Rotation Grief: Ixalan (Part 2)

The Standard Rotation looms closer with each passing day. How the meta will change, at first, will be a direct consequence of the disappearance of four rotating sets. We continue this journey of grief (or jubilation, depending on who you ask) by looking at the red, green, multicolored, and colorless cards we'll have to remove when Ixalan rotates.

Ixalan Red Losses

Lightning Strike Otepec Huntmaster Star of Extinction

Captain Lannery Storm: Out of the four Ixalan tribes, Pirate is the only one that never generated a truly competitive deck. When it got close, it was veering towards its black and blue members rather than the red ones. Nonetheless, the hasty Captain Lannery Storm had potential, and sporadically showed up in red aggro lists, even all the way back during the previous Standard cycle, when she was essentially employed as a fifth copy of Ahn-Crop Crasher. Hers is a failed career, always on the brink of relevance, always outplayed by some other three-drop. Grief Factor: 3/10

Charging Monstrosaur: This big rushing guy courted competitive builds on several occasions. After all, it represented a very effective weapon against control, given how it's able to pressure planeswalkers out of nowhere and trample over defensive tokens from Hero of Precinct One or Saheeli, Sublime Artificer. Core Set 2020 turned Dinosaurs into a major force in the meta, while at the same time introducing Shifting Ceratops as the superior competitor that definitely pushed the Monstrosaur out of business. Also, now we can safely say it: "monstrosaur" was a really silly name. Grief Factor: 5/10

Fiery Cannonade: For the longest time this Pirate-based spell played the role of this Standard cycle's Pyroclasm, with only Flame Sweep sending it into retirement a few months in advance. After all, you do want to hit those Spectral Sailor and Siren Stormtamer while keeping around your Arclight Phoenix if possible. Grief Factor: 5/10

Lightning Strike: Ixalan is where the Lightning Strike's current reign of terror originated, back in September 2017. The following year, Core Set 2019 would reprint it, but it didn't matter that much for Standard, since both sets are bound to rotate together. It might give us a hint as to when it'll be back, though. Its first printing was in Theros, the fall set of 2013; it returned less than a year later in Magic 2015, which was released in July 2014; then came a three-year gap before Ixalan. So, we could perhaps expect to see a reprint by 2021. Grief Factor: 10/10

Otepec Huntmaster: One of the various off-tribe Dinosaur enablers, the Huntmaster has been often dismissed in favor of the more reliable Drover of the Mighty. Then the printing of Rotting Regisaur in M20 renewed the importance of providing early haste to your heavy hitters, resulting in a couple of reserved slots in Jund Dinos – a last hurrah for the Sun Empire before the rotation nightfall. Grief Factor: 6/10

Rampaging Ferocidon: This nasty Dino won't be missed simply because it was banned before the current cycle even started (along with cards that never even made into the open beta in Arena, like Ramunap Ruins – remember those times? And to think mono red gets a bad rap now!). Somehow it has been given one final chance at a little slice of glory through its last minute unbanning, the monster let out of the cage to fight the scariest menace, which is Scapeshift. This leaves Standard with the clean slate of an empty ban list going into the next stage. Grief Factor: 0/10 for most of the run, 8/10 in September 2019

Raptor Hatchling: This card certainly married flavor and a cool design, which made it popular, if never too successful (although it wasn't bad against Burn). It became hot for a minute after the printing of Marauding Raptor – for a single mana the Hatchling would give you two Marauding triggers and a 3/3 trampler, on top of a Raptor-based flavor win. It didn't stick but it was something. Grief Factor: 4/10

Rigging Runner: This Goblin Pirate was sort of a long-suffering understudy for monored stars, sometimes showing up in a list or two, but most of the time remaining on the bench. Theoretically, a 2/2 first striker for one mana is something you should want in an aggressive deck that has no problem enabling raid. And yet, there was always someone else ahead of Rigging Runner for that role, probably because of the awkwardness of having him as your only turn-one play. Grief Factor: 4/10

Star of Extinction: Control decks that went big on mana had a great ally in Star of Extinction, purging the battlefield of all creatures and planeswalkers while also removing the occasional annoying land. It was the last in an ancient lineage of red's larger-than-life board sweepers, like Jokulhaups and Obliterate, but that kind of spell is not as frequent as wrath effects in white and black are, so it won't be easily replaced. Grief Factor: 8/10

Sunbird's Invocation: This was strictly for casual Johnny players, the kind of fun over-the-top spell that red typically brings forth at least once per set. Even in this category, the Invocation wasn't exceedingly popular, but still able to engender crazy builds like this combo deck with Nexus of Fate and Emergency Powers. Grief Factor: 1/10

Wily Goblin: Minor attempts at nongreen creature ramps have been known to use this as a two-drop that potentially lets you untap with four mana available on turn three. The fact that I'm mentioning it at all just goes to show that red wasn't Ixalan's most accomplished color. Grief Factor: 2/10

Ixalan Green Losses

Carnage Tyrant Merfolk Branchwalker Wildgrowth Walker

Carnage Tyrant: At last, Carnie T is no more. After an incredible run where it's been many a deck's curve-topper of choice, the Terror of Control, the Savior of Green, the signature Big Guy of this Standard era is gone. To be fair, it was kind of being phased out by newer, shinier things lately, like Shifting Ceratops (it's telling that there's usually no Tyrants at all in the successful Jund Dinosaurs lists from this last stretch of the format). But it never completely went away, and its contribution to the format across its two full years of service has been invaluable, as one of the most feared and impactful green cards, as well as an early money-maker in paper and MTGO. Its chances of a future comeback are better than those of most other Dinosaurs, given that it boasts only evergreen abilities and there's nothing specifically linking it to the Ixalan setting in its name. Grief Factor: 10/10

Commune with Dinosaurs: Of course, this one will only be missed by Dinosaur decks, since it had no application whatsoever elsewhere. But there was no Dino list, neither competitive nor casual, that didn't include a playset of this spell, the simple library-digging glue that kept everything together in those builds. Grief Factor: 7/10

Deathgorge Scavenger: Far from the most played Dino, the Scavenger was a solid sideboard option, simultaneously good against Burn and to fight non-massive graveyard strategies without losing board presence. While it wasn't anywhere near its role model Scavenging Ooze, it should have seen more play than it did, though it did see some. Grief Factor: 5/10

Drover of the Mighty: The off-tribe mana dork of choice for Dinosaur decks. It was a quiet but steady presence there, accelerating into the four-drops, adding his three points of power to the beatdown, and even providing a four-mana discount from Ghalta, Primal Hunger's casting cost. Despite his ability of surviving Marauding Raptor's trigger, he was displaced by the return of Otepec Huntmaster post-M20. Grief Factor: 6/10

Ixalli's Diviner: Explore creature #4, after Jadelight Ranger, Merfolk Branchwalker and Seekers' Squire. That's how the Diviner is going to be remembered. Grief Factor: 2/10

Kumena's Speaker: Aside from Dinosaur, Merfolk was the other green tribe from Ixalan, and this one-drop was among its foundations. Just a well-oiled 2/2 for one, like all ambitious aggro decks require. Grief Factor: 7/10

Merfolk Branchwalker: Curiously enough, one of the most powerful Merfolk in Ixalan, and definitely one of the most played, wasn't part of Merfolk tribal at all. It was instead a key element of the so-called explore package, which came into existence after Rivals of Ixalan printed Jadelight Ranger and exerted a huge impact on the meta ever since, powering up entire archetypes on the strength of its lifegaining, board presence, and library manipulation. Grief Factor: 9/10

Ranging Raptors: An adequate three-drop for Dinosaur tribal, especially in the casual variants that dreamed of ramping into the Naya-colored curve-toppers. It was actually playable in any version of the archetype, but the competitive ones went with aggression over land development, even as Marauding Raptor would immediately trigger the enrage abilities of its green siblings. Grief Factor: 5/10

Ripjaw Raptor: Green in Ixalan was really all about Dinosaurs, be they lumped together into their own tribal archetype or used as role players in Golgari or Sultai lists. Ripjaw Raptor played both roles, and was rated among the best of its breed, as it inevitably happens with the one member of a group that draws you cards. Though irremediably midrange and easily defeated by spot removal or Teferi, Time Raveler and other tempo plays, it kept being a valued part of the Dino family, right till the end, when it enjoyed being a prime follow-up to Marauding Raptor. The enrage mechanic is not going to become evergreen anytime soon (although it might), so this is probably a final goodbye to Standard. Grief Factor: 9/10

Savage Stomp: Another crucial card in Dinosaur tribal. One mana to make your guy larger while killing something on the other side of the table? Sign those decks up. It was also best friends with Ripjaw Raptor, clearly. Grief Factor: 8/10

Shapers' Sanctuary: This used to be in green's sideboards as a counterplay to control. It hasn't been seen for a while now, supplanted by the arrival of seven more sets' worth of options. Grief Factor: 5/10

Wildgrowth Walker: And there it is, the mighty explore payoff, the nemesis of Burn. It lived and prospered alongside Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger, so it's only right that they'll now also die together. Grief Factor: 10/10

Ixalan Multicolored Losses

Hostage Taker Vraska, Relic Seeker Regisaur Alpha

Call to the Feast: Vampire decks had this option to add three of their kind to the board at once. It wasn't used too much, even once Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord showed up, eager to exploit those 1/1s as fodder for his second ability. Grief Factor: 4/10

Vona, Butcher of Magan: The Vampire fixer, a solution to any problematic permanent on the opposing board, was frequently played in her tribe, if perhaps just as a one-of. Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord makes it even simpler to include her. Grief Factor: 7/10

Hostage Taker: From Sultai to Esper Hero, many builds enjoyed this bold felon and her mad abduction skills. I've always particularly liked the fact that after casting a snatched creature, they won't revert to their original owner even if Hostage Taker is removed – it feels like a great representation of Stockholm Syndrome. Or maybe even slave liberation? Grief Factor: 8/10

Vraska, Relic Seeker: Six-mana planeswalkers need to do really amazing things to be viable, and Pirate Vraska sure ticked all the right boxes: near-universal spot removal, board presence, a game-winning ultimate, even a little bit of ramping. She was the queen of the six-drops in Golgari and Sultai for most of her run, only threatened by the release of Liliana, Dreadhorde General and Ugin, the Ineffable in War of the Spark, both playing a very similar role but with more direct card advantage involved. Grief Factor: 8/10

Raging Swordtooth: There was a time when this Gruul dude was the Dinosaurs' Goblin Chainwhirler, as well as their enrage enabler of choice. It's still a decent five-drop with a large body and trample, but it didn't keep up with the Dinosaur evolution and ultimately went the way of the dodo. Grief Factor: 5/10

Regisaur Alpha: One of the constants in Dinosaur decks, which never stopped wishing for their huge threats to connect asap, especially now that they're able to unleash seven-powered monstrosities on turn two, and twelve-powered game-ending threats as an immediate follow-up. Plus, the Alpha helped the tribe to go wide to some extent, thanks to its trusty lieutenant token. Grief Factor: 8/10

Ixalan Colorless Losses

Field of Ruin Sunpetal Grove Treasure Map

Dragonskull Summit, Drowned Catacomb, Glacial Fortress, Rootbound Crag , Sunpetal Grove: Teaming up with the shocklands from Guilds of Ravnica and Ravnica Allegiance, and their enemy-paired half from Dominaria, the checklands created a Standard environment where it was incredibly easy to play decks with three, four or even five colors. They'll be back one day, but probably not for a few years. In fact, they used to be a regular Standard feature between their debut in Magic 2010 and their last appearance in Magic 2013 (as Ixalan actually marks the first time they've got reprinted in Standard outside of a core set), but then they took a five-year hiatus. Hopefully, they won't do that again, because they're kinda perfect for Standard, and comfortably cheap to acquire when you're not on Arena. Grief Factor: 10/10

Field of Ruin: As long as they'll keep printing overpowered lands, we'll be missing Field of Ruin, as hard as it was at times to fit it into the greedier multicolored mana bases. With Azcanta and Adanto gone, we can just hope Field of the Dead won't be as concerning without its pal Scapeshift. Grief Factor: 9/10

Primal Amulet / Primal Wellspring: You would occasionally meet the odd deck trying to break Primal Amulet. Not very often, but it was a niche affair with its share of loyal enthusiasts. Grief Factor: 2/10

Sentinel Totem: Over time, several ways to fight graveyard strategies have been added to the meta, most notably the reprint of Grafdigger's Cage. Sentinel Totem was the first of those, and it's still useful to this day, possibly to be grabbed by Karn, the Great Creator to erase all graveyards in one fell swoop, without any threat of a comeback. Grief Factor: 4/10

Sorcerous Spyglass: Another valuable trinket in Karn, the Great Creator's wishboard, mainly used to shut down the activated abilities of planeswalkers. Grief Factor: 7/10

Thaumatic Compass / Spires of Orazca: This transformer artifact was underplayed, particularly since MBC decks with Cabal Stronghold failed to find an adequate endgame to replace Torment of Hailfire. Its activation has always been too slow for comfort, but the reward of getting some Maze of Ith onto the battlefield was a boon for control. Grief Factor: 7/10.

Treasure Map / Treasure Cove: The fairy godmother of janky decks, it was good in any build but especially able to prevent the riskier, more elaborate strategies from crashing and burning too painfully, thanks to its ability to drop early on and sculpting the next three draw steps, then ramping up with four extra mana at once (the three tokens plus the Treasure Cove itself), while potentially drawing some additional cards as well. It would also help in decks that cared about the number of artifacts on the battlefield, like Karn, Scion of Urza and/or Tezzeret, Master of the Bridge builds, and in those that aimed to manipulate the top of the library, like any list running Bolas's Citadel. So many applications that will be sorely missed. Thank you for these marvelous two years, Treasure Map. The real treasure was the jank we made work along the way. Grief Factor: 9/10

Unclaimed Territory: We still don't know if heavy linear tribal strategies will be viable in the next Standard cycle, but if they will, they're certainly going to miss the mana fixing provided by this Ixalan land. Grief Factor: 8/10

Vanquisher's Banner: This was always a bit too on the expensive side to properly make the leap to competitive, and then Icon of Ancestry happened and made the Banner shockingly obsolete. But before that, it had its little moments of glory. Grief Factor: 3/10

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.

Rotation Grief Archive

  1. M19 (white, blue and black)
  2. M19 (red, green, multicolored and colorless)
  3. Ixalan (white, blue and black)


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