Flavor Town

This is it for Magic: The Gathering. There’s nowhere to go in terms of flavor. Pirates and Dinosaurs feel like the peak of it all. So unless Rivals of Ixalan is about Ninjas and Robots I can’t imagine we get any better.

(Note: This is clearly not the end)

I am unreal excited about how this set is shaping up. Not only does it look great flavor-wise, the cards also look fantastic. Let’s dive right into decklists and discuss some of the cards I think will make an impact on the format.

Walk the Dinosaur

Large creatures are new and exciting! Wait, not really. But all of these dinosaurs aren’t just big bodies, some of their abilities are fairly impactful. It’s easy to be fairly concerned about casting large creatures while trying not to just be dead but we have a lot of early plays that help us get there easily. Drover of the Mighty is a fantastic card. In many ways this card is reminiscent of Werebear. Early in the game a mana dork but can easily become a huge beater. When alongside a Dinosaur, Drover of the Mighty is a 2-mana 3/3 and those stats are frightening. What draws me to Drover of the Mighty is the fact that it can cast anything with no restrictions. Being able to tap for any color of mana with no restrictions is going to make this mana dork an even bigger target early.

Huatli, Warrior Poet is one of the most debated cards I’ve seen in awhile. Certainly Huatli, Warrior Poet’s place in the meta is not easy to identify, especially without seeing the rest of the cards. Fortunately for us, we can use this last Standard as a litmus test for how it could fit in. Huatli looks great against decks like Temur where the ground will be blocked up a lot. This ‘walker will be able to create a massive board state or gain an insurmountable amount of life. After enough of a board stall, Huatli will be able to use her -X to end the game on the spot. On empty board states, the 0 ability will be fantastic much in the same way Gideon, Ally of Zendikar’s 0 ability was. Creating an army of tokens will pressure any control deck and end games quickly or can give you plenty of time against creature decks. Since they are Dinosaurs this ability also helps make Drover of the Mighty unlock its full potential.

I wouldn’t look at Huatli, Warrior Poet as an incredible bomb but instead as a useful tool in almost every situation. Huatli, Warrior Poet will have its uses in every scenario and will prove to be a player in Standard.

While everyone is now focused on Regisaur Alpha, I think the Dino we should all be trying to pay attention to is Ripjaw Raptor. This card remind me of Siege Rhino in terms of being a big creature that was really hard to attack through. While some removal does line up well, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this creature making combat awkward for its entire reign in Standard. Aggro decks will likely have to trade some damage for a card on your end more than once. Since most aggro decks look to be Red based the removal also helps you trigger Enrage. Hope they have two burn spells just to increase value for yourself.

Is that greedy? It’s probably greedy.

The card that’s really pulling this deck together for me is Commune with Dinosaurs. The card is kind of a hybrid between Attune with Aether and Traverse the Ulvenwald that will be as good turn one as turn seven. While I’m sure you will miss on occasion, the upside of ensuring land drops or finding a Dinosaur vastly outweighs that possibility.

A Pirate’s Life

The second tribe and perhaps the one I see going through some number of iterations is Pirates. Which colors should we play? Which Pirates make the cut? There are SO many choices and I’m not sure which is the right way to go. However the {U}{B} Pirates make the most sense to me. They seem to be the most efficient creatures; and, while they might not hit as hard, having evasion and protection seems to give the deck staying power. I think Admiral Beckett Brass is a fantastic addition and worth adding some “free” Red sources to the deck to try and play it. It’s secondary ability might not come up often, but it could be a fantastic way to steal Planeswalkers or even some of the new flip artifacts.

Let’s take a look at one potential build.

Even though it’s built like a tempo deck, I can see something like Walk the Plank simply not being good enough. Strict color requirements can make this card a headache to cast early but being able to kill almost every card in the format feels like an acceptable trade off. I don’t think Merfolk will make much of an impact on Standard; but, if they do, it shouldn’t be too hard to trade out Walk the Plank with something else. The two cards I’m most excited about in this deck are Dreamcaller Siren and Jace, Cunning Castaway. Creatures with Flash and Flying don’t always make the cut, but a 3/3 body that can help tap down your opponent’s creatures can lead to poor attacks left to an opponent. An end step surprise to change opponents blocks will be something I expect Kevin Jones will be doing a lot. With Admiral Beckett Brass in play, tapping the opponent out of blockers can help swing games easily.

I’ve included Opt as I firmly believe it fits well into this kind of strategy. Being able to filter out early and late draw steps means we can mitigate some flood and make sure our Pirates always have a motley crew. This last Standard format almost seemed to be defined by consistency and there’s no reason here to sacrifice any when we can prevent it. While I also expect some players to play Opt everywhere, I think cards like this and Spell Pierce generally lend themselves to tempo decks. I can’t say how excited I am to Spell Pierce a Chandra, Torch of Defiance or a Skysovereign, Consul Flagship, or even a Glimmer of Genius. Of course this all depends on the context of the format but there are quite a few cards I’d love to Spell Pierce.

Jace, Cunning Castaway is not the best Jace we’ve ever seen but it is far from the worst. In this aggro deck, being able to filter our draws quite efficiently or create a 2/2 body is going to help keep the pressure up in most situations. The ultimate, at least to me, seems absolutely incredible. Being able to cash in Jace and get TWO more Jace, Cunning Castaway can quickly spiral out of control. If one Planeswalker is good, how can two be bad? Being able to use one Jace to create more bodies and another Jace to activate looting should help clean up the rest of the game.

Approaching Standard

The last deck I want to look at will almost assuredly be the one players might hate the most.

{W}{U} Approach didn’t put up a ton of results but started gaining traction at the end. Here, I think it’s even more likely to be powerful. It’s truly missing a cheap instant to deal with smaller creatures, but I think if we can find a solid one this deck could be very scary. Thaumatic Compass ensures we hit all our land drops. A Maze of Ith that can tap for lands makes this a card I’d love to have in a control deck. I’m really interested in exploring Search for Azcanta in a multitude of control decks. Being able to filter every upkeep and then gain an extra land drop that can draw a card every turn feels like a fantastic addition to make sure early turns and late turns are going to run smooth. Control feels scary in a world of creatures that hit hard, have haste, the ability to protect, or are straight up uncounterable creatures, but I think there are tools available to be great.

Which cards are you looking at to build decks around? The brewer in me is excited to build!

Ixalan is now available for Preorder! Pick up sealed product and singles as they're posted!