Black Creature Decks With Rivals Of Ixalan

Looking for different ways to use and abuse Vampires and Pirates? Sam Black can always be counted upon to go for the cool, new angle in deckbuilding! Join him for an unorthadox look at these Rivals of Ixalan tribes!

Gerry Thompson wrote a great
early look at possible Vampire decks in the coming Standard
, but all of his Vampire decks featured four copies of Legion’s Landing,
which meant that they all required white as their base color. This is a
reasonable starting point, as Legion’s Landing is a great card, but there’s
something to be said for the black spells in the format as well, so I think
that kind of Vampire deck, which is likely somewhat more controlling, is
also worth looking at.

The first draw to a black Vampire deck is Gifted Aetherborn. Gifted
Aetherborn is in an interesting spot, since it’s a powerful card, but one
that kind of lacks direction–a lot of midrange and control decks would
rather have a value creature in that spot, and it competes with other great
creatures like Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and Winding Constrictor in energy
decks; and because a lot of its power is in lifelink, it’s not the best
aggressive creature for a pure beatdown deck.

That said, it’s a great cornerstone for a tribal deck that’s looking to
slow down the game a little and lead off with an individually powerful card
that’s reasonably likely to stay on the battlefield, especially if that
deck is looking to spend life, to really take advantage of the life gain.

While it’s not a Vampire, Ravenous Chupacabra is another draw toward trying
to use a black manabase, though there’s a lot of competition at four mana.
An early brainstorm of remaining new black cards to consider in a Vampire
deck yields:

I suspect that a white base is going to be the best way to build an
aggressive Vampire deck because of how important it is to reliably be able
to cast Legion’s Landing and Radiant Destiny, but I think Vampires can
provide the creature base of a black controlling deck with a possible white
splash that plays a very different kind of game.

I’m interested in using Vampires to buy time to take advantage of cards
like Arguel’s Blood Fast and Profane Procession.

This is a deck that’s designed to be able to grind with blue decks. Value
creatures offer a battlefield presence that allows you to block against
aggressive decks or force control decks to act against you while your cheap
spells buy time and protect the enchantments you try to ride to victory.

This sideboard offers tremendous customization as you have a wide range of
removal spells for various kind of threats, and Treasure Maps for further
grinding against people who aren’t trying to go over you.

The hope is that the wealth of life gain and black removal offer strong
enough creature matchups that you can afford to play Duress in the
maindeck, which is a great way to trade resources to keep the game small to
maximize the chances that you have time to use your enchantments, as well
as generally offering a huge advantage against control decks.

Paladin of Atonement is a little off-plan, as it’s a fairly aggressive
creature, but it’s a cheap threat that can take over the game with deserts
and Arguel’s Blood Fast, so this is mostly just giving it the benefit of
doubt on raw power level.

Clearly, this is an entirely different kind of deck than the Metallic Mimic
Vampire decks, and not the sort of deck that’s generally built around
tribal synergies, but Champion of Dusk is a very different kind of tribal
payoff than we usually have access to. It’s worth noting that unless you’ve
gained a lot of life, the ability starts becoming a drawback around x=4 or
so, so we’re not actually trying to play this in a deck that’s dedicated to
flooding the battlefield with Vampires, just enough that we can draw 2-3
cards most of the time seems like the sweet spot.

While black is a controlling base for a Vampire deck, the same can’t be
said for Pirates, where the black creatures definitely want to

The new black Pirates I’d consider for Constructed are:

Not a long list, but Dire Fleet Poisoner has some interesting play to it,
and there are a lot of different combinations of Pirate decks worth looking

In blue and red, Rivals of Ixalan offers:

Warkite Marauder’s nothing special, so Rivals of Ixalan offers the
most help to B/R Pirates. Let’s start there:

There’s a bit of tension between the number of artifacts and the number of
Pirates, but I suspect that using Unlicensed Disintegration to good effect
is a key to making B/R Pirates worth looking into.

Dire Fleet Captain is interesting, especially if you play Grasping
Scoundrel over Bomat Courier, but I think it asks for too much to be going
your way–you need your other creatures to be alive and wanting to attack,
and you need both colors of mana; the payoff just isn’t that great. Fathom
Fleet Captain may be better than I’m giving it credit for, especially with
such a low curve, but I feel like it didn’t really live up to early hype,
and I’d rather take a conservative approach to giving it another chance.

Captain Lannery Storm is a decent way to get a Pirate and an artifact, but
I don’t think it’s powerful enough unless you have a good use for the mana
ramping aspect of the Treasures.

Ruin Raider is a bit more promising, and there’s a good chance it’s a good
fit here, as you should always expect to be attacking and you have a low
curve, so you won’t lose much life and you’ll have mana to use the extra
cards; however, I’m still cautious about investing in a three-mana creature
with two toughness that needs to live through the turn. Still, your other
creatures will be drawing removal and it plays well with Kitesail
Freebooter, so I think it’s the most likely card that didn’t make the cut,
but I wanted to keep the curve low as a starting point, as six threes is
actually already kind of high for the sort of deck this wants to be.

I don’t think there are a lot of drastically different ways to build B/R
Pirates except for modifying the number of artifacts and number of Pirates.
Likely, Scrapheap Scrounger is better than Fathom Fleet Captain, for
example, but I wanted to start by trying Fathom Fleet Captain, and moving
toward more other artifacts instead of Pirates hurts Metallic Mimic.
Whether Hazoret the Fervent belongs in the maindeck is another important
question, which may be largely a function of the metagame and how
well-positioned Hazoret ends up being.

As for U/B, I think you have a lot more flexibility there, because Hostage
Taker and The Scarab God offer real incentives to play a longer game,
potentially looking to do something more like the Vampire deck at the
beginning of this article; but as you move more toward building your deck
around The Scarab God, at some point, fairly early on, you ask yourself why
you have these Pirates in your deck, and I don’t think any of the new
additions from Rivals of Ixalan are likely to change that.

As for the more aggressive takes, U/B will really want to play up its
evasive elements:

This is a blue “Skies” deck with a black splash for Hostage Taker and
Kitesail Freebooter. Favorable Winds is required to avoid losing the game
to a single Whirler Virtuoso while also letting your creatures hit a little
more respectably. This deck is definitely looking to play a tempo game,
getting under the opponent with cheap creatures and then using
counterspells and Dreamcaller Siren to slow the opponent down long enough
to finish them off. This is an ideal home for Jace, Cunning Castaway, but
it would be nice if the card were a bit more powerful than it is.

For the most part, I think the metagame is pretty hostile to this kind of
deck, as the creatures match up a little too well against the creatures in
this deck, and people are generally prepared to deal with Hostage Taker.
This kind of deck is looking to prey on a metagame dominated by decks like
U/W Approach that are relying on resolving expensive sorceries to catch up,
which this deck can easily prevent.

Overall, I don’t think the creature synergies offered between Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan can really compete with the energy
creatures that have currently been dominating Standard. The best hope for
new creature decks is another energy card getting banned, but it would be
nice if Standard could get back to a place where it didn’t have to rely on
regular bannings. If anything in Rivals of Ixalan is going to
shake anything up, I think it’ll have to be something with a more
controlling bent, like the first B/W deck. I’m still worried about the
versatility and adaptability of Temur Energy’s answers and value cards.
Bristling Hydra and Chandra, Torch of Defiance make things very tricky for
a B/W deck that’s trying to bury people in removal and card draw, to say
nothing of Rogue Refiner and Whirler Virtuoso, which are no less

Ultimately, I think Kaladesh has Standard in a difficult place,
and WotC has some hard decisions in front of them about how to deal with
the format. In the short term, I’m looking forward to the first Modern Pro
Tour in a few years, where I’m a favorite to try to lock my opponents out
with Lantern of Insight and love every minute of it.