By now nearly all of Ixalan’s 279 cards have been spoiled, which means I can start looking at how to attack Standard. Although the next Standard GP I’ll be going to is most likely Atlanta—the weekend after the Pro Tour—I’m jumping head first into the new format to prepare for GP Providence’s Sunday PTQ. Many powerful decks still remain from the Kaladesh and Amonkhet blocks, but there is a lot of space to explore with Ixalan’s treasures.

The Old

Let’s look first at what decks remain (mostly) intact with rotation.

Temur Energy

Creatures (24)
Rogue Refiner
Whirler Virtuoso
Longtusk Cub
Servant of the Conduit
Bristling Hydra
Rhonas, the Indomitable

Spells (14)
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Harnessed Lightning
Magma Spray
Attune with Aether
Lands (22)
Aether Hub
Rootbound Crag
Sheltered Thicket
Spirebluff Canal
Botanical Sanctum

One thing you’ll notice is that the only new cards in this deck are the Rootbound Crags. Temur Energy is kind of like a block constructed deck—the deck builds itself from the most synergistic aggressive energy cards with the added bonus of Rhonas and Glorybringer. The deck was a top performer of the previous Standard format and I don’t expect it to go away any time soon. In fact, I still think this could be a top contender in the new format just due to the power level of the energy cards.

Temur also gets the added bonus of Spell Pierce! Fumigate or Hour of Devastation (at least game one) was an effective way of dealing with Temur’s threats before it gets access to Negate post-board. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Spell Pierce appearing in the maindeck to combat sweeper effects and planeswalkers from control decks or opposing midrange decks.

Temur has access to efficient threats that play off each other well, cheap removal, and cheap countermagic. What more could you want?

Mono Red

Creatures (27)
Bomat Courier
Rigging Runner
Ahn-Crop Crasher
Earthshaker Kenra
Hazoret the Fervent
Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
Soul-Scar Mage

Spells (9)
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Lightning Strike
Lands (24)
14 Mountain
Ramunap Ruins
Sunsorched Desert
Scavenger Grounds

Mono Red is another deck that was a top contender last Standard ever since its win at Pro Tour Hour of Devastation. The deck, just like Temur, also loses very little. Falkenrath Gorger becomes Rigging Runner and Incendiary Flow gets upgraded to Lightning Strike. This deck will continue to do what it does best—win! But all joking aside, I think judging by its performance last Standard, Mono Red is still extremely powerful and arguably only gets better with Ixalan’s release.

U/W Second Sun

Spells (36)
Approach of the Second Sun
Aether Meltdown
Glimmer of Genius
Hieroglyphic Illumination
Cast Out
Supreme Will
Perilous Voyage
Lands (24)
Irrigated Farmland
Glacial Fortress
Scavenger Grounds
Ipnu Rivulet

U/W Second Sun loses Blessed Alliance, which was a key card against Temur and Red, but gets Opt and Glacial Fortress. While I have a soft spot for this deck, it is only good in specific metagames. I’d be wary of playing this deck early on in the format.

Mono Red can be tough to defeat and while Temur was a reasonable matchup prior, the reprinting of Spell Pierce makes things that much harder for Second Sun. How do you expect to resolve Fumigate on turn five anymore? Pirates (which we’ll talk about soon) also gets access to countermagic. If U/R Control becomes a popular archtype that makes Second Sun’s chances of victory even worse. I’m not sold on this deck being powerful enough to combat the aggressive strategies in the metagame.

The New

Now without further ado, let’s talk Ixalan! Pirates, Dinosaurs, Vampires, Merfolk, oh my! As you’ve probably figured out already, Ixalan is a tribal set. When brewing for a new set you usually want to test the decks that “build thesmelves” (energy, delirium, eldrazi, etc.). So let’s do just that. Here are some rough sketches for the four main tribal decks of the format.


Creatures (24)
Kitesail Freebooter
Ruin Raider
Storm Fleet Aerialist
Siren Stormtamer
Metallic Mimic
Hostage Taker
Fathom Fleet Captain

Spells (12)
Fell Flagship
Chart a Course
Lookout's Dispersal
Fatal Push

Pirates has a bevy of good evasive threats and a lot of disruption in the forms of Siren Stormtamer, Lookout’s Dispersal, and Kitesail Freebooter. Cards like Ruin Raider and Chart a Course help refill your hand while Fathom Fleet Captain and Hostage Taker give you options when you have some mana at your disposal. I think Fell Flagship, while pretty weak at attacking, is good at buffing your flying pirates and your Fathom Fleet Captain tokens.


Creatures (21)
Ripjaw Raptor
Gishath, Sun's Avatar
Regisaur Alpha
Drover of the Mighty
Ranging Raptors
Carnage Tyrant

Spells (8)
Savage Stomp
Lightning Strike

I have no clue how to build this deck. I think there are multiple versions of Dinosaurs that could be good, some which are more ramp-based and some that are way more aggressive.

Some decks will end their curve with Regisaur Alpha while other will go up to Gishath, Sun’s Avatar or Wakening Sun’s Avatar. Some decks will want Commune with Dinosaurs while others won’t. I think the Dinosaur decks aren’t a good week one strategy since there’s so much you can do with the archetype.

How you build your Dinosaur deck will rely entirely on the metagame. I’d probably want Hour of Devastation and Magma Spray in my week one build of the deck to combat the other hyper aggressive strategies that are very efficient like Pirates and Mono-Red. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gishath’s, Sun’s Avatar break out at the Pro Tour.

Vampires is another deck where I think not enough cards have either been spoiled or released from the block to make the deck viable. I just don’t think the cards are up to par with cards at the same mana cost from Mono Red.


Creatures (36)
Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle
Bloodcrazed Paladin
Sanctum Seeker
Metallic Mimic
Gifted Aetherborn
Yahenni, Undying Partisan
Adanto Vanguard
Vicious Conquistador
Duskborne Skymarcher

Spells (4)
Legion's Landing

These are the cards I’d be looking to build around. Vampires seems to be a token-based strategy. There’s one card that has caught me eye…

I remember the days of dying to Gray Merchant of Asphodel back in Theros Standard. Imagine having just four or five other vampires on the battlefield when you cast this! And it counts itself! If there’s one card that gets me excited for this archetype it’s Bishop of the Bloodstained—drain effects like that can just be game-ending if your opponent isn’t careful.

I’m also unsure of how good a Merfolk deck will be in standard but we do have some cards
worth noting:


Creatures (28)
Kumena's Speaker
Vineshaper Mystic
Merfolk Branchwalker
Herald of the Secret Streams
Metallic Mimic
River Sneak
Shapers of Nature

One thing I forgot to mention above when talking about Vampires is just how busted Metallic Mimic is. In Merfolk, the +1/+1 counters granted by Metallic Mimic buff your unblockable River Sneak and make the rest of your team unblockable with Herald of the Secret Streams. I still think Merfolk have had the least powerful cards spoiled so far but there’s still a few days left of Ixalan. Who knows, they could get some cards that push the deck over the edge in the next set.

While some powerful strategies from last standard season still will be prevalent come rotation, Ixalan Standard is going to be fun and exciting. I’m curious to see which of the tribal creature decks stand out the most. While I think Pirates seems to be the most powerful of the four, I’m secretly rooting for Vampires to be insane, especially with its new Gray Merchant of Asphodel.

That’s all for this week, I hope you’re looking forward to next Standard as much as I am!

Roman Fusco (Twitter: @Roman_Fusco) is a current film student and aspiring Magic pro living in New York City. His preferred format is Standard with the occasional Modern. His current favorite Standard card is Descend Upon the Sinful while his favorite Modern card is Deflecting Palm. 

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