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How and why we changed the way Extended rotates.

A More Consistent Extended Rotation

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The letter W!elcome back. Today I'm going to talk about our recent change to Extended rotation. If tournaments aren't your bag, feel free to skip this one and check back later.

 Quick Quiz  
Under the old Extended rotation system, how many years of Magic sets would be legal in October 2009, when the set codenamed "Live" becomes legal for play?

Is the answer a little hard to name off the top of your head? Is the answer "I'd have to look it up"? That's because the old Extended rotation system is not very easy to remember. That's one of the reasons our recent announcement streamlined the Extended rotation system to a new, simpler, twelve-word definition:

"Extended is the last seven years of Magic blocks and core sets."

How Has Extended Rotation Changed?

Implemented six years ago in May 2002, the old Extended rotation system was to rotate out three Magic blocks every three years. That system is easy to describe in the abstract, but makes it hard to figure out what's legal at any particular time, or what will be legal a couple of years down the road.

 Quick Quiz #2  
Under the old rotation policy, how long would Imperious Perfect be legal in Extended?

Under the old rotation policy, to figure out the answer, it feels like you would need the internet, a number two pencil, a protractor, and an SAT prep book.

Under the new rotation policy, to figure out the answer, just say "seven years." Because now every block is legal in Extended for exactly seven years.

So how has the Extended rotation actually changed? One big difference is that under the old system, Extended was sometimes six years of blocks, sometimes seven years of blocks, and sometimes eight years of blocks. By contrast, in the new rotation system, Extended is always seven years of blocks.

Likewise, under the old system, some blocks were legal in Extended for six years, some were legal for seven years, and some were legal for eight years. In the new rotation system, every block is legal for exactly seven years.

The best way to show the difference is visually:


OLD ROTATION SYSTEM
Oct 2008 Oct 2009 Oct 2010 Oct 2011
6 Blocks 7 Blocks 8 Blocks 6 Blocks
     
Mirrodin Mirrodin Mirrodin
Kamigawa Kamigawa Kamigawa
Ravnica Ravnica Ravnica
Time Spiral Time Spiral Time Spiral Time Spiral
Lorwyn / Shadowmoor Lorwyn / Shadowmoor Lorwyn / Shadowmoor Lorwyn / Shadowmoor
"Rock" "Rock" "Rock" "Rock"
  "Live" "Live" "Live"
    "Lights" "Lights"
      "Shake"
     


NEW ROTATION SYSTEM
Oct 2008 Oct 2009 Oct 2010 Oct 2011
7 Blocks 7 Blocks 7 Blocks 7 Blocks
     
Onslaught    
Mirrodin Mirrodin  
Kamigawa Kamigawa Kamigawa
Ravnica Ravnica Ravnica Ravnica
Time Spiral Time Spiral Time Spiral Time Spiral
Lorwyn / Shadowmoor Lorwyn / Shadowmoor Lorwyn / Shadowmoor Lorwyn / Shadowmoor
"Rock" "Rock" "Rock" "Rock"
  "Live" "Live" "Live"
    "Lights" "Lights"
      "Shake"
 

You might notice that this table contains a few codenames for future sets. In 2005, Mark Rosewater ran a poll to determine upcoming codenames. When he announced the results, he revealed that the block beginning in fall of this year is codenamed "Rock" / "Paper" / "Scissors," and the block after that is codenamed "Live" / "Long" / "Prosper." Now, it's my pleasure to announce for the first time that the block beginning in fall of 2010 is codenamed "Lights" / "Camera" / "Action," and the block beginning in fall of 2011 is codenamed "Shake" / "Rattle" / "Roll." Both of these are triplets that also appear in Mark's poll.

Extended Rotation Details

"Extended is the last seven years of Magic blocks and core sets."

Crop_Rotation Each year, when a new large set is released in the fall and becomes legal in Extended, the oldest year of blocks in Extended rotates out.

Coldsnap rotates out of Extended when Time Spiral block does, in 2013, seven years after Time Spiral entered Extended. (Coldsnap‘s rotation is attached to Time Spiral block, just like it is in Standard.)

The Lorwyn / Morningtide block and Shadowmoor / Eventide block count as "one year of blocks." All four sets rotate out of Extended together, in 2014, seven years after Lorwyn entered Extended.

Examples of Extended Rotation

When "Rock" becomes legal for tournament play this October, Odyssey / Torment / Judgment block and Seventh Edition rotate out of Extended. At that time, the seven years of blocks legal in Extended will be Onslaught, Mirrodin, Kamigawa, Ravnica, Time Spiral, Lorwyn / Shadowmoor, and "Rock" block. Coldsnap will be legal because it sticks with Time Spiral block. All core sets from Eighth Edition forward will be legal.

When "Live" becomes legal for tournament play in October 2009, Onslaught / Legions / Scourge block rotates out of Extended. At that time, the seven years of blocks legal in Extended will be Mirrodin, Kamigawa, Ravnica, Time Spiral, Lorwyn / Shadowmoor, "Rock" block, and "Live" block. Coldsnap will be legal because it is sticks with Time Spiral block. All core sets from Eighth Edition forward will be legal.

The last seven years of core sets are legal as well. When "Rock" enters Extended this October, the core sets of the previous seven years will be in Extended too: Eighth Edition, Ninth Edition, and Tenth Edition. When a core set is released in the summer of 2009, nothing rotates out of Extended and Eighth Edition remains legal, since Eighth Edition will have been released within the last seven years. When "Live" enters Extended in October 2009 and Onslaught block rotates out, Eighth Edition still stays legal, since it will have been released within the last seven years.

Why Did We Change the Extended Rotation System?

There are three big reasons for the change:

1) Each block should be legal in Extended for the same amount of time.

Under the old system, it was unfair and bizarre that some blocks were legal in Extended for eight years total, some were legal for seven years total, and some were legal for six years total. For example, in the old system, Invasion would be legal in Extended for eight years, Odyssey would be legal in Extended seven years, and Onslaught would be legal in Extended only six years.

Why should Onslaught be doomed to rotate out so quickly? Why should Onslaught cards have such a shorter lifespan in Extended than Invasion cards? Those very different lifespans were completely arbitrary. If Mercadian Masques had been released in 2000 instead of 1999, it would have been legal in Extended for eight years total instead of six years. It was completely random, based only on the digits in a set's release date.

The new rotation policy is more consistent and more fair to each block. The new system keeps each block legal in Extended for exactly seven years, just like every other block.

2) Historically, eight-year Extended formats have been a little too big, and six-year Extended formats have been a little too small. We believe seven-year Extended formats have had the best gameplay, power, speed, balance between deck types, and level of interaction.

Once we decided to make each block legal in Extended for the same amount of time, the question became "How long should each block be legal?" Extended has been steadily growing in popularity over the last six years, ever since it diverged from its Stone Age roots in the Legacy-style "Type 1.X" format many years ago.

Incremental_Growth During the last six years, Extended has oscillated between six years of cards and eight years of cards, and players have reported that that size feels about right. It's important to us and to players that Extended be very different from Standard, and very different from Legacy and Vintage. Extended has truly achieved its own personality.

The average lifespan of a block in Extended so far has been seven years, and we feel that's right on. To maintain the level of gameplay, power, speed, balance between deck types and level of interaction of Extended over the last several years, we believe that we should stick to that average seven-year lifespan that has worked well for the format so far. The best way to keep the overall feel of Extended the same is to keep the average lifespan of a block in Extended the same: seven years.

In addition, when Extended has been eight years large (once every three years), it has sometimes threatened to be too fast, with games decided too quickly and with too little gameplay interaction. Combo decks are always powerful in Extended, but they can get especially insane during those eight-years-large Extended formats. For example, the current Extended format is eight years large, and Dredge can consistently win on turn two or three, held in check only by zero-mana answers like Tormod's Crypt and Leyline of the Void.

In general, combo is a natural, healthy part of Extended, but eight-years-large Extended formats can allow combo decks to get too far out of hand. The more years of cards are available in a format, the stronger combo decks tend to be.

Magic Developer and Top 8 veteran of (Extended) Pro Tour–Rome 1998 Erik Lauer elaborates:

 Erik Lauer  
As a format gets larger, different deck types get stronger at different rates. In particular combo decks tend to benefit more from the extra choices available than aggressive decks. Both get better, but the former can get a lot more reliable and resilient, in addition to getting faster. We make all sorts of "answers" available, so the attacking deck can reasonably interact with the deck trying to put together its combination of cards. However it isn't just one combo deck getting stronger, it is a whole bunch. When a format gets too large, too high a percentage of the winning decks are either combination decks, or decks with an abundance of permission to disrupt those combinations.

3) The new Extended rotation policy is easier to remember.

Ancestral_Memories You've probably memorized it already:

"Extended is the last seven years of Magic blocks and core sets."

No more asking...

"When does Extended rotate?"

or...

"What rotates out of Extended this time?"

or...

"Hey, what's legal in Extended these days?"

Because now the answers are always consistent and predictable. To me, the result is an Extended format that is fundamentally the same as it ever was, just more stable and more fair to each block.

No Bans for Now

We have been keeping a close eye on Extended recently, watching its best decks, how fast they are, and how effective the tools are to disrupt them. Overall, Extended players have been happy, and we've been happy. The format keeps evolving week by week, with new "best decks" arising each week, then falling back into the crowd as other players find ways around them. That's always a good sign of a healthy format. There are no bans in Extended this time.

October 31st marks the post-rotation, "Rock"-legal Extended Pro Tour–Berlin. I'm looking forward to seeing the face of the new format.

Looking to the Future

The details of the next block's Extended rotation will always be available and updated on the format page and in the Magic floor rules.

We haven't changed the Extended rotation policy since May 2002. I won't say we'll never change it again, but I would expect this rotation policy to last at least that long, which takes us up through 2014 and beyond. If anyone has early predictions about which Extended decks will be good in 2014, send them my way!

As for myself, I have an early prediction of a card I'm pretty sure will be highly playable in Extended of 2014. Click here to see it and decide if you agree:

Last Week

One thing I wanted to add to last week's article about Control Magics is that I feel Persuasion is a good, simple card at the right power level. I'd be happy to see Persuasion in future core sets. I also like printing Persuasion at Tenth Edition‘s uncommon level, not Odyssey‘s rare. I feel 3 ManaBlue ManaBlue Mana is the correct cost for this effect and I'm happy to print it there. I just don't want to super-push its power level needlessly high by going to 2 ManaBlue ManaBlue ManaControl Magic or Treachery. As in many development scenarios, it's amazing how much difference one mana can make.

Last Week's Poll

Have you ever played in a group with house rules that ban cards for being too annoying?
Yes 4101 53.1%
No 3625 46.9%
Total 7726 100.0%

This is one of the closest poll results we've had yet. Some multiplayer groups decided to ban multiplayer-superkicked cards like Weird Harvest or New Frontiers. On the other side of the spectrum, one group banned "Disenchant" because it kept disrupting their intricate combos! Most people in casual groups who said they have never banned a card instead rely on "frown technology," where people keep frowning at the guy with the Words of Wind combo deck that keeps making everyone put all their permanents in their hands until that guy gets the message and puts his Words of Winddeck back into his deckbox.

This Week's Poll

  What do you think of the new Extended rotation policy?  
Good Idea
Pretty Reasonable
Bad Idea

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