It is that time of year again, rotation is impending as the release for the new fall set draws closer. This time a year ago, I was begging for rotation. If a deck could not beat thoughtseize into pack rat, thassa into master of waves, or a sphinix’s revelation for 6 then it was not a passable deck in standard. As it turns out, many decks could not pass that test. Therefore, standard become stale and new sets hardly changed the metagame.
Standard this season could not have been more different. The variation in decks and archetypes is vast. Yes, decks from Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir remained stable through out the whole season, Abzan and Jeskai most notably. However, the archetypes did change greatly. There were friendly and unfriendly metas for all decks. Furthermore, new decks emerged all the time through out the season. U/R Mill just won a Grand Prix for crying out loud! I thoroughly enjoyed playing standard this whole season, but my personal joy for the format is more about a relationship with one card.
Now there is a magic card! Siege Rhino stood out to me as a good card when it was spoiled, but I did not realize how insane it was until I played with it. Any card that is fundamentally great against aggro and control strategies is going to see play and siege rhino is a premium example of that type of card. Siege rhino has stabilized for me as much as it has closed out games. It almost always has a powerful impact on the game. With the exception of a brief stint with Jeskai tokens, I have played Siege Rhino decks since the card was printed.
A quick aside about Jeskai tokens. The deck was a ton of fun to play and there is no doubt that it is incredibly powerful. However, I found it to be extremely inconsistent and fragile. The same cannot be said of Siege Rhino though.
There were three flavors of Siege Rhino deck with which I become intimately familair: abzan aggro, abzan midrange/control, and abzan reanimator. However, I do think it is important to note that all these decks are just different versions of the same deck, which as whole has been an incredibly powerful and popular deck this season. There was also an abzan megamorph deck with popped up which I never got a chance to try out but seemed great.
Early in the season I started playing and having success with Abzan reanimator. The deck was appealing because of the powerfully ability to go over the top of mid-range decks while still having a great match up against aggressive strategies and control decks. I won my first preliminary pro tour qualifier with Abzan reanimator and really enjoyed playing it. Soul of Theros and Whip of Erebos are super fun to play with. However, I grew away from the deck because the mirror was grueling and it happened way to often. I have always felt awkward rushing my opponents even when they need to be rushed. This led me to a faster version of Abzan: Abzan aggro.
Abzan aggro was a deck which I was so attracted to because it was an aggressive deck whose threats were powerful early and late. This is a rare and powerful effect for an aggressive deck. Additionally, there were many cards in the deck which were very well positioned such as Anafenza and Wingmate roc. The ability to play powerfully sideboard cards with almost not drawback, such as back to nature and drown in sorrow, also drew me to the deck. The downside to the deck was the mana was miserable. Any deck playing two urborgs is not were you want to be. Not to mention there were many color requirements in other cards such as elsepth, brimaz, and all the traditional two and three drops which were color intensive. Most of the time I lost, the deck would beat itself because of the mana base. However, there was another bad match up which led to me toying around with another version of Abzan.
Abzan midrange! The tried and true version of Abzan. It won the pro tour and continued to a strong player the whole standard season. It preyed on the aggro deck because it was a bigger more powerful version with bigger spells. Plus it had the ultimate trump card in Elspeth: suns champion. Abzan aggro has a serious problem with Elspeth especially when caught unprepared. Cards such as wingedmate roc, glare of hersey, and hero’s downfall could certainly help but at times the aggro decks trimmed on these cards.
For the last half of the season I played abzan midrange and was totally satisfied with the deck. The flexibility to adjust to any deck or metagame was wonderful. Furthermore, the most experience I got with the deck, the more I confident I became with it. I ended my standard season by winning a game day at Deck Factory with Abzan midrange. The experience I had with the game and my build made it possible for me to do well the event. I certainly would not have been able to make some of the plays I did without the time I had put into the deck.
Fortunately, the future looks bright for Abzan post-rotation! I mean how can they not print good cards for three colors. Siege rhino will still be played and I will be playing it. Hopefully the new dual lands in battle for zenidkar are great as I am most worried about Abzan’s manabase going forward. As much as I love playing three colors, espcially Abzan, the mana takes a serious toll when getting the benefits of the best spells the colors have to offer. There will be big losses to the deck such as courser of Kruphix, the scry lands, Elspeth, and ,my personal favorite, thoughtseize. However, I am confident there will be cards to compensate these losses. Solid discard and mana is what I will be looking for the most.
What did you thin of standard this season? What are you looking forward to about rotation? Which cards were your favorite? Leave any thoughts and comments below. I look forward to the discussion and the coming standard rotation!