New Standard is on its way in and that means Khans of Tarkir is gone along with Mantis Rider and Siege Rhino. More importantly than that: no more fetchlands. It’s going to be near impossible to play a 4-color deck in this format, and 4-color decks were the baseline for a good long while. When entering a new format, I like to look at the most powerful cards and try to build new decks with those cards.
Den Protector + Deathmist Raptor
This little one-two punch was the centerpiece of many successful decks when they were first printed, but later fell out of favor. I’m not sure why that is, but with the format powered down, this combo will be a major player. When you can play 4 colors easily, you just pick the best card on each spot of the curve and run it all—Jace into Siege Rhino was common. Now you have to stick to 2 colors and the cards aren’t going to be insane like they were in Khans of Tarkir. Can you imagine a 1- or 2-color card doing as much as Mantis Rider? No chance.
This card has been nuts in Standard and Modern for a while now and although it will be difficult to find another combo deck for it, it’s still a great card. It provides card advantage, tempo, and even a weird type of pseudo-tutoring. I’ve tried to explain how good this card is and came up short—it could be a mix of Dark Ritual (spending 4 to put 6 mana worth of creatures in play is fast mana), Demonic Tutor (it finds copies of cards from your deck you didn’t have in your hand and gives you a choice depending on what you see), and Divination (2 cards for the price of 1). It does all of these things at the same time.
Dragonlord Ojutai + Silumgar’s Scorn
At Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, this proved to be the most successful combination of cards to play when multiple people went 8-2 or better with various kinds of Esper Dragons decks. I’m skeptical of the new 3-color mana base, but I don’t see why you can’t still try to play these cards in new Standard. Dragonlord Ojutai dropped off heavily in popularity when Jeskai Black became the new kid on the block slinging Crackling Doom and Ojutai’s Command, which made a 5-mana creature without an enters-the-battlefield ability laughable. Crackling Doom is gone, but Ojutai’s Command will surely still be played, and I suspect Fleshbag Marauder will pick up in popularity.
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
Clearly the best card in Standard right now and you could argue that if the single best card stays and the format gets smaller and powered down, then clearly it gets better, right? I’m not so sure. Madness cards are a big plus for Jace, but the rotation of fetchlands means you can’t reliably flip it on turn 4 like you used to. Jace is amazing, no doubt, but I wouldn’t be shocked to look back in time on this Standard rotation and realize that Jace was a bit overrated at the addition of Shadows over Innistrad.
Nissa, Vastwood Seer
With the rise in popularity of Atarka Red decks and Jace control decks, Wild Slash and Fiery Impulse were hugely important cards for any deck that played red. Abzan with red and Jeskai with black both heavily relied on this card to not get run over in the early turns. Nissa has been a bit too vulnerable for some time now, but before that, it was a staple of the Abzan Control decks that were hugely successful in Standard. Nissa wants 7 lands and so does Shrine of the Forsaken Gods—there might be something there. It also pairs well with the newly spoiled Ulvenwald Hydra.
Radiant Flames + Painful Truths
These cards feel like the biggest losers of the rotation. The Battle for Zendikar lands and the new “reveal a basic” Shadows over Innistrad lands both heavily incentivize you to play a large number of basics and they’re both ally colors. Any 2-color deck is going to have good mana, and any 3-color deck is going to have a ton of nonbasics paired with lands that want basics—a bad mix. I suspect Read the Bones will be better than Painful Truths again, which is something I was never sure I would say. I don’t feel too bad about it though—both of these cards were heavily played, popular, and successful. They each got their time to shine and now they’ll be gone unless someone brews up a crazy 3-color control deck—which I suppose is possible, but unlikely.