Rotation Grief: M19 (Part 1)
- Gianluca Aicardi
With the release of codename "Archery" on October 4, the dreaded/craved yearly rotation will kick in, turning the current Standard pool from its eight-set peak to its five-set nadir. Kumagoro takes a look at the cards that we'll miss the most (or not), starting from those contained in the core set that bears this year's name.
Core Set 2019 was the first core set in three years, due to the temporary application of the failed Two-Block Paradigm, which ended the very concept of Core Sets from 2016 to 2018. But other than marking our collective return to the core with a new naming pattern (but the same three-letter code convention), not much else was immediately exciting about M19. And yet, Standard made wide use of a few of the cards brought to the field by last year's core set, both new and reprinted. Most of those will go away after we reach rotation time in the fall: out of M20's 122 reprints, only 40 carried over from M19. Let's examine the situation color by color, to see which departures we'll be grieving when the time comes.
M19 White Losses
Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants: This Ajani was never a major presence in the format (especially once Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord came along, doing the weenie retrieval trick better), but he was certainly a solid ally for mono white Aggro, where he never completely stopped showing up as a one-of or two-of tactical helper. Grief Factor: 6/10.
Ajani's Welcome: Admittedly, this wasn't really part of the competitive meta by any means, but lifegaining decks are positioned to become more relevant in the next Standard, and this is the most resilient one-drop you could hope for in those builds, and never got a chance to shine. Grief Factor: 3/10.
Cleansing Nova: Board sweepers are bound to be part of any given Standard meta no matter what, but Cleansing Nova was one of the greats, fully justifying its increased cost compared to the Wrath of God paragon. Cheaper and more versatile than Planar Cleansing, less mana-constraining than Kaya's Wrath, it will be sorely missed. Grief Factor: 9/10.
Leonin Vanguard: This guy appears in just one deck, mono white aggro, but it's been a very successful and meta-impactful deck nonetheless. Grief Factor: 7/10.
Leonin Warleader: The scariest Cat in current Standard never really found a home (too midrange for Monowhite Aggro, too white-based elsewhere), and now he never will. Grief Factor: 4/10.
Mentor of the Meek: Another one that didn't exactly establish itself in any particular build, though it was very popular in casual white weenie decks. And such a powerful card-drawing engine always has a chance to find the correct configuration at some point. Grief Factor: 5/10.
Militia Bugler: It didn't rise to tier-one status or anything, but it played a major role in Prime Speaker Vannifar decks, being able to find Vannifar herself alongside other key players like Elite Guardmage, Deputy of Detention, Knight of Autumn, Trostani Discordant and Biogenic Ooze. Grief Factor: 6/10.
Remorseful Cleric: It was less of a thing in Standard than it is in Modern, but fighting graveyard strategies is always useful, plus he's a flyer and a Spirit, which isn't irrelevant. Grief Factor: 3/10.
Resplendent Angel: One of the most coveted three-drops is going away, and it'll be hard to replace her in the builds that enjoyed her presence. The one-two-three punch of Leonin Vanguard, Bishop of Wings and Resplendent Angel, resulting in a 4/4 free Angel token right away, will only last for three months now. Bummer. Grief Factor: 8/10.
Revitalize: A simple cycler that nonetheless saw a ton of play in Esper and Jeskai control decks as well as assorted combo decks that were trying to find their pieces without being killed by mono red in the process. Grief Factor: 7/10.
M19 Blue Losses
Departed Deckhand: Unexpectedly, this ghost pirate did indeed show up in successful Simic Stompy builds, launching unstoppable Ghaltas at the opponent's face. Grief Factor: 6/10
Exclusion Mage: If "Archery" won't do something about it, Standard will lose its resident Man-o'-War surrogate for the time being. Maybe not a crucial absence, but noteworthy enough. Grief Factor: 4/10
Mirror Image: There are several good ways to copy creatures left in Standard, most notably Spark Double and Quasiduplicate, but this cheap Clone that only targets your own creatures deserved at least a mention. Grief Factor: 1/10
Nexus of Fate: As easily predicted, one of the most format-defining cards in the Standard iteration that's coming to a close will not accompany us into 2020. Simic Nexus had its fair share of haters, due to the extremely long and maddening journey towards defeat it would impose on its opponents. Grief Factor: 10/10 or 0/10, depending on who you ask.
Omniscience: This extremely powerful card has been lurking on the outskirts of the format for a whole year now, only recently finding a worthy combo companion in Flood of Tears. That party is going to end soon, unfortunately, and many much jankier decks will also miss the opportunity to pay zero for their spells. Grief Factor: 8/10
Psychic Corrosion: Any aggressive mill deck that ever managed to attain some degree of success in current Standard very likely ran Psychic Corrosion (and maybe Patient Rebuilding, also on its way out). This is not to say there were many of those decks around, but now it's more likely their number will further decrease. Grief Factor: 4/10
Sai, Master Thopterist: Another very specialized role player, offering some amount of redundancy with the quite superior Saheeli, Sublime Artificer. Sai was mostly hindered by a scarcity of good trigger cards, so his problem ultimately was being born in the wrong era. Grief Factor: 6/10
Sleep: Blue-based aggro builds occasionally ran Sleep as an alpha strike enabler against opposing aggro; they won't be able to do that anymore. Then again, Sleep has been reprinted four times (though never in a regular expansion), so there's still hope to see it back next year. Grief Factor: 4/10.
Supreme Phantom: Losing the basic Spirit lord, which so much success brought to its tribal deck in Modern during the past year, doesn't bode well for Standard Spirits reaching critical mass in 2020. Grief Factor: 6/10
Surge Mare: Monoblue Tempo found some use for this aquatic horsey. Curious Obsession and Tempest Djinn are also leaving Standard, though, so the loss of Surge Mare is the least of that archetype's problems. Grief Factor: 3/10
M19 Black Losses
Death Baron: Despite the incoming departure of Ixalan block and its conquistadores, and the recent arrival of War of the Spark and its dreadhorde, Vampire is the new word in black circles, while Zombie is definitely going out of fashion for the 2020 season. Grief Factor: 6/10
Diregraf Ghoul: In case you didn't hear me the first time when I talked about Standard Zombies not being a thing anymore, they won't even have a good one-drop (except maybe Dreadmalkin?). The most direct M20 replacement for Diregraf Ghoul is freaking Walking Corpse! If that's not a sign, I don't know what is. Grief Factor: 5/10
Doomed Dissenter: Don't make me repeat the spiel about the fall of the Zombies a third time, please. Grief Factor: 4/10
Graveyard Marshal: We just received additional news on the 2020 zombie migrant crisis: All the best Zombies are now reported departing the Standard shores! Grief Factor: 6/10
Isareth the Awakener: Isareth has been more of a theoretically cool card than an actually played card, but there have been builders who made some attempts at breaking her, nonetheless. She leaves the stage still more or less unbroken, though, the "must attack" clause likely her decisive flaw. Grief Factor: 3/10
Liliana, Untouched by Death: This Liliana is just part of the mass rotation of Zombies. And while she was very powerful in Zombie tribal decks (though to a lesser extent than Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord in Vampire tribal), this seems as good a place as any to note that Zombie decks never really materialized as a major force in the meta after M19 actively tried to push them in that direction. Grief Factor: 5/10
Liliana's Contract: Entirely meant as a meme card for casual builds, but it was a fun one even so. I mean, who doesn't love collecting Demons and reliving Liliana's ominous ascension to power? This said, the inclusion of Liliana's Contract in this list might be the most glaring indicator that Core Set 2019 didn't contribute much to black in the first place. Grief Factor: 1/10
Phylactery Lich: Yet another card that would have played very differently in an artifact-rich environment. Or even just one with Darksteel Citadel in it. As it stands, we lament more Phylactery Lich's unexpressed potential than its actual demise. Grief Factor: 2/10
Plague Mare: The black member of the mare cycle had a strong ETB ability and a sworn natural enemy in Monowhite. As such, she saw play in Golgari and Sultai builds, even just as a sideboard option. Grief Factor: 6/10
Reassembling Skeleton: In sacrifice-prone decks it ultimately got sidelined by the one-drop, two-powered Gutterbones, but it's still better than its latest replacement, Sanitarium Skeleton. Grief Factor: 3/10
Stitcher's Supplier: This might just be the monoblack card from Core Set 2019 that will make its absence most known, if in a very specific kind of build, the self-milling deck working towards a reanimator goal or simply to serve a generic "graveyard matters" strategy. There are of course other solid options for graveyard enablers left in black, but the Supplier would start to dredge from turn one, then repeat the deal while sparing her controller some combat damage or fueling a sacrifice; that's something neither Glowspore Shaman nor Gorging Vulture can replicate. Grief Factor: 8/10
IN THE NEXT INSTALLMENT: We'll focus on the amount of Standard grief caused by M19's exit to red, green, multicolored, and colorless. Stay tuned, keep your handkerchief ready.
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