With Rivals of Ixalan, we didn’t receive a boatload of new keywords, abilities, or mechanics to fool around with, but we did get ascend. Ascend is very simple—it just requires you to get to 10 permanents on the battlefield. The easiest way to get to 10 permanents is to play cheap spells, and as many spells as possible that create multiple permanents. Standard has a number of great options for this in Auras and enchantments.
The Cartouche cycle was super underrated in the early stages of Draft. Cartouche of Solidarity provides +1/+1 and first strike, as well as a 1/1 token. This didn’t appear to be a Limited or Constructed all-star by any stretch, but it plays out quite well. As far as ascend is concerned, creating two permanents, 2 power, and 2 toughness for a single mana is a fantastic rate.
Cartouche of Knowledge looks to be the more powerful option on the surface. Drawing a card to replace itself means that you’re never getting blown out if you get the Cartouche to stick, and giving a creature flying in addition to pumping it up is excellent. This is the perfect way to finish a game by throwing it on a lifelink or double strike creature.
Curious Obsession provides a new way to pump your creatures for value. Curiosity has seen play, but it’s been well over a decade since it was competitive. It’ll immediately replace itself when you connect for damage, but the added pump that Curious Obsession provides is going to make it a potent option for a long time to come.
All of these various Auras beg you to play a payoff. Sram, Senior Edificer is perfect for the job. A 2/2 creature for 2 is already quite efficient at wearing Auras, but getting to draw an extra card for each of them keeps you way ahead and makes sure you have plenty of spells to cast.
Legion’s Landing is yet another 1-mana spell that provides two permanents. A land that provides card advantage in the middle stages of the game is a potential game winner, and the lifelinking creatures love being enhanced by Auras.
Adanto Vanguard and Adorned Pouncer are the Aura-wearing MVPs. While any creature looks good sporting a Cartouche of Knowledge or Curious Obsession, the ability of Adanto Vanguard to become indestructible or Adorned Pouncer’s double strike make them prime for the job. At just 2 mana each, both play well against removal thanks to indestructible and eternalize.
I’ve mentioned ascend a number of times, and while the ascend cards aren’t extremely powerful in this deck, it’s still very useful to have the city’s blessing. Skymarcher Aspirant is a solid threat as a 2/1 creature for just a single mana, but sending it to the skies after loading it up with Auras is going to put the opponent away quickly. Snubhorn Sentry provides an early blocker that turns into a 3/3 for 1 relatively early in the game. Your deck is more than capable of ascending on turn 4, and that’s where a 3/3 for 1 is looking really strong.
Sacred Cat provides yet another early drop that plays well against removal. Sheltering Light gives you more ability to load up on a single creature without the fear that a single removal spell will ruin your day.
If you’re looking to ascend, it’s nice for your removal spells to also be permanents. Since you only care about early interaction and are closing the game out pretty quickly, Baffling End is perfect as it stays in play and will exile any potential problem on the other side of the battlefield in the early stages of a game.
U/W Auras got a lot of tools to make the Cartouche cycle and Sram look better than they ever have. With powerful ascend abilities and creatures that wear Auras well, this could be a major player in the future of Standard!