Ixalan 75% Set Review

I won’t waste too much time on preamble this week because I’m really eager to dig deep into this set. I’ve seen a lot of people call this set the most exciting since Innistrad and it’s tough to disagree. There seems to be something for everyone in this set — a lot of low-curve Vampires and Merfolk to aid aggressive strategies, big fatties that are reminiscent of the Titans that ruled Standard in the past, midrange dinosaurs and pirates and even a few Planeswalkers. EDH goodies abound and this set even looks balanced for Limited, which is basically the only competitive format I play anymore. With something for everyone, a lot of people are talking about what they expect to matter and this column is no exception. Some of the EDH inclusions are super obvious but I think 75% decks sometimes have unique needs and there are some cards that you might not immediately assume will be good in a 75% context. It’s my job to try and find cards like that so without further ado, I’m going to talk about the cards in Ixalan that I think 75% players will want to use.

White

Ashes of the Abhorrent
Ashes of the Abhorrent — One good reason to play this above some of the other graveyard-locking variants is that this gives you a lot of lifegain triggers and there are a lot of decks who can take advantage of that. The amount of life you gain can be significant but so can the number of times you get triggers on cards like Archangel of Thune, Cradle of Vitality, or Ajani’s Pridemate. This is basically two cards in one and I like that.
Axis of Mortality
Axis of Mortality — This is amazing. You can make people think twice about attacking you or other players and this can especially hurt players who try to gain a ton of life or deal a ton of damage. You don’t have to be one of the players which makes this even more fun in EDH. 75% decks are especially cognizant of playgroups which may have decks with disparate power levels and this can even the odds nicely.
Goring Ceratops
Goring Ceratops — An obvious inclusion in dino decks, I like this in other decks that either go wide with a ton of creatures or have fatties with trample. This isn’t Craterhoof Behemoth by any stretch of the imagination, but it does a pretty good impression sometimes, especially when you can’t play Green cards in your deck. This will likely be a pretty affordable card given its high mana cost which makes it less likely to impact Standard or Modern. So, this is a great budget card, although it’s not like True Conviction is super expensive. This is fringe but so is 75%.
Kinjalli's Sunwing
Kinjalli’s Sunwing — We tend to like Kismet effects in 75% decks as they remove haste and make it difficult to block. A Kismet for just creatures is less effective but it’s attached to a body and can be a little redundancy rather than a replacement. Don’t leave this out when you’re mulling over a list of potential Kismet effects in a deck like Dragonlord Dromoka or Gaddock Teeg.
Looming Altisaur
Looming Altisaur — Toughness-matters decks are a thing and this has one of the bigger butts in the game, I cannot lie. Also, if you believe I cannot lie, then this card was named after me. Isn’t that an interesting not lie I just told?
Sanguine Sacrament
Sanguine Sacrament — While I prefer my “gain X life” spells to have an “opponent loses X life” component, this gains a lot of life in a big mana format like Commander. I normally don’t think lifegain is worth a card unless it at minimum replaces itself but this could be pretty saucy.
Settle the Wreckage
Settle the Wreckage — Man, talk about political. This has a ton of uses from turning your 1/1 tokens into a Boundless Realms to preventing lethal to helping another player get ahead to helping another play be not ahead. This has a lot of potential and I expect “Wrath to Exile” to see some play.
Tocatli Honor Guard
Tocatli Honor Guard — This is a great card for sure. Torpor Orb is already a card I am very fond of in certain decks and having a body attached to it so you don’t lose it to Wave of Vitriol or Shatterstorm means you can put a stop to their shenanigans. I’m glad this ability is on a creature.
Wakening Sun's Avatar
Wakening Sun’s Avatar — Remember, in a non-Dinosaur deck, this is basically a Martial Coup so you may consider it, but 8 mana is a lot to ask for a creature you can’t really cheat into play.

Blue

Arcane Adaptation — Despite cards like Xenograft already existing, this is the card that got people excited about Turntimber Ranger. With tribal cards everywhere after Commander 2017, this could see a lot of play, especially if you want to jam generic utility creatures like Eternal Witness into a tribal deck.
Entrancing Melody
Entrancing Melody — This is a pretty bad Treachery on its face, but when you consider that they won’t be able to destroy an enchantment to get the creature back it’s still pretty bad. Still, not everything can be Bribery. I at least want to point out creature theft spells even if they seem a little cost prohibitive for the format.
Fleet Swallower
Fleet SwallowerTraumatize on a fish stick seems pretty saucy even though it’s not always as easy as you might think to have a creature like this survive long enough to attack. Mill decks want to play this, but who’s milling people in EDH?
Herald of Secret Streams
Herald of Secret Streams — Anything that makes creatures unblockable is pretty saucy. There are quite a few Simic and Dimir decks waiting for a card like this and this effect is worth noting. I’m jamming this in Vorel of the Hull Clade right away.
River's Rebuke
River’s Rebuke - This is a very powerful but equally fraught spell. Not being able to do this as an Instant in direct response to a threat weakens it and the fact that it cripples one player and leaves everyone else unscathed means it should be a spell of last resort. If you’re copying the spell, though, then it’s sort of a worse Cyclonic Rift. I like this spell but it’s going to start arguments, I bet.
Spell Swindle
Spell Swindle — Easily in my Top 10 75% cards in the set. This is a Plasm Capture that lets you bank the mana? It also makes a pile of artifacts you can try to use to win with Hellkite Tyrant or a saucy Black spell we’ll get to later? What’s not to love? If you must play a Counterspell, play one like this.
Tempest Caller
Tempest Caller — This isn’t quite Stonehorn Dignitary and I’m not sure if blink decks want to auto-include this, but I think it has some utility that Dignitary doesn’t and I could see this being a very impactful card.

Black

Bishop of the Bloodstained
Bishop of the Bloodstained — I really liked Shaman of the Pack for its ability to end games that my pile of elf tokens sometimes couldn’t. This card reminds me of that. It’s not going to have as many creatures as an elf deck, usually, but with cards like Edgar Markov and Anointed Procession, you’ll still likely do some work here.
Bloodcrazed Paladin
Bloodcrazed Paladin — I think this card is a little bit underrated. A lot of people see this as another Spoils of Blood but I think decks like (original) Marchesa will be glad to have this ability on a creature and anything that doubles or scales off of +1/+1 counters will have a field day. This is a nice combat trick, also.
Boneyard Parley
Boneyard ParleyFact or Fiction is good but I might want to be playing Rise of the Dark Realms instead of this. Still, bringing anything out of the graveyard and putting it into play is good, especially when you can steal their dead creatures.
Deadeye Tracker
Deadeye Tracker — I used to like Withered Wretch in certain contexts and this seems like a good variant. I’m not sure this will see more play than Scavenging Ooze and Scavenging Ooze doesn’t see a ton of play.
Dire Fleet Ravager
Dire Fleet Ravager — Math can be as hard as this guy hits.
Raiders' Wake
Raiders’ Wake — I play Megrim in a non-zero number of my decks and there’s no reason not to run this. Nath of the Gilt Leaf is getting a lot of goodies this set.
Revel in Riches
Revel in Riches — This may be the most 75% card in the set! An alternate win condition, a bankable Black Market and great art? I like two of those things! This is what I want to be doing in a 75% deck.

Red

Angrath's Marauders
Angrath’s Marauders — Do you want to pay 7 mana for a Furnace of Rath? Maybe you do. These effects are always popular in Commander and casual decks and having a 4/4 body that could deal 8 to them is nothing to sneeze at.
Captivating Crew
Captivating Crew — I’m very much in favor of a repeatable Threaten effect. You can only do this during your main phase, but that just means you’re more likely to attack them with their own dudes, which is how I love to play the game. Remember, only suckers give a living creature back to their opponents when they’re done borrowing it.
Hijack
Hijack — I am not so sure we needed another Threaten card but I’m glad to have this and the high density gives us a lot of redundancy or lets us pick the best art or casting cost. I will be hijacking stuff for sure.
Makeshift Munitions
Makeshift Munitions — The option to sac artifacts may make this worth playing despite costing a mana to activate. I still think you go with Goblin Bombardment a lot of the time, but the increased flexibility of this card means it can be useful in more situations.
Rampaging Ferocidon — There is something to be said for what is clearly an aggressive creature designed for Standard and maybe Modern but that scales OK in Commander. Not letting them gain life and punishing them for generating a lot of tokens is a nice one-two punch. This is a card.
Star of Extinction
Star of Extinction — I can’t reconcile how durdly and not always useful this card is with how much I like it. Could I be turning into one of those flavor people? Not sure how to feel about that. While I’m contemplating that, think about how much fun this is with Stuffy Doll and similar cards and think about slotting this into decks that are already doing dirty shenanigans with Blasphemous Act.
Sunbird's Invocation
Sunbird’s Invocation — Getting free spells but not always being able to determine with a degree of accuracy what that free spell will be? What could be more 75% than that?
Tilonalli's Skinshifter
Tilonalli’s Skinshifter — Being able to copy useful attackers is non-trivial, especially if they have bonuses that can stack. I think this deserves some testing.
Trove of Temptation
Trove of Temptation — People may get fed up and just attack you with everything, but if you have a way to prevent that from happening or punish them for swinging out and/or hitting you, this could be a good source of mana as well as a card to help thwart their plans. This has real potential. I guess you could say I’m tempted to test with it.

Green

Deeproot Champion
Deeproot ChampionQuirion Dryad is in like 100 decks on EDHREC so I’m mostly talking about this because I see people online saying they like this in Commander and I want them to stop saying that.
Drover of the Mighty
Drover of the Mighty — I’ve played worse 2-drop mana producers than this in my life, that’s for sure.
Ripjaw Raptor
Ripjaw Raptor — I can see drawing a ton of cards with this, although it’s probably not worth it when you can draw even more with Rishkar’s Expertise or something.

Gold

Admiral Beckett Brass
Admiral Beckett Brass — The Pirate Lord we always wanted and she lets us play Red? Yep. That’s happening.
Belligerent Brontodon
Beligerent Brontodon — Redundancy for those toughness-based decks with a big butt to boot. This is a card, albeit a narrow one.
Deadeye Plunderers
Deadeye Plunderers — This could get nutty with the right deck and I do like the capacity to make treasure and help us win with Revel in Riches.
Hostage Taker
Hostage Taker — What a phenomenal 75% card. My favorite part is that this got errata already lest you exile it to itself and break Magic.
Shapers of Nature — This card is very, very slow but I am jamming it in my Vorel deck, anwyay. In a long game, this is going to do work and if you have a ton of mana like you should in Simic, you have a great sink in this card.
Vona, Butcher of Magan
Vona, Butcher of Magan — This card is a lot of fun. It does everything you like to be able to do in Orzhov. This can helm its own deck or slot into decks ranging from Karlov to Oloro. 7 Life is an OK price to pay in a 40 life format with lifegain. I think this card is phenomenal.
Vraska, Relic Seeker
Vraska, Relic Seeker — I actually think Vraska Il-Dal is a pretty powerful Planeswalker and is worthy of a slot in decks like Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice which already have quite a few good ‘walkers which don’t make the cut. 6 mana is a lot, but blasting people’s permanents and faces make it worth it.

Double-Faced

Growing Rites of Itlimoc — I don’t really think the four other flippy cards are that good in Commander because either the flip condition is too difficult or it’s not worth it once flipped. I think Growing Rites is the most overrated card in the set but that doesn’t mean it’s not very good. This isn’t Cradle but it’s still good.
Dowsing Dagger
Dowsing Dagger — You can use the plants to protect a player who is behind while attacking whoever is ahead, or vice versa. Do what you want, and enjoy the Lotus Vale.
Primal Amulet
Primal Amulet — The Amulet is good and the land it turns into is better. If you would play Pyromancer’s Goggles (and you should in certain decks) this is something you should consider.
Thaumatic Compass
Thaumatic Compass — I think there are many worse things you can do early game than thin your deck out and I think Maze of Ith is a worthwhile end goal. I worry some of these flip artifacts may be a bit too slow for Standard but I think they are just right for Commander.

Artifacts/Lands

Pillar of Origins
Pillar of Origins — I think this is better than Fellwar Stone in tribal decks some of the time and worse others. It warrants testing.
Vanquisher's Banner
Vanquisher’s Banner — This is a great time to print a card like this, when so many people are either building tribal decks for the first time or are building more. We got three good tribes plus cats in Commander 2017 and now we have Pirates and Dinosaurs to build, also.
Unclaimed Territory
Unclaimed Territory — Another great card for Tribal decks that will be just discarded by Limited players. Scoop these up for free, put them in a box for a year or two and enjoy the free money.

My goal here was to highlight cards that were either very good in a 75% context and weren’t obvious “put this in a tribal deck because it’s good with that tribe” cards. There are a lot of good Vampires, Dinosaurs, Merfolk and Pirates that I didn’t talk about just because they had limited utility outside of those decks. If I excluded something not on that basis and you think it was in error, leave it in the comments section. Let’s not miss talking about a card you are thinking about including in your 75% decks moving forward.

My top 5 most 75% cards in the set are:

  1. Spell Swindle
  2. Revel in Riches
  3. Hostage Taker
  4. Captivating Crew
  5. Dowsing Dagger

Honorable MentionsTrove of Temptation, Tocatli Honor Guard, Sunbird’s Invocation

That does it for me this week! Tune in next week where I’ll be brewing something new and exciting and trying hard not to fall into a “just build tribal” trap. I hope you’ll join me. Until next time!


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

Comments

comments