Magic’s New Frontier

Posted December 13, 2016 by Abdullah Elhawary in Nerdy Bits

At the end of the year, you start to bore of the wonderful game that is Magic: the Gathering [Editor’s note: clearly the author isn’t jamming enough Holiday Cube drafts. The poor soul]. The reason behind this is that the fall set seems to last forever and after many Standard SCG Opens and Grand Prix’s, the format is a solved puzzle. That isn’t necessarily the case this time around, due to the resurgence of Marvel decks and the emergence of Panharmonicon decks, but even these changes aren’t enough to shake up the format significantly.

So you decide to turn to Modern; a format defined by the abundance of options but, despite it being my favorite format, I always felt that there is too much to explore. The process of going through 55 sets worth of Magic cards is simply too much for even the most adventurous of deck brewers, which has led to a Modern format ruled by elite, proven decks. I was talking to one of my close friends (who happens to be the guy editing this article so there’s no way to know if this part about him is actually true) about my feeling towards the stagnancy of Magic. He then proceeded to show me the light, Frontier. Frontier is a Magic format extremely reminiscent of Extended, which was a Pro Tour format that lost the vast majority of its players, and consequently its place on the Pro Tour, to Modern; the new kid on the block back then. I’ve enjoyed playing Frontier over the last few weeks, so I felt obligated to share the format that has renewed the spring in my step.

What is Frontier?

Frontier is a non-rotating, constructed format that conforms to the constraints of Standard in minimum maindeck size, maximum sideboard size and no more than 4 copies of any non-basic land card. The sets that are legal in Frontier are every Standard legal set printed starting at Magic 2015 which currently are:

  • Magic 2015
  • Khans of Tarkir
  • Fate Reforged
  • Dragons of Tarkir
  • Magic Origins
  • Battle for Zendikar
  • Oath of the Gatewatch
  • Shadows over Innistrad
  • Eldritch Moon
  • Kaladesh

Something to remember is that cards from the 2016 Welcome Decks, Planeswalker Decks and Magic Origins Sample Decks are also legal, however; Kaladesh Inventions and the Zendikar Expeditions that weren’t in the BfZ or Kaladesh blocks are not legal. The general rule of thumb concerning card legality is similar to that of Modern: whether or not the card was legal in Standard when it was printed. Frontier has no official ban-list, but after playing with it for quite a bit I doubt that any cards will be banned if the format continues to grow (not saying I wouldn’t be sad if Siege Rhino were to get banned though).

Initial Impressions:

My initial impression of the format, after becoming a self-declared expert, is that it is extremely diverse. Every color has access to powerful cards that provide balance. The mana bases are also good enough to support 4-5 color decks – access to fetchlands, battle-lands and fast-lands make this possible. However; these do come at the cost of being slightly inconsistent and slow, giving aggro decks a legitimate shot. Magic’s 5 main archetypes (aggro, midrange, control, combo and ramp) are all viable, which adds a certain, spicy element to deck-building. You have to design your decks to beat every conceivable deck. Frontier also is in this sweet spot between Standard and Modern – there are enough cards that you can brew, but not so many that brewing is discouraged.

5 Hallmark Cards from each color:


Although this isn’t a color,with access to pain-lands, fetchlands, fast-lands, battle-lands, shadow-lands, life-lands and many more options, designing the correct manabase for your gameplan can provide quite a fun puzzle.


White ranges from aggressive human strategies to efficient removal to powerful mid-to-late game threats.



Blue is primarily a controlling color, however; the card advantage element can also be coupled with aggressive strategies to ensure that you can gas back up in the late game.


Black really flexes its muscles in Frontier by having aggressive potential, efficient removal, sweepers, tutors and great finishers.


In Standard, Red is extremely under-powered. But in Frontier, it has all the tools necessary to be either a great primary or an important supporting color.


Ramp, efficient beaters, card advantage and game-ending Planeswalkers… do you need anything more?


There are so many mono, dual, and tri-color threats in Frontier that mentioning all of them and their individual merits would take a few more articles. I feel that these are good building-blocks and starting points for a lot of decks. I would strongly suggest trying Frontier if you’re looking for something new and fresh and/or if you really miss Mantis Rider like me. My next article will be about Frontier decks that I have had the most success with so stay tuned.

About the Author

Abdullah Elhawary