Can you recall the last time a new set triggered such a dramatic format rotation? How about two format rotations? Thanks to the new two-block paradigm, the Modern bannings and unbannings, and overall concerns with the development of Magic, we have one of the most, if not the absolute most, impacting set release to Modern and Standard in years.

Standard Rotation

If you want to see the impact of the release of Shadows Over Innistrad on the current Standard environment, look no further than the five Onslaught-originated fetch-lands. According to MTG Top 8’s Standard analysis, Windswept Heath, Flooded Strand, and Wooded Foothills are played in more than 50% of Standard decks in the past two months. Polluted Delta appears in more than 40% of decks and Bloodstained Mire appears in more than 35% of decks. With the departure of Khans of Tarkir from the format, mana-bases are getting shredded. The free-wheeling days of four-color whatever decks are going to come to an end.

Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t highlight one more card that is played in over 25% of decks that is on its way out the door.

Goodbye old friend. We will certainly miss you. Or not. Siege Rhino has been a format-warping entity for quite some time. It is a very poorly developed card. It’s somewhat surprising and concerning that a card like this was printed to begin with. Perhaps no one realized that in a format with fetch lands and dual lands that can be fetched, playing three colors was a trivial matter. I suspect that Wizards’ Development team is more happy than anyone else to see this mistake go away.

Of course not all of the current format-defining cards will be going away now that Shadows Over Innistrad has gone live. Collected Company is still around, and will still be very powerful since putting two creatures into play at instant speed for four mana seems completely fair. But the real elephant in the room is a two-mana looter which stands to get much, much more powerful.

Jace is actually a great way to wrap-up our discussion about the dramatic shift in the Standard game pre- and post-Shadows Over Innistrad. Jace isn’t going away, and his playability isn’t going to diminish. But prior to the release of SOI Jace was a way to fuel decks with the Delve mechanic, or really just any deck that wanted to draw cards and land a two-mana planeswalker. After the release of SOI, Jace will likely serve a vastly different purpose as he fuels the Madness mechanic and decks that want to fill up their graveyards.

Standard will almost certainly look very different at the upcoming Pro Tour. The two-block paradigm may be the greatest thing to ever happen to Standard Magic as we get a smaller card pool but we only have to work with it for six months at a time. In October we’ll be waving goodbye to Jace and the Dragon Lords and next April we’ll be bidding a fond farewell to the Eldrazi. But, will those rotations have the same impact? I don’t think so.

I think this rotation, the demarcation of the start of a new era of Standard, will be fondly remembered as the death of the old Standard. The old Standard got stale every few months. The old Standard had to deal with cards like Siege Rhino for extended periods of time. The old Standard was far too prone to the mistakes of the Development team. The new Standard will stay fresh and exciting. The new Standard will give Wizards more flexibility in their control of the environment. The new Standard may be easier to solve but it will change at a more rapid pace.

Give credit where credit is due. Standard has been a problematic format for a long time, but those days may finally be behind us.

Modern Rotation

If you still think that Modern is a non-rotating format then let me be the first to inform you that this is not the case. Modern does not rotate on a regular cycle but rather rotates when cards are banned and un-banned. The latest rotation is a result of the release of Shadows Over Innistrad, only three months after the previous rotation which came with the release of Oath of the Gatewatch. The format’s card pool isn’t changing drastically. In fact only one card is leaving the card pool, but the effect should send major waves through the environment.

What’s interesting about this card rotating out of the format is that it has a bit of a feeling like we’ve been here before. In September of 2011 another card with an even more powerful mana acceleration plan was banned: Cloudpost. Wizards has a long history of trying to design lands that produce more than a single mana. Sometimes they are too powerful. Sometimes they are too weak. Sometimes they are just right. When they’re too powerful, they almost always cause a lot of trouble.

When Eye of Ugin leaves the card pool the format will rotate because the oppressive Eldrazi decks will cease to exist, replaced by a more reasonable version of the same deck, fueled by Eldrazi Temple. Similarly, the most powerful versions of ‘Tron decks will be weakened but not completely eliminated. So this rotation isn’t actually going to eliminate these decks, but just weaken them. When Cloudpost went away, the entire deck disappeared with it.

What really makes this rotation exciting isn’t just the loss of the Eldrazi. Modern rotations usually just involve losing decks or making them weaker. This time though we may actually be getting new decks in the format thanks to the return of two cards.

Ancestral Vision has always been banned in Modern. The fear was that it was too powerful a card for both combo and control decks. This may still be true but we’re going to find out finally. It’s unlikely that Visions will spawn a whole new deck for the format, but it will almost certainly make some decks much more powerful. What may spawn new decks is the return of this card…

For the history of Modern there have only been four cards previously unbanned. These are the fifth and sixth. Of the previous four cards only Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle became a key part of a competitive deck. Golgari Grave-Troll, Bitterblossom, and Wild Nacatl have been lackluster since their respective returns. Sword of the Meek is poised to be the most impacting unbanning in the format’s five-year history. The combo with Thopter Foundry is easy to assemble and will lead to new strategies involving Gifts Ungiven and Tezzert, to name a few.

Modern is a rotating format. Make no mistake about it. While entire sets don’t leave the format like they do in Standard, the removal of key cards and the addition of others results in metagame shifts that are just as important as the shifts in Standard. Is this good for Modern? Opinions on this topic vary. Some people want Modern to be interesting. Others want it to remain consistent so they don’t have to keep buying into new decks. Regardless of where you stand on the topic, the format is about to undergo a serious rotation, and I believe it is for the betterment of the format.

What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

Don't Miss Out!

Sign up for the Hipsters Newsletter for weekly updates.