Ixalan is a brewer’s paradise, with a bunch of cards that make you want to break them – like all the weird double-faced enchantements.
Still, in the early phases, I think you should prioritize linear strategy to see how far you can durdle later on, and that is what I did. Before I dive in, I’d like to mention that both decks I am going to discuss were built with fellow Hareuya member Louis Deltour, who I’ll be testing with for the next PT.
Deck 1: BR Pirates
If you want to go linear, the most obvious part of the set are the pushed tribal synergies.
Pirates are particularly interesting to me, because they really put clunky decks to the test with a super low curve. Due to the pirates being spread across 3 colours (as opposed to 2 for Merfolks and Vampires), there are plenty of options. You can go with each color pair or the full shard (Grixis)!
However, Battle for Zendikar and Shadows over Innistrad rotating out means that we have access to fewer dual lands, and I have developed over the years a taste for casting my spells on curve, so I’d recommend sticking with 2 colors to begin with.
For pirates, my first instinct would be to try a Rakdos build in order to put proven format staples in the mix. Proven staples? Yes. See, while most pirates in standard reside in Ixalan, one of them has already made a name for herself back on Kaladesh. 《Kari Zev, Skyship Raider》.
Red and black also have access to the most potent removal suite, thanks to 《Fatal Push》, 《Abrade》 and, depending on how aggressive you wanna be, 《Lightning Strike》 and 《Cut // Ribbons》. In my case, I even got greedy and went with 《Unlicensed Disintegration》 for more reach.
4 《Canyon Slough》
4 《Dragonskull Summit》
2 《Cinder Barrens》
4 《Dire Fleet Captain》
4 《Fathom Fleet Captain》
4 《Metallic Mimic》
3 《Kari Zev, Skyship Raider》
4 《Ruin Raider》
2 《Captain Lannery Storm》
2 《Rowdy Crew》
2 《Fatal Push》|
4 《Unlicensed Disintegration》
4 《Cut // Ribbons》
3 《Fell Flagship》
4 《Kitesail Freebooter》|
3 《Chandra, Torch of Defiance》
2 《Fatal Push》
2 《Fiery Cannonade》
2 《Kari Zev's Expertise》
24 lands might seem a bit much with such a low curve, but our mana will be used easily thanks to 《Fathom Fleet Captain》, 《Ruin Raider》 and 《Cut // Ribbons》. Worse comes to worse we can also cycle the 《Canyon Slough》! 《Cinder Barrens》 might be a tad bit on the conservative side of the spectrum, if you feel like the manabase can handle it feel free to replace it with the likes of 《Ifnir Deadlands》 or 《Ramunap Ruins》.
The rest of the list is pretty self explanatory: you are playing an aggressive Rakdos deck with a healthy amount of card advantage, and a great suit of removal (《Unlicensed Disintegration》 should deal 3 damage most of the time, and triggering 《Fatal Push》 is easier with 《Captain Lannery Storm》).
If people try to break your synergies, the now true and tried sideboard plan of 《Chandra, Torch of Defiance》 and 《Glorybringer》 comes in handy. It might be wrong not to play 《Hazoret the Fervent》 since that card is so great but it would require some adaptation, probably playing more 1 drops (《Bomat Courier》 is still great, arguably even more now in a world free of 《Thraben Inspector》) and parting ways with 《Ruin Raider》, which doesn’t seem worth it at first, but I might be wrong.
As for the rest of the sideboard, 《Kari Zev's Expertise》 will surely be handy against Dinosaurs strategies. Freebooter gets the nod over 《Duress》 because of the obvious pirate synergies but it might be correct to mix them a little.
《Fatal Push》 and 《Fiery Cannonade》 will help match the ever-present Mono Red decks (which only really lost 《Falkenrath Gorger》 in the rotation while gaining a few new toys like 《Lightning Strike》). This particular match-up should be good, since you are very good at switching gear and playing the defensive role that is supposed to be better in the match-up…except when they draw 《Hazoret the Fervent》, as I already mentioned. This is my biggest concern for this strategy and others, since basically every red aggro deck that I build looks like it will lose for not running it, but that is probably an issue for another day.
Deck 2: WB “lifegain, among other things”
When building decks in a new format, I also try to push every new possible synergy to its limits, and then tone it down. It’s easier to analyse strengths and weaknesses of a strategy if you push the concept. Most brews end up in the bin, but that’s the best way to make a great one! I also look at cards that did not quite make it last year, but still have enough potential for success. Hence…《Crested Sunmare》.
I have been experimenting with this card a lot, especially because it seems like it should belong in decks that would slaughter mono-red. The main issue, though, is when you don’t draw it, because then you just have a bunch of bad life gain cards in your deck such as 《Authority of the Consuls》. You also really want to trigger it the turn you play it, which really means you want to pair it up with lifelink creatures. Fortunately, a couple of good lifelink creatures came out with Ixalan (well technically they are not creatures, but still!) : 《Legion’s Landing》 and 《Call to the Feast》.
You don’t need to do much else to trigger 《Sunmare》 consistently, and Landing → 2 drop → 3 drop makes for t4 《Sunmare》 + Horse token, since you can transform the Landing to double it up as a pseudo 《Rampant Growth》! 《Angel of Invention》 can serve as 《Sunmare》s number 5-6 since you want to play a bunch of creatures anyway, a horde a huge lifelinker is pretty hard to beat for most people! Furthermore, it enables 《Sunmare》 as well.
4 《Concealed Courtyard》
4 《Shefet Dunes》
4 《Ifnir Deadlands》
4 《Glory-Bound Initiate》
4 《Gifted Aetherborn》
2 《Scrapheap Scrounger》
4 《Aerial Responder》
2 《Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle》
4 《Crested Sunmare》
2 《Angel of Invention》
1 《Vona, Butcher of magan》
4 《Fatal Push》|
4 《Call to the Feast》
4 《Legion’s Landing》
This deck weirdly functions as an aggro deck, which might sound odd for a “Life gain” deck but that part of the deck allows you to partly ignore whatever your opponent is trying to accomplish and just race them when you don’t overpower them! The land count is again pretty high but you want 5 mana as soon as possible and 《Shefet Dunes》 is great as mitigating floods, as well as《Adanto, the First Fort》.
Is it unbeatable? No, but I believe it is a nice step towards fixing the “I did not draw 《Sunmare》“ issue, and it could be a really nice angle to work again potential metagames. Basically, if half the field is running mono-red and the other half is pointing spot removal at it, then Horses and Vampires could prove a deadly, if unlikely, alliance.
With Worlds around the corner, Ixalan standard is going to settle in very quick! For once, the Pro Tour will not be the first major event with a new set, and the Pro Tour is only a few weeks later! Expect the best and the brightest of the Magic community to try their heart out to break it in the following weeks…and with the amount of brews on my working table so far, I am pretty sure that there will be a room left to innovate even after those events…which is great.
By the way, did you notice that 《Anointed Procession》 double the number of treasures you produce? Just saying…
Until next time,
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