January 7, 2019

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Adventures in Standard: Making a Mark

If you had to pick two of the best cards from the last Standard rotation, what would you pick? For me, the answers are pretty easy: Disallow and Fatal Push. In case you don't follow, let me explain.

In a time when cards like Scarab God, Aetherworks Marvel, and by extension the entire energy mechanic were running amok, you needed a quick answer to keep them from going off. Having an answer for early game tempo pieces was absolutely vital. So these two cards played a big part in giving multiple decks a chance.


These two immediately saw use in other formats, Fatal Push even saw play in Modern. I'd play them in Commander decks easy, especially since they're no longer in Standard rotation.

In my opinion there's quite a divide between amazing cards and those that were only great in Standard. With a few exceptions, of course. A great example of a card that was only great is Abrade. This was another addition to Wizard of the Coast's insistance that we get a properly balanced Lightning Bolt by stapling another function to it. I would still rather run Bolt and something like Vandalblast over Abrade. But it was still okay.

Things have taken a turn with the new Standard rotation. While we watched the old slowly pass the torch onto the new, we didn't see a whole lot that could take the throne away from the likes of Disallow, Push, or even Scarab God. Then Dominaria released and caused a huge change in the field.

Check Lands made a resurgence, we got a brand new Mox with Mox Amber, the new Karn and Teferi are both still worth quite a bit. And of course we got History of Benalia, easily the best saga enchantment in the entire set. Even among the lower value cards there was plenty of utility. Helm of the Host for example could, in certain situations, become absolutely crazy. Especially so in a format like Commander.

This was soon followed up by Core 2019, which brought us the amazing flip card Nicol Bolas, the Ravager, arguably one of the character's best cards yet among a score of other great cards that did more to fill out decks than steal any shows. That set featured a lot more in the way of great Commander and Modern staples than anything else.

However, it appears the three-set saga chronicling Ravnica will host the be all and end all regarding the best spells in rotation this time around. Or when it comes to counterspells and removal, at the very least. I introduce to you Ionize and Assassin's Trophy:


While Ionize doesn't counter abilities, it does deal damage and activates a great deal of incidental effects with a lot of support in Standard right now. Trophy on the other hand removes just about anything for almost nothing at all, at instant speed. It's balanced only by the caveat that the affected player is offered a land. There's tons of other stuff like Arclight Phoenix and the fact that now shock lands are back that have made this set incredibly impacting.

Things don't stop there, though. We're looking at a couple of spoilers that have proven to me that we may be looking at this being a kind of constant, where every set makes an impact on the playing field of the entire game and not just Standard:









That last spoiler card in particular reads, "Destroy target artifact, creature, or planeswalker". While not exactly game shaping like Assassin's Trophy, it certainly shows the statement that this set is looking to make. We have a pretty awesome reprint, a really neat legendary, and an incredible new removal spell that looks like it may help shape the look of Standard. These past sets look like they're about making waves in the game without obviously breaking it. And I think they've done a pretty good job.

However, Lavinia is kind of looking like she might be easy to exploit. Just saying.

What do you think about this new set? As spoiler season goes on, Wizards is coming out strong.