Rivals of Ixalan is here. With it came a slew of Standard bannings. Some we expected—some we didn’t (I’m looking at you Rampaging Ferocidon). While banning cards is never fun, I’m in the group of people who prefer a healthy metagame with bannings to a stale solved one without. Now, even if the changes result in a still unhealthy metagame, we will at least have a new format to crack open until the next set’s release, and after that we have rotation right around the corner.
Since we have a new Standard format, I decided to scroll over a rather weak Rivals of Ixalan set to pick out the top 10 cards that will impact Standard now, or eventually.
10) Azor’s Gateway
This is an interesting card that I think has a high ceiling but may end up being too slow. It’s basically a looter rock, except you don’t get to put the cards into your graveyard, or use it to trigger Drake Haven. What I do see in this card is a tool for a control mirror, where both players are trying to hit land drops and end up with a huge mana advantage. This allows you to find lands by discarding spells, and then eventually flip it into a land that can produce a ton of mana. Field of Ruin could be an issue for this plan, but you can still use your tons of mana to cast something like a Pull from Tomorrow or activate The Scarab God a few times. Let’s not forget that Field of Ruin will also be taxed by Search for Azcanta. This card may end up as a casual card, but cards that can produce this much mana can sometimes be broken in half if someone finds the right deck for them.
9) Merfolk Mistbinder/Legion Lieutenant
The lords will be key role-players if any of these two tribes take off, and while I see Merfolk Mistbinder as the more likely to see play of the two because Vampires may not even need to play black to fit in, having two mana lords is an awesome addition for both of these two decks. I’m not sure tribal decks will be able to hold up even after this week’s bannings, but I think they will see play after rotation and you’ll be sure to see these two cards by then. I’m pretty excited to get my hands on a Merfolk deck, and Merfolk Mistbinder is a big reason why.
8) Thrashing Brontodon
Thrashing Brontodon has a solid rate as a 3/4 creature for 3 mana. That alone doesn’t make it remotely playable, but when you add in a Disenchant, the card can be played for a variety of reasons. That it’s a Dinosaur makes it an excellent addition to the main deck or sideboard of Dinosaur decks, but if you’re in the market for a body to beat down with, you’ll see it outside of that, over other options such as the freshly reprinted Naturalize. Cards like Naturalize can sit in your hand and do nothing for a while, but Thrashing Brontodon will at least hit the battlefield running. It can eat up Torrential Gearhulk, God-Pharaoh’s Gift, and of course wreak havoc on Anointed Procession/Hidden Stockpile decks. I think we’ll see some copies of Thrashing Brontodon sooner than later.
7) Baffling End
Baffling End is a beautifully designed card. A throwback to Silkwrap, this is a 2-mana enchantment-based removal spell that can exile creatures such as Earthshaker Khenra for good. In a world where most playable Constructed creatures have comes-into-play abilities, cards like this will usually make you suffer when they’re removed. Now, you’ll give the opponent a Dinosaur instead. If tribal decks become a thing, removal spells will likely need to be cheap to keep up. Baffling End will be a nice role-player removal spell for white decks that want a 2-mana sorcery-speed removal spell for small creatures.
6) Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca
Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca has some similarities to Cryptbreaker, a card that made Zombies a tier 1 deck—a deck Gerry Thompson took to win a Pro Tour. Kumena brings two things to the table crucial for a tribal deck: It’s both a card draw engine and a way to pump your team rolled up in one card. Kumena is one of the few cards that will allow a deck like Merfolk to pull ahead against decks with stronger, non-synergistic cards. With two of the sweepers in the format being Sweltering Suns and Yahenni’s Expertise, Kumena’s 4 toughness also makes the deck a little better against those cards that would typically be lights-out. I expect Merfolk to break out at some point, and the best Merfolk builds will rely on Kumena to do some heavy lifting.
5) Daring Buccaneer
Now that Ramunap Red lost its namesake card, the deck will likely have to shift to a more aggressive build that doesn’t play as many lands as it once did. Daring Buccaneer is a terrific 1-drop to replace Falkenrath Gorger as long as you can fill the deck with enough Pirates. I expect Mono-Red to still be a solid archetype and Daring Buccaneer will play a big role in a Mono-Red or Black-Red deck leaning on cheap creatures and Hazoret the Fervent.
4) Thunderherd Migration
I was initially a bit disappointed with Thunderherd Migration because of its reliance on Dinosaurs. I remember trying to get Ruin in their Wake to work, but having to play so many Wastes made deck building a challenge. Thunderherd Migration forces you to play some Dinosaurs, sure, but that’s not as big of a deal when you have other incentives to do so like Regisaur Alpha, Savage Stomp, and Drover of the Mighty. You can also cheat on your Dinosaur count somewhat when you have Commune with Dinosaurs to cast on turn 1. Thunderherd Migration also allows you to have a greedier mana base so that you can play all three Dinosaur colors pretty easily. I’d love for a deck with Thunderherd Migration and Wakening Sun’s Avatar to be a solid choice in Standard.
3) Dire Fleet Daredevil
While this is no Snapcaster Mage, almost every deck in Standard will have some kind of interaction for Dire Fleet Daredevil to pick up. Most cards in Rival of Ixalan rely on tribal synergies, and Dire Fleet Daredevil is one of the few that is just a solid Magic card you can play and ignore the creature type. In Fatal Push and Shock mirror matches, Dire Fleet Daredevil is going to be one of the most important cards to draw. I’m excited to see it in action, and it’s actually the card I’m most excited to play with.
2) Jadelight Ranger
Jadelight Ranger is a good rate creature that provides some value on top of a serviceable body. A 4/3 for GG1 isn’t anything to write home about, but if it’s ever smaller than that, it has replaced itself with at least one land, and then you have a card that’s almost as good as Rogue Refiner. Jadelight Ranger has a solid creature type, which could potentially be used in some kind of value shell alongside Merfolk Branchwalker and Silvergill Adept. Jadelight Ranger plays well with Winding Constrictor and could definitely be a replacement for Rogue Refiner in what used to be Sultai Energy. I really like the prospects of Jadelight Ranger moving forward to fill a much needed 3-drop slot that is now empty in the absence of Rogue Refiner.
1) Ravenous Chupacabra
There’s no denying that a Nekrataal with no conditional clause will fit into Standard decks. When you look at this card’s synergy with The Scarab God, it becomes easy to put a deck together that can out grind any creature deck. When you compare this card to Hostage Taker, it may seem at a glance that Chupacabra is worse, but the first time you get a Chupacabra Abraded you’ll realize that it worked out much better for you. While I’m not quite as disgusted with this card as Patrick Sullivan, I still think it was an odd card to print in the same set with Impale, and in the same block as Hostage Taker. Sadly, Ravenous Chupacabra is taking the top spot from me.
Overall, Rivals of Ixalan is a weak set and even after these bannings we will only see some role-players come out of the set instead of major archetypes. Decks like Abzan Tokens and U/W Drake Haven will be where I look first in this Standard format, but I also think that Grixis Energy could have legs now. Once all of the powerful sets rotate out of Standard, I suspect that we will have some time to play with the tribes and maybe even get a few more tribal cards in future sets to play with.
What card did I miss? What do you think is the best card in Rivals of Ixalan for Standard? Let me know!