With only 2 more weekend tournaments left before Guilds of Ravnica pre-releases, and Kaladesh and Amonkhet blocks rotating out of Standard, I wanted to spend our time looking forward. What COULD Standard be, rather than a recap of the stagnant meta? Sure there are FNM’s for most of us to worry about, and GP’s or SCG Opens for others. But honestly, if you haven’t picked up Red-Black Aggro or Teferi Control by now then you should probably just wait until after rotation before jumping into Standard anyway. And with the preview of Shocklands making another triumphant return with this trip back to the Plane of Ravnica, there couldn’t be a better time to get hype about another Shock/Check land mana base in Standard. Maybe I’m just waxing nostalgic on the era in which I returned to playing Magic (my first ever FNM was RTR release weekend back in 2012), but when you have access to good manabases like this it makes for a varied and powerful meta. Without having access to the full spoiler, I don’t want to start this look ahead off with speculations on what could be GOOD after rotation. One over-powered mythic rare can swing an entire format. Instead, I want this week to focus on the archetypes that are losing too many pieces to continue being viable after rotation before we delve into the realm of rampant speculation on what the Tier-Zero decks will be next week.
Starting things off with a bang, I am going to go out on a limb and say that Red is dead! Red based aggro decks have been a plague on Standard for two full years now. Ever since Kaladesh brought us Bomat Courier and the Vehicles subtype, the top-8’s have been overrun by countless configurations of Mardu Vehicles, RW Vehicles, RB Aggro, and Mono-Red Aggro decks. They even banned two cards out of the archetype in Smuggler’s Copter and Rampaging Ferocidon but Red aggro strategies continued to dominate. With rotation, however, Red is losing too many things to continue to be viable. Red is losing its card advantage engine in Bomat Courier, it is losing its tempo pieces in both Earthshaker Khenra and Ahn-Crop Crasher, and its losing its top-end closers in Hazoret the Fervent, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and Glorybringer. Even if Wizards unbans Rampaging Ferocidon (as I expect), I do not think this shell has enough juice left in it to overcome the losses. Even with access to two Lightning Bolts.
Jumping into the realm of the obvious, I will make the bold prediction that the name-sake decks will be completely dead after rotation. Considering that the cards which give these decks their names are rotating, I have a feeling that Winding Constrictor, God-Pharaoh’s Gift, Approach of the Second Sun Combo, and Drake Haven/Cycling decks are going to drop off the map, HARD. I know what you are thinking: “Brave.” It’s definitely a tough line to take, but it had to be said.
Another stalwart of the M19 meta that I believe loses too many pieces to remain viable is Pro Tour 25th Anniversary darling Blue-Black Midrange. Scarab God is gone. Fatal Push, gone. Torrential Gearhulk, adios. Champion of Wits and Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, poof. Everything this deck does well is rotating out and I don’t think that even the power of the Dimir can save this deck from settling into a Watery Grave.
Continuing in the vein of Tier 1.5 decks that I don’t foresee surviving rotation, I have serious doubt about the viability of any mono-colored strategy heading into a set that inherently focuses on strong two-color combinations. This means that both the mono-Green version of Steel-Leaf Stompy and the mono-White version of Knights will struggle to get a foothold in the winner’s meta. It may sound insane to bet against a 3-mana 5/4 with pseudo-evasion or a hard to interact with permanent (enchantments) that create a go-wide team AND have a built in anthem, and you’re right! I think that the individual cards will be parts of other strategies, but the decks they currently power will not be able to compete with the added power brought with gaining access to a second or third color.
Two and three-color decks are bound to rule the Standard landscape in the very near future, fueled by the many powerful multi-colored spells that the Ravnica sets always bring us. I am excited for part two of this article to break down the existing multi-color strategies that I think will get a boost from the guild mechanics that were revealed last week as well as the new strategies that GRN spoilers will bring to the table.
Eric has been an avid Magic fan and player since re-discovering the game in 2012. He is a Red mage at heart but likes to confuse himself with the varying decision trees presented by mid-range and control decks from time to time.
Eric plays mostly casually with his 9-year-old daughter, but manages to get out for every prerelease and a few FNM’s and GP’s every year.