Three Decks for Rivals of Ixalan Standard

Feature Article from Seth Manfield
Seth Manfield
1/19/2018 11:02:00 AM
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We're standing at a very interesting and unique time in Magic – we have a format that isn't solved, and there is plenty of room for innovation in Standard after the most recent bans. Earlier this week I discussed the bans and how the Rivals of Ixalan tribal strategies will make an impact, but forgotten archetypes are reemerging as well on Magic Online. Today I'm going to break down three that are worth your attention.

Black-Green Constrictor

There is an Open this weekend, and while I expect a lot of new strategies to be tried, there is one deck that I know we will see plenty of: Black-Green Constrictor. It still plays Winding Constrictor alongside some counter synergy cards, but this isn't the same Black-Green Constrictor deck we are used to – it has plenty of Ixalan hits that help elevate the synergies.

Arguably, the best start in Standard is playing a Winding Constrictor on turn two and following it up with Jadelight Ranger. This either is going to make a huge Jadelight Ranger or essentially draw you multiple cards if there are lands on top – this deck is built to abuse explore. Jadelight Ranger is perhaps the overall strongest creature in Rivals of Ixalan, so I expect to see it featured in most midrange green decks moving forward.

There are also some other Ixalan creatures that are finally breaking out. Explore works really well with Winding Constrictor and can be a form of card advantage, and while Merfolk Branchwalker may not be on the same power level of Jadelight Ranger, it's still a very strong card. This is not a Merfolk deck at all, but Jadelight Ranger and Merfolk Branchwalker fit as strong value creatures. Moving up the curve, there is Ripjaw Raptor, an important trump in creature fights.

The four-drop slot is up for debate as there are a few different options. The new Shriekmaw, Ravenous Chupacabra, looks like it could see a lot of play if the format is a lot of midrange creature decks like this one. There is only one copy in this list, but look for that number to fluctuate as we move forward in the format. The question of how many removal spells should be in the main deck is directly correlated with how much of the format is control decks. The fewer control decks, the more creatures will be running around.

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Fatal Push and Vraska's Contempt give black access to the best removal spells in Standard. Gods are still a major factor, so having Vraska's Contempt as a clean answer to problematic threats is really nice. Blossoming Defense is also a reasonable inclusion here, as protecting Winding Constrictor is quite important. Whenever a Winding Constrictor stays in play rather than immediately dying to a removal spell, all your cards are going to be much more impressive.

We have some of the creatures we are used to seeing in Black-Green Constrictor as well. With the recent bannings, Glint-Sleeve Siphoner is the future of energy and earns the title of the best energy creature in the format. Energy generators are still better with a Winding Constrictor in play, but Glint-Sleeve Siphoner is a solid threat on its own. The potential of being able to draw a card or two is enough to make this card a must-answer, especially when it hits on turn two. Expect to see plenty of decks with Aether Hub and Glint-Sleeve Siphoner as their only energy cards.

Then we have Walking Ballista, Rishkar, Peema Renegade and Verdurous Gearhulk as creatures we have pretty much always seen in this deck. Walking Ballista and Rishkar, Peema Renegade go well with Winding Constrictor, just like they did in Sultai Energy. Walking Ballista looks to be in a better spot as many of the best new creatures happen to have low toughness. Verdurous Gearhulk is the best option as a finisher, and I could see wanting to go up to more copies.

As far as the sideboard, there are plenty of options for this color pair. Vraska, Relic Seeker should certainly be present, as the card is too powerful not to have access to. Crook of Condemnation is here to keep the God-Pharaoh's Gift decks in check. Perhaps the most interesting sideboard card is Path of Discovery – I can see this being a nice form of card advantage for decks that can get lots of creatures into play.

Dinosaurs

You think Constrictor makes big creatures? Not compared to this one. Honestly, I wasn't sure at first how much of an impact Dinosaurs would make, but here we are with full-fledged Dinosaur decks doing well. The natural color pair is red-green, since you have access to many of the best Dinosaurs as well as powerful enablers.

This deck is exciting because it is full of creatures from Ixalan block. There are some expensive Dinosaurs here, so naturally you want to be able to accelerate them into play as quickly as possible. Drover of the Mighty and Otepec Huntmaster aren't Dinosaurs themselves, but they are your early creatures, and extremely important ones at that. Being able to get Regisaur Alpha into play a turn earlier is a huge tempo swing, and the fact that Otepec Huntmaster also provides haste is a pretty big bonus to your Dinos.

Between Otepec Huntmaster and Regisaur Alpha, it is pretty likely your Dinosaurs will have haste. Thunderherd Migration is Rampant Growth here, so there are three different two-mana acceleration spells, giving the deck more consistency. Of course, we also have the Dinosaurs themselves. Ripjaw Raptor, Regisaur Alpha, Deathgorge Scavenger and Carnage Tyrant are all hits we have seen before. This deck has a lot of redundancy as it plays a full playset of all the creatures.

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Each Dinosaur serves a different role. Deathgorge Scavenger provides both graveyard disruption and life gain, and will be great a lot of the time. Ripjaw Raptor is just an overall good creature and we are seeing it all over the place now. And if you get paired against control, the four copies of Carnage Tyrant are lights-out – the card is so incredibly difficult to deal with.

Finally, we have a Dinosaur from Rivals of Ixalan that allows you have an even bigger top end: Ghalta, Primal Hunger. A huge monster that requires other Dinosaurs in play to accelerate it out seems difficult, but it's pretty easy to make happen in this deck. In any sort of midrange mirror, Ghalta is the ultimate trump. It's pretty absurd when you are casting this guy for a mere two mana. Rounding out the deck, Commune with Dinosaurs provides even more redundancy. This card allows you to find a specific Dinosaur for the right matchup, as well as play a lower land count. Commune with the Dinosaurs is an important piece to any dedicated Dinosaur deck.

I would like to see more copies of Savage Stomp, but the list is so dedicated to its creatures there is only room for one. It looks like decks may need to pack sweepers like Bontu's Last Reckoning, because otherwise there really is no good answer to these huge threats.

Red-White Aggro

The last deck I want to talk about is Red-White Aggro. With Ramunap Ruins out of the picture, red decks no longer have a strong enough incentive to be only one color. We have seen some black-red decks, but this is the first time in a while a dedicated Red-White Aggro deck without vehicles has succeeded.

This looks a lot like a spinoff of Ramunap Red; many of the same elements of that deck are present here, and honestly I don't think that Ramunap Ruins was the reason Ramunap Red was such a good deck. We are still talking about a low curve topped off with Hazoret the Fervent, a card that remains extremely difficult to deal with.

This deck does have a twist, and that is the existence of Path of Mettle. This card is essentially a Ramunap Ruins on a stick. Once you flip it you have inevitability, and there are enough ways to consistently flip it. You would think a card that deals one damage to all creatures would be good against Red-White Aggro, but in fact you can build this deck so that none of your creatures die to this effect, while it can easily deal with opposing threats. This one card is enough of a reason to add the white.

To go alongside Bomat Courier, we have replaced Soul-Scar Mage with Fanatical Firebrand. Fanatical Firebrand is nothing flashy, but it has haste, and that's key. It also can be used as a removal spell in certain situations. All of the creatures have either haste, first strike or vigilance. Relentless Raptor is a solid threat here, as you want to be attacking each turn anyway. If its downside ever matters, you are probably losing anyway.

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Dire Fleet Daredevil is certainly a flavorful card, though there is only a single copy main deck. It can be hit or miss, so it isn't as consistently strong as Kari Zev, Skyship Raider. Many of the other creatures have been ported over from Ramunap Red, and that's okay. The burn spells are also the same, with the absence of Abrade – though I'm not sure Abrade should be in the sideboard rather than the main deck, since decks like Mardu Vehicles and God-Pharoah's Gift are likely to be pretty popular.

Having the rest of the Dire Fleet Daredevil in the sideboard makes sense, as it is going to be really strong against decks with cheap removal like Fatal Push and Shock. This deck proves that Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Hazoret the Fervent aren't going anywhere even with Ramunap Red gone. Slaughter the Strong is an interesting sideboard card, and it will be at its best against a Dinosaur deck.

Clearly there is still a recipe for a strong red deck, and I like the innovative spin this list has. This seems like it could easily become one of the top aggressive decks in the format, as Path of Mettle provides a built-in sweeper effect against go-wide tokens decks as well. While we are clearly still early in the format, I expect these decks to stick around.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield
@SethManfield




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