Gearhulk, Hazoret, Jadelight Ranger, Tezzeret, And Yes, Nicol Bolas

The Standard metagame is running deep these days! Patrick Chapin revels in the diversity but points out an underlying and very strange thread running through this metagame! The answers are yours!

Rivals of Ixalan is legal…

…while Attune with Aether, Rogue Refiner, Ramunap Ruins, and Rampaging
Ferocidon are not.

Last week, the new format kicked off with the two biggest Standard
tournaments being taken down by this old rascal:

In all, there were eight Hazoret decks in the top 8 of the SCG Philadelphia
Standard Classic and the top 8 of the SCG Philadelphia Team Open. And while
this is obviously a little intense, there was a pretty respectable spread
of other strategies showing up, some new and some old.

While there has been an evolution this week, it’s kind of been a decrease
in the success of rogue decks and a tremendous uptick of Torrential
Gearhulk decks.

Here’s a look at the weighted metagame results from the top 16 of the SCG
Standard Classic in Dallas and the top 25 of the Team Open:



R/x Hazoret


Grixis Energy


U/x Control


Sultai Constrictor


R/G/x Jadelight


U/W Eternalize




*Misc = Mono-Black Aggro, Merfolk, G/R Dinosaurs, W/U Auras, Esper Gift,
Four-Color Marionette

While there has been a relatively small number of macro-archetypes in the
format, there was great diversity among them.

Hazoret the Fervent:

Jadelight Ranger:

Torrential Gearhulk and/or Champion of Wits:

Interestingly, the format can basically be divided up by which of these
three directions you’re going, at least so far.



U/x Midrange/Control


R/x Aggro


G/x Aggro/Midrange




While Grixis Energy combined with all the various U/x Control decks adds up
to a larger chunk of the metagame than red aggro, there’s a good case to be
made for red aggro being the deck to beat.

A great example of the new Mono-Red is Aiden Brier’s title-winning list
from this weekend’s Classic:

No frills, no fuss.

Aiden’s list replaces the Ramunap Ruins with Mountain and replaces the
Rampaging Ferocidons with two Invigorated Rampage, an extra Kari Zev,
Skyship Raider, and a maindeck Glorybringer.

With zero Rivals of Ixalan cards, we’re off to a dubious start
(not to be confused with an auspicious start, unless you’re shorting Rivals of Ixalan).

What about R/B?

Okay, well, Fanatical Firebrand is something, I suppose; and maybe the
removal of Ramunap Ruins reduces the pressure to play Sunscorched Desert,
giving us space for Swamp.

After all, Unlicensed Disintegration is a fantastic card for red aggro.
While it did not feature any new cards, either, Mardu Vehicles was back in

Surely, the Hazoret portion of the metagame has to have something for us to
work with!

Okay, you’ve got my attention…

Path of Mettle rewards “haste theme decks”, and this one even has a minor
Pirate sub-theme.

Daring Buccaneer is hardly the most inspired tribal payoff, but it is
something. I just wish I knew how we were supposed to support the mana with
just four Inspiring Vantage, four Aether Hubs, and two Plains to cast the
aforementioned Path of Mettles (to say nothing of barely eight sources for
the sideboard countermagic).

Of course, not all Glorybringer decks were quite so aggressive. Kevin
Michael’s top 8 list from the Classic was built to grind:

I love all the card advantage alongside the unholy duo of Glorybringer and
Rekindling Phoenix, but I just do not understand Dire Fleet Captain.

Rekindling Phoenix is just plain awesome. An in-depth breakdown of the card
can be found


. The short version is that it doesn’t take all that much for a four-power
flier for four to be good, and Rekindling Phoenix is often going to take
two cards to kill. What’s more, it gives you a layer of sweeper protection
and a layer of Chandra protection that are hard to come by.

While I like Rekindling Phoenix in R/G/x, it’s possibly even more exciting
in Grixis Energy, supporting the theme of “overpowered good stuff.” Brennan
DeCandio was the highest finishing Grixis Energy player of the weekend,
finishing second in the team event with his Grixis Energy list that made
excellent use of the Phoenix.

Yeah, Chart a Course!

DeCandio’s sideboard features another fresh face in the form of Dire Fleet

Dire Fleet Daredevil is an interesting sideboard option against various red
aggro, where it’s a first striking blocker combined with a cheap burn spell
to build an interesting Flametongue Kavu.

While most Grixis Energy decks were content with Glint-Sleeve Siphoner,
Whirler Virtuoso, and Harnessed Lightning, Tomas Hoffman actually went a
step further with Shielded Aether Thief as an additional energy “payoff.”

Shielded Aether Thief is a very satisfying card to block with, but more
importantly, it’s another way to convert energy into an advantage. A couple
of these and a couple of Dusk Legion Zealots make up for Hoffman’s lack of
Longtusk Cubs.

Dusk Legion Zealot isn’t pretty, but it gets the job done. It blocks early
against fast aggro 2/1s, while keeping the card flow going against midspeed

Here’s a look at Hoffman’s slightly creature-heavy build of Grixis Energy:

Rather than dabble with stuff like Essence Scatter, Fatal Push, or Glimmer
of Genius, Hoffman runs a little longer on creatures, with Champion of Wits
attempting to pick up where Rogue Refiner left off.

While Grixis Energy was the most successful brand of Grixis on the weekend,
there was actually a pretty wide range of Grixis strategies putting up big
results. For instance, John Hughes’s Grixis Improvise deck doesn’t even use
The Scarab God!

Herald of Anguish, Maverick Thopterist, and Tezzeret the Schemer are the
payoffs for playing such an artifact-centric list. Once again, we’re
looking at relatively few Rivals of Ixalan cards, but there is
definitely some addition by subtraction going on in the format, with energy
and red a little less oppressive.

Kumena’s Awakening is cute, but I am definitely suspicious. Maybe all the
permanents from stuff like Servo Schematic and Prophetic Prism is enough to
consistently hit the city’s blessing, but I’m not positive how often we’ll
really be getting the personal Howling Mine instead of just a four-cost
symmetrical one.

Golden Demise is a fairly promising sideboard role player, mostly just
functioning as a format-legal Infest, but with the added upside of
occasionally not sweeping our Thopters off the table.

Tezzeret is fine and all, but what if we want to go a little bigger?

Now we’re talking!

Nicholas Ailes is a man after my own heart:

It’s nothing too exotic, but Moment of Craving continues to be a solid
niche role player for when you just want a little more speed and
consistency against red aggro. It’s sort of like a Shock, but with a little
life boost.

They aren’t Rivals of Ixalan cards, but there are a few
eyebrow-raising tech cards here. Consign occasionally shows up as a random
one-of in U/B/x control decks, but the two copies here suggest Ailes means
it. The hand disruption is particularly useful for grinding out other blue
decks, and the ability to bounce our own Torrential Gearhulks ensures we’ll
have plenty of gas in the mid and late game.

Metallurgic Summonings has shown up very infrequently, but it is a
potential alternate win condition that can draw us a tremendous number of
extra cards in the super late game.

One other strategy that incorporated The Scarab God over the weekend was
Jeremy Henry’s Team Constructed Open champion Sultai Constrictor deck.
While it follows the time-honored tradition of jamming The Scarab God into
a deck that isn’t those colors, it does have a couple fun new additions, as

Jadelight Ranger has +1/+1 counter synergies, but is really about the card
advantage in this list. Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, Walking Ballista, and
especially Ravenous Chupacabra (specializing in matchups where the other
player has creatures).

You see, you give the Chupacabra game 1, then you switch it on ’em in game
2, busting out the Hostage Takers.

Finally, we’ve got one more deck to look at that made me do a double take
at its lack of even a single copy of a The Scarab God, nor any amount of
God-Pharaoh’s Gift. Austin Herrick wants to reanimate his creatures as a
4/4 the old-school way… by using their eternalize abilities.

While Champion of Wits and Vizier of Many Faces aren’t completely out of
left field, Adorned Pouncer and Sunscourge Champion haven’t exactly been
ubiquitous format staples.

So, why all these eternalize creatures?

No, there are no copies of Vizier of the Anointed, as techy as that would
be. No, instead, Austin Herrick’s top 4 list from this weekend’s Classic
capitalizes on a different anointed card…

Anointed Procession doubles the token-making, giving us an endgame plan
that goes right along with our endless stream of two-for-ones.

While it has largely dipped in popularity this week, I did want to call out
Silent Gravestone as a sideboard option to consider. It can be easy to
overlook it, but just consider the implications of playing one of these
against a deck full of Torrential Gearhulks and a The Scarab God or two…

While Rivals of Ixalan didn’t blow it out the box this week, it
did appear in a variety of decks, and we’re generally looking at a pretty
solid format that is just starting to take shape. Hopefully we see some
correction for the red aggro Hazoret decks and all the various Energy
decks. Kind of an awkward top two, under the circumstances.

Now, where are all those token decks people have been talking about…?