Where Is Rivals of Ixalan Standard Headed After the Bannings?
- Dr. Hans Joachim Höh
One way to approach a new format is to bring your favorite old deck to the next tournament and hope that the new tech isn't all that hot. Thanks to the Standard banning last January 19, this is no longer really an option. So, what are you experimenting with for Rivals of Ixalan Standard?
The folks at Wizards didn't want to wait and see whether Rivals of Ixalan would be able to reshape the Standard format without some additional intervention on their part. Last Monday they chose to ban four additional cards from Standard instead. This change took effect on January 19.
Ramunap Red and Temur Energy had already been great decks before the last Standard rotation, and both lost nearly nothing when the Zendikar and Innistrad blocks rotated out together. Unsurprisingly, those two decks kept dominating the new Standard. Ramunap Red started into the format as the best deck, beating basically every other strategy, before Energy decks successfully adapted to the red menace. From that point on, Energy decks represented the best strategy because that archetype was the only one able to consistently beat red decks, while having less favorable, but still slightly advantageous matchups against almost everything else.
Both decks will probably still see plenty of play, but without Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner Energy decks will be much less consistent in their ability to curve perfectly into their midgame. Red decks on the other hand lost their uncounterable reach in the form of Ramunap Ruins and their tokens and life gain hate card in the form of Rampaging Ferocidon.
A Whole New World
The recent bans will affect win percentages for all of the decks above, but it might also allow formerly suppressed strategies to strive. For example, the poor lifelinking, life gaining, and life draining vampires are now allowed to shine again in a world without nasty Ferocidons making them miserable.
Playing the game defensively i.e., looking to stall the board with tokens or lots of regular creatures may once again be a viable play pattern. There are various rewards for a slower strategy like this, like drawing cards or growing your team of Merfolk with Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca.
If tribal synergies will soon define the world of Standard players, players will need to reevaluate many of the slower cards, which seemed previously irrelevant. Cards like Kumena and Herald of Secret Streams or Sanctum Seeker and Champion of Dusk will provide new options for winning a game, despite a stalled board. Even a slow card like Tetzimoc, Primal Death could become the best wrath effect in the new Standard format just because it leaves your own tribal synergies on the board, while wrecking the other player.
However, as is often the case in Magic, if the pendulum swings too far in one direction, it becomes more likely to swing back. When everybody is playing different tribal decks, they all could fall to a dedicated mass removal deck. When everybody tries to run over each other, we might end up back at a format where red aggression races all the slow decks. After all, Path of Mettle / Metzali, Tower of Triumph looks like an absurd amount of uncounterable reach, given that the red mages just lost Ramunap Ruins. Obviously, you would need to splash white and the deck would have to look quite different to make flipping Path easier, but that Metzali back side looks quite powerful to me. Maybe we will see something built around that card? Maybe we need to wait for some more red-white synergies in the next block?
Speaking of powerful transform cards: Hadana's Climb / Winged Temple of Orazca could easily be a 1-of in Energy lists and is an even better fit in larger numbers for the new Merfolk decks. Handing out +1/+1 counters never hurt anyone, but Herald of Secret Streams will make them so much more relevant in the Merfolk deck. It might be a little slow to flip sometimes, but at least the enchantment generates something useful every turn until you get to transform it into the Winged Temple.
What are you excited to build for the new Standard format?
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