Rivals of Ixalan Archetype Primer: B/G, B/R Midrange, B/R Pirate Aggro, R/G Dinosaurs, U/G Sailor

In the last installment of this series, I’ll cover all of the remaining archetypes after part 1 and part 2. I will go through each archetype, what defines them, what to look for, and what cards get better or worse in that archetype. Even though, for example, Merfolk Mistbinder is better for Merfolk, it doesn’t mean I would take it over The Immortal Sun. Also, that something such as Anointed Deacon is getting worse when you’re R/B Pirates goes without saying, and won’t be listed as a card that gets worse when you’re R/B Pirates. Let’s begin!

U/G Sailor of Means

U/G Sailor of Means is usually where I end up if I pick up some powerful cards in each color, but someone else is taking the Merfolk cards or there just aren’t any in the packs, much like W/B Midrange and W/B Vampires. As the name suggests, this archetype is trying to combine cards like Sailor of Means that produce Treasure and fixing in green like Thunderherd Migration and New Horizons to play some really powerful cards. With these, ramping and splashing is easy. and while I call the archetype U/G Sailor of Means, it’s often 3 or 4 colors. Similar to its predecessor archetype from Hour of Devastation with Oasis Ritualist, you are trying to pick up whatever bombs you can splash, whether it’s Etali, Primal Storm or even Azor, the Lawbringer. Something like Contract Killing is a also a perfect splash since if you use Treasures to cast it, it replaces them to be used for other cards you’ve splashed.

If you don’t get the splash cards needed or the bomb payoffs, you can also turn around and draft a regular U/G proactive deck, featuring cards like Crashing Tide, Hunt the Weak, Hardy Veteran, and Kitesail Corsair. But I would not try to draft this archetype since it can be quite hard to develop a defined plan since a lot of the cards go in different directions, whether they are proactive, defensive, or just Merfolk tribal, meaning that this is the third and last way I would prefer to draft blue-green.

Cards that become better in U/G Sailor of Means:


Sunbird's InvocationStar of ExtinctionZacama, Primal Calamity


Drover of the MightyThunderherd MigrationCrested HerdcallerReckless RageAtzocan Archer


Contract KillingHardy VeteranSailor of MeansSecrets of the Golden CityNew Horizons

Cards that become worse in U/G Sailor of Means:

Crashing TideDeadeye Rig-HaulerJadecraft ArtisanCurious ObsessionTempest CallerStorm Fleet Aerialist

B/R Pirates Aggro

B/R Pirates Aggro is similar to Merfolk in that it’s defined by its uncommons. But instead of the many different uncommons in Merfolk you want to have, B/R Pirates is only looking for one in particular: Dire Fleet Neckbreaker. Now, clearly Dire Fleet Neckbreaker is very strong, but why is it so important to R/B Pirates Aggro? The reason is in the context of the format. A lot of decks are trying to block because there are a lot of great defensive creatures.

This becomes an issue for R/B because it can’t keep trading only to be stymied by bigger creatures. Unlike other good aggressive decks in this format, R/B doesn’t really have evasion. At common you are looking at Blight Keeper, Vampire Revenant, and Skymarch Bloodletter. That’s all, and none of them are Pirates! This means that Dire Fleet Neckbreaker is incredibly important to help your smaller aggressive creatures get through the likes of Sailor of Means, and keep your threats relevant later in the game. Without it, this archetype can trainwreck without bombs.

Other than that, much like U/R Pirates Aggro, Buccaneer’s Bravado is where it’s at and usually the best way to close out games. It will be harder to make happen since you lack evasion, but can get busted in combination with Dire Fleet Neckbreaker. If you are ever so lucky to assemble Dire Fleet Poisoner, Buccaneer’s Bravado, and Tilonalli’s Crown, get ready for some fireworks.

Cards that become better in B/R Pirates Aggro:


Rowdy CrewDire Fleet PoisonerFathom Fleet Captain



Fathom Fleet BoarderHeadstrong BrutePirate's CutlassBuccaneer's BravadoGoblin Trailblazer

Cards that become worse in B/R Pirates Aggro:

Dusk ChargerDesperate CastawaysMutinySkittering HeartstopperGolden DemiseNeedletooth Raptor

B/R Midrange

B/R Midrange is quite different from R/B Pirates Aggro. R/B Midrange uses R/B Pirates Aggro’s largest weakness, that its creatures trade easily, to its advantage. This deck uses cards like Dinosaur Hunter, Skittering Heartstopper and removal to trade 1-for-1 and then gets advantage from reverse looting cards such as Rummaging Goblin and Pirate’s Pillage alongside black card advantage recursion effects like Recover and March of the Drowned. This is a back-up plan if you don’t get the key card for R/B Pirates—Dire Fleet Neckbreaker—but a pretty good back-up plan at that and remarkably efficient.

The best way to leverage your card advantage is to be proactive so that your opponent wants to trade with your creatures by nature, which most people usually want against R/B decks. Another great way to leverage your recursion effects is to have a few great targets for them, where the king of them all is Ravenous Chupacabra. If you aren’t so fortunate to get a bomb like Dire Fleet Daredevil or Ravenous Chupacabra to bring back, cards like Dusk Legion Zealot and Needletooth Raptor are great as well.

Cards that become better in B/R Midrange:


Dire Fleet DaredevilBoneyard ParleyAngrath, the Flame-Chained


Heartless PillageRavenous ChupacabraNeedletooth RaptorStorm Fleet ArsonistFiery Cannonade


March of the DrownedRecoverSkittering HeartstopperFathom Fleet FirebrandDinosaur Hunter

Cards that become worse in B/R Midrange:

SwashbucklingTilonalli's CrownBuccaneer's BravadoGoblin TrailblazerDusk ChargerMark of the VampireBonded HorncrestRigging Runner

B/G Stuff

For those who’ve read my pick order article, you know that this is my least favorite archetype. That is, if it’s to be called an archetype at all! Not that B/G was a big archetype in triple-Ixalan, but at least it had a wonky explore theme going for it. The only three reasonable explore cards in Rivals of Ixalan are all rares: Tomb Robber, Jadelight Ranger, and Path of Discovery. Even if you get a few of these rares, you still have to hope to get that and the uncommon payoff in the last pack, Wildgrowth Walker foremost and also Lurking Chupacabra, which is a daring proposition to say the very least. The only time I really am in these colors is when I get rares in both colors, or open a Tetzimoc, Primal Death and see that green is very open.

The issue isn’t only the lack of synergy, but its unfocused place in the Limited metagame. It’s not aggressive and can’t punish control decks in the same way aggro decks do, nor does it have the means to grind them out. Competing with Secrets of the Golden City is hard. Even if you get a number of Jungle Creeper, remember that it’s only a 3/3 and can be blocked indefinitely by a Sailor of Means. The other issue is trying to control the aggressive decks. Most aggressive decks try to beat you with evasion, and B/G doesn’t really have a good way to stop that! There’s one common reach creature in green and that’s Grazing Whiptail, which you can only find in the last pack! All the flyers at common are also aggressively slanted—and there are only three of them, two of which are in the last pack—and easily gets picked off or traded with, which doesn’t help either. Plummet and Crushing Canopy help, but not nearly enough and only post-sideboard. Since the deck also has trouble getting aggressive, it’s hard to race these decks, which leaves you in a particularly bad position.

I usually am quite open-minded to drafting archetypes in different Limited formats because if one is better than the other, the metagame shifts and you get compensated, but for this archetype even I have a hard time touching. At least you can make a Meme deck where you can return four targets with Grim Captain’s Call. If you end up here, I guess here’s what gets better or worse in it.

Cards that become better in B/G Stuff:


Journey to Eternity // Atzal, Cave of EternityJadelight RangerGhalta, Primal Hunger


Atzocan ArcherJungle CreeperGrim Captain's CallWildgrowth WalkerGolden Demise


Skymarch BloodletterDusk Legion ZealotHardy VeteranGrazing WhiptailColossal Dreadmaw

Cards that become worse in B/G Stuff:

Anything too proactive or synergy-based.

R/G Dinosaurs

R/G Dinosaurs is actually one of my favorite archetypes. This is usually the most solid place to go if green is open, where Merfolk, for example, is less solid but has a higher ceiling. R/G Dinosaurs, by comparison to W/R Chicken Control or W/G Chicken Control, is proactive. You want to draft a great curve and pressure your opponent. Due to the nature of the green tricks and the green creatures being larger in general than in R/B, it suffers less from a lack of evasion.

When it comes to synergy, there’s actually not a ton of it at common in Rivals of Ixalan except Stampeding Horncrest. At uncommon we find Forerunner of the Empire for synergy, which is fantastic and usually a reason to jump into R/G Dinosaurs. The dream is to set it up with Needletooth Raptor or Polyraptor. Speaking of Polyraptor, much like going big is W/G Chicken Control’s game plan at all times, R/G Dinosaurs can definitely do that as well, but it requires a great mythic or rare like Polyraptor or Zacama, Primal Calamity. If you draft one of these, Knight of the Stampede once more transforms from unplayable to great. Otherwise, I prefer not to go bigger than Stampeding Horncrest in my R/G Dinosaurs decks, sometimes featuring 1 Colossal Dreadmaw.

Cards that become better in R/G Dinosaurs:


Rampaging FerocidonRegisaur AlphaGhalta, Primal Hunger


Drover of the MightyThrashing BrontodonBonded HorncrestForerunner of the EmpireRaging Regisaur


Stampeding HorncrestGoblin TrailblazerTilonalli's KnightJadecraft ArtisanThrash of Raptors

Cards that become worse in R/G Dinosaurs:

Ixalli's DivinerStorm Fleet SwashbucklerSee RedSwashbuckling


That’s it for all of my archetypes from Ixalan Draft! As mentioned, there are a ton of them and that’s what makes the format great. I hope these definitions of each archetype helped you explore new things in Ixalan Draft and that you learned something. I hope that we will see another great format such as this one again soon and I wish that there were even more tournaments in Ixalan Limited.

Ranking the Archetypes

  • W/B Vampires Ascend
  • U/R Pirates Aggro
  • W/U Ascend
  • R/G Dinos
  • U/G Merfolk
  • W/B Midrange
  • U/B Pirates Control
  • W/R Chicken Control
  • W/B Vampires Aggro
  • B/R Pirates Aggro
  • B/R Midrange
  • U/R Control
  • U/G Sailor of Means
  • W/G Chicken Control
  • B/G Stuff

1 thought on “Rivals of Ixalan Archetype Primer: B/G, B/R Midrange, B/R Pirate Aggro, R/G Dinosaurs, U/G Sailor”

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