Last weekend I ate something bad and ended up sick in bed for most of it. I couldn’t do anything that required too much focus, like playing Magic, but I was at least able to tune into the coverage for Grand Prix Houston (when it wasn’t crashing) to check on the state of Standard. I played a decent amount of Standard in Battle for Zendikar before Oath of the Gatewatch released, but I haven’t touched the format since. Mostly I’ve been focusing on limited with upcoming PPTQs and Grand Prix DC, but I also haven’t felt the urge to play Standard. Watching GP Houston, I struggled to stay awake. Only some of that was due to sickness.

Standard is stale. Rally is the clear best deck, limited only by its complexity, which means it takes a master like Reid Duke or Owen Turtenwald to fully harness its power. By the way, those two won the last two US Standard grand prix playing Rally the Ancestors. Reflector Mage has added real interaction to a deck that previously had to lean solely on Sidisi’s Faithful and sometimes Murderous Cut, and now Rally is the clear favorite. Other decks are good, and the mana lets you play whatever combination of value cards you prefer, but a master Rally player can plan around your strategy and beat you consistently.

I briefly enjoyed watching the Hardened Scales deck, mostly because I predicted it would be a thing when Battle for Zendikar came out. Nissa, Voice of Zendikar pushed it into the top tier. Yeah baby, Avatar of the Resolute and Managorger Hydra! I’m glad I got to see that come together. Unfortunately, the deck looks dreadful to play. It’s like Affinity but without all the intricate on-board interactions that make Affinity a fun challenge. Instead you’re just swarming the board and using Nissa as your Steel Overseer, or you’re dumping a ton of counters on a Managorger Hydra like you’ve got Arcbound Ravager. Affinity has a lot more play and subtlety, and can scrape out longer games where its primary plan gets thwarted. Hardened Scales is much more of a one-trick pony, and watching it flouder in the face of disruption is painful. I’ll pass.


Not quite Gurmag Angler.

Honestly, I can’t wait for Standard to rotate. So many super-powerful cards will be leaving the format. I’m stoked. Maybe other oppressive cards will take their place, but for now I can hope the new Standard will be richer than the current dichotomy Rally vs. any multicolor good stuff deck. People praise current Standard for its diversity, but I think that’s an illusion. The overpowered fetch-battle mana base (with plenty of other options if you prefer) enables you to play whatever combination of powerful cards you want. That sounds like diversity, but it’s more like which ten of the best twenty spells did you build your deck around. Abzan Blue, Mardu Green, Jeskai Black, Abzan Red. You can play pretty much any three or four colors, as long as they aren’t Temur. But they all do variations on the same thing. Or you can play the overpowered combo deck, Rally the Ancestors, which is just a synergy-based Abzan Blue deck that manages to compete with and outclass the value-based combinations.

In honor of the coming rotation, I offer you the five cards (with an obvious hedge) that I am most excited to see go away. It’s really nine cards (you can guess why) but bear with me.

5. Become Immense

After a while it gets old playing around your opponent’s Berserk every turn. Paulo Vitor damo da Rosa likened the Become Immense/Temur Battle Rage combo to Splinter Twin. He wasn’t wrong. It’s easier to interact with those cards than Splinter Twin, because the deck doesn’t have counterspells to stop your interaction, but the fear of an instant combo kill is scary. You can’t even bank on a Languish or Planar Outburst to save you, as they can play Monastery Swiftspear or dash Zurgo Bellstriker, then combo off, using the creatures you swept into their graveyard to fuel the delve on Become Immense. I look forward to red decks relying more on creatures and burn than pump spell combos.

4. Crackling Doom

Edict effects aren’t supposed to hit your biggest creature. Crackling Doom laughs at Dragonlord Ojutai, Gaea’s Revenge, Sagu Mauler, Reality Smasher, and Thunderbreak Regent. Plus it deals two damage. You know, because it needed more oomph to be worth playing. It’s rare that you can’t kill the creature you want with it, which is a little too oppressive for an edict with upside. Sure, it costs three colors of mana, but that’s not difficult with Standard’s ridiculous mana bases. If I go to the trouble of playing a finisher with hexproof or some other form of removal resistance, I want my opponent to at least have to do some work to kill it. And not get a free shock for their “effort.”

3. Dig Through Time

Oh look, another delve spell. Funny how that works. This could arguably be Treasure Cruise, but Dig Through Time proved more useful in Standard control decks that play a long game and dig for specific answers to whatever situation arises. Dig isn’t quite as good or oppressive as Sphinx’s Revelation, but that’s not saying much considering the Rev dominated its time in Standard. If your opponent digs twice in one game, you are very likely to lose. It’s like a better version of Mystical Teachings that comes close to a double Demonic Tutor for control decks. All for the low cost of two mana and a collection of cheap spells and fetchlands in your graveyard. I like that blue decks had a control finisher, but they almost always do. I’m ready for a new one.

2. Siege Rhino

This card is too good. Seriously. How many Abzan decks have won big tournaments thanks to this new-and-improved Gray Merchant of Asphodel? When it was spoiled, I remember speculating with Derek and others on a post-draft walk from Kadar’s art studio whether Siege Rhino would show up in Modern decks like Birthing Pod. Why not, I thought. It’s in the right colors, provides incredible value, is hard to kill, and is actually good when you draw it and pay four mana to cast it. Siege Rhino isn’t quite a Modern staple, but it’s clearly one of the most powerful cards in Standard. It has warped formats and restricted deckbuilding for too long. It was fun, sometimes, but it’s time to move on.


This is not much of an exaggeration.

1. Fetchlands (Polluted Delta, Windswept Heath, Flooded Strand, Wooded Foothills, and Bloodstained Mire)

Five cards, one cycle, one slot in my top five. These are the big ones. Fetchlands are some of the most powerful cards in the history of the game. They are ubiquitous in every format where they are legal. It takes a deck with a broken manabase to compete with their power level: Mishra’s Workshop or Bazaar of Baghdad in Vintage, Gaea’s Cradle or Cloudpost in Legacy, Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple in Modern. How many other decks don’t play fetchlands? Affinity, a.k.a. the Modern deck with four Mox Opals? Monocolored decks? Even burn use fetches to power Searing Blaze, reduce the risk of flooding, and add a color or two for stuff like Boros Charm, Atarka’s Command, or Bump in the Night.

Seriously, fetchlands are hyper-powerful. Standard can handle them being around, just like Standard can handle Thoughtseize and Lightning Bolt and Mana Leak and Ponder. But Standard would be, has been, and will be better without the fetchlands. The power level is tolerable—I like fixing my mana without losing tempo—but they also cause massive delays from constant shuffling. When you have to consider how fast your deck can win to pick a Standard deck for a tournament, and the root causes are cards that also warp the format in power level, there’s a problem. I’m glad the Onslaught fetchlands got reprinted for Modern and lived in Standard for a while. But they can’t leave quickly enough.

Carrie O’Hara is Editor-in-Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.