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Lost in Rotation: What Decks Survive This Fall

Magic Origins becomes Standard legal this week and I'm sure you along with millions of other players are scrambling to put together your new Standard brews. However, the Theros - Magic 2015 - Khans of Tarkir - Magic Origins Standard format is a short-lived one — roughly two months. So as you're building your new decks, it is a good time to look at the future of Standard, especially now that you are equipped with the financial knowledge from SaffronOlive’s Preparing for Rotation series!

The goal of this article is get an idea of what will be left of the existing popular deck archetypes come October 2, when Battle for Zendikar gets released and the Theros block (Theros, Born of the Gods, Journey into Nyx) leaves us. The motivation is both from a strategic and financial standpoint, as this information will help determine what archetype to get out of or into.

Esper Dragon Control

One of the most recent archetypes to emerge from Dragons of Tarkir, Esper Dragon Control also marked the return of a UB control deck in Standard. Dragonlord Ojutai — initially overlooked during set reviews thanks in part to some Prognostic Sphinx deja vu — survives rotation as the main win-con as well as the only reason for the white splash. Three major control pieces disappear in Thoughtseize, Bile Blight and Hero's Downfall, as well as Drown in Sorrow from the sideboard. In the current Standard there are limited possible replacements: Utter End, Murderous Cut, and Duress are the most obvious choices, while Silumgar Sorcerer, Cancel and maybe Negate weigh in on the counterspell side. As far as board wipes go, Magic Origins gives us Languish which should easily find a spot here. The overall synergy of the main deck should not drop too much as there are enough control pieces in Khans block alone, yet Bile Blight can be considered the biggest loss with Mono Red poised to be a strong force moving forward. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver’s help from the sideboard against aggro strategies will also be missed. As expected, the manabase is also affected: all the Temples are rotating out along with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, while the enemy Painlands are back in Magic Origins. Since Khans of Tarkir brought us enemy shards, it means no tri-land for Esper; we're left hoping for some color fixing in Battle for Zendikar, for which everyone is clamoring enemy fetchlands and manlands ...

Based on the list that finished 5th at the 2015 GP Buenos Aires, we are left with this shell:


By the Numbers

Loss in manabase: 33.33% (18 lands left out of 27)
Loss in main deck: 33.33% (22 spells left out of 33)
Loss in sideboard: 40.00% (9 left out of 15)

Replacement Possibilities: Good. 

Notes: Discard, removal and counterspell available in KTK block but still needs allied-colored mana fixing (BFZ?)

Rotation Survival Grade: B+


Bant Heroic

A darling for a few weeks in the early THS-KTK Standard days, Bant Heroic is going to get gutted once BFZ comes out. The two main bodies that made the archetype viable in the first place, Favored Hoplite and Hero of Iroas, will be gone, along with the Ordeals and protection spells. Seeker of the Way and Monastery Mentor are still viable options if the deck shifts its focus from Heroic to Prowess. Bant is got a few more weapons in that department in Magic Origins with the likes of Managorger Hydra, Jhessian Thief and possibly Herald of the Pantheon. Enshrouding Mist, Grasp of the Hieromancer and Mighty Leap have the potential to fill some void, and there could be some synergy between Monastery Mentor and Valor in Akros. Blessed Spirits is another option as well if enchantments are still being considered. Mana Confluence was the most used non-basic, non-fetch land, and Temples are not nearly as heavily used as in Esper Dragon Control. Refuge lands would be more of a band-aid than anything, so again we are left waiting for mana fixing in BFZ.

Based on the list that finished 24th at the 2015 GP Buenos Aires, we are left with this shell:

By the Numbers

Loss in manabase: 40.91% (13 lands left out of 22)
Loss in main deck: 50.00% (19 spells left out of 38)
Loss in sideboard: 26.67% (11 left out of 15)

Replacement Possibilities: Average.

Notes: Needs to shift to Prowess for any chance of survival.

Rotation Survival Grade: D


Abzan Midrange

Abzan-flavored decks have been a major force in Standard since Pro Tour Journey into Nyx. The Midrange version is far and away the most played archetype in the format, representing 21% of the metagame — nearly twice as much as the next most played, RG Devotion. Once Theros block rotates, the deck loses ramp tools (Satyr Wayfinder, Courser of Kruphix), control pieces (Thoughtseize, Hero's Downfall), but also (and maybe more importantly) Elspeth, Sun's Champion, who could single-handedly turn a game around. There doesn't seem to be any real replacement available, at least none that brings the same level of versatility that Elspeth does. Sorin, Solemn Visitor will most likely be considered in that spot, but he can only produce tokens with his minus ability which drastically limits his lifespan compared to Elspeth. Similar to Esper Dragons, Hero's Downfall is very strong in the current metagame since it can eliminate an opposing Elspeth or Ashiok; if no other relevant Planeswalker shows up in the new Standard (which we will find out in the very next weeks with the new Magic Origins flipwalkers), Ultimate Price could be a decent replacement given the strong chance that emphasis shifts away from the multicolor theme. Like mentioned before, Languish is a shoe-in for the control side of this archetype. Builds with Tasigur, the Golden Fang in addition to Siege Rhino should be able to dominate the late game. What definitely needs to be addressed though is the early game and filling the spots left open by Satyr Wayfinder and Courser of Kruphix: Nissa, Vastwood Seer could certainly find a home in the Midrange build, but its legendary tag more than likely prevents any list from running a full playset. As for the manabase, it remains pretty solid losing only Temple of Malady, Temple of Silence and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. With Hero's Downfall and its double-black requirement out of the picture, the singleton Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is not missed that badly; the Refuge duals (Scoured Barrens, Jungle Hollow) can act as a poor man's post-rotation Courser of Kruphix with their lifegain.

Based on Pascal Maynard's list that won the 2015 GP Buenos Aires, we are left with this shell:

By the Numbers

Loss in manabase: 33.33% (16 lands left out of 24)
Loss in main deck: 50.00% (18 spells left out of 36)
Loss in sideboard: 26.67% (11 left out of 15)

Replacement Possibilities: Above Average.

Notes: Need some early game bodies as well as a late game replacement for Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Current control pieces pool has decent options; need to test Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Nissa, Vastwood Seer for optimal numbers in the new list.

Rotation Survival Grade: B



That's all for this week; join me next week when I take a look at RG Devotion, Mono Red, Abzan Aggro, Mardu Dragons, and the first ripple effects of Magic Origins in Standard!

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