If you get my Black Eyed Peas reference from the title, we can be friends.

Woohoo! Rivals of Ixalan Standard is here, with this coming weekend being the official release of Magic’s newest set. Players were somewhat pessimistic about Rivals of Ixalan’s ability to properly shake up Standard and dethrone the Temur/4-Color Energy decks, but the bannings of Attune with Aether, Rogue Refiner, Ramunap Ruins, and Rampaging Ferocidon have certainly given us a clean slate to work with in Standard. The timing of these bannings is also opportune due to Rivals of Ixalan’s emphasis on tribal strategies, perhaps opening the door to a Standard filled with these tribes.

That being said, I am a creature of habit, and I’ve really been enjoying and have been getting decent results with U/W Approach. I was already looking to play Approach with Rivals of Ixalan in the mix, but with Energy decks and Ramunap Red being significantly crippled by the bannings, I’m more bullish on the deck than ever. Experienced Energy pilots could position their sideboarded copies of Negate and mainboard value creatures to make games difficult for Approach, and Ramunap Red was a very draw-dependent matchup, where game 1 was frequently a one-sided game.

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In this article, I’ll be going through some Rivals of Ixalan cards that I think could see play in U/W Approach, and then give my current list that I’ll be playing this weekend. Let’s jump in!

Nezahal, Primal Tide

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One thing that I think U/W Approach has been missing is a powerful mirror breaker, and I think this could quite possibly be it. For Control mirror breakers, you’re usually looking for something that can give you an advantage over the opponent and is very hard to kill. The last one of these that we had was Sphinx of the Final Word, but for better or worse (better in my opinion) we don’t have the unbeatable, 7 mana Sphinx anymore.

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Nezahal checks off both of those boxes well, but less efficiently. It punishes opponents for casting noncreature spells, and is incredibly hard to interact with, as it can’t be countered and has the ability to dodge removal spells and sweepers. While 3 cards is a very relevant price to pay in control mirrors, it’s likely to be less than the card advantage it gains you when sitting on the board.

I’ll be giving this big 7 mana creature a try, and I’m fairly optimistic about its chances of remaining as a 1-of in my sideboard.

Crafty Cutpurse

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I’m not entirely sold on this card yet, but I think it could be a pretty powerful sideboard option against the Token decks that players are looking to try with the release of Rivals of Ixalan. It’s not excellent against the more traditional Tokens decks, as they make tokens turn after turn, but I’ll be keeping this card in the wings if that new style of Tokens deck does become a part of this Standard metagame.

Baffling End

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Now this one is definitely intriguing to me. Any 2 mana spot removal is at least somewhat playable, and the drawback of each has to be considered. This card unfortunately has multiple drawbacks. Firstly, it’s sorcery speed, but we’ve seen frequently in the past that cheap removal spells are still good even if they’re sorcery speed (see: Roast, Declaration in Stone, Walk the Plank, etc.).

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Secondly, enchantment removal spells are vulnerable to enchantment removal in a way that instant and sorcery removal spells are not. While it’s certainly situational, there are times in this format when the 3/3 Dinosaur token that rewards your opponent for removing Baffling End is worse than whatever creature you were able to exile to begin with. To make it even better, enchantment removal spells aren’t a defining feature of the format, but they very well could be if Baffling End or U/W Approach become popular. Lastly, this isn’t unconditional removal, which is a little disappointing, but U/W Approach has enough sweepers and expensive untargeted removal, and cheap interaction is really what it needs.

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I’ll be trying 1 out initially, but I’m leaning a lot closer to 2 than 0.

Flood of Recollection

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Back when U/W Approach only had Fumigate as a board wipe, I was desperate for a card like this. Its flexibility in the late game could help it find Disallow, Glimmer of Genius, or Fumigate, which are all effects that the deck was always looking to play more of. Thankfully, I don’t believe that we need this effect anymore, so I won’t be playing Flood of Recollection for the time being. But who knows, I could see it creeping into my deck at some point.

Secrets of the Golden City

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Divination is a powerful effect that has seen play in several different Control decks in the past. The ability of this very basic spell to help mana hungry decks hit their fourth land is extremely important. For U/W Approach, you ideally want to hit your first 7 lands in a row, with draw spells and cycling helping to make this happen. The additional bonus of drawing 3 cards late in the game turns this card into something that you’re happy to draw on turn 3 or on turn 12, which is the hallmark of a powerful spell. Unfortunately, 3 mana is a pretty crowded spot currently for this deck, so I’m not sure it will make the initial powerful impact that I’m hoping.

Silent Gravestone

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Graveyard decks were a notable weakness of U/W Approach decks in Ixalan Standard, with Scavenger Grounds frequently making it into the mainboard of many lists in order to hedge. What this deck struggled with was the grindy card advantage of God-Pharaoh’s Gift and Abandoned Sarcophagus. Silent Gravestone may be a somewhat mana inefficient way of dealing with “Flashback”, Embalm, Eternalize abilities, or even God-Pharaoh’s Gift, but its ability to replace itself when it exiles graveyards helps to limit the downside of stuffing your deck with situationally effective cards.

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I’ll be trying this card out for now, and it’s possible that it’ll remain as the best graveyard hate available in this format.

As promised, here is the list I’m playing right now:

UW Approach by Jonah Gaynor

Non-Creature Spells (35)
3 Opt
4 Censor
1 Baffling End
3 Essence Scatter
2 Search for Azcanta
3 Disallow
1 Secrets of the Golden City
2 Supreme Will
4 Cast Out
1 Settle the Wreckage
4 Glimmer of Genius
4 Fumigate
3 Approach of the Second Sun

Lands (25)
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Irrigated Farmland
2 Ipnu Rivulet
1 Field of Ruin
1 Scavenger Grounds
7 Plains
6 Island

Sideboard (15)
3 Authority of the Consuls
4 Regal Caracal
1 Settle the Wreckage
4 Negate
1 Nezahal, Primal Tide
2 Torrential Gearhulk

Looking forward to playing some Standard this weekend? Check out Riccardo Monico’s article on the best decks to pick up for Week One of Rivals of Ixalan Standard.

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