Last weekend's World Championship saw the current Standard format put through its paces one last time. At this stage, there isn't a huge amount of interest in what is essentially a lame-duck format, which is entirely understandable – we've all been under the heel of red four-drops for far too long, and the coming change with Guilds of Ravnica will be most welcome.
Black-Red Aggro was enormously overrepresented at Worlds, with over half the field playing it – including The Champion Javier Dominguez. Another two red decks on top of that led to over 60% of the field playing Goblin Chainwhirler – and for the most part, these decks simply don't survive rotation. Hazoret, Chandra, and Glorybringer represent the lion's share of what make these decks great, and all these cards are being put out to pasture.
Blue-Black decks, the tournament's second-most popular choice, will also fail to cross over to post-Guilds Standard. Martin Juza's Blue-Black Control list can't survive without Torrential Gearhulk and Fatal Push, whereas the Blue-Black Midrange list played by Allen Wu and Mike Sigrist loses Champion of Wits and Glint-Sleeve Siphoner. Let's not forget, either, that all blue-black strategies lose The Scarab God. There may yet be blue-black decks post-rotation, but just as with black-red, they won't resemble the decks we see today.
Many of the others can be crossed off the list. God-Pharaoh's Gift decks are stone-cold dead (and won't come back as a hasty 4/4 despite this), and Mono-Blue Reservoir lists lose all the artifacts from Kaladesh. There are, however, a few other decks we saw played at Worlds that may just be able to make the leap with appropriate updates from the new set.
After bursting onto the scene in the wake of Pro Tour 25th Anniversary, Bant Nexus (also known as Bant Turbo Fog) has tailed off in popularity after the format made the necessary adjustments. The objective power level of the deck, however, remains unchanged - if anything, it has grown as the lists have become further and further refined. How does the strategy shape up after rotation?
Main deck: Haze of Pollen, Glimmer of Genius, Irrigated Farmland, Scattered Groves
Sideboard: Walking Ballista, Baral, Chief of Compliance, Dissenter's Deliverance, Jace's Defeat
Haze of Pollen is a tricky one to replace. The only other Fog effects in Standard are Blinding Fog, which costs a hard three mana, and the new Pause for Reflection, which despite having convoke also effectively costs three in this deck. This is an enormous drawback for a pretty simple reason: Teferi untaps two lands.
As a result, landing a Gift of Paradise before deploying Teferi is going to be critical if a three-mana Fog is going to get the job done (despite being in Amonkhet, Gift of Paradise stays with us thanks to a Core Set 2019 reprint). I'm not convinced that Blinding Fog or Pause for Reflection will satisfactorily replace Haze of Pollen.
In a similar vein, there simply isn't an on-par analogue for Glimmer of Genius. Divination is cheaper but competes with Gift of Paradise as a turn-three play and as a sorcery doesn't work very well with Teferi's first ability. Chemister's Insight is a better fit but doesn't come close to Glimmer of Genius in terms of pure velocity. On the other hand, discarding Chemister's Insight to Chart a Course is excellent, and this deck often has extra lands floating about in the late game. I'm more optimistic about replacing Glimmer of Genius than Haze of Pollen, but it's still grim.
The mana base isn't too much of an issue, although it's a shame to lose the cycling abilities of Irrigated Farmland and Scattered Groves. Temple Garden comes in for Scattered Groves, but Irrigated Farmland will have to be replaced by basics and maybe an extra Glacial Fortress or two.
Replacing the sideboard cards is a less urgent affair, as it remains to be seen how the metagame will shake out in the opening weeks of the new format. Generally, new formats tend to be aggressive, so I'd be looking at cards like Settle the Wreckage or March of the Multitudes to stay alive. Knight of Autumn is also a slam-dunk sideboard four-of, as it does everything - contests artifacts and enchantments, gains life and blocks against aggressive decks, or attacks for four in slow matchups. This card is amazing.
Gregory Orange kept the faith in Las Vegas, fighting the good fight with White-Blue Control. After running the streets of Standard for quite a long time, the deck went out with a whimper rather than a bang. The power of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria can't be denied – is there a powerful enough support structure for him post-rotation?
Main deck: Torrential Gearhulk, Disallow, Forsake the Worldly, Glimmer of Genius, Hieroglyphic Illumination, Commit // Memory, Cast Out. Irrigated Farmland
Sideboard: Walking Ballista, Jace's Defeat, Forsake the Worldly, Torrential Gearhulk
The most obvious loss for this deck is Torrential Gearhulk. The 5/6 has been the final word in control decks for the longest time, and its absence will be noted. However, the loss of Torrential Gearhulk is much less pronounced in this deck than it is in, for example, blue-black. There, flashing back Vraska's Contempt is the central conceit of the strategy, but with enchantment-based removal in white-blue, Torrential Gearhulk is certainly less critical.
However, there's no real replacement for it. Nezahal is an option as an expensive and powerful finisher, but I think that the better (and much more boring) option is to play Karn, Scion of Urza. Given that the list also loses Hieroglyphic Illumination and Glimmer of Genius – and given that we've already decided that Chemister's Trick is a sub-par replacement – adding another planeswalker to go alongside Teferi may be the way to go.
Cast Out benefits from both smoothing out draws with cycling as well as being an instant-speed answer, and there's no easy replacement. Capture Sphere misses the point, missing noncreature permanents, and Conclave Tribunal virtually always costs four. As a result, it's time for Ixalan's Binding to come off the bench. Again, a slight downgrade, but it's best we can do.
Disallow is an easy fix – Sinister Sabotage, as an upgraded Dissolve, seems like an excellent addition. Besides, there are no Chandra ultimates to counter any more. As for Commit // Memory, it's generally a one-of and doesn't demand an immediate replacement. Hallowed Fountain isn't yet available to replace Irrigated Farmland, but the mana requirements aren't stringent and so the loss is easily weathered.
The most exciting addition to this list is, of course, Mission Briefing. Estimations of this card's power vary wildly, but I'm pretty high on it. I'd prefer to start with four and be incorrect about it rather than get in on the ground floor (which also allows you to brag about having called it). Flashing back Settle the Wreckage will be insane, and even a value Mission Briefing with something like Blink of an Eye (With kicker!) or Anticipate seems fine.
As for the sideboard, it's going to pay to be as flexible as possible while still respecting the threat of early, level-one aggressive decks. For that reason, I'm keeping the 4/2 split of History of Benalia and Lyra Dawnbringer. If things really get buckwild then I'll look to include copies of Gideon's Reproach - otherwise, I want to be set up against all the surprises the new format might throw at me.
I'm glad that most decks aren't surviving rotation. I'm sure I'm not alone in being well and truly sick of Bomat Courier and Scrapheap Scrounger, of Hazoret the Fervent and Glorybringer – I'm looking forward to see what new decks replace them. However, figuring out which existing decks may survive rotation with appropriate replacements might give you a head start on success in the new format – and both Bant Nexus and White-Blue Control may be able to bridge that gap!
- Riley Knight