A Standard rotation is right around the corner, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't psyched for it. It feels like we've been playing with Ravnica block for a decade now, and I'm eager to see what a new format without the trio of colorful sets will look like. Don't get me wrong, Ravnica is easily one of my favorite planes in Magic, but I think enough is enough and we can all use a little freshening up when it comes to Magic's most popular format. In addition, Core Set 2020 is also rotating out of the format. (I've always thought having two Core Sets in Standard at the same time was weird; just have one coming in rotate the older one.)
With four entire sets rotating out with the introduction of Zendikar Rising in the next week, today I want to go over some of the cards I've loved playing with and some of the cards I've loathed playing with, or against as the case may be.
You'll be missed!
Chromatic Lantern and Niv-Mizzet Reborn
Not only was Chromatic Lantern one of the best ways to "fix" your mana in four- or five-color decks, Niv-Mizzet Reborn was one of the most fun things you could do with all that mana. Niv-Mizzet Reborn was a card I wrote about a while back, and I had a ton of fun brewing up lists that tried to maximize the number of powerful, multicolored cards we could hit off of the dragon legend. I think Niv-Mizzet Reborn is a hugely powerful creature, enough so that he even sees play in Modern and Pioneer, but I also think his casting cost and the cards you're able to get with him are extremely balanced. He has very strong deck-building and mana base requirements, and I think that's one of the things I love about the card. He definitely rewards how you construct your deck and mana base.
Just like Chromatic Lantern, I love Standard formats with shock lands to fix mana bases. They're even better when we have fetch lands to search them out, a la the Khans of Tarkir format. Shock lands are great because they just allow our mana to be so good, and with them finally rotating, it looks like the Triomes are going to be doing a lot of the heavy lifting from here on out. Unfortunately, most of the current dual lands in Standard currently enter the battlefield tapped, such as the gain lands, the scry lands, a lot of the double-faced lands, and the aforementioned Triomes. Yeah, the Shock Lands are a treat, and they don't make 'em like they used to. Ideally, we'll see some check lands in the future, which would also go great with the Triomes.
It's no secret that Mystic Snake is one of my favorite pet cards in Magic. Frilled Mystic is just Mystic Snake 2.0. The extra point of power doesn't make it a strict improvement due to it being harder to cast, but it's still an almost identical facsimile. While we weren't able to play with this card a ton, due to there simply being better cards in the format, this was a great addition to the Flash deck, and I always had a soft spot for it.
Ilharg, the Raze-Boar
I still remember trying to build around this legendary God Pig, and actually managed to do so with some success. Having a 6/6 trampler that is not only difficult to permanently remove, but also acts as a Sneak Attack, always struck me as a card that should have seen more play in Standard. Luckily, I had a pretty decent time with a deck I wrote about right here on this very site! The goal was to get out and attack with an Ilharg as quickly as possible, with things like Rhythm of the Wild, and to then put cards into play like End-Raze Forerunners and Burning Sun's Avatar. This deck was a blast to play, and I was disappointed it didn't catch on more, but I do appreciate that it was pretty niche, and obviously not tier 1 (I don't think, anyway...). Either way, that'll do, pig. That'll do.
Ugin, the Ineffable
Don't try to eff with this guy. He's ineffable. Seriously, I've talked about Ugin a good deal. He's one of my favorite planeswalkers in formats like Historic and Standard because he just does so much for a six-mana colorless planeswalker. Unfortunately, one of his new abilities is now "make Ugin, the Spirit Dragon cost two less."
Being able to add this to something like a Blue or Red deck and having a way to deal with things those decks can't, like enchantments, was great. He also provided a steady stream of offensive or defensive bodies, that drew you cards when they left the battlefield. Ugin feels like an almost perfect planeswalker in that his abilities, casting cost, and color requirements check all the boxes.
This was another immensely fun build around that, again, I wrote about here! This was not a card that I expected to perform as well as it did, but sure enough, we were attacking with 22/22 Bioessence Hydras and there wasn't a lot of great removal available to deal with that. Another great quality was that the Hydra never punished you for playing your planeswalkers before you cast it. It got counters for planeswalkers that were in play, and planeswalkers that you would play after. This was just a fun card that felt far more competitive than it was given credit for.
Often when I talk about Standard's current philosophy, I like to talk about how the format is essentially haymaker after haymaker, and how slight advantages made by smaller plays, that add up over the course of the game, are less present than they used to be. When I talk about those kinds of cards, Hydroid Krasis is the kind of card I'm talking about. Of course, this card was made all the worse by the next card I'm discussing...
Nissa, Who Shakes the World
We all know why this Nissa is on this list. She's been an oppressive thorn in Standard's side for months, if not years now. This is a card that, whenever there were bannings of Blue and Green cards, people wondered, "why not Nissa too?" While there are a ton of planeswalkers with stupid static abilities, this one takes the cake when you have cards like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Hydroid Krasis in the format. She will not be missed. At least not by me.
Narset, Parter of Veils
I'm pretty sure most of the recent three-mana planeswalkers were mistakes, and Narset is no exception. Most of their static abilities were real "gotcha" abilities that were easy to forget, because they changed the fundamental parts of the game. There was no worse feeling than trying to draw a card and forgetting Narset's static ability: something that didn't exist on a planeswalker until War of the Spark came out. I know it happened to me several times, and I'll be glad to not have to deal with the possibility anymore... at least in Standard.
Wow, three hydras on the list. That's kind of weird.
Funny enough, all my loathes are Blue and Green. Coincidence? The thing about Voracious Hydra is that I don't think it was too good - in fact, I think it's a really well-designed Green card! I just happen to think it was too good with Nissa, Who Shakes the World. Those two being in the same format made for some really ridiculous plays, the same way Hydroid Krasis did. Nissa just doesn't need to have so many X-mana spells to exploit. That being said, I think Voracious Hydra will retain its place in Magic history as a very formidable Green card.
Of course, this list doesn't touch upon the cards that were already banned, like Teferi, Time Raveler and Wilderness Reclamation. Those are cards that I don't really need to "miss" because they've already been gone for a bit now. Of course, I think they were legal for far too long, and it's still strange that, even after rotating four entire sets, we'll still have four cards on the banned list. People think it's only a matter of time before Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath follows suit, and I can't say I'd disagree with that decision. And we do still have to remember that Questing Beast is a legal card.
Ultimately, I'm really looking forward to having a fresh new Standard format. I think the Ravnica block had a lot of really great, original cards. It just happened to have a lot of really oppressive, pushed cards as well. I think the goal is to find a balance between those two, and I hope R&D ends up getting a little closer.
I'm really looking forward to hearing what cards you guys loathed and loved in these sets: what cards you're looking forward to rotating, and what cards you're sad are leaving. Let me know in the comments below. As always, I love you guys, stay safe, use promo code FRANK5, and I'll catch you next week!