Ixalan Treasures

With every set there are inevitable events and phrases attached to cards.

My favorite is the “this card is atrocious and will never see play. Why is that player playing it? They must be bad. Wow that card is actually good. I always knew it was.”

Hyperbole is rampant across Magic players and I can’t say I don’t participate from time to time. Sometimes it’s the easiest way to clarify how you feel about a card. There will probably be some hyperbolic moments in this article as I go over my favorite cards from this set. Some of my picks from the last couple of years include Sylvan Advocate, Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, and Liliana, the Last Hope. I felt pretty good about those picks, but I have also made some poor choices like Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper. Let’s not worry about those, though. This is not necessarily a list of cards that will move a ton in value. No. Instead, this is a list I think will make a Standard impact.

Let’s begin!

Hostage Taker

My pick for the best card in the set is Hostage Taker.

Clocking at four mana for a 2/3 isn’t that impressive, but the ability to steal any creature or artifact gives {U}{B} a unique way to handle some problematic permanents. The second line is where things start to get interesting. Hostage Taker gives you the ability to also cast whatever you steal using whatever mana you have available. If the last format was any indication, being able to dominate board states is going to be relevant once again. With cards like Glorybringer and The Scarab God topping out curves, being able to force an opponent to have removal for Hostage Taker can be the difference between not being able to win and locking up an easy victory. With the addition of being able to steal artifacts, Hostage Taker provides a way for you to cut a God-Pharaoh’s Gift player from making any progress or taking a Skysovereign, Consul Flagship for yourself. Hostage Taker is built to change the fabric of the game and I fully expect its impact to be widely felt throughout it’s time in Standard.

Verdict: Major player in Standard for its life cycle.

Settle the Wreckage

Control has been aching for an instant speed pseudo wrath for quite some time, and Settle the Wreckage is a nice one. Carnage Tyrant is already at $30; and, if the talk is any indication, that dino is going to be a bruiser in Standard. Settle the Wreckage can provide a fantastic instant speed way to clear up a board and deal with problematic creatures like Hazoret the Fervent which can be difficult to manage otherwise. Being instant speed also gives access to Torrential Gearhulk being a wrath effect. Once you Settle the Wreckage your opponent once they will certainly think twice before attacking with all their creatures again. Being in White means we also have access to Approach of the Second Sun which gives us a fantastic win condition. Playing Approach of the Second Sun forces your opponent to move quickly to not lose, and playing a card like Settle the Wreckage helps you beat every threat.

Verdict: Likely to make control decks a player in Standard but not enough of a player to make control decks tier one.

Merfolk Branchwalker

Merfolk Branchwalker is a relatively unassuming card but will certainly make impact in Standard. Explore is fantastic but most certainly designed for Limited. However, Merfolk Branchwalker is costed aggressively enough for Standard. Being able to ensure land drops or essentially Scry 1 gives you a lot of options and consistency. This card won't be replacing Servant of the Conduit anytime soon, but there are other decks I can see making use out of it. Combine this card with Winding Constrictor and you can extract a ton of value.

Verdict: Lots of playability and flexibility. Probably slow to catch on.

Vraska, Relic Seeker

This is one of my favorite cards in the set. A flexible, multicolored Planeswalker with a built in two for one and the ability to win the game on its own. Vraska, Relic Seeker’s -3 is a mostly all encompassing removal spell; and, while it can’t target Planeswalkers, being able to rip apart any creature, artifact, or enchantment means Vraska, Relic Seeker can threaten to dominate any battlefield. Getting a Treasure for doing so is just a nice bonus. Since you’re likely also playing Fatal Push in any deck with Vraska, this creates a nice combo to trigger Revolt for it which can create a great way to deal with two creatures for only 6 mana. It’s also likely that you’ll be playing Walking Ballista in this kind of deck as a way to ensure the -10 ability is a nice one-two punch to end the game.

While 2/2s are on the weaker side, having Menace means they will be able to attack quite efficiently if you need to pressure an opponent’s Planeswalker. Otherwise, creating 2/2s can give you just enough breathing room while you set up to get back into the game.

Verdict: Not format defining but will make a large impact in the decks it is in.

Regisaur Alpha

If Dinosaurs are a tribe to be played, then Regisaur Alpha will be one of the flagship cards. Creating seven power for five mana is already impressive, but giving your other Dinosaurs haste means your opponent could be in for a short game. With lots of hard hitting options available, haste creates awkward positions for your opponent to be in and puts them on the defense. Following a Regisaur Alpha into a second one lets you attack for fourteen damage on turn six! That is an impressive number.

If the control players are utilizing Settle the Wreckage as a way to fight these combo decks at instant speed; holding back Regisaur Alpha and never attacking with it can let you attack every turn with creatures until your opponent answers your field, which can then give you the opportunity to deploy creatures lying in wait.

Verdict: A powerhouse of a Magic card. If Dinos end up being a tribe to beat, this card will be at the forefront of the deck.

Vance's Blasting Cannons

Outpost Siege this card is not. That being said, this card will be good for similar reasons to Chandra, Torch of Defiance. While you’ll have to flip it to ensure the damage output from Spitfire Bastion, the cannons don’t suffer from the ability to be attacked to death. The inability to play lands of the trigger is certainly a detriment, but not one that I think will matter too much. Whether this is in a midrange deck or Mono-Red deck, it provides some fantastic reach, especially in the mid to late game. The Mono-Red decks already contain a ton of reach, and Vance’s Blasting Cannons provides more fodder to ensure a late game victory.

Verdict: A sideboard player in every Red deck. Awesome for Standard with a huge upside. I expect it to be a major player.

Ripjaw Raptor

Easily one of the most talked about cards of the new set. Ripjaw Raptor makes its presence known and provides so much value. Weighing in as a hefty 4/5 Ripjaw Raptor is going to be able to get into combat with every creature and play both defense and offense well. Drawing cards is always going to be a valuable ability to have and there are plenty of ways outside of combat to trigger Enrage on Ripjaw Raptor. Walking Ballista has long been hailed as a fantastic card and does a perfect job of sliding right into a deck where we’d like to use Enrage. Opponent decides to wrath you? Walking Ballista can target Ripjaw Raptor for some extra card draw. Opponent is playing a wide creature deck with small creatures? Let’s clear ‘em out with Sweltering Suns and draw some cards for our troubles. When the premiere removal spells are Lightning Strike and Harnessed Lightning, it’s pretty easy to extract some value out of Enrage.

Verdict: If your opponent is playing Green but isn’t playing an Energy deck, expect to see this card extract a ton of value

Spell Swindle

Spell Swindle is easily the most out of place card on this list. While I don’t think this card is going to become a staple, I think it has a higher upside than folks might first see. While five mana is expensive for a Counterspell, one of the ways control loses is by not being able to answer multiple cards in a turn. Spell Swindle provides a fantastic way for you leverage multiple spells in a turn. Part of control’s problem is not having the right answers at the right time. The Treasures that Spell Swindle makes can allow you to cast your more expensive removal or even a draw spell without having to sacrifice tempo. This is certainly not a card that will be more than a 2-of in your control deck, but the huge tempo plays in can create seem perfect for any control deck.

Verdict: Likely medium at best but lots of neat interactions and swings.

Vraska's Contempt

The second coming of Hero’s Downfall indeed. There really isn’t much to say about Vraska’s Contempt. While it isn’t a 4-of lock like Hero’s Downfall was, Vraska’s Contempt is a fantastic way to beat Planeswalkers and tough to handle creatures like Hazoret the Fervent.

Veridct: Fantastic card for Black mages and will see play. Look for this to help spawn new Black based control decks.

I can’t wait to see what cards ended up making an impact this past weekend and how right I was! Was there any card you called right? Let me know.

Ixalan is available now! Get singles and sealed for the latest set!