I’ve been enjoying the current Standard format, but it won’t last forever. Battle for Zendikar will be released on October 2, and on that date Theros, Born of the Gods, Journey into Nyx, and M15 will rotate out of Standard.
In this article, I will count down my picks for the Top 20 clusters of cards that will rotate out of Standard. It won’t be an exhaustive list, of course, but I selected the types of cards that I expect to be the most important losses. I’ll discuss the how their departure might affect the future Standard, which may help us during the upcoming Battle for Zendikar spoiler season.
20. Answers to Hangarback Walker
Since Hangarback Walker dominated Grand Prix London, it seems fitting to start with some of the best answers to it. We’ll still have Silkwrap, Abzan Charm, and Utter End around, but many good tools for dealing with Hangarback Walker (or Deathmist Raptor) will rotate out.
We’ll still have Cancel and various other options, but blue mages will lose the unconditional 3-mana counters with upside. This is not a huge loss, but it will be interesting to see if there is a good replacement in Battle for Zendikar.
18. Peculiar Cards
We can still enjoy Invasive Species and Whelming Wave for another month, but then these cards will rotate out. Still, I like how these seemingly unplayable cards found their way into in Demonic Pact decks and Sphinx’s Tutelage decks because their effect was so unique.
17. Multicolor Planeswalkers
Xenagos was a popular inclusion in Green/Red Devotion. Ashiok was frequently seen in sideboards of Blue/Black Control. And Ajani was a good value card for Green/White midrange decks. For the new Standard, the best remaining planeswalkers are the mono-colored ones, with Jace and Nissa arguably leading the pack.
Bestow cards offered an Aura for the late game and a creature for the early game, all in one card. However, all bestow cards will rotate out with Theros Block, and I anticipate that megamorph creatures will replace them as mana sinks.
Devotion is another mechanic that only appeared in Theros block. Goodbye. Green Devotion in its current form will no longer be viable, Blue Devotion is gone for good, and the loss of Mogis’s Marauder is a huge hit to Abzan Rally and Mono-Black Aggro.
Heroic was pretty much a Theros Block Constructed deck. Come rotation, this deck will be dead.
12. Artifact-Related Cards
Enjoy it while it lasts. We’ll retain Ghostfire Blade, Thopter Spy Network, and Whirler Rogue, but without key pieces like Ensoul Artifact, an artifact-based deck is not going to survive the rotation. Well, unless Mox Opal is randomly reprinted in Battle for Zendikar, but that sounds unlikely.
11. Fleecemane Lion
Fleecemane Lion has been one of the best 2-drops in Standard and an important reason for playing white/green. Dromoka’s Command remains, but it will get worse after the Theros block enchantments rotate out. I expect fewer green/white decks post-rotation.
10. Aggressive Red Creatures
Even if Joel Larsson didn’t run any of these creatures in the main deck of his Pro Tour winning list, they have been staples of red aggro decks for a year. The loss of Rabblemaster also means that midrange red decks will have to look for a different 3-drop and that the value of certain removal spells might change: Wild Slash may get worse and Abzan Charm may get better.
9. Graveyard-Related Cards
Whip of Erebos decks were big at the end of last year, but they were eventually pushed out by Ugin. Yet, Satyr Wayfinder has stuck around in various decks ranging from Abzan Megamorph to Abzan Rally. Rally the Ancestors in particular will miss Satyr Wayfinder—Gather the Pack is just not as good. I’ll be looking for an efficient graveyard-filling card in Battle for Zendikar.
We’ll still have Seismic Rupture and Languish, but the sweeper selection will be cut down considerably. The loss of Drown in Sorrow will be good news for aggressive decks, and the loss of Anger of the Gods bodes well for Deathmist Raptor.
7. Stormbreath Dragon
Stormbreath Dragon will be difficult to replace for decks with Draconic Roar. Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, for instance, is in the same mana slot, but can’t be revealed to a turn-2 Draconic Roar. If you still want to run that burn spell, then you’ll likely have to splash for Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury or Dragonlord Ojutai.
Although Ugin and Dragonlord Atarka remain as the true late-game trumps in Standard, Elspeth has been an important part of the format as well, for instance as a good answer to Deathmist Raptor recursion. Abzan Control will have to find a new win condition.
The available mana is an essential piece of any format, but we don’t lose that much in the rotation. Temples can be replaced by gain lands such as Blossoming Sands—they’re worse, but not by that much—and Urborg was merely a Swamp with a small bonus. The loss of Mana Confluence may be problematic for aggro decks such as Atarka Red, however, as their mana won’t be consistent unless they add enters-the-battlefield tapped lands.
4. Burn Spells
Sick and tired of the new iteration of Mono-Red with 20 burn spells? Well, good news: over half of them rotate out, so Mono-Red players will have to hope for good replacements in Battle for Zendikar. Same goes for Jeskai players, too.
3. Ramp Creatures
Elvish Mystic has been pegged as the best card in Standard, and there is no easy replacement. It will be similarly difficult to replace Sylvan Caryatid. There’s still Rattleclaw Mystic, but unless there are good cheap/durable mana creatures in Battle for Zendikar, green ramp strategies will take a hit.
2. Black Disruption
For over a year, black has had incredibly efficient general answers to everything. No more! We’ll likely have to turn to conditional spells like Despise or Ultimate Price, which means that we’ll have to spend more time thinking about which threats we want answers for. I expect that this will make deck building more interesting.
1. Courser of Kruphix
Courser of Kruphix acted as the glue that held green midrange decks together, and it’s my pick for the most important card that will leave Standard on October 2. Maybe Courser will be replaced by Nissa, but that would mean that aggressive creatures like Bloodsoaked Champion and Kytheon will get better and that removal spells like Dromoka’s Command and Valorous Stance will get worse.
The new Standard already has my gears turning, and that’s even without knowing the contents of Battle for Zendikar!