Too-Specific Top 10 - Rotation Rotation Rotation
(Treasure Cove | Art by Cliff Childs)
Turning Over a New Leaf
Welcome to Too-Specific Top 10, where if there isn’t a category to rank our pet card at the top of, we’ll just make one up! (Did you know that Kraul Harpooner is the best hyper-aggressive creature stapled to a Plummet?)
With the release of Throne of Eldraine, Standard is rotating and leaving behind the Pirates, Dinosaurs, Merfolk, and conquistador Vampires of the Ixalan block, along with the more planarly diverse leftovers from Magic 2019 and the nostalgia-fest of Dominaria. While for many this is probably a sad time due to some of their favorite decks no longer being legal to play, for me personally this stage of Standard grieving and brewing excitement is always a fun time. You see, I haven't personally been a Standard player since the days of Counter-Rebels and Invasion block, so all of the hullabaloo over new cards is often nothing for me but an inconvenience.
With that in mind, my typical strategy as an avid EDH player has been to avoid the whole thing entirely and just wait to get popular Standard cards after they rotate. It's kind of nice, actually; if I open a brand new foil Teferi, Time Raveler, I can trade it for all the Commander staples in the world, and then hopefully pick it up a couple years later when there's a tad less demand. And if there isn't? Well, then I've lived this long without it.
While this particular strategy may not work for everyone, or may not even be necessary for everyone, I imagine I'm not the only one with an interest in a list of the best Standard "staples" rotating out that also see play in Commander. Whether or not you've been worried about dollars or hipster cred when it comes to stuff running rampant in ye olde Type II, hopefully it'll at least be interesting to see what has and hasn't made it in EDH since the initial hype of spoiler season.
Top 10 Old Standard "Staples" in EDH
This time around, we're going to be diverting a tad bit from the typical EDHREC ranking format, and actually starting with a pool of more limited cards. The idea is that we want to know which cards were in heavy demand due to the rigors of competitive play, and which are now going to be eased off of a bit as they leave the Standard pool. Thus, we need to identify which cards were popular in Standard. With that in mind, we're going to start by taking a look at the card pool from the Top 8s of all of the Standard
Pro Tours Mythic Championships of the last two years. This should give us a better idea of what stuff was hard to get a hold of due to Standard, rather than just telling us what the best cards for EDH were from Ixalan et al (Vanquisher's Banner, Growing Rites of Itlimoc, and Unclaimed Territory, for those wondering).
Given that you've probably drafted some of these sets, we'll also go ahead and skip anything that isn't at least a rare, as commons and uncommons are usually plentiful enough that you don't need to break the bank account acquiring them no matter what format they're popular in.
With that out of the way, then, let's take a look at the top 8 decklists! Rather than listing all of them, however, we'll just go ahead and take a page out of the Elder Dragon Highlander idea and list one copy each of all of the eligible cards:
Pro Tour IxalanView on Archidekt
In the days of energy counters, Ixalan cards had barely started slotting into decks, but they were already making quite the splash out at Pro Tour Albuquerque. While they didn't know at the time that Rampaging Ferocidon was about to become a lot more available, the rest of this list definitely has a few good entries in our pool, from Hostage Taker to the powerhouse that is Settle the Wreckage.
Pro Tour DominariaView on Archidekt
Even as a non-Standard player, I had heard about the complete takeover of red aggro in the format during most of 2018. This particular tournament out in Richmond was the one famous for only having one deck in the top eight that wasn't some version of red/x Sligh. Be that unfortunate past situation as it may, with the inclusion of both Dominaria and Rivals of Ixalan to the card pool, things have opened up quite a bit! I know I have definitely seen several copies of Treasure Map at my tables, along with a few Karn, Scion of Urzas. While that doesn't automatically count out the more colorful cards from this list necessarily, I would still say they seem like the most likely candidates on here outside of the aforementioned Settle the Wreckage.
Pro Tour Guilds of RavnicaView on Archidekt
Wow, that's a lot of Boros aggro from post-Amonkhet 2018. There's some standouts here I know I've been seeing around my local tables, but the prize from this particular list that warrants mentioning is the cheap token ridiculousness that is Legion's Landing. Oh, and I suppose I could also finally give Search for Azcanta some props, given that this is its second appearance so far.
Mythic Championship IView on Archidekt
There was quite a bit more variety when we fast forwarded a few months to the first Mythic Championship, although we still have a lot of repeat entries. While ultimately Mono-Blue Tempo won out the day, there's a lot of standouts in this portion of the list that look like they'll crack the top 10, almost all of which require you to take the card out of the sleeve and flip it around periodically. I should also put Tocatli Honor Guard's name into the mix, not because I think it will end up on the Top 10, but because I think it should end up in the Top 10. Torpor Orb is an absolute house that no one plans for, people!
Mythic Championship IIIView on Archidekt
After fast-forwarding to mid-2019, we have almost completely eliminated white! It seems we've also established a pattern here, as this particular set of cards gives us no new entries whatsoever. That shouldn't come as much of a surprise, as it was the last Standard "Pro Tour" of this era.
So, we've got our lists of now-rotating rares and mythics from the past year's Mythic Championships. Let's match them up with their EDHREC scores, and see what we get!
Showing up in almost every Pro Tour top 8 for the last two years, it's no surprise to find Search for Azcanta at the top of the list for EDH as well. For oh so many Commander decks, playing down a two-mana enchantment to mill into your graveyard while providing some card quality would already be enough. But when you can also choose to flip it into a bit of land ramp in colors that don't normally do that while also providing a mana sink to draw into an answer at instant speed, that's a real game changer.
Speaking of drawing cards, how'd you like to do just that every time anyone at the table does anything? Well, Nezahal, Primal Tide isn't quite that good, but it does feel like it at times. Drawing cards is powerful enough, but the fact that you can also keep them and use the excess ones to keep this whole engine alive is pretty impressive. Wrap all that up with an uncounterable 7/7 body, and you've got yourself one heck of a deal that's actually worth paying seven mana for.
One would think that there's enough five-mana Wrath of Gods out there for just about anyone's needs, so I was a little surprised to see Cleansing Nova this high on the list. That said, I did expect it to be somewhere on here, given its flexible nature. Being able to choose between a Purify or a Day of Judgment is a great option to have when it comes to the crazy board states of our favorite format. Paying one mana more than a typical Wrath is certainly worth it when it lets you destroy a Phelddagrif player's entire pillowfort, for instance.
Alternatively, Hostage Taker is not one that I'm surprised to see this high on the list, as I do tend to see it across tables quite a bit. That said, if it were up to me instead of the EDHREC stats themselves, I'm not sure that it would be this far up on the list. Don't get me wrong, being able to Faceless Butcher for a creature or artifact and then play it afterwards does sound really good. However, in my anecdotal experience, it seems like opponents never really get around to that second part. Perhaps in quicker metas there's more opportunity to play those Mana Vaults and what have you, but in quicker metas do you really have four mana to spend on this? Perhaps I'm wrong and this is taking Blood Artists from aristocrats players the world over, but that's just not what I'm seeing in my games.
For me personally, I've never been much of a fan of the type of gameplay where you just sit and play solitaire. That said, if you are the "loop extra turn spells until I win" kind of person, you can't really do much better than this. Outside of that sort of tomfoolery, however, the most you can really say for it is that it's an overpriced extra turn spell that just might be worth it for the instant speed. Being able to see an entire table's actions and then spring an extra turn on them after they've all swung in or tapped out can definitely win games.
But let's be honest... You guys are just looping this thing, ya bunch of loopers.
While it's not quite on the level of Karn Liberated, Karn, Scion of Urza fills a niche that the seven-mana version doesn't: he gives repeatable card draw and selection to colors that normally wouldn't have it, while also providing artifact decks with huge tokens to block or swing in for the win. None of that is mind-blowing for four mana, but the other nice thing about this particular version of Karn is that he was the beginning of Wizards of the Coast experimenting with giving planeswalkers more loyalty than their mana cost, and as a result he's actually fairly resilient in the early game. These days, that's known as the Oko, Thief of Crowns effect, I believe.
Speaking of planeswalkers getting better, there was a day where you would pay five mana and a four-loyalty planeswalker's ability reading simply "Draw a card" was a hell of a deal. With Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, however, you can get all that and a couple untapped lands to hold up a Counterspell as well! Failing that, you can also tuck the biggest threat on the table three cards down in its owner's deck, provided it's not a land. I might have buried the lede there while talking about burying cards, now that I think on it. What I should have done was shouted in all caps that this doesn't just target creatures, it also hits artifacts, enchantments, planeswalkers, and whatever permanent type they think up next!
Oh, and after all that, if you manage to keep him alive long enough, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is also one of the last planeswalkers to be printed with a "you win the game, basically" ultimate. In Wizard's defense, it is quite difficult to get to at a loyalty cost of -8, but exiling several permanents a turn (probably at instant speed in your blue and white deck) is very good. Did I mention that there isn't a land restriction on this one?
While dabbling in Brawl, I picked up more than a few copies of this little gem because it was a staple for any deck that could play it. That said, I was a tad bit surprised to see it making the list for EDH, as there are a lot of options in this area, most of which affect all players. Sure, that means you're bouncing your own stuff too, but there are still lots of them that you can finagle into working around your own permanents while bouncing most or all of your opponent's things, whereas River's Rebuke can only ever target one enemy.
When I saw that this particular flip enchantment had made the list, I figured that it was mostly due to decks like Selenia, Dark Angel that like to use their entire life total and then switch it with other players. There is a contingent that does just that, of course, but it looks like this is seeing play in most decks based on its own merits. It is cheaper to cast than Greed with a slightly more expensive activated ability that still results in you drawing a card repeatedly, so I suppose that's not the worst thing in the world. If it flips it's also a very good sacrifice outlet for creatures that can also bring your life total back up from the required five, which isn't terrible either. All in all, though, if you're outside of the "life total matters" archetype of decks, I'm not sure that I personally would endorse this one.
Treasure Map, on the other hand, is about as solid as it gets when it comes to ticking all of the boxes. I'm sure many of you looked at it initially and thought "bad Sensei's Divining Top", but that's a bit too simplistic in my opinion. While Top can do just about everything when it comes to card quality, resilience, and combos, Treasure Map has a different sort of flexibility. It allows you to play a card that will smooth out your draws, then ramps you with a pseudo-land-drop and Treasure, and still provides late game card advantage with said Treasure, so as far as the comparison goes, Sensei's Divining Top is certainly better when it comes to card quality, but Treasure Map opens up the door to all sorts of synergies that are more deck dependent. Whether it be playing the treasure deck, a deck that just cares about artifacts, or a deck where the top of the library matters, this fits into all of them, even if it's in addition to the more expensive old school staples like top and Scroll Rack.
This time around on honorable mentions, rather than just listing the next few cards, I'd much rather go into those that I think should have made the list. I generally try not to insert too much of my own opinion into things given that the rankings are based solely on EDHREC popularity, but there were more than a few on this list that I just had a hard time believing made the cut over what appear to be some much better cards underneath them that are barely seeing any play at all. That very well may be because my opinion is incorrect, or it may have something to do with the high demand these cards had during Standard. I know for myself, when I see that happening I'm much more apt not to buy things that might make my decks better, or to trade them away for older things that I also want in those decks.
- Legion's Landing, 2,512 decks: Making a lifelinker for a single mana isn't exactly anything to write home about, but token and non-token decks alike should be considering this one anyway. If you are combat heavy, you'll get to flip it into a land to ramp a bit in a color not known for that, while also having a mana sink to make an unexpected blocker. If you're in the blink deck or the enchantment deck, it's a single mana enchantment that will make you a token every time it enters the battlefield, along with triggering whatever else you have going on on the cheap. As with all of the flip enchantments and artifacts from Ixalan, there's a lot more here than meets the eye.
- Settle the Wreckage, 2,476 decks: Settle the Wreckage barely got left out of the top 10, but I was honestly expecting it to be near the top of it. For the amount of play that Aetherize sees, this is often just better. While there may be less call for this effect outside of blue, I still think that it's ludicrous that more people aren't seeing the benefit of a Fog that exiles every attacking creature involved, even if it might give that player a stronger base of lands to utilize. The great thing is that even that concern often doesn't amount to much, as in an environment where nonbasics aren't usually being punished very hard, it's not uncommon to hit a three-color deck with this and watch them only find two or three lands total because they aren't playing many basic lands.
- Rampaging Ferocidon, 2,165 decks: The Raptor is finally freed in Standard, but no one seems to be doing much with it! Every line of text on this creature is relevant to a game of Commander, and while I can understand the creature-heavy decks not wanting to run it, pretty much every other red deck should at least be considering it. Ask someone who runs Erebos, God of the Dead, just stopping your opponents from gaining life does a whole heck of a lot more than people expect. Punishing token decks for three to five damage a turn is even better.
- Tocatli Honor Guard, 657 decks: Every outlet doing set reviews has been mentioning Hushbringer nonstop, yet the other three versions of Torpor Orb are only seeing play in 7,633 decks combined. Honor Guard is the worst of those three options, but with the amount of decks that just get completely shut down without enter the battlefield effects, if you're playing/building around one of these you should be considering playing all of them. Just... maybe get some alternate art done for that Hushbringer, eh?
- History of Benalia, 508 decks: It looks like this may have already been somewhat figured out from the Top Commanders, but it's worth stating that this absolutely belongs in every new Knight deck that's coming out in the wake of Throne of Eldraine. Currently however, it's only in 38% of Syr Gwyn, Hero of Ashvale decks and 25% of Khorvath Brightflame/Sylvia Brightspear decks.
What Do You Think?
There are lots of ways for players to update their decks over time, and lots of different strategies they pursue doing so. What about you? How do you deal with cards that are popular in Standard that you also want in your decks?
And finally, which cards from Standard have you picked up? Which ones did you hold off on, and which ones did you buy immediately? Are there good EDH cards from recent sets that you've opened and immediately traded for value even though you've wanted them for your decks?
Let us know in the comments, and we'll see you at the trade tables!