Approaching Nirvana: A Look at UW Approach after Rivals of Ixalan


With Rivals of Ixalan just released, it’s important to look at popular decks in Standard to see how they might be affected by the new set. In this article, we discuss one deck that’s been on Standard's stage for a while: UW Approach. Read further to see how we think it will perform.

Rivals of Ixalan is here, with its pirates, merfolk, vampires, and dinosaurs! As with any set, we need to examine these new cards for any possible gems, whether for Legacy, Modern, or existing Standard archetypes. Temur Energy, in all its forms, didn’t need any help, being the most stable deck at the time. It got help nonetheless though, in the form of Angrath, the Flame-Chained… Doesn’t seem fair, does it? Well, it wasn’t, and whether you thought the deck oppressive or not, Wizards of the Coast elected to swing the ban hammer. So goodbye Attune with Aether, goodbye Rogue Refiner and, for some presumably good reason, goodbye to Rampaging Ferocidon and Ramunap Ruins as well. Take that Red Mages!

However, Temur, despite its ubiquity, is not the deck we’re here to talk about…

UW Approach was previously a deck that comfortably won game one against the ‘Old’ Temur Energy deck and while the match-up wasn’t quite so favorable post-board, it wasn’t impossible either. An Esper version of Approach won GP Atlanta, piloted by Alex Lloyd. His reasoning for the extra color was far from flawed – Fatal Push takes care of many threats in the format, like Longtusk Cub, Earthshaker Khenra, Harsh Mentor, while Vraska's Contempt was key for dealing with the additional threats that Dark Temur was running, like Vraska, Relic Seeker and, of course, The Scarab God. The Scarab God isn’t just a bomb for Energy, however, as this Esper Approach deck also boarded it for creature match-ups.

Alex Llyod's Esper Approach

That was Then… This is Now

A cool deck yes, but how might this deck change in the Rivals era?

  1. Kumena's Awakening might see some experimentation, but the issue for Approach decks comes from obtaining the City’s Blessing, which is only likely to happen after your ninth land drop with this enchantment out.
  2. Sphinx's Decree will definitely see play in the sideboard. It’s a fantastic pseudo-Time Walk that might well buy you that clutch top deck you need. It’s not in the same league as Orim's Chant or Silence, but it’s standard legal and will get the job done fine.
  3. Flood of Recollection is certainly worth consideration, allowing you reuse your Approaches after they’ve been countered, until the second one sticks.
  4. Baffling End is permanent removal, making it valuable to a control deck like Esper Approach. The creature is gone forever, and despite the fact that they get a 3/3 token if the enchantment leaves play, it might well be better than Journey to Nowhere. Some UW builds already run Aether Meltdown, but it’s probable that all future Approach variants will see less Blue in their construction.
  5. In terms of artifacts, The Immortal Sun stands out. Yes, Approach decks run Gideon of the Trials, but by the time you resolve this 6 mana mythic, there’s a good chance you’ve already used Gideon’s emblem ability. It seems worthwhile when you consider that you can stop Vraska and Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh in their tracks. The extra card draw and discounted spells are also extremely welcome, allowing you to hold up countermagic while attempting to resolve the game-winning Second Sun.
  6. Rivals wasn’t nearly as kind to Approach decks when it comes to the manabase, but it does have one interesting land – Arch of Orazca. UW Approach will usually have room for 2-3 colorless lands, and this should definitely be one of them. It’s no Jayemdae Tome, but card advantage should never be ignored. It also provides an additional target for opposing Field of Ruins, which normally end up being aimed at the more valuable flipped Search for Azcanta / Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin.
  7. Regal Caracal, a prior mainstay of Approach sideboards, had almost run its course before the banning. Now that Energy and Ramunap Red are less of an issue, a reduction to two seems more likely. If a 6/6 flier for 6 mana isn’t enough of a threat, then Azor, the Lawbringer’s ability will likely make him playable, as a resolved Sphinx's Revelation in any control deck is usually game.

So, with these cards in mind (or discounted), let's see where we stand!

Ultimately, the changes are minimal, and at first glance does not seem positioned to affect the existing meta. With the additional Vampires in Rivals and the emergence of Mono Black aggro, a 'Boros' or 'Jeskai' Approach deck could be another direction to take this list, utilising Sweltering Suns and Abrade to maintain a stable board state and then dropping Sunbird’s Invocation to grind out enviable advantage. Either way, Approach has been a decent choice for a while in Standard and it doesn't seem like that will change any time soon. See you all next time!

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