Cards That Should Never Leave Standard
- Hans Davidson
Standard rotation keeps creeping closer and closer, which means that we’re going to be seeing cards leaving us for good. However, it doesn’t have to be that way, and Hans has some ideas about cards that Wizards should always reprint into Standard.
Rotation is a fascinating phenomenon in Magic: The Gathering because, outside of B&R announcements and new set releases, there's nothing else that can shake up a metagame in such a substantial way. I've already written about the financial implications of the upcoming Standard rotation, but in this week's article, I want to talk about a hypothetical situation - a scenario in which there would be cards that wouldn't leave Standard. Why would we even want something like this in the first place, and which cards would we choose? Let's dive right in!
Why Some Cards Should Be Evergreen
The whole idea behind rotation is so that there is a reason for Standard players to have to buy new cards. While there are secondary reasons, such as preventing formats from becoming stale and making sure that problematic cards have an organic shelf life, rotation exists mainly to incentivize the sale of sealed product in new expansions. However, this doesn't mean that rotation itself is bad, and the existence of rotation is perfectly understandable (and sometimes desirable) in conjunction with the presence of other formats. The issue at hand, then, is the question of why certain cards need to be rotated out in the first place.
Although each Standard environment can vary by a large margin from the other Standard formats preceding and following it, almost all Standard formats share certain traits that, given the right circumstances, can cause problems such as a warped metagame or overpowered strategies. Standard has a comparatively small card pool: there are currently 2,025 cards from which players can choose to play in their decks, and an even smaller number of cards that are realistically playable. While there may be fewer cards that are better than the rest, the cards that are powerful have fewer answers to them. While this issues might be addressed with time and more answers, sometimes cards are just too powerful in a vacuum and because any given powerful card WILL eventually rotate out of Standard, it's more acceptable for cards to have this extra power in Standard. Rotate helps keep archetypes in check and keep new Standard formats distinct for the old ones. What's the downside then?
In Standard, the choices are limited if someone wants to find cards similar to Kaya's Wrath. Additionally, deck strategies rely on specific cards to make their game plan redundant and cohesive. Modern Burn has access to multiple iterations of Lightning Bolt, but there is only one Lightning Strike in Standard. This means that, depending on the Standard format, certain archetypes tend to disappear from the metagame because of a lack of redundancy, which in turn may cause other strategies to dominate the format. The sustained presence of red-based aggro in Standard, for example, has limited the extent at which midrange strategies could be played in the previous Standard formats. If red aggro weren't in these formats, there could have been a bigger showing from various midrange decks.
In any case, the Standard ecosystem is a delicate one, and the presence (or lack thereof) of specific cards can have monumental effects on the metagame. Thus, having certain cards become "evergreen," which in this article, I'll use to mean non-rotating, would provide consistency and a safety valve to the format. Without a card like Pithing Needle during Kaladesh Standard, artifact and energy-based strategies ran rampant - if a card like Needle were in Standard, the format would not have developed the way that it did.
Two mana is the sweet spot of Standard, and a lot of powerful-yet-reasonable effects tend to end up with that converted mana cost. While I've mentioned Pithing Needle as a card that could have prevented some of the uglier Standard formats we've seen recently, a card that is as cheap as Pithing Needle would to ubiquity in sideboards and repetitive board states. Sorcerous Spyglass, for one extra mana, introduces a far more interesting scenario, in which the CMC is a real cost.
Paying two mana for an artifact that doesn't affect the board means that it is competing with creatures and spells that do and being able to look at the opponent's hand means that the card doesn't have as big of a gulf when it comes to its success rate at preventing an activated ability. As Wizards continues to pump out planeswalkers that, time and time again, make their way into the top decks, Spyglass should be considered in any discussion of cards that belong in Standard - permanently
Mono-Red may have worn out its welcome, but the deck is both an important check for and entry point into Standard. Because the strategy is so streamlined and linear, it punishes decks that are too focused on grinding out opponents or are too greedy in their resources. It's also a deck that is perfect for players entering Standard to buy into a deck without shelling out a couple hundred euros (if not more). Lightning Strike is one of the linchpins that hold red-based aggro decks together, and its flexibility to go after creatures, players, or planeswalkers gives these decks a tool that is important in fighting through less-linear-but-more-powerful cards.
Chart a Course
Playable blue card-advantage sorceries and instants tend to be very bland, such as Glimmer of Genius. 90% of the time, you're supposed to fire the card off at the end of your opponent's turn when you have four open mana, and while there are some nice interactions that can occur, it's not interesting design. Chart a Course, on the other hand, is a cheaper card-advantage spell but one that changes depending on the situation at hand. It's unlikely you'd want to fire the card off on turn two, but if you need to hit land drops, it's a perfectly acceptable card to cast. If you've got cards like Arclight Phoenix that you want in the graveyard, you're drawing two cards while minimizing the drawbacks of having to discard. Finally, it's a card that, while it can fit in more control-oriented decks if need be, it's a card that rewards the player casting it for playing into the board and attacking with creatures. Chart encourages interesting and interactive gameplay, and that's a card that should be available to blue decks in every Standard format.
There's a wide gulf between Duress and Thoughtseize, but that doesn't make Duress a bad card. In fact, Duress hits the perfect power level for a one-mana discard. Although discard spells that can take anything tend to be too powerful in Standard, even at two mana like Thought Erasure, discard spells that take creature spells like Despite just aren't good enough. It's a great sideboard card to have for decks that play black, and for aggressive decks, it's even one of the major reasons to go into black.
There are many cards people could potentially want to make evergreen for Standard and these are just three of mine! Please let me know it the comments what cards you'd add to the evergreen pool or whether you think there should be evergreen cards at all!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.