The Three Best Colors in Ixalan Limited (Part 2)

by Zen Takahashi on 13 December 2017, Wednesday

Zen Takahashi

The Three Best Colors in Ixalan Limited (Part 2)

Hello everybody!

Last week, I discussed my general draft strategy in this format, and covered in depth the Black-White Vampires archetype. If you have not read that article yet, I recommend you to first check out Part 1.

Today, I will be going over the two other Mardu archetypes – Red-White Aggro and Black-Red Auras. Hopefully, these two articles will provide you with a good understanding of the Ixalan draft format, especially for those attending GP Singapore.

Red-White Aggro

Out of all the archetypes in Ixalan, Red-White Aggro has one of the least emphasis on a tribe or synergy, and instead is made mostly from generically good cards – though often it will be built with a Dinosaur sub-theme to it. Therefore, when you are drafting this archetype, you are competing with all the Red and White drafters on the table for the cards you want, unlike for example Black-White Vampires, where the other Black drafters may not be interested in cards such as Anointed Deacon or Bishop of the Bloodstained

In addition to being a tribal set, Ixalan is also low on playable cards. This makes it much harder to draft a deck like Red-White Aggro, as you not only have to make sure you have enough cards for your deck, you also do not have the pay-off of having archetype-focused cards that other people are not interested in drafting.

Therefore, unlike other archetypes, you specifically need your colors to be open, as opposed to your archetype needing to be open, which is mostly how the other decks in Ixalan are drafted. While this does mean that Red-White Aggro may be an archetype, you draft less of compared to the others, when it does come together, your deck is usually great as the individual power level of your cards are high. 


Red-White Aggro is very good at pressuring in the early turns, but as the game goes late, your opponent can roadblock you with larger creatures. Therefore, you want some sort of evasion in the mid-game. The obvious choices are the likes of Imperial Aerosaur and Charging Monstrosaur.


Pterodon Knight Shining Aerosaur Cobbled Wings

However, I have also been very impressed with Pterodon Knight and Shining Aerosaur, as there are few flying creatures in this format, so any flying creature serves as good evasion. For similar reasons, I also actively want to play a copy of Cobbled Wings in my deck, as it helps provide reach when the board gets stalled. It becomes especially good if you have multiple Frenzied Raptor and/or Thrash of Raptors

The ideal curve would look as following, with key commons and uncommons listed in the brackets:


Example Decklists

The following are decks I 3-0'd with.





Black-Red Auras

As discussed in my previous article, we came to the conclusion that Black-Red is actually the best color pair for the Auras archetype, as even though One with the Wind is the best Aura, Blue has much weaker creatures compared to Black and Red, and people are now well aware of how powerful One with the Wind is, so you can no longer pick them up late like before.


Swashbuckling Mark of the Vampire



On the other hand, Red has a very high quality of creatures and has Swashbuckling, while Black has many one drops, which are crucial to the archetype, and has Mark of the Vampire

When I draft, I gravitate towards putting more emphasis on curve and distribution of creatures and spells than on the pure power level of cards, but it is even more asserted when drafting this archetype. If you do not have a high concentration of Auras and one drop creatures, your deck will fall apart, even if the individual cards are good.

The whole point of this deck is to be more mana efficient than your opponent in the early turns, and snowball this early board presence advantage. Christian Calcano, my teammate and the mastermind behind this archetype, taught us that while cards like Walk the Plank are traditionally considered a great card, and you would be happy to take it early. When drafting this archetype, it is much more important to ensure that you have the optimal curve and enough Auras.


Blight Keeper



In fact, when I am drafting this deck, I almost always take a Blight Keeper or a Swashbuckling over removal such as Firecannon Blast or Contract Killing, and have also occasionally taken them over premium removal such as Walk the Plank.


Pirate's Cutlass Prying Blade

The best Equipment/Auras are in order; Swashbuckling, Pirate's Cutlass, and Mark of the Vampire. If you are light on evasion, Cobbled Wings can also be great, and usually will play one main deck.

If you have a lot of flying creatures, especially many Blight Keepers, then Prying Blade becomes pretty decent. In fact, at GP Phoenix, Christian Calcano could not stop singing its praises, as he played multiple copies in the deck that propelled him to a Top 8 finish at the event. 

It is worth noting that compared to Blue-Black or Blue-Red Auras, Black-Red Auras cares more about the quality of its creatures. While any creature with a One with the Wind enchanted on it is good, that is not the case with Swashbuckling or Mark of the Vampire. Therefore, make sure you prioritise creatures with evasion such as Blight Keeper, Skymarch Bloodletter or Headstrong Brute

The ideal curve would look as following, with key commons and uncommons listed in the


Example Decklists

The following are decks I 3-0'd with.



I hope you enjoyed this article as I covered in depth Red-White Aggro and Black-Red Auras in Ixalan draft! While many people seem to dislike this draft format, I personally enjoy it a lot, as the various tribes make the drafting experience different to other sets, while the games are fast paced and there is a lot of playing around different tricks which I find interesting. 

As I have started preparing for Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan, I plan to write a bit about Modern over the next couple of weeks. There have been several new decks spring up over the last couple of months, and I think Modern is in a great place at the moment. 

Until next time!

Zen Takahashi
@mtgzen on Twitter 

Cards in the Articles

Articles you might be also interested

Getting ready for Nationals weekend? Check out Zen Takahashi's Core Set 2019 Draft Primer!
Tobi Henke shares his newfound thoughts on the Core Set 2019 Booster Draft format.
Felix Capule attended Philippines Nationals and shares two stories about fathers and sons.

Copyright © 2002 - 2018