First of all, some quick thoughts on the bannings in Standard. As you no doubt already know:
Rogue Refiner is banned.
Attune with Aether is banned.
Ramunap Ruins is banned.
Rampaging Ferocidon is banned.
Wow. I think Rogue Refiner and Attune with Aether were already on everyone's radar, but four bans is a bunch of bans! That makes the most cards banned in Standard at once since 2005 and the Affinity bannings, and nine bannings in Standard in the last year.
The only ban that truly surprises me is Rampaging Ferocidon. The other three seem fine and necessary, but Rampaging Ferodicon seems tacked on, much like how Reflector Mage felt to me with the Emrakul, the Promised End and Smuggler's Copter bans. A three mana 3/3 does not seem scary, especially in a world when control decks are looking to make a comeback.
These bans are kind of interesting since they happened in a format where the oppressive best decks were only slightly favored against the field and haven't even been dominating for that long. The Standard metagame these days compared to the days of Caw-Blade felt like a quick stroll in the park compared to what felt like eternity playing Stoneforge Mystic mirrors. The action to correct Standard has clearly been picking up speed to aggressively correct the metagame and make it healthier, which is a good thing. A mistake is a mistake.
These bans should help change the shape of Standard a great deal, for the better--fingers crossed--and before, this Standard was not enjoyable to play. So we got that going for us.
Mostly though, I'm ready to move on. If you've been following Standard for the last year you've been through a lot of bannings. I have ban fatigue. I can only hope that this isn't the life we must expect to be living from now on over and over, ban after ban after ban. It's getting to be like Groundhog Day .
Hope for the best, plan for the worst.
With all that in mind, let's move on with life and start with the hoping for the best part.
The bright side is we have a shiny new Standard format and a bunch of new tools from Rivals of Ixalan to play with! I am excited to play some Standard again!
Today I'll be focusing on one of those new cards: Azor's Gateway! I'll be sharing my thoughts on it as well as some brews with it for the new Standard and Modern.
I initially overlooked Azor's Gateway as "oh, this is the set's janky combo artifact that will never end up working," but upon more reflection my opinion has changed.
Now I'm wondering if Azor's Gateway is the best card in Rivals of Ixalan.
The loot effect is quite nice. You draw first and then get to choose what to exile. Simple and solid. It's essentially Desolate Lighthouse, but it only costs one mana to activate, which is nothing to sneeze at. It does cost a card and two mana to play in the first place though.
So the loot effect is nice, similar to Search for Azcanta, but it's probably not worth it on its own. The real appeal is Sanctum of the Sun.
So how do we transform it?
Azor's Gateway is surprisingly easy to transform. All you need is enough time and the right deck. Just make sure you have some varying casting costs and hopefully some nice cards to loot into to help you survive. You don't need that many different casting costs since land counts as zero, but you can't really stick it in an aggro deck that has a curve topping out at three.
Keep in mind you don't have to aggressively try and flip Azor's Gateway since if you hit a glut of land or haven't found a mana sink, you can just keep looting every turn and exiling useless cards and lands.
Another bonus is that Azor's Gateway untaps when it transforms into Sanctum of the Sun, giving you immediate use. It also generously gains you five life, which means you're likely getting at minimum six mana if you happened to be at one, and probably a lot more.
Then all you need is some way to use that mana, making it ideally suited for a control or combo deck. You don't have to win the game on the spot, as enough card draw or something along those lines would work as well.
Keep in mind Azor's Gateway is legendary, but you can just loot away extra copies or cast your second copy once you have Sanctum of the Sun.
So what are some decks that would like Azor's Gateway?
I expect control decks to be the biggest ban beneficiaries.
I think Search for Azcanta is going to be one of the best cards in the format, if not the best, so if Azor's Gateway can compare it'll be pretty dang good too. They both work alongside each other nicely as well in the late game, since Sanctum of the Sun gives you plenty of mana, and Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin finds you plenty of good stuff to cast but is very mana-hungry.
Another benefit is that Abrade should theoretically be less prevalent as well, considering all four cards banned were mostly run in Abrade decks. Even if your opponent does Abrade a Gateway, you're still probably coming out ahead, since you get to loot first if you have a spare mana.
Torrential Gearhulk and Approach of the Second Sun are going to be winning a lot more games in the upcoming format, so it's nice they work well with both sides of Azor's Gateway. You can loot away extra copies in the early game or cast them with Sanctum of the Sun in the late game.
What else can you do with Azor's Gateway? Cycle everything! Drake Haven and Abandoned Sarcophagus are both nearly unbeatable in a deck full of cycling cards as long as you have enough mana. If only there were a way to generate tons of mana…
Farm works nicely with Azor's Gateway since it counts as having six converted mana cost when exiled with Azor's Gateway, and it's easy to go to Market with all that sweet sweet mana once you flip Azor's Gateway.
Those are some options for Standard, but does Azor's Gateway have a chance in Modern as well?
In the market for hard casting Emrakul, the Aeons Torn? Gotcha covered.
Jeskai Breach works especially well with Azor's Gateway. Not only is the loot effect excellent at finding your combo and getting rid of redundant copies, you also have access to a bunch of different casting costs to help flip Gateway faster.
Once you do flip Gateway, ideally, you just cast Emrakul, the Aeons Torn; if not, you have plenty of mana sinks in the form of Cryptic Command, Snapcaster Mage, and Sphinx's Revelation. There's also a sneaky copy of Cut as well, since you can flashback Ribbons for a lot once you flip Gateway. If you're looking to cut your opponent's life into pieces, this shouldn't be your last resort, especially in any Standard decks running red and Azor's Gateway.
Here we have pretty "regular" U/W Control and are using Azor's Gateway. Similar to Search for Azcanta, it takes a bit more work to flip but should have a much bigger impact if it does. It's easy just adding a copy of each to the main deck to get value from non-creature sources of card selection.
Sphinx's Revelation is going to be the main attraction for all the mana you get with a flipped Azor's Gateway, especially since you'll be able to add even more mana the next turn with all that life you gained. You can also just play a bunch of spells, activate multiple Celestial Colonnades, or you can live the dream of bouncing Snapcaster Mage with Cryptic Command to draw a card, hopefully multiple times in a row.
That's it for today! Do you agree with my assessment that we'll be soon accepting our new Azorius overlords thanks to Azor's Gateway? I certainly hope so.