When it comes to Standard, we’re slowly inching towards rotation. Too slowly, it feels like – I know I’m not alone in feeling sick of the current Standard format and the near-total lack of change it has undergone in the last little while. It feels like we’ve been playing with and against the same decks for several centuries now, and Magic fans around the world are desperately waiting to rotate out of the current Standard format. The Standard 2022 queue on MTGA does something to ameliorate the situation, but it’s still pretty dire.
With that in mind, let’s have a look at the most obnoxious culprits in making the Standard format what it is today – culprits that will, thankfully, be departing Standard for good come Return to Return to Innistrad later this year.
Winota was always a pretty problematic card. Turns out being able to cheat expensive cards into play without paying any mana for them is pretty good – who knew – and from Agent of Treachery to Blade Historian, Winota has been cheating out the best of ’em for a long time.
The problem with a card like Winota is that she’s either going to be unfair or unplayable. There’s very rarely a middle ground. Winota plus Agent of Treachery was way too good – she’s banned in Historic as a result. She was relegated to relative obscurity for awhile, until Blade Historian was printed, and now Naya Winota decks are up and about again.
A lot of people find them pretty miserable to play against. Sure, she dies to removal, and sure, it’s possible to disrupt what Winota decks are trying to do. But the fact that her ability effectively has haste, even if she doesn’t, plus the big mana cheats, plus the indestructibility… it all adds up. As does the damage, which will often mean a turn-four Winota into Blade Historian is game over.
It’s so incredible that even after a significant nerf to the companion mechanic, two of them managed to stick around and have such a huge impact on Standard for essentially their entire lifespans. Can you believe that these cards were first printed as an eighth card in hand for little-to-no downside? And even as they are now, Yorion and Lurrus in particular are still kind of obnoxious.
Whenever I scroll through lists, looking for something sweet to play on stream, I don’t even bother looking at any list with Yorion because I’m just so tired of slow, grindy decks that eke out incremental advantage turn after turn. Personally speaking, I don’t think the companions added anything worth having to the game. I’m not just talking about Yorion and Lurrus – I’m talking about cards like Kaheera, the Orphanguard, which is a freeroll in any creatureless deck.
Lurrus, too, is never the bringer of good news. You see an opponent open with Lurrus, and you know they’re on Rogues, or Cycling, or some nonsense like that. Maybe in the fullness of time, we’ll look back more fondly on the companions – but here and now, we’re all pretty bloody sick of them, I reckon.
Despite many of the Rogues cards being in Zendikar Rising and therefore surviving rotation, the deck will, mercifully, be dead on arrival once Innistrad finally joins us. Merfolk Windrobber, Ruin Crab and the insufferable Soaring Thought-Thief may all make it past October, but without the rest of the gang, the deck doesn’t have a hope in hell.
Rogues loses Thieves’ Guild Enforcer, Of One Mind, Into the Story and – perhaps most importantly – Drown in the Loch. Drown in the Loch is essentially a Murder/Counterspell split card in Rogues, and they seem to just always have it. Despite there being a pretty hard-and-fast four-of limit on cards in Standard, my opponents seem to always be playing, like, seven copies of this damn card.
I know the tricky, tempo-based gameplay of Dimir Rogues means it’s a favorite deck of many, and I know it’s a beatable strategy. Playing against it over and over on the MTGA ladder, however, is a truly miserable experience, particularly if you’re trying to do anything that isn’t out-and-out aggression. I’ll be very glad when this deck is no more, and I won’t miss having to play against it.
Far from Rogues and its critical mass of cheap threats and disruption, right at the other end of the spectrum, we have another public enemy: Emergent Ultimatum. This card effectively says BBGGGUU: Win the game. So powerful and potent are the huge monocolored cards you can fetch with it that you almost always seize victory after resolving it.
Emergent Ultimatum usually rewards you with 12 to 14 mana’s worth of cards for your initial seven-mana down payment – a very favorable rate of return – and will do a good job of getting you out of more or less any situation. Between Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor, Kiora Bests the Sea God, Professor Onyx, Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider and of course Alrund’s Epiphany, there’s absolutely no shortage of huge haymakers to fetch.
This card tends to homogenize gameplay – it was sweet to begin with, and was good fun to play with and against as the deck broke out and was developed and improved. The shine has come off the apple, however, and it feels like most people are ready for a change of pace. We’ve been playing against this deck for what feels like an eternity, and it will be a mercy when rotation finally removes it from Standard.
Bonecrusher Giant is emblematic of all the obnoxious cards from Throne of Eldraine – cards that warped Standard beyond recognition due to their absurd power level. Of the eight cards currently banned in Standard, five of them were printed in Throne of Eldraine, and we’re still here with Eldraine cards making the top of lists like this. Throne of Eldraine was… well, how can I put it… I think most people liked the flavor of the set?
Bonecrusher Giant has rendered two-toughness creatures largely unplayable, in the same way the Brazen Borrower has rendered clunky do-nothing permanents largely unplayable. Stapling an expensive Shock onto a decently-costed beater, and allowing you to play both halves as a built-in two-for-one, is pretty bloody good. Who could have guessed?
We’ve seen split cards before – they go back a long way – but usually it’s one or the other, not both – and in the times that it was both, the effects were either overcosted or not hugely powerful. Bonecrusher Giant and its mates Brazen Borrower and Lovestruck Beast didn’t have any of these drawbacks, really. The Adventure cards are so good, and have been a huge part of defining the Standard metagame for what feels like an eternity. It will be nice to have a break from them.
Magic players will complain about anything and everything, and I hate to fall into that same stereotype, but these cards have dominated Standard for so long and so many players are so sick of them. It’ll be a joyous day when they finally rotate out and allow us to explore a brand-new Standard format!