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MTG head designer says Standard is most popular format overall

While Magic's Standard format is struggling on the tabletop, when you take MTG Arena into account it's still doing great, says Mark Rosewater.

MTG standard digital - A phyrexian carrying a burning torch

Magic: The Gathering’s head designer says there are more Standard games played than any other format. Replying to a comment on his blog asking what Wizards will do if the Standard format can’t be saved, Mark Rosewater pointed out that “there are more Standard games played than any other format” – as long as you count both tabletop and digital. Rosewater adds that while Standard needs help in paper “even then, there are plenty of Standard games played”.

If this is based on market research rather than personal opinion, it’s interesting to know that Standard still sees more games overall than Commander – the new big focus for paper players. Presumably that’s a testament to the popularity of MTG Arena, the main online platform for Magic.

Of course, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Standard is in a much healthier place on MTG Arena, where it’s the most popular format by a long way, making up over 50% of Constructed play. In fact we think the success of Standard on MTG Arena is a major reason for the game mode’s paper decline.

It’s not clear if “more Standard games played than any other format” means Standard games outnumber games of ‘kitchen table Magic’: playing without restrictions or MTG banlists, based on whatever cards players happen to own. In the past, Rosewater has said Kitchen table Magic is the most popular general format, when taking tabletop into account, but that “digital play does vastly increase Standard play.”

Wizards recently began a plan of action to revitalise tabletop Standard play, beginning with a change to a longer, three year rotation. We’ve our doubts about that, but it’s just the first step in a larger process. Next up appears to be a change to the way MTG cards get banned – we’re expecting to hear more about that early this week.

The comment Rosewater responded to was asking if – assuming the worst case scenario for paper Standard – Wizards of the Coast would change its wider strategy, perhaps making Limited the premier format and otherwise focusing more on eternal game modes. Reading between the lines of his response, it seems like we can expect the company to continue designing around Standard for the sake of Arena, even if its plans to revitalise paper Standard ultimately fall short.

New to Standard? Check out the best MTG Arena decks here. And don’t miss all the MTG Arena codes currently in the game.