Preparing for Rotation: What Gains and What Loses
With the first Guilds of Ravnica Spoilers being released, it’s time to think about rotation. Which decks might still exist without Amonkhet and Kaladesh? How does Standards removal-frame change? And how does this affect cards already in Standard? Jamin gives his thoughts on a completely new format
Standard had a wild ride this season: between Aetherflux Reservoir becoming a real deck under the influence of Sai, Master Thopterist, Turbo Fog being discovered at the Pro Tour and the wide array of archetypes doing well in grand prix, this has been a very interesting season. But as with all great things, this Standard season too must end. Guilds of Ravnica releases on October 5th and with that, Kaladesh and Amonkhet block will rotate out of Standard, leaving a big hole in the card pool.
The Red Menace
And don't be mistaken, that's a huge chunk of powerful cards rotating out. Most of the red-black creature base was taken from these sets: Soul-Scar Mage, Bomat Courier, Kari-Zev, Scrapheap Scrounger, Hazoret, the Fervent and Glorybringer were mainstays in aggressive strategies, with Pia Nalaar, Ahn-Crop Crasher and Earthshaker Khenra being additional options. Together with Abrade, Unlicensed Disintegration, Magma Spray, Cut//Ribbons and Fatal Push as removal, and Heart of Kiran and Chandra, Torch of Defiance as threats, red-black is left with only Rekindling Phoenix and Goblin Chainwhirler to play with. Post-rotation, players often look into existing archetypes to build with new cards, but the dominating force of this metagame will most likely be dead in a month's time.
The Green Decks
Red decks aren't the only ones affected by rotation: while mono green decks don't lose nearly as many cards, the ones they lose hurt. Rhonas the Indomitable was an obvious inclusion in green beatdown decks, Heart of Kiran powered out Ghalta, Primal Hunger very quickly and Blossoming Defense helped protecting your threats against the efficient removal.
Other losses here include Hashep Oasis (a fine utility land but not necessarily needed) and Greenbelt Rampager, which can be replaced by other efficient creatures (which green will likely get more of in the future).
One note on the other type of green beatdown deck: with the rotation of Winding Constrictor together with a lot of the payoff like Verdurous Gearhulk, the +1/+1 counter deck will cease to exist. It was fun while it lasted.
So, while mono-green loses some good cards, I can see the archetype sticking around: powering out undercosted threats like Ghalta or Steel Leaf Champion and having access to what's easily the most powerful play on turn one, Llanowar Elves, makes me think green decks can fight through and survive.
Mono Blue Storm
What a sad day this is. One of my favorite Standard decks in a long time is completely rotating out and there's no denying it. All of the cheap artifacts like Prophetic Prism and Renegade Map, the payoff in Paradoxical Outcome, and even the combo-kill condition Aetherflux Reservoir won't be available in Standard anymore. I don't think I have to state that this archetype will not be seen anymore.
A Gift from the Pharaoh
While the artifact that reanimates your creatures hasn't had huge amounts of success recently, it still deserves a mention as a very interesting deck. Playing with and against this deck both posed interesting challenges but those will be a thing of the past. The namesake artifact is rotating out which spells game over for the crowd favorite.
Control was an archetype that stuck with us in different forms throughout this entire format: be it U/W Cycling, various Approach of the Second Sun versions, or the newest Esper flavor. All of these decks made use of various cards from the blocks that are now leaving Standard.
Amonkhet and Kaladesh both also introduced an Inspiration with upside: Glimmer of Genius and Hieroglyphic Illumination both saw heavy play in Standard, especially together with Torrential Gearhulk, which was probably the most impactful Standard Control card in a long time. Without these, Control is currently looking to acquire a new way to draw cards.
Fumigate was unsuspecting when released but turned out to be great in the two-color versions of the deck. This is rather easily replaced by Cleansing Nova, a card that can have a heavy upside over regular sweepers if the metagame shapes the right way.
And while it was not only used in control decks, I wanted to mention The Scarab God as one of the most impactful cards in Standard. While its impact dwindled during the last few months, we shouldn't forget how strong this midrange finisher really was.
Last but not least, the Cycling mechanic was only present in Amonkhet block, so those decks are a thing of the past now, too.
Will Control survive rotation? This is an obvious question to ask, but a hard one to answer: control decks always depend on the metagame they try to fight, so while I can say that they get to keep two of their strongest cards in Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Search for Azcanta, I will not make a prediction whether the archetype itself sticks around.
Which Cards Benefit from Rotation?
Alright, I've told you all about what we're losing, but which cards gain from this?
Well, first of all, every creature with one toughness will benefit greatly as Goblin Chainwhirler has lost his home. This could enable a token strategy to be viable, maybe Saprolings could become a competitive strategy after all.
Another type of creature oppressed by Chainwhirlers are Pirates: Warkite Marauder and Fathom Fleet Captain are powerful two-drops that just couldn't survive the mighty Goblin entering the battlefield.
Staying with the tribal theme, I don't see vampires having the necessary power to have an impact in competitive Magic, but Merfolk might. Merfolk are very synergistic, and a lot of the efficient removal is leaving so it might be their time to shine and overpower other creature based strategies. I want to add a thought for your own speculation about new decks: when thinking about tribal or other synergy driven decks, make sure to look at the frame given to you by non-synergy cards as well. Many players make the mistake and only consider cards for their pirate deck that also have the word pirate in their textbox. Don't fall into that trap, think creatively when theorycrafting.
One last thought I want to talk over here is the fact that our most efficient removal spell Cast Down does not remove legendary creatures. Thinking about removal is very important when picking the threats to put into a deck and we can utilize Cast Downs weakness by finding decks that can utilize the Legendary Sorceries from Dominaria like Karn's Temporal Sundering or Jaya's Immolating Inferno.
I am excited for the next Standard format (especially since I'll be playing PT Guilds of Ravnica) and hope it will feature as many interesting decks as this one. What decks are you keeping your eye on (or are you still waiting for all Ravnica Spoilers?) Please let me know in the comments.
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