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