A Whole New World: MTG after rotating – Blue

After today there are still 3 more colors to go on the rotation wheel, and the first week of spoilers is JUST around the corner. I’m going to have to work extra hard to get them all out before the spoilers start clogging up the internet, so bear with me over the next week and a half.

Today’s color is blue, and some VERY key cards of a few popular decks are going to be cycling out. I’m sure a lot of you are wondering just HOW badly  Delver decks will be affected, and with today’s color I think we’ll be able to gauge how Delver will be doing in the future. I’ve also already mentioned Phyrexian Metamorph in Artifacts (which would probably be the #1 card in blue that will be missed), so this list might seem a little strange, but bear with me.

Here are the top 10 (ish) cards that blue will be losing in October:

  1. Ponder
  2. Phantasmal Image
  3. Mana Leak
  4. Gitaxian Probe
  5. Vapor Snag
  6. Mental Misstep
  7. Frost Titan
  8. Consecrated Sphinx
  9. Grand Architect
  10. Treasure Mage/Trinket Mage

1. Ponder

Ponder is going to be the most missed card in blue I think. It’s an amazing turn 1 card for any blue deck, especially for UW Delver. Without it you might think Delver decks will have to rely on chance alone to flip, but there is a new “Ponder” in M13 called Index. It lets you look at 5 cards and put them back in any order and it only costs 1 mana. Its drawback is that you can’t draw a card afterwards nor can you shuffle your deck if you don’t like what you see. Another deck that uses Ponder a lot is UW Miracles, but that deck doesn’t need to worry about the lack of card draw as much. Index might actually be a better fit for UW Miracles because you could set up a lot of miracles in a row and end the game by looking 5 turns ahead. Augur of Bolas (M13) will be a good replacement for UW Miracle decks too I think.

What’s going to hurt Delver the most when Ponder leaves is the loss of card draw. Delver is a fast deck, and if you’re not getting enough cards to continue your assault, you’ll be dead in the water. I think it will be a lot easier to overwhelm Delver decks with spells once RTR is released. Index just won’t cut it.

2. Phantasmal Image

I was debating whether or not to put this at #1 or not. Phantasmal Image is amazingly powerful at 2 mana and fits into a variety of decks. One of its greatest abilities to is copy any Legend on the battlefield without targeting it. This means a lot when battling Thrun, the Last Troll, a Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, etc. By having two in play the Legends kill each other, and usually your life is saved. There are 3 decks that will be affected a lot by its loss. First is UB Zombies. It’s usually in there to add another Blood Artist or Diregraf Captain, but can also create another Geralf’s Messenger. Another deck that will take a hit when M12 rotates is UB Heartless Summoning. That deck is losing absolutely everything: Rune-Scarred Demon, Phantasmal Image, Phyrexian Metamorph, and Frost Titan. It’s going to cease to be in less than a month. The deck that will be damaged the most by rotation is Solar Flare I think. Blade Splicer, Sun Titan, and Phantasmal Image will be gone. Suddenly there is no combo and no way to get anything back from the graveyard.

I think Solar Flare and UB Heartless decks will consolidate themselves into one deck, most likely becoming an Esper Frites deck with their main cards being Griselbrand, Bloodgift Demon, and maybe even Stormtide Leviathan since it can cheat it’s way into the battlefield early with Unburial Rites. Without the Titan/Image combo the deck will have nothing. Clone could take over for Phantasmal Image in a UB Heartless Summoning deck, and if you’re just focusing on making copies of your creatures Cackling Counterpart from ISD could also work, but nothing beats the 2 mana cost of Phantasmal Image.

3. Mana Leak

Mana Leak might be gone, but I have a feeling we might get some awesome counters in Return to Ravnica. In the two spot we’ll have Negate and Essence Scatter, but nothing that can screw over an opponent as easily as Mana Leak could on turn 2. The fact that this targets any type of card is what makes it the best. Not only will this hurt decks like UB Control (and other control decks), but it will also work against Delver decks (that usually run 4 Mana Leak). Without Leak, Delver decks will be a lot more vulnerable to attacks as well as being overwhelmed by armies of creatures early on. It could work in entirely a different way though. Delver could just take out counterspells altogether (which some have done already) and focus more on creatures. We’ll see.

Leak has steadily been losing power since Avacyn Restored released Cavern of Souls, but I think we’ll definitely get some great new counters to replace it in RTR.

4. Gitaxian Probe

Next to Gut Shot, Gitaxian Probe is the 2nd most popular Phyrexian costed card in standard. It has seen a lot of play in Delver decks (UW, UG, and RUG especially), but that’s not the only deck that has been using it. It can go anywhere with its Phyrexian mana, and a lot of people take advantage of that in decks that normally don’t have card draw but could definitely use the “all clear” look before playing their cards. If you’re currently having problems with your deck because your cards keep getting countered or destroyed, add this in before the rotation and use it to help practice against decks that cause you a lot of problems.

There won’t be any cards like it in Standard after this rotates, so it’s going to be difficult for Delver to replace it. Without it, cards like Quirion Dryad in UG Delver will lose a lot of its early potency, and you’ll also be able to catch a lot more decks off guard. This could mean an increase in control strategies post rotation. If you’re just looking for draw a card, Thought Scour (DKA) will do that for 1 mana at instant speed, as well as mill 2 cards from anywhere, but with Ponder gone Delver is going to lose a lot of card drawing power. At the moment, Think Twice (ISD) seems like the next viable card for Delver decks, but we’ll have to wait and see what happens in RTR.

5. Vapor Snag

“But it doesn’t pass the Vapor Snag Test!” — Thank god we won’t have to hear that any more on gaming sites. It’s a nastier Unsummon (M13), that’s for sure, but when it rotates it’s not going to change much in the metagame. That extra damage can build up over time, which is why it was so damn useful in Delver decks. Delver is all about accumulating damage as quickly as possible on your opponent, and Vapor Snag was a good way of clearing a path to your opponents life total for your creature, as well as pinging them for one. It was especially bad with cards like Tamiyo, The Moon Sage and Snapcaster Mage. Delver decks will still have Unsummon after rotation, but without that extra damage it might take a turn or two longer to kill their opponent which could be all the time you need to set up a good defense and counterattack.

It’s a useful card. I think there is a good chance we’ll see it again in a future set.

6. Mental Misstep

This card sees a decent amount of play still. As long as people are using Gut Shots to kill Delver of Secrets on the first turn, people will continue to side these in up until rotation in October. It’s incredibly useful for Zombie decks that have to worry about cards like Graffdigger’s Cage (DKA), and also has limited uses again Human Decks’ Champion of the Parish and Doomed Traveler. There are a good amount of 1 drops out there still (Delver), so expect to see play until it rotates. When it does rotate out, we’re going to lose another cheap counterspell (even if it only counters 1 drops), and there is going to be nothing to take it’s place. You’ll have to resign yourself to seeing those cards I stated above landing safely on the battlefield. This could mean a resurgence of Human decks post rotations, and it also might lead to more Grixis and BR control decks that lean heavily on black kill spells and red burn spells. It’ still too early to tell.

7. Frost Titan

Frost Titan saw a lot of play back during Innistrad’s first few months of release, due mostly in part to Heartless Summoning decks. Outside of that deck, players seem to have forgotten him in favor of the Green and Red variety of Titan. When the metagame was more about control, Frosty was a beast, but now that it has switched to aggro/creatures, there’s no place for him. Bonfire of the Damned also helps to melt him easily when it’s miracled, and nothing can stop a Day of Judgement wiping him from the board. There are plenty of new spells that can take his spot in X/Blue control decks, such as Sleep (M13) and Downpour (M13), but there aren’t any other 6/6 creatures with his ability that will be left after Rotation. Control is losing a strong closer, and UB Heartless is going to weaken further as well when it’s gone.

8. Consecrated Sphinx

Another card that has seen better days. Conscreated Sphinx was awesome back during the control days of Innistrad and Dark Ascension. UW and UB Control both liked to play him a lot in the late game after they had exhausted their card draw and as a finisher. It would seem like he’s still playable in the current format, but I guess people find him too slow against Delver decks, and too small against other big flyers such as Griselbrand (AVR) and Thundermaw Hellkite (M13). He also can’t do much when your opponent miracles an Entreat the Angels and puts in a battalion of 4/4 Angel Tokens. Griselbrand will probably be his best replacement post rotation in UB Control decks. You can cheat him in with Unburial Rites to play him early, or you can just kill everything and wait for Griselbrand to come in naturally on turn 8. That’s usually how UB control works anyways. Counter and Kill everything, then pound your opponent into oblivion.

9. Grand Architect

Grand Architect saw an increase in play a few months ago and can usually be found along side Wurmcoil Engine. It hasn’t seen much play lately, but we will be losing another deck from the metagame when it rotates. It’s one of the better blue creatures in the current meta in my opinion and I think it should get some play in Trading Post decks before rotation in a month. We are losing a lot of “Anthem” cards (cards that give bonuses to other cards) with this rotation, and there isn’t much that can take it’s place. Master of Pearl Trident gives Merfolk +1/+1, but that’s not really helpful in the current format. This is a unique card that could accelerate artifact decks quickly and without this and dozens of other cards that are rotating, I think the metagame is going to slow down a lot. We’ll still have huge, lumbering giants swinging in for massive amounts of damage, but you won’t be able to get them out on turn 4 like you can do with ease currently.

10-1. Treasure Mage

10-2. Trinket Mage

I think I stated it earlier, but choosing the top 10 cards for each color is kind tough. In reality, the only cards that will actually be missed from blue come October will be the first SIX on this list. The others are mere honorable mentions and rarely see play. Both Trinket Mage and Treasure Mage saw a decent amount of play a few months ago but nobody plays them now. You might see Treasure Mage in Grand Architect decks to help get Wurmcoil Engines out earlier, and maybe a Trinket Mage or two in some control decks, but overall they won’t make much of an impact on the metagame. They are soon going to be forgotten and it won’t really matter what you can replace them with.

With the lack of any decent artifacts post rotation (sans RTR) you won’t really need their abilities to search for artifacts.

Wrap Up:

There are some blue cards leaving us, but they aren’t going to affect the current metagame that much. The decks that will be affected the most by these cards rotating are going to be Delver and UB Heartless Summoning decks. Delver decks will definitely slow down a bit as their card drawing ability dries up, and without a decent set up by Ponder, you’ll see quite the number of Delver players grinding their teeth in frustration as they fall behind their opponents in both life and card advantage. Mono Blue Wizards with Talrand, Sky Summoner should probably see more play after rotation, and I think UW Spirits will see a comeback in October since RTR is looking to be very token creature friendly. UB Heartless will be gone, and won’t be rebuilt until some good Dimir (UB) cards come out to help it out I think.

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