Ixalan Standard Rotation

Posted in How to Build on August 29, 2017

By Gaby Spartz

By night, Gaby streams Magic on Twitch. By day, she's co-founder and VP of Content at Dose, the Chicago-based media company behind Dose.com and OMGFacts.com.

"Here comes the Dinos,
Here comes the Dinos and I say . . .
It's all right."

Battle for Zendikar, Oath of the Gatewatch, Shadows over Innistrad, and Eldritch Moon are rotating on September 28, and with those departures come lots of changes to the Standard format. Away go the undead and the Eldrazi. It's time to saddle up your Dinosaurs!

Today we're taking a look at the upcoming Standard rotation and which decks of the format will feel the biggest impact.


Zombies are dead (again). This deck will take by far the greatest hit when rotation comes around; you can't exactly have a Zombie hoard without enough Zombies.

  • Cryptbreaker
  • Relentless Dead
  • Diregraf Colossus
  • Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
  • Liliana, the Last Hope

Losing Cryptbreaker is painful. This card grants the deck an ability to grind and a card-drawing engine to boot. It was relatively common for Zombie decks to decline an attack phase in favor of drawing a card. It also helped Zombie decks prevent flooding by discarding lands to Cryptbreaker.

Liliana, the Last Hope is also a meaningful loss. Not only could she recur threats from the graveyard, but sometimes Zombie decks could run away with games if Liliana was not dealt with and was allowed to ultimate.

Black decks also lose access to Grasp of Darkness, a premium removal spell; Dark Salvation, a removal spell that also advanced their game plan; and Transgress the Mind, a powerful sideboard card against many decks in the format.

Overall, Zombie decks are gonna take a big hit after rotation and will need some serious help in the creature and removal departments to continue being competitive.

Mardu Vehicles

While Vehicles was a mechanic introduced in Kaladesh, Mardu Vehicles is losing a couple of team players from the deck.

Thraben Inspector played double duty in Mardu Vehicles. It provided a pilot for Aethersphere Harvester while also replacing itself with a Clue. You can't really ask for much more from a one-drop.

Losing Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is also painful. Gideon is strong enough to see play in both Standard and Modern. It's one of the best cards in Standard based on raw power level. It's hard to imagine Mardu Vehicles getting a planeswalker that will fit as well as Gideon did.

The other meaningful loss for Mardu Vehicles is its creature lands.

The creature lands were an insurance policy against flooding, since eventually they could start attacking. They were also powerful against control decks, especially after a board sweep, and they could crew a Vehicle in a pinch.

Ramunap Red

For the most part, Ramunap Red is untouched. The deck is losing two borderline one-drops. A large number of Ramunap Red decks don't even run the Messenger and/or Gorger, so Ramunap Red can continue along its merry way.

Temur Energy

Temur Energy doesn't bat an eyelash at rotation. The deck is only losing a couple of cards, and most of them are sideboard cards.

  • Radiant flames
  • Chandra, Flamecaller
  • Tireless Tracker
  • Elder Deep-Fiend

Radiant Flames was great at dealing with small creatures, especially against a fast deck like Ramunap Red. Chandra, Flamecaller and Tireless Tracker were both good options against control decks, helping grind and provide card advantage. While losing these is certainly annoying, Temur Energy will have no issues remaining competitive.

Black-Green Aggro/Control

The black-green decks have evolved constantly throughout the format. Here are some of the biggest losses with rotation:

  • Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
  • Grim Flayer
  • Sylvan Advocate
  • Ishkanah, Grafwidow
  • Catacomb Sifter

Black-green decks come in all shapes and sizes. It's true that Ishkanah, Grafwidow isn't at a peak at the moment, but it was a powerful top-end card that will no longer aid the more controlling flavors of black-green decks.

Grim Flayer is also at a low point, but it's a powerful card that has fallen in and out of favor through various times this Standard format.

Green decks lose a powerful two-drop in Sylvan Advocate. It's good on offense, defense, and even becomes a late-game threat by pumping itself and any Hissing Quagmires (which black-green will also be losing).

These decks will also miss Oath of Nissa, a great card for smoothing out your draws, and Traverse the Ulvenwald, a way to fix mana and find threats in the late game.

Even with all the tools that black-green is losing, this is the kind of deck that people like to play and is often good in many formats. I'm sure black-green will make a return with Ixalan, even if it looks significantly different than it does today.

Blue-Red Control

This deck is mostly unaffected by rotation. It will have to replace some of it lands, like Wandering Fumarole (and Sunken Hollow, if the deck is splashing for Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh).

Red-Green Ramp

The all-you-can-eat buffet was bound to end, and Ulamog's hunger has finally been quenched. Red-Green Ramp decks are taking a big hit by losing both creatures they ramp to.

This problem might be solved if Ixalan brings some big critters (hopefully big Dinos?), but the Eldrazi provided something valuable to the ramp decks. Both Ulamog and World Breaker had cast triggers, which the creatures from Ixalan might not necessarily have. These triggers meant that even if their big spells didn't resolve, they would still get the benefit of exiling their opponents' lands and/or permanents.

The other meaningful loss for Red-Green Ramp is their lands and ramp spells. Sanctum of Ugin could help a draw that was threat-light and tutor up another Eldrazi in case the first one was dealt with. This could potentially mean the deck casts its first threat, but if that's dealt with, it might lack a way to close out the game. If Ixalan brings a good land or two, this deck should be in fine shape, but it will definitely need a bit of help.

White-Blue Control (Approach of the Second Sun)

For the most part, white-blue control is unaffected by rotation.

Blessed Alliance is very good against Ramunap Red. Gaining life against red is big game; so is having them sacrifice a creature. White-blue always finds ways to deal with small critters, so while this is annoying, it's not the end of the world.

The nice thing about Blighted Cataract is that you can use it to speed up your Approach of the Second Sun kill once you've cast the first Approach. That said, this card is by no means necessary for the overall game plan of White-Blue Control.

These cards are typically in the sideboard, and while very powerful, are not necessary for white-blue to function properly.

Overall, it seems this rotation will bring some meaningful changes to Standard. Zombies, Gideon, Ulamog, and creature lands will be gone. If your deck played none of these, maybe it'll be time to shine! What are you excited to see in Ixalan when the set is released September 29? Are there cards you're excited to see leave this rotation? You can let me know on Twitter @gabyspartz or on my stream at twitch.tv/gabyspartz.

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