I'm curious about the time sensitive Nature of some Magic-The-Gathering questions, and whether these types of questions are really on-topic or not. For example, take this question:

Is there a conventional way of searching for lands in a mono-red deck?

At first it seems ok, but it was state that this question was meant for Standard (Type II). For those of you not familiar with this, Standard in Magic tournaments means the latest 2 blocks (typically 3 sets per block) and the latest core set. The problem with this is that every year (and even every three months or so) the card pool drastically changes. So a year from now, unless someone has gone and added a new answer, the answer to the above question is out of date.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but part of the point of the Stack Exchange network is to provide answers to questions that shouldn't change much. So this begs the question, should questions about deck builds based on the standard (or even extended) format be considered on-topic?

  • Technically only the references to Standard will be out of date since I included non-standard cards in my answer for just this reason. Oct 14, 2011 at 23:14
  • Another reason for MTG to live elsewhere. Oct 17, 2011 at 8:21
  • 2
    If by "elsewhere" you mean a dedicated MTG Stack Exchange site, I don't think that argument works because the intent of having answers that continue to be valid over time is a network-wide thing.
    – David Z
    Oct 18, 2011 at 3:02
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    Nearly all other board and card games don't suffer from this problem. A dedicated site can have its own rules for dealing with these things. This is discussed in another question. Oct 19, 2011 at 6:03
  • @Neal Tibrewala mind providing a link?
    – DForck42
    Oct 19, 2011 at 13:14
  • A much more pressing issue is how to handle revisions to the Comp Rules. Oct 21, 2011 at 15:12
  • @OrigamiRobot yup, that's another issue entirely. do they have versions for the rules?
    – DForck42
    Oct 21, 2011 at 15:51
  • @DForck42 - Yes, the rules are often revised. There have only been two major revisions (6th Edition and M10), but even slight changes can throw the reference numbers off or completely change the interaction of two cards. Oct 21, 2011 at 15:56

6 Answers 6


These are questions that certainly "time out", but so too do programming questions on Stack Overflow as technologies become dated.

I'd say that the badges for editing questions over 6 months old to freshen them are custom made for exactly this sort of thing, and shouldn't be a big worry.

We could edit tags to include the set names in such questions such as Scars/Innistrad/MTG Core 2012 to help clarify, tag editing is pretty simple and common.

I would be against tagging them as "standard" however, for the exact reason of this discussion.

Also the questions are still relevant to non-standard players, as standard is the most restrictive, so the answers given are still valuable to others.

  • actually the main programming questions that change over time are "best practice" questions and similar questions. an answer for a question about PHP 5.2.x will never change (unless of course someone comes up with a better methodology)
    – DForck42
    Oct 15, 2011 at 20:33
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    I think most sites have this problem to some degree. A big patch can drastically change things up over on Gaming for example.
    – Pat Ludwig Mod
    Oct 15, 2011 at 23:54
  • I agree with Pat. I don't think timeliness is only relevant to MTG, probably just more noticeable. Any game that has a changing rule base, or has expansions (Dominion and Arkham Horror come to mind) can/do run into the same issue.
    – Pithlit
    Oct 17, 2011 at 16:47
  • Hmm... in a sense, expansion names (or block names, at least) are like the version numbers of the Standard environment.
    – David Z
    Oct 18, 2011 at 3:06
  • Yep, this is definitely the case for Gaming: WoW is a great example of a topic on which an answer in April may be incorrect come November. There is even a discussion about how (or if) mods should use tools to mark out-of-date questions so we can be sure to update them. Oct 18, 2011 at 19:57
  • "so too do programming questions on Stack Overflow as technologies become dated." This simply isn't true. Unlike game patches, older versions of technology persist in industry for many many years. Oct 19, 2011 at 6:04
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    @NealTibrewala Arguably the audience for such information decreases as time goes on due to the growing obsolescence. Similarly answers to MTG questions will not be relevant to future players of standard events but will be interesting to a diminished audience not playing within those confines.
    – Stephen
    Oct 19, 2011 at 12:50
  • @Stephen In Magic, tournament formats that change keep changing. There will always been formats like "base set + last 2 expansions" and the questions and strategies of that will keep changing. However, a question based on an old "+ last 2" I argue is NOT future relevant as it is likely not useful if you're playing a different tournament type like "all cards allowed". Also, as technologies age, the importance of having the question archive increases. As someone who's had to go back and debug fortran and cobol code, I can tell you that while the consumers may decrease, the value increases. Oct 19, 2011 at 19:59
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    @NealTibrewala Your opinion that MTG belongs elsewhere is well documented. I'm certainly not going to present an argument that will convince you. I have played in events that are "Standard from <insert old block here>", clearly not sanctioned nor common, but still fun. I hope you continue to enjoy the rest of the site.
    – Stephen
    Oct 20, 2011 at 3:14
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    @NealTibrewala - While a particular programming language may exist in industry for many years, there have already been a number of programming tools, platforms, and even languages that have died. Console game programming is a great example, but so too are the old versions of the Mac OS. Change and growth is a constant state for any domain that is interesting and / or non-trivial.
    – cdeszaq
    Oct 20, 2011 at 13:07

You can't limit MTG questions to just the eternal formats, but as you said, the questions do not keep their meaning over time. I think SOP for this site (and for mtg.SE if it ever exists) could be to specifically mention which sets/blocks they are looking for are in st at the time of the question.

Instead of "What is a good card for X in Standard?" they should read "What is a good card for X in Standard (Scars, Innistrad, M12)?" or something with similar effect.

That being said, I also think the questions should try to be as general as possible and not limit answers to one specific format or combo when they can get around it. Maybe just have the question be "What is a good card for X?" and have the poster indicate his preference for sets/blocks.

  • 1
    adding the blocks legal at the time still runs into a logistics question because you now have to remember to add it to each applicable question, which won't happen.
    – DForck42
    Oct 15, 2011 at 4:12
  • I think this is a good idea. It could definitely be added to the FAQ and / or the tag wiki summary, and also something that is not particularly hard to add in with an edit after-the-fact.
    – cdeszaq
    Oct 20, 2011 at 13:08

MTG specifics change, but the principles, largely, endure. To me, the real value of those specifics is as a jumping-off point for clearer, more grounded communication. That's why I really like questions like "Why wouldn't you just always run four Diabolic Tutors?" I think they allow us to explore Magic concepts without answers becoming over-generalized.

Even though it is a moving target, I prefer to reference Standard over Legacy, Vintage, or Modern in my answers because (1) it's a format more people play and (2) I believe that any given year's Standard is more like most people's casual-play environments than the "eternal" formats, which seem to have very idiosyncratic styles. To put it more simply, I think an answer that talks about tapping out for a powerful 6-drop is likely to be more relatable -- even if that six-drop used to be Keiga but now it's Grave Titan -- than an answer about Vampiric Tutor and Ancestral Recall. Standard is just closer to how Magic is "designed to" work.

Also, anecdotally speaking, when I play casual Magic before FNM draft, I'm almost as likely to see Lorwyn cards as I am to see Scars cards. And the latest thing the middle-school-aged kids are all talking about? Slivers deck. So oftentimes these cards that saw play in Standard but aren't Legacy-worthy still see tons of kitchen-table play years after they're printed.


There is another reason to perhaps focus a bit more on Standard that has not really been mentioned yet (although @Alex P aluded to it in his answer), and that is the fact that many of the people who have questions about MTG are going to tend to be new players.

Most people just starting out in magic will be playing with cards that are currently in Standard because most new people tend to get into the game through drafting, which is almost always done with Standard sets.

  • drafting isn't necessarily done in a format like standard, or extended. it's usually just 3 packs chosen to draft with, the most common pattern being the newest set/block. questions about drafting mirrodin-mirrodin-mirrodin or mirrodin-dark steel-fifth dawn will never change.
    – DForck42
    Oct 20, 2011 at 13:18
  • @DForck42 - I agree that having the relevant sets indicated in the question is the best course of action. But lacking that, leaning towards favoring standard over others (for the reason given in my answer), would be the next best thing. That's more the sentiment I was after.
    – cdeszaq
    Oct 20, 2011 at 13:26
  • Is drafting the way most new players get into Magic? Not in my experience. Drafting is a great way to grow your collection, but successful drafting requires learning an extra set of skills on top of regular MTG strategy and deckbuilding. Many new players I've met avoid it because of that added complexity and pressure. In my entirely anecdotal experience, modifying precons is the primary way new folks learn Magic.
    – Alex P
    Oct 25, 2011 at 20:54
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    New players don't tend to be drafters but they do tend to have access to the latest cards only. Having said that, drafting is one of the more interesting ways to play Magic, so I'm hoping that this site can accommodate questions about it - even though they are arguably "localized", to a roughly one-year time window. Oct 26, 2011 at 16:55

Magic is a game that breaks the rules - it's a substantially different game every year, despite having the same name. I have sympathy for people who think it should be relegated to a different site because of its peculiar issues; but if we are willing to accept it as being a popular "board or card game", I think we have to cut it a bit of slack.

It's a bit of a square peg in a round hole on our site, but I don't think hammering furiously so it fits the usual standard is the solution. Either ban it altogether or accept that a Magic question has a considerably shorter half-life than, say, a Bridge or Puerto Rico one.


I would argue that all magic questions are potentially ephemeral because of the potential for the underlying rules of the game to change. Combat damage used to go on the stack and then it didn't. Planeswalkers used to be unique by subtype and now they're legendary. But There are plenty of times that even answers to Magic rules questions have to be updated because it's a living game.

Beyond that, magic's golden rule (that cards can override game rules) means that rules questions can have their answers change just from a change in card content.

Given that, I don't see questions about deck construction as all that different from rules questions. Both can become out of date as the game changes.

  • 1
    A lot of the rules based questions have answers that don't change at all or rarely change ever. For the cases where a rule changes the answer can be updated and the question still valid. For a question about deck building, especially centered around a single card, the entire question could be invalidated with a ban of a card in the next update or when the card goes out of cycle through normal updates.
    – Joe W
    Mar 23, 2019 at 19:29

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