While the full Ixalan spoiler isn't out quite yet; as I am writing this article, there are still plenty of cards that will clearly have an impact on Standard. That's great, because it means that we will have new decks as well as new strategies. We see some very tribe-oriented cards in Ixalan, in addition to cards that are generically strong. I'm going to go over cards I recommend getting a hold of right now. These cards have Standard Playable written all over them.
This is going to turn out to be a very important removal spell. Typically four mana is a bit too much for one-for-one removal, but in this case Vraska's Contempt is such a versatile answer the cost is worth it. The fact that this card is both an instant and exiles the targeted creature or Planeswalker means it isn't straight-up worse than Never//Return. This is an answer to gods, and that could be very important if we continue to see Hazoret the Fervent, The Scarab God, and Rhonas the Indomitable played in large numbers.
I expect Vraska's Contempt will end up being the most significant removal spell in Ixalan, even though a card liken Walk the Plank is more reasonably costed. Vraska's Contempt should create more openings for black control decks, as this is another good target for Torrential Gearhulk.
This is very easily one of the most exciting cards in Ixalan. First of all, the return of flip cards is exciting, but these aren't just any old flip cards葉hey turn into lands! Going from an artifact or legendary enchantment into a land isn't something we are used to seeing. Knowing that your artifact or enchantment can turn into a land makes me think that slower decks will benefit most from these cards. Oftentimes aggressive decks don't have a good way to make use of extra mana later in the game. In order to get the full benefit from the cycle of legendary enchantments you want to be able to both be able to reliably flip them, and once flipped take advantage of the lands ability to produce mana.
Not only is blue the typical control color, but Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin arguably has the most powerful ability of all the flip lands. Most of the time blue control decks want to be finding powerful noncreature spells late in the game, so this can be an incredible amount of card advantage. Once you have successfully flipped into Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin it will be very hard to run out of gas from that point.
The nice thing about Search for Azcanta is that it's going to be good on turn two, to set up your draws for the next few turns, and it's also good later in the game, because it will be able to flip very quickly. We are talking about a two mana permanent that is very difficult to answer, and can provide a huge advantage. Besides a straight up control deck, any deck actively looking to put cards in their graveyard will want this. For instance, we saw a blue-black Reanimator deck seeing some play recently, and that deck would love Search for Azcanta as another form of self-mill.
While there don't seem to be as many Vampires, compared to some of the other tribes, there are definitely some payoff cards for being vampire-oriented. I believe this is the best one. If we do see a vampire deck Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle will be at the center of that deck. The ability to already have a vampire that is ready to attack in play when casting Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle, allows you to snowball with creating a ton of vampires very quickly. This card reminds me a lot of Hanweir Garrison, the difference being that there is potential to get value the very turn you cast Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle. The question at this point is how many good one and two mana Vampires we will see.
Without access to Transgress the Mind anymore, we needed another good discard option. Duress is going to be fighting with Lay Bare the Heart, to see which ends up being better positioned. This is going to come down which archetypes become the most popular. Lay Bare the Heart definitely doesn't seem as great if it can't take Planeswalkers. Thanks to the new rule that makes all Planeswalkers legendary, it looks like that is the case.
Duress, on the other hand, can force the opponent to discard a Planeswalker. Not being able to force the opponent to discard a creature means Duress will likely only be a sideboard card. However, this is a reprint, and we have already seen lots of Duresses in players' sideboards in previous Standard formats. I don't expect that to change. This is going to be at its best against control decks.
Taking a look at all of the good pirate cards, it seems that there will almost certainly be some sort of pirate deck in Standard. Captain Lannery Strom is a pirate that could fit into a Pirate deck, bit could also be good in any midrange-based red deck. Attacking with Captain Lannery Storm on turn three and then using the Treasure artifact token to accelerate into a big five-mana play like Glorybringer seems strong. I could even see this in a deck like Ramunap Red, if that deck wants a bit more top end.
Captain Lannery Storm will be at its best in a midrange deck that is looking for a three-drop that is both acceleration and a form of pressure. This could be a good card alongside a card like Toolcraft Exemplar as well, as a way to create an artifact, I expect we will see it in a variety of different strategies.
There are a lot of strong pirates in Ixalan, but it's hard to picture a Pirate deck that isn't playing Fathom Fleet Captain. It isn't a multicolor card, like many of the other good pirates. Being that this only costs a single black to cast, and the pirate deck will almost assuredly include black as one of its colors, that is a good sign for Fathom Fleet Captain. This card reminds me a lot of Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, in an energy deck.
When you cast Fathom Fleet Captain on turn two it won't be blocked, and you can quickly gain a big advantage from it. Expect one-drops like Deadeye Tracker to be played alongside Fathom Fleet Captain, as you want to be able to activate Fathom Fleet Captain as early as turn three. Once you are able to start making Pirate tokens there has already been a ton of value gained from Fathom Fleet Captain.
Unlike Captain Lannery Storm, Fathom Fleet Captain wants to be played in a deck full of pirates. Whenever a creature needs other creatures of the same type to maximize its abilities, it should be clear that it will only be played in a deck dedicated to that tribe. Think of cards like Diregraf Colossus and Lord of the Accursed in the Zombies deck we saw in the previous Standard format.
For a set full of sweet new creatures, there are surprisingly a lot of tools for control. Opt is going to go straight into any blue-based control deck. I already talked about Opt in Modern, and some of the same principles apply to its use in Standard. Opt is a role-player. It is comparable to a card like Anticipate, as it is going to help you Sift through your deck and find what you need, for a low cost. The more cantrips blue control decks play, there will become more of a need to shave some lands. You don't want too many cantrips, but Opt does seem like it should be better than Hieroglyphic Illumination.
I really would like to see a dinosaur-based deck be good in Standard. Regisaur Alpha is definitely one of the signature dinosaurs in Ixalan. Cards like this tend to have a way of see play in Standard. You are already putting two creatures on the board, and giving future dinosaurs having haste is going to be very relevant in a deck with other dinosaurs. The dinosaur deck will end up being midrange, and will want to accelerate into a card like Regisaur Alpha.
This is definitely a combo card, revolving around lots of instants and sorceries. This is very similar to a card like Thing in the Ice that has the potential to be great, but you have to do a little bit of work to flip it. The nice thing is that it should be pretty easy to play multiple instants and sorceries in the same turn, since they will cost less. Once Primal Wellspring is created being able to copy a spell each turn is pretty busted. There aren't many options in terms of dedicated combo decks in Standard, but hopefully Primal Amulet can open the doors for one to be created.
It's not clear if Lightning Strike is better than Incendiary Flow, but Incendiary Flow has rotated out! Lightning Strike is the perfect replacement for that card. This is another card we have seen plenty of times before. We know it isn't an overly powerful card, but definitely could be useful in Ramunap Red, and potentially other aggressively slanted red decks as well.
None of the Planeswalkers in Ixalan strike me as being too good. It seems that Wizards has learned a bit of a lesson after printing cards like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. In my opinion, of the Planeswalkers in Ixalan, Jace, Cunning Castaway has the most potential. The fact that it only costs three mana is really nice. Typically more expensive Planeswalkers don't see as much play, and if they do get played you can't run four copies.
Jace, Cunning Castaway wants to be in a deck that is capable of attacking, with perhaps an evasive creature of some variety. You don't really want to be forced to tick Jace, Cunning Castaway down, as the real value is being able to get to the ultimate. As early as turn five there is the potential to multiply your Jace, Cunning Castaways, and that is pretty cool. This may end up being more of a sideboard card, since it doesn't defend itself particularly well against opposing creatures. It does seem like a very good card against control though.
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