Pro Tour Ixalan is almost upon us, and shortly the eyes of the world will converge on Albuquerque like they've announced a sixth season of Breaking Bad. Standard has been pretty well established since rotation, dominated by the three pillars of the format – Energy, Ramunap Red and Search for Azcanta control decks.
But the glory and prestige that comes with winning the event – not to mention the barrel of cash ready to be buried out in the New Mexico desert – mean that pros around the world are brewing away in their labs, seeking out a way to break the format wide open. Today, we're going to highlight some of the cards that are expected to feature heavily at Pro Tour Ixalan!
We haven't seen beetles be so dominant since 1963 – The Scarab God has been here, there and everywhere since Hour of Devastation. Why is this card so dominant? We can work it out – it asks very little of a deckbuilder, and will win the game singlehandedly so long as there are some creatures in graveyards to get back.
This won't change going into Pro Tour Ixalan, as a day in the life of any blue-black deck definitely includes the God as a finisher. Take it from me to you, however – there's no consensus on how the best The Scarab God deck will come together.
Yesterday, Temur decks splashed for the God, whereas today you'll find it in both Blue-Black Control, Sultai Energy and Esper Tokens. Recent innovations have seen blue-black decks take a more midrange angle; however, tomorrow never knows, and the raw power level of this card means that we could see it appear in any imaginable new archetype this weekend!
As the marquee mythic of Ixalan, Vraska hasn't been seeking relics so much as she's been seeking a deck to call home. She comes down to impact the board immediately, attacking, protecting and more or less winning the game with an insanely powerful ultimate. Why, then, has she not had the impact you'd expect of such a mighty card?
The answer to this is pretty simple – there simply hasn't been a good black-green deck. Winding Constrictor is absent without leave, and no-one has had a sniff of a Rock-style deck. When it comes to the one deck she regularly features in, "Abzan" tokens, she's only included on the splash!
Will that change this weekend? With black having access to the best removal and green having access to the best creatures, perhaps the recipe for this particular bowl of spaghetti is just waiting to be uncovered by a new chef. It wouldn't surprise me at all to see a green-black midrange deck emerge from the weekend, and if it does, Vraska is a slam-dunk inclusion.
Search for Azcanta decks made a huge impact at Boston's World Championship a few weeks ago, and despite not taking out the trophy, it firmly entrenched Search for Azcanta as a major player in the Standard format. The enchantment likes to split the Oreo into its constituent parts and plays equally well with either black or white, but either configuration runs the risk of being dunked into the rancid milk that is Carnage Tyrant.
If Azcanta decks are out in force at Pro Tour Ixalan, one of the best answers to them is Carnage Tyrant. Outside of cards like Fumigate or double-blocks from Scarab God tokens, this terrible lizard will wreak more havoc than the T-Rex in Cascade Kingdom.
And it's not limited to hosing control – this colossal stomper is immune to point removal and tramples through chump blockers like it was flying an F-14. As a sideboard card against the sort of field you might expect at Pro Tour Ixalan, Carnage Tyrant is ready to take care of business.
The God-Pharaoh's stint as a mall Santa must have come to an end in September, because he hasn't been handing out anywhere near as many gifts as before. What happened, Jolly Old St. Nicol-as? Already emptied your sack, have you? Is Christmas cancelled on Ixalan?
Despite the loss of cards like Insolent Neonate as enablers, Gate to the Afterlife can still cheat out the old GPG. This brings back an Angel of Invention real quick to slap you around some, and it's worse than coal in your stocking. Minister of Inquiries and Champion of Wits are still around to fuel the graveyard, and cards like Kitesail Freebooter even offer creature-based interaction!
All these little elves – figurative, not literal elves – mean that we could see Christmas come early if they mean that the God-Pharaoh can whack his floppy hat back on and start handing out gifts again. The payoff is insanely high, and the strategy has already proven itself as highly potent. Seeing as grinchy cards like Scavenger Grounds and Sentinel Totem are at an all-time low, Pro Tour Ixalan might just be time to Roast some chestnuts over an open fire!
- Riley Knight