If you look at the G/B deck Sam Pardee used to take 2nd place at the last Pro Tour, you’ll notice that a number of key cards will be rotating. Delirium will be exiting Standard, and with it Grim Flayer and Traverse the Ulvenwald. You’re also losing Tireless Tracker, Kalitas, Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, and Hissing Quagmire. But there’s another powerful G/B deck around that focuses on energy instead, and it isn’t losing much!
Winding Constrictor is going to be a major force in the new Standard. It’s a premier 2-drop that allows for some of the most explosive starts of any format. Having multiple Snakes allows you to stack them, and getting additional energy to go with all of your crazy counter shenanigans is a huge draw.
Longtusk Cub plays incredibly well with the Constrictor. Each hit from a Cub will net you 3 energy, and you can spend 2 energy at instant speed to add multiple +1/+1 counters to your Cub. These two cards alone can run away with the game after hitting just a single time and allow you to stay aggressive.
Walking Ballista has been best friends with the Constrictor since day 1. Not only do your Ballistas enter the battlefield with an extra counter, but you’re getting multiple counters every time you pay 4. This makes blocking next to impossible, and the fact that the Ballista can start machine gunning down opposing creatures, planeswalkers, and the opponent makes this a lethal combination.
Bristling Hydra is like a harder to deal with, though more expensive, Longtusk Cub. Anything that adds energy and +1/+1 counters is going to play well with the Snake, and Hydra is big enough to end the game quickly.
Verdurous Gearhulk is the top end of the deck, and the dream scenario is casting a Gearhulk with three other creatures in play and at least one Constrictor. This puts an extra counter on every single creature, netting you 12 power and toughness for only 5 mana. Throw in the fact that all of your other creatures will be massive and that the Gearhulk itself will be a 6/6 trampler, and it’s safe to say that the game is about to end.
The energy creatures also love playing with Snakes. Glint-Sleeve Siphoner can provide consistent energy and extra cards turn after turn. Greenbelt Rampager can also be an energy enabler that starts out of the range of Lightning Strike and Abrade. Servant of the Conduit helps ramp you up to your Hydras and Gearhulks to put the game away.
You also have Aethersphere Harvester for some extra life gain. With plenty of ways to continue to make energy, the Harvester threatens to rule the skies while adding valuable points to your life total every turn.
Attune with Aether will continue to be one of the most powerful cards in Standard going forward. Giving yourself easy access to a turn-2 Greenbelt Rampager or having energy already available to pump a Longtusk Cub can give you a big edge while fixing your mana.
Blossoming Defense is incredible in these aggressive decks as it’s a way to win combat, deal extra damage, or protect your massive creatures from removal. Being a 1-mana “counter” to a removal spell is a fantastic tempo swing.
Fatal Push continues to be an amazing removal spell, and you even have things like Hashep Oasis to deal some extra damage while triggering revolt. Grasp of Darkness is the one card that will be rotating out, but you have lots of great removal spells to replace it. Between Walk the Plank, Never // Return, Hour of Glory, and many more, finding a suitable removal spell to replace Grasp should be doable.
You can be sure that Winding Constrictor will be a top contender with the arrival of Ixalan, and playing an aggro energy build is a great way to maximize the Snake’s power.