A Peek Into Rivals of Ixalan

This year is almost up and 2018 is just around the corner. I hope your holidays have been great and that you’ve got your new years resolutions ready. My New Year’s resolution is to not make New Year’s resolutions; I never get around to finishing them! So, this time, we’re just going to skip them all together. Cash me ousside, how aboudat?!

Today we’ll be talking about the future of Standard in 2018 and what better way to do that than to see what cards are coming out in Rivals of Ixalan? While we don’t have too many spoilers out right now, we do have some sweet ones and a couple of “build around me” cards. We also have what everyone is after, the legendary artifact, The Immortal Sun!

Why don’t we start there?

Legendary Artifact
Players can't activate Loyalty abilities of Planeswalkers.
At the beginning of your draw step, draw an additional card.
Spells you cast cost 1 less to cast.
Creatures you control get +1/+1.

That is a ton of abilities. The first one isn’t too relevant. You’re not going to be sideboarding The Immortal Sun to shut down Planeswalkers. Instead, you’ll want to build around it. It is sweet to just randomly shut off opposing Planeswalkers like, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, but that is not why you would play this card. The extra card every turn will slowly bury your opponent in card advantage. ALL your spells and creatures well be reduced by 1 and on top of all that, all your creatures get +1/+1. What is the exact worth of this card? How much of a reduction are we getting by playing them all together? Let’s break it down.

Planeswalkers can’t be activated. If this ability was printed on a card, it would probably cost around 2 mana. Similar hate cards like Stony Silence, Rest in Peace, and Stabilizer all cost 2 mana. We’ll go with two.

“At the beginning of your draw step, draw an additional card.” Howling Mine is two sided so we know it must cost more than 2 mana. Bottled Cloister and Monastery Siege is about as close as we get. A three-mana one-sided Howling Mine is really pushing it, I’d say this ability is worth roughly four mana. So, we’ll say four.

“Spells you cast cost 1 less to cast.” Things like Pearl Medallion, Ruby Medallion, and Sapphire Medallion are all one sided and cost two mana. Then we have things like Long-Forgotten Gohei, the Monuments, and Cloud Key all at three mana. We also had the familiars. Stormscape Familiar and Nightscape Familiar come to mind. However, those just hit two colors. Helm of Awakening cost two and reduced all spells by one but this also helped your opponent. Knowing all this, three mana seems like a fair price for this ability.

“Creatures you control get +1/+1.” This one is simple enough; the best comparison is Glorious Anthem and Spear of Heliod. Both had a very heavy White color requirement. Asking you to have double White to cast it. While I think for an artifact this should probably cost four mana, we’ll just go with three.

That brings us to a grand total of 2 + 4 + 3 + 3 = 12. Twelve mana, even if we completely cut off the Planeswalkers can’t use abilities, it’s still a whooping ten mana. So, you’re really getting a steal when you play, The Immortal Sun. However, it does have diminishing returns from not being able to fully abuse all those abilities. I mean what spell is good with being reduced and plays well with drawing extra cards yet can also abuse the +1/+1 to all creatures? The best one that comes to mind in Standard is The Locust God. The Locust God creates an army of 2/2 insect tokens equal to the number of cards you’re able to draw. When he’s destroyed he’ll also be easier to cast, nothing crazy, but it’s something.

The Immortal Sun works well with tokens in general since it grows all of them. A deck that is making a lot of Thopters with things like Maverick Thopterist or Whirler Virtuoso could play Whir of Invention to tutor up The Immortal Sun since it’s a great payoff artifact to get.

I disliked Dromoka’s Command when it was legal in Standard because the “sacrifice an enchantment” mode does not need to be on Standard cards that are also playable main deck. It just hindered enchantment decks for no good reason. This is going to be the same problem with Abrade. The Immortal Sun is a sweet card but it’s going to suffer to Abrade being in the format. Same is true for other sweet artifacts like Primal Amulet. If Abrade could only Shatter artifacts that cost 3 or less or said an opponent sacrifices an artifact of their choice, than we’d be okay. However, that’s not the case and all artifacts will suffer for it. Including The Immortal Sun.

Moving on, have you heard of Hungry Hungry Hippo? Well, get ready for hungry hungry vampire!

Vona’s Hunger shows us one of the new mechanics in Rivals of Ixalan, Ascend. As long as you control ten or more permanents, you’ll get the City’s Blessing. Having the City’s Blessing will mean the current spell your casting will do something different and every other Ascend card you cast from there on out will trigger the additional Ascend affect. Even if you don’t control ten or more permanents on your next Ascend spell, you’ll still have the City’s Blessing so you’ll get the City’s Blessing ability.

Vona’s Hunger is an okay card. It’s another three-mana edict that can do something else. You won’t play many of these in your deck, maybe one. You’ll want to play more if getting the City’s Blessing is easier to do by controlling ten permanents than doing something else. It’s possible other cards will have a better ability if you have the City’s Blessing but may not be able to get the City’s Blessing themselves. This mechanic is very interesting, I’m just scared of their being another thing players can’t interact with. We can’t really interact with energy and I have a feeling it will be the same thing with the City’s Blessing. Once you gain the blessing, I don’t think you’ll be able to lose it. Still excited to see other cards with Ascend and what else you can do by having the City’s Blessing.

This is a spicy one. The fact that it’s an enchantment really helps because Abrade is a thing. On the front side, the card isn’t very good. If you attack with four creatures, you’ll just get one Treasure Token. You’re really going to want to be able to transform Storm the Vault the turn you play it. The best way to transform Storm the Vault is going to be with cheap artifacts or thopter tokens. Maverick Thopterist, Aether Swooper, Whirler Virtuoso, and Pia Nalaar are all solid ways to generate some thopters. After you transform Storm the Vault into Vault of Catlacan, you’ll want a way to abuse the all the mana you’ll be generating. Something like Pull from Tomorrow or Whir of Invention are excellent ways to spend that extra mana. Whir of Invention is also good in your thopter deck and Pull from Tomorrow is a decent card to have in any Blue midrange deck. This way if you don’t have an active Vault of Catlacan, you can still cast Whir of Invention and Pull from Tomorrow for smaller amounts, they won’t rot in your hand and that is important. You could Whir of Invention for The Immortal Sun! Again, the Sun is great in decks that go wide with tokens and that’s exactly what you’ll be doing. I hope we get more transform cards, they are all so sweet and it’s a fantastic way to print powerful cards without breaking Standard.

“Legendary Creature - Elder Dinosaur
{B}, Reveal Tetzimoc, Death Primordial from your hand: Put a "Prey" counter on target creature. Only activate this ability during your turn.
When Tetzimoc, Death Primordial enters the battlefield, destroy all creatures with a "Prey" counter on them.”

These Elder dinosaurs are most likely going to be a cycle. Tetzimoc looks a lot worse than he is but he’s solid against all midrange decks and solves a problem that Black decks have, which is Bristling Hydra, Blossoming Defense, and other similar cards. On your turn you can just put prey counters on Bristling Hydra and there’s only so many times they can give it hexproof. As a top deck late game, he can act as a Plague Wind on a stick. Having Deathtouch is relevant when creatures like Longtusk Cub, Winding Constrictor, and Bristling Hydra exist.

Tetzimoc allows you to play mindgames with your opponent. You can put prey counters on all their creatures and then they must decide if they want to play any more creatures or hold off. If they try to get under Tetzimoc you can blow them out by playing a board wipe like Yahenni’s Expertise. Tetzimoc will be decent in midrange decks but he’ll really shine in a ramp deck that can support him. It’s basically a Grave Titan that will kill a creature or two when it comes into play and that’s good enough in the right metagame.

Another Elder Dinosaur! Ghalta has a huge converted mana cost but you can have it out quickly in the right deck. You can curve Scrapheap Scrounger into Rhonas the Indomitable and have a turn four Ghalta and that’s without ramping, just playing good creatures. Ghalta having trample is what really pushes her toward competitive play, otherwise she would just be chump blocked all day by Thopters or other small creatures. Curving Ghalta with a Regisaur Alpha in play will most likely just be game over. Ghalta could push dinosaurs into tier two category. I’m just dreaming of controlling Ghalta and then casting a Rishkar’s Expertise to draw twelve cards and cast whatever spell I want. Ghalta also makes Gishath, Sun’s Avatar more playable too. Hopefully it’s time to play some dinosaur Magic!

The last card we’ll talk about today is Brass’s Bounty. Try and say that card’s name three times fast . . .  I’ll give you a treasure if you can! Brass’s Bounty wants to see play in a combo deck. Most likely alongside Revel in Riches, Marionette Master, or Mechanized Production. You’ll want to reduce its casting cost somehow, and the best way to do that is going to be with something like Inspiring Statuary. You could also just hard cast it if you’re playing a Grixis deck and have Brass’s Bounty alongside Storm the Vault. This will generate a ton of mana allowing you play whatever you want. Things like Battle at the Bridge, Metallic Rebuke, and Reverse Engineer can buy you time or dig you into your combo. I have a feeling Marionette Master will be the way to go since Marionette Master is a fine card on its own. Master also curves into Brass’s Bounty ending the game. This is a card you might play a singleton off in your combo deck, maybe two but no more than that. Still a fun card to have access too.

We are literally just scratching the surface of Rivals of Ixalan. I can’t wait for more cards to be spoiled. I really hope Rivals shakes Standard up a bit or at least gives us a couple new decks that can go toe to toe with energy. That’s my New Year’s Resolution wish! I hope you all have a happy new year and I’ll see you all . . .  Next year!

As always, thanks for reading!
Ali Aintrazi
Follow me @AliEldrazi
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