Looking To The Future Of Standard With Kaladesh

Pro Tour Champion Shaun McLaren cannot wait for Collected Company to take a bow and get out of the way! Because Kaladesh is coming! It’s bringing Vehicles, Gearhulks, and a lot of fun with it! Which Kaladesh cards does Shaun have his eye on?

The arrival of the fantastical world of Kaladesh approaches, and with it come big changes to the Standard format.

Not only will Kaladesh’s gripping gadgets and gizmos grace our gathering, but we’ll also be losing some old cards as well. It’s time to tuck in Magic Origins and Dragons of Tarkir, tenderly kiss them goodnight, turn off the lights, and then gently smother them with a pillow, because those sets are about to be put permanently to rest in Standard.

Once Kaladesh arrives Standard will look like:

Battle for Zendikar

Oath of the Gatewatch

Shadows over Innistrad

Eldritch Moon


This will be the first time we fully experience Standard without a core set, and only two sets per block. From now on, whenever a new block rotates in, the oldest block rotates out.

It looks like we’ll be leaving behind a Standard format primarily dominated by Emrakul, the Promised End and Collected Company, if the Standard metagame at Worlds was any accurate indication. One of these cards (Collected Company) is leaving for good soon. The other (Emrakul, the Promised End) has not yet proven itself as being impossible to dethrone.

As the preview cards for Kaladesh start to roll in, it’s time to start looking to the future.

Today I’ll be taking a look at some of the key cards that will be leaving Standard, some of the cards currently in Standard sticking around that might have a chance to shine, and look to the future of what Standard might end up looking like alongside some of the most powerful new cards from Kaladesh.

First of all, what are we losing in each color?

Rotating Out


The Mono-White Humans deck looks to be taking a major hit here, losing most of its best one-drops. It had a startlingly high amount of excellent 2/1s for one mana, so it’s unlikely that the new set will fill that void and the deck will have to change drastically, perhaps adapting with a higher curve, if it ends up existing at all post-rotation.

Hallowed Moonlight was originally the ultimate blowout against Rally the Ancestors but ended up having plenty of good uses against Collected Company and token generators. It never ended up being enough to really drive out Collected Company, though, and even fell out of favor in appearing in sideboards (there were none at the World Championships!… but decklists were public), despite Collected Company being so prominent. This is largely in part because Hallowed Moonlight did little to nothing against the rest of Bant Company, and also because Collected Company decks could play around it if they were careful.

Archangel of Tithes had a few moments in the sun, but was ultimately too expensive for the aggro decks that could support triple white.

Tragic Arrogance was a real sideboard, and sometimes maindeck, all-star for many reasons. You got to control the effect, it couldn’t be stopped by indestructibility, and it was capable of completely turning games around. It’s always tragic to see a card go in its prime.

Yoked Ox was of course a staple card in Bant Company decks, mostly due to its eggcellence in the mirror and being a oxcellent hit off of Collected Company. It was capable of blocking most creatures in the format and could even attack. It’s not quite clear if Tasseled Dromedary will make it over the hump of being a format all-star like Yoked Ox, but I’m hopeful it will.


Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, we had a good run, buddy. Don’t worry; you’re about due for a broken version of yourself to get printed again.

Clash of Wills is one of the best options as far as countermagic goes at the moment, so if something doesn’t fill that void, we’ll be stuck with Cancel variants.

Day’s Undoing is notable because the Mono-Blue Prison deck is rotating, and because it was being used in Bant Company largely because it was strangely the most powerful graveyard hate in the format.

Whirler Rogue probably could’ve had a chance to be restored to its former glory in Kaladesh. Instead it’s gone.

Sight Beyond Sight was a fringe enabler to make Crush of Tentacles amazing on turn 5. There are still plenty of good one-drops for Crush, though.


Languish is probably going to leave the biggest hole when it leaves. It was absolutely crucial for black control decks looking to fight back against swarms of creatures. I’m hopeful that something will come along to fill the Wrath of God slot, even if it isn’t black this time around.

Losing Infinite Obliteration is a blow to anyone looking to permanently stop Emrakul, the Promised End before it gets cast.

Duress will be missed. It is a great sideboard card to have available. Right now it looks like Transgress the Mind is going to have to do all the heavy lifting in the upcoming format.

Harmless Offering had a good run. Demonic Pact was able to make some people (sometimes the original caster, sometimes not) lose the game for a little while at least.

Virulent Plague won’t be able to take out the upcoming wave of Thopters and Servos. I suppose it’s hard to develop a plague for robots.


Red has had a rough time in Standard recently. Many of the cards on this list really aren’t seeing much play right now. Some of them, like Abbot of Keral Keep, Thunderbreak Regent, Lightning Berserker, and Roast, were very dominant a while back, but recently red has had a rough go of it.

That might all be changing soon if Chandra, Torch of Defiance is as good as she appears to be.


How about just one more whiff for old times’ sake, Collected Company? No thanks. I think everyone is breathing a sigh of relief here, even if you were one of the fortunate people playing the card more often than not.

Nissa, Vastwood Seer proved to be amazing in all sorts of strategies. She was great in the late-game as a planeswalker, great in the early-game if you needed to hit your fourth land drop, great with emerge, and great to return from the graveyard with Liliana, the Last Hope; Den Protector; or Grapple with the Past. Best Pilgrim’s Eye ever!

Two powerful ramp spells in Explosive Vegetation and Nissa’s Pilgrimage are going bye-bye, just when the way to cast all these expensive Eldrazi appears to be clear.


Goodbye overpowered Dragons, goodbye overpowered Commands. It was fun while it lasted.

Uhhh, sorry, Sarkhan Unbroken. Maybe next time you’ll be a little better, buddy.

Artifacts and Lands

Hangarback Walker would’ve really liked another shot at glory in the artifact block; alas, it was not meant to be.

The painland cycle is being replaced with:

Great lands that have an interesting drawback and huge implications for Modern. Maybe it will finally be time for those upstart black and green Jund and Abzan decks to shine in Modern, thanks to Blooming Marsh.

Standing to Gain

Next we have a short list of cards that I think may improve due to the rotation getting rid of some cards that kept them in check, while opening the door for strategies they may do well in.

Already showing up for some time now as a way to chain Eldrazi, but it may be more important to not run out of gas if the format slows even more.

Could red be great again? Dragonmaster Outcast is great with Grapple with the Past, Traverse the Ulvenwald, and Lilana, the Last Hope as a very mana-efficient game-ender.

If everyone’s focused on artifacts and there’s no Dromoka’s Command around, then it’s time to exile the opposition. They also work fine against Emrakul, the Promised End, since you can’t target your own permanents.

Drana, Liberator of Malakir has never really done anything and I don’t see why she would now. This is more just a reminder she exists and seems like a powerful card in case you’re interested in breaking her. Thopter tokens, maybe?

It’s an artifact, which might be relevant really soon, and it ramps and draws cards. Seems good.

Whenever a set rotates, it’s a good time to reevaluate all the old planeswalkers that didn’t see as much play and reassess what was holding them back.

I’m most interested in Kiora, Master of the Depths, especially if a good creature that ramps gets printed.

There are already a lot of juicy new targets to blink in the new set. Gonti, Lord of Luxury; Cataclysmic Gearhulk; Verdurous Gearhulk…you could even use it to tap Depala, Pilot Exemplar!

Blue control decks have not been in a great spot lately, but if they do happen to get the right tools printed, Summary Dismissal will be crucial for fighting back against Emrakul, the Promised End.

The Future

It’s obviously hard to say exactly what Standard will look like without full knowledge of what Kaladesh brings to the table, but there are some strong card clusters fitting into archetypes that don’t lose much that will likely form the initial decks to beat.

Emrakul, the Promised End seems like it will be a large chunk of the future Standard format to me. It is easily one of the most powerful things you can be doing in the format. The fact that it’s been able to mostly hold its own against Collected Company decks is a good indication, and the archetypes it appears in aren’t losing much.

Emrakul, the Promised End is very good but it also does a good job of not just always immediately ending the game once you cast it. It’s not impossible to beat a resolved Emrakul, the Promised End if you came prepared. It’s also skill-testing and can be very fun at times, so even if the tentacle overlord takes over, it won’t be complete doom and gloom.

Emrakul, the Promised End can and will continue to show up and be the focal point in a lot of different decks if there isn’t strong counterplay available for it.

Graveyard hate is the number one thing that would keep Emrakul, the Promised End in check. Something like Relic of Progenitus or Nihil Spellbomb that all decks have access to is exactly what the format needs. Anything at all would be helpful, because right now there are slim pickings, so some of the top minds in Kaladesh better be working on inventing the Grave Sweeper 9000.

Elder Deep-Fiend makes up the other half of the terrible tentacle tag team. It is also a card that is difficult to play back against, because to effectively neutralize it, you have to be preemptively picking off emerge fodder creatures that often generate value as they get cast.

The newest fodder is Filigree Familiar, Solemn Similacrum’s pet, which is a foxy-looking card that really fil-agrees with my sensibilities. Adding a couple minor benefits like lifegain, an artifact subtype, and the ability to fit into any deck is going to make this Exultant Cultist Standard-playable in my estimation.

Grapple with the Past has proven itself to not only be incredibly versatile but also incredibly powerful at all stages of the game. It enables delirium and then brings back the cards that benefit from it. It’s one of the ideal cards to pair with Emrakul, the Promised End, and as the game goes on, both cards only get better and better.

Liliana, the Last Hope has proven herself to be great with Emrakul, the Promised End as well and very capable of buying plenty of time against fast creature decks or just rushing to a surprisingly fast and effective ultimate.

Transgress the Mind seems like it will be very crucial to the success of black decks going forward. It being able to exile a threat is important, since there are so many good ways to dig up graveyards right now.

Turns out white still has a bunch of great midrange cards and it just got one more.

Cataclysmic Gearhulk is going to be a major player in Standard. Here are the details:

Cataclysmic Gearhulk – 3WW
Artifact Creature – Construct


” tooltip=”Vigilance”>Vigilance
When Cataclysmic Gearhulk enters the battlefield, each player chooses from among the non-land permanents he or she controls an artifact, a creature, an enchantment, and a planeswalker, then sacrifices the rest.

It’s an artifact creature, which is great. If you have a valuable artifact and play Cataclysmic Gearhulk, you get to keep Cataclysmic Gearhulk from being sacrificed by its Tragic Arrogance ability as your creature. If you have a valuable creature and play Cataclysmic Gearhulk, you get to keep Cataclysmic Gearhulk around as your artifact.

The only tragic part about this amazing robotic man is that your opponent gets to decide what cards they want to keep around and which they want to sacrifice, which significantly reduces its effect compared to Tragic Arrogance, where you got to do the choosing. On the other hand, you get a freaking 4/5 with vigilance.

It still destroys most of the battlefield when you’re up against swarms of creatures while providing a body to block with. Cataclysmic Gearhulk also works particularly well with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, since after you’ve turned Gideon, Ally of Zendikar into a real boy with his +1, you can choose not to sacrifice it as your creature or planeswalker.

Even if it just ends up making your opponent sacrifice one or two creatures, that’s still an amazing deal on an amazing card.

Spirits, anyone? Yup, there are still plenty more powerful white cards looking for a home. It might be time for blue and white to pair up and shine in an aggressive tempo shell. Maybe just throw some green in for Sylvan Advocate and Tireless Tracker, and then Tamiyo, Field Researcher to top off the curve… oh, wait. Forget I said anything.

Chandra, Torch of Defiance is going to carry the torch for red decks.

It seems like there isn’t really a red deck that she doesn’t fit into due to her versatility and power.

It’s probably even best to start by comparing her to Jace, the Mind Sculptor, scarily enough.

She has a lot going on.

Her first plus ability is almost two abilities combined: draw a card in the late-game (if it’s a non-land, since you can’t play the lands she reveals) when you have your mana ready or deal two damage to an opponent. This ability makes me interested in Oath of Chandra. If you have Oath of Chandra out, you can cast Chandra, Torch of Defiance and deal four damage to an opposing planeswalker (or just your opponent’s face.) Being able to kill their planeswalker, perhaps a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, while plussing yours is a huge swing.

The fact that she can also ramps as well means she can really slot into any type of deck. Emrakul, the Promised End doesn’t mind if you’re doing a little ramping.

So she: draws cards, protects herself, ramps, costs four mana, has high starting loyalty, has a game-winning ultimate.

Seems like a winner to me.

There’s going to be an artifact deck, right? So far there are a bunch of powerful individual artifacts but no clear theme for an artifact-centric deck. Maybe energy will end up being the focus here.

I’m just hyped to see what comes next, because so far it’s looking like a lot of fun.