Set Rotation and a New Model Army by Liam Casserly

Set Rotation and a New Model Army by Liam Casserly

Did you have fun this weekend?

Did you brew up a list that looked a bit like something the pro’s were running?

Did you catch all the clans out with your mono-coloured aggro deck?

Did you like all the new and interesting shenanigans you could get up to in Khans draft?

Of course you did.


All those oppressive decks that were the scourge of the format are now gone. (Well… if not gone then at least not as fun to play, so they can sit on the shelf for a while.) But hang on. Sure, you can play half your old decks and hope to cram a few replacement in from Khans. Change your Boros Burn deck into a Jeskia Tempo list et voila! you’re a clansman. But how is that going to feel, leaving behind your old identity?

At your FNM things work differently from the GPs or the PTQs. Week one there will be a few people with the full lists, those that pre-ordered and those that traded aggressively at the pre-release, but for the most part people will be running their old decks with a few new additions. Maybe a few weaker cards in there because they spent all their money last month and release weekend was three days before payday.

The lament of the players was heard in your LGS on Friday. The control player looking down at the army of 1 and 2 drop he’s facing on turn four and wishing for a Supreme Verdict. The twin misery of the aggro and ramp players weeping for their missing Burning Tree Emissary. And is that a tear in the eye of that mono black player as he puts those Pack Rats into his trade folder?

“Maybe someone will want you for a rats themed EDH deck little fellas?”

But who is that in the corner laughing, with sinister maniacal hysteria? The combo player! He has spent his time in Modern going off on turn three, and Standard has been an unfriendly place for him. Sure they were there, the combo’s were hidden in the five colours amongst seven or eight cards, but now… now there’s a chance. Jeskai Ascendancy is here to give all the combo players hope. If they are quick enough they will get their time in Standard and the rest of us will have to sit through their fifteen minute turn three. But don’t fear, like all combos it’s a glass cannon and as long as you’re willing to sell your soul to Erebos you can defeat it.

Jeskai banner

Week one is lots of fun. There are loads of unknowns. It’s the purest form of the game, the puzzle starts anew. This is where the diligent among us shine. Those of us who read all the tech will have the edge. We’ll be merrily thrashing you with our thoroughly-researched A and B grade cards… and then we’ll get beaten up by a card we were convinced was an F.

I do like the way that the new block forces player to re-evaluate their alignments. The diehard Control player who was, for most of the last Standard, an Azorius stalwart, is now forced to face the cold hard reality that Control is probably not going to be in White anymore. And that Blue and Black are the colour they need to take care of Stormbreath Dragon. The Orzhov midrange mage is now facing the prospect of being labeled a Abzan or Mardu pilot.

I don’t know how other people feel when they play their decks, I do know that some Spikes are pure by-the-numbers guys, but I get attached to my deck and what it says about me. I don’t know which way it happens, whether I seek out the deck that suits my personality or vice versa but I am drawn to a certain style of play. It’s part of the thing that makes local metas cool. That one week where a Control player turns up with a Boss Sligh deck and runs over everyone because he jumped the meta. I like things like that.

Boros Charm banner

I went to a PTQ earlier this year. It was Modern format and I was playing Burn, splashing White for Boros Charm. The night before the tournament I was going through my list with my son when he suggested I use the box and sleeves from the Modern event deck. I thought it was a diabolical plan. So I sleeved up.

I don’t know how many of my opponents kept a hand that was good against Black and White Tokens in game one but I went 6-3 in the day. That’s the beauty of Magic, everything is part of the game, whether it’s picking your colours on pre-release, or pre-empting the shift in your local meta and turning up with a deck that weaves its way to 4-0, not because it was the best deck but because it took out all the top decks. It’s all part of the feeling that you are involved in a larger game.

Then there’s the two separate games that Draft is. I can’t get enough of Limited. When it’s an interesting new set the puzzle is there to be solved. But, in your local store, people’s preferences are much more a known quality. How many times have you sat down at the table, looked to your right and thought “Well I’m getting no green in packs 1 and 3…”?

This isn’t a negative.

You’re playing at FNM, this is exactly the competitive level. Grabbing a bunch of cards you want to play because they’re fun instead of taking cards because they’re competitive.

Mountains Banner

I love rotation, it’s like the first day in a new school. The past is behind us, the future is unwritten. We get to look through the spoilers and think about another colour or a different path. We are the authors of our own potential. We can cast off the shackles of the old Standard and forge a new reputation. Anything is possible.

But I’ll still be playing red.

Liam Casserly

What were you playing before rotation? How have you shifted your alliances in this new plane of Tarkir?

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