Gerry Thompson wrote a great early look at possible Vampire decks in the coming Standard , but all of his Vampire decks featured four copies of Legion's Landing, which meant that they all required white as their base color. This is a reasonable starting point, as Legion's Landing is a great card, but there's something to be said for the black spells in the format as well, so I think that kind of Vampire deck, which is likely somewhat more controlling, is also worth looking at.
The first draw to a black Vampire deck is Gifted Aetherborn. Gifted Aetherborn is in an interesting spot, since it's a powerful card, but one that kind of lacks direction--a lot of midrange and control decks would rather have a value creature in that spot, and it competes with other great creatures like Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and Winding Constrictor in energy decks; and because a lot of its power is in lifelink, it's not the best aggressive creature for a pure beatdown deck.
That said, it's a great cornerstone for a tribal deck that's looking to slow down the game a little and lead off with an individually powerful card that's reasonably likely to stay on the battlefield, especially if that deck is looking to spend life, to really take advantage of the life gain.
While it's not a Vampire, Ravenous Chupacabra is another draw toward trying to use a black manabase, though there's a lot of competition at four mana. An early brainstorm of remaining new black cards to consider in a Vampire deck yields:
I suspect that a white base is going to be the best way to build an aggressive Vampire deck because of how important it is to reliably be able to cast Legion's Landing and Radiant Destiny, but I think Vampires can provide the creature base of a black controlling deck with a possible white splash that plays a very different kind of game.
- 3 Champion of Dusk
- 4 Dusk Legion Zealot
- 4 Gifted Aetherborn
- 4 Paladin of Atonement
- 3 Ravenous Chupacabra
- 3 Yahenni, Undying Partisan
This is a deck that's designed to be able to grind with blue decks. Value creatures offer a battlefield presence that allows you to block against aggressive decks or force control decks to act against you while your cheap spells buy time and protect the enchantments you try to ride to victory.
This sideboard offers tremendous customization as you have a wide range of removal spells for various kind of threats, and Treasure Maps for further grinding against people who aren't trying to go over you.
The hope is that the wealth of life gain and black removal offer strong enough creature matchups that you can afford to play Duress in the maindeck, which is a great way to trade resources to keep the game small to maximize the chances that you have time to use your enchantments, as well as generally offering a huge advantage against control decks.
Paladin of Atonement is a little off-plan, as it's a fairly aggressive creature, but it's a cheap threat that can take over the game with deserts and Arguel's Blood Fast, so this is mostly just giving it the benefit of doubt on raw power level.
Clearly, this is an entirely different kind of deck than the Metallic Mimic Vampire decks, and not the sort of deck that's generally built around tribal synergies, but Champion of Dusk is a very different kind of tribal payoff than we usually have access to. It's worth noting that unless you've gained a lot of life, the ability starts becoming a drawback around x=4 or so, so we're not actually trying to play this in a deck that's dedicated to flooding the battlefield with Vampires, just enough that we can draw 2-3 cards most of the time seems like the sweet spot.
While black is a controlling base for a Vampire deck, the same can't be said for Pirates, where the black creatures definitely want to attack.
The new black Pirates I'd consider for Constructed are:
Not a long list, but Dire Fleet Poisoner has some interesting play to it, and there are a lot of different combinations of Pirate decks worth looking at.
In blue and red, Rivals of Ixalan offers:
Warkite Marauder's nothing special, so Rivals of Ixalan offers the most help to B/R Pirates. Let's start there:
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Metallic Mimic
- 4 Daring Buccaneer
- 4 Dire Fleet Poisoner
- 2 Fathom Fleet Captain
- 4 Kitesail Freebooter
- 4 Rigging Runner
- 2 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
There's a bit of tension between the number of artifacts and the number of Pirates, but I suspect that using Unlicensed Disintegration to good effect is a key to making B/R Pirates worth looking into.
Dire Fleet Captain is interesting, especially if you play Grasping Scoundrel over Bomat Courier, but I think it asks for too much to be going your way--you need your other creatures to be alive and wanting to attack, and you need both colors of mana; the payoff just isn't that great. Fathom Fleet Captain may be better than I'm giving it credit for, especially with such a low curve, but I feel like it didn't really live up to early hype, and I'd rather take a conservative approach to giving it another chance.
Captain Lannery Storm is a decent way to get a Pirate and an artifact, but I don't think it's powerful enough unless you have a good use for the mana ramping aspect of the Treasures.
Ruin Raider is a bit more promising, and there's a good chance it's a good fit here, as you should always expect to be attacking and you have a low curve, so you won't lose much life and you'll have mana to use the extra cards; however, I'm still cautious about investing in a three-mana creature with two toughness that needs to live through the turn. Still, your other creatures will be drawing removal and it plays well with Kitesail Freebooter, so I think it's the most likely card that didn't make the cut, but I wanted to keep the curve low as a starting point, as six threes is actually already kind of high for the sort of deck this wants to be.
I don't think there are a lot of drastically different ways to build B/R Pirates except for modifying the number of artifacts and number of Pirates. Likely, Scrapheap Scrounger is better than Fathom Fleet Captain, for example, but I wanted to start by trying Fathom Fleet Captain, and moving toward more other artifacts instead of Pirates hurts Metallic Mimic. Whether Hazoret the Fervent belongs in the maindeck is another important question, which may be largely a function of the metagame and how well-positioned Hazoret ends up being.
As for U/B, I think you have a lot more flexibility there, because Hostage Taker and The Scarab God offer real incentives to play a longer game, potentially looking to do something more like the Vampire deck at the beginning of this article; but as you move more toward building your deck around The Scarab God, at some point, fairly early on, you ask yourself why you have these Pirates in your deck, and I don't think any of the new additions from Rivals of Ixalan are likely to change that.
As for the more aggressive takes, U/B will really want to play up its evasive elements:
- 4 Dreamcaller Siren
- 2 Hostage Taker
- 4 Kitesail Freebooter
- 4 Siren Stormtamer
- 4 Skyship Plunderer
- 4 Storm Fleet Aerialist
This is a blue "Skies" deck with a black splash for Hostage Taker and Kitesail Freebooter. Favorable Winds is required to avoid losing the game to a single Whirler Virtuoso while also letting your creatures hit a little more respectably. This deck is definitely looking to play a tempo game, getting under the opponent with cheap creatures and then using counterspells and Dreamcaller Siren to slow the opponent down long enough to finish them off. This is an ideal home for Jace, Cunning Castaway, but it would be nice if the card were a bit more powerful than it is.
For the most part, I think the metagame is pretty hostile to this kind of deck, as the creatures match up a little too well against the creatures in this deck, and people are generally prepared to deal with Hostage Taker. This kind of deck is looking to prey on a metagame dominated by decks like U/W Approach that are relying on resolving expensive sorceries to catch up, which this deck can easily prevent.
Overall, I don't think the creature synergies offered between Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan can really compete with the energy creatures that have currently been dominating Standard. The best hope for new creature decks is another energy card getting banned, but it would be nice if Standard could get back to a place where it didn't have to rely on regular bannings. If anything in Rivals of Ixalan is going to shake anything up, I think it'll have to be something with a more controlling bent, like the first B/W deck. I'm still worried about the versatility and adaptability of Temur Energy's answers and value cards. Bristling Hydra and Chandra, Torch of Defiance make things very tricky for a B/W deck that's trying to bury people in removal and card draw, to say nothing of Rogue Refiner and Whirler Virtuoso, which are no less problematic.
Ultimately, I think Kaladesh has Standard in a difficult place, and WotC has some hard decisions in front of them about how to deal with the format. In the short term, I'm looking forward to the first Modern Pro Tour in a few years, where I'm a favorite to try to lock my opponents out with Lantern of Insight and love every minute of it.