The release of Ixalan is now just a month away, and it’s going to bring about major change in Standard. More important than the new cards are the old cards that will be rotating out of the format on September 28: the entirety of both the Battle for Zendikar and Shadows over Innistrad blocks. The Standard card pool will shrink, and that makes the remainder of old cards that remain in Standard, the Kaladesh and Amonkhet blocks, even more important. It’s these cards that will define the metagame, and increasing demand for their staples matched with a decrease in supply as drafting the formats ceases will serve to increase their prices. Today, I’ll review the strategies and cards in Standard that stand to gain the most from rotation, and identify what strategies and cards are the biggest losers.
Since it first arrived in Standard, energy has been a dominant player in the competitive scene, and that’s going to continue through the rotation. Energy enabled a great variety of different decks, starting with Aetherworks Marvel and continuing into Four-Color Saheeli and now Temur Energy, and the cards enabling these decks are demonstrably some of the very best in the format.
The mana core of Aether Hub, Attune with Aether, and Servant of the Conduit combined with the efficient removal of Harnessed Lighting and the card advantage of Rogue Refiner and Whirler Virtuoso has served as the base of all of these format-defining decks. The entirety of this core cast of cards – along with the rest of their support and payoffs like Longtusk Cub and Bristling Hydra, and even cards in other colors like Glint-Sleeve Siphoner – survives the rotation, so it’s very likely that they will form the core of at least one format-defining deck post rotation. In fact, essentially the entire Temur Energy deck survives rotation, so it’s hard to imagine a future metagame where it’s not going to be a major factor.
I think one of the best bets moving through rotation is Chandra, Torch of Defiance. It’s currently seeing crossover demand as a staple in two of the very top decks in the metagame, Temur Energy and Mono-Red Aggro, both of which will mostly survive rotation and persist as major players this fall. Chandra, Torch of Defiance has also been seeing steady gains since the release of Hour of Devastation, where it sat at $24 before growing to $35 within two weeks. This price has been maintained since, and I don’t see any reason for it to fall anytime soon. In fact, I think Chandra, Torch of Defiance has the potential to not fall again and only continue to appreciate as a multi-format staple, like Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Liliana of the Veil. It’s far in the lead as the best red planeswalker ever, and already sees some fringe Modern and Legacy play, and is a Commander and casual staple.
Glorybringer is another staple of Temur Energy and Mono-Red Aggro, and it sees play in all sorts of other red decks, like as a sideboard card in control, so I think it looks great going into rotation, especially with Grasp of Darkness out of the picture. The price has been stable at around $5 since spring, but I expect it’s going to start appreciating back towards the $10-plus price point where it once sat.
Traverse the Ulvenwald and delirium leave Standard with rotation, but Winding Constrictor survives, so I expect Green-Black to move firmly towards a +1/+1 counter theme. Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is out, so that makes Rishkar, Peema Renegade and Verdurous Gearhulk more important. A big winner here is Walking Ballista, which is a key part of this top-tier deck and a potential staple for a variety of other decks.
Fatal Push is another winner from rotation, especially as Grasp of Darkness rotates away, and there’s a ton of demand from Modern and Legacy players, so I see the card holding its price and eventually surpassing $10.
Skysovereign, Consul Flagship is being used as a maindeck two-of in Temur Energy, the current top deck in Standard, so it seems very underpriced at just over $2. It has wider applications in all sort of midrange decks, and it’s a relatively powerful card that presents new five-mana plays in Ixalan a high bar to cross, so it’s something I expect to see more of after rotation.
All of the key staples of the God-Pharaoh's Gift decks survive, and they will be able to replace what little they do lose with other cards and potentially utilize new ones, so its namesake and other key cards like Angel of Invention could stand to gain from rotation, especially because the deck is purported to have a good matchup against Temur Energy.
Another deck to keep an eye on is the New Perspectives cycling deck, which remains intact and could become more powerful relatively as some great decks leave the metagame and may not be replaced by better ones.
Speaking of the losers, there are some decks that die from the rotation. What really stands out is Zombies, which loses the majority of its competitive staples, so it’s unlikely to survive the rotation as a legitimate competitive option.
Another loser is Mardu, which sees Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Thraben Inspector leave the format, which hurts that deck's ability to enable Heart of Kiran and Toolcraft Exemplar, as well as its ability to play as a midrange deck, and essentially destroys the deck in its current form.
Oketra's Monument decks lose essentially all of the white creatures that they are currently playing, so it’s hard to imagine the deck surviving rotation in any way.
Ramp decks lose their biggest payoffs in Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and World Breaker, along with their sweeper Kozilek's Return, and without suitable replacements available, I can’t see the deck existing through rotation.
What do you see as the winners and losers of the upcoming Standard rotation?