With Khans on the horizon and Ravnica in the rear-view mirror, now is a great time to go over the journey that was Standard this year and look towards what
the future might hold. Today I’ll be taking a look at what powerful cards are going to be sticking around to dominate post-rotation, which currently
underrepresented cards might find a new home, and which cards are leaving Standard.
Since it’ll be hard to predict exactly which cards are going to thrive without knowing what’s in Khans, I’ll focus on power level rather than synergies.
Hopefully it will stir your creative juices and give you an idea how things might look going forward. If nothing else, it will be an entertaining walk down
But before we get into that, there was a big announcement that will shake up the way Standard exists in the future. You can read the full announcement in
Mark Rosewaters article here.
Summary: From now on Standard is changing to feature: Two set blocks after Khans of Tarkir. No more core sets. Standard will be made up of the three most
Seeing that there’s a new announcement from Wizards is kind of like receiving a box in the mail from someone named Schrodinger:
you’re not sure if you’re going to open it up and find a fluffy kitten inside or unspeakable disaster.
So what has the general consensus response to this new announcement been?
It’s good! Everyone can let out a collective sigh of relief and rejoice.
What does this mean for competitive Magic? Now the Standard card pool will oscillate between five and six total sets instead of going from five to six to
seven to eight and back again. Standard will be smaller most of the time, which could be why they eliminated Block entirely since Standard will only be
double its size at most.
At the Pro Tour in Portland, M15 being added was the only change made to Standard. M15 only made up an eighth of the sets in the entire format. Combine
that with it being a core set, which generally has fewer busted cards and more vanilla cards, and the end result was that it had very little impact on the
Lately, Standard’s metagame has felt fairly well-balanced but was always bordering the edge of boring at the best of times. Can you think of any time where
there has been an amazing Standard format? Usually they become stale very quickly and/or an oppressive deck rises up and dominates the entire season. Now
the oldest sets will get dumped more often which should keep Standard smelling lemon fresh. This might open the door to some great Standard seasons, and
even if there are some duds, you won’t have to deal with them for as long.
There might be some downsides, like an increased upkeep cost on keeping your Standard collection relevant, but overall, I feel this is a slam dunk-home
A review of Return to Ravnica and Theros Standard:
– Diversity of viable archetypes without anything being too oppressive (although Mono-Black Devotion comes very close here).
– Benefit to mastering an archetype, and skill-rewarding.
– The Magic gods graced us with the best card draw spell ever. Thank you, Sphinx’s Revelation!
– Mono-colored decks and Mutavault were a bit too powerful which encouraged linear gameplay and strategies.
– The metagame was quickly explored and mostly solved. Few new decks emerged and innovation was not rewarded much.
Keepers, Sleepers, and Goners
Keepers – Cards from Theros or M15 that survive the rotation and are powerful enough to essentially guarantee they will show up and help define the next
season of Standard.
Sleepers – Card from Theros or M15 that don’t see much play or are considered fringe playables that might become important players in the next season. Some
of these will be shots in the dark and depend on what gets printed in the future.
Goners – Cards from Return to Ravnica and M14 that are rotating out of Standard and were powerful enough to define their archetypes.
Since Return to Ravnica is leaving Standard, there are a bunch of powerful multicolor cards leaving as well. Khans will certainly help fill this void.
Making dudes and mana, that’s still what the game’s all about.
Ashiok has a low cost and low risk with very high upside. It can whiff for a few turns or get Hero’s Downfalled for an even price, but it will get value if
left unchecked and is hard to kill through damage alone. Just flip an Eidolon of Blossoms, Courser of Kruphix, or Brain Maggot once and you’ll be sold.
Excellent synergy with Courser of Kruphix, Kiora protects itself, and is one of the only blue cards left that can generate some efficient card advantage.
Slow and steady wins the race, and Keranos can slowly race as well as draw some cards.
Could Garruk and Ajani end up being Junk buddies? I think there’s a pretty good chance of that.
Goodbye Mono-Blue Devotion. Goodbye U/W Control. Goodbye G/W Aggro. Goodbye non-aggro versions of Mono-Black.
There are a load of good multicolor spells rotating out. This list scratches the surface of the most powerful. Oddly enough the block focused on
multicolored spells enabled multiple mono-colored archetypes.
Cue the tumbleweed cuz there isn’t much here. I hope you will all shed a tear for the blue mages, because they’re gonna need every drop they can get. Blue
seems like a shoe-in to be the weakest color post-rotation without some major help. The only good blue card that truly seems above the power level curve in
a vacuum is Dissolve.
Prognostic Sphinx is overrated as a good control finisher, even with no wrath effect in the format. It is slow and clunky. Thassa, God of the Sea loses
most of her fishy friends and might be used as a weak card selection spell in the future, but will have trouble getting turned on. Master of Waves could be
a sideboard card versus red decks but really wants a bunch of cheap blue mana symbols to be good.
Blue is the color of “He has potential, if only he applied himself.” There are a bunch of cards that are frustratingly close to being good but just aren’t
Jace, the Living Guildpact is a very long shot, that I don’t feel is quite good enough, but I believe if he has a home, it’s in a control deck that wants
his card selection and bounce. Jace always seems to be underestimated and ends up overperforming, but this guy might have found the bottom of the barrel.
Chasm Skulker basically demands an answer or he’ll eventually explode into a million Squid, which is pretty good.
Polymorphist’s Jest is quite the blowout and pretty much trumps everything out there in a creature showdown.
Jace, Architect of Thought was really powerful and will be missed. Never take a good Jace for granted.
White is not all that deep as far as quality goes, but Elspeth, Sun’s Champion is probably the card with the most raw power behind it in Standard. It is
basically the best wrath effect that will exist and able to single-handedly control games.
Banishing Light kills gods, planeswalkers, and fat creatures alike. Susceptible to the abundant enchantment removal but too efficient to pass up.
Soldier of the Pantheon is still a ridiculously efficient beater that should benefit from Khans multicolor cards despite Ravnica rotating.
Brimaz, King of Oreskos is the white Goblin Rabblemaster that stacks up quite well against all sorts of strategies just by being very efficiently costed.
Good on offense and defense and capable of getting out of hand quickly.
Ephemeral Shields kind of seems like a joke card, but anything that can be cast for free and have the potential to create a huge tempo swing should not be
Fated Retribution might be too slow against aggro decks but can act as the perfect reset button against midrange. As far as unconditional wrath effects,
this might be the best we have.
Ajani Steadfast is great in swarm decks and for keeping pesky red cards from killing you.
Well that doesn’t seem so bad when you don’t include the white multicolor cards. R.I.P. Supreme Verdict.
Red has a seemingly endless supply of good burn and fast creatures. Pretty basic suite of cast em’ and blast em’ cards.
Goblin Rabblemaster is at the top of the heap: cheap, aggressive, and generates value every turn. Absolutely one of the best things aggro can be doing.
Don’t want your newly created goblin to chump attack into an enemy creature? Just tap it to convoke out Stoke the Flames, which happens to already be very
good at getting creatures, planeswalkers, and players dead.
I dread thinking about a world where Ensoul Artifact and Shrapnel Blast take four big bites of your life total and you die. I expect they were very careful
printing these cards, but all it takes is a little push.
Aggressive Mining is just begging to be broken and only needs one powerful synergistic card to push it into broken territory.
Soul of Shandalar is actually my pick for what will turn out to be the best Soul in constructed. It is absolutely impossible to deal with in combat and can
pressure planeswalkers very well. Two turns of attacking and activating is an eighteen point life total swing. Even if it gets killed immediately, a
five-mana Searing Blaze is quite fine.
These are some sweet red spells leaving, but there will always be more burn spells and efficient red beaters.
Thoughtseize still seems like a reasonable and fair card… in Vintage. Alongside Hero’s Downfall it makes for a very good one-two punch that’s effective
against any strategy except the most aggro of decks.
Gnarled Scarhide continues to be undercosted and is the champion for Mono-Black Aggro.
Silence the Believers is solid instant speed removal with upsides in the form of exiling creatures and the ability to scale.
Brain Maggot is a very good compliment to Thoughtseize, especially in a world without Supreme Verdict to clear it away with every other creature. It also
has the upside of being an enchantment for Eidolon of Blossoms and convokes out Chord of Calling or can be Chorded into on their draw step.
Worst Fears is unlikely to have a high impact, but if the format breaks a certain way it could be decent. It’s strong with and against planeswalkers and
could be a useful tool to catch an opponent off guard and win a midrange matchup.
It’s time for a Pied Piper card to get printed because the rat is finally being driven out of town (though it’s already started infesting Modern).
Mono-Black Devotion decks should be a thing of the past and Lifebane Zombie going away will allow green decks to breathe again.
Wowzers! Green is absolutely chock full of amazing cards and my pick for the most powerful color going into the rotation.
Ramp and card advantage is where the goodness starts. Next is Nissa, Worldwaker who can create an endless stream of 4/4 beaters. Setessan Tactics is a
brutal trump in creature mirrors. Round out the color with some undercosted fatties and you are looking at a winner.
Reclamation Sage should have plenty of targets and will likely be in most green deck’s sideboards for as long as it remains legal.
Arbor Colossus is still a great trump to Stormbreath Dragon and an enabler/mana sink for Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. Give it trample, and have it help
animate your Nylea, God of the Hunt to crush your opponent in a couple swings.
I think Genesis Hydra might be the superior choice over Chord of Calling. It is a very similar effect to cascade, which is one of the most powerful
keywords of all time. It can even cheat planeswalkers into play, uncounterable and good to go.
What will Standard with Khans look like? Impossible to say without trying the new cards. Hopefully you have a few ideas for cards to try once the new set is released though. I think all these cards have the potential and the raw power to show up in the next winning strategy. Playing with the cards is always the best way to understand which strategies will work best, and I know I can’t wait to see what Khans has to offer.
Which cards do you think are going to have a shot at breaking Standard?