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We're so close. #SCGDFW is this weekend, and with it, the release of Ixalan. We're about to enter a world of Dinosaurs and Pirates...or, at least for the time being, Ramunap Red and Temur Energy. Those two decks are likely to be a huge portion of the metagame in Dallas because they are the two most successful decks from last season that survived rotation.
The early weeks of a post-rotation Standard format are often dominated by those survivor decks, with a healthy portion of the field bringing decks built around new cards. These are the decks and cards that naturally draw the most hype because everyone is excited about the shiny new toys yet cognizant of the bogeymen that await them.
But there's a third important angle that often goes unnoticed: revisiting old cards. I've stressed this notion before, but it bears repeating because there are plenty of cards from Kaladesh and Amonkhet blocks that can finally shine because the format has changed so dramatically from rotation.
There's a lot of talk about how to leverage the powerful Dinosaurs in Ixalan, with a ramp strategy being one of the top contenders. Collins Mullen nearly took the last trophy in Hour of Devastation Standard with a G/W Ramp deck that could easily be a home for the likes of Carnage Tyrant and Wakening Sun's Avatar, but it also looks to me like a home for Ajani Unyielding.
The powerful planeswalker curves perfectly with Fumigate after accelerating on turn 3, at which point it can dig you toward a Wakening Sun's Avatar to answer your opponent's second wave. It gives the deck another clean answer to Hazoret the Fervent, the primary threat that your sweepers miss. The ultimate ability isn't particularly exciting, but the other two are good enough that the card should draw some interest.
Without Thraben Inspector, the deck may be a little soft to Ramunap Red, but Merfolk Branchwalker does a good impression of our favorite detective and Kinjalli's Caller could serve as a great early blocker with some built-in acceleration. You could even eschew Fumigate entirely and focus more on Dinosaurs, turning Wakening Sun's Avatar into a Plague Wind. Regardless of your choice of direction, I think Ajani Unyielding is a key piece to look to if these decks are to succeed.
Little Gideon didn't get much respect last season, since it was overshadowed by big brother Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, but with Battle for Zendikar finally out of Standard, it's time to start thinking about what this card can do.
Since Gideon of the Trials's +1 ability isn't particularly useful for aggressive strategies, Gideon of the Trials slots better into control decks. With Duress, Spell Pierce, and Negate all in the format, purely reactive control decks are going to have some trouble, and the best way to insulate yourself against these spells is to get a little aggressive and punish players that try to become overly disruptive.
Granted, Gideon of the Trials does fall victim to these cards, but it's not often that opponents will use them in the early turns. If you can trade a removal spell on Turn 2 and land Gideon on Turn 3, you've immediately put your opponent in a position where they are forced to act and don't have the luxury of sequencing their disruption ideally. Thus, you are able to operate your normal gameplan more freely as your opponent devotes time and resources to answer a card that isn't central to your plan.
You can also play Gideon of the Trials in a midrange deck knowing that it can seamlessly switch between offense and defense. Perhaps something like this: