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The Lost Caverns of Ixalan is about to release and with it a lot of spicy new cards. And as with every new set release, there is a high likelihood that the Standard format is going to be affected. But will it?
Today, let’s explore what might happen to the metagame, so you’re better prepared for Day 1 of the format.
Ixalan is bringing a large swathe of removal spells into the format that will surely slot into multiple strategies. The current removal suites in decks are heavily black-focused with Cut Down and Go for the Throat at the forefront. Let’s see if it’s going to change.
Get Lost is a much better version of Fateful Absence. They are both two-mana white instants but Get Lost targets enchantments in addition to creatures and planeswalkers. Affecting enchantments is not just flavour text, as it allows you to free up your permanents from beneath Leyline Binding.
The downside of Get Lost is also much less impactful than the one of Absence. Map tokens are considerably worse than Clue for multiple reasons. First, the opponent might draw a card but it’s far from a given. On top of that, they can only be activated on sorcery speed. Last but not least, you need an actual target to activate it so on an otherwise empty board Map tokens do nothing.
I think one of the best shells for it is Azorius Control that might not need to venture into black anymore.
Dusk Rose Reliquary is a great Portable Hole impersonator that slots into token and artifact decks. It might see play in the token-heavy builds of Soldiers or in actual token strategies in Azorius or Selesnya colours.
Bitter Triumph has a real downside so it can be argued that it’s going to be tough to dethrone Go for The Throat. However, it might prove to be actually better in Reanimator shells where discarding a card is a real upside. It’d work similarly to Lightning Axe that’s played alongside Arclight Phoenix.
Rakdos Midrange has not been seen at the top tables in quite some time but now it gets a meaningful upgrade!
If not triggered, it’s still Dreadbore with an upside.
This set has both a lot of ways to ramp but also multiple powerful curve toppers to ramp into. This will make players explore other ramp strategy in addition to the well-known Five-Color variant.
This two-mana ramp spell is very simple in what it does but it provides early and consistent acceleration that expedites your draws. It allows you to curve very well into Invasion of Zendikar on turn three, from which point the world is your oyster.
Simic Ramp could be a good contender in the metagame thanks to its clean manabase that doesn’t include a million tap lands which is the case in the Five-Colour version.
This new Ghalta, Stampede Tyrant might be a new curve topper of choice in Mono Green strategies. It’s legendary so putting more Ghaltas into play won’t be of much help but you can flood the board in a single turn, threatening to kill the opponent in a single combat. It could involve some haste-giving effects to actually have one-turn kills.
In addition to Glimpse, we’re getting an actual turn one accelerant with the caveat that it can only be spent on dinosaurs. This can result in big Dino strategies that want to stomp the opponent to death.
New Creature Lands
The cycle of Restless lands is finished and now we’ve got full ten.
From the last cycle, easily the most impactful has been Restless Cottage.
It has been a staple of Golgari Midrange where it hits hard, provides Food to stabilize, and is a recurrable target for Blossoming Tortoise.
From this cycle I could see multiple things happening.
The Azorius land might slot into a sort of flash deck with a bit of a higher curve. Having such an evasive threat always available is great. It could also slot into Azorius Control as a way to close games similarly to how Hall of Storm Giants did, a cheap blocker, or to kill of Planeswalkers.
Vents might make Jund Midrange viable and work combined with Cottage to form the ultimate Blossoming Tortoise strategy. It’s rummage ability is not trivial, as it’d allow you to filter though dead cards later in the game.
Slower Dimir Midrange decks will certainly adopt Reef even if just in 1-2 copies. A 4/4 deathtouching threat is great on the offense and defense. The mill ability should be largely irrelevant but there may be a shell out there where you’d like to mill yourself!
The last two last, Selesnya and Gruul, I reckon have the least potential but there might be new decks where they’re going to shine. However, as of now I’m most skeptical of them.
The Creature Types
With Cavern of Souls in the format, I think creature decks will get a really nice boost. It might open the doors for otherwise average tribal strategies.
The main reason why Cavern helps so much is the mana fixing. While slow decks can afford to play a tap land here and there, aggro strategies have to get going immediately and so the mana has to be untapped and of correct colours. A single turn of not deploying onto the battlefield can be fatal.
The first creature type that might see play is Merfolk. I could see it in a tempo-oriented shell where you have a couple of small threats and supplant it with cheap countermagic and tricks.
Another creature type I could see is Gruul Dinosaurs. This would admittedly be a much bigger creature deck than Merfolk or Humans but this is where the uncounterable clause comes in. When deploying 4+ drops, you wouldn’t want them to get Make Disappear-ed.
There could also be a Vampire deck out there! Going three colours like Mardu can be a tough stretch on the mana but if you add Cavern into the mix, it becomes much more manageable! A Rakdos base with Edgar, Charmed Groom and Sanguine Evangelist is waiting to be fully refined.