The entire Magic 2013 set has now been fully released, and we can identify areas where color power levels may change. What will we lose with the rotation of M12 and Scars Block? What does M13 give us to replace what was lost? What archetypes become unsustainable and what archetypes may arise?
A quick perusal of the cardlists should immediately draw the observer to see the loss of the “Battlecruisers” of Standard - The Titans, Wurmcoil Engine and Consecrated Sphinx. Primeval Titan and Sun Titan have been the core of Tier 1 and Tier 2 strategies for most of their time in Standard.
Archival records of Gerry Thompson’s Twitter feed will also show that Frost Titan and Grave Titan were at times considered the “best” of the Titans. The loss of Titans will also bring about the rotation of the archetypes they championed. Wolf Run Ramp and Solar Flare have virtually no chance of remaining intact, and the rotation of Scars Block mechanics will end the existence of Infect and Tempered Steel.
I’ll break down the changes from rotation based on color later, but first some core mechanics of Magic.
The counter suite takes a huge blow with the cycling of Mana Leak. Dissipate is a fine substitute in the Cancel spot, negating the impact of potential flashback spells. Rewind has been used to great effect in the past, but I’ll leave that to Shaheen Sorani to figure out.
There is essentially a complete lack of artifact based acceleration. Birds of Paradise have been left out of M13, but, if you recall, Birds of Paradise were also left out of 9th Edition, only to be printed in the next block... Ravnica. I think it is safe to assume we will have some pretty good color fixing, if not acceleration (Birds) in Return to Ravnica. Though I doubt it will be in the form of Karoos and Signets. Abundant Growth deserves an honorable mention for its unique ability to cantrip while fixing mana. I think you’ll see more Abundant Growths in the future. It is noteable that losing Sphere of Suns means there will be no “signets” in the card pool.
Short of a miracle, the lack of cheap mass removal in White and Red can be seen as a power shift to Black’s Mutilate. There are other items I’ll point out later, but I think this shows strong evidence of Black being the more controlling color once rotation happens. Whenever the 4 mana Day of Judgement/Wrath of God spot isn’t seen in the core set, attention should always be paid.
What will remain: Garruk Relentless, Garruk Primal Hunter, Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, Liliana of the Veil, Liliana of the Dark Realms, Ajani, Caller of the Pride, Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker, Chandra the Firebrand, Jace Memory Adept, Tamiyo, the Moon Sage, Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded
Crunching the numbers here reveals some pretty interesting statistics. There will be 4 Black planeswalkers after rotation (5 before). The green Garruks are pretty good, the two red Planeswalkers are barely playable. Gideon is probably the biggest loss here. It will be interesting to see any multi-colored planeswalkers in Return to Ravnica. Maybe they can get a UR Sarkan to work.
Colors by Numbers:
Of all the colors, White seems to have taken the largest hit. It loses two planeswalkers, a sweeper, and key sideboard cards.
White takes a hit in both the aggro and control realms, with no real obvious replacements. White control decks leaned heavily on Sun Titan, Day of Judgment, Elesh Norn, Giddeon and Timely Reinforcements - tools they will no longer have. I find it very strange that White lost all efficient ways to destroy or remove artifacts with the loss of Divine Offering, Revoke Existence and Leonin Relic-Warder. You still have Oblivion Ring, but that is pretty much it.
Intrepid Hero is a bit of a pet card for me and it has a unique ability for a White creature. I have fond memories of using Intrepid Hero to kill Cranial Plated creatures during Affinity’s domination of Standard, and I see it filling the same role against Wolfir Silverheart and other fatties.
Blue doesn’t gain much either, but still has such Standard all stars as Delver of Secrets, Snapcaster Mage and Geist of Saint Traft. Whether Delver can maintain any domination on Standard without Ponder, Mana Leak, Phantasmal Image, Gitaxian Probe, and Swords, is speculative. It can still rely on Unsummon, Invisible Stalker and Runechanters Pike. Honorable mention to Index, which is a bad Ponder for Delver flips and Miracles.
Black’s targeted removal gets cuts pretty hard with the choice of Doom Blade, Go for the Throat, and Dismember all getting reduced to Murder, but I think the addition of Mutilate makes up for it.
The discard suite is also reduced to Duress, but ultimately I feel like Duress is much better than all the old options combined.
I see Black being a strong support color for control decks. Mutilate, Murder, Duress and the Lilianas can pair with other Black Planeswalkers to make oppressive board states. Maybe the format will slow down enough to Unburial Rites Griselbrand.
The reprinting of two strong Vampires (Vampire Nocturnus, Vampire Nighthawk) could result in a powerful Vampire/Zombie build with Blood Artist, or a straight BR Vampire deck. The deck does lose access to Phantasmal Image, Birthing Pod and Mortarpod, but I think Nocturnus and Nighthawk can more than make up for that.
Red is a pretty big loser in the rotation, and it already wasn’t being played much except as a support color to Wolf Run Ramp and green aggro decks. Red does benefit from the elimination of clear color hosers against it like Flashfreeze, Celestial Purge and, most importantly, Timely Reinforcements.
Green Sun’s Zenith and Birthing Pod defined a couple archetypes in Standard, and their losses are irreplaceable. Beast Within and Dungrove Elder gave Mono Green a shot at being competitive. Maybe the addition of Rancor to the mix will allow Dungrove Elder to shine for a few months before rotation. I don’t see Rancor doing much after Dungrove Elder and Thrun both cycle.
Thragtusk is a powerful card that I fear will become ubiquitous in Standard alongside Restoration Angel. I tend to dislike games where the board gets bogged down by creatures that do nothing but prolong the outcome. I really don’t like the single colored mana cost on this card and Restoration Angel. I just feel like Wizards is cramming this combo down our throats because of their power level, and these cards will show up in every deck that can play them.
Being a fan of Green, I’m pretty excited to play Yeva. Her natural curve into Wolfir Silverheart and aforementioned Thragtusk could do powerful things for Green.
OUT: Batterskull, Mortarpod, Nihil Spellbomb, Ratchet Bomb, Shrine of Burning Rage, Spellskite, Sword of Feast and Famine, Sword of War and Peace, Sword of Body and Mind, Torpor Orb, Tumble Magnet, Wurmcoil Engine
IN: Tormods Crypt
With Scars being an artifact based block, it is no surprise that we will lose a lot of key artifacts. The swords were annoyingly powerful and I’m happy to see them go (along with their price tags). Losing Ratchet Bomb is pretty interesting because we still have to live with Lingering Souls, Huntmaster of the Fells and Thragtusk tokens at least for another year. I think it is also noteworthy that two of the most powerful artifacts, Wurmcoil Engine and Batterskull, were Lifelinking Red hosers.
IN: Hellion Crater
I really like the Scars Block lands for a couple reasons. It added a bit of skill testing to your first couple land drops, and made players pay closer attention to developing a mana base for their decklists. Certainly you can drop in 4 Seachrome Coast, 4 Glacial Fortress, basics, and call it a day - but if you ventured into 3 colors, it became more complex.
The multicolor cards are essentially covered in the Planeswalkers section above.
I feel like the M13 rotation will have clear winners and losers based on colors.
White and Red specifically take the biggest hits in terms of power levels. Red can realistically still be relied upon as a support color for Green aggro decks, as the burn packages have a lot of redundancies with Searing Spear replacing Incinerate, Pillar of Flame replacing Shock/Galvanic Blast, and Magmaquake/Bonfire of the Damned being slightly worse versions of Slagstorm and Whipflare. White looks like it will be reduced to Intangible Virtue token decks and using Restoration Angel in support of other colors. The exalted creatures don’t look good enough to compete, especially if Vapor Snag and Unsummon can still be competitive.
The loss of Mana Leak is a pretty big reason to turn away from Blue, which really don’t benefit that much from M13.
I believe that Black overall stands to gain the most from M13, as it loses very little from M12 and Scars block, while adding powerful cards in control and aggro archetypes.
It is interesting to see the complete removal of color hosers from the core set. Gone are Celestial Purge, Flashfreeze, Deathmark, Combust, and Autumns Veil. Maybe these are too good when facing multicolor Return to Ravnica cards.
My great hope is that the era of Battlecruiser Magic is over for a while.
Champions of Kamigawa Block was the set before the original Ravnica. It contained a first glimpse to me of what Battlecruiser Magic was. Kokusho, the Evening Star and Yosei, the Morning Star, alongside Greater Good, were big splashy 6 drops that dominated the metagame for a while. The notable 6 drops in Ravnica were Firemane Angel, Skeletal Vampire and Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind. That is a pretty big drop in power.
There was a lot of power in the original Ravnica Block’s uncommons. Lightning Helix, Mortify, Putrefy and Watchwolf were all fairly balanced cards and didn’t lead deck designers to rely on the same win conditions for every deck. I hope Return to Ravnica returns us to that.
Thanks for reading,