A major Standard rotation is just around the corner. In six weeks, Battle for Zendikar, Oath of the Gatewatch, Shadows over Innistrad, and Eldritch Moon will rotate out of Standard. Undoubtedly, rotation will affect the financial landscape on MTGO just as much as the Standard format itself. Anticipating how rotation will affect Standard can help you make sound speculations in the coming weeks.
A good starting point for understanding how rotation will change Standard is looking at what commonly-played cards we will be losing at rotation and how the loss of those cards will affect tier-one archetypes. The most obvious way in which the Standard metagame will change is that Zombies will no longer be a competitive deck. Beyond that, though, we have to do a bit of research. Skipping over Zombie cards, here are the most commonly played cards that are rotating, ranked in order according to MTGGoldfish's metagame data:
- 3rd: Grasp of Darkness
- 4th: Transgress the Mind
- 13th: Falkenrath Gorger
- 22nd: Incendiary Flow
- 25th: Thraben Inspector
- 27th: Liliana, the Last Hope
- 31st: Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
- 34th: Traverse the Ulvenwald
- 40th: Tireless Tracker
- 42nd: Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
- 44th: Thought-Knot Seer
- 28th in Spells: Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
- 29th in Spells: Kozilek's Return
- 32nd in Spells: Collective Defiance
- 33rd in Creatures: Matter Reshaper
- 35th in Creatures: Archangel Avacyn // Avacyn, the Purifier
- 36th in Creatures: Sylvan Advocate
- 36th in Spells: Blessed Alliance
- 37th in Creatures: Grim Flayer
- 38th in Creatures: Village Messenger // Moonrise Intruder
- 39th in Spells: Ob Nixilis Reignited
- 40th in Creatures: Reality Smasher
- 40th in Spells: Declaration in Stone
- 42nd in Creatures: Spell Queller
- 42nd in Spells: Weirding Wood
- 43rd in Creatures: World Breaker
- 44th in Creatuers: Catacomb Sifter
- 45th in Spells: Stasis Snare
- 49th in Creatures: Linvala, the Preserver
- 50th in Creatures: Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
Plus the dual lands leaving the format:
- Allied Shadows over Innistrad lands ("Reveal lands")
- Enemy Battle for Zendikar lands ("Manlands")
- Allied Battle for Zendikar lands ("Battle lands")
There's a lot to unpack from the above data, and a lot of different angles from which to examine it. This week, I'll focus on what rotation is doing to some major competitive archetypes and the major financial implications surrounding these changes.
1) The competitive archetype losing the most at rotation is R/G Ramp.
The Eldrazi package of Kozilek's Return, World Breaker and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is one that is almost impossible to replace. These three cards provided the deck with defensive protection in the form of an instant-speed wrath and a really powerful late game worth ramping into, and each card helps catch you up from behind. In addition to Kozilek's Return, the deck is losing Chandra, Flamecaller, a card that also helps you catch up from behind very well. In fact, the only win condition of the archetype that isn't rotating is Walking Ballista. What could replace Ulamog and World Breaker?
One of these is a joke, and to a lesser extent all the others are as well. In a Ramp strategy, it is essential for your big payoff cards both to catch you up from behind and serve as a sticky win condition, and of these, only Sandwurm Convergence, Demon of Dark Schemes, Noxious Gearhulk, and Cataclysmic Gearhulk could (loosely) be said to meet that criteria. These four constitute a clear drop in power from what we have now, so much so that I doubt Ramp will be a worthwhile competitive strategy. The Ixalan leaks reinforce my lack of faith in Ramp's future prospects.
Hour of Promise is an intrinsically powerful card with prospects I like long-term, but its price should crash hard if Ramp is no longer competitive. Hour of Promise is hovering around 1.00 tix now, but after rotation I'd expect it to drop below 0.20 tix. Hour of Devastation and Sheltered Thicket are cards that should also take a hit from Ramp's demise, since Ramp is the strategy that utilizes the most copies of these cards. According to MTGGoldfish, Ramp decks run four Sheltered Thickets 100 percent of the time and three Hour of Devastation 90 percent of the time. As with Hour of Promise, I like both of these cards long-term, but I recommend patience. I think Hour of Devastation will likely fall to around 2.00 tix, and I think Sheltered Thicket will land between 0.80 tix and 1.25 tix at some point during the next six to eight weeks.
2) Ramunap Red Aggro is losing its one drops and direct burn spells.
While the core of Ramunap Red will stay intact, some of Ramunap Red's important pieces are rotating. One-drops Falkenrath Gorger and Village Messenger // Moonrise Intruder are bidding their farewells. Additionally, the only burn spell that can go to the face in Ramunap Red that remains in Standard is Shock – Incendiary Flow and Collective Defiance are rotating.
I think the Ramunap Red Aggro shell is a very powerful one, and much of it remains intact. The two copies of Soul-Scar Mage in 79 percent of Ramunap Red decks will likely become four copies in 100 percent of Ramunap Red decks unless Ixalan gives Red a premium one-drop. I thus think that Soul-Scar Mage will make for a juicy speculation target, especially if its price dips down below 0.33 tix.
What concerns me the most about Ramunap Red's future is the loss of Incendiary Flow and Collective Defiance, since those are quintessential reach spells. It is the combination of these more traditional reach spells with the more novel reach provided by Ramnunap Ruins that has kept Red Aggro relevant throughout the life cycle of Hour of Devastation Standard. I am not be too worried about the financial value of some of Ramunap Red's core pieces – Earthshaker Khenra, Glorybringer, Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Hazoret the Fervent is the core piece that stands to lose the most from a shift in the shell's core game plan, but I think that the fact that deserts push the Red Aggro decks to go bigger will mean that Hazoret will command a 5.00- to 10.00-tix price at multiple points during her time in Standard.
3) Standard is losing many of its most significant midrange threats.
Grindy midrange strategies always need resilient threats and threats that generate card advantage, either maindeck or in the sideboard. In addition to the planeswalkers I'll be discussing next week, Standard really is losing a good chunk of its midrange power, particularly in green and black. Interestingly, the entirety of the Temur Energy deck, including midrange value cards Whirler Virtuoso and Rogue Refiner, will remain in Standard, all but guaranteeing that Temur Energy will continue onward as a competitive midrange archetype in Ixalan Standard.
Green-Black Midrange has developed into three different forms during Hours of Devastation Standard – G/B Energy, G/B Constrictor and G/B Delirium. The slower Delirium shell is dying, both because the namesake mechanic is rotating and because we're losing the grindier cards like Tireless Tracker and Liliana, the Last Hope. We thus can expect green-black decks to shift more toward the aggressive-leaning Constrictor and Energy variants going forward. The biggest winners of this shift should be cards like Rishkar, Peema Renegade, Gifted Aetherborn and Glint-Sleeve Siphoner. Winding Constrictor would make for an interesting tiny uncommon stock speculation if it bottoms out to 0.01 tix, with some things in its favor (small set) and some things against (multicolor).
Beyond that, I think it is worth looking at which midrange value threats have been overshadowed by the likes of Tireless Tracker, since those cards can now breathe. Angel of Sanctions has been caught beneath the shadow of Archangel Avacyn // Avacyn, the Purifier, although I'd like the card to drop closer to 2.00 tix or below before investing. Gonti, Lord of Luxury is a card that has already proved its worth, so I like that as another tiny stock speculation. Skysovereign, Consul Flagship will probably see increased play, and I'm mad at myself for not investing in it a few weeks ago. If it's price drops back down to 2.00-3.00 tix, I'll likely invest in it.
That was probably a lot to take in, but get ready for more next week! Please leave any questions and comments below, and I'll be sure to get back to you. In case you got lost in the thicket of my analysis, here are the cards I mentioned as speculation targets in this article, along with price points at which I'd be happy investing. I'd be looking to invest in these cards from now until the the first week of Ixalan.
- Angel of Sanctions: 1.85 tix
- Gifted Aetherborn: 0.01 tix
- Glint-Sleeve Siphoner: 0.70 tix
- Gonti, Lord of Luxury: 0.02 tix
- Hour of Promise: 0.15 tix
- Rishkar, Peema Renegade: 0.70 tix
- Sheltered Thicket: 0.90 tix
- Skysoverign, Consul Flagship: 2.25 tix
- Soul-Scar Mage: 0.25 tix
Several weeks ago I shared my favorite card in a cycle of charms I created – Abbatial Charm. Below is the first of the cycle I created.