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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.