Horsing Around

Post-rotation Standard. It’s the Wild West out here, and anything is possible. We find ourselves in a world where people are talking about tribes. What will come out on top of the format? Will it be Pirates? What about Merfolk? Maybe it will be Dinosaurs? But what about a tribe that has been under our noses all along? I’m talking about that tribe of one: Horses…?

That’s right. We’re going to be looking at an upgraded version of the life-gain-centric Horse deck. It lost a few good cards with rotation. Let’s see if it gained enough from Ixalan to keep up.

The Deck


First off, this is a fairly aggressive White-Black deck (one change from the mono-White pre-rotation deck) built around Crested Sunmare {3WW}. We’re playing three copies at the top end. We’re playing a lot of creatures with Lifelink to trigger our Sunmare, and our goal is to curve out until we hit five mana and start dropping Horses left, right, and center. Let’s break it down by mana cost.

1 Mana


At one mana we’re running everyone’s favorite Sacred Cat {W}. It’s good early life-gain and it comes back almost immediately if it dies. Not a whole lot more to say about it. Just a solid way to gain at least one life.

2 Mana


We’re running playsets of a couple creatures at two mana. The heaviest hitter is Glory-bound Initiate {1W}, which got slightly less good with the loss of Always Watching, but is still a solid beater with a potential 4/4 body and Lifelink. We’re also running Bishop’s Soldier {1W}. While less impressive than the Initiate, this Vampire is a 2/2 with Lifelink that is always on, so we can gain life on defense as well as offense. He also has a relevant creature type, which will come into play with one of our three-drops.

Speaking of which…

3 Mana


We’ve been clogging up the ground with Lifelink creatures up to this point, but three mana is where we take to the air. We’re running a playset of Aerial Responder {1WW} because it has a lovely combination of three keywords: Flying, Vigilance, Lifelink. He gets in for two damage in the air and is available to block with his three toughness if we need him. We’re also playing the full four of Skymarch Bloodletter {2B}. Another flier, this creature doesn’t have Lifelink, but it is a 2/2 and it does drain your opponent for one when it enters the battlefield. It’s also a Vampire, which is important for our next creature.


Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle {2W} is a Legendary 2/2 Vampire that makes 1/1 Vampire tokens with Lifelink whenever a non-token Vampire attacks. We’re running eleven Vampires in the main deck and a few more in the sideboard, so we should have no trouble making some tokens. We’re running three copies of Mavren Fein.


We are running some non-creature spells in this deck. In the three-drop slot are two copies of Never//Return {1BB//3B}. The top half helps to deal with most troublesome creatures and all troublesome Planeswalkers. The Aftermath half can give us a 2/2 Zombie and potentially mess with our opponent’s graveyard shenanigans. We’ve also got two copies of Painful Lesson {2B}, which lets us refill our hand a little at the cost of two life. Not a huge deal in this deck. What might be a huge deal is using it to do the last two points of damage to your opponent. Not likely to matter, but the one time it does, you’ll be glad you’ve got it.

4 Mana


Removal is the name of the game at four. To that end, we’ve got three Vraska’s Contempt {2BB}. This could be an incredibly important card if, as some have suggested, the Gods of Amonkhet become more important in this post-rotation world. It Exiles and gains a couple life, which can trigger our Sunmare in the late game. We can also choose to clear the board with one of our two copies of Dusk//Dawn {2WW//3WW}. Most of our creatures will survive it; hopefully our opponent’s creatures won’t. The second half of Never//Return is also an option if we’ve got nothing better to do.

5 Mana 


This is it. We’ve finally made it to the top of the curve. It’s Horses all the way down, right? Actually, we’ve got one more surprise at the high end. Two copies of Angel of Invention {3WW} round out the top end. These will either be 2/1 Flying, Vigilance, Lifelink that make all our other creatures bigger (including a new pair of 1/1 servos), or 4/3 Flying, Vigilance, Lifelink that make all our creatures bigger (no servos this time). Either way, it’s a pretty good idea when there are a handful of Vampire tokens running around.




Because we’re in an enemy color pair and we’re not running a strictly tribal deck, we don’t have a huge amount of fixing. As such, we’re running playsets of Concealed Courtyard and Evolving Wilds. An additional ten Plains and five Swamps will fill out the full list.



If we find out our opponent is on an aggressive deck, we want to bring our three Authority of the Consuls {W} in to slow them down and gain us a little bit of life. This works great against things like Glorybringer, Hazoret the Fervent, Regisaur Alpha, and Gishath, Sun’s Avatar. Those are big threats that can really ruin your day, but Authority can give you the time you need to get a board wipe or Cast Out online.


If you think your opponent is likely to bring in sweepers, then you are going to want to bring in our three Bloodcrazed Paladin {1B} to capitalize on them clearing the board. He has Flash and gets a +1/+1 counter for every creature that died this turn. Nothing takes away the sting of getting your board wiped like Flashing in a huge beater to fill the void.


You can bet that there are some decks that will survive rotation. Because of that, we are playing two Forsake the Worldly {2W} to deal with things like God-Pharaoh’s Gift. Worst-case scenario, we need another card more and we can Cycle this away.


For any control decks that might come around, we are running two copies of Kambal, Consul of Allocation {1WB}. He drains your opponent for two whenever they cast a non-creature spell. Not only does that make draw spells and counters more painful, but it can also trigger your Sunmare in the late game. At worst, Kambal eats a removal spell and drains our opponent for two.


For some all-purpose answers, we’re running three copies of Gideon’s Intervention {2WW}. The great thing about it is that it doesn’t target. You can keep a Carnage Tyrant from being relevant, or from even being cast. You can keep your opponent from casting their second Approach of the Second Sun. It can be devastating to an opponent who has no answers for it.


In that same vein, we’re running two copies of Lost Legacy {1BB}. If you can’t beat it, make sure they never get to cast it.

Deck List


  • Sacred Cat x4
  • Glory-bound Initiate x4
  • Bishop’s Soldier x4
  • Aerial Responder x4
  • Skymarch Bloodletter x4
  • Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle x3
  • Angel of Invention x 2
  • Crested Sunmare x3


  • Never//Return x2
  • Painful Lesson x2
  • Vraska’s Contempt x3
  • Dusk//Dawn x2


  • Concealed Courtyard x4
  • Evolving Wilds x4
  • Plains x10
  • Swamp x5


  • Authority of the Consuls x3
  • Bloodcrazed Paladin x3
  • Forsake the Worldly x2
  • Kambal, Consul of Allocation x2
  • Gideon’s Intervention x3
  • Lost Legacy x2

Good Matchups

Aggro – With the volume of life we should be gaining in this deck, we can usually keep ahead of an aggressive deck. Then it’s just a matter of getting a Sunmare on the field and getting the herd going. I find that post-rotation is ruled by aggro strategies, which means that this deck may be a good choice early in the format.

Bad Matchups

Ramp – I’m thinking specifically of potential Dinosaur decks that are trying to power out big threats faster than we can. If they can get going as fast as I think they can, then they could be a real problem. Our plan is to hope we can out-value them in the long game.

Unknown Matchups

Control – It remains to be seen what kind of control decks will be viable in this new Standard environment. If they are heavy on removal, we might have trouble. If they are heavy on counterspells, then I think we’re all right. We’ll have to wait and see.


This deck is a lot of fun to play, and could do some real damage at your next tournament. The good news is, it shouldn’t cost you too much to put together, either.

As always, if you have a deck that you’d like to see me tackle, or a card you always thought should be good, leave it in a comment or take it to the Contact Page.  Make sure to check back on the 1st and 15th of every month for more content.


2 thoughts on “Horsing Around

  1. Have you tried running Authority over Painful Lesson in the mainboard? Seems to synergize a bit better with what the deck is going for, and change those two cards for a match-up that is less creature heavy. But that would depend a little more on how the meta shapes its self.


    1. If I were worried about the aggressive match-ups then I might agree. As it is, we’d fare pretty well against them in game one and bring in the Authorities to help out even more in game two. I’d rather hedge a little more toward match-ups that we aren’t so good against. As such, Painful Lesson is a good way to refill our hand, which is important against something like the Dinosaur deck. We want to find our answers faster, and get our Sunmare on-line as soon as possible.

      All that said, if someone wants to run Authority mainboard, that is up to them. I just don’t think it is necessary.


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