Well, it feels like we are at the crossroads. Last weekend was the final Amonkhet block Limited event for me, and it is getting to that time when things are about to change. The new block and Standard rotation are rapidly approaching, which means big changes for Magic: The Gathering.
First of all, we are about to bring a new set into the fold. However, more important are the cards that will be rotating out. While a new set will always bring some change, the loss of four sets will really mix up the landscape moving forward. It makes a lot of sense—four is greater than one.
While we may not have the full scoop about what Ixalan will bring, we do know what will be waving "bye-bye" and what cards will be sticking around. Today I'd like to take a quick stroll across a few cards that are likely to remain in high demand, and/or become more important, once Shadows over Innistrad and Battle for Zendikar bid us their final Standard farewell.
Energy, Energy, Energy
Kaladesh brought us the energy mechanic and it has left a mark on the format. The cards are powerful, synergistic, and slot well into a Temur shell. I have every reason to believe that this strategy will continue to be great moving forward. I can't imagine it gets weaker when four sets' worth of cards rotate out and are replaced with one set!
Aether Hub is a great Magic card. It's basically a better Tendo Ice Bridge because it can be reused. It fixes every color and is a mainstay in the energy decks. Its one of those chase uncommons that many people need. These seem like a great card to have post-rotation.
Hydra is another powerful energy card that has a cheap price tag but could become a really big player moving forward. It's hard to kill and presents a giant threat. What a combo! It also slots into the other various energy strategies nicely—particularly, Pummeler. Cheap opportunity cost, potential, and low risk make this card a nice pick-up-and-tuck-away right now.
Glorybringer is less of an energy card and more of a good card. Every deck playing red will utilize this awesome Dragon or at least consider it for a spot in the 75. In a smaller format this is one of the objectively "good cards" and I expect its level of play to rise moving forward, making it a nice pick-up now.
I think it is safe to say that Aether Revolt is really big when it comes to defining the new Standard format. The bulk of the Energy and BG decks come from the set. Rogue Refiner becomes even more important at smoothing draws for Temur with the loss of Tireless Tracker.
It will likely be an automatic include in any deck running the energy mechanic, which is saying something because Energy looks like the front-runner best deck based on what I've seen so far.
Black-green loses some cards in the rotation but the Constrictor is still around which means that the deck will move forward. In fact, most of the key +1/+1 counters cards remain for the ride.
With the loss of delirium it feels like all black-green decks will be quarterbacked by the snake. I've even played this card a fair amount in Modern. It hits the "good card" mark and is a great card to own moving forward. People will be slotting this card into decks for years.
Where there are snakes there are Ballistas. Also, Ballista is just a great card that sees play all the way back into Vintage and Modern. These will continue to be popular but could be a real contender post-rotation.
Aether Revolt kind of dropped the BG Constrictor deck into our lap, but as I said before, the heart of the deck remains intact. Few things are scarier than facing down a Constrictor into a Rishkar. The bodies are huge and the clock is real. All of these cards have dropped off in value but there is a good chance for some bounce-back with the new format on the horizon.
In particular, two of the Gearhulks interest me right now:
These have fallen off in price lately but could well become big shark cards in the smaller Standard format. These cards are insanely powerful and can really do damage in a format with fewer top-notch options. I would be shocked if Standard didn't have two Gearhulk decks built around these powerful mythics.
Blue Gearhulk is pricey but will continue to be a chased card. The green Gearhulk, in my opinion, is kind of low in price right now and has some room to bounce back. Both seem like great holds at the moment.
The combo cards might also have a room to grow moving forward. It stands to reason that these decks may get better in a smaller metagame.
Reanimator is already a competitive archetype and doesn't lose a ton in the rotation. The most important card, the Gift itself, remains and could even get better support cards in the coming set. Combo-control is always a scary archetype and I see this as something that could really hit moving forward. It also helps that the card is pretty cheap at the moment.
Lets not count out the cycling combo deck either. It has been borderline-competitive from the get go and has a lot of good matchups outside of counterspell decks. You never know how a format will shake out but when you are betting on bulk rares, it's impossible to fail. I like these as a very safe pick-up that has potential high upside.
There are a few other generic "good cards" that I like holding onto right now.
Censor is a good card that will be played in the various blue control and midrange decks. It has a lot of upside and fills a weak void in the curve for a lot of decks. The fact that it can just be cycled away when it isn't useful gives the card a ton of play. I think this card will continue to be highly played and in high demand.
Dusk // Dawn is a really powerful Magic card and may have some room to shine in the new metagame. The card is an absolute house against Temur (which stands to be the top dog going into the new format) since it is a one-sided Wrath against the majority of threats that deck plays. It also slots nicely into the Monument-style decks which could be a player post-rotation. Either way, I think this is a card that will get better.
The Hour of Devastation Gods also seem like fine pick-ups right now. It'll be hard to speculate, but I think at least one of these Gods will be impactful in new Standard. These cards are absurdly powerful in the abstract, albeit expensive to cast.
The Scarab God is my pick because I think there will likely be some kind of good reanimator deck based around the God, Liliana, Death's Majesty, and God-Pharaoh's Gift in Standard. Although I think one could do much worse than to bet on any of these powerful, flavorful mythics right now.
Advent of Spoiler Season
As we move closer to the release of Ixalan, now is the time to start thinking about tossing away some of the rotating cards and speculating on what comes next. I think it makes a lot of sense to bet on the cards that are already good and likely to form the starting point of the next Standard format.
Enjoy the spoiler season! I know I'm ready to get my brew on. Yet I'm a realist too—and I know the decks mentioned above will become the cornerstone of my new gauntlet.