Last updated on August 22, 2022

Hullbreaker Horror - Illustration by Svetlin Velinov

Hullbreaker Horror | Illustration by Svetlin Velinov

It’s that time of year again! With the release of Dominaria United in less than a month, the sets in Standard will rotate and we’ll say goodbye to Zendikar Rising, Kaldheim, Strixhaven, and Forgotten Realms. You’re probably savoring your last Standard games with cards like the Pathway lands or Luminarch Aspirant, Expressive Iteration, and Magma Opus.

While those will be missed, I want to shift the focus to what’s staying. For your convenience I’ve scoured the list of 1,079 cards that survive the rotation and picked out the 25 best (though my personal wish list is closer to 50). With the second season of RCQs starting in October and many likely to be Standard as they feed a series of Standard Regional Championships, this is a Standard format that’s worth a time investment.

Let’s jump right in and take a look at the best that Standard 2023 will have to offer!

Honorable Mention: Jaya, Fiery Negotiator

Jaya, Fiery Negotiator

The new Jaya looks absolutely incredible and could have been included among the other solid planeswalkers below. Jaya feels very similar to one of my favorite Standard planeswalkers of all time, Chandra, Torch of Defiance.

This planeswalker has a conditional removal mode and two modes that give you card advantage, so there’s a lot to like. Jaya, Fiery Negotiator pairs very handily with quite a few of the cards on this list, so I can definitely see it becoming deck defining.

White

Adeline, Resplendent Cathar

Adeline, Resplendent Cathar

Magic has a long history of aggressive white creatures. Adeline, Resplendent Cathar has been quite impressive and is pretty much the sole reason that mono white has been such a strong deck in Standard.

Hopeful Initiate, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and quite a few other pieces all survive this rotation with Adeline, so there’s a very good package of white aggro cards to start the format strongly.

Farewell

Farewell

Past board sweepers have been the cornerstone of control decks, but they’ve become less and less useful in Standard thanks to the growing diversity of threats. Few have been as all-encompassing as Farewell, a card that can destroy most decks’ chances of bouncing back. It doesn’t hit planeswalkers, but that can help a control deck to build up a post-board sweep advantage.

Farewell isn’t going to define any particular decks but it is one of the most powerful cards to resolve. Also worth noting is Depopulate, a turn 4 board wipe that hasn’t seen much play so far.

The Wandering Emperor

The Wandering Emperor

The Wandering Emperor has been a dominant card in Standard since February and is easily one of the most powerful here. It even popped up in older formats!

The ability to play the Emperor at instant speed gives you a bounty of options. The most common play is to exile an attacking creature, leaving behind a powerful planeswalker that can further influence the board.

It makes you look at four open mana differently, so I wouldn’t be surprised if The Wandering Emperor continued to be one of the most influential cards in Standard.

Wedding Announcement / Wedding Festivity

I loved Wedding Announcement in Limited, but I didn’t expect it to be big in Standard. Despite that, every deck I’ve enjoyed in this format lately has played this card.

The simple combination of being able to draw three cards or make three tokens (or any combination of the two) based on your needs is a really great deal, not to mention that it sticks around as a Glorious Anthem after it’s done. This card’s effects and cheap 3-mana cost should help it to be a staple of any creature-based white deck for the foreseeable future.

Blue

Hullbreaker Horror

Hullbreaker Horror

I’ve played control decks for a long time, and a recurring trope is the typical six or seven mana “control win condition.” They’re usually hard to counter, hard to kill, and very easy to use to win.

Hullbreaker Horror is one of the best I’ve ever seen and is bound to the cornerstone of any blue control deck moving forward. It’s already seen quite a bit of play in Standard as control decks have been quite popular. If control is strong in our new metagame, this horror is likely to be there.

Make Disappear

Make Disappear

The first of only three commons on this list, Make Disappear has proven to be a very capable counterspell. It’s fine in control decks but really shines in midrange decks, like the Esper () decks with Luminarch Aspirant and Raffine, Scheming Seer, or the Grixis () vampire decks.

It may not be the most powerful but should be an important piece in blue-based midrange decks. Set rotation comes with uncertainty, but all of the great returning Streets of New Capenna cards mean that there should be continuity in your decks’ strength after the rotation.

Memory Deluge

Memory Deluge

There was a time when control decks would wait to have a ton of mana and resolve a card like Mind Spring or Blue Sun’s Zenith to refill their hands. These days, other decks are far too fast for that to be effective as evidenced by Even the Score’s lack of play.

Memory Deluge is perfect for the job and one of the best control draw spells ever. At four mana for the upfront cost of it, you get to see four cards total and still cast something else in the same turn when you draw it later. Fact or Fiction, one of Magic’s most iconic draw spells, was recently added to Modern and is played less than Memory Deluge, so that should tell you everything you need to know.

Black

Graveyard Trespasser / Graveyard Glutton

Unlike other cards here, Graveyard Trespasser has seen little to no Standard play. Frankly it’s here because it needs a good home. Explorer and Pioneer both have Rakdos () midrange decks among their top tiers and each sport a playset of this black werewolf.

I’m not confident that a rotation will increase its overall usage, but this is a card with a ton of potential. Graveyard Trespasser could become quite popular if any of the next four sets have a strong graveyard theme, or a returning mechanic like escape or flashback.

Sorin the Mirthless

Sorin the Mirthless

Sorin the Mirthless has done a fair deal in its time in Standard. Black midrange decks, particularly Orzhov () and Esper variants, have been using Sorin alongside The Wandering Emperor and Lolth, Spider Queen to apply continuous pressure over successive turns with multiple planeswalkers.

Planeswalkers have a long history in Standard midrange decks, and there are several great options going into this rotation (I stopped myself at five). What sets Sorin apart from other planeswalkers in this category is its innate ability to help you catch up against aggro decks.

You can maintain a healthy life total by creating 2/3 lifelink creatures to block aggro creatures, which can help keep you alive into the midgame. Sorin should see many battlefields in the coming year.

Tenacious Underdog

Tenacious Underdog

I love seeing cheap creatures that generate card advantage as a general fan of midrange decks. Tenacious Underdog has been incredibly useful in the Esper midrange decks that have been top tier in Standard since Streets of New Capenna.

It costs two mana so it’s great to curve right into Raffine, Scheming Seer. It’s also great to discard for connive effects, and it provides late game inevitability. A black-based aggro deck should welcome a 2-mana 3/2 with massive upside.

The Meathook Massacre

The Meathook Massacre

Standard has never been cheaper to play. Multiple variants of each rare and mythic are available, and a lot of cards cost a lot less than they would have 4+ years ago. Most of the rares on this list are no more than a couple bucks apiece when they would have been at least $5 to $10 another time. Aside from The Meathook Massacre, that is.

This one didn’t have a showcase printing, so less of it were opened compared to other mythics from the same set. It’s also one of the best cards in Standard and a huge boon to a lot of black Commander decks. All of these combined have made it the most expensive Standard card (at around $50 each) for a very long time. Even Oko, Thief of Crowns topped out at half that despite being played in every single format.

I’ll always tout Standard as a great beginner format with a pretty low entry barrier, but this card is really trying to prove me wrong. It should be just as good after the rotation. It’s a lot in one card, both as a board sweeper that gains you a bunch of life and a wincon for decks that like to sacrifice creatures.

Red

Cathartic Pyre

Cathartic Pyre

Red decks in Standard are often defined by three things: cheap aggressive creatures, value-driven midrange cards, and removal spells. Cathartic Pyre is an example of all three.

It’s seen a bit of play but has mostly lost out to Dragon’s Fire. Lots of red decks have been playing Goldspan Dragon, so Dragon’s Fire’s ability to get a free extra point of damage is preferred over Cathartic Pyre’s alternate mode. With both Dragon’s Fire and Goldspan Dragon rotating, Cathartic Pyre is left as the best 2-mana red removal spell available.

It’s not unlikely that one of the next four sets brings along a better removal spell for this slot, but this is going to be an important deck building tool until then.

Fable of the Mirror-Breaker / Reflection of Kiki-Jiki

This is likely the single best card on this list. Fable of the Mirror-Breaker has taken competitive Magic by storm and is played in decks all over Standard, Pioneer, and even a little bit of Modern.

It’s first and foremost a powerful midrange value package. Over the course of three turns, a 3-mana investment gives you a pair of 2/2 creatures and two rummages. The creatures can create Treasure tokens, so combining that with the rummaging can help to fix your mana. You can even get two of them to combo by making copies of each other.

Kumano Faces Kakkazan

Kumano Faces Kakkazan

On the aggressive side of red’s spectrum, Kumano Faces Kakkazan has impressive value for a red 1-drop because they don’t historically need to do a whole lot to be playable. The color as a whole just needs enough red 1-drops for a full deck.

Kumano is a whole lot more than just a passable 1-drop. The guaranteed one damage it gives can make all the difference when you draw it late. If played on curve, it makes your 2-drop stronger. To top it all off, it transforms into a very respectable 2/2.

Red aggro decks have been happy with 1-mana 1/1s with a minor upside, so this great card will probably be an auto-include for Red Deck Wins lists that are built on day 1 of the new format.

Voltage Surge

Voltage Surge

Voltage Surge is another format-defining removal spell, one among lots of great current 1-mana burn spells. Strangle, Play with Fire, and Flame-Blessed Bolt are also excellent.

Voltage Surge is incredible though because it can reach four damage for just one mana. It’s fairly easy to do by sacrificing a Treasure that’s lying about, especially if you made one thanks to Fable of the Mirror-Breaker.

There’s even the potential for a sacrifice theme deck thanks to the power of Oni-Cult Anvil, where Voltage Surge triggers your deck’s synergies. The plethora of burn spells should help improve the health of this upcoming Standard environment.

Green

Gala Greeters

Gala Greeters

Gala Greeters made minimal impact on the format despite its potential. Some good decks had it at the New Capenna set championship several months ago, like Shota Yasooka’s Jund () midrange deck or Hisamichi Yoshigoe’s Naya () midrange deck. As long as your deck is based on creatures, Gala Greeters should put in some work.

Gala Greeters is also incredibly good in combination with Jinnie Fay, Jetmir’s Second (foreshadowing!) Play Greeters on turn 2, then play Jinnie Fay on turn 3. Jinnie Fay triggers the Greeters’ alliance, so you can choose to make Treasure token and turn it into a cat or dog and trigger alliance again. It’s a nice little synergy.

The only downside is that the metagame is crowded with good 2-drops of various colors right now. Gala Greeters is still a solid option though, and part of why green has a fair bit going for it.

Titan of Industry

Titan of Industry

I’m a sucker for a great big green powerhouse that I can ramp into and dominate the game with. Titan of Industry has been doing that in a few decks despite the overall lack of actual ramp spells. This is the perfect haymaker for a deck to be centered around if more ramp spells feature in the coming sets.

A single Titan can fill up the board with two huge blockers, gain life against aggro, or blow up important opposing permanents. The flexibility is unparalleled compared to other ramp win conditions, making it the best option in a lot of situations.

Wrenn and Seven

Wrenn and Seven

Wrenn and Seven was massively hyped when it was first spoiled. The synergy with Esika’s Chariot had people very excited at first, but it hasn’t done much despite early success.

But post-rotation is a different world, and Wrenn is most certainly powerful enough to fit into a green midrange deck.

Multicolored

Bloodtithe Harvester

Bloodtithe Harvester

We rarely see 2-drops as flexible as Bloodtithe Harvester. The single Blood token is great for use with Voltage Surge and Oni-Cult Anvil, but you can also trade it for bigger opposing creatures if you generate more Blood tokens.

It’s an absolute powerhouse given its great tribal synergies with the Innistrad sets and Streets of New Capenna. Bloodtithe Harvester has already made waves across Standard and Pioneer and will continue to be a greatly influential card in the new Standard format.

Kaito Shizuki

Kaito Shizuki

Kaito Shizuki has done a fair bit in Standard lately but often took a back seat to other powerful 3-drops. It’s been great in Esper but has to contend with both Raffine and Wedding Announcement. It could be played in Grixis but has to fight for its spot with Corpse Appraiser and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker.

It’s hard to predict which cards will attract use going forward because some builds rely on the other cards that are printed (think Sultai () or blue and black decks). Kaito feels like another strong planeswalker that needs a home. Regardless, Kaito Shizuki is going to be very difficult for a lot of decks to deal with.

Ob Nixilis, the Adversary

Ob Nixilis, the Adversary

Ob Nixilis was one of the most hyped cards in recent memory, and it was thought to have the potential to become the next Oko, Thief of Crowns. Ob Nixilis, the Adversary isn’t as broken as Oko, but it is worth playing.

The Adversary really excels in sacrifice decks, so that’s definitely worth keeping an eye on. Midrange decks haven’t bothered playing it just because it doesn’t contribute to the board that much. Ob Nixilis is an extremely powerful and unique planeswalker that’s yet to find its niche. It should be one of the better cards in the format once that happens.

Raffine, Scheming Seer

Raffine, Scheming Seer

Raffine, Scheming Seer has been a dominant card in Standard since it was printed. It was a main draw for those flocking straight to Esper midrange to upgrade over existing Orzhov midrange decks in the early days of New Capenna. Even though Jeskai () Hinata later usurped Esper from its top spot in the format, the deck is still powerful and my personal current favorite.

It’s a huge start if you can curve a good 2-drop like Luminarch Aspirant, Tenacious Underdog, or Spirited Companion right into Raffine on turn 3. Raffine itself is hard to kill thanks to ward, and the ability to connive immediately really helps to smooth out your draws.

You can then even hold up Obscura Interceptor on turn 4 to protect it. This curve alone is likely to inspire a new Esper deck in the new format.

Evelyn, the Covetous

Evelyn, the Covetous

Evelyn, the Covetous also made its mark known shortly after printing. It’s effectively a vampire Mulldrifter that retriggers whenever you play another vampire. There are plenty of solid legal vampires thanks to the two Innistrad sets as well as New Capenna, so a vampire tribal deck seems very reasonable going forward.

Almost the entire Grixis vampires deck from the current format survives the rotation, and the deck is full of cards with a lot of raw power. Bloodtithe Harvester, Corpse Appraiser, Bloodthirsty Adversary, and even Florian, Voldaren Scion are great vampire options to round out this deck. And more may be coming.

Jinnie Fay, Jetmir’s Second

Jinnie Fay, Jetmir's Second

Jinnie Fay, Jetmir’s Second has gone largely unnoticed unlike a lot of its counterparts. Jinnie shines in creature-based midrange decks where it can turn Treasure tokens into very legitimate threats.

Imagine making the goblin shaman token from Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, then casting Jinnie Fay and creating a creature token when you attack with the goblin. I already mentioned the great synergy Jinnie Fay has with Gala Greeters, but Briarbridge Tracker also seems great with it.

It seems like there’s a good midrange shell here, likely in just red and green, though Jinnie Fay’s mana cost gives you flexibility to play it in any of Naya (), Gruul (), Selesnya (), or mono green. It also works very nicely with the new Jaya by upgrading the 1/1 prowess tokens to a menagerie of dogs or cats.

Lands

All of the Lands

I can’t overemphasize this last inclusion: all the lands in Standard are excellent and will go a long way towards defining the metagame. There are five New Capenna Triomes, ten slow dual lands from Midnight Hunt and Crimson Vow, and five legendary lands from Kamigawa.

The quality of lands in a given Standard environment defines the decks that can be played. For example, these dual lands don’t work very well in aggro decks because they enter the battlefield tapped. Midrange and control decks are just naturally a lot better for them. There will likely be a land cycle in Dominaria United, so it’ll be worth paying attention to what it looks like to judge the viability of certain decks.

Wrap Up

The Meathook Massacre - Illustration by Chris Seaman

The Meathook Massacre | Illustration by Chris Seaman

Standard rotation is one of my favorite times of the year, and I have a vested interest this time with the second season of RCQs coming in October. Standard has been in a great place since the banning of Alrund’s Epiphany because now even Jeskai Hinata, the most dominant deck in the format, is beatable with the right setup. I’m excited to play the format when the rotation happens and it’s always fun to see how players adjust.

What cards are you glad to see stay in Standard? Have I inspired you to seek out something you’ve overlooked? What else do you hope to see in the new rotation? Let me know in the comments below or over on Draftsim’s Twitter.

Stay safe and take care!

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2 Comments

  • Avatar
    Spencer August 17, 2022 1:54 pm

    You can’t choose the same option more than once on Titan of Industry, it would explicitly say if you could.

    • Avatar
      Dan Troha August 22, 2022 2:13 pm

      Thanks, fixed!

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