On April 8th, Shadows over Innistrad will be released, and on that date, Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged will rotate out of Standard. In this article, I will count down my picks for the top 10 card clusters that will rotate out of Standard. It won’t be an exhaustive list, of course, but I selected the types of losses that I expect to be the most impactful.
These cards didn't make it into my top 10, but they still deserved an honorable mention. The standouts are Soulfire Grand Master (a good 2-drop that still carries a punch in the late game), Arashin Cleric (a sweet sideboard card against aggressive red decks), and Disdainful Stroke (a catchall answer to big spells).
10. Cards for the Black/Red Dragons Deck
The BR Dragons deck has been putting up good numbers as of late, in part due to its ability to fly over Nantuko Husk and friends. In the upcoming rotation, two of its key threats will soar out of the format. The loss of Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury in particular is huge, as a replacement Dragon—the creature type required for Draconic Roar—may be hard to find. Dragonlord Kolaghan or Avaricious Dragon come to mind, but they are worse in a damage race and are unable to boost a swarm of Thopter tokens. As a result, BR Dragon decks will likely be weaker after the rotation.
9. Ramp Cards
Ramp decks can live without Rattleclaw Mystic and Ugin—there are alternatives like Leaf Gilder or Dragonlord Atarka/Ulamog—but Ugin in particular provided a pivotal midgame swing in many matchups. When playing against the Ramp deck, you always had to worry about a global sweeper once they hit 8 mana, but that will no longer be the case in the new Standard.
8. Cards that Cared About +1/+1 Counters
Ever since Magic Origins added a bunch of creatures with +1/+1 counters, Hardened Scales decks have been around in one form or another. Two weeks ago at Grand Prix Houston, the deck had its breakout weekend, but it's not going to last long because its namesake enchantment will rotate out, along with the evasion-providing Abzan Falconer. I don't expect Hangarback Walker or Nissa to go anywhere, but the double-counter fun will not last.
7. Wingmate Roc
Wingmate Roc deserves its own category because its effect on the game was unique. In the last one-and-a-half years, you always had to consider the threat of two 3/4 fliers when an Abzan or Bant deck entered the fifth turn. In the future, you won't have to kill their only creature in the beginning of their combat step to deny raid anymore. Goodbye, Wingmate Roc.
6. Mardu, Jeskai, Temur, and Sultai Tri-Color Cards
I'll get to the Abzan cards later, but the message is clear here: the flagship tri-color cards from Khans of Tarkir are on their way out. Their departure takes out a huge incentive to build 3- or 4-color decks.
5. Atarka Red Cards
All of these cards were regular inclusions in aggressive red decks, but Monastery Swiftspear is the hardest to replace. Aggro decks rely heavily on hard-hitting 1-drops, but alternatives like Lightning Berserker and Goblin Glory Chaser are much weaker than Monastery Swiftspear. There had better be a good red 1-drop in Shadows over Innistrad!
4. Delve Cards
Dig Through Time was a pivotal element of Esper Dragons, Become Immense enabled kills out of nowhere, and Murderous Cut allowed players to easily play multiple spells in one turn. After the Standard rotation, you won't be abusing your graveyard to fuel delve anymore.
3. Abzan Cards
Abzan won Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir and Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar. For as long as Siege Rhino has been legal, the color combination has been a pillar of Standard. This deck takes a huge hit and won't survive the rotation.
2. Rally the Ancestors
4-color Rally may currently hold the crown for "best deck in Standard," but that is going to change once its eponymous instant rotates out. It's worth pointing out that Grim Haruspex is rotating as well, but that card is replaceable. Rally the Ancestors is not—there is no alternative that can set up kills with Nantuko Husk and Zulaport Cutthroat like Rally the Ancestors.
And finally, the #1 spot.
1. Mana Fixing
The defining feature of the current Standard format is the abundance of mana fixing. The combination of fetchlands and battlelands in particular has allowed 4-color or 3-color decks to flourish, but when you can't start a Standard deck with 12 fetchlands anymore, things are going to change. What's more, you can't even fall back on tri-lands or gain-lands after the rotation! In the new Standard, there will probably be more straight 2-color decks, more reliance on pain lands and battlelands, and less shuffling. It's going to be a completely new world.
An Early Look at the Post-Rotation Standard
Looking at the cards that will rotate out, I would argue that 4-color Rally and Abzan take the biggest hits. Bant Company, Eldrazi Ramp, and several other decks will likely stick around, albeit in an adjusted form.
Given the core of Dragons of Tarkir, Magic Origins, Battle for Zendikar, and Oath of the Gatewatch, I can think of the following viable deck avenues:
- A black/red midrange deck with efficient spells like Duress, Fiery Impulse, Roast, and Kolaghan's Command to fuel Goblin Dark-Dwellers.
- A Collected Company deck with Sylvan Advocate, Den Protector, and Deathmist Raptor (splashing Reflector Mage may be too difficult on the mana base in the new Standard.)
- A colorless Eldrazi aggro deck with Eldrazi Skyspawner, Thought-Knot Seer, and Reality Smasher.
- A Ramp deck with Nissa's Pilgrimage, Kozilek's Return, and World Breaker.
- A Dragon deck with Thunderbreak Regent, Draconic Roar, and possibly Chandra as a late-game trump.
- A white/green tokens deck with Hangarback Walker, Nissa, and Gideon.
That's without even considering the sweet new options in Shadows over Innistrad. I imagine there will at least be a Jace, Vryn's Prodigy deck to fuel the new graveyard-centric and discard-reliant mechanics, for instance.
But for now, let's give the rotating cards a proper farewell. Siege Rhino, Rally the Ancestors, Windswept Heath, and friends: I salute you. It's been a pleasure to have you, and Standard has been great, but we'll have to say goodbye in a month from now.