A First Look at Ixalan Standard Results

Feature Article from Seth Manfield
Seth Manfield
9/29/2017 11:02:00 AM
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With Ixalan officially released today, there aren't any Standard results to draw upon right? Not so fast! Ixalan has been legal on Magic Online for a few days now, and that means that players have been able to already start playing Ixalan Standard as soon as the first drafts finished. I'm going to take a look into these online results as the online metagame is, often, a week ahead of paper Magic.

The Decks That Stay

Let's start with level one. These are the decks that should be very popular for the next few weeks, as they can be easily ported over from the previous Standard format. Temur Energy should be number one on most player's hit list:

With Temur Energy, the first decision is whether splashing The Scarab God is worth it. The trend seems to be that most players are doing it. The Scarab God is a mirror breaker, but also generally a good card in most matchups. It does make the mana slightly worse, but not by a ton. However, this is a deck that needs to be careful how many five drops it plays. This particular list has decided not to play Skysovereign, Consul Flagship or Glorybringer. However, there are two copies of Verdurous Gearhulk.

Verdurous Gearhulk isn't typical in Temur Energy, but if players no longer have Abrade then it makes more sense. Simply making a huge trampling threat is going to be tough for a lot of decks to deal with. This list does still have some copies of Abrade though, the question is will that number continue to go down if Mardu Vehicles is seeing less play. We see Temur Energy shifting to being geared to beat the mirror, and that makes sense.

When playing Temur Energy it is essential that you are ready to face the mirror. Confiscation Coup is one of the best cards in the mirror, which is why we see it starting to make its way into the maindeck. Confiscation Coup is the best answer to an opposing The Scarab God, or any threat on the opposing side of the table for that matter. This is a card I expect to see a lot of moving forward.

We are going to see players trying out a lot of different cards trying to tune Temur Energy, but the basic shell remains intact. This is a deck that we will be seeing a lot of as with countermagic like Negate and Spell Pierce in the sideboard control matchups become much easier.

The next deck on player's hit lists should be Ramunap Red. I already wrote an article in detail about this deck, but here is one of the undefeated lists from Magic Online:

Rigging Runner is another option for a third one drop if you want that. I don't think it is better than Soul-Scar Mage or Bomat Courier though. That is really the only difference from the list I posted a week ago. The additional one drop is nice against control because you want a high density of cheap threats. However, playing Rigging Runner on turn one really doesn't feel good, so I'm not sure it qualifies as an actual one drop.

Ramunap Red and Temur Energy will likely be the most popular decks for week one as they really don't change very much. Now I want to get into some decks that look good, but have more significant updates.

The Decks That Change

Control decks will remain popular, but which control deck is the best? I believe it could be White-Blue Approach. This deck has access to the best sweeper in the format, in Fumigate. Fumigate might be the best card to have against Temur Energy as almost all their threats are creatures. This deck also has a win condition that is very hard to fight in game one: Approrach of the Second Sun. However, this is a deck that lost Blessed Alliance and Immolating Glare so how does it fill in the holes?

We see both Slash of Talons and Aether Meltdown here as forms of cheap removal. You need to be able to answer early creatures or there won't be enough time to get to your late game engine. Slash of Talons is nothing flashy, but against Ramunap Red there really is no other card that answers Bomat Courier efficiently. Unfortunately, Aether Meltdown is not an answer for Bomat Courier because you can continue to attack and put a card under it. However, Aether Meltdown is the best option at the two mana removal slot now. This deck doesn't care about the energy it produces.

We also see Settle the Wreckage as that card does provide opportunities for huge blowouts. Settle the Wreckage exiles creatures which is a nice answer to Gods—and pretty important. In fact, I'm a bit surprised there isn't more removal that can exile creatures, Cast Out being the most notable omission. Instead, this list has prioritized more mass removal as Hour of Revelation is a card that can even deal with Planeswalkers. You also don't want to play Hour of Revelation in the same deck as Cast Out since that would mean destroying your own Cast Out, and that won't work out well.

This White-Blue Approach list is taking advantage of many of the tools Ixalan has to offer. Opt is an efficient form of card draw that we should expect to see all control decks start to pick up. There are also new upgrades to the manabase. Glacial Fortress goes straight into any White-Blue deck, and there is even room for Field of Ruin. Field of Ruin is here primarily as a way to try to get a Ramunap Ruins off the battlefield. Expect this deck to continue to rise in popularity.

I wrote about Dinosaurs this week, but didn't get a chance to try out Red-Green Dinosaurs. Now that I have I can say that deck has a lot of potential. Of the various Dinosaur decks it has been the one that has put up the best results so far:

This deck is quite straightforward, as it is trying to beat down the opponent and do so in a consistent way. Ripjaw Raptor is going to cause a lot of problems when it comes down on the third turn of the game. It is a creature that both Temur Energy and Ramunap Red are going to have difficulties against. Ripjaw Raptor also works very well with Savage Stomp, which is a good way to trigger Enrage. Savage Stomp is always great in a Dinosaur deck, as it will almost always only cast one mana.

Another deck that can take advantage of these two cards is Black-Green Constrictor. Black-Green Constrictor is forced to adapt, after having lost a lot of key cards in the rotation:

This deck looks very different from the Black-Green Constrictor decks we are used to. There are still the core cards that have counter synergy, but there need to be good options for building around them. Ripjaw Raptor is one of the best creatures in the format, so a case can be made for slotting it into almost any deck. Savage Stomp is even better when you are casting it with a Winding Constrictor in play.

This is not a full-blown Dinosaur deck, but there are Deathgorge Scavenger's and Ranging Raptor's to go along with Ripjaw Raptor. Ranging Raptor will be good if you have a way to make good use of excess mana. Here you do have Walking Ballista, so extra lands are helpful. I'm not sure how great the three mana Dinosaurs are yet in this deck, but you do need some way to fill the curve out.

I'm a bit surprised to see Kitesail Freebooter here. Not because the card is bad, but because this deck doesn't synergize with it particularly well. However, I have a feeling that Kitesail Freebooter will end up being a good value creature that can go into many black decks even if there aren't other Pirates. Against a deck with Fumigate, Kitesail Freebooter could end up being the difference maker. This isn't just about being able to take a card out of the opponent's hand but the information gained from knowing what to play around.

Black-Green Constrictor is a deck that is forced to adapt or Disappear from the format, and we see here there are adjustments the deck can make. Vraska's Contempt is a nice flexible removal spell but there is no replacement for Grasp of Darkness.

The last deck I want to talk about is an Electrostatic Pummeler deck. I'm not talking about straight Red-Green Pummeler however. This version is Blue-Green:

The idea of building a deck around Electrostatic Pummeler that is not Red-Green is completely new. Trophy Mage can search up Electrostatic Pummeler, so it gives the deck more consistency. With Liliana, the Last Hope having rotated, the best answer to Electrostatic Pummeler is now gone. With enough ways to give your own creatures hexproof it can be very hard for the opponent to get an Electrostatic Pummeler off the battlefield.

In addition to Blossoming Defense, this deck is also playing Dive Down as a way to give your creature hexproof. Dive Down is certainly worse that Blossoming Defense but it is still worth playing. The best way for the opponent to beat this deck is by removing the Electrostatic Pummeler from play. Crash the Ramparts and Larger Than Life are good ways to make sure your Electrostatic Pummeler can trample through for lethal.

Compared to Red-Green Pummeler, this version is even more reliant on Electrostatic Pummeler itself. There aren't cards like Longtusk Cub in the maindeck, as another creature capable of winning the game on its own. Even Bristling Hydra is not necessarily a win condition, but more of a way of halting opposing attacks. We see Woodweaver's Puzzleknot as a way to create a lot of energy, and ensure that you will be able to make your Elextrostatic Pummeler large enough.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield
@SethManfield




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