Magical Christmasland Twice A Year!

Spoiler alert: Brian Kibler likes more rotations! Here, he tells you about the wonderful world that exists with only eighteen months of Lifebane Zombie and his preferred deck going into the #SCGINVI!

Wizards dropped a bombshell earlier this week when they made a huge announcement about the future of Magic block structure and its
implications for the Standard rotation policy.

In case you spend the week living under a rock and only come out on Fridays to read my articles, here are the details of the announcement:

Instead of one three-set block and a core set each year, from now on, the Magic release schedule is going to consist of a pair of separate two-set blocks.
Next year’s M16 will be the last core set that Magic releases.

This is already a pretty big change, but it gets bigger. Along with the new release schedule comes a new rotation policy. Whenever the first set of a new
block enters into Standard, the oldest block in the format leaves. Since two blocks will be coming out each year with the new schedule, this means that
instead of just one big rotation, Standard will have two smaller rotations – one in the fall, as it has always been, and another in the spring.

I joked on Twitter that this whole announcement was part of a long con – that Wizards had clearly set up the entire Standard environment of the past year
in order to make this change and have everyone celebrate. That’s an excuse for reprinting Thoughtseize I could understand!

And people have been celebrating. In my twenty plus years of playing Magic, this is the first time I can remember that reception for an announced change
has been so overwhelmingly positive. It’s almost eerie how unlike the Magic community this is. I kind of feel like I’m in a horror movie, and it’s one of
those “it’s quiet…too quiet” moments where everyone is just waiting for something terrible to happen. Nothing is ever this easy with the Magic community,
is it?

Except this is different. This isn’t some change to the rules, or the card frame, or the font, or anything like that. This is basically saying “Instead of
one Christmas each year, we’re going to have TWO! What do you think about that?”

Rotations really are Magic’s Christmas. They’re the most fun time of the year, when we get to play with all kinds of shiny new toys. But we’ve got to get
rid of some old toys to make room for them.

Rotations are what keep Magic fresh and exciting. The constantly shifting landscape of Standard is what has kept me fascinated with this game for so many
years. Every new pool of cards is a new puzzle to solve – a new challenge to overcome.

I was disappointed when the Pro Tour schedule was announced without Block Constructed because exploring a relatively new format has always been my favorite
thing to do in Magic. With this change, however, Standard is going to be more like Block. Sure, it will consist of a whole lot more cards, but it will
experience big shifts much more frequently, and it will be fresh twice as often as before.

The only downside to this change that I have seen mentioned is that cards will have a shorter lifespan during which they are legal in Standard. Instead of
some cards – those from the large fall expansion – having a “shelf life” of twenty-four months, pretty much all cards will have the same eighteen month
period of legality as current third set cards.

On the flipside, the elimination of core sets also means that we no longer have to deal with the strange phenomenon of those cards only being legal for
just over a year. This has certainly led to some weirdness in the past, especially with mythic rares. I know that the Titans, for instance, were reprinted
even when R&D didn’t particularly want to do so because of concerns about the short length of their legality, leading to another year of Primeval Titan

Then again…I suppose I shouldn’t complain about that one…

Even outside of the rotation implications, there are a lot of other reasons to be excited about this change. Moving away from the three-set block structure
means that WOTC has a lot more freedom to explore different mechanics over the lifespan of a Standard format. One of the things that can be frustrating to
many players about some formats is when decks feel like they are essentially constructed by R&D. This is especially the case for linear mechanics like
Affinity or Infect, but it can also be the case for more seemingly open-ended mechanics like devotion, as we saw this year.

With three blocks worth of mechanics to build from, Standard is likely to have much more potential for diversity. Imagine if instead of having a few
Slivers spread out between M14 and M15, we actually had a two-set block where they were featured. There would have been so many more opportunities to do
cool things with them! The mini-themes between consecutive core sets have always been somewhat awkward, because they only existed in Standard together for
a very short time, which doesn’t give anyone much of a chance to really explore them. With an entire additional block instead of a pair of loosely linked
core sets, I expect there to be significantly more opportunities to build around cool cards and themes.

All told, I think the change is great, and I look forward to next year when we will experience it for the first time. And, coincidentally, when
Thoughtseize will be gone, but that’s another matter entirely.

But we can’t look only to the future. We must still live in the present, and there is still another month until the next rotation, that promised time when
Lifebane Zombie will leave us forever. And there just so happens to be a big tournament coming up this weekend, with the Season Three Invitational making
its way to Patrick Sullivan’s home town of New Jersey. I won’t be in attendance myself, since I’m speaking on a panel at the PAX Prime gaming convention in
Seattle, but I have to say I am a little bit jealous of all of you who are making it out that way. Especially because G/W Aggro is still great, and I’d
really like another chance to play it.

Speaking of G/W Aggro, let’s take a look at Daniel Snow’s third place list from this past weekend’s Standard Open in Washington DC.

I like a lot of what’s going on here. The big difference between this and more standard G/W Aggro builds is the two drop split. Instead of playing four
copies each of Fleecemane Lion and Voice of Resurgence, Daniel split both of those at three apiece and added three copies of Call of the Conclave. Call of
the Conclave is a card that I was debating playing myself after the Pro Tour, though I felt like I wanted it in addition to the other two drops rather than
instead of them. My reasoning was that I mostly just wanted another cheap creature or two, since the deck’s most powerful draws are the ones in which it
curves out effectively.

I don’t know Daniel’s logic behind his split, but one argument I could see is simply to avoid getting blown out by Bile Blight. Playing a mix of different
creatures in the early turns is an important element of your gameplan against black devotion decks so you can’t get two-for-one’d and lose a huge amount of
tempo to the black instant, but sometimes your draw simply doesn’t allow it when you play four copies of each. I have to say though, that it’s hard to
argue that you could possibly want to cut any number of Voice of Resurgence because of vulnerability to Bile Blight out of black decks, since it not only
replaces itself but also helps protect you against their other removal like Devour Flesh.

I also can’t say that I’m fond of Daniel’s choices for his manabase. I do like 23 land, especially if you lower the curve by removing Boon Satyr, as Daniel
has done here, but I can’t get behind playing a second Temple of Plenty over Mana Confluence. While Mana Confluence can deal a few points of damage to you
over the course of a game – especially if you draw it early or in multiples – you’re much better off taking some pain than being unable to cast your spells
on time. Lowering the mana costs in the deck to improve consistency in curving out and then adding lands that enter the battlefield tapped are just at odds
with one another in principle.

A few things that I do like about Daniel’s modifications to the deck are in the sideboard. Adding Call of the Conclave on top of Advent of the Wurm and
Selesnya Charm (not to mention Voice of Resurgence) gives the deck a minor token theme. This makes cards like Sundering Growth, Rootborn Defenses, and even
Trostani into powerful options. Sundering Growth in particular is a card that has quietly gone up tremendously in value thanks to the enchantment theme of
Theros block and hasn’t really seen a lot of play lately. I have to imagine that Daniel managed to populate a few Centaurs – and maybe even Wurms – while
destroying opposing Nyx-Fleece Rams or Detention Spheres over the weekend.

Lastly, I can’t really agree with playing just two copies of Setessan Tactics in the sideboard. It’s the absolute most powerful card in your worst matchup,
and it also has a ton of value in the mirror and against other creature decks like green devotion.

If I were playing in the Invitational this weekend, my Standard deck would look like this:

On the other hand, I have absolutely no idea what my Legacy deck would look like since I haven’t played that format in ages. Perhaps it’s best that I’m
going to be at PAX instead!

What do you think of the changes coming our way next year? Do you like Christmas twice a year or not?