Shadows over Innistrad is right around the corner, and before you know it, it'll be Standard-legal. What does that all entail?
Not only do we get a new set and new cards to play with, but the rotation means we're going to lose Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged. I want to highlight some decks that don't lose much and go over potential breakout cards in Shadows over Innistrad Standard.
We can no longer support four or five-color decks. In fact, you most certainly don't want to play more than three colors, and even that will be pushing it. With fetchlands rotating, the power level of decks will go down. The current three and four-color decks basically just jam the best possible cards in those colors, resulting in four and five-color "good stuff." We will not have to deal with that anymore.
Why do I have a section just for this creature? Because this one creature dominated the format! It was everywhere and kept all Abzan variants in the tier-one category as long as it existed. It was fantastic against aggro, control, midrange and ramp decks. Not only that, but it had five toughness, so it was hard to remove from the battlefield. I am glad we are losing the battle cattle. See you in Modern, Siege Rhino!
Delve is a very powerful mechanic that reduces the cost of cards to almost nothing. Murderous Cut, Treasure Cruise, and Dig Through Time are all powerful spells that see play across many formats. You can find Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time on both the Modern and Legacy banlists.
Madness is a mechanic that allows you to play cards for their madness costs if they are discarded. So instead of the cards going to the graveyard it will go onto the stack and you'll cast it. This means we will have to reevaluate all the cards that allow us to discard cards since when Shadows over Innistrad comes out those cards power levels should all rise.
Where we lose delve, we gain delirium. This mechanic is state-based, like Tarmogoyf. We want four or more card types in our graveyard in order to turn this ability on. This will be harder since we are losing fetchlands; luckily we still have Evolving Wilds. Since each Oath from Oath of the Gatewatch is legendary, we now also have an easy way to get an enchantment into the 'yard. Any card that puts cards into our graveyard requires a total reevaluation of its value thanks to delirium.
With more cards hitting the graveyard, this card should continue to see play, and it will only get better as the game progress. Just keep in mind that the card you return might turn off delirium.
Chandra, Flamecaller is already seeing a good amount of play but I think she will see more after rotation. The ramp decks will look for a Planeswalker that can wipe the board since Ugin, the Spirit Dragon will be gone, and Chandra, Flamecaller fits that bill perfectly. With Siege Rhino gone too, Chandra Flamecaller's minus ability has a much better shot at wiping the board completely.
The more we mill ourselves and discard cards to fuel madness or delirium, the better Deathmist Raptor will be. Deathmist Raptor has been in and out of favor in Standard, but I can only see it getting better with the new set, especially since one of the best answers to it, Abzan Charm, will be rotating.
Ob Nixilis Reignited/Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
The less colors we play the better these Planeswalkers become. They've been good but we've had access to a lot of multicolored cards, and playing a card that costs double white or double black could backfire. Especially ones that cost four mana. Both these 'walkers should see more play when the fetches rotate.
Dragons were very powerful when they were first released and slowly saw less and less play as the Standard card pool got bigger. Now that our card pool is getting a bit smaller I can only see these dragons seeing a lot more play. Keep an eye on Dragonlord Ojutai, Dragonlord Silumgar, Dragonlord Atarka, and Thunderbreak Regent in particular.
These cards saw play when we had three and four-color decks. You can bet they will continue to see play after rotation. The commands offer utility and value for a cheap cost.
Magic Origins Planeswalkers
Mainly talking about Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Nissa, Vastwood Seer, and Liliana, Heretical Healer here. These cards will still be fantastic after rotation. They are great with Collected Company. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy is a naturally fantastic enabler for madness, card advantage, and delirium. Lastly, we are going back to Innistrad; we are bound to have some great sacrifice outlets for Liliana, Heretical Healer.
Grasp of Darkness
This will most likely be one of the best if not the best removal spell post-rotation. Again since Siege Rhino is out this thing will hit a lot more cards. Being able to kill a Thought-Knot Seer for two mana is fantastic. The only card we really have to worry about is Reality Smasher. Luckily Reality Smasher should get a little worse since he will enable madness.
This card is currently dominating the format in decks such as Rally the Ancestors and Bant Company. A very powerful card that is great way to fill the board or recover after a wrath affect. Bant Company doesn't lose many of its creatures with the rotation. I can only Foresee this card getting better.
This will be a great if not the best card draw spell that we will have access to after rotation. Keep an eye on it and pick some up.
Ugh. This cad hasn't been in Standard long and I'm already tired of it. Reflector Mage is a powerhouse card that can shift the tempo of games drastically. Like Siege Rhino, the card was great as soon as it was legal in Standard. This card is probably good enough for Modern too. I expect it to dominate for the full duration it is legal in Standard.
Those are the big ones that I can think of from that top of my head that will remain strong after the rotation. Next up, let's discuss the cards that you should keep an eye on! These are cards that fuel Madness, Delirium, or get better as new and different cards are released. Let's have a look shall we?
Not only does it fuel delirium because of the legendary rule but it can also fuel delirium and madness from discarding. Oath of Jace has seen some fringe play recently but I wouldn't be surprised if it really starts rolling after Shadows over Innistrad enters Standard.
Shaman of Forgotten Ways
Depending on the fatties we get from Shadows over Innistrad, Shaman of the Forgotten ways can easily ramp us from three to six mana. Worth keeping an eye on in my book, especially since I love to ramp!
When in doubt play it safe! Not only is Hangarback Walker colorless so it can fit into any deck, it's also a safe option to play in your deck immediately after Shadows over Innistrad's release. The card is fantastic against almost every strategy out there. It's slow but there's no good combo deck in Standard, so its speed isn't much of a concern.
Might be pushing the envelope here a bit, but this is a zombie that makes more zombies and is a decent card to discard to trigger your other creature's abilities. If Innistrad has any good zombie lords or cards that care about the number of zombies in play, Undead Servant might have a shot!
Fuels madness and delirium without any card disadvantage. Card seems sweet for Shadows over Innistrad Standard.
Just gotta keep an eye on all the good zombies we have access to. Risen Executioner isn't amazing but it's good enough to see play. At worst if control rises again it will be a good sideboard card for the control mirror matches.
This card has a lot of promise, we just need to keep an eye out for green creatures that cost three or less. Come on Shadows over Innistrad, don't disappoint!
Not only can it fuel madness and delirium, but it can generate card advantage over time. We've already seen Fiery Temper, Lightning Axe, Ravenous Bloodseeker, and Incorrigible Youths. All these cards work great with Avaricious Dragon. If we get a couple more good cards this dragon might just become good enough.
Sidisi, Undead Vizier
Zombie + Demonic Tutor + sacrifice outlet, all on a huge body. I'm surprised Sidisi, Undead Vizier hasn't seen much play already. Maybe Innistrad will make this legendary zombie good enough.
The only Planeswalker that can survive against Chandra, Flamecaller's plus ability. Narset Transcendent has seen some fringe play, but I'd still keep an eye on her. She offers some very powerful abilities for only four mana.
This card had no chance to really see play because it required triple black. Maybe now that the fetchlands will be gone, Erebos's Titan will see its day. Erebos's Titan can also fuel Madness with his second ability. So not only can you regrow him by discarding a card, but you can also fuel your Madness cards.
I feel like this card got a lot better when Crush of Tentacles was released. You should check out my article on this strategy from last week. I feel like the deck can be a contender for sure. It's tier-two now and could become a powerhouse after rotation.
I've loved this card since it was first spoiled, but it's gotten worse and worse as time went on because of the devoid mechanic. Luckily Shadows over Innistrad shows some promise with Dance with Devils and Devil's Playground. Putting eight 1/1 devils into play that deal one damage when they die is pretty awesome at defense and offense. We still have Tormenting Voice to either find Pyromancer's Goggles or draw a bunch of cards off of Pyromancer's Goggles when it's in play. A fun card that I would love to play in Standard. Hopefully Shadows over Innistrad comes through with more sweet red sorceries and/or instants.
This deck loses practically nothing! It's already shown its power by continuously being in Top 8s and performing well on Magic Online. The only thing you'll need to do is make the mana base without fetchlands. That shouldn't be too hard to do. I expect this strategy and Collected Company in general to remain good after rotation.
Ramp still has the core ramp spells. The only thing it loses is Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, which we can replace with Chandra, Flamecaller, Dragonlord Atarka, or any other big fatty. This strategy isn't going anywhere and it looks like it is here to stay. I'd keep an eye on ramp spells and big mana spells in Shadows over Innistrad that could potentially go into this deck.
Some aggro Eldrazi decks have been popping around on Magic online going 5-0 in dailies. This is an example of one. These decks basically just lose Ghostfire Blade. Eldrazi Skypawner, Thought-Knot Seer, Matter Reshaper, and Reality Smasher are still very powerful cards after Shadows is released. Keep an eye on this strategy too.
The Grixis deck I talked about in my last article doesn't lose too much either. I understand Dig Through Time is a very powerful card but we can still use Dragonlord's Prerogative and see what other draw spells Shadows over Innistrad can offer us. The core is still the same, and who knows? Maybe we'll get some exciting new counterspells, a good card advantage effect, or some sweet madness spells!
I'm excited for the rotation and you should be too! Innistrad is a sweet plane to revisit and it always oozes with flavor. I can't wait until the set is fully spoiled so I can share some brews with all of you!
Until next week,