Three Cheap, Rotation-Proof Standard Decks

Throne of Eldraine joins us in two months. While the new set will doubtless bring new competitive staples that will change the format, the biggest shift in the Standard landscape will, of course, be brought about by set rotation. Ixalan, Rivals of Ixalan, Dominaria, and Core Set 2019 will no longer be Standard-legal, meaning that many current top-tier Standard decks will be gutted and rendered unplayable.

Scapeshift, Vampires, Dinosaurs: these decks have only just reached critical mass with Core Set 2020, and already they’re on the way out. Before you shed too many tears for them, however, remember that rotation will also mean we finally say goodbye to the likes of Goblin Chainwhirler, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and–at long, long last–Nexus of Fate. It’s not all bad news.

What it does mean, however, is that right now is one of the worst times to be blindly buying into a new Standard deck. Prices for rotating cards will start to plummet in the coming weeks, making any investment in them a poor one, and with their limited lifespan you’re not going to get much bang for your buck.

But if you’re a new Standard player, or if you’re perhaps looking to transition from MTG Arena into the world of paper Magic, I’ve got good news. Today, we’re going to look at three future-proof Standard decks that will offer good competitive viability while we wait for Throne of Eldraine to arrive. Let’s get to it!

Three Standard Decks Ready for Rotation

Boros Feather

Feather, the Redeemed

Boros Feather was, at one point, a silly enough deck for the Arena Boys to play it. That’s changed, however, and nowadays the deck is doing very well indeed at the top tables. The good news is that almost the entire deck stays intact, post-rotation, and the better news is that it’s very inexpensive outside of Dreadhorde Arcanist. The bad news is that one incredibly important card, Reckless Rage, will no longer be an option in October.

9 Plains (331)
5 Mountain (343)
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Temple of Triumph
4 Burning Prophet
4 Dreadhorde Arcanist
4 Tenth District Legionnaire
4 Feather, the Redeemed
2 Legion Warboss
1 Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin
1 Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice
1 Gideon Blackblade
4 Defiant Strike
4 Gods Willing
4 Shock
2 Gird for Battle
2 Samut's Sprint
1 Infuriate

2 Fry
3 Lava Coil
2 Prison Realm
3 Flame Sweep
1 Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice
2 Legion Warboss
1 Devout Decree
1 Justice Strike

The deck definitely becomes worse without Reckless Rage–if you’re planning to play it before rotation, definitely think about picking up a playset, as it’s only a $1.50 uncommon–but I don’t think the deck becomes completely unplayable. Other “downgrades” include Adanto Vanguard becoming Burning Prophet (which some lists play anyway), and the loss of Sheltering Light, which was largely supplanted by Gods Willing, anyway.

All this, of course, is without considering the potential cards we may see printed in Throne of Eldraine. We could get a new white or red one-drop instant that slots right into this list, meaning the errant copies of Infuriate and Samut’s Sprint can hit the bench once again. The archetype is unlikely to receive stone-cold nothing, at any rate.

Additionally, upgrades or no, it’s a great choice for the opening weeks of the new format. Historically speaking, aggressive decks like this tend to overperform right after rotation, as slower decks experiment with different answers and angles. Getting two months’ practice in with a deck that should survive rotation at least mostly intact will set you in good stead to make the transition to the new Standard format.

Izzet Phoenix

Arclight Phoenix

I know “cheap” and “Arclight Phoenix” don’t really belong in the same sentence (unless discussing how much mana you pay to put it into play), but hear me out on this one. Arclight Phoenix is actually a card you should be buying, not selling. It’s the backbone of one of the most powerful and popular decks in Modern, and as a result its price will only be going up.

If you can afford the $25 price tag, it’s a great pickup, especially as plenty of Standard players will be looking to offload their copies in the coming weeks (perhaps on the cheap). Even better, there’s a pretty sweet-looking future-proofed deck ready for it to slide right into!

7 Island (335)
7 Mountain (343)
4 Steam Vents
3 Temple of Epiphany
4 Goblin Electromancer
4 Arclight Phoenix
4 Crackling Drake
2 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
4 Shock
4 Radical Idea
4 Tormenting Voice
3 Lava Coil
3 Anticipate
2 Finale of Promise
2 Chandra's Triumph
2 Beacon Bolt
1 Maximize Velocity

2 Aether Gust
2 Negate
2 Disdainful Stroke
2 Fry
3 Flame Sweep
4 Narset, Parter of Veils

There aren’t any cards we’re too devastated to lose–the best is probably Chart a Course, and while Tormenting Voice is definitely a downgrade, it serves a similar role (Opt/Anticipate run along similar lines). As with Reckless Rage in the Feather deck, it’s probably worth just picking up Chart a Course anyway for the duration it’s legal in Standard.

Outside of the marquee mythic that makes this deck what it is, the rest of the list comes very cheap. We keep it simple with powerful uncommon planeswalkers like Saheeli and Narset, rather than big Rals or Chandras. Steam Vents isn’t cheap, but shock lands are always Modern-playable and very easy to move if you don’t want them anymore.

Once again: don’t forget that there will almost certainly be new additions to this deck in Throne of Eldraine. We’re bound to find ways to upgrade cards such as Chandra’s Triumph, and hopefully will get some new cheap ways to filter through or draw cards. Fundamentally, however, this deck’s gameplan is hardly affected by rotation, and it’s a good pick with a strong pedigree.

Simic Flash

Nightpack Ambusher

A newer kid on the block, Simic Flash has already had a bunch of hits as a solid second-tier Standard deck. Now that the surprise factor has worn off, the list has lost some of its edge–but that doesn’t mean it’s any less powerful in the abstract. The deck escapes rotation almost completely unscathed and is a great choice for anyone who likes playing Magic during an opponent’s turn.


4 Temple of Mystery
4 Breeding Pool
10 Island (335)
5 Forest (347)
4 Spectral Sailor
4 Brineborn Cutthroat
3 Faerie Duelist
4 Frilled Mystic
4 Nightpack Ambusher
4 Unsummon
3 Anticipate
4 Essence Capture
3 Negate
4 Sinister Sabotage

3 Veil of Summer
3 Aether Gust
1 Crushing Canopy
2 Shifting Ceratops
2 Cerulean Drake
3 Ashiok, Dream Render
1 Return to Nature

We only lose Merfolk Trickster and Essence Scatter, both of which are readily replaced by Faerie Duelist and Essence Capture, Respectively. Faerie Duelist is a marked downgrade from Merfolk Trickster but was seeing fringe play in the archetype anyway and is a good fit for the strategy. Essence Capture is a little awkward on the mana, but we were casting Merfolk Trickster reliably enough beforehand, so it’s not the end of the world.

This deck is an exceptional choice for anyone wanting to get into paper Magic in a meaningful way before rotation. It’s cheap, powerful, and a ton of fun to play–and if you want to play the Tricksters and Scatters anyway, it won’t cost you too much. If this deck appeals to your playstyle, I can’t recommend it enough.

Martin Juza wrote a characteristically excellent deck guide for Simic Flash that I wholeheartedly suggest you check out. Of all three decks we’ve discussed today, this one is far and away my favorite–it would be a perfect starting point for anyone wanting to get into Standard properly!


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