A Whole New World: MTG After Rotation – Innistrad Block Green Cards
Note: “A Whole New World” is a series of articles that I do before each block rotates out of standard. In these articles, I take a look at all of the cards that will no longer be standard tournament legal, and speculate whether or not they will be returning to future sets or have no chance of being reprinted any time soon. I will also talk about which cards to hold on to, and which cards NOT rotating will be affected by these changes.
Is anybody else getting excited by the Theros cards that are being spoiled? The set looks strong, but I think it’s still difficult to get a feel for what standard is going to be like as long as we are still using Innistrad block cards. A lot of decks are going to be up for a rude awakening come September 27th. If you’re looking for good deck ideas, a great place to start is with decklists from Return to Ravnica block standard Grand Prix and other events. There have been a few I believe. Players had to make standard decks using only RTR cards, which means these decks will not be rotating and with a little tweaking they can be competitive in Theros standard. Today I’ll be talking about Green, and then over the weekend I’ll be finishing up this series with Multicolor.
Top 10 Rotating Green Cards from the Innistrad block
- Arbor Elf
- Garruk Relentless
- Garruk, Primal Hunter
- Strangleroot Geist
- Flinthoof Boar
- Craterhoof Behemoth
- Acidic Slime
Thragtusk is the undisputed champion of green in the Innistrad block. It was a beast when it was first released, it was a beast during all of the Ravnica block, and even in the final weeks of Innistrad block standard it is still a beast. It is a major player in Jund control as well as seeing play in the recently popular GB control (the Rock). Without it in standard, all of these non white decks will be losing an important card in their decks. The added life gain against fast aggro decks like GR blitz was incredibly important, as well as the beast token that is left after it dies. In control decks It has a few possible alternatives such as Primeval Bounty which will still put in creatures and gain you life, but midrange decks will find it harder to fill the Tusk’s hooves. Archangel of Thune fits well in GW decks in the 5 spots, Voice of Resurgence gives you the token after a board wipe against control, and Centaur Healer gives you 3 life against aggro . . . but none of these will be as good as Thragtusk was. I think it’s possible that we’ll see him in a future core set, even as soon as M15, so hold onto your copies. He’s a great card, but not so much that he needs to be taken out of standard forever.
He’s a common, but I like him a lot more than Elvish Mystic from M14 because Arbor Elf is simply amazing with forest shocklands. Without him in standard, 3 color midrange strategies are going to suffer and slow down considerably. Two color green decks will see an increase in play, and I think using mana creatures to accelerate into large creatures will be come more difficult too. The Zhur-Taa Druid that adds mana and deals one damage will help in GR decks, Deathrite Shaman will give you land if you you remove one from a graveyard, and Gyre Sage will give you mana if you can evolve him, but the days of getting Garruk, Caller of Beasts out on turn 3 by playing 12 mana creatures in your deck are finished. Wizards is doing a good job of slowing down the format. Look for midrange decks to have their work cut out for them post rotation. We won’t see the elf back anytime soon, but hopefully we’ll get more one casting cost mana creatures in the Theros block. The 0/3 hexproof plant is nice, but it slows you down one turn.
The loss of Farseek is another card that is going to shake up the metagame. Farseek did its job of smoothing out your mana and doing it VERY well this last year. Naya, Jund, Bant, and Junk (GBW) decks used this card to not only accelerate and get the color they needed for the next turn, but it also served to filter out their land and give them better draws later in the game. Without Farseek in standard, it’s going to be tough for 3 color decks to operate smoothly, so you can expect each of those mentioned decks to become more difficult to control. Lay of the Land gets you a basic land in your hand, and Seek the Horizon does the same thing but gets you 3 lands, but non put the card into play. If you’re looking for value as well as a way to search for mana, I’d recommend Gatecreeper Vine. It puts a 0/2 blocker on the battlefield while also grabbing a gate or basic from your deck. None of these choices are that good though, so cross your fingers and hope we get something like a Rampant Growth in Theros that lets us put a land into play tapped from our library. We might get something that searches for the new Scry lands in the winter set though, so keep your eyes peeled.
I put Garruk Relentless ahead of Primal Hunter because Relentless is the more aggressive one, and that’s what the metagame needs now. The Innistrad version works well in token strategies, giving you an early token maker as well as a form of removal, and once you flip him he creates an army of blockers. Your card draw won’t be as strong as it is with Primal, but his flipped -1 gets you threats for as long as he stays alive, and his -3 ability is a great way to finish your opponent if you’re playing a midrange deck and have tons of creatures in your graveyard. While it’s not the best alternative, I could see Vraska the Unseen taking over his role in GB decks or GBW token control decks. Vraska blows stuff up, protects herself rather well with her +1 ability, but her ultimate is kinda ‘meh’. Relentless might see a little bit of play in Modern or legacy in the future, but I don’t think we’ll see him back in standard ever again. His loss might hurt decks like GB control or other midrange green/x decks, but I think most decks will be able to fill his hole with a strong creature.
Seems like this would be a good card to have with the Heroic mechanic from Theros, but sadly the chances of rancor being reprinted are slim. We might see it reprinted next year, but we’ll have to play without it for a while. It’s kind of sad because with all of these monstrous abilities pumping creatures up to insane power levels, we’re going to need something like Rancor to push the damage through. Unflinching Courage from DGM will fill that space somewhat while also gaining you life, but it constrains you to using GW. With all the counters going around, maybe Crowned Ceratok from GTC will even see some play in standard. This was the key card in GW strategies that used Sublime Angel and Silverblade Paladin to attack for insane amounts of damage, but its loss will also hurt Bant hexproof decks. Hexproof will have to focus largely on Unflinching Courage, and without the blue enchantment that gives flying pushing through damage is going to get even tougher. To a lesser extent, this also hurts BG aggro and mono green, but those cards are losing a lot other cards so it’s irrelevant.
Garruk has done a lot of hard work in standard. He’s the workhorse of the amazing Jund engine, putting tons of pressure on opponents when he’s in play as well as drawing that deck tons of cards, but he’s seen play in many other midrange decks as well. GW and GBW tokens used him for a while, and he’s also seen play in decks from a while back such as Bant control/midrange. The biggest advantage to playing the Primal Hunter is the card draw. Green decks that AREN’T playing blue tend to have problems keeping the pressure on their opponent, but Garruk lets you take advantage of giant creatures by drawing cards equal to your highest powered one. With the decrease of midrange decks thanks to aggressive aggro, he hasn’t seen much play but his absence will be felt. Jund will lose card advantage, and that is going to be absolutely huge. The new Garruk, Caller of Beasts will be great in decks full of creatures, but if you’re looking for card advantage post rotation I think Domri Rade will do a better job of getting you the cards you need, even if it’s just one card a turn. As for creatures, the new Elspeth will probably be sufficient in populating your board with tokens. There have been so many iterations of Garruk, I don’t think we’ll be seeing this one again. Garruk will be back, but not in this form.
The Geist has been great in almost every green aggro deck since it came out, recently seeing play in GW aggro and GBW aristocrats alongside Varolz. It’s fast, it hits hard, and it comes back for more. It was strange for green to have undying, but green players were more than happy to exploit this ability. Losing it to rotation will slow down mono green, remove yet another creature from Aristocrat’s arsenal, and will also make control match ups more difficult for green/x aggro decks to deal with. I don’t think the Geist will be back in a future set, and as far as replacing him, the best you can do is Kalonian Tusker. It’s still 2 mana and gives you 3 power on turn 2, but you lose that undying ability.
GR blitz and Kibler Gruul (aka Big Gruul) have some mighty big shoes to fill. They are losing a number of hard hitting cards like Hellrider and Searing Spear. Taking away the boar and Lightning Mauler will make the Burning Tree Emmisary a lot less effective in that 2 spot. GR aggro doesn’t have to give up yet, they still have the Rampager and Experiment One could probably fit in the 1 drop spot along with Rakdos Cackler, but it is going to be an uphill battle after rotation. Again, I think Kalonian Tusker will be a good alternative in this spot given it’s power level, but it will lack haste. The newly spoiled Firedrinker Satyr of the 3 mana flash Boon Satyr might be good alternatives to the boar, but it’s going to take some time to rearrange the deck into something consistent and playable. Not sure if we’ll see it back in standard again, but it’s possible in another few years.
While it hasn’t seen any play recently outside of some fringe Garruk, Caller of Beasts decks, Craterhoof Behemoth did see a lot of play during Reanimator’s heyday. On a table with a few mana dorks or a number of flying tokens in play, the Behemoth was an automatic win. I’d like to see him back in standard at sometime in the future, and nothing in his textbox would restrict him from returning in a future set. It might be a while, but we could see him in a future set after a few years. If you’re looking to replace him in a new Garruk deck, your best bet is going to be World Spine Wurm. Kalonian Hydra would also be a good fit because he makes doubles all counters, which will be more prevalent in the next metagame I think.
There were a number of other cards that could have been in the 10th spot, but I feel that the loss of Acidic Slime is unfortunate. In a new set that is full of legendary artifacts, enchantments, and giant creatures, I felt like the Slime could have been really useful. Yes you can only use that ETB ability once since cards like Restoration Angel are rotating out, but this card would still give you pretty good value in a green deck instead of having to run a Naturalize or Sundering Growth in your sideboard. He came out originally in M10 and was in the core set for 4 years straight. I don’t think this is the last we’ll see of Acidic Slime. Expect a comeback in a core set or expansion in the future.
That does it for green. Aggro and midrange decks are going to be hurt the most by rotation, but they aren’t going to be absolutely gutted like Reanimator and Aristocrats is going to be. Before you know it, green/x aggro decks and midrange decks like Naya or Jund will be at it again. Thanks for reading and check back this weekend for a short article about the multicolor cards we’ll miss in September! If you want more Theros information, be sure to check out the website on Monday for the first Play to Your Weaknesses article. Thanks for reading.