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Lost in Rotation: Fall 2016 Edition


Hello everyone and welcome to MTGGodfish's newest installment of Lost in Rotation! With the Kaladesh Prerelease events just a couple of weeks away, it is time to have a look at the current Standard metagame and how the current Tier 1 archetypes will be affected. Let's jump right in! 

Major cards rotating out

Come September 30, Kaladesh and its 264 cards will become Standard legal. At the same time we will be saying goodbye to Dragons of Tarkir, the final set of the Khans of Tarkir block (KTK-FRF-DTK), and Magic Origins, which will be remembered as the last Core Set ever printed.

Let's take a look at the main cards that will not be legal any more.

Painlands

Caves of Koilos [ORI]Shivan Reef [ORI]Llanowar Wastes [ORI]Battlefield Forge [ORI]Yavimaya Coast [ORI]

The enemy-colors Painlands were included in Origins for the second Core Set in a row, and turned out to be very relevant once Colorless mana was revealed as part of the Oath of the Gatewatch "mechanics." On top of being one of the rare sources of multicolored mana that comes into play untapped, Painlands also facilitate the inclusion of cards like Eldrazi Displacer, Matter Reshaper, Thought-Knot Seer, and Reality Smasher in deck archetypes. Currently, the replacement available for enemy colored lands are the Battle for Zendikar block manlands and the set of uncommon lands from Shadows over Innistrad. However both sets have the major downside of being a turn slower than their Origins counterpart. They also do not provide Colorless mana, meaning Eldrazi aficionados will have to look elsewhere for their mana sources.

Origins Planeswalkers

Kytheon, Hero of Akros [ORI]Jace, Vryn's Prodigy [ORI]Liliana, Heretical Healer [ORI]Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh [ORI]Nissa, Vastwood Seer [ORI]

The "Baby Walkers" will also be departing: except for Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh who shows up in the Sideboard of some Mono Red lists, they have all enjoyed a shining moment in the spotlight. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy was a superstar of his own, his price climbing north of $90 when the Jeskai Black archetype was dominating Standard. Nissa, Vastwood Seer has seen play in a variety of Jund and Bant lists, while Liliana, Heretical Healer made headlines along with the new UB Aristocrats deck during Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar (see Christian Calcano pilot the deck here). Kytheon, Hero of Akros was the Ugly Duckling for a while, before the emergence of MonoW Humans lists once Shadows over Innistrad hit the shelves.

Dragons of Tarkir Staples

Collected Company [DTK]Dromoka's Command [DTK]Den Protector [DTK]Deathmist Raptor [DTK]Secure the Wastes [DTK]Ultimate Price [DTK]Dragonlord Atarka [DTK]Dragonlord Ojutai [DTK]Ojutai's Command [DTK]Atarka's Command [DTK]

Dragons of Tarkir brought a lot of spells that made an immediate impact to both Standard and Modern landscapes. Collected Company and Secure the Wastes have, almost by themselves, allowed two new archetypes to sit for a while at the top of the metagame. Looking at more "classic" archetypes, Dragonlord Ojutai was the win condition that most Control players were looking for, while Atarka's Command became a mainstay in most Burn lists. Supporters of the Esper Control deck will be losing two important reprints in Ultimate Price and Duress, with Murder and Transgress the Mind being their respective alternatives. Finally, I think I will not be the only player who will miss the duet of Den Protector and Deathmist Raptor as meaningful representatives of the returning Morph mechanic. While the former found a spot in Jund and Bant builds alike, the only appearances of the Dancing Dino were limited to some Dredge builds that try and abuse the Deathmist Raptor / Prized Amalgam interaction, much like SaffronOlive did in his Budget Magic series.

Honorable mentions: Dragonlord Atarka, Ojutai's Command, Kolaghan's Command, Dragonlord Silumgar, Explosive Vegetation, Anafenza, Kin-Tree Spirit, Thunderbreak Regent.

Origins Staples

Languish [ORI]Demonic Pact [ORI]Dark Petition [ORI]Hangarback Walker [ORI]Knight of the White Orchid [ORI]Fiery Impulse [ORI]Pia and Kiran Nalaar [ORI]Clash of Wills [ORI]Sphinx's Tutelage [ORI]Elvish Visionary [ORI]

Maybe it is a case of "what have you done for me lately," but it feels like Origins brought to Standard a lot more relevant cards than Magic 2015 did, at least as far as Rares and Mythics are concerned. That is particularly true for Black Control players: between Languish, Demonic Pact and Read the Bones, Origins really delivered the goods. And who could forget Dark Petition, featured alongside Seasons Past in a BG Control deck piloted by none other than Jon Finkel during Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad. The rest of the color pie cannot complain too much, though: between reprints, utility cards, and archetype-building spells (I'm looking at you, Sphinx's Tutelage), there were enough gems to satisfy mages of all horizons. Origins even had TWO "Goblin Rabblemaster" a.k.a. The Most Overlooked Card In The Spoiler List That Ended Up Being Gas: Hangarback Walker and the previously mentioned Jace, Vryn's Prodigy.

Honorable mentions: Tragic Arrogance, Archangel of Tithes, Day's Undoing, Nissa's Pilgrimage, Exquisite Firecraft, Abbot of Keral Keep, Hallowed Moonlight, Infinite Obliteration, Evolutionary Leap, Thopter Spy Network, Orbs of Warding.

 

The Elephant in the Room

Bant Company represents an insane 33% of the Standard metagame right now! Looking at our Metagame page, there are five times more Bant Company decks being played (110) than MonoW Humans or BW Control (23). So the biggest question is: since the deck got its name from the landmark card from Dragons of Tarkir, how will it fare once Collected Company rotates out? What we can actually expect is that it remains Tier 1. As discussed in Podcast 084, the deck is essentially designed as a 3-color "good stuff," which is also part of the appeal of this archetype.

Since CoCo will not be here as a mean to cheat creatures into play (or land you a miraculous Spell Queller and/or Reflector Mage during your opponent's turn), the deck's tempo is due to slow down. The same arguments apply to the Bant Humans build, which is a tad more aggressive and has piqued my interest with the inclusion of Heron's Grace Champion (albeit as a Sideboard card). One card that might benefit from this change: Tamiyo, Field Researcher. The new Bant Planeswalker has already started showing up in at least the Sideboard of a few lists, like the one above, and with the abundance of creatures in the deck, Tamiyo's +1 ability will more than likely help you replenish your hand on a consistent basis and find new threats. I did consider the case of Eldritch Evolution, but at sorcery speed it is nearly impossible to use as a toolbox solution since a lot of times the target would be Spell Queller or Reflector Mage, which have the biggest value at instant speed. Plus, it would require sacrificing board presence and losing on the Aggro aspect of the deck. All in all, I believe it is safe to expect various builds of Bant Good Stuff to keep thrusting to the top tables even after rotation.

 

What the Top Tier Decks will lose

Let us have a look at the next decks atop the Standard metagame and what cards will have to be replaced. Here I looked at ten popular builds, leaving 4-color Emerge aside since it is similar to the Temur Emerge archetype. The main difference is running the Haunted Dead / Prized Amalgam synergy rather than ramping towards large Emerge creatures and Emrakul, the Promised End. Come rotation, this deck will have to make do without Jace, Vryn's Prodigy or Gather the Pack.

Deck Name % of the Metagame Main cards (at least 2 copies between Main Deck and Sideboard) rotating out
BW Control 6.87 Hallowed Moonlight, Languish, Ultimate Price, Read the Bones, Duress, Infinite Obliteration, Secure the Wastes
Mono W Humans 6.57 Knight of the White Orchid, Dragon Hunter, Anointer of Champions
BG Delirium 6.27 Nissa, Vastwood Seer, Languish, Duress
Jund Delirium 4.48 Nissa, Vastwood Seer, Nissa's Pilgrimage, Explosive Vegetation, Languish
Temur Emerge 4.48 Gather the Pack, Nissa's Pilgrimage, Evolutionary Leap
UR Thermo-Thing 3.58 Fiery Impulse, Clash of Wills, Pia and Kira Nalaar
GW Tokens 3.28 Hangarback Walker, Dromoka's Command, Evolutionary Leap, Tragic Arrogance
BU Zombies 2.39 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Duress
UW Spirit 2.09 Ojutai's Command, Clash of Wills

One of the recent breakout decks in the Standard scene, BW Control, is the one deck that will have to look for replacements the most: Murder and Succumb to Temptation could be picked as fill-ins for Ultimate Price and Read the Bones, but finding a board wipe as efficient as Languish is difficult. But hey, there is still a chance Kaladesh gets the Damnation repr... alright, alright, I'll see myself out.

For the most part, the other decks will not be losing key, make-or-break pieces, pointing to the fact that the current state of Standard is heavily influenced by the Shadows over Innistrad block. Our Podcast crew even went so far as comparing the format to Block Constructed, which is not really that much of a stretch when you consider what these decks are built around: Delirium, Thermo-Thing, Spirits, and Zombies—all block-specific themes. Therefore the transition to the Standard of Kaladesh will probably not claim too many victims.

One thing to keep in mind is that Kaladesh is looking like a block centered around artifacts and artifacts creatures. The Clue mechanic from Shadows over Innistrad might become relevant again if the number of artifacts in play end up mattering. Cards like Thopter Engineer, Ghirapur Aether Grid, Thopter Spy Network, and Whirler Rogue could also see a reprint, which would allow me to keep running this Temur Cluestorm deck (alas minus Hangarback Walker).

Just for Fun - The Biggest Loser

I actually set the tenth deck apart from the table above, simply because it is a thing of beauty. Within seconds of Harmless Offering being spoiled, there was a collective gasp among old-school players: they could play Illusions of Grandeur / Donate again! If handled correctly, the Demonic Pact/  Harmless Offering combo is even more devestating since the Pact explicitly states, "You lose the game." Plus, look at this little kitty; isn't he the cutest thing? *ahem* Anyway, this particular archetype will have only lasted just about two months, unless Kaladesh offers anything juicy to ship over to the opponent . . .

 

Conclusion

That is all for now; I hope this column was helpful to you. Feel free to leave your feedback and comments in the section below to further the discussion. Be sure to check the site regularly as we will keep up to date with the latest information!


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