Welcome back everyone!

Over the past few weeks, many people have been calling out Ixalan as a terrible set, with no impact on Standard and a very one-dimensional and boring Limited format, with one of Spellsnare’s own writers commenting on it here.

Today, I am here to defend Ixalan, which I believe will do much more than people give it credit for. Before I get into that however, I want to clear something up. The Limited format in this set is indeed, in my opinion, awful. I made the top 4 at a PPTQ this weekend, and the games I played were rather sometimes interesting, and I can see how the format can get repetitive and boring quickly. The key to this sealed, truly, is simply to have flying or reach. One with the Wind is great and Cobbled Wings is playable, and so are most flyers in this set. This is great if the people you are playing against don’t know it, but can get old really quickly when you start to get paired against more experienced players and the two of you are just jamming flyers at each other. The draft format has so many non-games that it the fun games get drowned out, as the creatures in this format are poorly sized to the point that a Pirate’s Cutlass often ends up deciding the game.

Whoo! Alright, with that aside, lets talk about how Ixalan is saving Standard.

To realize why Ixalan is great, we first need to realize that it is a step in the right direction. The past year has brought us Kaladesh block, which is the real villain everyone should be talking about. Kaladesh block has been an absolute nightmare for Standard throughout it’s entire existence. Kaladesh brought us Smuggler’s Copter, Aetherworks Marvel, and the Copycat Combo, all of which necessitated bans to keep Standard “healthy.”

Even with these bans however, Kaladesh still dominates Standard. The reason for this is energy. At first, I enjoyed energy because it was yet another resource to manage. In time, however, it became clear that many of these energy cards are simply too good! Whirler Virtuoso, Longtusk Cub, Harnessed Lightning, and others are all insane cards. With Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner to facilitate them, these cards can easily become much more than Wizards planned for.

Whirler Virtuoso can often put more than 5 power on the board, and three of it has evasion, Longtusk Cub can steal a game if unanswered the turn it comes into play, and Harnessed Lightning does a very good Doom Blade impression after a while. After realizing these cards would shape Standard for the entire time they existed in it, Wizards had two paths: one, make the cards in new sets match this power level, or two, gradually decrease the power level of new cards.

Wizards chose the second option, and I believe Ixalan is the first sign of this change. Ixalan is a set that inspires synergy, whether it be with tribes or artifact synergies with treasures as an enabler, or even the +1/+1 counter synergies that the set is peppered with. When Kaladesh rotates out of Standard, I believe we will be left with a pool of cards that encourages smart deckbuilding based around new cards, not just the “good stuff” approach we see now. Currently, I believe that Ixalan is seen as a support set, but in the future, I do think we will see it take more of a foothold, especially with the release of Rivals of Ixalan providing us with new cards that work well with the ones currently printed.

I also believe that Ixalan has been just fine as a support set! Looking at just the top 4 decks in the format, we have this list of Ixalan cards:

While this is admittedly not much, it is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the power level Ixalan has to offer.

While it is true that Ixalan technically has not created any “new” decks, I believe that Search for Azcanta has done almost as much. Search for Azcanta brings a whole new dimension to control decks, making them tier 1 again! It has brought an archetype back into the spotlight, and I believe Ixalan has a few more surprises coming our way.

In truth, I think that too many people are giving up hope too quickly. White does have a place in Standard, and just because White wasn’t played at the World Championship does not mean that the Standard format is now locked into these three decks all the time. In fact, just this week, two white decks made the top 8 of the United States Nationals! Ixalan, ironically, remains largely unexplored. With the coming Pro Tour, however, I believe that we will see some Ixalan cards that have remained out of the spotlight emerge. I’ve got my eyes on some Dinosaur cards, and while I don’t think that a dedicated Dinos deck will ever be tier 1, I do think that many of the tribe’s cards have potential.

I also see potential for a Sultai Constrictor deck. The deck utilizes the power of the B/G Contrictor shell from the previous format and adds Herald of Secret Streams. I believe many of these little things exist, and that if given some time, could make a difference in Standard, even thought they may not crack into Tier 1 tournament play.

Overall, I think we have yet to see the full scale of what Ixalan has to offer us. It does indeed suck that we are stuck with this limited format for a while, but hopefully things start to look up as people figure out different strategies. Thankfully, I won’t be playing much draft or sealed at all, but rather preparing for constructed. The Baltimore Team Constructed open is next month, and I am stoked to see what happens at the Pro Tour, as I am the Standard seat on my team. Will my treasured Ramunap Red establish it’s dominance once again? Will U/B Control survive? Will we get some sick new Ixalan tech? Who knows! We can only wait and see what this format brings, and personally, I’m willing to give Ixalan a shot.

See you next week!

Riccardo Monico

If you’re looking to dive deeper into Ixalan, read Jonah Gaynor’s article here, where he goes over why he thinks Ixalan is a broken set.

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