Standard Rotation: Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged to say “Goodbye” April 8th, 2016

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(Author’s note: The con­tents of this ar­ti­cle re­flect the views of the au­thor, not SuperNerdLand as a whole)

In just a few days, the newest Magic: The Gathering set will hit the shelves for play­ers to ex­pe­ri­ence.  While we’re ex­cit­ed to have new cards to build around, we’ll have to say good­bye to two sets that have been the back­bone of the last few Standard: Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged.  The new block struc­ture will mean that the third set of the Tarkir block, Dragons of Tarkir, will ro­tate out with Magic Origins come October 2016, so play­ers will still have ac­cess to their fa­vorite Dragonlords un­til then.

Of course, not every card will be missed from Khans and Fate, but some will.  We’re tak­ing a look at the top ten of those cards, and rank­ing them ac­cord­ing to the im­pact they’ve had specif­i­cal­ly on Standard – any af­fect they’ve had on oth­er for­mats will be ig­nored, and saved for fu­ture articles.

Honorable Mentions – Wild Slash

Wild Slash, an in­stant from Fate Reforged, rep­re­sents a now-bygone era of cheap burn spells.  With Wizards of the Coast in­di­cat­ing that they wish to move Red as a col­or away from Lightning Bolt clones, Wild Slash will prob­a­bly be the last of its kind for quite a while.  The only oth­er cheap burn spell in Standard right now is Exquisite Firecraft, which – as a sor­cery – is lim­it­ed in its flex­i­bil­i­ty.  While it didn’t bring any­thing new to the for­mat, or break any ground that hadn’t been bro­ken be­fore, we still salute Wild Slash and it’s contributions.

#10 – Rally the Ancestors

Sometimes cards don’t re­al­ly get no­ticed un­til much lat­er in their Standard life­times.  Rally the Ancestors was one of those cards.  Originally, it didn’t see much play out­side of Black/White Warrior Tribal, an in­ter­est­ing niche deck that used cards like Chief of the Edge and Chief of the Scale to pump Warriors that you con­trolled – and the Khans block con­tained quite a few of them.  In 4Color Rally, the tit­u­lar spell is the deck’s win con­di­tion, us­ing a mul­ti­tude of cheap crea­tures to re­turn to the field and over­whelm the op­po­nent, or in com­bi­na­tion with cards like Zulaport Cutthroat to drain the opponent’s life.  Being thrust into the lime­light so late in its Standard life­time is a shame, but it had a ma­jor im­pact on the metagame in a very lit­tle amount of time and has to be rec­og­nized for that.

#9 – Abzan Charm

Abzan Charm was a part of the cy­cle of five wedge-colored in­stants present in Khans of Tarkir, and saw a lot of play in Standard via Abzan Midrange/Control decks.  Much like the sim­i­lar cy­cle of Charms from Shards of Alara, the Khans cy­cle of­fers a se­lec­tion of op­tions for you to choose from, which are the­mat­i­cal­ly re­lat­ed to the clan whose col­ors you’re play­ing in.  Abzan Charm is spot re­moval, card draw, and counter dis­tri­b­u­tion, all of which are im­mense­ly use­ful in every stage of play – it’s even been sug­gest­ed that Abzan Charm is one of the rea­sons why Abzan Midrange/Control decks were so pow­er­ful in this Standard.

#8 – Sorin, Solemn Visitor

Another card from the pow­er­house that were the Abzan decks, Sorin, Solemn Visitor was also one of the only planeswalk­ers that saw play in the Constructed for­mats (the oth­er we’ll be dis­cussing lat­er).  An easy-to-cast card with im­me­di­ate up­sides, this print­ing of Sorin was one that fa­vored ag­gres­sive play, turn­ing your crea­tures into life-gaining ma­chines, and had an ul­ti­mate that could be achieved very rea­son­ably.  The pres­ence of cards like Hero’s Downfall from the Theros block did mean you would have to bring some coun­ter­spells along for Sorin’s vis­it to Tarkir.  As Battle for Zendikar and Oath of the Gatewatch cards start­ed be­com­ing part of Standard, Sorin did fall out of fa­vor, but the im­pact it had on Abzan Midrange/Control can’t be forgotten.


#7 – Monastery Mentor

Prowess was one of the most fa­vor­ably re­ceived me­chan­ics from this set, and it’s easy to see why with Monastery Mentor.  Not only does he be­come a mas­sive threat once you’ve got enough mana open to chain spells to­geth­er, but he also sta­bi­lizes your board with to­kens that also have Prowess.  Sadly, this Mentor didn’t see much play out­side of Jeskai Control, un­like our next card with Prowess.

#6 – Anafenza, the Foremost

One of the only Khans to see Standard play, Anafenza‘s com­bi­na­tion of cheap cast­ing cost and ex­cel­lent pow­er and tough­ness made her im­me­di­ate­ly ap­peal­ing.  Add on to that her abil­i­ty to put +1/+1 coun­ters onto oth­er crea­tures, and you end up with a way to make your threats even more threat­en­ing.  Against decks like Mono-Black Aggro, which fo­cused on Raid me­chan­ic crea­tures like Bloodsoaked Champion, Anafenza’s abil­i­ty to ex­ile crea­tures de­stroyed in bat­tle is help­ful – and in oth­er cas­es, it pre­vents Delve me­chan­ic cards from functioning.

#5 – Monastery Swiftspear

Lovingly re­ferred to as Taylor Swiftspear by her fans, this love­ly lit­tle lady is one of the author’s fa­vorite cards from the Tarkir block.  Not only does it have Prowess, but it also has Haste, mean­ing that it can be im­me­di­ate­ly used on Turn 1.  Many a groan was had when “Mountain, Swiftspear, take 1” was the open­ing play.  Yeah, it doesn’t give you to­kens like Monastery Mentor did, but when you have cheap com­bat tricks like Titan’s Strength and Slip Through Space, it’s not that much of a loss.  Swiftspear was seen in quite a few dif­fer­ent decks, rang­ing from Jeskai Control, to Mono-Red Aggro/Red Deck Wins, to Atarka Red, to Izzet Prowess, mak­ing her con­tri­bu­tions to this Standard im­me­di­ate­ly recognizable.


#4 – Treasure Cruise // Dig Through Time

Our num­ber four spot was a draw (pun very much in­tend­ed) be­tween two Delve-mechanic cards; Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time are so sim­i­lar, and so im­por­tant in gen­er­at­ing card ad­van­tage, that it was too hard and too close to put one above the oth­er.  Delve is an in­cred­i­bly use­ful me­chan­ic that works re­gard­less of play-style; ag­gro decks ap­pre­ci­ate it be­cause it’s cheap late-game, con­trol decks ap­pre­ci­ate it be­cause it gives them cheap card ad­van­tage.  The loss of these two cards means that card draw won’t be as rep­re­sent­ed in the new Standard – while the new Investigate me­chan­ic al­lows for card draw, not many cards with that me­chan­ic will be vi­able in Standard, nor will it be as cheap as Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise.

#3 – Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

What’s bet­ter than drag­ons, you ask?  Why, a drag­on planeswalk­er of course!  Big dad­dy Ugin was this block’s fo­cal point, with Nicol Bolas seek­ing to de­stroy him in Tarkir’s past, and the dragon-worshipping Sarkhan un­know­ing­ly work­ing to save him.  Ugin’s got some great abil­i­ties – his pos­i­tive is a free Lightning Bolt, his mi­nus is ab­solute­ly amaz­ing re­moval in a Standard fo­cused around multi-colored cards, and his ul­ti­mate is a win-condition all on its own as you don’t have to pay for the cards you’re putting onto the bat­tle­field.  Ugin’s one of those cards that works in what­ev­er deck you’re playing

#2 – Siege Rhino

Taking our num­ber two spot is everyone’s fa­vorite Abzan war-beast.  It’s hard to imag­ine that a 4 con­vert­ed mana cost card – with three col­ors re­quired to cast it – tak­ing such a high spot on the list, but the af­fect Siege Rhino has had on this Standard is im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore.  A six point life swing can make a world of dif­fer­ence, no mat­ter how well you’re do­ing in the game, and it’s tough enough to weath­er any­thing out­side of di­rect re­moval.  If you’ve got Anafenza, the Foremost, or Sorin, Solemn Visitor on the board as well, then it won’t be long be­fore your op­po­nents are star­ing down some very, very scary rhinos.

#1 – Fetch lands

Was there any doubt as to what would top the list?  The reprint­ing of Onslaught‘s fetch lands was seen as a good thing by the play­ers, and a bad thing by de­vel­op­ment.  Fetch lands al­lowed for easy mana fix­ing, and were the rea­son why three col­or decks like Jeskai Control and Abzan Midrange have been as suc­cess­ful for as long as they have been – and why four col­or decks like Jeskai Black, Abzan Blue, Mardu Green, and 4Color Rally were even fea­si­ble in the Battle for Zendikar era of Standard.  The loss of fetch lands means that mono-colored decks will be much more preva­lent in the Shadows Over Innistrad Standard – which is a shame, as the lev­el of in­ge­nu­ity we’ve seen in this Standards multi-colored decks is some­thing that doesn’t hap­pen very of­ten in the format.


All things must come to an end, and this Friday marks the end of one of the most in­no­v­a­tive and in­ter­est­ing blocks we’ve seen in Standard for a while now.  We’ll be sad to see Tarkir go, but our thoughts are al­ready on the con­tri­bu­tions Shadows Over Innistrad will be bring­ing to Standard.  Stay tuned, be­cause this Friday we’ll be tak­ing a look at some po­ten­tial­ly in­ter­est­ing cards from the newest Innistrad set.

(Update 4/7/2016 5:30 EST: A pre­vi­ous ver­sion of this ar­ti­cle was post­ed with the wrong fetch­lands pic­tured. Whoops!)

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