by Tom Vandevelde
Shadows Over Innistrad casts its shadow over the Gentry format. Rotation is upon us, and that means two things: a lot of cards we are used to playing with are leaving the format, and a bunch of new and exciting cards, interactions and decks are waiting to be discovered. In this article I will discuss the most impactful cards leaving the format.
Studying how a format will evolve come rotation is an important way to get a leg up on the opposition in the first tournaments after the format has rotated. In this first article, I take a closer look at some of the all-stars that are leaving the format as Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged rotate out. I even try and compose a Top 10, because come on, who doesn’t like lists? In a follow-up article, I will then explain which cards from Shadows Over Innistrad I think will help shape the post-rotation metagame.
A quick note before we get to the Top 10: I will only be tackling commons and uncommons here, as these are the cards you can count on drawing on the regular in the Gentry format. While the four unique rares and/or mythics often win games and are therefore very impactful, they very rarely make or break a deck. The one exception I might mention here is Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, because it is such a vital card for the UB Control strategy.
10. Ainok Bond-Kin and friends
The Outlast creatures, Ainok Bond-Kin and Abzan Falconer first among them, enjoyed stretches of popularity during their time in Gentry. They were widely played at the first post-Khans of Tarkir event, before they were pushed out of the format by the rise of UB Control. They were then forgotten for a long time, until Oath of the Gatewatch’s Support mechanic gave them another boost and provided extremely powerful draws for the white-based +1/+1 counter decks.
9. Chief of the Edge and friends, backed up by Harsh Sustenance
The Warrior clan did not mess around. So many aggressive one- and two-drops were Warriors, and in Chief of the Edge, Chief of the Scale and Bloodchin Rager, the clan had multiple powerful ‘lords’. In addition, Mardu Hordechief and Sandsteppe Outcast (which actually saw play in a lot of different decks, and was close to earning a separate spot on this list) provided several bodies, while also being Warriors. Finally, there was Raiders’ Spoils, my favorite anthem effect in a long time. It pumped all your creatures, and as you often went wide, it usually drew you multiple cards per turn. I loved playing the Warrior deck and I will miss tapping out for Raiders’ Spoils and saying ‘man, this card is so broken’. I did a lot of that.
I also added Harsh Sustenance to the jolly bunch of Warriors, because this deck was its natural home. A card that provided both reach and removal fit perfectly in an aggro deck that went wide, and often allowed you to win races. I still remember my excitement at Harsh Sustenance when it first came out, and it certainly did not disappoint.
While Sandsteppe Outcast just barely missed its own spot on this list, there is another little Warrior did that came even closer: Sultai Emissary. What, you did not know Sultai Emissary was a Warrior? That might be because it did not see much play in Warrior decks. It was one of the major cards in the different Aristocrats builds, however. Uncommon slots were tight in these decks, and Sultai Emissary provided two bodies at a cheap cost, in a common slot no less. Discovering how good Sultai Emissary was in the Aristocrats deck was what took the deck to Tier 1 for me, hence this specific mention.
8. Cancel, Disdainful Stroke & Enhanced Awareness
7. Seeker of the Way
While Sandsteppe Outcast and and Sultai Emissary just missed the list, there was no way around this Warrior powerhouse. (Yes, Seeker of the Way is a Warrior too!) Seeker was a staple in all white aggressive decks, from monowhite to Heroic and Prowess, and even made it into my Esper Midrange deck because of its ability to live through your own sweepers. This card is incredibly powerful for an uncommon, and swung races in a way that few non-rare cards could.
6. Murderous Cut
Another extremely powerful card. Murderous Cut sees play in Modern. That says enough. The ‘black Swords to Plowshares’ was the best removal spell in the format ever since it was introduced in Khans of Tarkir. I often found myself trying to open up slots in my black decks to fit a few Cuts in there, just because the card was so good against cards that proved difficult to deal with otherwise. It just did not have the clauses conditional removal such as Fiery Impulse, Reave Soul, Kill Shot, etc. come with. It was the card decks with Nantuko Husk were the most afraid of, and it dealt with Vile Aggregate in a pinch. Murderous Cut really had no downside except for its rarity. The only reason why it is not higher on this list is because it did not truly define any archetypes.
5. Hordeling Outburst
Hordeling Outburst, on the other hand, did. It featured prominently in every red aggressive deck since its printing, and with reason. Three power for three mana, spread over three bodies is nothing to scoff at. It was at its most powerful when Foundry Street Denizen and Stoke the Flames were still in the format (just think about that for a second, that deck was plain disgusting), but it made new friends in later rotations, with the likes of Impact Tremors and Reckless Bushwhacker. It was a staple in red aggro as well as in various token decks, which merits its high place on this list.
4. Temur Battle Rage
It took a long time for Temur Battle Rage to get the respect it deserved. Alongside its (also rotating) buddy Become Immense, it formed the backbone of a Pro Tour winning Atarka Red deck. While no one used to play ‘the combo’, as it was often referred to, in earlier iterations of the deck, there seemed to be no reason other than people not realizing how good this combination was. Hall of Famer Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa, who championed the deck at various tournaments once mused (and I’m paraphrasing here): ‘I wonder how good the red deck had been if someone had found out about Battle Rage + Become Immense when Stoke the Flames and such were still in the format.’ Once the word was out, however, Temur Battle Rage became one of the most feared cards in Standard as well as Gentry. It worked well enough with just a Titan’s Strength that it found its way into all kinds of Prowess decks, while GR Landfall exploited the original combo to its full effect. Roughly eighteen trample damage out of nowhere is scary, and another one of the reasons why Murderous Cut was such an important card in the format.
3. Monastery Swiftspear
Taylor Swiftspear is the best red one-drop ever printed. There, I said it. This card was inoccuous when it first was printed, but as soon as people started playing it more, they realized how absurd this little card was. Most of the time, it is close to a 2/3 haste for one red mana, and quite often, it is a 3/4 or a 4/5, which is completely insane. To be honest, at various points in the existence of the gentry format, it was just plain wrong not to have this card in your deck. I mean, I just called it the best red one-drop ever printed, and you could play the full four! It was everyone’s favorite target for Temur Battle Rage + Titan’s Strength or Become Immense, played well with instant-speed removal to trap your opponents into bad blocks, worked well with token producers, and so much more. I played it in various red decks, including monored and GR Landfall, and it was possibly at its best in the UR Prowess deck that just won the Finals event in the hands of Jelle Ghyselinck. Speaking of which…
2. Treasure Cruise
While Monastery Swiftspear may be the best red one-drop ever printed, Treasure Cruise is among the most broken cards ever to see play in the game of Magic. Treasure Cruise is banned in Legacy and Modern, and restricted in Vintage, Magic’s most powerful format. In every non-Standard format where it was once played as a 4-of, it was considered the best card around, warping the meta of each of the eternal formats into various Treasure Cruise decks and not much else. Take a moment to appreciate that. And now consider the fact that you could play four Treasure Cruise in Gentry. My teammate, Sander, who had never played the format, recently proclaimed after having played four games with an UR Tutelage deck that it had to be wrong not to play four Treasure Cruise in whatever deck you were contemplating playing in this format, and I don’t think he was necessarily wrong. Treasure Cruise is easily the one individual card I played the most of throughout its time in Gentry. I jammed 4 in the 75 of my Sultai Delve deck, splashed it in a monored deck, played 4 in the 75 of UB Control, of Sphinx’s Tutelage and of UR Prowess, and almost everywhere I played it, it was the card I was most hoping to draw. As long as you could enable the Delve mechanic somewhat reliably, the card was patently absurd, and I consider it the most powerful card we lose in the rotation. Why is it not number 1 then? Because it is not the most impactful on the format as a whole.
1. the common duals
I hope you enjoyed this farewell to the best cards for Gentry in Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged. Do you think I missed any? Be sure to let me know in the comments! Next time, I tackle what I consider the best cards for Gentry in Shadows over Innistrad.
Until then, may you cast Treasure Cruise as if it were Ancestral Recall!
Tom Vandevelde has been playing Magic since Tempest, and competitively since Time Spiral. Deckbuilding is his favorite part of the game, which has led to him taking an interest in less conventional formats like League Standard. Alongside his teammates on Team Wrecking Ball he is shooting for the Pro Tour, but you will just as often find him playing Pauper, Pack Wars or Mental Magic, or helping out newer players. You will often find Tom streaming on twitch.tv/wreckingballmtg, where you can actually challenge him to League Standard matches in between rounds! Be sure to come hang out and don’t be afraid to ask questions!