One of the most exciting things about new Standard formats is finding out what kind of new engines become viable. Sometimes those engines are linear mechanics that are limited to a handful of decks - tribal synergies, energy, or affinity, for example. Sometimes they’re individual cards that power entire archetypes, like Sphinx's Revelation or Primeval Titan. The most interesting engines, however, are the innocuous ones that can fit into many decks and make them just enough better to compete with the rest of the format:
Red-Black Control - Rivals of Ixalan Standard | Willjetz1323, 5-0 Standard League
- Lands (25)
- 3 Swamp
- 7 Mountain
- 1 Arch of Orazca
- 1 Cinder Barrens
- 1 Scavenger Grounds
- 4 Canyon Slough
- 4 Dragonskull Summit
- 4 Ifnir Deadlands
With energy out of the format, it’s reasonable to assume that lots of players are going to be looking for interesting midrange takes on the format. Things like Mardu Vehicles and slightly less powerful energy variants are obvious, but tribal decks like Vampires, Pirates, and Merfolk are also possible. All of this incentivizes players to find the deck that is best capable of playing lots of efficient removal spells to break up creature-based synergies. If there’s one thing a deck is good at, it’s playing all the best removal spells in the format.
Traditionally, the problem with this style of deck has been that it has a difficult time pulling ahead on cards. Sure, you occasionally have access to the likes of Sign in Blood or Read the Bones, but just a couple card draw spells really aren’ going to cut it when you have to beat threats like Regisaur Alpha. Glorybringer and Rekindling Phoenix do a good job of making sure that you can keep pace with the board, but that’s not a replacement for true card selection and card drawing.
The difference here is that you have access to an enormous number of colorless card selection and advantage. Treasure Map is a card that has some space to shine in the new Standard format. With Ramunap Red at the top tables, it was hard to find time for a card this slow; now it represents quite a bit of card selection, potential acceleration, and even multiple extra cards depending on what you’re looking for. Similarly, Azor's Gateway provides quite a bit of card selection, the potential for a ton of acceleration, and even some fixing for cards like Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh.
This deck is emblematic of the fact that there’s space for decks to take a little more time to develop some extra cards. Cards like Treasure Map and Arch of Orazca may be the gamebreakers in new midrange mirrors, and for the first couple of weeks this might be one of the better options for taking advantage of them.