Magic: The Gathering Arena is joining the esports scene in a huge way, but that hasn't stopped Wizards of the Coast from looking into the future of Arena's constructed formats. In an interview with Screen Rant, Elaine Chase, Vice President of Esports at Wizards of the Coast, revealed that the company already plans to introduce a "Standard Plus" format to Arena when rotation is scheduled to happen for the cards currently implemented.
For those unfamiliar, Magic Arena follows the same principles as tabletop Magic in that new sets are released, introduced to the Standard format, and then stay around for a few years before they are eventually pushed out of the format by subsequent new releases. This is done to maintain a fresh environment, ensuring no deck remains dominant for too long, and to push new product - there would be little reason for players to invest in new cards if they already owned one of the best Standard decks available and didn't need to switch every now and then. In tabletop Magic, however, there are non-rotating formats that let players use their older cards.
Magic Arena has no such format, consisting of just Limited and Standard (alongside some one-off Streamer formats available for limited times), and the last time rotation happened, the game transitioned from closed beta to open beta and reset everyone's card collections, avoiding the problem of players getting stuck with cards they can't use. When asked about how Wizards will eventually address the issue of players investing resources into cards that will become unusable once they leave the Standard format, Chase delivered some exciting news:
"Our intent for sure is to have Arena's Standard Plus format. We don't have any details to share on exactly what that looks like but don't worry, players will still be able to use all their cards that rotate out."
Right now, Standard is relatively small, being comprised of five sets after several just rotated this past fall. Furthermore, Wizards restructured the way rotation works mid-way through 2014, then again in 2017, causing some unintuitive rotations. The result is a Standard format that won't see cards become unusable until sometime in Q4 of 2019.
With that said, the confirmation of Wizards of the Coast's intent to have an extended Standard format - Standard Plus, it sounds like - is a massive one for people looking to invest in Magic Arena. One of the main drawbacks of the platform has been the fact that it is very condensed in terms of what formats it offers, accompanied by the other detriment of cards having a set time on them for being useful. While other online games have systems in place that let players get rid of extra cards to craft new ones, Arena's is different, so those cards would just sit there and collect virtual dust without something to do with them.
If we are getting a new format eventually, too, tabletop Magic: The Gathering players will likely get to play it as well. Magic Arena is an incredibly popular game that has had over 100 million matches played in its first month of open beta, and if it introduces a new format, there will be plenty of online players who want to pick it up at their local game store or at other tournament settings as well.
There aren't any details yet, but the future of Magic appears to be running directly through Magic Arena, and that includes a new format in the relatively near future.