What to expect from standard 2024

What to Expect from Standard 2024

Tom AndersonStandard

In what has become an annual tradition, Wizards of the Coast launched an all-out barrage on content creators and Magic pundits like myself by announcing more than a year’s worth of new products in one go. The “Magic at 30” panel at Gen Con used the game’s 30th anniversary to preview major Universes Beyond tie-ins and the return of Modern Horizons, but the 2024 Standard sets are the most intriguing for fans of constructed formats.

Even if we only got titles and concept art for most of them, they foreshadowed the debut of several brand-new planes, as well as some intriguing twists on planes we know well. We certainly have lots to look forward to — and a ton of room to indulge in informed speculation on what 2024 will add to Magic’s lore and mechanics.

FEBRUARY: Murders at Karlov Manor

At last, it’s here: Return to Return to Return to Ravnica!

Jokes aside, the City of Guilds is definitely one of Magic’s richest, recurring settings. Even after 20 years and nine full expansions, the community’s appetite for Ravnica has not diminished. So we will welcome 2024 not only with the release of the tenth Ravnica set, but a Ravnica Remastered set that incorporates a mix of cards from all previous ones.

This double-release strikes me as a very shrewd decision, with huge benefits for Wizards’ creative team. With Ravnica Remastered as a vehicle to celebrate the nostalgic and familiar elements fans expect for the plane’s anniversary, they have freedom to turn Murders at Karlov Manor into something completely new: a “murder mystery” set in the vein of Knives Out or an Agatha Christie novel. 

That might seem like a theme that would belong in the noir streets of New Capenna, but Ravnica benefits from a much broader and stronger cast of named characters to serve as dramatis personae in a classic whodunit. It’s also worth remembering that Ravnica’s very first story was framed as a detective thriller, starring the jaded Boros lawman Agrus Kos.

Kos was killed off during that original Ravnica block, leaving characters like Teysa Karlov and Niv-Mizzet to become the plane’s best-known figureheads. But canonically he continued to police the city as a spirit — a fact JumpStart 2022 reminded us of with Agrus Kos, Eternal Soldier. 

Having the ghostly Kos return to the spotlight as the lead investigator of a murder mystery sounds like a great chance for some small-scale Ravnica storytelling, after the tendency of the last few sets towards city-wide disasters.

Mechanically, I have a hunch that this “change-of-pace” mentality could also make Murders at Karlov Manor the first Ravnica set not built around multicolor themes. It would be fun to see versions of Teysa Karlov or Aurelia that focused on only one of their guild colors, for instance! 

Instead, I could see there being some grisly mechanical crossover from Innistrad (such as morbid) or from the “politics and subterfuge” designs of Conspiracy.

QUARTER 2: Outlaws of Thunder Junction

Continuing with the winning formula of sets built around specific genre aesthetics, Outlaws of Thunder Junction has been announced as simply “the long-awaited Wild West expansion.” It’s also poised to be the 100th(!) full-sized Magic expansion, so there’s definitely a special feeling about this one.

As with Karlov Manor, the promotional art for Outlaws of Thunder Junction seems to tease an ensemble cast of existing legendary creatures/planeswalkers — most notably Cowboy Oko (Cow-Poko?) looming over them as the presumptive antagonist. 

I feel like this approach to “genre sets” is risky. You don’t want these new planes to feel like cheap theme-park rides or costume parties for pre-existing characters to rampage through.

But Wizards’ track record of top-down sets like Throne of Eldraine, Theros, Strixhaven and Kaldheim has been nearly immaculate, and “Weird West” fantasy is enough of a proven concept that I trust Magic’s take on it will prove compelling.

What I’m most excited for in Outlaws of Thunder Junction are the mechanical implications of the setting. I would bet a whole wagon of gold bars that we finally get a significant bounty counter theme, making Mathas and Chevill players in Commander very happy. 

I could also see a similar “WANTED: Dead or Alive” theme realized as a new kind of creature split-card, similar to adventures except the non-creature half is only castable from the graveyard (representing the “dead” part of the bounty). 

You could even use a WANTED poster as the visual element dividing the rules text instead of Eldraine’s storybook design! I also think there’s a great chance this set brings back the arrest mechanic (for kidnappers and sheriffs), rogues as a featured creature type or both.

QUARTER 3: Bloomburrow

When the community first caught a glimpse of promotional art featuring a knightly mouse staring down a massive wolf, the immediate reaction was “Redwall set?” But instead of showing up in the Universes Beyond part of the GenCon talk, that art turned out to be the preview for our next Standard set and newly-debuting plane: Bloomburrow.

Still, even if no official tie-in to the popular novel series is announced, the spiritual connection between Bloomburrow and Redwall is undeniably strong. Per Wizards’ description: “a ragtag group of anthropomorphic adventurers must band together to go on an important quest.” 

Seems pretty open and shut to me, though there will no doubt be creative DNA from The Secret of NIMH and other furry adventure classics in there as well.

With little other information on Bloomburrow as yet, I’m interested to see how Wizards of the Coast will keep its identity distinct from Eldraine and Lorwyn, since so many stories of anthropomorphic animals are drawn from folklore and fairy tales. 

A strong, overarching mechanical identity will help, and the most obvious answer is to make this a heavy typal  set. With Squirrels, Cats, Dogs, Rats and Birds all highly popular and well-supported creature types, it’s a slam-dunk opportunity to generate crossover interest in Bloomburrow for Commander players and anchor the Limited environment at the same time.

The reference to “ragtag group of adventurers” also makes me think of the party mechanic, which feels like a perfect secondary theme to complement a set already paying close attention to creature types. Bring on the Mouse Warriors, Squirrel Clerics, Bird Wizards and Rat Rogues!

QUARTER 3: Duskmourn

The final Standard expansion of 2024 was only lightly previewed — understandably, since a lot of it is probably still being worked on. But Wizards did announce the title, setting and genre inspiration: Duskmourn, a plane “which consists of one giant haunted mansion filled with horrors.”

You do have to ponder how we ended up with two different spooky mansion sets in the same year; was there a split at some point in the design process? But the announcement made clear that Duskmourn will owe a lot more to “modern horror” than the murder mystery of Karlov Manor or even the gothic horror that underpins Innistrad. 

Wizards specifically mentioned slasher films as inspirations, but I’m sure there’s a bit more than that going on. The promotional artwork seemed to heavily allude to a Mothman-style creature, and the continued popularity of cryptid or “creepypasta”-related media like Slenderman could be a deep well for Wizards to draw from. 

Then there’s the “plane-sized haunted mansion” itself — Wizards of the Coast called out The Amityville Horror as the classic house-as-antagonist franchise, but House of Leaves and more recent “liminal space” horror concepts like The Backrooms are arguably a much stronger match for Duskmourn’s implied scale.

I’m not sure what we can expect from Duskmourn mechanically at this early stage, but if we’re focusing on the ideas of stalking and psychological menace so common to modern horror, then I would love to see mechanics that play up their presence before they reach the battlefield. 

I always felt the “foreshadowing” ability of Tetzimoc, Primal Death was an awesome way to build anticipation for an infamous monster. Likewise, having dedicated tie-in cards namedrop a legendary creature and beckon its presence, as Wizards once did with The Unspeakable (Reach Through Mists/Peer Through Depths/Sift Through Sands) and Spirit of the Night (Urborg Panther/Breathstealer/Feral Shadow).


Wizards of the Coast’s announcements didn’t really touch on this, but 2024 is a real, historical tipping-point for Standard sets. The change to significantly slow down rotation puts greater pressure on the balancing of cards entering the format, as well as the pressure on different sets to play well alongside each other mechanically. 

At the same time, the conclusion of the Phyrexia storyline and the accompanying seismic shifts in Magic’s storytelling paradigm have left a vacuum that Wizards’ creative team must rush to fill. It seems like the idea of using familiar characters to explore unknown worlds will persist into the Omenpath era, based on some of the art we’ve seen. 

But there’s still pressure to sell these worlds and their inhabitants to the playerbase, so that in time they can become as beloved and familiar as Innistrad or Ravnica.

The decision to build each setting around a well-known genre is a great head start on that goal, and ultimately I do feel like the strong themes we see here have 2024’s sets poised for success. Even if the sheer volume of announcements will take time to digest, it’s good to know that Magic’s original storytelling and setting design remains just as important in this Universes Beyond era as it was for the last 30 years.