Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Bracing for the Standard Rotation

Getting into Magic the Gathering has been daunting. Not the actual playing of game, but figuring out all the different ways people play the game now! Back when I played MtG ~20 years ago you just made a deck from your card collection and had at it. Its not like that now.

Last post I talked about the Limited Draft format where you draft the card to make a deck from as part of the event and contrasted that with Constructed formats where you make a deck ahead of time and bring it to the game instead. There are many different types of Constructed formats and two of the biggest are Standard and Modern which are the same in how you play the game but differ in what cards you can use to make your deck.

Modern allows you to use any cards (except for a few banned ones) from the "modern era" of Magic:

That's a hell of a lot of cards. Magic the Gathering Arena does not have a large fraction of those sets so its not something I've been concerning myself with a lot.

Standard is much more restrictive and only allows you to use cards from the two most current "blocks" of releases:

That's still a fair number of cards to work with and there is a lot of variation of decks you will find on Arena and in the wild.

So you are asking "what's a block?" and I was too when I started. Basically, a block is a year's worth of releases give or take. In the above picture there is the "Ixalan" block consisting of Ixalan, Rivals of Ixalan, Dominaria, and Core Set 2019, followed by the "Ravnica" block consisting of Guidls of Ravnica, Ravnica Allegiance, War of the Spark, and Core Set 2020.

However, the standard format rotation is going to happen with the first expansion of the next block coming in early October, Throne of Eldraine. When it lands all four releases in the Ixalan block rotate out of Standard decks and are only allowed in Modern decks (and other formats I didn't cover here).

This is kind of bad news for me because my current Black Aggro deck leans heavily on a few key cards in that block. One of the biggest losses for me is the Ravenous Chupacabra. This card is an amazingly efficient two-for-one where it kills an opponent's creature and leaves behind a 2/2 creature for me. So far I have not found a suitable replacement. The Cavalier of Night is similar but requires a bodily sacrifice and costs more mana.

Speaking of cheap bodies, I'm also losing my best bud Reassmbling Skeleton. Another hyper-efficient card that can block and return to the battlefield for just two mana, or I can use him for a sacrifice for a spell and bring him right back! The options for replacing him are Gutterbones which requires one more mana to get back on the table and requires the opponent to have lost life, or Sanitarium Skeleton which requires 4(!) mana to get back on the table if he dies.

Another blow to efficiency is losing the awesome Vrasks's Contempt spell which is a two-for-one that kills a creature OR planeswalker and gives me two life. More costly than a plain Murder but can target annoying planeswalkers AND gives me a boost in life counters? Count me in.

Or rather count me out because in a few weeks you are rotating out, sweetheart.

All this loss of super-efficient cards is telling on my revised deck which is averaging about 50% win rate instead of the 65% win rate my original Ixalan-infused deck was doing on the ranked ladder.

I'm hoping that Throne of Eldraine brings in some new cards I can use to reinforce my fun little black aggro deck.


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  2. There's a few cards coming up in Throne of Eldraine you could try as potential replacements.

    Blacklance Paragon (1B, 3/1 flash, gives a knight lifelink and Deathtouch on ETB)is a potentially good replacement for the chupacabra, especially if you have a lot of knight creatures, although it does rely on blocking so it may not be optimal for all situations.

    Murderous Rider (1BB, 2/3 knight with lifelink and 'when this creature dies put it on the bottom of its owners library)offers pretty much a direct replacement for Vraskas in its adventure Swift End (1BB Instant, destroy target creature or planeswalker, you lose 2 life)with the only difference being it doesnt exile, which could be an issue against certain cards.

    Skeleton doesn't really have an Eldraine equivilent from what I've seen but you could try cards like Order of Midnight (1B, 2/2 Human Knight with flying and 'cannot block') and its adventure Alter Fate (1B Sorcery, return target creature from your grave to hand) or Witches Cottage (Land Swamp, comes in tapped unless you control three or more other swamps, if it ETBs untapped put a creature card from your graveyard on top of your deck)