Approaching Ixalan Standard

by Lee Shi Tian on 12 September 2017, Tuesday

Lee Shi Tian

Approaching Ixalan Standard


Hello everyone,

Ixalan previews have been happening since last week.  Although a huge amount of rares and mythics were leaked long ago, we still have our fingers crossed for more good things during the preview period. While we are still waiting for the full spoiler, today I would like to discuss the possible direction of building decks at the rotation sets, based on some early theories.



Mana Bases

First, let's look at the nonbasic lands.  Mana bases always determine if decks can be built in certain color combination.


Prairie Stream Wandering Fumarole Game Trail

Rotating: Battle for Zendikar ally battlelands and enemy manlands, Shadows Over Innistrad ally show lands

Staying: Kaladesh enemy fastlands, Amonkhet ally cycling lands

Entering: Ixalan ally check lands

Last year, we saw Kaladesh fastlands dominating Standard for a long period of time, ranging from Mardu Vehicles to Black-Green to Temur Energy. And then, we have mono colored decks such as Ramunap Red and Mono Black Zombies.  It is obvious that ally color pairs were just weak even there were 3 types of nonbasics in the format.


Blooming Marsh Hissing Quagmire

For enemy colors, there are only fastlands remaining in the new Standard format.  Decks like Black-Green which relies on 4 fastlands and 4 manlands to provide a consistent mana base will take a big hit.  With manlands gone, the midrange decks also receive a big hit with 4 fewer utility dual lands.  The utility Deserts could be the second option for those deck.  Energy-based decks will survive better as Aether Hub is still the best land in the format.

The main problem of battlelands and show lands is that they are terrible at the early game and late game respectively.   If you draw it in the right order, they are perfect.  However, if you draw them in the wrong order, or drawing too little or many of them, you will have a hard time to get away with it.  Sometimes you just have mono tap lands and never played a real game.


Sheltered Thicket Rootbound Crag

Ixalan check lands give us a lot of hope for the ally color pairs.  It does not require too much to support it.  The basic land types in the Amonkhet cycling lands provide a convenient way increase the count.  For example, a 22-land mana base with 4 Sheltered Thicket, 4 Rootbound Crag and 14 on-color basics can perfectly support Rootbound Crag with 18 "hits".

If you want to go with three color 26 lands deck, you can have the following:


This way, you will have 16 blue and 13 each of white and black sources.  Both Glacial Fortress and Drowned Catacomb would have 13 lands to support them as both Fetid Pools and Irrigated Farmland can count as hit for the check lands.  All the lands in the late game are either comes into play untapped or you can cycle it for a card.

As the result of weakening enemy color and enhancing ally color, I think ally color decks can finally put up a fight against the enemy color decks after rotation.  This is a good sign for having more type of deck 


Tribal Matters


Pillar of Origins Unclaimed Territory

Tribal is one of the main themes of Ixalan. Pillar of Origins and Unclaimed Territory definitely provides us some tools to fix our mana for tribal decks.  We know the plane is all about Dinosaurs, Pirates, Vampires, and Merfolks, so let's take a closer look at these four creature types.



Dinosaurs is a brand new creature type for Magic and surely everyone is excited about them.  For now, I can see two types of Dinosaurs deck: Ramp and Midrange.


Verdant Sun's Avatar Gishath, Sun's Avatar

With the Eldrazi's rotation, it seems that Dinosaurs are the new payoff cards for Ramp decks.  The Avatar cycle provides different enter the battlefield effects to help us catch up the board. 

Verdant Sun's Avatar can provide a stream of life gain and hitting two dinosaurs from Gishath, Sun's Avatar's trigger could easily be game over for lots of decks.  Ramp style deck will always find their spot to pop up as the meta shift to midrange and it should not be overlooked.


Ripjaw Raptor Regisaur Alpha

For midrange based build, there is couple undercosted Dinosaurs like Ripjaw Raptor and Regisaur Alpha.  There could also be a sub-theme based around the enrage mechanic but so far only one rare with enrage was previewed. 

It does need some push for the mechanic being playable in Constructed.  Cards like Sweltering Suns and Walking Ballista can act as enablers, so does Pit Fight effects like Savage Stomp.





Kari Zev, Skyship Raider Skyship Plunderer

We have two Pirates secretly planted in Aether Revolt.  Kari Zev, Skyship Raider is a great 2 drops for the tribal while Skyship Plunderer could have some application with Storm Fleet Aerialist


Hostage Taker Kitesail Freebooter Siren Stormtamer

My impression for Pirates now is that it is a utility-based aggro deck.  They do not hit as hard as other aggro cards but they have all different ways to interact with opponents.  Hostage Taker, Kitesail Freebooter and Siren Stormtamer are very typical examples for messing up opponent's game plan while you continue progressing. 

While Admiral Beckett Brass's trigger ability is certainly powerful, I don't think it is that easy to pull off.  I also like how the treasures help three-color tribal decks maintain a decent mana base.




Gifted Aetherborn Yahenni, Undying Partisan

After receiving white Zombies, this time we are getting white Vampires.  We also got Gifted Aetherborn and Yahenni, Undying Partisan as existing Vampire after rotation. 


Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle Sanctum Seeker Call to the Feast

With Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle, Sanctum Seeker and Call to the Feast, I think it is directing Vampires to go wide. Yet, with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar gone, it seems we need another anthem effect to support the 1/1 lifelink vampires.  Unfortunately, Vanquisher's Banner has poor synergy with all the token generating spells. 

Let's see if there are more vampire creatures to help the strategy preview in next two weeks.



Merfolk have been printed from time to time but they are not the key tribal in most of the set since Lorwyn block.  In Ixalan, we got Merfolks in Simic colors. 

I think Merfolk in Ixalan is positioned as a tempo-aggro deck.  The size of Merfolk is bigger than Pirates and Vampire to provide some raw power beat down.  At this point, we still not see lots of Merfolk, but Kumena's Speaker and Deeproot Champion are going to be the core of Merfolk beatdown.  


Kumena's Speaker Deeproot Champion

This concludes my first impressions of the spoilers so far.  Beyond this general direction,  there are also several build-around cards like Primal Amulet and Revel in Riches.  I am excited to see more and more cards getting previewed!


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