Ixalan Back in Standard
Ixalan isn't an obvious set, and I believe there is a lot of space to explore the new cards. However, some Standard additions have already started shaping a new metagame.
In this article, I'll present a few lists that stood out to me with the arrival of the new Ixalan to the format, and highlight the new cards included in them.
6 Decklists with Lost Caverns of Ixalan
Esper continues to dominate the format with practically 20% presence in the metagame. This deck was already quite strong thanks to cards such as Wedding Announcement and Raffine, Scheming Seer, but the new build with Subterranean Schooner made it even more consistent. This list can interact with the opponent well, using creatures that can really impact the board and instant speed interactions, and also counts with a good package of removals and counters.
Deep-Cavern Bat is another excellent addition, working well with Schooner. You remove a resource from your opponent's hand and place a creature with evasion in play that can already be tapped to Crew the Vehicle in combat, and, possibly, place a counter on the Bat, leaving a 2/2 creature with Flying and Lifelink on the board. This little bat also plays well alongside Raffine, and, many times, you'll be able to Crew with Raffine and attack with the Bat and Schooner, placing down many counters in the process and pressuring your opponent a lot on the first few turns.
Another card that shows up a bit more shyly in lists, but one which I consider to have great potential, is Get Lost. It is a mix of Fateful Absence and Destroy Evil which, even though it has its drawback, can perfectly deal with literally any threat in the format. With so many important permanents running in the format that can be targeted by Get Lost, you can expect this card to see a lot of play during the next few weeks.
Subterranean Schooner is the card that has stood out the most to players at the moment, as it can easily be incorporated by Blue-based Midrange decks that already existed in the format. This card allows you to work with a few very interesting lines, and is a threat that already goes on the board on the very first few turns, adding pressure and creating value - and Dimir Midrange could be no different. This deck acts similarly to Esper Midrange, but it leaves behind White and trusts the value of other powerful cards, such as Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor.
Explore isn't an ability that steals the spotlight straight away if we compare it with a simple draw, but the greatest gist of Subterranean Schooner is that, if this Vehicle is on the board for a long time without getting hit with any interaction, the accumulated effect created by several attacks becomes really relevant. With the right build, this strategy can become extremely strong.
Tishana's Tidebinder is another card that really surprised me in this new format, as it can interact with the opponent in several ways, and the fact it is a 3/2 that goes on the board at instant speed makes it a very interesting card. Bitter Triumph is an average removal if compared to what this format offers you, but being able to target a creature or planeswalker brings some versatility to Black.
Malcolm, Alluring Scoundrel is a fine choice, as it is also a creature that goes into play at instant speed and can be compared to Faerie Mastermind because of its cost and ability. Unlike Mastermind, though, Malcolm brings a looting effect any time it deals combat damage, and with that gets a counter. When it has four or more counters, instead of simply discarding spells, you'll be able to cast them for free.
Ixalan isn't Ixalan without Dinosaurs, and now Standard has its own deck entirely dedicated to these prehistoric giants. This list started bringing some results here and there, and seems quite fun, considering it is an aggro deck that counts on powerful threats, such as Pugnacious Hammerskull and Rampaging Raptor, to really beat down the opponent. Hammerskull can be quite insane, particularly if you can play it on turn 2 with the help of Ixalli's Lorekeeper.
One of the cards that I most enjoyed playing in Ixalan drafts is Itzquinth, Firstborn of Gishath, and, in this deck, I feel the same. This little fella goes into play with Haste, and his effect acts as a Rabid Bite, which is quite useful, because it removes from play a potential blocker and opens up the way for the Dinos to hit unimpeded.
Voldaren Thrillseeker is another quite powerful creature in this build, useful as a finisher in many situations. Scytheclaw Raptor is excellent against Control decks and Midrange decks in general, punishing opponents that want to play spells on your turn.
Cavern of Souls got reprinted in LCI, and stood out as the first spoilers rolled out due to its game potential. In Standard, in which we have decks that really care about creature type, this new land opens up several new possibilities. That is the case for Humans, which carry a creature type that is heavily present in this format and are quite synergistic. This elaborate version by the Brazilian grinder, Hamuda, counts with a shy splash of Red, but it has still proved to be good enough to guarantee a first place position in a recent Standard Challenge in Magic Online.
This version uses Warden of the Inner Sky, which is a creature that does a lot for just one mana, serves as a threat that progresses as the game moves on, and even allows you to use card selection. In this deck, in which you'll create creatures every turn and almost always more than one at a time, it is easy to enable an abuse Warden's ability as much as you can.
Inti, Seneschal of the Sun is another creature that shows a lot of potential in this version, and can also impact the board a lot, creating double the usual value. Anim Pakal, Thousandth Moon also matches this list well, working excellently with Adeline, Resplendent Cathar. Kellan, Daring Traveler comes in as another interesting choice for this deck, creating a sort of card advantage that makes this deck consistent throughout matches.
Subterranean Schooner, Warden of the Inner Sky and Tishana’s Tidebinder. This deck gathers the best cards in this set in a list that brings a few other very powerful cards, such as Wedding Announcement, The Wandering Emperor and Virtue of Loyalty.
I believe this list is the one that uses Schooner best, using 1-drops well and creating a lot of value as it does. Just like the Dimir version, Tidebender really matches this deck, disabling a significant number of staples in the format and performing well in combats. Sheoldred, the Apocalypse's days might get a bit harder from now on.
Golgari Midrange was a deck that stood out a lot in the Wilds of Eldraine days, and was remarkable due to the space it conquered in the format. This strategy can fight against the format's main decks well, trusting Mosswood Dreadknight as its main engine and leaning on the best Black can offer. In Ixalan, this deck gets new tools to work with, and might test new interactions and synergies.
Sentinel of the Nameless City is an interesting 3-drop, allowing you to Explore with your units with each attack. As I explained before, the Explore ability becomes more relevant as the game goes on, and can become out of control very quickly.
Bloodletter of Aclazotz brings an interesting synergy with Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, which works more as a mini-combo in this deck. Its biggest flaw might be the fact it doesn't do anything alone, and depends on combat to create value, but it is still a card that deserves to be explored in the format a bit further.
Preacher of the Schism brings a heartier ability package, and can fill the battlefield or create card advantage, as long as the conditions for either one or the other are met.
In general, Ixalan pleases me a lot and the impact this set had in Standard is remarkable, with cards such as Subterranean Schooner being added to most decks. Get Lost and Cavern of Souls are also a big highlight, opening up an array of possibilities for various decks, particularly the Cavern.
Manlands didn't stay behind and are another impactful feature this set brings along, benefitting all decks with their presence. There is still a lot to explore in this set, and I believe something new or innovative might still come about in the next few weeks, but all decks I discussed in this article have great competitive potential and are excellent options to breach the format nowadays.
We've reached the end of another article, so, I hope you liked it. Leave your questions, suggestions and feedback in the comment section, as I'll try to answer all. See you next time.