Ixalan Roundup

While Ixalan spoiler season has been in full bloom for a while now, those who follow my content will note that I have been quiet on the subject of the latest set. This is not because I am not interested in Dinosaurs and Pirates, but simply because I like to use my time optimally. In TCGs, the power level of a given card is often contextual to the format it is being played in. An answer is only reasonable if it lines up well against the likely threats. A threat is better if it lines up well against the best answers. This means, if you start trying to analyze cards before you know what all is going to be in the format, you often have to re-evaluate when the full spoiler releases.

Thankfully, last Friday we had the full Ixalan spoiler release on WOTC’s website. So, today I am ready to dive into talking about all of the cards I think have potential from this latest set.

Let’s start with an easy one, shall we? The set of Legendary Enchantments that transform into Legendary lands are fairly pushed and will likely all see some amount of Constructed play:

Legion's Landing
Search for Azcanta
Arguel's Blood Fast
Vance's Blasting Cannons

Legion’s Landing is the type of card that will likely slot perfectly into a White weenie style aggressive deck or a tokens shell with Hidden Stockpile and Anointed Procession. While simply getting a 1/1 lifelink for one is nothing to write home about, it is a fine start to our curve. The value Adanto, the First Fort can make in a game that goes long can likely help us steal some games we would otherwise be out of.

Search for Azcanta is a card that will likely be a staple in any Blue control deck in the format. Unlike the other Legendary Enchantments, which can be slightly awkward to draw in multiples, Search for Azcanta can actually help make sure we never draw a second copy. Not only is the repeatable card advantage effect on Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin powerful, but accelerating in a control deck is also something we are often interested in doing.

Arguel’s Blood Fast is a card that likely fits best into a midrange or aggressive deck. In an aggressive deck, I like boarding this card as a way to grind out control decks. The best part is once we get low enough that the Blood Fast transforms into the Temple of Aclazotz, we can use the Temple to ensure the next Blood Fast we draw stays an enchantment to continue drawing cards.

Vance’s Blasting Cannons is a card that in a lot of ways resembles Outpost Siege, a very playable Magic card when it was Standard legal. If there is a {B}{R} aggro deck in the format, I would not be too surprised to see both Blood Fast and Blasting Cannons appearing in the sideboard. The thing I like most about Blasting Cannons is that it gives you a control over when you transform it into Spitfire Bastion. If we want to continue drawing more cards we can leave it as an enchantment, or if our opponent is low on life we can hold a spell for a turn or two to flip into the Bastion.

While Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun harkens back to powerful Legacy staple Gaea’s Cradle, I actually think that Growing Rites of Itlimoc is likely the worst of the cards in this cycle. While drawing it in multiples is not terrible, spending 3 mana to Impulse for only creatures is a fairly steep cost. How powerful this card ends up being will likely depend on how good a “go wide” ramp deck can be in the format.

Getting past the Legendary Enchantments, let’s look at some of the tribal cards in this set starting with Pirates:

Pirates

Siren Stormtamer

While the stats on this card are not terribly impressive, the fact that it has evasion likely means it will be able to push a few points of damage every game before eventually saving one of our better threats from a piece of removal. More importantly, it can come down on the first turn of the game to start enabling “Pirates matter” cards, such as:

Lookout's Dispersal

I think this card is very reasonable. In the right semi-aggressive shell, this will always be a hard counter and often one that only costs two mana. Mana Leak is too strong for Standard and this can often be a better Mana Leak for us.

Our Stormtamer needs some better pirates to protect and thankfully, we have a few different ones to choose from:

Kitesail Freebooter
Dreamcaller Siren
Fathom Fleet Captain

Like Stormtamer, Kitesail Freebooter does not add a lot of power to the table, but it brings utility with it. Getting a glimpse into their hand and taking one of their key cards away can help us choose how we best want to sequence whatever remaining interaction is in our hand.

Dreamcaller Siren feels like the “heavy hitter” that a tempo oriented pirates deck wants to be playing. The fact that it has flash is a big deal since it lets us pass holding up cards like Glimmer of Genius or Lookout’s Dispersal. It is also capable of generating tempo when simply played out pre-combat by tapping down two of their largest attackers.

Fathom Fleet Captain does not have the utility of the other pirates we have looked at so far, but it does offer a bit more punch. Being able to generate a second body is a reasonable effect and the fact that they both have menace means we only have to keep the board partially clear to keep pressuring our opponent.

Speaking of pressuring our opponent, there is a non-zero chance that a more aggressively {B}{R} slanted pirates deck is likely a good starting place in the format. Specifically, Dire Fleet Captain seems like a reasonable 2-drop:

Dire Fleet Captain

In addition to playing well with the evasive Black pirates, Dire Fleet Captain also works well with Kari Zev, Skyship Raider who is another threat with menace. It also curves nicely into another Black pirate from the new set:

Ruin Raider

While not exactly a Dark Confidant, in a lot of ways, Ruin Raider is easier to get value off of while also providing a larger body. We can play Ruin Raider on a turn where our opponent is tapped out and immediately draw an additional card with it, assuming we had a creature to attack with.

Dinosaurs

Next up, let’s look at the second most exciting tribe: Dinosaurs! While there are a number of Dinosaurs that will see Constructed play, I think there are three that easily rise above the rest:

Regisaur Alpha
Ripjaw Raptor
Carnage Tyrant

I do not think it is a stretch to say that Regisaur Alpha will be the centerpiece of most competitive Dinosaur decks. Not only does it generate seven power across two bodies for five resources, but it also gives future dinosaurs we play haste. Most notably, the Alpha is not legendary, which means our second Alpha will have haste from the first one.

Ripjaw Raptor has reasonable stats for its mana cost and can serve to make combat less appealing for our opponents. Chump blocking Ripjaw is not great because we will get to draw a card and attacking into Ripjaw is not great for similar reasons. If Walking Ballista finds its way into our Dinosaur deck, we can convert counters on it into card draw for ourselves.

Carnage Tyrant gives us a nice tool for our midrange creature deck to beat up on the more controlling decks that will often give us trouble. It’s worth noting that at six resources, Carnage Tyrant curves nicely after a Regisaur Alpha, which allows our hard-to-deal-with dinosaur to start attacking right away.

One of the most important cards for the dinosaur archetype, though, likely is not a mythic, rare, or even uncommon. This important common will likely be the glue that pulls the archetype together:

Commune with Dinosaurs

While this card may not seem like much at a glance, it is extremely powerful. It helps eliminate some of the “ramp deck problems” these decks can often have. In the early game, it can find us a land we need to curve out, while in the late game, it can dig us to additional threats we need to close a game out. This card reminds me a lot of Ancient Stirrings which is a powerhouse in formats like Modern, even.

The last card I want to mention today from Ixalan is not a new card, but a much welcome reprint:

Opt

It has been almost five years since we last had a reasonable one-cost cantrip that was Standard legal. More importantly though, this reprint makes Opt a Modern legal card. This is relevant because all of the more powerful Blue cantrips are banned in Modern. Not only is Opt an instant, but it is also the only one-cost cantrip legal in Modern that lets us scry before we draw with it. While I do not think Opt is better than Serum Visions in every deck, I do think it is a fantastic addition to {U}{R} Snapcaster Mage based decks.

While Jeskai Control is the most popular of this style of deck that comes to mind, there is another {U}{R} Snapcaster Mage deck that has seen some fringe success in Modern:


Reminiscent of the now banned Splinter Twin archetype, I think Opt might be the push in consistency this style of deck needed to really be competitive.

Wrapping Up

What are your thoughts on Ixalan now that we have the full spoiler? Do you like the Legendary Enchantments? Do you think there is an important Pirate or Dinosaur that I did not mention above? Let me know in a comment below!

Cheers,
— Jeff Hoogland


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

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