Ixalan Standard is upon us, and I wanted to share some information I've accumulated from my testing over the course of a few days. Keep in mind there was less time due to the faster release on MTGO, nevertheless I was still able to play enough games to start noticing some early trends of this format (which is really fun):
I'll just come out and say this first - Dinosaurs will likely be real. I was really skeptical, but there's going to be a version that will make it. At least early on in this meta, this deck can quickly power out some scary threats (and not because they're actually Dinosaurs). The combination of Carnage Tyrant, Regisaur Alpha, and Ripjaw Raptor has proven to be quite potent. My vote is for either BG and/or GR - it all comes down to if the cost reduction creatures are worthwhile.
Otepec Huntmaster has looked really good alongside Carnage Tyrant - and RG also gains access to Samut, the Tested. That's right, Samut - it seems like a gimmick, until the double striking Carnage Tyrant is attacking and there's basically nothing you can do about it.
- Ramunap Red/Snek (Winding Constrictor) Decks/Energy will still be the keepers of this format early on. We'll categorize these as "Tier 0" as we head into this Standard format, because they're still clearly the decks to beat and have lost virtually nothing.
- Outside of Dinosaurs, Pirates seems like the best chance to be viable. The issue is there's actually many different ways to build this archetype - it's a good problem to have but until then we'll have to see how the archetype settles. I've seen some recurring trends of Jace, Cunning Castaway and Ruin Raider.
- Speaking of Ruin Raider - it really is the best Dark Confidant imitator and can be utilized in many different archetypes. I saw it a fair deal in plain aggressive decks, and not mutually exclusive to Pirates.
- Vampires seems close, but more excited that Legion's Landing // Adanto, the First Fort showed up a fair deal - looked great alongside Oketra's Monument. Flipped effortlessly some games.
- Merfolk - Unless I'm extremely wrong on this - the archtype is borderline a draft deck. Weakest of the Ixalan tribes by far. There was a UG list floating around by an SCG writer on reddit:spikes that I tried out, and was eaten in testing (ouch).
- Jace, Cunning Castaway seemed solid overall. Also seemed to slot into a variety of decks from Pirates, to Blue based aggro decks. Also goes without saying it crewed Heart of Kiran quite well and seemed strong together.
- I didn't see any Tezzeret the Schemer based decks - but still hold out a chance for it to see play alongside cards like Herald of Anguish. I would think trying to go all-in Herald would have the best chance of competing with this early Ixalan meta.
- Only Flip-Enchantment I saw was Legion's Landing // Adanto, the First Fort. So far it seems it has the most applications out of the cycle, but the cycle is still overall very good. It may take some time to see the others, or we could still very well see them in early results. This is a hard one to call.
These cards kept showing up in a variety of decks. Ixalan Standard will revolve around the decks to beat that I mentioned, and Ripjaw Raptor/Carnage Tyrant. The long and short of the situation is - there's no efficient way to remove those two cards. Ripjaw is also the best roadblock for Hazoret the Fervent/Energy because at the very least it replaces itself. Deathgorge Scavenger played key roles in Constrictor lists and mostly any decks running Green. Early and efficient lifegain was important and looked strong every time it was cast.
At the same time, the good cards from previous formats are still good - early on in the meta, anyway. There may be a chance for the other forgotten cards (Herald/Tezzeret) to shine, but largely these were the cards that were still very much being cast. In a format where Lightning Strike has made a return, there will be an emphasis on creatures with more than 3 Toughness - and that's where Glorybringer really shines. Beyond that - Hour of Devastation will take care of everything besides Carnage Tyrant, but folks have trend directly to Fumigate as the format's prime removal spell for that very reason.
That's about all I have from my notes. I would say stick to the known quantities at the moment and leave the "speculation" picks to speculation. Granted some are inexpensive enough to be worthwhile either way, but I've seen enough to feel confident in my notes. Early Ixalan Standard will be "Can I beat Ripjaw Raptor and those other 3 decks." There will certainly be enough time to look at off-beat cards if they make an early splash, but right now those cards seem fairly mediocre to stock-up on without any valid claims of testing or taking notes on other games via spectating.
Hope this information is helpful, and eagerly awaiting this Standard format!