I played my first Ixalan Standard League with an updated version of Blue-Black Control, and it didn’t go well. I ended up with a 2-3 record, which might be variance, but I could really feel the loss of Grasp of Darkness. I thought Vraska’s Contempt was going to be very good—maybe not an upgrade to Grasp, but equivalent in power level—but I’ve been disappointed so far, and the card is even worse when you don’t have Torrential Gearhulk in your deck.

Next, I tried out something similar to the Grixis Tap Out deck I posted in my last article and did a bit better, but Vance’s Blasting Cannons was out of place. The red removal spells were good, but I had a few mana issues and I decided to try out a straight 2-color version. The initial results have been good, and the deck seems to have a favorable matchup against U/W Approach and Temur Energy. I haven’t played against red much, but I’m guessing that the matchup is fairly close.

Blue-Black Scarab God

Evolving Wilds is very good since it triggers revolt, fills up your graveyard for Search for Azcanta, and is close to strictly better than Submerged Boneyard since you don’t have any spells with UU in the casting cost.

Fatal Push is a no-brainer 4-of. You might have considered only playing 3 copies in the past, but with the loss of Grasp, you need the full playset. It’s also much better now that you have Evolving Wilds in the deck.

Negate is usually going to be better in a control deck, but given your more proactive approach, Duress really shines. Even against the aggressive decks, you’re usually happy to get rid of a Harnessed Lightning to protect your creatures. I haven’t tried playing all 4 main deck yet, but I think it might be right.

I started with 1 copy to try to lower my curve and as a hedge against Carnage Tyrant. The card played out really well, so I’m playing a second copy right now. I’m honestly not sure what the right number is and could even see myself maxing out on it.

Solid all around, can apply pressure early on, serves as removal against a Bristling Hydra, and is a prime target for The Scarab God. In some ways, the card replaces Grasp of Darkness—sometimes it’s much better, sometimes much worse.

The card feels underpowered at times, but I think it makes the deck work, making sure you hit your land drops and filtering out the extra Fatal Pushes and discard spells in the midgame. It ensures your late game as well, as you almost never lose if you untap after eternalizing it.

This card has really impressed me so far, not only for the transform ability, but also for the filtering effect in the early turns, as well as the extra mana it provides when it flips.

I started with 3 copies and am now down to 1. The card just doesn’t always match up well in the format and you’ll be trading down in mana a lot of the time.

I didn’t play Walk the Plank initially, but added one in an attempt to lower the curve and give me additional answers to a turn-2 Longtusk Cub.

This is another card I didn’t have in the original deck list, but I think the card might be too good right now not to play.

An all-around solid card—your options are very limited in the 3cc slot.

This started off as a 1-of since the card has always been pretty good for me out of the Blue-Black Control sideboard and as a hedge in case Carnage Tyrant is popular. I’m up to a 2nd copy since the card has performed well, but it could be variance, so I might go back down to 1.

Very powerful and very fragile—I think the card shines with the help of Duress, even though it can leave you open to a devastating topdeck or Glorybringer attack.

The one and only—probably the best card in Standard and the only reason this deck is viable.

The Matchups

U/W Approach

Very similar to how the matches played out with Blue-Black Control. I expect game 1 to be unfavorable and sideboard games to be easy.

Out

In

Temur Energy

Much like it was with the control version, I think the matchup is still good, but Glorybringer went from being one of their worst cards against you to one of their best.

There’s not much sideboarding to do here. You might want the third Search for Azcanta on the play or the fourth Supreme Will over Walk the Plank. You probably also want the third Hostage Taker as it’s quite good against them and interacts well with their Confiscation Coups.

Mono-Red

Out

In

I haven’t quite figured out how to sideboard against them yet, so feel free to experiment. The Demon of Dark Schemes was in originally to fight the W/B Tokens deck, but might be good against red as well. Speaking of W/B Tokens, I don’t think I’ve played against it yet with the Tap Out version, but lost to it twice with U/B Control. Demon should be good against them and you might want to consider a second one. River’s Rebuke is narrow, but can be an option.

I decided to keep a minimalist approach, but you should definitely experiment splashing any of the three other colors. Rogue Refiner, for instance, is a great Magic card and would fill up the 3cc slot slot nicely. Adding red would fill a void and give you more quality removal spells, and Cast Out would be a nice addition as well. Other cards I’ve tried and am not playing now are Noxious Gearhulk and Liliana, Death’s Majesty, as well as main-deck Doomfall. Let me know what you think, especially if you’ve tried something similar, and whether you’ve had success as my testing for PT Ixalan has just begun.