Some (Black & White) Token Advice for Ixalan Standard


6 min read

I’m sort of a logical guy by nature. In many ways, the drive to tinker and assess is what drives me as a Magic player. While many of my brews are off the wall and won’t necessarily shape the format, the process behind them and the number of permutations I’ll explore per deck help me learn a lot about the format. Today I wanted to explore a few lessons I’ve learned and apply them with some context—this weekend’s past SCG results (Read: 10th place at #SCGDFW from Scott.) and my Magic Online PTQ, which went medium-well.

Lesson #1: Never fight a land war in Asia, or ground war against Sultai/Temur Energy.

This one took me a while to learn. I tried many different aggro strategies—Mono Black, Pirates, even UW Monument—and they were all nonsense against energy-based decks. The bevy of removal and on-board 2-for-1’s means that your beaters are going to die. Their minions are just going to kill yours and live to tell about it, and probably draw even more removal, and are generally just better than yours. Let’s look at one of my earliest brews: Mono Black Aggro.

[d title=”Mono-Black Aggro by Nick Peternell, Testing”]
Creatures
4 Dread Wanderer
4 Scrapheap Scrounger
4 Gifted Aetherborn
4 Kitesail Freebooter
4 Night Market Lookout
4 Ruin Raider
4 Vicious Conquistador

Sorcery
4 Harsh Scrutiny
4 Walk the Plank

Instant
4 Fatal Push

Land
4 Ifnir Deadlands
16 Swamp
[/d]

What seemed like a great idea with an aggressive curve and amazing mana base was quickly shut down by Rogue Refiners, Hostage Takers, and Blossoming Defenses/Abrades, Lightning Strikes, and Hazorets. To put it simply—value creatures and the great removal spells of Energy and Mono Red invalidate other ground creature strategies. This goes triply so for [mtg_card]Hostage Taker[/mtg_card].

Lesson #2: A package of Duress/Negate/Spell Pierce wrecks control.

I tried to solve lesson one by playing UW Approach. I figured if I didn’t have any creatures to interact with I could invalidate most of their deck. UW Approach laughs at Fatal Push, Abrade, and Blossoming Defense for the most part. While I think I had the right idea, I grossly underestimated the potency of Duress AND Negate in the same deck. Granted, I lost to these cards out of a UB Control deck, but Sultai Energy also has access to this package, as well as a clock to back it up. Here’s my 22nd place list from last weekends MTGO PTQ.

[d title=”UW Approach by Nick Peternell, 22nd, Magic Online PTQ”]
Instant
4 Censor
2 Essence Scatter
4 Glimmer of Genius
4 Opt
3 Settle the Wreckage
4 Supreme Will

Sorcery
3 Approach of the Second Sun
3 Fumigate

Land
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Irrigated Farmland
8 Island
1 Meandering River
8 Plains

Enchantment
4 Aether Meltdown
3 Cast Out
1 Search for Azcanta

Sideboard
4 Authority of the Consuls
2 Failure
1 Kefnet the Mindful
4 Negate
2 Regal Caracal
1 Search for Azcanta
1 Torrential Gearhulk
[/d]

To be fair, Failure // Comply was THE tech for the weekend, winning me multiple games as a white “Duress” effect. Naming Negate before casting my second Approach of the Second Sun was gas. My other loss was to above average Ramunap Red draws. Even though I came prepared for the matchup, when they draw well they’re almost unbeatable. I luckily didn’t face any Sultai Energy, but post board I can’t imagine that matchup being remotely winnable.

Lesson #3: Artifacts are unplayable. Play enchantments instead!

Between Abrade being a 3-4-of in every deck playing red, and Hostage Taker being able to steal artifacts, the card type “artifact” probably shouldn’t show up anywhere in our 75. I have no idea why all these maindeck cards double as artifact hate, but here we are. How dare you take a turn off from playing (or killing) creatures to do something cool later! Magic isn’t played that way anymore, doofus! So you you can’t play creatures, expensive sorceries, and you can’t play artifacts. That leaves enchantments and planeswalkers as safe-ish. The enchantments I have in mind:

[d title=”Abzan Tokens by zidaneen, Magic Online Competitive League (5-0)”]
Lands
4 Concealed Courtyard
4 Evolving Wilds
1 Forest
4 Ifnir Deadlands
6 Plains
2 Shefet Dunes
2 Swamp

Instants
4 Fatal Push

Enchantment
4 Anointed Procession
4 Cast Out
4 Hidden Stockpile
4 Legion’s Landing

Sorcery
1 Bontu’s Last Reckoning
4 Fumigate

Creature
4 Anointer Priest
1 Sunscourge Champion

Planeswalker
1 Liliana, Death’s Majesty
3 Vraska, Relic Seeker

Artifact
3 Renegade Map

Sideboard
3 Angel of Sanctions
3 Authority of the Consuls
4 Duress
3 Lost Legacy
2 Sunscourge Champion
[/d]

I would like to be on something very similar to this going forward. It doesn’t care about Hostage Taker or Abrade, it gains life against red decks, and it Fumigates the rest. Not to mention that Anointed Procession into Vraska ends pretty fast from any deficit. With three [mtg_card]Renegade Maps[/mtg_card] and four [mtg_card]Evolving Wilds[/mtg_card] to trigger revolt, I wonder if we could also splash for [mtg_card]Huatli, Warrior Poet[/mtg_card]. Getting two 3/3 Dinos starting on turn five and then making their team not able to block afterwards seems like an equally great way to end games quickly. Concealed Courtyard even casts all the turn one white plays!

I have a very similar list to zidaneen except it plays a cool little duo that hearkens back to the old Mardu Aristocrats days of INN-RTR Standard.

These cards combined for one of, if not the THE, sweetest synergy deck I’ve ever seen in Standard. You would cast Blasphemous Act, sacrifice creatures with it on the stack to give Cartel Aristocrat protection from red and whatever else, then proceed to dome your opponent for a minimum of 15 damage—usually enough to end the game in a single turn. Well, my friends, I’m please to say that I’ve developed the next iteration of that beloved Standard Aristocrats deck. I present to you: BW Aristocrats!

[d title=”BW Aristocrats by Nick Peternell, Ixalan Standard”]
Lands
4 Concealed Courtyard
3 Evolving Wilds
3 Ifnir Deadlands
6 Plains
4 Shefet Dunes
2 Swamp

Instant
4 Fatal Push

Artifact
3 Renegade Map

Creatures
4 Adanto Vanguard
4 Anointer Priest
3 Sacred Cat
4 Yahenni, Undying Partisan

Enchantment
4 Anointed Procession
4 Hidden Stockpile
4 Legion’s Landing

Sorcery
4 Fumigate

Sideboard
2 Arguel’s Blood Fast
2 Authority of the Consuls
4 Duress
1 Bonut’s Last Reckoning
2 Lost Legacy
4 Sunscourge Champion
[/d]

The gameplan is pretty sweet. If you haven’t figured it out yet, we sacrifice a creature to Yahenni to make it indestructible, pay four life to make Adanto Vanguard indestructible, and then we cast a Fumigate. This wipes all their creatures, gains you back the life you paid (and then some), and makes Yahenni yuuuge. Then usually we can swing for 10 or more unimpeded damage while killing all the other things. Pretty sweet stuff! One problem though—Hostage Taker. Luckily we have the full playset of Fatal Pushes and Fumigates, but God-Pharaoh help us if Hostage Taker let’s them cast our own Yahenni or Adanto Vanguard and use it against us.

Outside of the combo we are a perfectly competent BW tokens list. Yahenni even helps Legion’s Landing flip on turn turn 3 more often to set up a turn 4 Fumigate wombo-combo. I’ve considered splashing for either Vraska or Huatli, and am still playing around with the exact configuration. Adding red is especially sweet because of the eternalize synergies of Earthshaker Khenra. The extra haste is also supremely sweet with Legion’s Landing. Again though, Hostage Taker is always looming and needs to repsected, or you’ll rekt. Or should I say takt. Get takd, son! Here’s a rough Mardu Aristocrats list that hasn’t been tested:

[d title=”Mardu Aristocrats by Nick Peternell, Theorycrafting, Ixalan Standard”]
Lands
4 Concealed Courtyard
2 Dragonskull Summit
4 Inspiring Vantage
2 Mountain
2 Plains
4 Shefet Dunes
4 Swamp

Creatures
4 Adanto Vanguard
3 Earthshaker Khenra
2 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
4 Yahenni, Undying Partisan

Sorceries
3 Fumigate

Planeswalkers
2 Huatli, Warrior Poet

Enchantments
4 Anointed Procession
4 Hidden Stockpile
4 Legion’s Landing

Instant
4 Fatal Push

Artifact
4 Renegade Map
[/d]

Oh, Kari Zev is sweeeet with Revolt! And this list beats down a lot harder than the other tokens lists. I’m really excited to give this a spin. So, I’m off to do that! See you next time and thanks for reading.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Let us know! Follow Nick on twitter @NP_Basic_Island, and be sure to follow @mtgdotone to stay updated.

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