With the first rotation in what feels like years, Standard waves goodbye to staples such as The Scarab God and Glorybringer and hello to a whole wide world of new toys to explore. This shakeup allows for new ingenuity, and the consensus is that it will breathe new life into Standard, as well as non-rotating formats such as Modern and even Legacy.
Let’s start with the obvious: with the cycle of cycling lands rotating from Standard, our favorite fetchable enter-the-battlefield-untapped friends return. Shocklands are some of the best lands to grace modern Magic, and I fully expect them to grace almost every decklist from here until their rotation.
With Fumigate having said its last goodbyes, Guilds of Ravnica does not disappoint in filling its shoes. From Citywide Bust and Deafening Clarion to Ritual of Soot and Find // Finality, the board wipes that we’re seeing in Guilds are far narrower than the catch-all Damnation effects of the past, but that niche quality means they can see play in a wider variety of decks. While I expect these cards to largely be relegated to sideboards (except for maybe Find // Finality, since the front half does work on its own), I think they will be very common in the newly evolving Standard format.
I know what you’re thinking (“Removal – how obvious!”), but I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the talk of the town, Assassin’s Trophy. This might be one of the best catch-all removal spells ever printed, and personally, I think it should be an auto-include (at least up to a couple copies) in every deck that can run it – in Standard or Modern. Conclave Tribunal is another incredibly powerful spell that I believe is an easy addition to any white deck. The ability to tap a few small creatures that couldn’t attack into the opposing threat, anyway, to Convoke out an Oblivion Ring effect should not be undervalued.
While only two Planeswalkers were printed in Guilds of Ravnica, I expect them both to see play to varying extents in the coming Standard format. Ral, Izzet Viceroy can easily slot into a U/R or Grixis Control strategy as a protectable win condition. Vraska, Golgari Queen also protects herself, and at four mana, she is less prohibitive than her Relic Seeker counterpart. Her +2 may be prohibitive depending upon the board state, but in the late game, I believe it can provide inevitability, especially in a deck with Llanowar Elves, or any time you begin flooding out.
With Legion’s Landing and other token makers readily available in Standard, a G/W “go wide” deck is an easy jumping off point to begin your brewing. Trostani Discordant is a great inclusion and can help protect a battlefield of small creatures from threats like Goblin Chainwhirler. Knight of Autumn is another multicolored card that can act as a catch-all in any G/W or Abzan deck, and March of Multitudes can be a boon against opposing strategies. In an unexpected metagame, these cards can be very powerful, but they can quickly be answered by those board wipes we went over earlier.
Speedy red decks also get a few new additions from GRN. Tajic, Legion’s Edge, Legion Warboss, Runaway Steam-Kin, Lava Coil, and Risk Factor are all cards that look promising for early format deckbuilding. I believe that with a few small tweaks, the Red-Black decks from past Standard can be updated to incorporate these new additions, and will be a great choice as we jump into this brave new world. Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice combines well with Angels from previous sets, as well as aggressive Boros strategies.
Control Isn’t Viable, Izzet?
As we mentioned earlier, Izzet or Grixis Control could easily be a viable strategy, depending on where Standard shakes out. With cards like Ionize, Chemister’s Insight, Sinister Sabotage and Thought Erasure, you’re set up to fight through a lot of opponents’ game plans. Of course, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria remains a powerhouse in Standard, so a Jeskai control deck could also rise to the forefront.
With not one, but three guilds utilizing the graveyard in some way, it’s expected that some powerful synergies would arise. And with cards like Gruesome Menagerie, Izoni, Thousand-Eyed, Molderhulk and Necrotic Wound, they don’t fail to disappoint.
Big Beefy Bombs
The power level of creatures in Guilds of Ravnica is very high, and there are some big beasts in this set (we’re looking at you, Nullhide Ferox). Between Pelt Collector, Doom Whisperer and Impervious Greatworm, the number of must-answer threats that can pressure your life total is very high, and I believe people will be taking full advantage of these well-costed bodies.
As you can see, there are many diverse and viable approaches to this wide open new Standard format – and I can’t help but to want to sleeve them all up!