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Insider: Looking Ahead by Looking Back

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To start, I’m glad my concept of the “dead zone” in Magic (and by extension, Magic finance,) was received so well. Last week I talked about some ways to make the best use of that time, since everyone else is in holding pattern.

Well, about that holding pattern. The following exercise is something that is very helpful as a player, and by extension, a trader. It’s true we don’t know what Ravnica holds or what decks it may bring, but what we can do is look at the current decks and break them down by set. I find this is always a really useful way to determine if the important cards in each strategy are a buy, sell or hold.

Of course, we’ve talked about the easy sells. Everything from Scars block should be gone by now, except for any lands or such that you’re holding for Modern. I’ve personally moved almost my entire Scars stock, and cleared out the last Ratchet Bomb a few days ago.

But what Innistrad cards do we want to hold onto? As I mentioned, we can’t really predict what new decks will show up (just the powerful cards), but we can figure out if the current top decks will exist in any form post-rotation.

Let’s start.

U/W Delver

Losses:

Swords of X and Y

Mana Leak

Phantasmal Image

Phyrexian spells

Vapor Snag

Ponder

While these things may not seem like a death knell to the deck, they are certainly very bad for it. Delver is still great and all, but without Ponder to set it up and Phyrexian spells and Snag to protect it, the deck becomes much, much less consistent.

In addition, the Talrand versions are pretty much just dead, since they can’t jam Phyrexian spells and call it good. This means that, as a whole, the deck is not as well-positioned going forward, and that means a few things. Esper Midrange, which is essentially Delver-less Delver, is also dead with so many rotating spells.

First up – Restoration Angel. Yes, the Angel is good in a lot of decks, but it’s at its best here. Every share of the metagame something like Zombies or Vampires takes away from Angel decks means a drop in price. This has probably peaked, so don’t feel bad getting rid of yours. That said, it’s still extremely powerful and will be a metagame pillar, so I think it’s fairly stable.

It does stand to reason that Geist of Saint Traft could fall. Without Snag and Gut Shot to clear blockers, this thing becomes a lot easier to deal with. But another consequence of Snag leaving is that Human decks should be able to make a return to the metagame, and I suspect those decks will play Geist simply because of how much damage it puts out and the fact there will be less Clones. I’m looking at Geist to stay fairly stable post-rotation, though it could dip to $15.

Human cards, on the other hand, from Champion to Silverblade, will likely trend upwards.

Pod Decks

Every Pod deck is gone, obviously, with Pod itself rotating. But not every “Pod deck” was always Pod. In fact, Naya decks have been successful even without the Pods.

But these decks will all suffer from losing Phantasmal Image and Phyrexian Metamorph. The Clone effects really held these decks together, and with those gone, as well as Green Suns Zenith, they too lose a lot of consistency.

I still look for Bonfire of the Damned-based decks to be very strong, but the shell that is built around Bonfire could go through a lot of changes. As such, I can only recommend that Bonfire will continue to be the most expensive card in Standard.

Wolf Run

Losses:

Primeval Titan

This is pretty much the only card that matters, though Solemn Simulacrum and Inferno Titan both go as well, as does its sweepers.

People know this, and a lot of the associated cards have fallen accordingly. But another card you would do well to get rid of is Zealous Conscripts. Right now the Conscripts occasionally pops up in maindecks, but it’s mainly a fixture of the sideboard because it rocks Frites and Titans in general. It will still be good against Frites, but the removal of Titans means stealing one is way less relevant. Conscripts was in an intro deck and will probably halve in price because of it.

Elves

Losses:

Ezuri, Renegade Leader

Genesis Wave

Green Suns Zenith

Llanowar Elves

Birds of Paradise

Another deck that is effectively dead with the loss of the Elves and some of the explosiveness. Elvish Archdruid is a little less desirable once rotation occurs unless the tribe gets enough support in Ravnica. I do still like Soul of the Harvest, though, assuming there’s enough creature acceleration and/or finishers to make a deck like this happen. Ramping into Bonfires isn’t exactly bad, either.

Zombies

Losses:

Mortarpod

Phyrexian Obliterator

Dismember

Fume Spitter

Clones

Here we have our first big winner of the rotation. The losses incurred by Zombies is relatively small, and many versions weren’t even playing Oblitator anymore. The Burn-backed variant has had the most success recently, and I expect that trend to continue after rotation, when I foresee a lot of Human vs. Zombie battles happening.

Along those lines, I like foil Human Frailtys, and going a little deeper, Elite Inquisitor and Riders of Gavony. I think Champion of the Parish into Inquisitor into Silverblade is insane, and a play we’ll see a lot of post-rotation, assuming Ravnica doesn’t blow away Innistrad in terms of power level.

On the other hand, the Miracles deck from the Pro Tour could come back to combat these decks, in which case I like Devastation Tide as the cheap pickup for that deck, in addition to the lands.

Red decks

Losses:

Nothing irreplaceable.

Red spells are red spells, and they burn your face. What I like most about red post-rotation is that Timely Reinforcements is gone. That alone opens a lot of space for Red decks, as does the loss of Vapor Snag and Gut Shot, both of which helped to hold down Stromkirk Noble, a card I’m looking for a rise out of after the rotation.

It should be noted, though, that both Thragtusk and Restoration Angel are very good against red, so that’s going to hurt the potential success of Red decks.

That pretty much covers the top decks. Doing simple analysis like this is often how I choose targets for the coming season, and these calls often pay off. It’s difficult to impossible to predict an exact metagame after rotation, but we can come close to approximating what shells will survive with this technique, and that helps to shape our goals moving forward.

Thanks for reading,

Corbin Hosler

@Chosler88 on Twitter

3 thoughts on “Insider: Looking Ahead by Looking Back

  1. Is it possible to forecast which archetype may emerge without the Scars block? Based on Innitrad Block + M13 (and maybe + extrapolating the card/color combinations RtR could bring)?

    Do you have an idea of which cards are under the radar right now in standard? such as Hellrider or Sorin, lord of Innistrad?

  2. I think Zombies & Humans have it pretty good. My playtest team & I are developing GW/RW/Naya & we only lose Honor of the Pure, Grand Abolisher, Blade Splicer, Leonin Relic Warder & Hero of Bladehold. Everything is pretty much replacable with what Innistrad & M13 has to offer.

  3. Usually Block is a great place to look for future Standard, but the banning of Lingering Souls and Intangible Virtue, as well as the relative lack of removal in Block made it a bad example this year.

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