This week, we saw the unveiling of the first few official spoilers from Shadows over Innistrad. In addition to a fresh batch of cards, Shadows over Innistrad will also be the first time we see the new, more frequent, method of Standard rotation in action. As Shadows over Innistrad cycles in, Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged rotate out. Rotation is an exciting, if sometimes bittersweet, time for Standard players. While new cards are always welcome, nothing shakes up the format quite like cutting a big chunk out of it. Some decks will adapt, we’ll see new decks arise, and others are simply put out to pasture for having too many key pieces leave. When you reexamining what’s left, it’s important note a few key notions in mind.
#MTGSOI spoilers! pic.twitter.com/jQPgNXDiGS— Morgan W (@MTGValkyrie) March 4, 2016
What Cards, and Decks, Are Rotating
First, and perhaps most importantly, you want to take stock of what’s leaving. Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged are the sets rotating out, but what exactly are they taking with them? Regardless of what you think about [mtg_card=Siege Rhino], the without a doubt most impactful cards leaving are the fetch lands. The combination of fetch lands and the Battle for Zendikar dual cycle has led to this Standard having amazing mana fixing. Two color decks are absurdly smooth, three color decks rarely stumble, and the cost of reaching into four, or even five, colors is almost laughably small. WotC has already admitted this was likely a mistake, so even if Shadows over Innistrad features a dual land cycle it will likely favor less ambitious decks, ie two color or mono-colored.
In addition to the lands, a lot of powerful, particularly multicolored, cards are leaving. No more [mtg_card=Siege Rhino], [mtg_card=Mantis Rider], and [mtg_card=Anafenza, the Foremost] means creatures are less likely to be sized above cost going forward, and spells like the cycle of charms and [mtg_card=Crackling Doom] are also rotating out. [mtg_card=Hardened Scales] and [mtg_card=Rally the Ancestors] basically stops being decks without their namesakes, despite losing little else. A few others worth noting is that the red aggro decks no longer get access to their best one drop, [mtg_card=Monastery Swiftspear], along with [mtg_card=Hordeling Outburst] and [mtg_card=Wild Slash], and all the decks lose the delve spells, primarily [mtg_card=Dig Through Time], [mtg_card=Become Immense], and [mtg_card=Tasigur, the Golden Fang].
Cards That Interact With New Set’s Themes
If you’ve played Magic long enough, you’ve probably picked up on how WotC R&D loves to drop sleeper cards into earlier sets in the format. Remember [mtg_card=Eye of Ugin] came out before a single Eldrazi card was ever printed. So far, we know that Shadows over Innistrad will see the return of Madness and have graveyard matters themes, in addition to banking on certain tribal support. For those unfamiliar, Madness lets you cast a card, usually at reduced cost, when it would otherwise be discarded, and Delirium is a sort of new mechanic that asks you to get four different card types into your graveyard.
While [mtg_card=Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy] and [mtg_card=Chandra, Flamecaller] are plenty powerful right now, these cards might well be format defining come Shadows over Innistrad for how they get to interact with the mechanics. [mtg_card=Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy] has already hit [mtg_card=Jace, the Mind Sculptor] levels of cost. There’s a good chance its the first Standard card to crack $100 in quite a while.
Additional discard options worth keeping in mind include [mtg_card=Tormenting Voice], [mtg_card=Liliana, Defiant Necromancer], and [mtg_card=Oath of Jace]. These cards are all excellent for filling up your yard or enabling Madness. There’s a ton of potential card advantage to be gained any time you can flip what’s normally a drawback on some of these cards. Imagine a turn of pitching a Madness removal spell to [mtg_card=Tormenting Voice].
On the tribal front, [mtg_card=Risen Executioner] could put in some work with Innistrad being chalked full of zombies. You can see Relentless Dead in the tweet above and there’s likely to be more. All it would take would be something like a [mtg_card=Gravecrawler], which is in the latest Duel Deck, reprint to really go nuts. There’s potential in a really grindy mono-black aggro deck taking shape.
Cards That Were Being Suppressed
Rotation often breathes new life into a number of cards that were being held out of the format. For whatever reason despite these cards being objectively powerful they were just not lining up against what was currently seeing play. For instance, [mtg_card=Drana, Liberator of Malakir] looks much better with [mtg_card=Mantis Rider] out of the picture, along with the opportunity for vampire synergy. There are plenty of cards that look amazing, but preform poorly on context of the whole format.
Sometimes color requirement is enough to keep cards from seeing play. While this Standard was really forgiving for playing a lot of colors, anything with multiple symbols of the same color could be a problem or weren’t worth the investment. For instance, [mtg_card= Grasp of Darkness] is a great removal spell in a vacuum, but it required you to give up on other cards to support double black that early. The dilemma before was would you rather have [mtg_card= Grasp of Darkness] or play say [mtg_card=Crackling Doom] and [mtg_card=Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy]?
Cards like [mtg_card=Erebos’s Titan] and [mtg_card=Archangel of Tithes] might similarly get picked up. These were powerful cards that saw a little bit of play at the release of Magic Origins, but just were not worth the color investment come Battle for Zendikar. If Shadows over Innistrad pushes us back to more constrained mana bases, these cards could have their time in the sun, or moon I guess.
Strong Cards Are Still Strong
While everyone is looking for the new hotness, there are a lot of cards that just continue to be as good as they were before. Hell, sometimes they even get better as the format shrinks to the smaller card pool. [mtg_card=Den Protector] and [mtg_card=Deathmist Raptor] will still be good at grinding out games. We saw [mtg_card=Gideon, Ally of Zendikar] dominate a Pro-Tour and now it won’t get snagged by [mtg_card=Crackling Doom] any more. [mtg_card=Goblin Dark Dweller] loses some of its better hits, but there’s still a lot of value there. [mtg_card=Reflector Mage] will still be backbreaking at times, and semi-related [mtg_card=Collected Company] will still be around. It would take some serious changes in tempo or the nature of Standard to knock some of these out of being playable.
What cards are you most looking forward to playing after Shadows over Innistrad rotation?