Rivals of Ixalan Updates to Familiar Standard Decks

Feature Article from Seth Manfield
Seth Manfield
1/26/2018 11:00:00 AM
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It is hard to brew up a successful deck immediately in a new Standard format. It takes time to understand what completely new strategies need to look like, and that is why many times the decks that do the best are decks we have seen before with some updates. That is what we are seeing right now. Even with the format being very different than it was before the most recent bannings, there are Rivals of Ixalan cards that help fill in holes decks had before.

Mardu Vehicles

Mardu Vehicles has been around for a while, and seems to be in a great spot in the format. Heart of Kiran is back in a big way as one of the most difficult-to-answer threats that is also very aggressive. I mentioned during the last banning that Hazoret the Fervent and Chandra, Torch of Defiance would still see plenty of play, and this is indeed the case. Mardu Vehicles may be the best deck that can take advantage of these high-impact four-drops. Julian John took down the most recent Open with Mardu.

Mardu Vehicles didn't change that much from Ixalan, which makes sense. The deck is based around artifact synergies with the same creature base we are used to, but the sideboard does have some interesting additions. The two copies of Settle the Wreckage are quite unique here, as players traditionally won't be prepared for that card coming out of a Mardu Vehicles deck. The sideboard allows Mardu Vehicles to transform into a much more controlling deck.

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Settle the Wreckage and Fumigate provide multiple sweepers, while Angrath, the Flame-Chained is another difficult-to-answer threat. I wasn't sure exactly where we would see Angrath, the Flame-Chained, but it certainly works here. Unfortunately, you can't play too many copies though because it is a five-drop. Be on the lookout for this deck, and its ability to slow down after sideboard.

Blue-Black Control

Control decks also didn't lose anything from the bans, so it makes sense that we are seeing a bit more of them – and Blue-Black Control seems to be the hottest right now. Previously the only creatures the deck played were The Scarab God and Torrential Gearhulk, but now we can add Ravenous Chupacabra into that mix. Ravenous Chupacabra is obviously a Limited bomb, but beyond that it wasn't clear how much of an impact it would make on Standard; it is clear now that it is certainly powerful enough to be a game changer.

Ravenous Chupacabra is actually the only creature there are four copies of in the deck. Blue-Black Control wants to have access to lots of removal, and the fact that this is a creature is an added bonus. Most of the time Ravenous Chupacabra will die, and then you can sometimes make a copy of it by exiling it with The Scarab God from your graveyard – which pairs great with enters-the-battlefield effects.

This deck is more removal-dense than it used to be, which means you have a better early game. Moment of Craving is a cheaper Essence Extraction, so it makes sense to swap those. Being able to get the opponents first creature off the board can be very important, so Moment of Craving is very important if you don't have a Fatal Push. Search for Azcanta alongside card advantage from The Scarab God and Torrential Gearhulk should be enough to close out most games once they go long. I like having access to cards like Vizier of Many Faces and Bontu's Last Reckoning in the sideboard that can actually answer a Carnage Tyrant, as that is probably the scariest card for this deck to face.

Glint-Sleeve Siphoner makes sense as a sideboard card for the control matchups. Typically control decks board out their removal spells in mirrors, and that's when a creature like Glint-Sleeve Siphoner can do a ton of work. Tetzimoc, Primal Death is another way to beat up on midrange creature strategies, as if there wasn't already enough removal. This is currently the most popular control deck in Standard, though there are plenty of other options too.

White-Blue Approach

This is likely the second most popular control deck at the moment, and it is a strategy we have seen before. Approach decks had been starting to splash black, but I like moving back towards the straight white-blue version now that Ramunap Red isn't the same deck. There are a couple Rivals of Ixalan cards that made the cut here.

In many situations, Baffling End is going to be a cheaper Cast Out, which is huge since one of the major weaknesses of this deck has been its mana curve. Also, the addition of Baffling End makes a Fatal Push splash less important. It's good to see Arch of Orazca here, as that land is extremely powerful in decks that are playing a long game. Sometimes the primary gameplan of relying heavily on Approach of the Second Sun won't be good enough, especially in sideboarded games since the opponent is likely to have more disruption and countermagic after board. Nezahal, Primal Tide is pretty tough to answer in control mirrors, and even if the opponent does have removal you get to draw a card.

Mono-Red

I thought Ramunap Red was dead, and while that is technically true because Ramunap Ruins is gone, Mono-Red is still doing well!

The major innovation here is the four copies of Invigorated Rampage. Without Ramunap Ruins, Invigorated Rampage serves to close games out. This is really strong if the opponent is trying to chump block a Hazoret the Fervent and you cast it. There are also some Glorybringer in the main deck, so this version of Ramunap Red is trying to go a bit bigger.

The obvious three-mana threat now is Ahn-Crop Crasher, with Rampaging Ferocidon no longer an option. The deck is clearly less powerful without Ramunap Ruins, but that doesn't mean it isn't a strategy to watch out for.

Sultai Energy

The Jessup's are known for playing Sultai Energy in Standard, and they found a way to do it even with Rogue Refiner and Attune with Aether gone – an impressive feat. Their version is quite a bit different from my Pro Tour winning list.

There are four copies of Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, as that is now the best energy creature in the format, plus the addition of Servant of the Conduit. My Pro Tour deck was extremely aggressive, and this one is much more midrange, as the Longtusk Cubs have been cut for creatures that provide card advantage. Merfolk Branchwalker is quickly becoming a staple two-drop in green decks.

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 Jadelight Ranger
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Most decks that have Merfolk Branchwalker also have Jadelight Ranger, as they really are the two strongest explore creatures in the format. I am surprised Winding Constrictor isn't here, as there are plenty of counter synergies, and Bristling Hydra has been added in place of Hostage Taker as a troublesome threat.

There are a lot of creatures with enters-the-battlefield triggers, and this deck really is built around The Scarab God. There are a full four copies of The Scarab God, as it certainly can take over games pretty easily. This deck has a pretty similar gameplan to Blue-Black Control, and we also see Moment of Craving in the sideboard. Lifecrafter's Bestiary provides another way to grind out longer games.

This is a very interesting and unique take on Sultai Energy. As it combines control, energy, and Black-Green Midrange all into one deck. I'm sure we will see similar lists to this one moving forward, though quite possibly some of the individual card choices will change.

Temur Monsters

This deck is a spinoff of Temur Energy. While there are some energy creatures, there are also plenty of threats that don't care about energy at all. We see Servant of the Conduit and Harnessed Lightning, but there are also Voltaic Brawlers. Without Attune with Aether, Longtusk Cub has gotten significantly worse, to the point it has gotten cut for Voltaic Brawler here. Voltaic Brawler is certainly a reasonable threat, and this deck wants to be aggressive.

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 Voltaic Brawler
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Thrashing Brontodon is a strong creature, and its stats make it good enough to main deck. While there are some enchantments and artifacts out of some decks, the potential to destroy one is more of an added bonus. Perhaps the strongest addition to the deck is Rekindling Phoenix, as this deck is able to put on a lot of pressure in the air with the combination of Rekindling Phoenix plus Glorybringer. Rekindling Phoenix is both tough to answer and a reasonable blocker.

This deck has a ton of high-impact creatures, and it is tough to deal with everything it brings to the table. There are of course four copies of Jadelight Ranger, as that fits well into any midrange green strategy. The blue in this deck is actually only for sideboard cards. Without a huge energy theme, there is no need for Whirler Virtuoso, which was the biggest incentive to main deck the blue.

Having access to countermagic is extremely important against the control decks, and the cost of having blue in the deck is relatively low. River's Rebuke is also another high-impact spell that can win games that no other card would be able to. The Struggle // Survive in the sideboard are great answers to The Scarab God. Struggle // Survive seems to be gaining popularity, as it also doubles as graveyard hate against God-Pharaoh's Gift decks.

It is nice to see that while the traditional Temur Energy decks as we are used to aren't around, there are still ways to make the color combination work. This deck plays a mix of high-impact threats and removal, which is exactly what Temur Energy did. Because of the recent bannings, cards like Rekindling Phoenix and Thrashing Brontodon have a chance to be difference makers.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield




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