The Top 8 Ways to Play with Your Rotating Cards

Posted in How to Build on March 1, 2016

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

Wait. So what's this rotation thing that's about to happen? Tell me more...

Yes, it's hard to believe—but a Standard rotation is almost upon us! Traditionally this only ever happened in autumn, but with the two-block-per-year model that Magic has adopted, now Standard rotates twice per year.

What does this mean for you? Well, when Shadows over Innistrad releases, Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged will leave Standard to be replaced by Shadows over Innistrad block goodies. (And then later this year, when Lock releases, Dragons of Tarkir and Magic Origins will leave to be replaced by whatever craziness that set has going on!)

Now, I'll admit: rotation is always a little sad. It's hard at first. Like sending your kid off to college or watching your favorite Doctor regenerate, it's hard to search through your Standard decks and set aside your favorite Anafenza, the Foremosts and Monastery Mentors. You had such good times together!

Now, what's important to realize here is that the Standard rotation is actually a Very Good Thing™. While setting aside some of your favorite cards is hard, it also keeps the format fresh and exciting! It gets many of the cards that have worn out their welcome away from the format—goodbye, Siege Rhino!—and allows new cards to shine. Standard rotation is one of the best things Magic has ever done.

But that doesn't diminish the fact that some of your favorite cards are no longer eligible for Standard tournaments. So, what to do now?

Well fret not: there is a life for cards after Standard. In fact, there are many lives after Standard!

So, here are my Top 8 ways to play with your Khans and Fate cards after they rotate.

Ready? Let's go!

1. Modern

More likely than not, you've heard of Modern. But just in case you're unfamiliar, it's a format where every card (with the exception of a small banned list) from the past fifteen-plus years of Magic is legal for play! Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise are both banned (turns out they were a little crazy with some older ways of building up your graveyard), but otherwise every card from Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged is completely legal and ready to play with!

But wait, Gavin...will my cards really be competitive in a format with so many options?

A great question to ask! After all, the more cards in a format, the harder it is for your new cards to compete. (Which goes right back to why Standard rotation is important.) But fortunately, in this case, I can give you a resounding "yes"!

Many Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged cards made a big splash in Modern. All five of the Khans of Tarkir fetch lands—Flooded Strand, Polluted Delta, Bloodstained Mire, Wooded Foothills, and Windswept Heath—which you likely picked up for your Standard mana bases, are cornerstones of the Modern format.

Beyond that, marquee Standard cards like Siege Rhino and Monastery Mentor have made a splash in Modern. And plenty of cards that might be your favorites that lurked around Standard, like Savage Knuckleblade, have their mana bases made easy in Modern—and you could very well try building a new deck using a card like that!

Khans and Fate cards definitely fit squarely into the Modern format.

2. Cube

Ah, Cube. Personally, one of my favorites.

If you're not familiar with Cube, the idea is pretty simple: you hand-select a few hundred cards to fill the cube with (usually only one of each, but not always), and then everybody drafts from that group of cards as if they were booster packs. Some cubes are a wild combination of "the best cards in Magic," others have more tightly knit themes like "Tribal Cube" or "Combo Cube."

If you don't already have a cube, your Khans and Fate cards are a great place to start. If you do already have one, these cards could be a great way to springboard a second cube. Multicolor Cube, anybody?

I'm not going to dive too deeply into Cube because Melissa DeTora has an excellent article up today on this very topic. Want to know more? Go check that out!

3. Commander

A multicolor set that is full of sweet legends? Well, that fits right into Commander!

Commander is a multiplayer format where everybody comes with a 100-card singleton deck using cards from throughout Magic's vast history. You start with 40 life and a specific legendary creature leading your deck into the fray. You can cast the legendary creature you pick over and over and over again!

Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged each have multiple three-color legendary creatures—and that's important, because which colors your deck can be is determined by the colors represented by your legendary commander! Khans and Fate feature some top-quality legends to pick from as well: Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, Anafenza, the Foremost, Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest, Tasigur, the Golden Fang...and, oh yeah, a cycle of legendary dragons like Dromoka, the Eternal to boot!

And since you have to fill out a 100-card deck no matter which commander you choose, surely you'll have plenty of use for your Khans and Fate cards to fill the gaps!

Even if you already have a plethora of Commander decks, this is a great opportunity to build some new ones to fit in your favorite Khans and Fate cards. Go forth and build something awesome!

4. Tiny Leaders

If you like Commander but are looking for something that plays more like a competitive one-on-one Constructed format, Tiny Leaders might be right up your alley!

Once described to me as a cross between Commander and Legacy, Tiny Leaders is very similar to Commander—except you can't play any cards that cost more than three mana! Additionally, your deck size is half that of Commander.

This makes it quite interesting. A lot of format staples are right out the window, and sweepers become very scarce. It's a whole new ball game!

Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged really juiced up this format by adding a bunch of legendary creatures that cost three or less to the card pool. This let you play colors you couldn't really do effectively before! It's a great opportunity to break out your Alesha, Who Smiles at Death as your Mardu tiny leader.

I was so enamored with Tiny Leaders that I wrote an entire article about it once! You can check it out here.

5. Canadian Highlander

Okay, so maybe you've already tinkered plenty with Commander. Sure. Maybe you've tried Tiny Leaders. Or maybe the whole "having a commander" thing just isn't for you. All right. Well, how about another singleton format for you to explore?

Enter: Canadian Highlander. (Or, as they must call it in Canada, "Highlander.")

This format is quickly picking up steam. It's a way to play Magic that, similarly, uses a singleton deck. But unlike Commander, it's usually played one-on-one—and has a much different system for determining what cards go into your deck. There's no commander and you only get 10 "deck-building points" to spend on building your deck, and that determines which format staples can go into your deck.

Curious to learn more? Check out their site for more details.

6. Type 4

Type 4 (also known by a myriad of other names, such as DC-10, Limited Infinity, Off-the-Top, or, perhaps most eloquently, "GO NUTS!") is a great way to pass time when you have a bunch of friends together.

It's an excellent format for playing between rounds at a tournament or while waiting for Dave to show up to your weekly Draft night. (Yeah, "Dave," you know who you are!) The games are fast and wild, and there's no major investment in the game, so that when Dave does finally show up you can pack up your game and start drafting.

The premise is very simple. Everybody starts with no cards in their hand. Everyone has infinite mana. You draw one card on your turn.

Yep. Go nuts, indeed.

Now, there are a ton of variants you can play. I've seen where you start with three cards in your hand but can only cast one per turn. I've seen where you get ten mana per turn to spend. They're all great! (I prefer no cards and infinite mana myself because it's the most absurd.) But the important part is this: you need cards to play with, and preferably a curated stack.

That's where your Khans and Fate cards come in!

A fun Type 4 stack is well-curated to ensure there's a proper mix of ridiculousness (have you ever had infinite mana and a Mistmeadow Witch? It's a good feeling) but not any lame cards that make the whole exercise null and void (Fireball, for example).

Start off your Type 4 stack with some Khans and Fate cards and begin growing it from there! The two sets have a good mix of powerful enchantments, creatures with strong abilities of all shapes and sizes, and some fun spells. Manifest is especially fun in a format with infinite mana. You can turn your creature face up at any time—so it really could be anything!

Most Type 4 stacks are between 150 and 300 cards. Build one up and give it a try!

7. Build Your Own Duel Decks

If you're like I was before I started working for Wizards and your dream is to do Magic design—or you just want to have a memorable experience for you and your friends—why not get the gears turning by building your own Duel Decks?

Duel Decks are some of my favorite releases: they're two decks engineered to play against each other that you can just pick up and play. Even if a friend hasn't played Magic for years, I can hand them a Duel Deck and get ready to battle.

My brother doesn't play a ton of Magic these days—but ever since Elves vs. Goblins, when a new Duel Deck comes out, we try and find time to play it. And this way you can have a Duel Deck of your very own to tweak over time—and to provide a unique game for you and your friends.

And why Khans and Fate? Well, there's even the perfect theme: Clans vs. Dragons!

Fate Reforged is a set centered on the Clans and Dragons conflict. Khans of course has some more Clans-focused cards, and you can even pull from Dragons of Tarkir to get what you need for the Dragons side. And then right in the middle, in Fate Reforged, you have those saucy SiegesPalace Siege and its ilk—that have the choice right on the card!

If you're looking for something to try that's fun and off the beaten path, give this a shot!

8. Standard Wars

Okay, so Kylo Ren and Rey are—

Oh. Standard Wars. Ahem.

So let's say you have a deck you really like and you just don't want to take it apart and stop playing. Well...all right then! I have just the thing for you.

A couple of my friends have their collection of what I like to call "Standard Wars" decks. These are decks that are emblematic of a specific Standard format. For each format, they keep between two and four of the top decks around.

Why do that? Well, because if you do this for a few Standard rotations, then you can play Standard Wars!

Imagine you keep some of your favorite decks together for at least a year and a half—so that's three Standard rotations. (Or, alternatively, spend some time going back and building some older Standard decks yourself.) Start by picking a deck from the past several years of Standard at random, your opponent does the same, and you battle! Play best out of five (or seven, or nine, or...), and every time a deck wins, retire it for this match and pick new decks. It's a total blast, and you'll get to see matchups you never thought would play out in front of you.

Who wins—Dark Jeskai or Mono-Blue Devotion? Esper Dragons or Burning-Tree Zoo? These are the questions that can only be answered with Standard Wars!

Play On!

One of my favorite things about Magic is that it's more than just one game—it's many different games, flying under the unified rule set of Magic.

Whether Commander or Cube, Type 4 or Standard Wars, no matter which way you choose to play, I hope this article gave you at least one new idea for how to use your cards!

I'd love to hear what your plans are for your Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged cards once they rotate out. You can send me a tweet or ask me a question on my Tumblr and I'll be sure to take a look.

Have fun playing; I'll talk with you again soon!

Gavin

@GavinVerhey

GavInsight

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