While Ixalan spoilers keep rolling out, I’m waiting with bated breath to analyze the new cards until I see some more Pirates and Dinosaurs. While cleaning out my suitcase from my trip to Grand Prix DC, I immediately sat down at my kitchen table to sort through my entire collection of Standard cards, and enthusiastically removed every card that rotates out with Ixalan from my Standard box, relegating all of my Eldrazi and Archangel Avacyns and Gideon, Ally of Zendikars to their own box in my closet, likely never to be seen again.
While looking through my collection, I couldn’t help but reevaluate some of the cards that I think will gain some traction in a smaller Standard format. They are cards that never got a chance to shine, or got pushed out for better cards as new sets entered Standard.
With all the bannings, and a big rotation, it’s important to go back and revisit the cards that just didn’t quite pan out in Standard, or that didn’t have as big of an impact as we may have thought.
The following 10 cards will gain value competing in a smaller Standard format and have potential to see play again, or in some cases for the first time.
10) Drake Haven
Now I’ve said it before, Drake Haven is either hit or miss. You’ll either see this card create an entire archetype, or you won’t see it at all.
When this card was first spoiled in Amonkhet, I was excited to start building around it. Drake Haven offers a build-around option for cycling that was always outmatched by the power of the rest of the format with cards like Aetherworks Marvel around. If the format becomes slower and grindier, Drake Haven may have a place to shine in the metagame.
The aggressive decks may have slowed down enough thanks to losing half of the sets in Standard that it’s possible Drake Haven could be a reasonable deck to build. We don’t get more cycling cards, but we get the same deck in a weaker overall metagame.
One thing working against Drake Haven is that the decks built with Drake Haven kind of look like Approach the Second Suns decks, with a ton of cycling and card draw. Drake Haven is a bit more proactive, and can play offense against planeswalkers and defense against creatures earlier in the game, whereas Approach can’t. Drake Haven can also get underneath 3-mana counterspells, whereas Approach the Second Suns always has trouble against even a single counterspell because it’s a 7-mana sorcery.
I think Drake Haven may be worth trying again after rotation, but my confidence level isn’t extremely high it will work out.
9) Herald of Anguish
Herald of Anguish was always an impressive card that couldn’t find a good spot. The improvise mechanic was a bit of a failure for Standard, and while it was played in fringe decks, Herald of Anguish didn’t have enough support from artifacts to be considered in most black decks. I remember that in the times I did play against improvise decks, this was generally the only card I was ever scared of.
Herald of Anguish has a couple of things going for it in Ixalan Standard, however. First of all, it has 5 toughness. With Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Glorybringer sure to see an uptick in play, 5 toughness is the sweet spot for all of the opponent’s red removal, as I think red will likely be the best color in Standard moving forward.
The new Treasure token mechanic is also a way to put artifacts into play that can both fuel the Herald of Anguish’s activated ability and make Herald cheaper to cast. While I do think you would need to see a couple of solid cards that create Treasure to push Herald of Anguish into a tier 1 deck, if you do happen to see that in the rest of Ixalan, I’d be excited to build around this Demon or anything with improvise.
So far I don’t see enough for Herald of Anguish to push itself into Standard playability, but we’re only one or two good cards away.
8) Glory-Bound Initiate
Glory-Bound Initiate is a solid, aggressive creature from Amonkhet that only saw fringe play in Standard. White is getting hit hard with the loss of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Archangel Avacyn, and needs to look elsewhere to make up for its losses.
The ability to turn into a lifelinking creature can swing races dramatically against a deck like Mono-Red, a deck that doesn’t lose many cards at all, so Glory-Bound Initiate may be an important piece of the puzzle in reshaping how white plays in Ixalan Standard.
7) Metallic Mimic
Metallic Mimic has always been unimpressive, but the fact we’re getting Vampires, Merfolk, and Pirates as relevant creature types that may need lords to push them into playability means that Metallic Mimic may have a chance to help create an archetype with any of these tribes moving forward. I guess we have Dinosaurs too, but my guess is they’re too big and too expensive to get anything out of a Metallic Mimic.
It’s very likely not all of these tribes are top-tier Standard decks, but as we saw with Zombies, one of them may turn out to be a top contender, and in all likelihood, Metallic Mimic plays a small role in any of those decks.
6) Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh
Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh had a lot of hype coming out of Hour of Devastation, but we didn’t see him much. While I still don’t think Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh is quite going to live up to its hype, the format may be a little better suited for him moving forward.
U/R Control splashing Nicol Bolas was where you most often saw the God-Pharaoh, but it was sort of an unnecessary addition to the deck as a win condition outside of Torrential Gearhulk. You had Wandering Fumarole in a pinch to close out games after you took full control, and didn’t really need ways to win the game outside of that Gearhulk. Without creaturelands to back you up, decks like U/R control that don’t lose many cards at all might look to Nicol Bolas, God Pharaoh for that plan B.
While Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh is an extremely powerful card, it also competes with other win conditions such as The Scarab God, a card we now know is for real after a GP Turin win from Robin Dolar.
Lastly, don’t forget that we may not have seen all of the cards that produce Treasure yet, and if there are more options for control decks, more expensive spells get more playable when they cost 1 less mana.
So maybe I’m a bit biased with my love for the God-Pharaoh’s Gift, but the U/W God-Pharaoh’s Gift deck didn’t lose much at all, while the U/R Gift deck lost the reason for its existence: Insolent Neonate.
The one issue holding this archetype back is all of the additional graveyard hate that has been rolling out, including Sentinel Totem—yet another way to exile your entire graveyard.
While this archetype may have success at some point, it could wax and wane in popularity depending on how heavily the deck is hated out at any given time. I am definitely looking forward to repairing and making improvements to this archetype though.
4) Rishkar, Peema Renegade
When Rishkar, Peema Renegade was first spoiled alongside Winding Constrictor, my eyes bulged—a turn 2 into turn 3 curve that put 8 power on the battlefield. Rishkar, Peema Renegade had the problem of competing with Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, and Tireless Tracker, however. Both of these green 3-drops went very well with Winding Constrictor. As time went on, we saw less and less of Rishkar.
With the rotation of both Nissa and Tireless Tracker, you’re much more likely to see Rishkar, Peema Renegade teaming back up with his old pal Winding Constrictor, and I think you’ll see Rishkar in larger numbers in B/G Energy builds moving forward, a deck that definitely still has legs.
3) Angel of Sanctions
Angel of Sanctions is definitely a great Magic card, but it always had one thing working against it, and that was competing with the baddest Angel on the block, Archangel Avacyn. Archangel Avacyn was quietly one of the best cards in Standard since it was printed, while Gideon, Ally of Zendikar took all the credit for her hard work.
Something is going to need to fill Archangel Avacyn’s wings, and Angel of Sanction has a chance to play that role as a dominant, white 5-drop. Angel of Sanctions’ biggest problem is how poorly it lines up against cards like Glorybringer and Chandra, Torch of Defiance, but I think the card is good enough to overcome those problems and see some play in top tier Standard decks.
2) Veteran Motorist
As we just saw in DC, Mardu Vehicles is still a force to be reckoned with. Matt Severa did what Matt Severa does—he took down the Grand Prix with Mardu Vehicles, a deck that had lost a lot of popularity in the wake of Mono-Red’s rise.
With the loss of Thraben Inspector, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and Archangel Avacyn, it may seem like Mardu Vehicles will go the way of the dinosaur and suffer extinction from the format. But I think Vehicles decks will lean more on cards like Veteran Motorist and perhaps Depala, Pilot Exemplar, and shape itself more into an R/W aggressive deck.
1) Gideon of the Trials
Gideon of the Trials never had a fair shake. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is one of the best Standard planeswalkers in history, and Gideon of the Trials had to wait until Gideon, Ally of Zendikar finally rotated to get a chance to see play. The kicker is that the planeswalker rule is also changing so that multiple Gideons can now be in play at the same time.
The good news is that Gideon of the Trials is a very playable, aggressive planeswalker that fits nicely into an R/W Vehicles deck. Gideon of the Trials can play offense and defense, and curves nicely after a Heart of Kiran. I can imagine a curve of Toolcraft Exemplar, Heart of Kiran, Gideon of the Trials, and Chandra, Torch of Defiance.
I highly suspect Gideon of the Trials will see Standard play now that his big brother has left for greener pastures. I would pick up a playset while they’re cheap… if I didn’t already when they weren’t.
We still have a ton left to see in Ixalan that could change the whole landscape of Standard as we know it. I really enjoy looking through my collection of all of the legal Standard cards to see which of them may have gotten better within the contexts of the new format, especially with blocks as powerful as Battle for Zendikar and Shadows over Innistrad rotating out.
Is there a card you think that should be revisited when Standard rotates? Let me know below what I missed!