Ixalan is finally here, and I for one couldn't be more excited. This is already shaping up to be one of my favorite sets in recent memory, and I can't wait for #SCGDFW this weekend to kick off the Standard season.
Every new set means a new Top 20 list, and this is now the sixth set that I've written one for. I've personally been playing a lot so far with Ixalan and I don't think I've ever been as confident about a Top 20 list as I am with this one today, but only time will tell how accurate it is. My rankings are trying to take into account the entirety of when the cards are in Standard and not just to begin the format, so obviously everything can and will change as new sets are released, but that's the fun of it!
Just like with all of the other lists I've made, you won't find the set of multicolor lands here. Obviously they will see more combined play than anything else, and ranking them individually would be a nightmare, so just pick up your set if you haven't already and let's get to the fun cards!
When you have a card that is as powerful as this, it's hard to leave it off the list, but I almost did with Rowdy Crew! It has some incredible competition at the four-mana slot in red these days and doesn't have any obvious home, but it's simply too good not to be here. As far as right now in Standard, it would seem to fit a God-Pharaoh's Gift deck perfectly except for the double red mana cost. I wouldn't count out the chance that Ramunap Red turns into Rowdy Red at some point.
I think Vampires are the most underrated tribe right now in Standard and could be a good deck choice for #SCGDFW. Ramunap Red isn't interested in playing against a plethora of 1/1 lifelink tokens, and that's exactly what Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle can deliver, especially if your deck is poor at blocking like Ramunap Red is. You'll always need to be wary of the fragile 2/2 body, but if you can get the value immediately off the Raid trigger, then the three-mana investment you made will be worth it.
If you're going to play an eight-mana card in Standard, it had better be extremely powerful, and wow does Gisath, Sun's Avatar deliver. If Gisath resolves, it will absolutely take over the game, and it has the ability to race any deck by potentially bringing multiple Dinosaurs with it when it attacks the turn you cast it. Obviously there is only one deck that would ever want to play Gisath, Sun's Avatar, but it's such an incredible payoff for Naya Dinosaurs that I think it deserves a slot in the Top 20.
Legion's Landing will also be the backbone of any Vampire aggressive deck, as it's the perfect payoff for generating plenty of small tokens, but it's not only useful in Vampire decks. All you need to do is attack with any three creatures to transform Legion's Landing and then you have your own token-generating land. Lifelink is still incredibly powerful when a format is dominated by red, and I expect to see Legion's Landing show up in many different decks in Standard, maybe even paired with Crested Sunmare.
Out of all the cards on this list, Tishana, Voice of Thunder is the one I'm least sure about, but as with Rowdy Crew, it's too powerful not to mention. The Cryptolith Rite decks of last Standard would have loved to have access to this card, but finding the home for it right now is much harder. Sure, it's wonderful in Temur Energy if they have lots of Whirler Virtuoso tokens, but I'm not sold that it's necessary from that position. A large creature that can draw you tons of cards is never worth dismissing, but I haven't found the home for Tishana yet.
I really wish Herald of Secret Streams cost three mana instead of four, but it's probably for the best that it doesn't. There are plenty of quality cards that synergize well with Herald of Secret Streams, and you don't have to work hard to have creatures with +1/+1 counters in this format. With the right deck, Herald of Secret Streams basically reads "creatures you control are unblockable," and there are many different decks able to abuse that ability right now. If Merfolk is a successful Standard deck, it will be in large part due to this card, but even if it isn't, there are plenty of other homes for Herald of Secret Streams.
Settle the Wreckage is a vital card for U/W Approach out of the gate, as it replaces the previous cheap removal that has rotated out.
There is no shortage of hard-to-answer creatures that need to be exiled in the format, and even at four mana for a single Hazoret the Fervent, it's worth it. If your opponent doesn't play around it and allows you to exile all of their eligible attackers, then that's even better.
The presence of Settle the Wreckage makes Cast Out and Glimmer of Genius more powerful cards; if your opponent doesn't play into Settle the Wreckage, there are still very nice options at four mana to use your mana on. I'd like to have this card higher, personally, but I don't see many other homes for the card besides white control decks.
There have been plenty of differing opinions on Jace, Cunning Castaway and I'm a fan of the card. It doesn't take much for three-mana planeswalkers to see play, and I think Jace can find a home in multiple decks in both maindeck and sideboard capacities.
The real prize when playing Jace is the quick ultimate ability to make two copies of the legendary planeswalker that you can activate immediately to take over the battlefield. Jace, Cunning Castaway is the only planeswalker on my list and I could see it having a home in plenty of different decks throughout its life in Standard, even if it doesn't end up being the centerpiece of any one particular deck.
Dinosaurs are here and in a big way! Well, I guess there's probably no small way for Dinosaurs, but I digress. Regisaur Alpha would be higher up on the list if Glorybringer weren't such an unbelievable card, but as it is right now, this dual Dinosaur threat will most likely only be in one archetype for the time being. The Dinosaur decks are the real deal, though, and I honestly wouldn't be shocked if one won #SCGDFW with Regisaur Alpha as a four-of, so don't expect this Dinosaur to go away anytime soon.
Search for Azcanta is one of the best cards for Modern in Ixalan, but I'm not sure how much play it will see in Standard. It obviously has a home in blue control decks, but I don't think they will want to play the full four copies of the legendary enchantment, even if it isn't too bad in multiples, as you can have one transform into Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin while the other stays on the enchantment side.
As an enchantment, Search for Azcanta only supplies card selection, not advantage, and with Ramunap Red the likely best deck from Day 1, I'm not sure how many of this card you can afford to play. The slower the format, the better for Search for Azcanta.
Walk the Plank will be a universally used removal spell, of course, but I don't think it will be as good as many others believe. Sorcery speed is a big hindrance with threats such as Heart of Kiran and Glorybringer, and with all of the Gods from Amonkhet block having some form of indestructibility, I don't expect Walk the Plank to be the most-played black removal spell of the set.
At worst, Chart a Course is a better Tormenting Voice, as you get to draw your two cards before you have to discard. At best, Chart a Course is a better Night's Whisper, as you don't lose two life for having the ability to draw two cards for two mana and the only extra "pric"e is being able to attack with a creature. Chart a Course will be a Standard staple that will find a home in tons of different archetypes, and the fact that it only barely cracked my Top 10 really helps show how deep Ixalan is.
This little innocuous two-drop is one of my personal favorite cards from the set, and I think it will be a Standard staple in plenty of different archetypes, similar to Rogue Refiner. It synergizes well with Winding Constrictor; Rishkar, Peema Renegade; and Herald of Secret Streams while being a solid card advantage two-drop. This is probably my most controversial card, as many people may not realize how good this card is yet, but if anything, I think I may have it too low.
Deathgorge Scavenger is an incredibly important card for the current format. It will not only likely be a four-of in a Dinosaur deck to fill the three drop-slot, it will also make a great sideboard option for any midrange green deck. The ability to exile specific cards from graveyards is a perfect ability to have against God-Pharaoh's Gift decks, and it can even come in as another threat against control or lifegain against Ramunap Red. Expect to see plenty of Deathgorge Scavengers in sideboards early on in the format.
Ruin Raider is the best Dark Confidant that's been printed since the original, and I expect to see plenty of the Orc Pirate in Standard. Being able to get the extra card the turn you cast Ruin Raider is crucial, as a 3/2 is very fragile. We also have a very aggressive deck as the default deck of the format, one that you don't want to actively lose life against, which isn't the best sign for Ruin Raider. In addition, there isn't a clear shell of support for the card right now and that's why I have it all the way down at sixth right now, but the card is still good enough to create archetypes and slide into various midrange decks.
Carnage Tyrant is the type of card that will warp the format from simply being in it, as every control deck needs to make concessions in order to have an answer to it. Carnage Tyrant will not only likely be a four-of in the 75 of Dinosaur decks, but other midrange decks such as Energy variants will likely have a copy or two in their sideboards as well. I wouldn't be surprised if there is some sort of narrow answer for Carnage Tyrant that is printed in an upcoming set, but for now the Dinosaurs are loose!
Vraska's Contempt is a welcome removal spell, one that's perfect at dealing with all of the indestructible creatures, most notably Hazoret the Fervent. Gaining two life is incredibly relevant as well, and anytime this gets flashed back by a Torrential Gearhulk, the game will have a devastating momentum swing. Expect to see plenty of Vraska's Contempt in every black midrange deck as well, and most likely even aggressive builds with Ruin Raider. I think this card, not Walk the Plank, will be the defining black removal spell from Ixalan.
I had to say "black" removal spell in that last sentence because there is still Lightning Strike in the set. I really like how Lightning Strike won't be an automatic four-of in every single red deck, as it has competition with Harnessed Lightning and Abrade. This puts more emphasis on deckbuilding, as which removal spell to use in your deck could change from week to week depending on the metagame and configuration of your deck.
I enjoy having those seemingly small decisions instead of just one powerful spell that is always a four=of in every deck. Even still, there will be plenty of Lightning Strikes cast in Standard, and it's one of the best reach cards we've seen in a while.
The fact that I have a gold card that can't fit into just any deck above a known good removal spell like Lightning Strike should tell you how good I think this card is.
I've talked about how there are a plethora of difficult to kill creatures in the format, and Hostage Taker can deal with almost all of them and then allow you to keep the creature for yourself. Being able to have a removal spell immediately for Hostage Taker is going to be critical for midrange matchups in Standard, as you can't allow your opponent to untap and cast your threat. Hostage Taker may be somewhat under the radar, since it's a blue and black creature, but when you remember that last set we had The Scarab God, and now there's Hostage Taker, playing a U/B creature deck starts to look more and more intriguing.
Probably no surprise at the top. There's not much to be said about Ripjaw Raptor that hasn't been said already. It's an incredible Magic card, not only with the power and toughness stats, but also with the ability to grind your opponents to dust from card advantage. We've seen four-mana 4/5s dominate Standard before, and having a plan for Ripjaw Raptor is going to be critical for months to come.
So there we have it, my Top 20 Standard cards from Ixalan. What do I have too high or too low? SCG Dallas this weekend will be the first time we see the cards in action, and I can't wait to see the cards from Ixalan in action on the big stage. Unfortunately, I won't be able to be there myself, and I think this is the last Open in 2017 that I'll have to miss, but from what I've played so far, Ixalan Standard looks to be the best Standard format we've had for a couple of years, and I'm ready for it!