Insider: Getting Ready for the Standard Rotation

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It's that time of year again. Shadows over Innistrad (SOI) will inject new life into the Standard metagame this April as Khans of Tarkir (KTK) and Fate Reforged (FRF) rotate out.

A period of rotation is, in my opinion, the absolute best time to make Standard speculations on MTGO. I'll outline some of the cards and decks I think have a good shot at earning themselves a nice chunk of the new Standard metagame.

Rotational Dynamics

Ari Lax just wrote a fantastic article titled "Rotational Dynamics" on SCG Premium which should not be missed. In it he goes over some of the big picture changes that will take place in SOI Standard. I'll summarize some of the main concepts below.

1) No More Fetchlands

The removal of fetchlands will do a few things to Standard as a result of almost all decks working with weaker manabases.

Since splashing a third and fourth color won't be so "free" anymore, a bigger fraction of the metagame will be taken up by one- and two-color decks. This gives mono-colored cards more of a chance to shine since decks won't have as many multicolored spells to choose from.

Decks will have an easier time casting two of the same colored mana on turn two (or even three of the same colored mana on turn four) now that they wont have to cast cards like Anafenza, the Foremost or Mantis Rider off of two basics and a battle land. Strong two-drops like Harbinger of the Tides and Knight of the White Orchid might start showing up a lot more.

Decks having access to worse mana and worse cards in general (since the power-level of KTK was quite high) means a less tempo-oriented format. The focus will shift from using mana efficiently towards using cards efficiently.

This means cards that create card advantage at the cost of tempo will probably gain a lot of ground: Deathmist Raptor, Den Protector, planeswalkers, cards with awaken, Planar Outburst and counterspells, among others.

2) Different Removal Spells

In the current Standard, the most heavily played removal spells are Abzan Charm, Fiery Impulse, Murderous Cut, and Crackling Doom. These cards are extremely potent as they're not only efficient on mana, but also flexible in that they kill almost anything.

Ari notes that when these removal spells and many of the powerful multicolored creatures rotate, Ultimate Price becomes one of the best removal spells in the format and will see heavy play in any deck playing black. Taking things one step further, this means the few gold creatures that do survive rotation will become stronger. Cards like Reflector Mage and the Dragons of Tarkir (DTK) Dragonlords.

3) Decks That Don't Lose Much

Another thing to consider on rotation is which decks are left mostly intact. I list some of them below:

Ramp Decks - These decks lose very little. The biggest losses are probably Rattleclaw Mystic and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, but they are very replaceable with similarly functioning cards like Hedron Crawler and Dragonlord Atarka.

B/W Control - Jeff Hoogland pioneered this deck at the very beginning of the format and it seems to me like it will be a strong contender in the brand new one coming up. Cards like Grasp of Darkness, Ultimate Price, and Ob Nixilis Reignited look great post-rotation.

Devoid/Eldrazi Strategies - A few different devoid strategies started seeing some play and they obviously lose very little. Mono-colored Eldrazi decks that take advantage of Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher will still be quite good.

Dragon Decks - All of the dragon synergies from DTK remain intact and cards like Dragonlord Ojutai and Thunderbreak Regent will likely continue to dominate Standard.

Bant Collected Company - Reflector Mage will probably still be one of the most broken cards in Standard, although it may fit into fewer decks with the loss of fetchlands. The combination of Collected Company and Reflector Mage is probably not going anywhere any time soon.

My Picks

Given what has been discussed above, I'll outline a few of my picks based on their current pricing as of March 11.

A powerful card that has seen highs above 10 tix when Esper Dragons and Sultai were dominating Standard. With the change in the removal suite of Standard, the Dragonlords seem to pick up a lot of power.

Another powerful card that has even seen some Modern play. Much harder to answer in the new format.

With Crackling Doom gone, Ojutai might look to dominate as it did at its printing.

A powerful card that has seen play in Modern but not yet in Standard. New manabases may make UU much easier to cast.

There was an error retrieving a chart for Nissa, Vastwood Seer

With new manabases, playing a healthy amount of forests to support Nissa will be less of an issue. Nissa will also benefit from a format that is more grindy and slowed down to the point that you can reliably flip it and not be dead.

Ob Nixilis benefits from many of the forecasted changes to Standard. Since it is a single color, it will fit into more of the one- and two-color decks we expect to see on the rise. Additionally, being a slowish card advantage engine should be much more competitive as the format slows down.

I think Ruinous Path is a great spec for reasons similar to Ob Nixilis. This is a card that benefits from both weaker manabases and an overall slower format since it allows the awaken clause to be relevant more often. Both of these cards have seen a low amount of play relative to their power levels by my own intuition.

I continue to love this spec. Currently sitting at 0.15 tix, I think it has a lot of potential since it is an auto four-of include in any decks ramping into Kozilek or Ulamog.

A great card that may benefit from the format slowing down, along with all of the dragons and eldrazi that should be prevalent in the new metagame.

Works well with both eldrazi and dragons. Lots of potential here.

Has proven itself in the past and is at a new low. Keeps all of the same great dragon synergies from the past.

Has proven itself in the past and is at a new low. Should benefit from the return to fewer colors per deck and a slower format.


Song of the Week : Tides From Nebula - We are the Mirror (post-rock)


6 thoughts on “Insider: Getting Ready for the Standard Rotation

  1. Do you think the battle lands are good specs as well? It may have been too redundant to mention them in this article, considering many are saying to pick these up with the loss of fectchlands. I was wondering if the same holds for these on MTGO (I assume so).

    1. It’s hard for me to say. I think cards from BFZ will on average go up in value once it becomes a bigger part of the format and stops being drafted as much. I think decks will shift from having a 1-2 copies of multiple different battle lands to 4 copies of the same battle land, so it’s hard to tell if that means decks will have on average more or less battle lands. If there are three color allied wedge decks like esper for example, then those decks could theoretically play 8 battle lands and therefore the battle lands will be in much higher demand. Overall I am not really sure.

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