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Over the last couple of weeks, I've covered the cards and decks from Ixalan that appear to have the most promise. Of course, sometimes the best stuff ends up being tough to find. In order to get there, you've got to explore what's possible in a format.
Let's start by putting all the sweet cards into one deck!
- 3 Champion of Wits
- 2 Daring Saboteur
- 3 Hostage Taker
- 2 Kitesail Freebooter
- 4 Merfolk Branchwalker
- 4 Ripjaw Raptor
- 2 Ruin Raider
- 4 Siren Stormtamer
- 1 The Scarab God
There's obviously some tension here between Kitesail Freebooter, Siren Stormtamer, Lookout's Dispersal, and Grim Captain's Call. Are we trying to stop their removal spells or get back our creatures for value? The various looting effects let us do both, but is that good enough?
Splashing for a two-drop and Ripjaw Raptor might not seem like the best choice, and maybe all we want is some amount of March of the Drowned and The Scarab God in the sideboard of a regular Pirate deck. Shrug. You could take the deck in a Grixis direction with Rampaging Ferocidon as your Dinosaur, but then there aren't any great Merfolk left. As is, this Sultai manabase ain't great.
Grim Captain's Call is incredibly powerful with a high ceiling. It has a prohibitive mana cost and deckbuilding restriction, plus the effect it provides might not be relevant in the format. It's something that could end up being worth it down the line, though.
- 3 Noxious Gearhulk
- 4 Champion of Wits
- 1 Demon of Dark Schemes
- 3 Hostage Taker
- 1 Razaketh, the Foulblooded
- 2 The Scarab God
This deck was secretly killing it on Magic Online just before rotation. It featured Ever After instead of Boneyard Parley, which looks like a downgrade, but this deck could end up being pretty good overall. It's doing powerful things, and those things tend to go a little bigger than most midrange decks. You always have the option of sideboarding into a low-mana-curve U/B Control deck to fight Ramunap Red also.
Chart a Course is going to be huge in creature decks and graveyard decks, and this is just one of the many examples. This is also one of the few decks I've found where I truly want Opt, although I'm sure there will be plenty of those too. Having such cheap sources of velocity could potentially alter deckbuilding to some degree. For example, maybe I don't need six reanimation spells because I'm going to see plenty of cards on average per game.
I cut a land, but that might be wrong. This deck can't really afford to miss a land drop and I'd rather spend my cantrips digging for action than digging for lands when I'll typically need to be using that mana to survive early, not spin my wheels. Since the allied-colored decks have to play the cycling lands in order to fix their mana, there's another reason you should probably be playing more lands instead of fewer.
Casting a large Boneyard Parley seems like a ton of fun, and while putting giant Demons on the battlefield is nice and all, I wouldn't mind choosing between things like Hostage Taker and Champion of Wits either. Having excellent creatures you can cast early and use defensively goes a long way toward making sure your Boneyard Parley is actually lights out. Noxious Gearhulk and The Scarab God are both perfect fatties for reanimating while also being reasonable finishers themselves.
- 3 Metallic Mimic
- 4 Adanto Vanguard
- 4 Angel of Invention
- 4 Duskborne Skymarcher
- 4 Fairgrounds Warden
- 4 Legion Conquistador
- 4 Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle
Is this the mythical Vampire deck to come out of Ixalan? Honestly, I'm not sure.
There are some strong options in black, and certainly staying in-tribe makes things like Metallic Mimic more powerful. Realistically, though, Vampires are pretty good at going wide but could use some help. Angel of Invention and Shefet Dunes are the answer, and Oketra's Monument plays incredibly well with both of them.
Trial of Solidarity is a worthwhile inclusion for the more aggressive go-wide decks, but especially with Legion's Landing pretending to be Knight of the White Orchid, we should have no problem getting to Angel of Invention instead. As I mentioned, Metallic Mimic is a reasonable option, but not a great one unless you are playing two colors to get all the Vampires. As is, we need a two-drop, and I wasn't happy with the idea of Glory-Bound Initiate or Aviary Mechanic.
The best white removal spell is Fairgrounds Warden. Most players have criticized white for lacking in removal, and that feeling is absolutely valid, but if you can build with Fairgrounds Warden, that alleviates your issue. Cast Out is fine, but you need something to defend yourself in the early game, and Fairgrounds Warden does exactly that while also synergizing with the rest of your deck.
- 3 Ammit Eternal
- 4 Dread Wanderer
- 4 Fathom Fleet Captain
- 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
- 3 Kitesail Freebooter
- 4 Night Market Lookout
- 4 Ruin Raider
- 4 Vicious Conquistador
- 1 Yahenni, Undying Partisan
This one actually looks good.
You have twelve one-drops that attack for two, which is a great start. Black has arguably the second-best removal suite in the format (behind red) and solid creatures at every point on the curve. There are also eight ways to draw cards thanks to Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and Ruin Raider. There's not a lot of synergy that might necessarily draw you into the archetype, but that's not the end of the world. Sometimes all you need to do is attack them, kill their stuff, and draw some cards.
One of the biggest questions is how this deck would fare against Ramunap Red, and to a lesser extent Temur Energy. Red aggro typically dominates black aggro, but that wasn't what we saw last season with Zombies versus Ramunap Red. This black deck is much different and doesn't have nearly the staying power that Zombies did.
The black deck is typically the one taking the controlling stance in the matchup due to the cards each deck has available, but that's going to be completely different here. Mono-Black Aggro has to be the aggressor, mostly because it's not capable of playing the control game. Duress is an amazing tool against both Ramunap Red and Temur Energy because all you're trying to do is clear the way. Either you go wide and hope to nab their Sweltering Suns or take out their lone spot removal spell for a high-value threat like Ammit Eternal or Ruin Raider.
Ruin Raider is one of the best cards in the set, and it's either going to find a home here, in U/B Pirates, or in B/G Energy.
My podcast partner Bryan Gottlieb mentioned that his view on Tishana, Voice of Thunder changed when he started thinking about it as a Regal Force instead of a Merfolk. It's a good way to go about things, as it doesn't isolate your thinking and opens the door for more possibilities.
Since it was previewed, I've been brainstorming ways to utilize Growing Rites of Itlimoc.