Previous Rivals of Ixalan Set Reviews
Let’s take a look at the grading scale, with the usual caveat that what I write about the card is more relevant, as there are many factors that aren’t reflected in a card’s grade.
Aggressive Urge is going to drastically impact attacking and blocking over the course of the format. Trading for a trick is one thing, but being down a card is a completely different animal. This is cheap enough that any combats swung by +1/+1 are much sketchier against open green mana, which should lead to a lot more “no blocks.” When a good combat trick has this potential, it rightfully changes how people play. That said, some decks just don’t want tricks, so sometimes this won’t make the cut.
The stats are odd, but good. 2/5 is hard to punch through, and the enrage will randomly come in handy. Hunt the Weak is a nice combo, thanks to the high toughness, and it even lets you untap a land. Dino decks will definitely run this, as will most green decks.
The bark on this one is worse than the bite (of its friends). You aren’t paying much for the ability, as a 2/1 for 2 is good, but it’s hard for things to line up where you have mana up, a Dinosaur, and a fight you want to instigate, all at the right time. Still, the opponent will play scared, making this a card most decks will indeed cherish.
This is slightly worse than Carnage Tyrant, mainly because of the lesser stats and lack of great abilities. It’s still a perfectly acceptable finisher, and a card I’ll play multiples of in a ramp deck. It doesn’t even sound bad to play one in a red-green beatdown deck, as a 6/6 trample is no laughing matter for the opponent.
Mini-Regisaur Alpha is a premium uncommon, and an easy addition to any green deck. 6/6 worth of stats (with trample) over two cards is a great deal for 5 mana.
You want a focused deck to really maximize this, but this is a tribal payoff that’s more than worth the effort. You only need to generate two counters to be happy, and I can imagine going much deeper than that.
Enter the Unknown
Despite it being tempting to turbo something out while getting lands or +1/+1 counters for your trouble, it’s hard for this to work out perfectly. You need to draw it early, have a cheap creature, and lands to play, while also needing expensive cards to ramp to. Given that explore ends up getting you a card less than half the time, I’m not excited about this.
Forerunner of the Heralds
This Forerunner means business, and will often end up hitting the opponent as a 5/4 the turn after you play it. It also tutors up whatever the best Merfolk you have is, and the catch of the day is often going to be a nice one.
Ghalta, Primal Hunger
12 may seem like a lot, until you realize that any two other Dinos makes this castable, and a Dino plus a smaller creature gives you a pretty good shot. Ghalta is large enough (and hungry enough) that it’s worth drafting around and trying to play on turn 6 or 7. It may take a somewhat focused deck, but the payoff is there.
Giltgrove Stalker has an annoying little text box, and will sometimes chip in for a solid 4-6 damage before the opponent can muster an appropriate blocker. Plus, if they have to toss a 3/2 or 4/2 in front of it, you’re happy about that outcome, and if you can pick up combat tricks the opponent might just run right into them.
Hardy Veteran is hard to kill, and I’d only cut it from the most defensive green decks. It’s just got too many stats to ignore, and at such a low cost.
Hunt the Weak
Normally this rates a 2.5 or 3.0, depending on what else is going on the set. I like it a lot more here for a few reasons:
- There are a lot of creatures with good stats at common and uncommon, making fights easier to win.
- Merfolk and Dinos have +1/+1 counter and enrage synergies, respectively.
- There are a lot of small evasive creatures, which this picks off nicely.
- Add all that together and I’m in to join the great hunt (even if Rivals is sadly missing any Horns to search for).
This is almost a build-around, even if the Bearer itself is never driving a deck. It’s basically unplayable outside dedicated Merfolk, but it’s good in that deck, as it adds 2/2 of stats for 1 mana, and can enable synergies as needed.
Jadecraft Artisan packs a reasonable punch, and has good enough stats to be worth including in most green decks. +2/+2 often deals more than 2 extra damage, as it lets you attack when you otherwise couldn’t, making this even better than it might look.
Jungleborn Pioneer is more than just a token 3-drop, and it may be the best way to halt the opponent’s offense at common. It interacts well against menace creatures, 4/2s, and 2/1s, while still trading for the plethora of 3/3s for 3. It also gives you a hexproof token for Aura shenanigans, if you are running those. I like this in any green deck, and have been very impressed so far.
Knight of the Stampede
In a dedicated Dino deck, this is an easy 3.0 and could even be better. Playing this on 4 and playing 9 mana worth of Dinos the turn after is not all that hard, and it rumbles in combat well enough once the mana production is over.
This is a great sideboard card, especially given some of the busted flip enchantments, but I’m still not maindecking it.
In an aggressive green deck, this is passable, and in a deck that cares about Dinos, it’s got a few nice synergies that make it playable. In neither case am I super hyped, but it’s a fine card.
What will most often happen is that this will trade for a card and leave a 1/1 behind. That works for me, and if you ever get this into combat and have a trick, the Armasaur will send the opponent straight to their tomb.
Path of Discovery
I think this card is pretty strong. It’s slow, and you won’t often be able to play it on turn 4, but it does provide a clear path to victory. It works very nicely with tokens, and should give you the material you need to win any sort of long game.
Plummet is still great out of the sideboard, and still not main-deck material.
With the abundance of great expensive cards in the set, I just can’t get behind an 8-drop that interacts poorly with bounce or non-damage removal. It can go nuts with the right cards, but I’d save this one for Sealed more than Draft.
Strength of the Pack
How strong the pack is will vary wildly—some games, this will be an absurd finisher, and in others it will rot in your hand. I like it as high-end in a deck with a lot of creatures and a low curve, and would tend to be wary of it in a more midrange/controlling Dinosaur deck.
You either ambush a spell or a creature, and both outcomes are great for you. If it looks like there are no good ambushes forthcoming, you can also just run this out and swiftly apply pressure to the opponent. I’d play this with no other Merfolk, though it does get a lot better when you’re running the full seafood platter.
The biggest drawback of this card is that it’s a nice tender 2/2, ripe for removal. But if the opponent doesn’t have a kill spell, it gets out of control quickly. It makes you ascend almost immediately, and then makes two 3/3s per turn cycle (note that it triggers on their turn too). That’s a lot of finishing power and an immediate reward.
Green gets some efficient uncommons here, and this shatters the normal stat/cost ratio. It also has the ability to throw itself at a pesky artifact or enchantment, making it relevant even when the board gets stalled.
In a dedicated Dino deck, this is one of the better 2-drops, as it ramps you right to the part of the curve where Dinos excels (the top part). Outside of Dinos, it’s not worth playing, unless you had a busted deck that required splashing. 3 is too much to pay for this effect, while 2 is exciting.
Wayward Swordtooth is tricky, but it’s worth exploring. When things go right and you have 6 lands in play on turn 4, this looks good, since you’re likely to flood the board and hit the city’s blessing on turn 5 or 6. When you’re short on lands, this is a total blank, and that’s what worries me. It at least is a fine topdeck in the late game, and in Dino decks, could fight alongside 6+ drop Dinos and a high land count.
If you can get one attack in, you should be looking at a free land when this dies. That’s sweet, and it only gets better later (though eventually you may not be able to attack due to decking).
Top 3 Green Commons
I will note that Knight of the Stampede can be better than any of these in the right deck, but I’d start out here. Green got some good tools, and more cheap attackers than normal.