4 Pillars of Standard: 2021 Rotation

Mason ClarkStandard

Standard rotation is so close I can feel it! As of today, we’re just four weeks away from rotation and the release of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt on Arena

Last week, we took a look at the first batch of preview cards in Midnight Hunt to see how they might perform in Standard. Today, we’ll be doing the opposite: reexamining the cards that are currently in Standard to identify the four new pillars of the format. 

Goldspan Dragon

Our first pillar should be no surprise to anyone. Goldspan Dragon is the type of card that lets one player pull ahead and build an overwhelming board presence. It’s been all over the current Standard format, and judging by the 2022 Standard queues, that won’t be changing anytime soon. 

Goldspan Dragon benefits a lot from the pieces around it. The more options for removal and answers we have in Standard, the better this card will be. Goldspan’s ability to capitalize on two-mana spells can’t be undersold; look out for Essence Scatter and Negate variants, as well as more cheap removal spells. 

Sample decklist:
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Ranger Class

Ranger Class has been the most impressive card out of AFR. It’s the ultimate army in a can card — it assembles creatures for you and makes them bigger. If decks are looking to trade one-for-one, we can expect this card to be an all-star.

So far, Ranger Class has only seen significant play in Mono-Green and in some Gruul sideboards. I expect that to change with rotation as more options become available. Midnight Hunt is bound to provide plenty of Wolf/Werewolf support, and the best Wolf of all time is Ranger Class.

Sample decklist:
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Koma, Cosmos Serpent

Koma has been a dominant force on Standard since its release in Kaldheim. While it’s been most popular in “fair” Sultai decks, I expect it to be the pillar of ramp strategies going forward. It’s almost unkillable, and the first Koma almost always wins the game. On most boards, it’s all you need to take over a game.

Koma is the sort of card that decks have to have a plan for, and it will be a strong litmus test for the format when it first starts. It’s very easy to build all sorts of decks around Koma, so don’t come into Standard without a plan to answer this card. 

Sample decklist:
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Halvar, God of Battle

This card is probably the most controversial one on the list, but hear me out. When Halvar arrived in Standard earlier this year, he demonstrated the power of pairing double strike with Maul of the Skyclaves. Halvar may be most useful in aggressive decks, but he does grant some extra grinding potential thanks to his back half. In fact, Halvar’s versatility just might make him one of the breakout stars of the new Standard format.

Halvar has a lot of challenges in the current Standard format. He was often too slow to race an Emergent Ultimatum, and paying four mana for a creature that your opponent could bounce with Petty Theft was brutal. But with those cards leaving the format — along with Bonecrusher Giant and Lovestruck Beast, which could help stop early aggression — I think we have an absolute powerhouse on our hands. 

Sample decklist:
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Of course, a lot of this is just conjecture; we’ll have to wait and see what impact Innistrad: Midnight Hunt and subsequent sets will have on the format. However, whenever a rotation happens, it can be helpful to revisit the existing cards that are capable of winning games on their own. Knowing which cards have the best chance of taking over games is a great way to get an early edge in Week One.

Tweet at @masoneclark and @card_kingdom and let us know what you think of this list. Are there any huge pillars we missed?