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Insider: Replacing Theros

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It's kind of a dark time to be interested in Magic finance and actually playing Standard. The reason being that we might be in the deepest lame duck format of all time. There are so many sweet things to be doing in Standard, and all of them require playing cards that you sold months ago.


While the player in me doesn't ever want Battle for Zendikar to come out, the financier is looking forward. What we know about BFZ is that there will be fatties, a set of enemy-color lands, and no fetchlands. Beyond that, we're just speculating blindly. This does tell us at least that once BFZ launches it is likely that playing wedge decks will still be viable.

The main reason that wedge decks are likely to still be good though, is that Khans of Tarkir is a very powerful block. The idea of invalidating Siege Rhino and Dig Through Time in Standard is ludicrous. BFZ will certainly shake things up, but there's already quite the B-squad in Khans as it is, and there are a lot of cards just waiting to be in more Standard decks once Theros's powerhouses rotate.

Let's talk about what we're losing, and what the likely replacements are.

Planeswalkers

Obviously BFZ is poised to give us some great curve toppers, but these cards leaving Standard is huge. Elspeth, Sun's Champion has been the de-facto "big thing" to do in Standard for as long as it has been legal. Control and midrange decks simply require cards of this nature to compete, and there are some very powerful cards already legal that are poised to show up more with this powerful lot of 'walkers rotating.

I stand by what I've said about Demonic Pact in that the community hasn't really solved the card yet, and I could see it being a big player in Standard. Pact is tanking pretty hard right now, and when it hits the $2-3 range I'll be going deep on this one. Mythics in that range, in particular from a core set, are very low-risk investments, and this one has a high potential to hit.

We will still have great cards to pair with Pact in Dromoka's Command and Sultai Charm in addition to having some fringe options as well--not to mention the notion of popping our packs to the Ugins that will slot naturally into the type of deck that wants Pact.

Speaking of Ugin, that card is just a great target all around. It hasn't ever gone below $20, and there is demand for Ugin in multiple formats in addition to it being a sweet casual card. You might need these while they are Standard-legal, and I don't expect a large drop even when they rotate.


Sorin is a card that has seen some love, but is likely more powerful than it has gotten credit for. Sorin is reminiscent of Xenagos and Ashiok to me. You can buy them for just over $5 right now, and it's very likely that we'll see Sorin triple up at one or more points over the course of the next Standard season. This card is great, and will be seeing play.

Sarkhan Unbroken is a bit more speculative on my part, but the power is there and the buy-in is low. There just hasn't been much reason to play Temur in Standard, but with Hero's Downfall on the out I could see Sarkhan being enough to put Temur on the map. It's also worth noting that with Rattleclaw Mystic being the primary mana dork in the format, a card like Sarkhan becomes the natural thing to ramp into. Sarkhan also generates some mana himself, making him a great fit to curve into Ugin or really any kind of fatties that BFZ delivers.

Whisperwood Elemental is just one of those really good cards that is hard to push out of a small Standard. It's strange that Whisperwood is in the $5 range with G/r Devotion being such a prominent deck right now, but it makes sense considering that the card only has Standard appeal and that much of what makes that deck good is rotating. Regardless, Whisperwood is better than a $5 card, and will be seeing play post-rotation.

Green Dudes

These creatures don't all go in the same deck all the time, but their rotation affects the same types of decks. Abzan is losing many of the tools that have allowed it to exist as a midrange deck, and also one of its primary aggressive creatures. That said, there are some great aggressive options for the deck that will be sticking around.

Warden and Anafenza are tried and true elements of aggressive Abzan decks, and I fully expect them to appear in more lists post-rotation. I've been calling them great pickups for a while now, and I stand by this.

Hangarback Walker is another card that I've already sang the praises of, and have most recently become interested in putting it in an Abzan shell. There have already been some successful lists of Heroic and Abzan decks featuring Walker alongside Dromoka's Command, and that interaction seems very powerful. I also really like the idea of using Anafenza to pump Walker. When powerful cards interact well together, you can rest assured that they'll make their way into a deck.

As for Caryatid leaving, the obvious replacement is the aforementioned Rattleclaw Mystic. Rattleclaw is already above its all-time low, and even if you don't think it can go much higher than $5, you should still get your set now.


Control Spells

Control decks have stooped as low as playing Cancel in the past, and while Clash of Wills is very awkward, it's passable. The best counterspell available barring a sweet one in BFZ is going to be Silumgar's Scorn, and that contest isn't particularly close.


It wasn't that long ago that Scorn was the most traded card on Pucatrade, and I see it as the most likely direction for blue decks to move post-rotation. Languish is annoying, but you don't have to just jam Dragonlord Ojutai on five and pray. Your deck will be built to play the long game.

Speaking of Ojutai, both he and Dragonlord Silumgar are very cheap right now compared to their peak prices. Ojutai certainly benefits from Elspeth rotating as well, and I won't be surprised when an Esper Dragons variant is playable post-rotation. Both of these dragonlords strike me as great pickups right now.



There really isn't a suitable replacement for the cheap sweepers leaving the format, so hopefully BFZ gives us something cheaper than Languish to keep low-to-the-ground aggressive decks in place.

Red Cards

So, this actually looks pretty bad for red decks. Abbot of Keral Keep and Monastery Swiftspear are very powerful cards, but red is going to be hurting. At least the green decks are losing Caryatid and Courser?

It seems likely that red aggressive decks are going to look to be two or more colors immediately out of the gates. The most abstractly powerful card for a deck of this nature is Mantis Rider, and it's a good one.


Jeskai Ascendancy alongside tokens is another tried and true method to beating down, and I could definitely see both of these three-color cards being very powerful in post-rotation Standard. It won't be easy to make money on regular rares from Khans, but I recommend having at least a set of each of these, and more if you're looking for some cheap acquisitions that will be good for your trade binder down the road.


Temples

Temples are rotating, and as far as we know there won't be rare allied lands in BFZ. With Khans fetches being the only strong allied fixing in Standard and them being obvious specs anyway, their price trajectories will continue to be positive, with Windswept Heath being stymied by the clash pack.

More interstingly, painlands are super cheap right now. If I had to wager, I'd say that BFZ's land cycle probably comes into play tapped, and I expect that we'll be playing painlands for as long as they're in Standard. They were quite expensive after Magic 2015, and the $2 price tag on them right now is quite low. Just last year there were $8 Battlefield Forges on the market, and while they won't go that high, there will be significant demand for painlands considering that most players sold out of the ones acquired previously for Standard.

~

If I had to pick just three cards from those listed above to spec on, it would be Sorin, Warden of the First Tree, and Dragonlord Ojutai. There are clear voids that all of these cards easily fill, and Ojutai and Warden are both small set mythics with proven Constructed applications. These positions will need to be reevaluated as BFZ is spoiled, but these cards as so obviously powerful that they'll be hard to miss on.

I would move in on Sorin and Warden sooner than later, and wait a little bit on Ojutai to see if it drops another buck or two considering that it has had a negative price trajectory for a while.

My list is far from exhaustive, but it consists of what I believe to be the safest picks, with only a couple curve-balls thrown in. I wish you the very best of luck on these positions and any other Khans cards that you decide to move in on.

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan Overturf
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter

6 thoughts on “Insider: Replacing Theros

    1. It’s definitely a strong card, but I don’t know that there will be a deck that would play it over Ojutai, Wingmate Roc, other Sarkhan, Khalaghan 5, or Whisperwood Elemental.

      1. Demonic Pact I’m with Ryan after reading his article “I feel like trading into is sufficient for now not sure about buying yet? spread is low and feels like a save place to tuck a bit of value away for the long term. Never know Demonic Pact,Paradox Haze,Donate could be a thing down the road this card just screams break me 😉

  1. The card will minimally be a very popular casual card long term. I mean, just look at it! Of course, this is baring in mind that I said to pick it up in the 2-3 range.

    When we were testing for the PT a few of the guys had Pact decks, and we all agreed that Pact was great but the decks were not. It’s like a mini-cruel ultimatum. Yes, it’s slow, but it also gains life and you will have tools to slow your opponent down in a Pact deck as well.

    There are a lot of different types of cards that will help you destroy or rebuy your pact. I mentioned a few in this article and it’s very likely that more options will show up while Pact is in Standard. I agree that it’s not there just yet, but it’s a VERY powerful card that is about to find its way into a small Standard.

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