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Preparing for Standard Rotation: The 20 Most Important Clusters of Rotating Cards


As we travel to the plane of Eldraine, Standard is in for some radical changes. Not only will we get a bunch of new cards, but we also have to say goodbye to Ixalan, Rivals of Ixalan, Dominaria, and Core Set 2019. This rotation will happen in one month from now on the release date of Throne of Eldraine: Friday, October 4th.

I can’t tell you much about the new cards yet. All we know is that Eldraine is a high-fantasy medieval world inspired by the legends of Camelot and Grimm’s fairytales. But I can tell you about the key cards that will rotate out and the decks that will remain viable.

I will do so in two parts. Today, I will give my picks for the 20 most important groups of cards that will rotate out. In a follow-up article, I will pinpoint the archetypes that are most rotation-proof.

The Most Important Cards Rotating from Standard

20. The explore package

Wildgrowth WalkerMerfolk BranchwalkerJadelight Ranger

The explore package formed the foundation for a bunch of decks, ranging from Golgari Midrange to Four-Color Dreadhorde. After the rotation, Wildgrowth Walker will be no more. Interestingly, Tocatli Honor Guard is also rotating with them.

19. Reckless Rage

Reckless Rage

Due to its synergy with Feather, the Redeemed and Dreadhorde Arcanist, Reckless Rage has seen a fair amount of Standard play. There are potential replacements in Thrash // Threat and Domri’s Ambush, but they cost twice as much, which could be an issue. While I do believe that Feather decks will remain viable after the rotation, the loss of Reckless Rage will be felt.

18. Sagas

The Eldest RebornThe Flame of KeldHistory of Benalia

Sagas were well-designed and beautiful to look at. I will miss them. History of Benalia is probably the biggest loss, as it was one of the key pieces of White Weenie and Selesnya Tokens, and its loss will hurt the competitive chances of a potential Selesnya token deck after the rotation.

17. Double-faced cards

Search for Azcanta // Azcanta, the Sunken RuinTreasure Map // Treasure CoveLegion's Landing // Adanto, the First FortNicol Bolas, the Ravager // Nicol Bolas, the Arisen

The mini-quests on the legendary enchantments made for interesting games, and I hope the mechanic will be revisited in the future. For Standard, Search for Azcanta is the biggest loss, even though it also loses its partners in crime: Nexus and Teferi.

16. Nexus of Fate

Nexus of Fate - Foil - Buy-a-Box Promo

Good riddance. Nexus of Fate led to non-interactive, repetitive gameplay, and it wasn’t fun to play against. After rotation, the only “extra turn” card that will remain legal is Chance for Glory. Barring extreme loops via Scholar of the Ages and Tale’s End, I think we’re safe.

15. Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

Teferi has been a key win condition for Esper Control players for nearly one-and-a-half years. Even though post-rotation Standard will feature plenty of planeswalkers thanks to War of the Spark, we’ll have to do without this powerful planeswalker that even turned out to be playable in Modern.

14. Rekindling Phoenix and exiling removal

Rekindling PhoenixIxalan's BindingHostage TakerVraska's ContemptSettle the Wreckage

Before the printing of Teferi, Time Raveler, Rekindling Phoenix was one of the best threats in the format. Its presence demanded a heavy reliance on exiling removal spells. All of these cards will rotate out.

13. Mox Amber and historic spells

Mox AmberDiligent ExcavatorUrza's Ruinous Blast

If you had asked me several weeks ago, these cards would not have made my list. But the introduction of a new combo deck based around Kethis, the Hidden Hand changed the landscape of Standard. Alas, the key cards will only remain legal for another month or so.

12. Two-mana removal spells

Cast DownBaffling EndEssence ScatterLightning Strike

Efficient two-mana removal spells aren’t easy to replace. We retain alternatives like Legion’s End and Lava Coil, but they come with their own upsides and downsides. Overall, the pool of answers that we can choose from will get a bit smaller.

11. The Curious Obsession package

Curious ObsessionDive DownSpell PierceSiren Stormtamer

Mono-Blue Tempo took down Mythic Championship I and remained one of the best decks in the format for a while. However, without Curious Obsession and ways to protect it, a major part of the deck’s strength will be gone.

10. Card draw spells

Chart a CourseTormenting VoiceOpt

While Arclight Phoenix and Crackling Drake will remain legal after rotation, at least in Standard, the loss of these powerful card draw spells might make it difficult to build a good version of Izzet Phoenix. There are no obvious replacements for Opt, Chart a Course, and Tormenting Voice.

9. Tribal support cards

Unclaimed TerritoryElvish ClancallerSupreme PhantomKumena, Tyrant of OrazcaDire Fleet Poisoner

Tribes are always fun, but many tribes will lose key cards in the rotation. This includes less competitive tribes like Elves, Spirits, Merfolk, and Pirates, as well as more competitive ones that I’ll get to shortly. In any case, the loss of Unclaimed Territory impacts all creature-heavy tribal decks.

8. Angels

Resplendent AngelLyra DawnbringerShalai, Voice of Plenty

Boros Angels was a deck for a while, and the Angel tribe had a recent resurgence after the printing of Bishop of Wings and Kaalia, Zenith Seeker. Alas, without Lyra Dawnbringer to lead the charge, the prospects for the Angel tribe in the new Standard are dire.

7. Wizards

Adeliz, the Cinder WindGhitu LavarunnerWizard's LightningMerfolk TricksterWizard's Retort

We’ve seen minor Wizard themes in Mono-Red Aggro and Mono-Blue Tempo, and there’s even a dedicated Izzet Wizards deck. However, all key Wizards hail from Dominaria, so they won’t be legal after the rotation.

6. Dinosaurs

Ghalta, Primal HungerRegisaur AlphaRipjaw RaptorRampaging FerocidonOtepec Huntmaster

After the printing of Marauding Raptor, I really enjoyed playing Dinosaur decks. However, almost all other Dinosaurs come from Ixalan block, so the tribe is losing nearly everything at rotation. Rampaging Ferocidon in particular was resurrected at a time when the star of extinction is drawing closer and closer.

5. Vampires

Adanto VanguardSkymarcher AspirantLegion LieutenantChampion of Dusk

The story of Vampires is like Dinosaurs. Vampires weren’t competitive until Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord pushed the deck to the top tier of Standard, but most of the creature base stems from the plane of Ixalan. Unless Throne of Eldraine includes several good Vampires, this archetype won’t survive rotation.

4. Key cards for Bant Scapeshift

Elvish RejuvenatorScapeshift

Core Set 2020 really changed everything, didn’t it? Field of the Dead helped turn Scapeshift into key card of the Standard format, and Elvish Rejuvenator was an important piece of the puzzle as well. Although straight-up Field of the Dead decks may survive rotation, we won’t have to worry about Scapeshift anymore.

3. Chainwhirler and friends

Benalish MarshalTempest DjinnDread ShadeGoblin ChainwhirlerSteel Leaf Champion - Foil

Mono-black never took off, but Mono-Blue Tempo, Mono-Red Aggro, Mono-Green Stompy, and White Weenie have all been relevant Standard decks. For Standard deck diversity, I hope we’ll get similar mono-color payoffs in Throne of Eldraine. If not, then all aggro decks will be incentivized to splash a second color.

2. Llanowar Elves

Llanowar Elves

After not having a one-mana accelerant in Standard for years, the reprinting of Llanowar Elves in Dominaria gave us access to one of the best mana dorks in the history of Magic. After rotation, we can still ramp with Paradise Druid or Leafkin Druid, but without a one-mana version, Nissa will often come down one turn later. That’s a huge difference, and it will weaken Bant Ramp decks considerably.

1. Check lands

Glacial FortressIsolated ChapelClifftop RetreatSunpetal GroveDrowned CatacombSulfur FallsHinterland HarborDragonskull SummitWoodland CemeteryRootbound Crag

A year of check lands and shock lands has spoiled us. Mana bases in Standard were consistent, even for three-color decks, and lands often entered the battlefield untapped. Accordingly, multicolor decks thrived, and Boros Feather decks had access to 12 dual lands to consistently reach WWR mana.

This will likely be different after the rotation. Sure, we have scry lands for enemy colors, and I expect that there will be a similar cycle of tapped dual lands for allied colors in Throne of Eldraine. But if lands enter tapped more frequently, then things will slow things down, and multicolor aggro decks will be weaker.

I believe that mana bases are a large driver of the Standard landscape, so I view the departure of check lands as the most impactful change come rotation.

Conclusion

Standard is in for some radical changes with the upcoming rotation, and that’s all without seeing the contents of Throne of Eldraine. In a follow-up article, I’ll go over the decks most likely to survive rotation, but for now let’s say goodbye to the cards that leaving. Which rotating cards will you miss the most?

Discussion

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