Hello fellow Looters! We are in the midst of the final week before Shadows Over Innistrad (SOI) releases. The pre-release was this past weekend, and I hope you all had fun playing with the new cards! So with SOI so close, I figured it is time to talk about Standard. There are going to be a lot of changes from this last season and this is one of the benefits, (or detriments, depending on who you ask,) of the Standard Format. Obviously, we won’t know until the cards hit the table (hopefully in sleeves…) but hopefully this will get you thinking about the format.
General Format Changes?
The biggest way we will see standard change during this rotation is the power reduction of available mana. Now, we are not losing the ability to play multiple colors as there are still plenty of lands in the format (Pain Lands, Battle Lands, Man Lands, The new SOI land cycle, etc.). Let me put it in perspective, though. Currently, with fetch lands and battle lands, it is possible to use one fetch to get one of any four colors and even untapped a good portion of the time. This allowed four color decks like Abzan Blue, Mardu Green, Four Color Rally, and every other deck with an uncreative name to run rampant. To put it in the words of Patrick Chapin, “You don’t have to ask yourself if you can afford to play this card, you have to ask yourself, why not?” Why not splash Jace or Siege Rhino? With the loss of the fetch lands, we are now losing the ability to have such a streamlined mana base. In addition, tri-lands and gain-a-life duels are out the door as well. It is still very possible to run that many colors but you run a heavier risk of stumbling and your deck will be a lot slower with more lands entering tapped. I fully expect to see many more two to three color decks during this standard format, which will be a welcomed change for me.
KHHAAAAN!’s of Tarkir is parting ways with standard and ushering in the slow climb of fetches until Wizards decides to reprint them. It is taking its buddy Fate Reforged with it and, between the two of them, that is a lot of cards (454 to be exact). The most notable cards we are losing from standard, aside from fetch lands, are the hyper-efficient three-color cards. This includes things like Siege Rhino, Mantis Rider, Abzan Charm, Crackling Doom, Big Knucks, and a bunch of other cards loved by these four-color decks. There was nothing stopping decks from jamming these cards for almost no additional effort and it really crushed the playability of some otherwise great cards. Mana is supposed to be a restriction and I am glad we are returning to a world where more tough deck-building choices need to be made.
What decks are we losing?
Abzan Aggro – Will Abzan completely disappear? Probably not, but with the loss of Khan’s of Tarkir, they are losing a lot of the cards that make the deck super powerful. Warden of the First Tree, Siege Rhino, Anafenza, and Abzan Charm are all rotation which leaves the wedge less supported.
Rally – When a deck loses its namesake, it is usually not going to survive rotation. That being said, most of the other pieces remain short of Grim Haruspex. Depending on what graveyard synergy we see, from Eldritch Moon and with Collected Company still in the format, we could see an efficient creature combo deck remain strong. Plus we still have to deal with Reflector Mage…
Hardened Scales – Same goes with this namesake card. Khans also housed a good number of counter’s matters cards which will squish counter strategies until they are better supported. Counters will go from being a combo to just being… regular I guess. There are still plenty of powerful counter strategies that could make their way into standard.
Most 4/5 Color Decks – They won’t be impossible to build but we definitely will not see as many of them moving forward. That being said, I could probably 100% see a 4 color super friends deck or something similar being in the format.
What decks could we see?
Tribal (Vampire, Werewolves, and Zombies Oh My!) – There are so many awesome tribal cards that we are seeing from this set. I would not be surprised at all to see Zombies, Spirits, or Werewolves become a playable Standard deck. This being said, I don’t see any of them being top tier. The simple fact is, you limit yourself when building around a specific tribe which at times can cost you a slot that would have gone to a slightly better creature. This won’t stop people from building tribal decks as they are some of the most fun decks to play and they are really well-supported this time around! I could fully believe a Humans, Vampire, or Werewolf deck taking down a GP at least once as well. Eldritch Moon should make this category even strong as it will add cards without causing a rotation.
Reanimator – This was a deck that saw a lot of play in the original Innistrad Standard environment and was very powerful. Ever After and Necromantic Summons are two very powerful spells that bring things straight from the graveyard to the battlefield. I think we need to figure out some better targets as currently most of the powerful effects trigger on casting the creature rather than entering the battlefield. That being said, I am all for another Reanimator deck, (assuming there is hate for it in the format, of course).
Artifact – Color me crazy, but this archetype is something to investigate. Origins is host to all sorts of Artifacts with a high power level. Cards like Thopter Spy Network could take over an entire game and with the introduction of Clues, I think there could be something here. There are not too many constructed playable clue producers, however, in my head I have delusions of tapping six Clues with Ghirapur Aether Grid to have a repeatable Lightning Bolt. You never quite lose that ecstatic brewer in the back of your head. We also still have creatures like Hangarback Walker and all of the various thopter producers as well.
I think the format is going through a well needed change. Normally when a new block rotates in, it has a theme and it is supposed to have hate cards that weakens previous strategies to allow new cards to shine. Battle for Zendikar fell short as it failed to bring much to the table and did little to break the hold that Khan’s of Tarkir had over the format. There was little punishment for player playing tons of colors. Aggro was in too weak a spot as removal was everywhere. Now that Khans is rotating, I am not sure how Standard will look but I am a big fan of keeping things new and exciting which is why I love the Standard format.
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