The Dawn of a New Age: MTG After Rotation – Theros/M15 block White and Blue Cards
Note: “The Dawn of a New Age” (formerly 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. As with my “Bang for your Buck” articles, I can’t be held responsible for any mistakes I make. I will plead my case for each card and if you agree, then you can act on it and make the decision.
Yep, I had to change the name because I didn’t want to look stupid using the same name for an article I just did which was about something complete different. Oh well. The Dawn of a New Age sounds alright. I can’t believe the last time I did one of these was about one year ago. The rotation of Theros block (or for those of you newer players the time when the playing field gets even and a little bit easier to play) is upon us.
In under a month we’ll be losing all of the cards from Theros, Born of the Gods, and Journey into Nyx. People have slowly but surely been trying to move away from Theros block cards, but there have been some incredibly important and metagame changing cards in the block. Just what will happen a month form now when those cards cease to exist in standard and we are left with only the Khans of Tarkir Block, Magic Origins, and Battle for Zendikar? Well, that’s what I’m here to discuss today. As I did last time, I’ll be covering the top 10 cards we’ll be losing from the block in each group of colors, discuss how they affected Magic over the last year or more, and how a metagame without them will shape up. Here’s my list for White and Blue.
Top 10 Rotating White and Blue Cards from the Theros/M15 Block
- Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
- Brimaz, King of Oreskos
- Master of Waves
- Chained to the Rocks
- Ensoul Artifact
- Retraction Helix
- Banishing Light
- U/W Heroic Creatures
- Soldier of the Pantheon
It’s been said over and over again, but Elspeth, Sun’s Champion was format defining. From the moment she was released back in Theros she never left standard. In the past you could find her in UW control decks as their finisher, in Naya Planeswalker decks during Born of the Gods, and most recently she’s been showing up again in both Esper and Abzan control builds. At her peak she was a $40 card and if it hadn’t of been for her reprint in the Duel Deck with Kiora, she would still probably be a $20 card in standard. At $6.50, she’s probably in the spot she’ll stay at for the rest of her life. This card could possibly see play in EDH, but other than that I don’t really see a future for her.
The loss of Elspeth from standard will have a rather large impact on Standard. A powerful finisher for control will be gone, as well as a card that fit well in 3 color midrange decks. There simply aren’t any new planeswalkers to take her place. Sorin makes 2/2 vampires, Sarkhan becomes a 4/4 dragon, but nobody can gum up the battlefield like Elspeth could, nor can they act as a semi-board wipe. With Elspeth out of the picture, I’m putting my money on Ugin, the Spirit Dragon ($26) to take over the role of finisher in control decks. As for reprinting, the “Sun’s Champion” line pretty much keeps her from being reprinted in a future standard set because it’s locked to Theros.
Brimaz saw a lot of play in RW Aggro decks, as well as in various GW aggro decks during Journey into Nyx and M15 standard. He’s also been a great card in some Abzan decks that made top 8 at Grand Prix this year, and showed up from time to time in Jeskai Token builds too. It’s crazy to think that he, like Elspeth, was also a $40 card at one point. For most of his standard life the 4 toughness he had made him almost untouchable. He dodged Bile Blight, he got around Lightning Strike . . . it wasn’t until the magic number 4 started to show up on cards like Languish, Valorous Stance, and Exquisite Firecraft that he started to fall out of favor in standard. Cards like Ultimate Price and other cheap black removal also put pressure on him to get out of standard.
Most decks have adjusted to not playing him so I don’t think we’re going to see a huge metagame shift when he rotates. Red decks will breathe a sigh of relief for not having to use 2 spells to get rid of him, and some White/X aggro decks are losing a great turn 3, but things will adapt. I could also see his exit hurting mono white devotion a little bit but they’ll find a way to adjust. I’d expect him to hit $8 upon rotation, but I don’t think he’ll go down much further. He’s seeing play in a few modern decks (some varieties of BW Tokens for example), and being 3 mana means he could see some player in other formats in the future. I sold one of mine at $30, and I’m keeping the others cause I plan to use them. Just as with Elspeth, I think his “King of Oreskos” line keeps him planted firmly in the Theros world which means it will be tough to reprint him. Could go up in the future.
Master of Waves was another card that bent the metagame to its will. During Theros standard, Blue devotion was incredibly oppressive. His protection from red made him hard to kill with Searing Spear/Lightning Strike or board wipes such as Mizzium Mortars, and playing him on turn 4 usually put in a crap ton of 2/1 elemental tokens. It wasn’t until black got cards like Bile Blight and Drown in Sorrow that Mono blue devotion’s time in the sun started to darken. Once Return to Ravnica block rotated the deck was mostly gutted and the card was mostly forgotten.
That was until modern season at least. Modern Merfolk, aka “Fish” ended up playing with him at the top end of their curve and he’s been a part of that deck in some regard ever since. He should still see play in Modern from time to time depending on the metagame, but I don’t think he’ll go up much from his current $4 price tag. If he drops any further, pick him up. Might not bad a bad idea to sit on a playset for under $10. Worst case scenario you can out him next modern season when Fish becomes popular. With his rotation goes any chance of seeing a mono blue devotion deck again. Not sure about a reprint unless “Devotion” makes a comeback in a non-Theros set.
I have a lot of respect for Chained to the Rocks. It was great in RTR/THS standard with all the shock lands (I used it to full effect in my R/w devotion deck to win my first PTQ) and it was also pretty good in RW aggro during Fate Reforged standard. It hasn’t seen much play since then, and never went above $4 to be honest, but I still feel like we’re going to be losing very efficient removal. It won’t affect standard that much (if at all), but it would have been great to play with again alongside the new Dual Lands being reprinted in Battle for Zendikar. Out of all of the cards I’ve talked about so far, Chained is probably the easiest to reprint. If that happens, I’d welcome it back with open arms. If you have them, hold onto them. No need to pick them up either.
The loss of Ensoul Artifact will have a more immediate effect on standard. Without it, the UR Thopter deck loses quite a bit of oomph. Turning a Darksteel Citadel into a 5/5 stomper on turn 2 won’t be possible anymore, nor will making your Ornithopter a 5/5 flyer on turn 2. The deck won’t be totally gutted, but it will definitely have to find some new cards to fill those spaces. The card seems some play in Modern Affinity decks, but is largely metagame dependent (ie, if there’s no Abrupt Decay, the artifacts will play). The current price of $4 will probably go down a bit, so if you haven’t gotten your copies yet you should be able to get them a little bit cheaper post rotation. Ensoul could also be reprinted in the future, either in a standard set or a supplemental product so don’t go hording them as a spec.
Good-bye Jeskai Ascendancy Combo. Without this little guy, there’s no way to go infinite and combo off for the win. It was great to see an amazing combo deck like that for one standard cycle back in Khans of Tarkir standard, but now we bid it adieu. Farewell Helix, and farewell Ascendancy Combo. Pick up foils if you plan on playing the Modern version of the deck though. Now’s the best time to get them before rotation.
Banishing Light saw a lot of sideboard play during its standard life, and it would have continued to be a player in standard if it wasn’t for Ugin. It still sees play in GW Starfield decks and in mono white devotion, but for the most part it’s time in standard is over. Khans block has Silk Wrap and Suspension Field for creatures, but if you want to exile a permanent you’ll have to go with Utter End in black and white. The card won’t see play after it rotates, but it’s possible we’ll see a reprint in the future so hold onto your copies if you have them. It will be tough for some white based decks to deal with cards like planeswalkers with it rotating, but most white decks have another color that can pick up the slack.
With rotation we lose all of the cards with Heroic, which means that decks like UW, UWR, RW, and GW heroic are gone. They had a good run (and Todd Anderson is currently giving the archetype a fond farewell with Bant Heroic), but lately they’ve fallen out of favor. Foul Tongue Invocation, Crackling Doom, and a variety of board wipes just became too much for the archetype and it became less popular. I don’t expect any of these cards to see much action outside of Hero of Iroas in Modern (which I’ve heard shows up in Boggles from time to time?). I wouldn’t be surprised to see Heroic become a budget Modern strategy in the future, so sitting on foils of some of these cards might be a good idea. These cards won’t be reprinted any time soon so if you feel like playing that strategy pimp it out on the cheap now.
Losing Dissolve is kind of a big deal for control decks. The added ability of scrying to fix your next draw is huge. Coupled with the loss Dissipate and Nullify, there’s going to be a lot more pressure on Clash of Wills, Silumgar’s Scorn, Stubborn Denial, and Disdainful Stroke to take over. Count on control decks to use more early game counterspells followed up with board wipes in the next standard. We could see a rise in Esper Dragons due to Ojutai and the hard counter of Silumgar’s Scorn. Dissolve has been in every control deck since Theros standard began, and during the first few weeks of BFZ standard those control players will be scrambling to see which counterspells work the best. Personally, my bet’s on Clash of Wills and Disdainful Stroke.
I wasn’t sure what to put in this last spot, but after talking to a few fellow Cardboard Samurai I ended up back at Soldier of the Pantheon. During RTR/THS standard Soldier was amazing. He could fight through Bloodbaron of Vizkopas, Loxdon Smiters, and Voice of Resurgences as well as block them all day. It also tore people up in white weenie/Boros aggro decks using Brave the Elements back during Return to Ravnica. Once rotation hit though, he suddenly became a lot less useful. Most of the multicolor cards in Khans of Tarkir either went over him (Butcher of the Horde) or through him (Siege Rhino).
He showed up for a while in Mono white Soldier Obelisk, but other than that he’s become unknown. I don’t think he’ll see any play after rotation, and due to his name he won’t be reprinted either in any kind of standard set. His rotation does nothing to the current standard metagame, but I do want to point that at one time he was. Fade away dear soldier, your battle is over.
The New Age
There are a couple of other cards we’re losing that I’d like to quickly point out before ending today’s article. Thassa, God of the Sea was integral for her part in mono blue devotion decks, and I also think that Nyx-Fleece Ram is worth mentioning. It helped to stop the RW burn menace and also became a staple of sideboards (in control decks) for more than one standard season. I’m also going to miss Raise the alarm, which was great in both RW tokens and Jeskai token aggro. Secure the Wastes will take over its place as a white instant token maker, but it will be slightly less powerful early on.
There are probably some other other cards that I missed and that you might think should be on this list, so if you want to leave a comment about them please do. If there are any other cards that you think influenced blue and white decks during their time in standard please let me know what they are and why you think they belong on this list. As it stands right now, the biggest change seems to be happening in control. It’s not a big change, but the structural change will definitely reduce it’s effectiveness. We’re also taking UW Heroic and Jeskai Ascendancy out of the picture in less than a month, so I expect the number of aggro decks we’re able to play to slightly decrease. Well, that does it for today’s article. What do you think? I’ll be back in a few days with all of the cards rotating out of standard from black and red, so be sure to check back then!