Ixalan Rotation and You

Ixalan is right around the corner and before you know it, we’ll be able to play with pirates, merfolk, vampires, treasures, and most importantly, dinosaurs! It’s not all gains come Ixalan release; in fact, we lose quite a bit and a handful of decks die out. Today I’m going to discuss what we can expect with Ixalan’s release. By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of what decks survive rotation and which cards/decks gain a lot more potential. You’ll also know which cards you should sell ,since they will no longer be legal and which cards you should hold on to for value or for the purpose of Modern.

First things first. What does the release of Ixalan mean exactly?

  • Four sets rotate out: Battle for Zendikar, Oath of the Gatewatch, Shadows over Innistrad, and Eldritch Moon.
  • A new rule planeswalker rule will be implemented. All old planeswalkers will get an errata to become legendary permanents. You can read all about it in my last article.
  • A new Standard format. Four sets leaving will greatly shake up Standard; we should get at least a couple of new Tier one decks.

Move Your Old Standard Cards

Hopefully, you’ve already started on this. You’ll want to sell or trade a clear majority of your Standard legal cards to help yourself pick up new cards in Ixalan. However, there are exceptions to that rule. Here are some of the cards you should hold on to because they should stay the same or go up in value after they rotate out of Standard:

Planeswalkers

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
Liliana, the Last Hope
Tamiyo, Field Researcher
Nahiri, the Harbinger

Planeswalkers overall are getting better. These planeswalkers are all ones that should see play in Modern and you’ll want to have them when that happens. Liliana, the Last Hope was competing with Liliana of the Veil. They won’t be competing as much since you can have both out at the same time and they work extremely well together. I don’t see her going down.

Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Tamiyo, Field Researcher aren’t guaranteed to see play in Modern. They both are very powerful though and I believe it’s only a matter of time before they find a home. If a planeswalker control deck takes off in Modern then Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is an excellent option to have, since it protects all your other planeswalkers early. Nissa is also just great in {W}{G} Token strategies.

The Eldrazi Titans

Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
Kozilek, the Great Distortion
Emrakul, the Promised End

The big three Eldrazi: Ulamog, Kozilek, and Emrakul will all go up. They are big powerful, flavorful, mythic creatures that do very special things. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger already sees play in Modern and it’s only a matter of time before someone finds a Modern home for Emrakul, the Promised End. Kozilek, the Great Distortion may be outclassed by the other two but it will still go up because of casual appeal like Commander. Look at Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, Kozilek, Butcher of Truth, and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn for reference.

The Smaller Eldrazi

Thought-Knot Seer
Reality Smasher
Matter Reshaper

Eldrazi Tron is a deck in Modern and Eldrazi Stompy is a Legacy deck. Both of these decks are cheap Tier one options to build for their respective formats. This is mostly the case because all these cards were legal in Standard. As time goes on and these decks remain viable options in Modern and Legacy, they will increase in price. They are agro staples.

Other Eldrazi

Void Winnower
World Breaker
Oblivion Sower

What can I say? People love Eldrazi . . .  or maybe it’s just me. Void Winnower and Oblivion Sower both offer unique abilities that are hard to find elsewhere, especially Void Winnower. Oblivion Sower works fantastically in older formats alongside things like Relic of Progenitus. World Breaker is the best seven cost Eldrazi to trigger Sanctum of Ugin in Tron decks; making it so that you not only recur, but also exile any troublesome enchantment, land, or artifact.

Creature Lands

Lumbering Falls
Shambling Vent
Wandering Fumarole
Needle Spires
Hissing Quagmire

I personally don’t want to be caught without these when they start seeing more play in Modern, which is bound to happen. While they shouldn’t all spike, I don’t want to be without any of them when one reaches Celestial Colonnade level. If you just want to keep a couple of these, then I’d recommend Shambling Vent and Wandering Fumarole. Those two are the strongest of the five and are already seeing some play in Modern.

Mirrorpool/Westvale Abbey

Mirrorpool
Westvale Abbey

While I don’t think these will see competitive play, Mirrorpool and Westvale Abbey are exceptionally unique lands that casual players enjoy playing. Mirrorpool is also a mythic to boot which will help keep and increase its price tag.

Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

If you ever plan to play a Black midrange deck in Modern, then I’d suggest holding on to your Kalitas. It also has the bonus of being legendary which means it can be a Commander. Being an excellent option against small {W}{G} decks in Modern and a possible Commander means it will keep its price and has room to grow.

Prized Amalgam

Prized Amalgam

Almost an auto include in every dredge strategy. If dredge is alive and well then, this undead will also be alive undead and well.

Modern Staples

Tireless Tracker
Selfless Spirit
Spell Queller
Collective Brutality

All these cards have already seen competitive Modern play. Once these cards rotate out of Standard, they will no longer be opened and they will increase in rarity. Tireless Tracker is an excellent card engine. Selfless Spirit is one of the best ways to make your creatures immune to a board wipe. Spell Queller is a staple for tempo decks, making them both viable main deck cards and solid Sideboard options. Collective Brutality is the cleanest answer to Burn and small creature decks that run Chord of Calling or Collected Company.

Zendikar Resurgent/Cryptolith Rite

Zendikar Resurgent
Cryptolith Rite

Doubling all your mana in a format like Commander can be quite fun. While there are more copies of Mana Reflection than Zendikar Resurgent, cards like this that are one sided tend to go up in price. Vorniclex, Voice of Hunger saw no competitive play but it carries a hefty price tag. Cryptolith Rite is on the same spectrum as Lotus Cobra and Bloom Tender. While they aren’t the same types of cards, they do similar things and all cost one and{G}. I expect both of these cards to increase in price as time goes on.

Gisela the Broken Blade

Gisela, the Broken Blade

People love angels! Gisela, the Broken Blade is an Angel Horror that’s a mythic. It melds into the most epic angel in the history of Magic: Brisela, Voice of Nightmares. Gisela is a mythic and while I’m not holding my breath, it could see play in Modern if Lightning Bolt continues to die down. Gisela is also an Eldrazi and people like big powerful creatures that do unique things. Have you ever controlled a Brisela? It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in Magic and I’ve been playing Magic for a very long time.

The New Standard

So, we’ve gone over what cards you should hold onto if you ever plan to play them in the future or if you want to make some money in the long run. Now let’s talk about Standard decks that survive rotation and ones that just need a few new cards to help them out.

Ramunap Red

This deck loses Incendiary Flow, Falkenrath Gorger, and Village Messenger. Most lists have already cut Village Messenger in favor of Soul-Scar Mage and Incendiary Flow is being upgraded to Lightning Strike. That means that all it must do is replace Falkenrath Gorger. It’s safe to say this deck will easily survive rotation, if not get better.

Energy Decks

Decks like Temur energy, Sultai energy, and {R}{G} Electrostatic Pummeler don’t lose much of anything. All these decks have great mana thanks to Attune with Aether and Aether Hub. The clear majority if not all their cards come from Kaladesh and Aether Revolt. Energy decks aren’t going anywhere.

Approach of the Second Sun

Approach decks lose a few cards in Prairie Stream and Blessed Alliance, but Prairie Stream will be easily replaced by Glacial Fortress and they will find some other card to fill the role that Blessed Alliance played. The biggest hit is becoming a little weaker against control decks thanks to the loss of Sphinx of the Final Word. They’ll need to run an alternate win condition or countermagic to fight Control decks now.

Blue/Black Scarab God Control

These decks are losing Grasp of Darkness. They do pick up Walk the Plank, but I’m not sure how good that will be at sorcery speed. However, Vraska’s Contempt is a very welcome addition, allowing the deck to deal with cards that are normally diffcult to fight against when playing control. Being able to exile planeswalkers and Gods at instant speed while gaining life means that Vraska’s Contempt will be a staple in all Black control decks. Playing two Vraska’s Contempt is where all Black control decks should start.

Blue/Red Control

Here we have another control deck. However, while Izzet Control doesn’t lose out on spells, it does lose out on a stronger mana base and a finisher in Wandering Fumarole. The deck may need to find another win condition besides four Torrential Gearhulks. I like adding a singleton of The Locust God, since it is difficult to remove, filters your hand, and goes very wide.

Those are the biggest decks that remain intact. Some decks fade away with Ixalan’s release but leave very powerful cards behind that need a new home. Let’s go over some of these decks:

God-Pharaoh’s Gift

A powerful card, but it lost a lot of the support it had in Insolent Neonate, Thraben Inspector, and Mausoleum Wanderer. The deck could go in a different direction and cheat God-Pharoah’s Gift into play by different means. Playing something like Refurbish is a solid way to get the seven-mana artifact onto the battlefield.

Blue/Black Reanimator

The Reanimator strategy was an up and coming deck. It loses a great deal since Grasp of Darkness; Ishkanah, Grafwidow (splashing Green); Ever After; Oath of Jace; and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet all rotate out. Tragic Lesson or Trial of Knowledge are alternatives to filter your hand, but they aren’t as good as Oath of Jace. The deck still has Razaketh, the Foulblooded as a reanimate target that is very powerful. However, the deck will need to replace the midrange creatures that helped it stabilize. The deck could splash into another color like White for Regal Caracal, Cast Out, and Fumigate or Red for Harnessed Lightening, Lightning Strike, Hour of Devastation, and some powerful Red creature to reanimate. This deck did get a small boost since ramp was a terrible matchup for it. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger will be gone, which is a positive thing for this deck. I’d keep an eye on Ixalan for its removal and big dinosaur threats.

Powerful Cards

Okay, the last thing I want to talk about are powerful cards that need a new home. These cards are strong and versatile enough, but they lose their respective decks once Ixalan is released.

Heart of Kiran

Heart of Kiran

Heart of Kiran will still be legal in Standard. Mardu Vehicles will be gone, but this powerful flying vehicle needs a loving home. If you’re a deck that is playing planeswalkers, you should consider Heart of Kiran for your deck.

New Perspectives

New Perspectives

A powerful card that enabled a combo deck to be Tier 2. Losing Travese the Ulvenwald is a huge blow to the deck. It will need to find something to replace Traverse, which won’t be easy. The deck could take an entirely different direction by playing its namesake card alongside Drake Haven, Faith of the Devoted, or Abandoned Sarcophagus.

Hour of Promise

Hour of Promise

No more Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger at the top end for ramp. I know Ulamog was the ultimate top end and ramp players will be sad to see him go, but we are getting some dinosaurs. We do still have Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh and whatever else Ixalan throws out. Thaumatic Compass is an interesting addition to the ramp deck, since Hour of Promise will easily get seven lands in play. The compass also triggers at our end step, so we can use on our opponent’s turn to lock out a creature. Transforming also means it ramps us since it becomes a land. Conqueror’s Galleon is another solid option for a deck with a lot of resources. When it transforms into Conqueror’s Foothold, we get a huge mana sink and a lot of options. Recurring something like Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh late game is powerful and is kinda close to being an inevitable end like Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger.

As you can see, a lot happens with Ixalan’s release. This will be one of the biggest shakeups in Standard and I’m excited not only witness it, but also brew with the new cards. I hope this article has helped you out in some way shape or form. As always, thanks for reading!

Much love,
Ali Aintrazi


Ixalan is now available for Preorder! Pick up sealed product and singles as they're posted!

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