Standard format

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Year of the Phoenix banner.jpg

Standard format, or Standard, is one of Hearthstone's two game formats, the other being Wild format. Standard format is intended to feature a fresher and more focused Hearthstone experience, with a limited pool of cards allowing greater design space, a more dynamically shifting meta, more balanced play, and an easier entry for new players.

Standard icon large.png

Games played in Standard format are restricted to cards from card sets released in the previous two calendar years, in addition to the Basic and Classic sets, which usually makes a total of 6-8 sets. The lack of older expansion sets makes Standard format friendlier for new players. The counterpart to Standard format, Wild format, has no such card restrictions. During Standard matches, random effects that produce cards are also restricted to only choosing from Standard sets, although non-random effects worded to generate specific Wild cards continue to function normally.

Standard is available as a format in Play mode matches (Ranked and Casual), Arena and Friendly Challenges. In addition, Tavern Brawls may occasionally use Standard format.[1] Standard is the default format for new players, and is used for all official (and most unofficial) tournaments, including the Hearthstone World Championship and Hearthstone Championship Tour. Only Standard format rankings are capable of granting Hearthstone Championship Tour points.

The prefix Standard is used to refer to cards, game modes, and adventures which fall within the Standard format, or which are only available in Standard format. For example, a Standard adventure is one which is currently part of Standard format. Furthermore, cards which are valid for the current Standard year are termed Standard cards.

Standard format is updated annually when the first new expansion of the year is released, marking the start of the new "Standard year". Standard format was released alongside Whispers of the Old Gods, on April 26/27th 2016.[2] At that time, Curse of Naxxramas and Goblins vs Gnomes moved to Wild format, making cards from those sets unavailable in Standard format play.

Standard card sets[edit | edit source]

The following card sets are currently available in Standard format.

Year of the Phoenix

Demon Hunter Initiate card set

Upcoming expansion
(Fall 2020)

Basic card set
(always available)

Classic card set
(always available)

For a full list of card sets, see Card set list

Playing in Standard[edit | edit source]

For notes on the game format system in general, see Game format

Players are able to select Standard format through the Play mode selection screen, or when challenging a friend to a Friendly Challenge. An icon shows the current Standard year's symbol (e.g. Kraken, Mammoth, etc) if Standard is selected, or a thorny infinity symbol if Wild format is selected. Matches played in Standard format will always see both players obeying the format's restrictions; players queuing for a Standard format match will never be matched against Wild format players.[1]

When playing a Standard game, players may only choose decks which are built entirely from Standard card sets, namely Basic, Classic, and adventure or expansion sets within the rotating two-calendar year window. In the deck creation or selection screens, Standard-legal decks are displayed with plain unadorned buttons, while those containing Wild cards show a thorny vine wrapped around the border. Deck builders can convert a Wild deck to Standard using a button when hovering over the deck name, in which case Wild cards in the deck will be marked to allow for easy replacement. When editing a Standard deck, Wild-only cards from the player's collection are not displayed. The conversion can also be reversed, removing the restrictions on adding Wild cards to the deck.

During Standard games, cards that provide access to other cards randomly will only select from Standard sets, whereas in Wild they would be able to select from all cards. Mechanics restricted this way include summoning or transforming into random minions (e.g. Murloc Knight, Summoning Stone, Devolve, Lotus Illusionist), generating cards in the hand (Shaku, the Collector, Kabal Trafficker), casting random spells (Yogg-Saron), and the Discover mechanic (I Know a Guy).[1][3] This focuses the gameplay on the more refined set of cards, and prevents players from using random chance to access mechanics that have been restricted from the format. On the other hand, cards which generate specific cards from other sets remain fully functional in Standard. For example, during the Year of the Kraken, Ball of Spiders is valid since its set, The Grand Tournament is in that year. It will generate Webspinners upon use as the card says, despite Webspinner itself not being a valid card for Standard play that year.[4]

Toki, Time-Tinker is a card that is an exception to this rule as it will be able to add a random legendary card from the Wild format into your hand.

The Standard year[edit | edit source]

The constellation of the Kraken

The current selection of Standard card sets is updated when the first new expansion each year is released. At this point, Standard format will be updated to include only card sets added to the game in the current or previous calendar year, as well as the Basic and Classic sets. Cards from older card sets will no longer be available in Standard format.[1] The selection is not updated at the start of the calendar year, or upon release of expansions past the first in any given year. This is in order to minimise the disruption of removing sets from Standard format play, which can be especially disorienting to returning players.[5][6]

At the start of each Standard year, adventures that are no longer part of Standard format will cease to be available for gold purchase in the in-game shop, although players who have already unlocked at least one wing will be able to unlock others with gold. Instead, players will be able to craft and disenchant cards from these adventures for regular Arcane Dust amounts.[1] Players can still buy those adventures (and the associated card rewards) for money in the online Blizzard store.

There are currently no plans for older card sets to be reintroduced to the Standard format later on.[1]

Card set rotation schedule[edit | edit source]

Following the release of Whispers of the Old Gods in April 2016, all cards from sets released in 2014 have been removed from Standard format, namely Curse of Naxxramas (July 2014) and Goblins vs Gnomes (December 2014).

Following the release of Journey to Un'Goro in April 2017, Blackrock Mountain (April 2015), The Grand Tournament (August 2015), and The League of Explorers (November 2015) were rotated out of Standard.

Following the release of The Witchwood in April 2018, Whispers of the Old Gods (April 2016), One Night in Karazhan (August 2016) and Mean Streets of Gadgetzan (December 2016) were rotated out of Standard.

Following the release of Rise of Shadows in April 2019, Journey to Un'Goro (April 2017), Knights of the Frozen Throne (August 2017) and Kobolds & Catacombs (December 2017) were rotated out of Standard.

Following the release of Ashes of Outland in April 2020, The Witchwood (April 2018), The Boomsday Project (August 2018) and Rastakhan's Rumble (December 2018) were rotated out of Standard.

The Hearthstone Zodiac[edit | edit source]

Hearthstone Zodiac - crocolisk.jpg
Hearthstone Zodiac - unicorn.jpg

The release of the first expansion each year marks the start of the new "Standard year".

Each Standard year (or "Hearthstone year") is symbolised by a zodiacal constellation formed from stars in Azeroth's night sky.[1] The lore behind this is that the new year is heralded by a new constellation coming into alignment above Azeroth, marking "a time of jubilation and raucous revelry wherever Hearthstone is played".[1] Each year will be marked by a different beast.[1]

The current year's constellation acts as a symbol for Standard format, as seen on the Standard format selection button on the Play mode screen.

While most of the constellations have not yet been revealed, some can be seen during the introduction sequence for each new Standard year. In theory, this would indicate the constellations for future Standard years, but so far this has proven not to be the case: according to the original depiction, the Year of the Kraken should have been followed by the Year of the Zhevra/Unicorn (since that constellation followed the kraken), but the subsequent year's animation instead replaced the zhevra with a mammoth. It is possible that some of the revealed beasts may feature in future years, but it is more likely the developers will choose a new beast each year to fit the current theme or desired tone.

The below table charts the known constellations, according to the latest depiction.

Beast Year Notes
Crocolisk Arguably represents 2015, or the pre-Standard era
Kraken 2016
Mammoth 2017 Previously a unicorn or zhevra
Raven 2018 Previously a Dragon
Dragon 2019 Previously a Raptor
Phoenix 2020

History[edit | edit source]

For a history of the introduction of game formats, see Game format#History.

Year of the Kraken[edit | edit source]

Whispers of the Old Gods logo.png Whispers of the Old Gods One Night in Karazhan logo.png One Night in Karazhan Mean Streets of Gadgetzan logo.png Mean Streets of Gadgetzan
Year of the Kraken icon banner.jpg

The first Standard year, this year saw the removal of cards from the Curse of Naxxramas and Goblins vs Gnomes sets, and began with the introduction of Whispers of the Old Gods. The Promo and Reward sets were also removed from Standard, although the removal of the latter set was quickly reverted and granted an extension until May 4, in order to give players more time to complete the related quests.[7][8]

Heralding the introduction of game formats, the Year of the Kraken began immediately following a flurry of card changes designed to establish a fresher and more diverse meta, specifically Standard format. For a list of the changes, see Card changes.

The simultaneous arrival of Whispers of the Old Gods, removal of Curse of Naxxramas and Goblins vs Gnomes, and changes to many key cards resulted in a number of new decks rising to dominance, most notably including cards from the new expansion: C'Thun decks, N'Zoth Deathrattle decks, Evolve Shaman, and various decks featuring Yogg-Saron. Many previously popular decks like Secret Paladin became far less common.

The second set of the year came in August with One Night in Karazhan, which among other things saw the first truly competitive iteration of Discardlock, as well as improvements to Tempo Mage, Midrange Hunter and Shaman decks.

The final set of the year arrived in December with Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, introducing the game's first tri-class cards, as well as decks matching each of the expansion's three crime families: Grimy Goons with their hand-buffing decks, the Kabal with their no duplicate cards decks, and the Jade Lotus with their late game-dominating Jade Golem decks. Patches the Pirate was exceptionally popular, fuelling a strong surge in Pirate Warrior, but also being included in many other decks as a "free" card.


Year of the Mammoth[edit | edit source]

Journey to Un'Goro logo.png Journey to Un'Goro Knights of the Frozen Throne logo.png Knights of the Frozen Throne Kobolds and Catacombs logo.png Kobolds & Catacombs

The second Standard year started with the release of the first expansion of 2017. The beginning of 2017 saw the Blackrock Mountain, The Grand Tournament and The League of Explorers sets moved to Wild format. Additionally, for the first time, six cards from the Classic set rotated to a new Wild-only card set called the Hall of Fame. This move takes the place of the nerfs seen at the start of the previous standard year, with no other card changes planned.[9]

The run-up to the start of the new year also featured some special events, such as the release of the Maiev Shadowsong hero, several special Tavern Brawls (including a Wild-format reprise of the Heroic Tavern Brawl and some "party" variants on previous Brawls), and daily login bonuses, awarding players for logging in with dust, gold and card packs.

The video below gives a visual depiction of the set rotations. An extensive live Q&A session was also held giving answers on a range of related topics.

Hall of Fame[edit | edit source]

With the start of Year of the Mammoth, Conceal, Ice Lance, Power Overwhelming, Azure Drake, Ragnaros the Firelord and Sylvanas Windrunner were removed from the Classic set and added to the new Hall of Fame set, thus moving them from Standard to Wild format. Captain's Parrot and Old Murk-Eye were also moved to the Hall of Fame set from the Reward set. Although not previously officially announced, Gelbin Mekkatorque and Elite Tauren Chieftain were also moved to the Hall of Fame set from the Promo set.

All players received bonus arcane dust in compensation for the full crafting cost of copies of the above Classic cards they possessed. Note that the cards themselves were not disenchanted, only moved to Wild format.

Once moved to the Hall of Fame set, these cards were removed from their previous sets, and no longer feature in Classic card packs,[10] be offered as rewards in the Arena, nor featured in the Highest Rank Bonus chest. Instead, as Wild format cards, they are now only obtainable through crafting.[11]

A minor consequence of the change is that the Mage, Rogue, and Warlock classes now had only 5 common Classic cards each instead of 6,[12] making these classes slightly less likely to gain class cards from Classic packs.

The new set is intended to help keep the Standard format meta fresh and ever-changing. For more on the motivations behind the move, as well as comments on each card involved, see the official blog.

The teaser giving hints about the expansions of the Year of the Mammoth before the release
Dust refunds

At the start of the year players received arcane dust equal to the full crafting cost of any copies of the formerly Classic cards they possessed. Captain's Parrot, Old Murk-Eye, Gelbin Mekkatorque, and Elite Tauren Chieftain were not eligible for this bonus since the Reward and Promo sets were already exclusive to Wild format.[13]

  • Dust was only awarded for copies up to the maximum number of cards you could put in a deck:[14]
  • The refund prioritized golden cards over non-golden cards.[15] For example:
    • If you had 1 golden Conceal and 2 regular Conceals, you received dust equal to the full crafting cost of 1 golden and 1 regular Conceal.
    • If you had 2 golden Conceals and 1 regular Conceal, you received dust equal to the full crafting cost of 2 golden Conceals.
    • If you had 1 golden Sylvanas and 1 regular Sylvanas, you received dust equal to the full crafting cost of 1 golden Sylvanas.
  • The dust was awarded automatically the first time the player logged in following the start of the Year of the Mammoth.[14]
  • The Year of the Mammoth update does not provide full disenchant value for these cards. Disenchanting and crafting will be of normal value for both before and after the update.[16] The procedure of refund for dust rewards is different from that for card nerfs.

As a result of the above rules, players could have capitalized on the move to (1) gain free cards, (2) gain free dust, or (3) upgrade to golden cards for reduced cost:

(1) Players who did not own the maximum usable number of copies of any of the cards listed could have effectively crafted them for free.

  • At the start of the Year of the Mammoth, the full crafting cost was refunded, making them effectively free.
    • This included golden cards (provided the player did not already own regular versions).
  • Alternatively, if the cards were not desired, the player could have disenchanted them following the refund at normal disenchanting value (not the full crafting cost) of the cards.

(2) Players who did not already own two golden copies of the common cards listed could have gained a small amount of free dust by crafting golden copies, then disenchanting them following the refund.

  • This amounted to 10 arcane dust for each golden common crafted (provided it was not already owned).
  • This did not work for cards of other rarities, since their golden disenchanting values match their regular crafting values.

(3) Players who already owned regular versions but not golden versions of the cards could have also used the refund to get a discount on the crafting cost of their golden versions.

  • The effective 'upgrade costs' for the golden cards involved are 35 for commons (down from 395 at other times); 80 for rares (down from 780); 300 for epics (down from 1500); and 1200 for legendaries (down from 2800). In each case, players would end with more dust than they started with; the "effective cost" is that they would end up with less total dust than if they just held on to the regular cards.
  • For example, if the player owns 1 regular Sylvanas before Year of the Mammoth and does nothing, they would receive a 1600 dust refund when the card went to the Hall of Fame. If instead they disenchanted the regular Sylvanas (gaining 400 dust) and crafted a golden one (paying 3200 dust which would be refunded at the start of Year of the Mammoth), they would gain 400 dust, for a net cost of 1200. By contrast, upgrading a legendary to golden at any other time has a net cost of 2800 dust (3200 to craft the golden card, less a 400 dust gain for disenchanting the regular card).

Aside from the above three options, the dust values involved prevented players from exploiting the move.

For more details and calculations, see Maths on Year of the Mammoth Dust Investments.

Daily rewards[edit | edit source]

Each day from March 29 to April 5, players were rewarded for logging on with special bonuses.

A visual chart of the rewards
Date Reward
March 29 50 gold
March 30 Mean Streets of Gadgetzan card pack
March 31 100 Arcane Dust
April 1 Whispers of the Old Gods card pack
April 2 Journey to Un'Goro card pack
April 3 50 gold
April 4 Journey to Un'Goro card pack
April 5 1 x Golden Volcanosaur

Year of the Raven[edit | edit source]

The Witchwood logo.png The Witchwood The Boomsday Project logo.png The Boomsday Project Rastakhan's Rumble logo.png Rastakhan's Rumble

The third Standard year started with the release of the first expansion of 2018, The Witchwood. The beginning of 2018 saw the Whispers of the Old Gods, One Night in Karazhan and Mean Streets of Gadgetzan sets moved to Wild format. Additionally, three cards (Ice Block, Molten Giant and Coldlight Oracle) from the Classic rotated to the Hall of Fame and for the first time ever, a nerf was reverted.

Like last year, the start of the new year brought special events, such as the release of Lunara hero.

To celebrate the start of the Year of the Raven, starting March 26, 2018 until April 9, 2018, all quests rewarded a random card pack from Journey to Un'Goro, Knights of the Frozen Throne, Kobolds and Catacombs, or from the new expansion, The Witchwood.

Hall of Fame[edit | edit source]

When the Year of the Raven began, Ice Block, Coldlight Oracle, and Molten Giant were moved to the Hall of Fame set. The latter-most had its nerf reversed, setting the card's mana cost back to 20 mana, at the same time as being moved to the Hall of Fame.[17]

Later in the year, Blizzard announced that the mage, rogue, and warlock classes would receive 4 all-new cards in the Classic set — Icicle, Tome of Intellect, Call of the Void, and Pilfer — in order to make up for the class cards that had previously been moved into the Hall of Fame set.[18]

Year of the Dragon[edit | edit source]

Rise of Shadows logo.png Rise of Shadows Saviors of Uldum logo.png Saviors of Uldum Descent of Dragons logo.png Descent of Dragons Descent of Dragons Galakrond's Awakening logo.png Galakrond's Awakening
A sneak peek at the content released during the Year of the Dragon.

The fourth Standard year started with the release of the Rise of Shadows expansion. The beginning of 2019 saw the Journey to Un'Goro, Knights of the Frozen Throne and Kobolds & Catacombs sets moved to Wild format. Additionally, three cards from the Classic (Naturalize, Doomguard and Divine Favor) were moved to the Hall of Fame, and six cards from The Witchwood (Baku the Mooneater, Genn Greymane, Gloom Stag, Black Cat, Glitter Moth and Murkspark Eel) were moved to the Hall of Fame instead of waiting for their scheduled rotation to Wild in 2020, which is the first time cards from an expansion were moved to the Hall of Fame.

To celebrate the start of the Year of the Dragon, starting March 25, 2019 until April 2, 2019, logging in daily rewarded a random card pack from Journey to Un'Goro, Knights of the Frozen Throne, Kobolds & Catacombs, also a new Tavern Brawl, Brawl Block – Year of the Mammoth, was available.

Beginning with the Year of the Dragon, the Arena draft pool is updated by rotating out sets and adding new ones twice every expansion to keep things fresh. With the first rotation, the Arena draft pool contained the following sets: Basic, Classic, Curse of Naxxramas, Whispers of the Old Gods, Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, The Witchwood, and Rise of Shadows.

In the Year of the Dragon, Blizzard has made major changes to the Standard Card pool at other times besides the release of the expansions. On May 21, the Rise of the Mech event was announced, which brought Hearthstone's first-ever card buffs, and added the legendary mech SN1P-SN4P to The Boomsday Project card set. On October 8, the Doom in the Tomb event brought 23 Wild cards temporarily back into Standard play, and gave all players temporary copies of those cards. It also featured Galakrond's Awakening, which was both an entirely new set of 35 cards and a return to classic Adventure mode gameplay.

One consistent feature was the Lackey ability, which generated evil minions for the player. It saw support and new synergies added throughout the entire year, and even had two new Lackeys - Titanic Lackey and Draconic Lackey - added for Saviors of Uldum and Descent of Dragons.

Another recurring theme of the Year of the Dragon has been the return of elements from previous years:

Year of the Phoenix[edit | edit source]

Ashes of Outland logo.png Ashes of Outland Scholomance Academy logo.png Scholomance Academy TBA
A sneak peek at the content released during the Year of the Phoenix.

The fifth Standard year begin with the announcement of Ashes of Outland. The beginning of 2020 (officially, April 7) saw The Witchwood, The Boomsday Project, and Rastakhan's Rumble rotate into Wild format. It also included five neutral cards inducted into the Hall of Fame - Leeroy Jenkins, Mountain Giant, Mind Control Tech, Acolyte of Pain, and Spellbreaker.

The Priest Basic and Classic set received a major overhaul on March 26th, sending Auchenai Soulpriest, Northshire Cleric, Shadowform, Divine Spirit, Holy Fire, and Prophet Velen to the Hall of Fame and introducing Psychic Conjurer, Power Infusion, Kul Tiran Chaplain, Scarlet Subjugator, Shadow Word: Ruin, and Natalie Seline to replace them. It also had Power Word: Shield, Holy Smite, Shadow Word: Death, Holy Nova, Shadow Madness, Temple Enforcer, and Thoughtsteal reworked or buffed.

Additionally, the Year of the Phoenix introduced Hearthstone's first ever new playable class - the Demon Hunter, represented by Illidan Stormrage. The Demon Hunter added 10 new cards to the Basic set and also came with 20 new cards in a special Demon Hunter Initiate set, which retroactively rotates alongside the Year of the Dragon. The class and all of these Demon Hunter cards are available for free by completing the Demon Hunter Prologue, released April 2nd.

On March 17th 2020, a 2-hour-long Hearthstone 2020 Showcase livestream detailed the many things that were coming in the Year of the Phoenix.

Also, an interview with Hearthstone's Game Director Ben Lee and Production Director Nathan Lyons-Smith revealed how the large amount of changes planned for the Year of the Phoenix came to be, with the introduction of the new Demon Hunter class to Hearthstone, the revamped Ranked league system, the extension of duplicate protection to all rarities when opening card packs, the rework of the Priest class, the Hall of Faming of Leeroy Jenkins and many other cards, the gift of free new decks for returning players, and the promised delivery of new game modes and player achievements in the near future. A look into the thought process behind implementing these radical changes this year is found in the interview here: Interview with Hearthstone directors Ben Lee and Nathan Lyons-Smith on Year of the Phoenix - InvenGlobal.

Ranked Overhaul[edit | edit source]

With the Year of the Phoenix, the Ranked reward system was overhauled. It now followed a system of Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, and Legend. Each ranked is divided into 10 subranks (excluding Legend, which is unchanged). At the start of each season, players are returned to Bronze 10. However, getting further will unlock star bonuses, allowing higher-ranked players to more quickly climb. In addition, Ranked matchmaking was reworked to match players based on their performance and time played rather than simply their current Rank.

New and Returning Player Experience[edit | edit source]

Year of the Phoenix Card pack changes.png

After leaving New Player ranks, new and returning players gained the option to select a class and gain a free, prebuilt deck. This unlocks every card in that deck, allowing the player to freely use the unlocked cards in any deck they choose.

Card packs were also modified. All rarities now follow the Duplicate rule. You can no longer open duplicate copies of any card you own, unless you already have all cards of that rarity from that set. This is an expansion of the Legendary rule that was implemented in 2017 with Knights of the Frozen Throne.

Year of the Phoenix roadmap.jpg

Design[edit | edit source]

Standard format aims to create a fresher Hearthstone experience. With older cards steadily eliminated from the format, the meta will shift more regularly and more significantly, since new cards will have a larger impact. Design space will also be increased, since older cards will no longer restrict the possibilities for creating new cards. The combination of a smaller card pool and less limited design space is also expected to help the developers to balance the game.[1] For newer players, Standard format will mean a smaller pool of relevant cards, making it easier for players to acquire the cards they need to be competitive.

The perennial inclusion of the Basic and Classic sets in Standard format is partly intended to help returning players to retain some familiarity with the game.[1] The cards also serve as a foundation for the game, establish class identity, and are useful for introducing new players to Standard format with a "safe purchase".[1][19] Additionally, the "iconic" cards in the Classic set help sustain the identity and familiarity of the game for all players.[20]

Ben Brode states that changes are possible for the future definition of Standard format, saying "I think there are lots of things possible once we've had some time to play with the two formats and see what's good and bad."[21] One possibility would be "reprints", making cards from Wild formats available once again in Standard format and for purchase, likely as part of a new set. Brode has said that this "certainly could happen", although as of February 2016 there are no current plans for it.[22]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Standard format promo art
Year of the Mammoth banner
Year of the Raven banner
Year of the Raven launch celebration
Year of the Dragon banner

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]