Every set rotation has winners and losers.
The upcoming rotation is a gigantic one. Not only M15 but all of Theros Block (and replaced only by Battle for Zendikar). The implication is not only that we will have dozens of new toys to play with (some very big) but that many cards that were Tier Two or lower will suddenly become playable. Some cards that were only okay before will get pretty good, while others will become completely unbelievable.
I think that focusing on some of the cards that will be "promoted" is the more interesting side of the equation, but some cards will also get worse, contextually. Like I said, I think those will be less interesting but maybe still important. Why? Either they will lose the playmates that once made them great (or at least good enough) or they will be outmoded by newer model toys (and power creep) from Battle for Zendikar.
Here are ten cards that I think will get better and worse; followed by two I'm not sure about but deserve special looks, both.
This black role player is likely going to have an expanded role in Battle for Zendikar Standard. Why? (And this is going to be a semi-regular refrain in this article)...Eldrazi Scions of course! Eldrazi Scions are like no other tokens we've seen before. Let me rephrase that: They're quite a bit like a previous kind of token (Eldrazi Spawn) but with the potential offensive impact of your more typical Goblin Token.
Eldrazi Scions are quite good from multiple dimensions. Blisterpod is like a Doomed Traveler (very good card) crossed with a Lotus Petal (even better card). Eldrazi Spawn are not the only way you can set up an Eldrazi deck, but they are going to be a strategic factor in Standard in a meaningful enough way that the already-played Virulent Plague should find some additional buyers, and get re-ups from current subscribers.
Remember this card? You know, like when it won a Pro Tour a couple of month's back? Pretty good card, right? Good, true, but basically tumbleweeds rolling across an Old West Ghost Town in terms of Standard performance since Magic Origins.
Atarka's Command is likely to be back, and not just for one, but something like five different reasons. The first one is that the green splash that was so good to Martin Dang is going to be even easier with the interplay of battle lands and fetchlands. You can run something like zero Forests and two Cinder Glades and have much more reliable green than Dang did. Not to mention a faster Become Immense thanks to all those fetches jumping into the bin.
But not only is the green splash easier, Atarka's Command has new work -- good work -- ahead of it. Life total is going to be at a premium in general if Standard goes the way I think it will (fast decks borne on great mana bases), meaning big life gain effects are going to have a different level of importance than we typically see in Standard. I don't know about you but I like the idea of an Atarka's Command "countering" a Nissa's Renewal (especially given how expensive that card is).
No one is going to quibble about the two most frequently used modes, both of which have straight damage implications. But how about the ability to put an extra land into play from your hand onto the battlefield?
What if it's this land?
What if you are already trucking with these folks?
Gruul Landfall is probably going to be a deck. The cards are intuitive, and they have one of the most robust mana frameworks to build upon in Standard. Oh, and they have a built-in super-duper combat trick in their in-color Command already.
The big rotation is going to completely eviscerate green's current mana acceleration suite. Sylvan Caryatid? You will be bedeviling Zurgo Bellstriker no longer.
Leaf Gilder really is one of the best acceleration cards left!
More than that, it is an acceleration card that works well with the other acceleration cards we get to keep.
But MichaelJ, you ask. Isn't Rattleclaw Mystic just better?
But the way we construct decks you will often want both.
To wit, Rattleclaw Mystic can make Frontier Siege on turn three, which in turn can make a second Rattleclaw Mystic or Leaf Gilder on the second main phase of turn three; ditto on our new look Kiora, Master of the Depths (Kiora can untap a land and a Leaf Gilder on turn three, giving you the mana you need to play the next accelerator, and possibly block).
Twin Bolt...get ready for the first tier!
With Lightning Strike rotating, we are for the first time since the return of Magma Jet going to have a real set of questions around how we spend two mana in red decks. I think Twin Bolt is likely to get a nod for a couple of reasons. First: the competition isn't exactly Lightning Helix and Mizzium Mortars. Second, Twin Bolt is going to be an absolutely perfect answer not only to multiple Eldrazi Scions but super-fast beatdown draws.
...meet Twin Bolt!
Seven? I think I'll take zero instead.
Silkwrap...get ready for the
first second tier!
Similar deal to Twin Bolt here. Decks are going to need fast response cards to the impending beatdown decks, and Silkwrap is one of the faster options for white.
Not a waterproof selling point, I'll grant you. But what about this: Silkwrap exiles opposing creatures as quickly as turn two. This is a set full of expensive threats that require you to live a particular length of time to be able to play. Moreover, a lot of those cards like to nom nom nom munch munch munch on cards that have been exiled.
Silkwrap does double duty: It helps you live long enough to cast your Blight Herder; and it helps you get paid off for playing it when you do.
For the same reason that Virulent Plague is likely to get better, Foul-Tongue Invocation is going to get almost immeasurably worse.
I mean, you look at a new card like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger; which is both spectacularly powerful and indestructible...and you probably say to yourself: Self, you know what is great against indestructible threats? Sacrifice effects!
Except you know what is likely going to go hand-in-hand (and hand and hand and hand and hand) with Ulamog? Eldrazi Scions.
"Barf." -Foul-Tongue Invocation mage
Sorin, Solemn Visitor
I am so sad to see Sorin in the wrong pile.
Here is a frowny face:
What is the problem here?
First of all, Sorin is in the wrong colors. Enemy colors are going to lose a bit of traction in the new regime; which is not to say folks won't still play Abzan and maybe Mardu...just that they will be less popular with no Fleecemane Lion and Goblin Rabblemaster.
But that's not the real problem for Sorin.
He isn't in the wrong colors. He's in the wrong colors.
Also at four mana you have a new card that does basically the same things as Sorin, in one fewer color...for largely greater profit:
So instead of losing loyalty to make a 2/2 you get to make a 2/2 Ally (which will trigger other Allies if applicable)?
Yeah...and that's just one of Gideon's abilities. His -4 Anthem will make playing four copies less unattractive, and of course his +1 mode will beat up many a mage. Unless we envision a lot of foils going back to the solo Pearl Lake Ancient kill...I think Sorin will lose massive popularity in Battle for Zendikar Standard.
With Invasive Species rotating, Woodland Bellower loses its most important toolbox piece (for the Demonic Pact duo). It's not just that...Greenwarden of Murasa is putting heavy pressure on the "card advantageous green six-drop" market.
On a relative basis, Hordeling Outburst looks to lose a step...and it's not just because Eldrazi Scions are better, 1/1 for 1/1, than Goblin Tokens.
It's not just because the rotation of Stoke the Flames and other Convoke spells makes a three-bodies-for-three-mana sorcery less attractive (though it does).
It's not even that this card -- which was once touted by a multiple time Pro Tour Top 8 competitor as the best card in Standard -- saw a massive exodus in popularity, from Mardu to Atarka Red as other takes on aggressive strategies emerged over the months (though that would be difficult to ignore).
It's because the rate is just going to slip relative to what will become available.
I didn't identify this as an ace myself either, BTW. My friend Patrick Chapin told me it was the sleeper of the set in this week's Top Level Podcast. I thought about it a while and it became obvious to me.
Hordeling Outburst is three power and three toughness across three bodies for three mana.
Catacomb Sifter is three power and four toughness across two bodies for three mana.
On rate Catacomb Sifter is slightly bigger (on the butt). If you have Anthem effects Hordeling Outburst has more of an argument, but that's not fundamental to the card's rate. And anyway, Catacomb Sifter is across two bodies still.
But here's the kicker: An Eldrazi Scion is a boatload better than one Goblin. This card is a one-card combo with Liliana, Heretical Healer, a great setup man, and a chump blocker that sets up your Hangarback Walker tap when you are tapped.
Don't get me wrong: Wraths will still be good, and this Wrath will probably still be pretty good.
However it does lose some [additional] text with the impending rotation. Not only did Languish steal a little market share already, the one thing that made End Hostilities special is about to cease to matter.
That's right: Boon Satyr and Herald of Torment are rotating! That means this is just a less efficient Wrath of God effect, mana-wise.
Pretty good? It will retain much of its efficacy in Standard... But not all of it.
You may have noticed that I did not predict any blue cards getting better or worse. I do have an idea about one going sideways:
Reactive blue cards are so contextual. Is Cancel suddenly going to be good enough with Dissolve rotating? Dissipate? I wouldn't bank on it. I would also not be the least bit surprised.
Disdainful Stroke, though, is one that, I think, will be exactly as good as it was pre-rotation. Basically Disdainful Stroke is an awesome card that rarely showed up in maindecks (but was frustrating as hell when it did) and was mostly a sideboard card, even if it "always" came in.
I kind of think Disdainful Stroke will be awesome maindeck (Eldrazi, four and six mana accelerators, etc.) but it will be worse against fast decks than it was previously. Unlike the pre-Battle for Zendikar Standard, the Red Decks won't necessarily have four mana burn spells and the green decks won't necessarily be topping up on four for Siege Rhino (even if they play a ton of lands).
Don't get me wrong: Dromoka's Command will still be awesome.
It's just tough to say if it is going to get better or stay the same. I can easily see this card getting better due to the desire of green decks to play mid-mana mana accelerators like From Beyond or Frontier Siege; but I can also see it just not getting better (or even languishing a bit). Dromoka's Command has no Courser of Kruphix to beat up on, so it might automatically get worse (if still awesome).