The Dawn of a New Age: MTG After Rotation – Theros/M15 block Black and Red 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.
Every day brings us closer and closer to losing cards we’ve come to rely on. The Battle for Zendikar pre-release is less than a month away and following soon after it everything’s going to change. Black and Red have played a HUGE role in the metagame over the last 2 years and when these cards leave play the metagame is in for one heck of a shock. You can probably guess what cards will in this list, but if it doesn’t show up feel free to add it down below in the comments.
Top 10 Rotating Black and Red Cards from the Theros/M15 Block
- Goblin Rabblemaster
- Hero’s Downfall
- Stormbreath Dragon
- Stoke the Flames
- Lightning Strike
- Anger of the Gods
- Eidolon of the Great Revel
- Whip of Erebos
- Bile Blight/Drown in Sorrow
Thoughtseize really needed a reprint prior to Theros. The card was pushing $70+ before the Theros version reduced it to a more manageable $20. Now with rotation nearing its head, the card is again looking to push the $30-40 mark. It’s already hit 3500 yen here in Japan and it’s only going to go higher. There is a reason for this: It’s played in just about every black deck in standard and sees play in all other competitive formats. This card will only continue to go up from it’s current price tag of $24, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it settle at around $40 a few months from now.
The bigger question is how the absence of this card will change the metagame. Even now it still sees play in the most dominant deck of standard (either in the mainboard or sideboard): Abzan. To a lesser extent it also plays an important part in Black/X control and Mardu decks. A turn 1 Thoughtseize can be absolutely devastating to some decks. Decks like GR Ramp that play mana creatures into a big creature could have a high pressure creature removed, control decks could have their only counterspell/board wipe removed, and when that happens quick decks like Abzan Aggro or powerful late game decks like Abzan midrange can quickly take over the game. Abzan will definitely get weaker post rotation, as will black based control. Both decks will still have a lot of good removal at their disposal, but the decks should be “fairer”. Their match ups won’t be as overpowering as before.
I’m going to miss this guy. From the first time I played him at the M15 pre-release I fell in love. I knew he was going to be strong which is why I picked up a playset at $1 each on release day and a foil at $3. (he ended up making me A LOT of money). From lowly beginnings he rose to over $20 in the USA ($30 in Japan), and found a home in almost every red based aggro deck there was: Jeskai Tokens, GR aggro, Mono Red, Mardu aggro . . . if it has red Rabblemaster was in it. The card could single handedly win a game if your opponent didn’t have removal for him.
Oddly enough, Goblin Rabblemaster has seen less and less play the closer it gets to rotation. The combination of large midrange decks with cards able to deal with him and 2 blocks full of removal in every color has made him less and less of a powerhouse than before. Decks like Jeskai Tempo and mono red are going to be the biggest losers when he rotates, and without the option of Rabblemaster in some midrange decks those decks should become a lot slower. As for reprintability, Rabblemaster could definitely show up a year or two down the road in a regular set, especially if it there is a strong tribal theme. At $8 he’s pretty low, but if you see him for around $5 close to rotation grab a playset. The reason being is that if he’s ever reprinted you can be sure he’ll push $15-$20 again in standard. He also shows up in some modern and Legacy decks (though not Tier 1), so there still be some demand for him after rotation I think.
Whenever people talk about Theros standard, one card that stands a lot is Hero’s Downfall. Mono black devotion was incredibly nasty. It had card advantage, removal, multiple win conditions, and amazing disruption. During its heyday the card was between $10-15, but once that Event Deck was reprinted the card cratered and has since been only a few dollars. There wasn’t a black deck that didn’t run it and without that event deck the price of the card would have been pretty high during Theros block. When decks suddenly went to 3 colors in Khans block, the card stopped being a 4 of in many decks, but it still sees play regardless of how many colors a deck is (thanks somewhat in part to Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth).
The name of the card is generic enough to fit into future sets, so if you have your playset now keep a hold of it. It won’t see any play in Modern or Legacy, so your best bet is to stash it away until it returns to standard. Should drop to a $1-2 card post rotation.
Go big or go home. Many people decried Stormbreath Dragon as a weakling compared to Thundermaw Hellkite, but Stombreath proved them wrong. This card redefined what a true threat was in Theros/Khans standard and saw multiple spikes over its life time. Jeskai Midrange, GR Devotion, Mardu Dragons, Jund Monsters . . . it was always in standard in one form or another. It was a $40 card when first released, but then settled around the $25-30 range for the majority of its standard time. The only time it wasn’t that strong was during Mono black devotion’s reign due to the amount or removal that deck had, but once Ravnica rotated out the card became a lot stronger.
I’ve loved this card from day 1 and I have had my playset since the first time the card went down. It helped me to win countless games with mono red devotion during THS/RTR standard (and winning me a PTQ with it), and recently it has been showing up and forcing its way through all comers in my GR dragons deck. I’ve been really happy with him and there will always be a special place in my binder for Stormbreath. I’m not sure his rotation will hurt that many decks. GR should be able to find another 5 drop easily, and both Atarka and Thunderbreak Regent should have no problem filling the void. Mardu dragons will also be weakened somewhat but should be able to pick up the slack as well. It’s not so much what decks will become weaker when he rotates but which cards become better. Two cards that I think will get better off the top of my head are Butcher of the Horde and Mantis Rider. Dragonlord Ojutai will also have an easier job against red decks as well in the future. This means decks like Jeskai Tempo and Mardu Tokens should end up with overall better match ups.
At $4 he’s less than a shadow of his former value but still worth picking up after rotation I think. He probably won’t see much play in modern or legacy, but the Khans of Tarkir block really helped to push the popularity of Dragons upward in casual and EDH formats. The monstrous ability will probably keep him from being printed again outside of a supplemental product, but he could sneak into a modern deck in the future (Big Jund?) due to his ability to get around Path to Exile and being blocked by spirit tokens.
Can you believe that Stoke the Flames was once a $7 card? Stoke the Flames was a boon to red decks, both of the burn and aggro varieties. It also worked wonderfully with any deck playing Goblin Rabblemaster since he made it easy to cast by himself with all the tokens he made. What made this card so popular during THS/KTK standard was its ability to deal 4 damage at instant speed. 4 damage kills Dragons, Demons, and Centaurs alike and it can be cast for free if you have the creatures to play it.
Mono red aggro and burn will be the biggest loser when this rotates, but at least they’ll have Exquisite Firecraft to pick up the slack. The drawback is that those decks lose speed (Firecraft is sorcery) and the critical mass of burn spells (Searing Blood and Lightning Strike rotating will also weaken red aggro decks considerably). If Mono red is to survive, I think it’s going to have to focus more on aggro than burn. We could finally see an increase in Goblin tribal decks with Dragon Fodder, Goblin Piledriver, and Hordeling Outburst, but I’m not sure that will work just yet. Jeskai decks (especially tokens) will become weaker as well because casting a double symbol spell like Firecraft will become harder than tapping goblin tokens to cast Stoke the Flames.
Convoke is another ability that we probably won’t see again for a while, so I don’t expect Stoke the be reprinted easily. I also don’t know if it will see much (if any) play in modern either. If you didn’t get rid of your copies already, then you might as well keep them in case of a future reprint in standard.
Just like Stoke the Flames, the loss of Lighting Strike will hurt red aggro and burn decks the most. Strike was great removal when you needed it fast to take out an early threat like Fleecemane Lion or a Goblin Rabblemaster. It fit in both aggro and midrange decks and without the card, it will become harder for slower midrange decks to deal with faster aggro decks. Standard will still have cards like Wild Slash for 2 damage, and Draconic Roar for 3, but these lack both the power and the ability to deal a lot of damage to opponents quickly. Roar must have a Dragon in play to do any good, and Wild Slash is really only good against mana creatures. Unless another 2 mana burn spell that can deal 3 damage and target anything is printed, I think the loss of Strike will lead to more people playing the “big” mono red deck with Thunderbreak Regent at the top end and maybe even Avaricious Dragon in order to turn on the second ability easier. We could also see more people playing Collateral Damage in suicide red decks. It will all depend on what happens in the meta.
Anger of the Gods has saved my ass so many times from aggro decks (mono black, white, red, you name it) I can’t even begin to think about what I’m going to do without it post rotation. Khans of Tarkir gives us Seismic Rupture, but it only does 2 damage instead of 3 and doesn’t hit flyers. In a metagame full of Thopter tokens, this can prove troublesome. It never really got too high in value, perhaps hitting $5 at one time, but it was still a great card to have in your sideboard. I’m hoping that red gets another good sweeper instead of Chandra’s Ignition, but if that’s all we get I guess some people will make due. Red has always had an efficient board wipe of sorts, either Slagstorm in Scars of Mirrodon or Mizzium Mortars in Return to Ravnica.
Anger was a great asset against various devotion decks as well, but with all of those cards (including Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx) rotating you’re not going to be in that much trouble. What I think we’ll miss the most from this sorcery is the “exile” effect. Getting rid of a Hangarback Walker without giving your opponent tokens was big. It also was a good card to have against megamorph decks playing Mastery of the Unseen and Whisperwood Elemental’s manifests. If you don’t have any or sold yours off, I’d consider picking up a few as an investment for modern. If a deck like Abzan Company sees more play Anger could be seen as a great sideboard option in order to stop any graveyard shenanigans. Grab some at $1-2 if you can and sit on them.
Eidolon of the Great Revel is more of a Modern and Legacy card than anything else, but it did see a lot of play in various mono red aggro builds as a way to punish decks that played a lot of low costing spells. Its rotation further takes away from mono red’s arsenal and makes the deck a lot slower in my opinion. Without it, most of the other slower decks shouldn’t have to worry about red as much. This could mean we could be seeing a lot more midrange decks with huge finishers to end a game once they hit instead of being overrun by small creatures and getting burned out. At $12, this card is only going to keep going up over time. I could see it hitting $20 by the end of the year in no small part due to decks like modern and legacy Burn wanting it. Gonna be hard to reprint outside of a supplemental product like an event deck as well.
Whip of Erebos had a good time in standard. It was both better and worse than Unburial Rites. Having to exile the creature after reanimating it was sad, but being able to gain all that life made it incredibly hard for aggro and burn decks to fight through. It all started off with mono black devotion, reanimating Gray Merchant of Asphodel, and then moved onto BW control by taking advantage of Obzedat, the Ghost Council’s exile ability to be brought back indefinitely. Once Khans of Tarkir was spoiled, Sidisi Whip became a force to be reckoned with, but once Dragons of Tarkir came out the deck was all but dead. Whip might have held some value after rotation through EDH and casual decks, but due to its printing in the special event deck that took away any chance of that. Eventually the card might get back up to a few dollars in a few years, but I think it will be a slow mover. Not really worth picking them up after rotation, but maybe look for cheap foils.
It feels strange not to have a dominant Reanimator deck in standard right now, but with Whip gone I’m sure that Rally the Ancestors will be more than happy to take up that mantle. The only bad thing about Rally now is that there is a dearth of good enter the battlefield effects on creatures at the moment. We lose enablers such as Satyr Wayfinder, Commune with the Gods, and Kruphix’s Insight but there are a few things in Origins that can fill the graveyard. Since Whip hasn’t seen any play at all lately, I don’t think it will cause any change after rotation. Just once less strategy to choose from.
Black is going to lose some very important cards in Bile Blight and Drown in Sorrow post rotation. Both were great at both getting rid of tokens, mana creatures, and other cards that were played fast and put pressure early on black decks. UB control stands to lose the most from it’s sideboard, but I think decks like Mardu and Esper dragons will also miss it. Abzan control is another deck that could possibly be affected by these rotating. Being able to wipe your opponent’s battlefield after a quick start was great, and without these cards fast aggro decks will be able to put more pressure on black based control decks. These decks will have to switch to Languish on turn 4 and Virulent Plague in the sideboard to deal with tokens. Otherwise I would think Token and aggro decks will run rampant without quick removal like Anger or Drown in standard.
As for seeing play outside of standard, there’s a possibility they’ll show up in some modern sideboards (like in a Junk or Jund sideboard in response to Tokens of Affinity), but it will be metagame dependent. If you have 2-3 hold onto them just in case. You just might be able to use the again int he future, and with Scry as a evergreen mechanic we could see Drown in Sorrow back in standard in the future. Bile Blight could also be reprinted somewhere down the road.
I’m not able to fit all of the cards that saw play in standard in this top 10 list, so there are some honorable mentions I’d like to go over as well.
- Searing Blood
- Magma Spray
- Mogis’ Marauder
- Fanatic of Mogis
- Gray Merchant of Asphodel
Searing Blood was a great card for Red burn/aggro decks and it will be sorely missed. Draconic Roar pales in comparison. Magma Spray will also be missed in many red players’ sideboards as answers to Hangarback Walker or mana creatures. Mogis’ Marauder played 2 roles: one in mono-black aggro during Nyx standard, and another time during Dragons of Tarkir standard in the crazy Rally the Ancestors deck. Without Marauder, it makes the Rally deck a lot worse and means we probably won’t see it in the next standard cycle. Fanatic was also pretty important. During RTR/THS standard it was a great way to finish an opponent off if you were playing one of the various mono red devotion builds. Gray Merchant of Asphodel out dates all of them though, heralding back to the first mono black devotion deck at the start of Theros standard. The first two cards’ absence will definitely affect what the metagame becomes this fall, but the last 3 rotating will simply “retire” a few of these strategies from standard. It was great to have had them in standard, but also it’s good to have “new blood”.
The New Age
Overall we’re looking at a slower standard come fall. Burn will be crippled, mono red aggro will have to rethink it’s strategy and get creative to survive, black decks are losing early boardwipes which will make them susceptible to aggressive aggro decks and of course the loss of Thoughtseize will be a problem for Abzan, Mardu, and Esper builds. Perhaps it just might get other decks a fighting chance against them now (especially Abzan). Goblin Rabblemaster will also be missed, but I think that Hangarback Walker has already taken up its mantle as the MUST play card in each deck. If I had to call an early winner for the next standard in October, I’d go with midrange decks. Green and White look especially strong right now, but I think Mardu and Esper dragons will rebound well too.
Are there any cards I missed? Any that you think should be in this list? If so, tell me about the card down below in the comment section and why you think its loss will affect standard this fall. Otherwise, thanks for reading and I hope you’ll join me next time for green and artifacts! See you again in a few days.