Rotation Grief: Guilds of Ravnica, Part 2
- Gianluca Aicardi
The Standard rotation is coming in September! Time to acknowledge the sudden disappearance from our decks of all the cards from the four rotating sets. We continue this journey of grief (or perhaps jubilation) by looking into the multicolored and colorless cards Standard is going to lose when Guilds of Ravnica rotates out.
Guilds of Ravnica Dimir Losses
Connive // Concoct: The return of split cards, with their novel three-letter alliterative naming convention but for the rest back to their classic, uncomplicated style from Dissension, was destined to be well-received. Many of the new split cards have become staples in their colors, while a few of them ended up being disregarded, and a few others treated as specialized role players. Connive // Concoct belongs to the latter category, its Concoct half sometimes employed as an enabler in Reanimator builds, supporting the often preferred Blood for Bones and Bond of Revival. Reanimator has not been the most relevant archetype in Standard these past two years, though still pretty viable at lower competitive tiers. Of course some version of a five-mana spell that returns a creature to the battlefield is always going to be around, whether Rise Again or Unbreakable Bond. But Concoct offered a more appealing package. It has a potentially useful second half, as well as a surveil effect that allowed, in a pinch, to shoot it blindly, hoping to hit and mill a reanimation target via surveil. Grief Factor: 3/10.
Discovery // Dispersal: Most split cards have a favored half This one was indeed looked at for the most part as just Discovery, a two-mana cantrip able to manipulate the top of the library via surveil, making it a good turn-two play. It also emphasizes the hybrid cost on the left and cheaper half, which is the only real difference that sets these new split cards apart from their Dissension's "both halves are multicolored" blueprint. In this case, it gives Discovery full citizenship in decks that don't necessarily encompass both Dimir colors. Those that do, however, would also get access to Dispersal, as a way to essentially remove the most valuable permanent of an empty-handed opponent in the late game. Not the most popular among the split cards, but still a solid tool that saw a fair amount of play. Grief Factor: 6/10.
Disinformation Campaign: The Dimir Control deck that was naturally suggested by Guilds of Ravnica very soon transformed into Esper Control, a no-nonsense build without room for a somewhat cute effect like Disinformation Campaign. Regardless, decks built around surveil expressly to abuse Campaign kept showing up on occasion. It's after all an extremely flavorful mechanic, yet effective to a degree. Grief Factor: 5/10.
Etrata, the Silencer: As a wincon in regular Standard, Etrata was little more than a meme. On the other hand, as a commander of a gimmicky Brawl deck, the card was definitely intriguing, so it won't have any problem relocating such shenanigans to more welcoming environments like Commander and Historic Brawl. Grief Factor: 1/10.
Lazav, the Multifarious: Another eccentric legend, the shapeshifting guildmaster of House Dimir had a hand in at least one high-profile list. However, Kethis Combo had already run its course once all the moving pieces from Dominaria rotated out last fall. Lazav spent 2020 in the shadows, with a minor resurgence after Theros Beyond Death to mimic Uro or Kroxa. Grief Factor: 6/10.
Nightveil Predator: It goes a long way to show how much midrange decks faltered during the past two years that a hexproof flier like Nightveil Predator never amounted to anything. Better luck in the next life, Predator — a second chance that's not even completely out of the question, given the generic feel of its flavor and rules text, although multicolored cards with intense color requirements rarely see a reprint. Grief Factor: 4/10.
Thief of Sanity: This terrifying Specter made the leap into the competitive scene that Nightveil Predator never managed, to the point that most everybody can remember being hit by the Thief at least once — as well as the stressful consequences of that occurrence. Dimir and Sultai decks running it in the main sixty had some credibility for a while, without necessarily climbing all the way to the top of the meta. But even when they eventually disappeared, Thief of Sanity would still pop up in various brews and/or sideboards every now and then. It's easy to understand why, as the repeated stealing of the opponent's best cards is an invigorating experience that can quickly get out of hand. Grief Factor: 8/10.
Thought Erasure: Turn two Thought Erasure has been one of the most common play patterns of Esper Control, simultaneously performing a preemptive strike on the opponent's hand and improving the quality of the next draw. In a time when the dominant control decks have redefined their strategy and all but abandoned black, Thought Erasure leaves the stage to an heir, Agonizing Remorse , that still has to fully prove itself. The monoblack disruptor doubles as graveyard hate, but it doesn't help with our own flow of cards the way Thought Erasure did. Grief Factor: 8/10.
Unmoored Ego: The Ego was almost exclusively a sideboard card, if a crucial one to have around, as a way to keep degenerate combos in check. We can expect a new black Jester's Cap effect in the next Standard, though, as there's usually at least one in the pool at any given time. Grief Factor: 4/10.
Guilds of Ravnica Selesnya Losses
Emmara, Soul of the Accord: Many of the best Selesnya cards are components of the same tokens deck, a very effective go-wide build that was viable right till the end, although only intermittently prominent in the metagame. In that deck, Emmara was a functional two-drop that interacted nicely with convoke. Grief Factor: 6/10.
Flower // Flourish: This might be the split card more clearly employed with both halves in mind. Just turning a spell into a land for fixing wouldn't justify its inclusion, and Flourish alone also wouldn't make the cut. But with both effects on the same card, Selesnya Tokens could afford a smaller land count while also benefiting from the presence of a further go-wide payoff later in the game. Grief Factor: 4/10.
Knight of Autumn: Not many Standard cards get to impact the older formats, and going as far as influencing Vintage is almost unimaginable. Yet Knight of Autumn did it. The triple threat of its enter-the-battlefield trigger is just that amazing, fine-tuning our equestrian Dryad to face a wide array of different situations. It goes without saying that we won't get anything even remotely close in this department anytime soon, and green-white decks will be all the worse for it. Grief Factor: 10/10.
March of the Multitudes: The main payoff of Selesnya Tokens, the finishing move that would often spell the end of the game. Not a very versatile card, though, since exploiting its strength to the fullest requires a great deal of preparation that only a dedicated build can accomplish. Grief Factor: 7/10.
Trostani Discordant: Of all the cards that comprised Selesnya Tokens, Trostani is perhaps the one with the largest universal value. Board presence, possible lifegain, an anthem effect, and even protection against stealing — this Dryad trifecta is less discordant than advertised and a great target for Vannifar at five. Grief Factor: 9/10.
Guilds of Ravnica Izzet Losses
Crackling Drake: Izzet's signature deck during this cycle was built around Arclight Phoenix. In that spellslinging list, Enigma Drake's big brother acted as a secondary wincon, often able to close the game in one or two swings. Then, after Throne of Eldraine generated the draw-two archetype, Crackling Drake found a different, if less prestigious home. All in all it had a good run and will be remembered fondly. Grief Factor: 8/10.
Expansion // Explosion: 2018–2020 Standard was marked by a large number of different ramp archetypes. One of the most notorious used Wilderness Reclamation as a mana engine, so by its very nature required a payoff that could be cast at instant speed, as all the mana multiplication happened in the end step. The Izzet League provided the perfect solution for this quandary, thanks to this larger-than-life burn spell cum card draw. Admittedly, even just Volcanic Geyser would do, but Expansion // Explosion offered so much more, including a sometimes helpful mini-Fork and, most importantly, the digging necessary to find more enablers or more copies of itself. We did just get Volcanic Geyser back in Standard, but we'll never see Expansion // Explosion again. Temur Reclamation itself has already bidden adieu two months ahead of schedule, so this particular chapter of Magic's history is now over for good. Grief Factor: 10/10.
Goblin Electromancer: All Izzet spellslinging decks, up to and including those running Arclight Phoenix, could use a mana discount on their instants and sorceries, and the Electromancer was there to enact it. This Goblin hailed originally from Return to Ravnica, and has been reprinted a bunch of times in supplemental sets. So we can be confident we'll see it again someday. Grief Factor: 4/10.
Ionize: Izzet's answer to Absorb was not as relevant as its Azorius counterpart. But why run other Cancel variants when you have the mana base to use Ionize instead and do some damage in the process? Granted, this logic does require a specific mindset. Grief Factor: 3/10.
Niv-Mizzet, Parun: Before being reborn into a five-color monstrosity, good ole Niv-Mizzet revisited his Firemind days, when any card drawn would trigger the pinging. The Dracogenius's new prohibitive color requirement clearly indicated its Parun incarnation was a card for Izzet decks and Izzet decks only, where it functioned as an uncounterable finisher that would make short work of the opponent's life total in an outburst of deadly triggers. Grief Factor: 8/10.
Ral, Izzet Viceroy: This Ral hasn't really been an explosive presence on the battlefield — unlike his War of the Spark version, as we'll see in due time. For five mana, the Viceroy supplies some card selection, some removal, all on the way to an ultimate that's likely to win you the game, but not right away. The calm before the storm, indeed. Grief Factor: 3/10.
Thousand-Year Storm: Speaking of storms, this expensive enchantment was a fan-favorite build-around. There was no shortage of sophisticated designs, but the general tone stayed consistently janky enough to never escape pure Jenny/Johnny territory. Grief Factor: 5/10.
Guilds of Ravnica Golgari Losses
Assassin's Trophy: This card was initially saluted as the ultimate piece of removal, only to realize later that helping the opponent develop their mana is rarely something you want to do early on, or at all. The decline of Golgari Midrange was the final nail in the Trophy's coffin, and the spell got phased out almost completely. It's still sad to see such a versatile answer go. Grief Factor: 6/10.
Find // Finality: Arguably one of the most powerful Golgari cards during its Standard stint, Find // Finality was widely played in midrange decks, for as long as the archetype thrived in the meta. Recursion and sweeping are both welcome elements in a Golgari shell, and this spell excelled at combining them in one multi-purpose card. Grief Factor: 8/10.
Glowspore Shaman: Decks that cared about self-milling had a few options to choose from for their enablers. Glowspore Shaman played second banana to the one-drop Stitcher's Supplier, but was still one of the good ones, due to the threatening body and insurance against incidental mana screw. Grief Factor: 4/10.
Golgari Findbroker: This card got its thunder stolen by the more easily castable Acolyte of Affliction, but the Findbroker made for a better board presence and incurred no risk of involuntarily self-milling some crucial non-permanent. Until Eternal Witness will return to Standard — which is probably never going to happen — these are the enter-the-battlefield regrowth specialists we have to put up with. Grief Factor: 4/10.
Izoni, Thousand-Eyed: The official Golgari strategy in Guilds of Ravnica revolved around a typical "graveyard matters" theme, fueled by the new undergrowth mechanic. Unfortunately, that kind of deck didn't assume any noncasual form during the set's time in Standard. Izoni was meant as a centerpiece, but the abilities felt a bit too clunky to exploit, particularly when compared to other six-drops like Liliana, Dreadhorde General or Carnage Tyrant before. It's too bad, since this black Elf's artwork (both regular and Guild Kit versions) and character design were really wonderful. Grief Factor: 3/10.
Underrealm Lich: Another high-profile Golgari card that was good, but not good enough. It might all boil down to midrange's identity crisis, as the Lich's excellent ability package felt too impact-light at five mana. Grief Factor: 3/10.
Vraska, Golgari Queen: The previous rotation had robbed Standard of the glorious Pirate Captain Vraska, but at least we received her Golgari-leading version to make up for it. Come fall, Standard will sadly remain Vraska-less. It's especially sad to say goodbye to this card, which was consistently one of the most powerful four-mana planeswalkers in Standard, within Golgari Midrange at first, but then also in sacrifice decks that would put her plus to good use, and generally anywhere her uniquely executed mix of card advantage and removal would fit the curve. Grief Factor: 9/10.
Guilds of Ravnica Boros Losses
Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice: Boros decks took several forms during this period, and many iterations included at least one or two copies of Aurelia. The card wouldn't do anything more than beating down, but it would do so splendidly, relatively early, and with some level of impact from the get-go thanks to the combat trigger. After all, delivering the beatdown is what the Boros guild excels at. Grief Factor: 7/10.
Boros Challenger: Similarly to Selesnya's case, there was a number of decent Boros cards that were meant to come together in a specialized build — and they did, but then that build mattered only marginally. (To be fair, Selesnya Tokens mattered a bit more than Boros Deck Wins.) Along with the Vindicator, the Challenger was the epitome of this kind of card, and it will be missed in the same measure as the mentor aggro deck will be missed; which is, not too much. Grief Factor: 2/10.
Deafening Clarion: Ironically, the most widely played Boros card of this era has not been an aggro enhancer, but an aggro stopper. Clarion has been a boon for all sorts of Jeskai decks. The evolution of aggro entailed an increase in the early damage output, so waiting for a turn-four sweeper could mean courting defeat. Deafening Clarion was critical for the prosperity of the Jeskai lists and instrumental to their success. Its loss might now single-handedly set them back a whole lot, unless we get a replacement in a timely fashion. Grief Factor: 10/10.
Justice Strike: A reasonable removal spell that ended up seeing play in eminent builds like Jeskai Fires. It could be occasionally awkward, though, when dealing with creatures that boast more toughness than power, for example Feather, Kethis, Kefnet, Yorion, Umori, Cavalier of Thorns, or Archon of Sun's Grace. Grief Factor: 5/10.
Swiftblade Vindicator: The Vindicator will be slightly more missed than Boros Challenger merely because it had a slightly higher power level. In theory, it could have had applications in aggro decks that aren't strictly Boros. In practice, it didn't. Grief Factor: 3/10.
Guilds of Ravnica Colorless Losses
Chamber Sentry: This fantastically bad impression of Walking Ballista had some merit as a potential zero-cost spell for combo shenanigans — most recently within a Song of Creation shell. Grief Factor: 2/10.
Chromatic Lantern: The universal color fixer from Return to Ravnica … returned in Guilds of Ravnica and now goes away again. It leaves behind a rich history of "chromatic" monocolored builds, most notably black and green, both ramping into variously colored win conditions, sometimes tutored off the sideboard. Grief Factor: 4/10.
Gateway Plaza and the the Guildgates: Outside of the dedicated synergy deck, at the end of the day the Gates were just random taplands, so they won't be missed too much per se. Brawl will lose the redundancy, but that's about it. Field of the Dead lists, eager to maximize the amount of differently named lands, have long moved their businesses out of Standard, so they aren't involved with this rotation anymore. Grief Factor: 1/10.
Overgrown Tomb, Sacred Foundry, Steam Vents, Temple Garden, and Watery Grave: Of course, the disappearance of the best dual lands in the meta is the biggest blow of all. With the check lands already gone, and now the shock lands following suit, Standard is left with not a single dual that enters the battlefield untapped. It's definitely a concern, although in all likelihood the fix is coming soon enough. If not, we're going to have a very slow-building Standard next year. Grief Factor: 11/10.
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