This week I went through all of the most important cards that will rotate with the release of Ixalan, and today I’ll put that information into practice. I’ll reason whether an existing deck is a winner, meaning the deck is still in full force, or a loser, meaning the deck now is unplayable, or undecided because its future is unclear.
Winner: Ramunap Red
The fun police itself loses very little in the rotation. Only losing Falkenrath Gorger, Village Messenger, Incendiary Flow, and Collective Defiance is nearly nothing in a tier 1 deck in Standard with half of all Standard disappearing. Sure, Falkenrath Gorger is a tough loss, but neither Village Messenger, Incendiary Flow, nor Collective Defiance are played in every iteration of Ramunap Red. They are all also quite easily replaced with other 1-drops, other burn spells, or going a little bit bigger.
Zombies basically loses it all with the rotation. It could have survived losing Westvale Abbey, Grasp of Darkness, and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet; but losing Cryptbreaker, Diregraf Colossus, and Relentless Dead, which make the deck tick, is too much for it to survive.
Winner: Temur Energy
A big winner.
Allegedly the best deck in Standard, it doesn’t lose a single card in the main deck. Well okay, sure, it might be losing 1 Game Trail and 1 Lumbering Falls, but who cares! Just switch them up! The biggest hit for this deck is losing Radiant Flames in the sideboard if more swarm strategies pop up, but other than that, nothing changes. I guess Kaladesh block is quite the powerful block, even with two of its cards banned!
Undecided: Mardu Vehicles
Mardu Vehicles is interesting because one of the hardest blows against it is that mana gets worse, but that has nothing to do with the lands—it has to do with Thraben Inspector. Being a solid way to get an artifact into play to turn on Spire of Industry has been that glue that kept this deck consistent.
Mardu Vehicles also loses Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, which may have been the best home for the planeswalker because of its interaction with Heart of Kiran. It’s unclear whether Mardu Vehicles will be a consistent choice after the rotation, because on the one hand you have the losses of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Thraben Inspector, but on the other hand Heart of Kiran and Unlicensed Disintegration are still incredibly powerful. You might have to become two colors or maybe the new “treasure mechanic” (creating a Lotus Petal) can save the mana base.
Winner: U/R Control
U/R Control loses only one major card, Wandering Fumarole. It will be a hard loss, but it’s possible you can stitch it together by playing some other win conditions. Other than that, the deck is pretty much intact!
Winner & Loser: G/B Variants
G/B Delirium is dead, as the keyword itself is rotating. But G/B Energy is still alive and well. The only big losses are its creatureland and Nissa, Voice of Zendikar. But it’s quite possible to reduce the number of lands by playing Greenbelt Rampager, and replacing Nissa, Voice of Zendikar with more Rishkar, Peema Renegades. With that being done, you don’t want to play too many taplands and the full 4 Hissing Quagmires anyway.
Loser: G/R Ramp
Losing out on all the Eldrazi, their lands, and Kozilek’s Return are some big (literally big) shoes to fill. Whether Ixalan and its Dinosaurs can do that is unlikely. I didn’t think I’d live to the day when a Dinosaur set came out in Magic, and I would reason that the Dinosaurs are probably going to be too small to ramp up to. But I mean Eldrazi, man.
Loser: U/W Monument
Gone, dead, kaput. Everybody fled.
Suprisingly, some of the biggest decks in Standard seem to survive quite well with half of Standard picking up their bags and moving to Modern. But if there are any big takeaways, it’s that Ramp and its inevitability is gone, Zombies and their proactive grind is gone, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is gone.
Well, a whole lot else is gone too, but these three factors have been a major part of what suppressed slower midrange decks. You can’t be too slow against Ramp—you have to be on the board to combat Gideon effectively and trying to control Zombies from a midrange perspective can be hard with limited removal.
As a result, I believe that midrange will be back in full force! Whether Ixalan changes that is still unknown of course, but it’s hard to believe it will impact the format in the same way these three factors pushed slower midrange decks out.
The second thing to think about is that the mana will be different. In friendly colors, on turn 1, there are only dual lands that enter the battlefield tapped. There are cycling lands that will always come in tapped, and the checklands that will often come into play untapped, but never on turn 1. This means that it’s unlikely that any friendly color pair will be able to play a lot of 1-drops and therefore will not be an aggressive color pair.
Friendly colors have three different duals currently and will go down to two, while enemy-colored ones will most likely only have one if they aren’t printing the full set of ten dual lands in Ixalan, which is unlikely. What that means is that the mana will be bad in those colors if you’re not playing energy, which gets a lot of help from Aether Hub and its friend Attune with Aether. Even 3-color strategies with this setup become easy with Servant of the Conduit for some extra help.
With this rotation practice, I hope you feel ready for the rest of the Ixalan spoilers! I know I am.