Top 15 Ixalan Cards Making Competitive Showings in Standard

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Now that half the Standard format has rotated, (RIP to my Standard collection), the addition of Ixalan is bound to have a significant impact on the format! So what cards have the Dino/Pirate themed set brought to the tournament scene? This weekend, the SCG open in Dallas gave us the first look at the competitive Standard environment.

Here are the top 15 Ixalan cards that made competitive showings in the new Ixalan Standard:

  1. Checklands

    It's no surprise that checklands have impacted the format. With all-star manlands rotating, decks need more mana fixing, and checklands are perfect for the job. While these are mostly a downgrade from the previous lands in Standard, and not as good as fastlands, you have to play what you are given. The new art is pretty sweet though.

  2. Chart a Course

    # of Copies in SCG Open Top 8: 2

    With a surprising Top 8 showing, Esper Gifts finally brought the God-Pharoah's Gift decks into a top-tier showing. Chart a Course is a Divination with a one mana discount if you attacked... and if you didn't you get to advance your discard into Gate-Gift strategy. Sounds good to me!

  3. Vona, Butcher of Magan

    # of Copies in SCG Open Top 8: 2 This card also made a Top 8 appearance in Esper Gifts. With the loss of Kalitas, Vona seems like a nice way to deal with aggro (despite a high CMC). Since this card has vigilance, you can gain 4 on the attack, and 4 on defense. That's a lot of life gain. If you are feeling ahead, or are playing against a slow deck, the ability to destroy any nonland permanent is a nice bonus.

  4. Vraska, Relic Seeker

    # of Copies in SCG Open Top 8: 2

    Vraska made it as a one of in the SB of both Top 8 Sultai Energy decks, including the one that placed 1st in the tournament. While only a single copy made it into both sideboards, the times it hit play, it made a big difference, and arguably won games. It makes threats, it kills just about any permanent, and it has a near game-winning ultimate. What more can you ask for from a 6 drop planeswalker? I think it is a safe bet that Vraska will see more top 8 play. Even if it is regulated to SB status for the time being.

  5. Spell Pierce

    # of Copies in SCG Open Top 8: 3

    Appearing exclusively as a SB card, Spell Pierce made some nominal impact in the new Standard. For one blue mana, Spell Pierce offers a lot of tempo advantage. While Negate is still the go-to SB counter for blue decks, Spell Pierce still saw relevant play. While you might think Spell Pierce would see play as anti-duress and Negate tech for U/W approach, it was not used in those decks, but instead utilized in Energy builds.

  6. Slash of Talons

    # of Copies in SCG Open Top 8: 3

    Slash of Talons made it into the SB of one of the Top 8 Approach decks. Ramunap is still one of the top decks of the format, and is as fast as ever. With the ability to close games without a board state, thanks to Ramunap Ruins, every early creature hit makes a big difference. Slash of Talons gives white control decks a nice SB tech option for turn one and two removal. It also works well with the many come into play tap lands that the deck runs, since you only need one white mana to play it.

  7. Seeker's Squire

    # of Copies in SCG Open Top 8: 4 Seeker's Squire is a key part of the new Esper Gifts deck, and you will always want to maindeck 4. It does everything you want your two drop to do. It draws you a card, or it can help put a creature into your graveyard to trigger Gate quicker. It also makes a great chump blocker. Make no mistake, Esper Gifts is a real deck now. And Ixalan has added a lot of missing pieces to the God-Pharoah's Gift decks.

  8. Search for Azcanta

    # of Copies in SCG Open Top 8: 4 I'm super happy to see this card in the Top 8. While this card only saw Top 8 play in Approach decks, it also saw a lot of play in homebrews. Watching this card in coverage, you can tell it is an absolute powerhouse. The flipped land ability is insane. Once you survive to late game, you essentially get a free Supreme Will (search for a card in your top 4) every turn. The digging ability is huge. The early scry ability is pretty decent too. Also, you can think of this card as a Rampant Growth at two mana, that has Suspend 4 or so, and lets you scry each turn.

  9. Lightning Strike

    # of Copies in SCG Open Top 8: 4

    Was there ever any doubt that Lightning Strike was going to make it into Ramunap decks? While Scrapheap's are giddy at Incendiary Flow's rotation, Lightning Strike is a reasonably powerful replacement, and a big upgrade considering Zombies is dead, and Scrapheaps saw less play post rotation.

  10. Opt

    # of Copies in SCG Open Top 8: 4

    A full playset of Opt was run in one of the Top 8 Approach decks, with 0 copies in the other. It is reasonable to say Opt will see play in Approach decks moving forward. I'm on the side of running 4 copies instead of 0. The biggest hurdle of Approach decks is having to hit 7 lands consistently, and Opt gives you a nice way to avoid mana screw, as well as a cheap way to dig through your deck late game.

  11. Settle the Wreckage

    # of Copies in SCG Open Top 8: 6

    White lost some relevant removal in rotation, leaving a hole to be filled by Ixalan. Settle the Wreckage filled that gap in both Top 8 Approach decks. It's kind of an awkward card. For starters, it targets a player, not creatures, so it will exile things with hexproof. Being able to hit hexproof cards like Bristling Hydra is a big deal. Previously, you could do it with Blessed Alliance, but only if that was the only attacking creature. So in some sense, this is an upgrade. Against red decks, you don't gain any life, so it is a downgrade in that sense.

    Giving your opponent lands can be a huge downside, so you don't always want to cast this card, at risk of ramping your opponent. It also thins out lands from their deck, meaning your opponent has a higher density of threats. Still, being able to exile 3 or more attackers for 4 mana is a huge tempo play. Just make sure you can follow it up with relevant spells and it can go a long way.

  12. Vraska’s Contempt

    # of Copies in SCG Open Top 8: 7

    I was a big fan of Vraska's Contempt when it was spoiled. And then I saw Carnage Tyrant, and got a lot less excited. Anyway, Vraska's Contempt is no Grasp of Darkness, but it is a good 4 drop removal. We rarely get instant speed planeswalker removal, so this is a sweet upgrade to Hour of Glory. The life gain is very useful vs decks like Ramunap, where every point matters. Four mana removal is quite expensive, but there are only so many ways you can deal with Hazoret in Standard, and this is one that gets the job done. Also, the art is pretty sweet.

  13. Deathgorge Scavenger

    # of Copies in SCG Open Top 8: 8

    When two decks SB 4 copies of a card, you know it must be a hoser. I love this card! It is absolutely brutal vs graveyard decks like Gift and Scarab God. It is also amazing vs Ramunap, where the life gain swings are huge. Two life a turn is a big deal. I expect this card to see a lot more play, and even make its way to some maindecks. Pick these up while they are under $5 in paper form!

  14. Hostage Taker

    # of Copies in SCG Open Top 8: 8

    Hostage Taker proved itself to be an all around all-star in Esper Gifts and Sultai Energy decks. This card has jumped from $6 at the time of release, to almost $20 a pop now. When you need to draw a card to get back in the game or achieve a dominant position, this is the card you want. Given that it can survive one turn, it does a lot of work. Hostage Taker reminds me a lot of Scarab God, but it lets you immediately affect the board state, and for one mana less.

  15. Duress

    # of Copies in SCG Open Top 8: 12

    Duress was the SB staple for the SCG Open Top 8. Cheap black hand disruption has always made for a great SB card, and Duress is no exception. With a lot of creature-based decks dominating, I would expect Duress to largely avoid maindecks and stick to the SB. It is valuable tech vs Approach decks and other strategies that rely on non-creature cards to win.

    Which Ixalan cards do you think we will see next in competitive Standard? Leave us a comment below! The Top 8 Decks from the SCG Standard Open in Dallas can be found here.