This Week in Popculture’s Cube: Standard Rotation – Out with the Old…
With Khans of Tarkir releasing this month, one of the major events of each Magic Year takes place: the Standard Rotation. Like the Long Count undertaken by the ancient Mayans, which predicted the passing away of the Old World, the Standard Rotation includes the passing away of an old block and core set, while a new block begins.
This time around, the mega-popular Return to Ravnica block, as well as the M14 Core Set, are rotating out of standard play and into oblivion (or modern, as the case may be).
I enjoyed Return to Ravnica – the block marked the first time that I ever took part in constructed competitive play (with the premier of my RW Boros Hope Springs Eternal deck that never did very well, despite its many incarnations), and the beginning of my interest in making decks that are more than two colors.
Though I know we’re all excited about Khans (I know I am… Abzan is totally my new jam, and Empty the Pits will find a place in many of my EDH decks, just as Army of the Damned did before it), I thought it would be a good time to bow our heads and reverently look back at some of the great (and not-so-great) things the past meta brought us.
What will I miss?
1. Orzhov Taxes: Let’s face it – out of all the Guild-specific mechanics in RtR, Extort was probably the best. It’s a simple premise: play a spell, pay a black or white mana, your opponent loses a life and you gain a life. And yet, so elegant. Combined especially with Theros-block cards like Grim Guardian, Underworld Coinsmith, Erebos, Whip of Erebos, and Gray Merchant of Asphodel, BW and mono-black had some nasty ways to knocking your opponent’s life total down.
2. Corpsejack Menace: Playing was a lot more fun in a BUG deck when he was on the board. If you were working the Simic Evolve mechanic, things could get out of hand very quickly as you started putting double the number of +1/+1 counters on members of your team. My favorite was using him with Primordial Hydra in casual play. Ouch.
3. Boros Reckoner/Spark Trooper: Quite possibly two of the best RW-related cards to come out of the last few blocks. Boros Reckoner, literally, made my opponents say “Uh-oh” every time he came out on the board. He was also basically the very best removal bait out there – frequently he didn’t stay on the board too long. Spark Trooper, I feel, is the most undervalued card in Gatecrash. That little beauty saved me in more games than I can count, so long as he got onto the battlefield. A 6/1 Trample/Lifelink/Haste is not to be mocked.
4. The Rakdos “One-Two” Punch: As befitted its nature, BR had a number of very good, savage cards, but for my money, the best Rakdos combo was this: Turn 1 – Rakdos Cackler (unleashed). Turn 2 – Rakdos Shred-Freak. Swing for 4. Oftentimes your opponent is still getting set up and has little to nothing on the board. This gave you a tremendous lead very quickly, and if you kept up the BR weenies then you likely had the game in the bag. Also, well-placed Dreadbores made a lot of difference.
5. Selesnya Stompage: Being a GW/Junk fan, I was disappointed that Selesnya, out of all of the Guilds, never really got off the ground as a viable option in standard. They had some amazing cards (Collective Blessing, Armada Wurm, Trostani’s Summoner) but they were simply too over-costed to make much of a splash in the format. Things like Selesnya Charm and Voice of Resurgence did find their way into standard (and modern) decks, however. But I think they’ll find new life after rotation: I love running the RtR Selesnya cards in my fun modern token aggro deck.
And good riddance to…
1. UW Control: Quite possibly the most broken deck list in standard at the end of rotation. Basically, if you weren’t playing UW control at a Game Day or FNM, you were a chump (read: Me). A highly predictable deck list (hmm… let me see… Supreme Verdicts, Sphinx’s Revelation, Archangel of Thune, splash black for Blood Baron of Vizkopa or green for a Kiora? Check, check and check) that you just couldn’t see any way to get around.
2. Overly expensive lands: Shocklands were the bane of the existence of me and other players who simply didn’t want to have to have $100 land bases in their standard decks. Yes, I know they needed them in RtR for flavor. Yes, I realize that they dropped the price of shocks for those people wanting to play modern. And Mutavault! I’m glad to see this M14 darling go, but not because I think it’s particularly onerous in any certain deck; I hate this card simply because every standard deck list at the end of rotation ran four of them. Every deck list. For those of us who don’t care to spend $20-$30 per card, Mutavault was the most annoying land out there.
3. Pack Rat: Another one of those cards that seemed ubiquitous (and everywhere, too), but this time in any deck with black mana. This is the other standard deck list you were likely to see at FNM or Game Day, whether it be mono-black or BG aggro. Essentially, any deck with Pack Rat in it immediately became a Pack Rat deck – and they also consistently ran Mutavaults, additionally earning the ire of thrifty home-brewers.
4. Maze’s End Fog: A wholly annoying deck that, honestly, I was shocked I didn’t see more of. The concept was this: use Maze’s End to tutor up Gates, and use fog effects to block any damage dealt to you, until you had 10 Gates and won. This strategy effectively shut down your opponent (provided they didn’t have any counter spells) and gave you leisure to finish the game in peace. Your opponent, however, in the meantime wished they’d brought a book along.
5. Sphere of Safety: Another “shut you down” card that hurt very, very badly. It’s a simple 5 CMC enchantment – “Creatures can’t attack you or a planeswalker you control unless their controller pays X for each of those creatures, where X is the number of enchantments you control.” Doesn’t sound too bad. But if, for instance, you’re running plenty of enchantment creatures, etc., very, very soon your opponent can’t attack at all (unless they have some ways to answer enchantments), and they watch you have your fun the rest of the game and start texting on their phones.