Standard Reverts to a Once-a-Year Rotation

Today Wizards announced a major change in the way Standard sets will rotate going forward, undoing changes announced by Mark Rosewater over two years ago. Let’s take a look at what this change is, what it entails, and how we should feel about it.

The Change

Two years ago Mark Rosewater penned an article titled “Metamorphosis,” where he laid out the future plans for Standard, including the “Two-Block Paradigm,” which entailed that Standard would rotate twice-per-year (with the new blocks in Fall and Spring), rather than the once-per-year previously.

Today, Aaron Forsythe has announced that, due to a barrier of entry to new or casual players, Wizards of the Coast will be altering this schedule and returning to a once-yearly rotation schedule, effective immediately.

The Basics

In a nutshell it means that all cards in Standard will remain in the format for a longer period of time. While they would previous occupy Standard for up to 18 months, they will now remain in the format for up to 2 full years (24 months). When Amonkhet is released in late April of 2017, Standard will contain Battle for Zendikar, Shadows over Innistrad, Kaladesh, and Amonkhet blocks. In addition, both Battle for Zendikar and Shadows over Innistrad will rotate out of Standard at the same time, when the Fall 2017 set “Ham” is released.

The Details

There are certain decisions that end up being pretty cut-and-dry net positives. I believe this will prove to be one of them. There’s no real downside here, as far as I can tell, unless you’re someone who really looks forward to cards leaving Standard, or a card like Collected Company shows up in Standard again, leaving everyone begging for a quick and merciful rotation. Of course situations like this are often few and far between and they never really ruin Standard—not really. Otherwise, everyone gets to play with their cards for a little bit longer, and Standard has the potential to be a little more diverse thanks to more options and card interactions.

The most prominent benefit of all this is that now, when someone invests in Standard, some of their cards will retain value for the full 2 years rather than 18 months. With a new set coming out every 3 months or so, this additional time can really add up. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that not all sets will remain in the format for the full 24 months. For example, Eldritch Moon was released on July 22nd of this year. It will rotate out of Standard along with Shadows over Innistrad when the set codenamed “Ham” is released, which has a tentative release date of October 7th, 2017. This leaves Eldritch Moon with a little over 14 months of playability.

While that is definitely shy of the 24-month mark we’re talking about, that’s simply a necessary evil. Since sets rotate out of the format in blocks, there’s no way to keep the second set in Standard for the same amount of time as the first. Since two blocks will be rotating out at the same time, there’s no way to keep the second block in Standard for the same amount of time as the first. You could even say that each set after the first has diminishing returns in terms of how long they’ll be legal.

Contrast this with the oldest set that will be rotating out of Standard at that time, Battle for Zendikar, which was released on October 2nd, 2015. As you can see, with “Ham” having a release date in October 2017, that’s the full two years in Standard. Unfortunately, as we alluded to, the second set from the first block and the entire second block that find themselves rotating out of Standard at the same time will never have the full 24 months in the format that the first set had. Unless something changes, we’ll typically see durations in Standard of 24 months, 21 months, 18 months, and 15 months per rotating set respectively. This isn’t anything new though and, in fact, it’s almost purely upside, extending the life of certain sets by 3 to 6 months.

Previously, Battle for Zendikar and Oath of the Gatewatch were slated to rotate from Standard once Amonkhet entered the format. This would make Battle legal between October 2nd, 2015 through April 28th, 2017, and Oath being legal between January 22nd, 2016 through April 28th, 2017. This is 18 and 15 months respectively, and the maximum amount of time any set was going to see in Standard. While the latter two sets that rotate out are still going to see about this amount of time in Standard, the former two sets are going to be around for much longer.

Now, you might see rotating two sets at the same time as being the problem, but realistically, there’s no other way to do it. Four new sets come out per years (or two blocks), so if you’re not rotating two blocks out of Standard per year, you’re basically going to have a Standard format that never catches up to its latest set—every year we’d be adding two blocks to Standard and removing one! It would be chaos!

In Summation

Ultimately, I think this is a great change. Cards should retain value for a longer period of time, they’ll be more playable, and players don’t actually have to worry about what is or isn’t Standard legal as frequently. If you can think of any potential downsides, I’d love to hear about them in the comments. Personally I can’t really see anything negative about this change, other than the fact that it’s Wizards reversing a policy change, which could be looked at with some skepticism.

I don’t really see it that way, though. Wizards realized their twice-yearly rotation plans weren’t being received as well as they had initially planned, and they took action to correct things. This should be praised and I can only hope that, moving forward, we see this same kind of swift action when it’s needed.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the extra six months you have with your Standard cards!


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