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Shadows over Innistrad Standard Musings

We’re quickly approaching a lame-duck Standard format. Shadows over Innistrad spoilers are in full swing and it won’t be long until Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged rotate out of Standard and we get to play with a new set. Personally, I don’t really like delving into spoilers too much before we’ve seen a lot more of the set, but I have been thinking a lot about the impact of losing Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged from Standard and I want to share some of the random thoughts I’ve had regarding it.

Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy Might Be Worse

I know this sounds like a fairly ridiculous assertion. To the great pleasure of King Leonidas, madness is back and it’s likely that you’ll also see some graveyard synergies since they were so prevalent back when Innistrad came out. Both of these play extremely well with Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. In all likelihood, Jace will be good come rotation—maybe even great. I’d be very surprised if Jace wasn’t a hallmark card in the new Standard environment.

But being a good card doesn’t mean that he’ll necessarily be better than he is now. Jace is really, really good right now. Jace certainly gains some new toys to play with, but I don’t actually know how good these toys will be. It’s possible that there won’t be a critical mass of madness or graveyard-oriented cards for him to work with. It’s possible that Jace won’t gain too much from the set. It’s also possible that graveyard hate becomes so good that it significantly neuters the effectiveness of Jace.

Jace wouldn’t be commanding the price tag it does if it were Merfolk Looter. The planeswalker side of Jace is extremely potent and a large reason why it’s such a great card and why it has seen play in non-rotating formats.

Also keep in mind what Jace loses. It turns out, Jace loses a lot. Fetchlands are an integral part of why Jace is so good in Standard, and I think people have lost sight of that. There are a lot of matchups where flipping Jace on turn 3 is a huge key to winning, and flipping Jace that early is very difficult without the help of fetchlands.

More than just fetchlands, Jace also loses the insanely powerful spells that Khans of Tarkir offers. Jace fueled Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time, and Jace was extremely powerful along with premium removal spells like Crackling Doom that Khans of Tarkir provided. For Jace to be at his peak in terms of value, he needs to be able to flip easily when needed and also be able to use the -3 ability effectively when he does. It’s reasonably possible that this won’t be the case when Shadows over Innistrad rolls around.

Granted, I still think Jace is going to be a phenomenal card, but I may be getting ahead of myself a bit here. Let’s wait and see what Shadows over Innistrad holds before making ridiculous assertions about it breaking Standard. It is certainly possible the card will be worse than it is now.

Double-Color Cards Will Likely be Better

 

When I say “double-color cards,” I mean any card that has two or more symbols of the same color on it. Cards like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Grasp of Darkness, or Deathmist Raptor.

In current Standard, mana bases are designed for 4-color decks that are trying to assemble one of each color. The reason for this is cards like Abzan Charm, Crackling Doom, Siege Rhino, or Mantis Rider—cards that are extremely powerful but have a harsh mana requirement to make up for their power level. Finding 2 white sources isn’t going to help you cast a Mantis Rider, Crackling Doom, or Abzan Charm, so once you’ve found one, the goal is to then assemble your other colors and not find another white source until you do. That has pushed out a lot of really powerful cards, especially 2- or 3-mana ones that would otherwise be great. It’s easier to cast an Abzan Charm than a Nissa, Voice of Zendikar.

Without fetchlands or the powerhouse multicolor cards in the format, it’s likely that decks are going to fall back to playing 2 or 3 colors, in which case, it will also give some of these cards the chance to finally shine. Cards like Nissa or Gideon are extremely powerful and the reason they weren’t seeing a lot of play is mostly due to how difficult they were to cast more than whether or not they were actually good enough.

Keep an Eye out for Planeswalkers

 

As long as it isn’t Eye of Ugin, that is.

Speaking of Ugin—Good riddance. As much as I love planeswalkers, that’s one I’m very happy to see gone. As for the other ‘walkers, well, it’s probably worth keeping them in mind.

Planeswalkers are generally the most powerful cards in any given Standard environment. A lot of them, like Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and Chandra, Flamecaller start seeing play immediately and are likely to continue seeing play until they rotate. These are the top tier ones. A lot of the other ones are close to seeing play and are just waiting for the right conditions to be met for them to spark into the Standard environment.

Could this be the time for Narset to shine? Ob Nixilis? Nissa, Voice of Zendikar? I wouldn’t sleep on any of the planeswalkers—there is a good chance one of the less played planeswalkers will end up being a huge force in the new format.

Let Me Drag On This Article a Little Longer

Dragons of Tarkir is probably the most powerful set in Standard and it is going to remain in this Standard format after rotation. Without cards like Crackling Doom, Murderous Cut, or Abzan Charm in the format, I would not be surprised if a card like Dragonlord Ojutai completely dominates the new format.

I expect to see some of the Dragonlords and other more powerful cards from this set, like Den Protector, become a big part of the new format. In a format with regular sets and multicolor sets, usually the multicolor cards reign supreme. They are more powerful, and Magic players always find a way to cast them.

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