Throne of Eldraine is a set I’ve really been looking forward to, for multiple reasons. First and most obvious, it’s a new set and new sets are awesome (until we sometimes realize they’re not). It has a cool top-down design, and last time there was a similar top-down design set (when a theme is chosen first and then flavorful mechanics are designed to match it), it was a huge success in Innistrad. Last but not least, I’m honestly tired of this Standard format and some of the cards feel like they’ve been in the format for ages, like Chainwhirler or Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and I’ll be happy about them leaving room for others. So I’ve been craving for a new format, but I only needed some new spoilers…
And that’s exactly what I got. As I started trying to fit the cards into different shells in Standard, it hit me “wait, how will the actual format look like with rotation?” To understand how a card will work in a new format, we must understand what the current Standard will lose. So before I’ll jump into the spoilers, I’ll take a minute to focus on what’s actually leaving and what that means.
Dominaria was a powerful set where we will say goodbye to historic synergies, sagas, a few lands and some wizard synergies.
The Mono-Color Creature Cycle
Benalish Marshal, Tempest Djinn, Dread Shade, Chainwhirler and Steel Leaf Champion are leaving Standard. I don’t think a lot of people will be crying nor jumping with joy due to Dread Shade leaving, but the rest have definitely seen tons of play. Tempest Djinn has been the core of Mono-Blue Tempo along with Curious Obsession (that’s also leaving), and those two make a ton of your other tempo spells actually worth the struggle. Without them, the deck won’t be a thing anymore. Losing Benalish Marshal for mono-white will be a big blow as well, though likely not as detrimental.
Losing the one and only Chainwhirler will be pretty big for Standard. Chainwhirler has at times pushed out a lot of cards with 1 toughness, so looking through old creatures from Guilds of Ravnica and forward, you might find some gems worth trying again. The ironic part about it is that Llanowar Elves will be leaving at the same time as Chainwhirler, meaning we will never know how crazy the old Elf could have been with the gatekeeper.
Lyra Dawnbringer has been a staple of white sideboards since it was printed, and sometimes found itself in the main deck of some Angel decks. But the major difference this makes isn’t for the white decks in the format per se, as they’ll find something else or more incidental lifegain instead, but for all the aggressive decks and their sideboarding. Sideboarding will become easier and your deck will hum along better with its own game plan because no longer will you have to fear Lyra, meaning you won’t have to leave ineffective removal like Fight with Fire in your deck after sideboarding.
Llanowar Elves is a major one and is the core of many green strategies. I don’t see Gilded Goose being on the same power level, even if it might not be bad. If there is one archetype that might be happy about this change, it’s Field of the Dead decks that weren’t trying to ramp with it, as it doesn’t give them that extra land resource but they could fall behind to it since it’s slightly faster than their own ramp.
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
While not every hero wears a cape, this control hero certainly does and control decks are taking a huge hit with Teferi leaving. Teferi kind of did it all. It was card advantage and a wincon stacked in one. Not only did it do that, it helped you gain mana advantage and could deal with basically any threat, something a control deck sometimes struggles with. You got power and flexibility in one, which is sometimes a terrifying thing in Magic. Without Teferi, playing control to “counter everything” will get harder and little Teferi, Time Raveler might be the final nail in the coffin to put counterspells out of their misery.
Mox Amber is a card I tried to make work so many times and I was never able too, but turns out I was trying to play too fair with the Mox. In Kethis Combo it was finally broken in two and it turned out to create one of the most powerful decks in Standard. However, with it gone, that’s the last we’ll see of that deck.
Half of the checklands are leaving with Domaria and the other half are rotating at the same time with Ixalan. Without these, having amazing untapped mana bases will be gone and I will miss it, much like I’ve talked about before. Checklands along with Shocks meant you could freely play whatever cards you wanted in a 3-colored deck, like in Esper where you can play both Basilica Bell-Haunt and Narset, Parter of Veils in the same deck. You’ll have to play fewer colors and figure out which cards might be the best to splash.
Ixalan is the home of different tribal synergies: Pirates, Dinosaurs, Vampires, and Merfolk–none of which were especially played in Standard until 6 sets later when Core Set 2020 came out to supplement them. The power level was fairly low and its Limited format wasn’t great, so Ixalan won’t be something I’ll be missing anytime soon. The things I did enjoy from the block were playing with Search for Azcanta and what Field of Ruin has done for Modern.
Legion’s Landing and Regisaur Alpha
As mentioned earlier, the tribal synergies will disappear from Ixalan, meaning that both Vampires and Dinosaurs as decks will disappear as the core of both decks comes from this block. Poor Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord.
Settle the Wreckage
We haven’t seen Settle the Wreckage for a while, but it’s existence in Standard has made our game play patterns against control decks different ever since. Do they have Glimmer of Genius/Hieroglyphic Illumination, Settle the Wreckage, both, or nothing? How many creatures can I afford to lose? Can I win even if I lose them? Without it, you can finally settle down, relax and turn all your fine creatures sideways without getting a heart attack.
Wildgrowth Walker and the explore package
Golgari Midrange will most likely not be a deck without these or it will have to look different all together. Wildgrowth Walker served both as a threat and something to defend yourself with against aggressive decks, and Jadelight Ranger was the backbone of being able to hit your land drops and making the deck tick. Without their efficiency, it’s going to be hard to make a midrange deck that doesn’t just fold to either control or aggro.
I would have said that Carnage Tyrant leaving was a big deal, but then Core Set 2020 came out. Tyrant was so annoying for control decks even Shaheen Sorani wrote half an article about it. The thing is, there’s even better “can’t be countered” cards in Core Set 2020 in Shifting Ceratops and Chandra, Awakened Inferno that this former titan actually won’t leave too much of a hole by leaving. Didn’t see that coming.
Core Set 2019
Well, it’s a core set. Things and stuff, stuff and things, nothing new here.
A few months ago, you’d think this rotating would be the biggest deal ever. However, after refining the Scapeshift decks, I think most people have realized it’s more of a Field of the Dead deck rather than a Scapeshift deck. Hell, even some of the versions of Field of the Dead decks don’t run Scapeshift since it’s a dead card early and takes some setup. At least with Scapeshift gone, the archetype won’t be able to kill you out of nowhere and gain a bunch of life, so if you can burn them out or maybe win through attacking in the air, you’ll get a lot more time to do so.
As Golgari might be leaving, there’s a good chance there wouldn’t have been a fantastic place for Vivien Reid regardless.
Nicol Bolas, the Ravager
I loved playing with this card. And many others too, as Grixis has been a deck ever since it has been released, regardless of how good it has been. Playing the Nicol Bolas theme has become even more of a thing with War of the Spark, but I believe that maybe finally our Grixis friends might have to lay down their weapon of choice.
Nexus of Fate
At first, I didn’t actually think Nexus of Fate was rotating. I looked through every set that was leaving when I realized, “dang, there’s not a lot of cards that were that good in Core Set 2019” after only finding 3 relevant cards. Then I looked through most decks from the current metagame and, of course, there it was. Because Nexus of Fate was a boy-a-box promo, you couldn’t find it in the regular set–it existed only in foil and somehow got banned in only half of online play. I don’t think a lot of people will be unhappy about Nexus of Fate leaving, for a multitude of reasons. With it gone, there won’t be an infinite combo in Standard since Kethis Combo leaves as well, meaning that going over the top of other players actually becomes a contest again. Field of the Dead has the upper hand there currently, but at least it’s going over the top in grinding out the late game, not just outright winning the game on the spot.
That’s it! Tons of decks will either be gone with rotation or have to be changed dramatically to stick around. The winners are Gruul Aggro, Boros Feather and especially Field of the Dead decks since they lose only a few cards in the rotation. Going over the top of Field decks is even harder without Kethis and Nexus of Fate, and some of its sideboard hate cards rotate as well in Alpine Moon, Blood Sun and Field of Ruin. At least Unmoored Ego is still here, but its efficiency has never been that great versus these decks and is only a last resort when you can beat them on any other avenue.
Now go enjoy looking at those news cards!