Preparing for Rotation: Ixalan

The Hour of Devastation has come and gone, and now we in the Magic community turn our gaze to the new and exciting world of Ixalan. As with any upcoming release there is a certain buzz around what this means for the Standard meta. What will be the next breakout archetype? What will the fixing be like? Will the new Planeswalkers be playable? Until we see the full set previewed in about a months time, we won’t know what these answers will be but there is one question that we might be able to answer, and it is one that has some mayor implications for all Standard players – will my deck survive rotation?

Since Wizards of the Coast have gone back to the two year rotation we have had a healthy supply of cards for our Standard decks, and it has lead to some really interesting brews. Now people will look back on this Standard season with a mixture of awe and dread, as it has had it’s fair share of bannings in the last year. But it is hard to argue with the power level of some of the cards we have had access to. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Thraben Inspector, Tireless Tracker and many more have been staples of the format since their release, and will leave a big hole in many players decks but all is not lost, for there are some existing decks that will fair much better than others. Some may even survive pretty much intact and might make an impact in the first few weeks of the new season and beyond. But which ones? Well that’s the question we aim to answer. Today we will look at some of the most played decks in the current meta and see what they lose, and what they stand to gain. Which decks will disappear, and which will thrive.

U/R Control

Over all the U/R and Grixis decks fair pretty well come rotation. The main win condition of the deck remains in the form of Torrential Gearhulk. It also gets to keep some great control cards such as Disallow, Abrade, and Hour of Devastation. Even the few cards it stands to lose are likely to see some form of replacement, as WoTC are unlikely to not print any remove or counter spells in Ixalan. The main loss to the deck comes from sideboard options and it’s mana base. Wandering Fumarole has not only fixed the decks mana, but has provided it with an alternative win condition since its inception. Some players have also taken to bringing in Thing in the Ice/Awoken Horror in from the sideboard again hyper aggressive deck, and sadly we will have to bid a fond farewell to it too. However, most of the deck in its current incarnation will survive the rotation, and may even provide a bit of a headache for aggressive decks moving forward in the new meta.

Outlook: Good

Mardu Vehicles

Mardu vehicles has proven to be an effective deck ever since it first debuted during Kaladesh standard. It has proven to be fairly resilient already, having survived the banning of Smuggler’s Copter and a shifting standard meta. However, with the release of Magic’s latest set, this versatile aggressive deck might finally have run out of gas. Although it does keep quite a few powerful spells such as Heart of Kiran, Toolcraft Exemplar and Fatal Push, it loses its fair share of power. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Thraben Inspector, Thalia, Heretic Cathar and Archangel Avacyn all leave the format together and will leave a large hole in the deck. Now it is possible that some of the cards could find replacements, and there are even some options in the current format. Gideon of the Trials and Chandra, Torch of Defiance make reasonable stand ins for the BFZ Gideon, and Glorybringer could replace Avacyn. The issue is that these replacements alter how the deck plays out. The deck also loses most of its sideboard, leaving it vulnerable in the new meta. Now I don’t think Mardu Vehicles will completely disappear as some players will try desperately to make it work, but compared to some of the other decks we will look at, it might be an uphill struggle.

Outlook: Average/Poor

Ramunap Red

The latest addition to the top 8 tables and the newest incarnation of RDW, this aggressive beast has burst on to the scene in the last couple of months, but will its time in Standard be cut short? While the deck will lose some early creatures such as Falkenrath Gorger and Village Messenger, I think the deck might prove more resilient than Mardu Vehicles. All the deck will need is one or two hasty one drops and it could survive pretty much intact. It could even make use of more Soul-Scar Mages with some more non-creature spells to help pile on the damage. The deck could even get more reinforcements from Ixalan if the set supports an aggressive Red draft archetype. Overall I think Ramunap Red could stick around for a bit longer yet.

Outlook: Average/Good

Temur Energy

A solid mid-range deck, Temur Energy has seen play in many tournaments over the last few months, three copies in GP Denver’s top 8 with the final being the mirror! Since Kaladesh will remain in the standard format after rotation, the energy mechanic will continue to see play and this deck will take a full advantage of that. Using spells such as Attune with Aether and Servant of the Conduit, as well as the versatile land Aether Hub to fix its mana, this deck plays solid creature and non-creature spells from both Kaladesh and Amonkhet blocks to crush its enemies. The only real losses to this deck come in the from of Elder Deep-Fiend and Tireless Tracker, and the GP winning decks had no Elders with Tireless merely waiting in the sideboard. Even if Ixalan doesn’t see this deck find new pieces, it will remain a solid choice for many players moving forward.

Outlook: Good

R/G Pummeler

Similar to the Temur Energy deck above, R/G Pummeler loses little to rotation thanks to its heavy reliance on Kaladesh. Although it is worth noting that the deck functions more like a combo build than the traditional mid-range deck that Temur players have enjoyed. In fact, the deck might even get better once some of Standard’s more powerful cards have rotated. Spells such as Blessed Alliance and Liliana, the Last Hope have proven to be a headache for this particular brew, and although we will definitely see more removal Ixalan the future is looking a bit brighter for this fan favourite.

Outlook: Good

B/G Constrictor/Energy

Are you beginning to see a pattern here? Good, it’s not just me then. As with the other energy deck we have covered, the B/G build keeps a healthy portion of its powerful spells and lands. The central combination of Winding Constrictor, Rishkar, Peema Renegade and Verdurous Gearhulk all remain as well as the ever impressive Fatal Push. But we do lose some great support cards and alternative win conditions. Tireless Tracker has long since been a source of card advantage which can become a large beat stick as the game progresses. It also losses a good removal spell in the form of Grasp of Darkness and some fixing in Hissing Quagmire. But it is the sideboard that suffers the greatest loss as Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, Liliana, the Last Hope and Ob Nixilis Reignited to name a few. Even with all these cards rotating out of the format the core of the deck remains strong, and I would expect B/G Energy to see play for the foreseeable future.

Outlook: Average

Mono-Black Zombies

Another fan favourite deck that has seen some success at high level tournament play, Mono-Black Zombies is a resilient aggressive strategy with a lot of recurring threats. Since being the winning deck at Pro Tour Amonkhet however, Zombies have started to decline in popularity, mainly due to the rise of more Mid-Range decks. Things aren’t look much better once rotation hits as them undead critters lose Cryptbreaker, Relentless Dead and Diregraf Colossus from its creature package, as well as Grasp of Darkness and Dark Salvation. I also has to say goodbye to Westvale Abbey/Ormendahl, Profane Prince and a truck load of sideboard options. However, all is not lost for this tribe as there are thirty-four Zombies in the AmonKhet block waiting to join the fray. The B/W variation of the deck might even see a resurgence with cards like Unraveling Mummy, Wayward Servant and Binding Mummy all remaining in the format after rotation. The deck will look very different, but perhaps this isn’t the end the Zombie menace.

Outlook: Average/Poor

There you have it, my outlook for the current Standard meta going into Ixalan. Overall a lot of the decks survive the rotation pretty well, with only a few looking like they might fall away from the format. And hey, even if your favourite deck disappears there will be tons of new decks and strategies that are sure to appear once Ixalan drops in September! I hope this article has been some help to you and if you have liked what we have had to say please like and share, it really helps the site and us to grow. Until next time we here at Master of Magics say good luck, and have fun!

 

EDIT: Thank you to Christopher Parks for pointing out that we forgot UW Monument!

 

UW Monument

While not as prevalent as it once was, Monument (also known as Azorious Aggro) looks be heading for its personal Hour of Devestation when rotation hits. Though the namesake card Oketra’s Monument and other key pieces such as Dusk // Dawn and Metallic Rebuke will linger on, there is a major problem – the loss of 20 creatures from the mainboard. Bygone Bishop, Hanweir Militia Captain, Selfless Spirit, Spell Queller, and Thraben Inspector are all to be lost in the flood of dinosaurs and pirates to come. Could a new deck rise from the ashes? Perhaps, but it will bear no resemblance to our current clue-cracking competitor.

Outlook: Poor

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