The Pro Tour is in the books, and Ixalan draft mostly fades into the past. But Grand Prix New Jersey still waits in December, and various PPTQs and PTQs will take place for a few more months until Rivals of Ixalan joins the fray. I’m taking a bit of a break from drafting while I prepare for the Modern RPTQ, so it’s a good time to summarize what we learned at Pro Tour Ixalan while it’s still fresh.

The coverage team reported on the archetypes that went 3-0 in a draft on either day of the Pro Tour Ixalan. Their dataset is obviously narrow—approximately 90 draft pods fired in the event—and doesn’t track 2-1 records or worse. Even so, it shows the clear tiers that archetypes break into, and it’s pretty close to what I outlined two weeks ago. But there’s some interesting differences to explore.

Tier One

No surprise that the top two decks are white-black vampires and blue-green merfolk. Like I said before, those are the two tribes concentrated in two colors, so it makes sense that you’d have a great deck if those colors were open in your seat. Two competitors, Elias Watsfeldt and Guillaume Matignon, went 6-0 drafting merfolk twice. Vampires put up great results as well, including on day one for Luis Scott-Vargas, who cheated a bit by splashing Hostage Taker.

The rest of tier one was a little surprising but not really. Red-white shows up a little below the top two, but blue-black pirates managed to jump above it to effectively tie the top two. In my rundown two weeks ago, I said that blue-black was close to tier one but tended to come up a little short of the true top tier. Maybe I was wrong, or perhaps there were more expensive bombs opened in pods that fell to treasure decks to splash. I think most players would still put white-red above blue-black on average, but there’s plenty of room to win with Sailor of Means and friends.

Tier Two

The biggest surprise of the next level was the day two success of green-white dinosaurs. Of the more than fifty day one draft pods, only two were won by green-white. But six of the thirty-ish pods on day two fell to the deck. I had pegged green-white as tier three, though it was definitely above bottom archetypes of green-black and white-blue. The true power of green-white lies in it’s flying dinos—Imperial Aerosaur and Shining Aerosaur—which get a huge upgrade from Kinjalli’s Caller. Big fliers dominate in Ixalan draft, so it makes sense that green-white could exploit that. Pterodon Knight is also pretty good when you get it in the air, and everyone loves Territorial Hammerskull. I’m still wary of the archetype, but there may be more to it that I thought.

I wasn’t surprised to see green-red dinos in the top of tier two. It’s a deck I’ve had success with as a backup when I can’t get a tier one archetype. The other red decks—black-red and blue-red pirates—did a little worse but were mostly equivalent. None of these three put up great results, but they can get the job done. Black-red seems a little better to me than it performed at Pro Tour Ixalan, but there’s not much difference in strength of the archetypes.

Tier Three

Green-white and blue-red climbed up to match tier two, leaving only the bottom-feeders in the third tier. Green-black and blue-white offer almost no rewards, and you should avoid them if you can. Paul Rietzl scored a 3-0 with blue-white on day one, and he said afterward that his deck was horrible. Great players can win with anything, but even they don’t try to end up in that position.

Draft formats with multiple undraftable archetypes aren’t great. Ixalan really suffers from abandoning blue-white and black-green. Favorable Winds basically never matters; and the explore bonuses in green-black are more of a nice bonus that many decks can use than a focus of one archetype. Wildgrowth Walker seems to find more success in blue-green tempo decks, and Lurking Chupacabra mostly underperforms. I’d be more likely to keep jamming Ixalan drafts if these archetypes were functional. Oh well.


The obviously good strategies going into Pro Tour Ixalan performed the best in the competition. No real surprises came up. A few creative slow decks put up wins on camera, most notably Ken Yukihiro’s ambitious blue-green Burning Sun’s Avatar deck. (He went 1-2 after winning the first round on camera.) Green-white had a nice day two, and blue-black put in a real claim for top tier status, but that was the extent of the new developments.

What will Grand Prix New Jersey have in store? Will I make the trip to compete? I’m not optimistic about either, but Magic is still Magic. Even when a format isn’t amazing, the games are still fun.

Carrie O’Hara is Editor-in-Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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