games of Vintage to be the best in Constructed Magic and it makes me sad that I have one or maybe two opportunities to actually play events a year. A format that rarely gets played has obviously flaws, even if it is extremely fun to play. I’m hoping to play more on MTGO this year.

#5. Commander

Gameplay – 1
Metagame – 2
Deck Selection – 7
Opportunity – 3
Affordability – 3
Total = 16

Commander and Vintage had equal scores, but I placed Commander ahead. I acknowledge that my scoring is subjective and Commander is likely the format I’ve been the most unfair with. It earned a score of 1 in the gameplay department from me, and I understand a huge contingent would have given it a 7.

Here comes the sun and I say, “it’s all right.”

If you want to call me a hater and say that I have it out for Commander you can say your piece in the comments. I will point out that I ranked it ahead of my favorite format, Vintage. I try to be fair, while still being true to what I believe.

I enjoy Commander on occasion but it isn’t a format that I’d want to play for several days in a row. A few games a month and I’m all set on my Commander fix, which feels about where it fell on the list.

#4. Draft/Sealed

Gameplay – 3
Metagame – 3
Deck Selection – 2
Opportunity – 6
Affordability – 4
Total = 18

Typically, I’m a huge Limited fan. Ixalan left me somewhere in the middle. I don’t hate Ixalan Limited nearly as much as the average Pro Player. I heard a lot of complaining about how awful the format was at Grand Prix New Jersey.

The first Cutlass the deepest.

With that being said, it has some bright spots and some problem spots. The fact that the format is based around tribal synergies that force players into certain color combinations stifles a lot of creativity. But I’ve played long enough that I understand not every format can be Return to Ravnica.

I enjoy playing Limited more than Constructed most of the time. Ixalan Limited feels like an average Limited set and I’m not surprised to see it fall in the middle of the list.

#3. Legacy

Gameplay – 6
Metagame – 5
Deck Selection – 4
Opportunity – 4
Affordability – 2
Total = 21

The banning of Sensei’s Divining Top was great for Legacy. The format still suffers from being expensive and sometimes difficult to find events, but much less so than Vintage.

There are still Legacy GPs and other large events throughout the year.

If you can accept that much of the format is various flavors of blue and that is okay because the games are great—well, the format is a great time.

#2. Pauper

Gameplay – 5
Metagame – 6
Deck Selection – 5
Opportunity – 2
Affordability – 7
Total = 25

Pauper is easily the most controversial spot on the list. It earned almost unreasonably high scores for what it is…

I may be overvaluing the format because it is new and exciting. But with that being said, right now it’s in an awesome place. There are a ton of decks. The games are fun. Things are constantly changing.

I’ll admit that I’ve been a huge Pauper hater in the past and justifiably so. The storm decks made the format unplayable for any reasonable human being that had an interest in playing anything other than those decks.

When a format is good, I’ll be the first one to sing its praises. Pauper is in a great place right now and I’d love to see big things for the format in 2018.

#1. Modern

Gameplay – 4
Metagame – 7
Deck Selection – 6
Opportunity – 7
Affordability – 5
Total = 29

If you didn’t expect to see Modern in the top spot, I don’t really know what to tell you…

Modern is Magic. Not only is it the most played format, it is also the most playable format. You can do whatever you want. It pulls big numbers at the LGS. The Modern Masters sets have allowed staples to remain affordable to the masses.

Everyone can play and everyone does play. In a lot of ways Modern being so great and omnipresent in terms of Magic culture may be responsible for the decline in Standard. In fact, I think it is a big part of the reason.

With that being said, I’m always happy to hit up the game store on Tuesday night to sling some Modern. I like that I play against a different deck every round. I’m excited whenever I get to attend a Modern Grand Prix.


2 thoughts on “All Paper Magic Formats RANKED”

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