Well, the most important piece of information about Guilds of Ravnica is now known: shocklands are back. Following that is another easy prediction: Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is the best card in post-rotation Standard.
This does not feel like a ridiculous statement even though we know so little of the set. Just knowing that there will be a new counterspell (Sinister Sabotage) and that Teferi and Settle the Wreckage will remain legal in the format is enough to make a safe bet. That’s how good Teferi is and how much it’s being held back by red decks right now. The cards in the average Teferi deck were mostly all medium in power and some were outright bad in many situations, yet every time a Teferi stuck around for multiple turns the game turned for the U/W player.
We don’t need to go back into why Teferi is a good card. Instead, I want to focus on the good cards that are leaving that were incidentally helping to keep Teferi in check. Bomat Courier and Glorybringer are at the top of the list. Without powerful haste creatures, Teferi players have less reason to worry about having an actual answer if they jam the turn-5 Teferi. This is important when dealing with multiples as well, since the best answers are going to be Rekindling Phoenix and burn spells. The second Teferi nullifies those lines rather easily and the same is true once you reach the 7-8 mana mark.
Burn spells are not effective tools for dealing with Teferi—at least, not unless Banefire enters the equation—meaning that for red players it’ll be more important not to lose board control. It will not take a lot of +1s before the game is practically over. It turns out that Ramunap Ruins was a hell of a card after all. Legion Warboss is a nice tool for red decks, but what I’m looking forward to is what the 1- and 2-drops are going to look like.
Meanwhile, while W/U Control loses many supporting elements, the two keys are there: an effective draw engine and a good sweeper effect. Fumigate may be leaving, but Settle the Wreckage will still be around to make combat steps a sweat. Sinister Sabotage looks to be a better Disallow replacement (and Dissolve update). Meanwhile, Seal Away and Essence Scatter are still there for early game interaction, leaving only a handful of slots that still need to be filled.
Search for Azcanta is the other big engine card that isn’t leaving with rotation and may provide a valid reason for decks not to immediately move into tricolors. Field of Ruin remains one of the strongest answers to this card and outside of U/W you’d be hard-pressed to play more than a handful in your deck. The opportunity cost is also much higher and I’ve seen many Esper players silently curse, looking at a colorless land when holding a grip full of dual-colored cards in hand.
Field of Ruin also doubles as a hedge against these greedy midrange and control decks that lean too heavily on 2- and 3-colored spells. Early in the game it’s very possible to throw these decks off of their game plan by knocking out a key dual. Even if they have all of the relevant basics (and you know some won’t!), it can often still deny them full access to everything in hand.
Back to my original topic, though—if we aren’t sure how good the red decks will be, what about the midrange decks? U/W decks don’t have a slam dunk matchup against them. The rotation also gives every midrange deck a chance to breathe and play a normal game of Magic without fear of losing to a turn-5 The Scarab God. It has been such a major player in the format it almost feels weird to imagine playing a normal midrange deck again instead of ones specifically designed to go way over the top if they tap out for an early TSG.
Mono-Green Aggro* loses a bit of oomph and may morph into a midrange build. But most of the major factors remain and building around Vine Mare may be the way to go to force the sweeper issue for Teferi decks. Carnage Tyrant also seems like it may be good enough in the main deck instead of a way to annoy blue mages.
*I love how not one part of this name is accurate, but it keeps being used.
This is just a basic mockup, and while it’s certainly weaker than the current deck, the entire format drops off in a big way. Without The Scarab God hanging around, you can also lean more toward the highend with Carnage Tyrant and Vivien Reid without getting punished quite so badly. What’s also nice is that this base is very easy to enable splashes with, so it’ll end up very customizable. Add a playset of Temple Garden and enjoy using Shanna, Sisay’s Legacy and Emmara, Soul of the Accord, along with massively opening up your sideboard options. Throw in the potential for some new token generators and convoke cards, and things get even more interesting.
Speaking of interesting decks, the Benalish Marshal strategies fell off rather quickly despite being very strong for the first month of Dominaria Standard. With red getting weaker, we may see less Goblin Chainwhirler, which would open up the potential for more go-wide strategies.
Again, this base is underpowered in its current form, but with a few minor upgrades this type of strategy can be very scary for any deck without a sweeper. Pride of Conquerors is no joke, and if any of the convoke cards are strong, this is the type of base that can abuse them with no issue. Benalish Marshal was also an unfortunate victim of its own cycle where it should’ve been one of the highlights instead. Maybe now we’ll finally get to see Marshal again. Song of Freyalise is another card that made a splash early and then was never seen again, forever banished to brew videos and FNM play.
Like I said at the outset, too little of Guilds of Ravnica has been released to make many useful statements about the format. But it’s safe to assume that Teferi, Hero of Dominaria will remain the primary pillar of the format.
Red decks likely get weaker, but enough pieces carry over that they could easily be a tier 1 deck again with some good early drops. There are many dual color go-wide decks in G/W, W/B, and B/G that were dropped due to Chainwhirler’s dominance. If Chainwhirler drops off and they get some buffs, these decks can easily become viable. Nicol Bolas is now the go-to midrange threat. Expect a lot of the Dragon flying around with the mana for Grixis getting even better .
I look forward to what Guilds of Ravnica brings to the table, and bid a happy farewell to Kaladesh block.