Magic: The Gathering cards that belong to the following sets are currently legal in Standard:
- Aether Revolt
- Hour of Devastation
- Welcome Deck 2017
A number of cards have been banned by Wizards of the Coast, and therefore they can’t be used in Standard tournaments.
- Aetherworks Marvel
- Felidar Guardian
- Smuggler’s Copter
The restrictions seek a more enjoyable and healthier format, and Wizards of the Coast has justified these always polemic decisions using its own data (from Magic Online) and the feedback gathered from players. In recent times, when a deck has become too dominant, their key cards have been under scrutiny and have eventually been banned.
The downside is that many players that bought the cards affected by a banning before the banning see how their value plummets in a matter of hours. These normally includes not only the actual banned cards, but also other key cards from the dominant deck. For example, when Aetherworks Marvel was banned, the price of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger dropped.
Standard legal cards that were printed in older sets
Often new expansions re-print old cards, changing the art work and perhaps the text. If that is the case, you can play the previous version of the card in any Standard competition. For instance, you might play a copy of Negate from the Magic 2010 core set, as Negate was included in Aether Revolt and Oath of the Gatewatch.
How does rotation work?
Once every year, when the fall set is released, the 2 oldest Standard-legal blocks rotate out. This means that cards can be played in the format for about 2 years. At some point Wizards of the Coast tried a twice a year rotation, but players disliked it as the lifespan of their cards was just too short.
Now that the model based on blocks is changing, the four oldest sets will rotate once a year. That keeps things very much as they are with regards to rotation.
Characteristics of a Standard deck
Your deck should have a minimum of 60 cards. There is no maximum number of cards, as long as you can shuffle the deck in your hands.
You might include up to 15 cards in your sideboard, but this is optional (although recommended if you want to tailor your strategy to your opponent’s game plan).
Main deck and sideboard cannot include more than 4 copies of any card, except for basic lands (island, plain, forest, mountain, swamp).