Sanguine Evangelist

Standard Meta Report – The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Week 1

The Lost Caverns of Ixalan is officially out! And with that, we’re looking at a brand new metagame, both on the ladder and in the Arena Events.

Have the top three decks remained the same? Are there going to be any strategies breaking into tier 1?

Today, let’s dive deeper into what’s going on currently in the format and what you should expect when climbing straight to Mythic!

The Best of One Environment

My experience has shown time and time again that Best of One is where new strategies thrive. Players want to quickly verify if at least the general idea of a deck they’re brewing has legs.

This might be deceiving though as they will have to play through way more aggressive strategies, skewing the overall perspective.

So what’s old and new in Best of One right now?

Mono White Humans
by Skura
Buy on TCGplayer $99.05
Standard
best of 3
4 mythic
30 rare
8 uncommon
18 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+

The current best deck in Best of One (as it has been for some time) is Mono White. There are a few flavours floating around but it’s usually hard-focused on pressure and closing games fast.

Even though the deck has firmly held a grasp on the top tables, it still got a couple new toys!

Warden of the Inner Sky is a new one-drop for the strategy that can grow as the game progresses and even provide some card selection.

Sanguine Evangelist is a tough nut to evaluate since on the one hand it grows the board, which works nicely with Adeline, Resplendent Cathar and the Knight-Errant of Eos angle, but on the other it’s not a Human so it lacks synergy with Coppercoat Vanguard.

Boros Aggro
by Skura
Buy on TCGplayer $107.36
Standard
best of 3
0 mythic
36 rare
12 uncommon
12 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+

There could be some other flavours of aggro developing with new cards. We can keep the core mentioned above of Knight, Adeline, and Evangelist but put it in a shell with red.

In this deck, Anim Pakal is a sort of boros Adeline that allows us to play virtually more copies. Having two points of toughness is certainly a downside but it’s possible that if you play your cards right, the cheap removal will have been used on your early drops..

It also gets permanent +1/+1 counters that don’t vanish – contrary to Adeline whose power decreases when the board position diminishes.

Azorius Soldiers
by Skura
Buy on TCGplayer $169
Standard
best of 3
0 mythic
37 rare
12 uncommon
11 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Instants (4)
4
Make Disappear
$2.76
Enchantments (4)
Lands (24)
3
Plains
$1.05
4
Adarkar Wastes
$21.96
4
Seachrome Coast
$11.96
2
Deserted Beach
$7.98
2
Mirrex
$6.98
60 Cards
$185.48

One of the de facto best decks in the entire format is Azorius Soldiers.

I think it’s gotten only stronger and no new emerging deck in the metagame seems to be able to prey on it.

While Make Disappear might lose equity because of Cavern of Souls, the rest of the shell is as strong as ever.

One could take it a more flashy route, taking advantage of Malcolm, Alluring Scoundrel – who’s impressed me immensely in the games I’ve played with and against it.

Blue Decks

This set seems to have influenced blue decks particularly strong – and it’s crucial since most decks at the top have been blue.

Let’s start off with the decks of Esper variety.

Esper Legends and Esper Midrange have been seen a lot in Mythic and in other online results. They have neither lost a lot nor gained much from Ixalan.

However, I think there might be space for Dimir or Azorius decks to come in.

Azorius Control
by Skura
Buy on TCGplayer $285.65
Standard
best of 3
4 mythic
38 rare
4 uncommon
14 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Planeswalkers (4)
Creatures (4)
Instants (18)
4
Make Disappear
$2.76
4
Get Lost
$23.96
3
Memory Deluge
$2.07
3
Out of Air
$1.05
Sorceries (2)
2
Sunfall
$6.98
Enchantments (4)
4
Leyline Binding
$51.96
Lands (28)
5
Island
$1.75
2
Plains
$0.70
4
Adarkar Wastes
$21.96
4
Deserted Beach
$15.96
60 Cards
$368.54

These two-mana removal spells might allow some decks to pivot into straight two colours. While Triumph is worse than Get Lost in my opinion, it can have some unique utility e.g. in graveyard centric decks.

The biggest reason to stay Esper has been Raffine and this doesn’t change much. As it died to Go for the Throat, it’s going to die likewise to other new removal spells.

Overall, depending on how you feel about Raffine specifically you’ll go Esper, Dimir, or Azorius.

Dimir Tempo
by Skura
Buy on TCGplayer $137.24
Standard
best of 3
2 mythic
20 rare
14 uncommon
24 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Creatures (8)
4
Haughty Djinn
$7.16
Instants (23)
2
Syncopate
$0.70
3
Cut Down
$2.97
4
Impulse
$1.40
3
Make Disappear
$2.07
Sorceries (2)
2
Gix’s Command
$1.18
Enchantments (2)
Lands (25)
13
Island
$4.55
2
Swamp
$0.70
60 Cards
$187.4

As I mentioned in one other piece of mine, Mono Blue Tempo is affected particularly by Cavern of Souls. This deck has always relied heavily on countermagic while Esper Midrange or Legends play none or just very little.

If we switch the backbone of the deck to being more removal and pressure with a sprinkle of countermagic, then we can compete.

With the clear uptick of ramp decks overall, I reckon this type of shell, whatever the exact configuration, can run the tables in a meta that expects to hardcast Atraxa, Grand Unifier.

Atraxa and Friends

Five-Color Ramp
by Skura
Buy on TCGplayer $329.96
Standard
best of 3
8 mythic
33 rare
9 uncommon
10 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Creatures (11)
4
Topiary Stomper
$9.16
Instants (1)
Sorceries (8)
4
Sunfall
$13.96
4
Herd Migration
$1.96
Artifacts (2)
Enchantments (9)
4
Leyline Binding
$51.96
Lands (25)
4
Forest
$1.40
1
Island
$0.35
2
Plains
$0.70
3
Swamp
$1.05
2
Cavern of Souls
$75.98
60 Cards
$479.86
Sideboard
1
Negate
$0.35
1
Destroy Evil
$1.49
2
Knockout Blow
$0.78
2
Duress
$0.70
15 Cards
$12.37

Hardcasting Atraxa, Grand Unifier in Ranked ladder is still a viable option. It’s great at punishing strategies that are testing things out and trying to create interesting synergies. There is one card in particular that is a dream-destroyer.

Decks like Dinosaurs, Merfolk, Vampires, Angels – if not meltingly fast, they fall to a turn-four Sunfall pretty easily.

From the Ramp perspective, it’s as hard to dethrone as ever.

In my list, Mirrex has to go in order to accommodate a card that singlehandedly invalidates a lot of post-board strategies – Cavern of Souls.

Trying to beat Atraxa when you can get Sunfalled but also can’t counter the payoff is going to be hard.

From what I’ve played, this is one of my strongest frontrunners for the best deck in the entire format!

Creature Types and Brews

I’ve played a lot of ladder and I have to admit that players love to innovate.

I haven’t seen that much diversity in quite a while. Let me show you some decks that have impressed me.

Orzhov Angels
by Skura
Buy on TCGplayer $138.56
Standard
best of 3
8 mythic
38 rare
0 uncommon
14 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Instants (2)
2
Get Lost
$11.98
Lands (24)
5
Plains
$1.75
1
Swamp
$0.35
4
Caves of Koilos
$3.16
4
Cavern of Souls
$151.96
60 Cards
$331.56

The moment I saw Cavern of Souls naming Angel, I knew something was up. With previously printed Metropolis Reformer and now Resplendent Angel, this creature type has stomped me into the ground when I registered Mono Red Aggro. I wanted fast games, I got undefeatable white walls of life gain.

This might also be a good anti-Mono-White choice with all the blocking capabilities the deck has. There is something here, especially in aggressive metagame.

Simic Merfolk
by Skura
Buy on TCGplayer $216.21
Standard
best of 3
4 mythic
41 rare
9 uncommon
6 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Artifacts (2)
Enchantments (4)
Lands (24)
1
Forest
$0.35
5
Island
$1.75
4
Yavimaya Coast
$5.96
4
Cavern of Souls
$151.96
60 Cards
$375.92

Another impressive deck that I’ve seen is Merfolk.

Taking advantage of Tishana's Tidebinder and Vodalian Hexcatcher, you can play a flash game whist putting pressure. It immediately resembles Soldiers.

There have been multiple versions that I’ve seen. Some go full on creatures which is the natural route.

There are variants that want to complement that flash gameplay with cards like Spell Pierce (my beloved) or Make Disappear.

Fight Rigging
by Skura
Buy on TCGplayer $248.74
Standard
best of 3
12 mythic
38 rare
6 uncommon
4 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Instants (4)
Artifacts (4)
Enchantments (6)
4
Fight Rigging
$3.16
Lands (24)
3
Forest
$1.05
1
Island
$0.35
4
Llanowar Wastes
$9.16
4
Darkslick Shores
$13.96
4
Shipwreck Marsh
$19.96
4
Deathcap Glade
$59.96
60 Cards
$302.24

According to many it’s the best breakout deck of Ixalan.

Breakout might be a bit of a stretch since we’ve known this deck for a good while but now it might finally have the necessary tools.

Fight Rigging loves creatures with high power and coincidentally Ixalan has given us a creature that can be played very early – even before Rigging comes down.

With the curve of turn two Ancient into turn three Rigging, a lot of opponents will be left scrambled.

I’ve heard about this menace, I’ve seen this menace. I think players will have to pack Go for the Throats as otherwise they might be in for some bad bad time.

Caves Ramp
by Skura
Buy on TCGplayer $116.6
Standard
best of 3
0 mythic
17 rare
31 uncommon
12 common
0
1
2
3
4
5
6+
Creatures (8)
Instants (3)
Sorceries (12)
Artifacts (3)
3
The Irencrag
$1.77
Enchantments (8)
4
Spelunking
$9.16
4
Bat Colony
$1.40
Lands (26)
6
Forest
$2.10
4
Cavernous Maw
$1.40
1
Hidden Nursery
$0.35
1
Hidden Volcano
$0.35
2
Sunken Citadel
$0.98
60 Cards
$100.86

The last interesting quantity I want to mention are the Caves.

I’ve played against it more than I’d expect and it was surprisingly tough to beat!

The first few games certainly catch you by surprise and the moment you get what’s happening – it might just be too late.

It’s also tough to attack as there is a lot of value in lands themselves so conventional measures won’t cut it.

While you’re trying to make sure that Etali, Primal Conqueror doesn’t resolve and you yourself can push damage through despite opposing removal, at some point the caves deck will start animating the lands and getting into the red zone.

At first, I thought it was a complete meme deck.

Now, I’m scared of what bright innovators can do with this shell going forward.

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Skura
Skura

Also known as Skura or IslandsInFront on Twitter and YouTube, Filip started his career upon the release of Gatecrash and has been passing the turn in all formats ever since. He coaches and creates written and video content, mainly centered around the control archetype. He is passionate about Magic game theory and countering spells. Outside of Magic, he is a fan of snooker/pool, chess and Project Management.

Articles: 129

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