Ixalan Set Reviews

Limited:

White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Gold, Artifacts, and Lands

Limited:

White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Gold, Artifacts, and Lands

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Previous Dominaria Set Reviews

Limited:

White

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.

Ratings Scale

Retired and inducted into the Limited Hall of Fame: Pack Rat. Umezawa’s Jitte. The Scarab God.
5.0: The best of the best. (Glorybringer. The Scorpion God. The Locust God.)
4.5: Incredible bomb, but not unbeatable. (Archfiend of Ifnir. Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh. God-Pharaoh’s Gift.)
4.0: Good rare or top-tier uncommon. (Sunset Pyramid. Angler Drake. Sand Strangler.)
3.5: Top-tier common or solid uncommon. (Open Fire. Ambuscade. Gravedigger.)
3.0: Good playable that basically always makes the cut. (Desert of the Mindful. Oasis Ritualist. Oketra’s Avenger.)
2.5: Solid playable that rarely gets cut. (Unsummon. Puncturing Blow. Naga Vitalist.)
2.0: Good filler, but sometimes gets cut. (Tah-Crop Skirmisher. Harrier Naga. Counterveiling Winds.)
1.5: Filler. Gets cut about half the time. (Moaning Wall. Khenra Eternal. Without Weakness.)
1.0: Bad filler. Gets cut most of the time. (Defiant Khenra. Disposal Mummy. Djeru’s Renunciation.)
0.5: Very low-end playables and sideboard material. (Forsake the Worldly. Chandra’s Defeat.)
0.0: Completely unplayable. (Solemnity. Luxa River Shrine. One with Nothing.)

Academy Drake

Limited: 3.5

A Wind Drake that can become an Air Elemental is an incredibly powerful common. Casting this on turn 3 is going to be pretty good, and casting it on turn 7+ is even better. Being good in both spots is a quality most people are going to underrate, and this is the perfect example of the power of flexibility.

Academy Journeymage

Limited: 3.5

I was a big fan of Ogre Savant, and sometimes this comes out for 4 mana. That’s a premium common, and one that doesn’t ask a whole lot from you—if you’ve got a few Wizards, awesome, and if not, this is still fine.

The Antiquities War

Limited: 0.0

There just aren’t nearly enough artifacts floating around to make this worth tinkering with. It’s cool, and might be sweet in Constructed, but it’s good for absolutely nothing in Limited.

Arcane Flight

Limited: 2.5

This again? Is it mandatory that we have some kind of Spectral Flight in every set? I’m guessing this will be solid, though 1-mana +1/+1 is on balance worse than 2-mana +2/+2 (except in Constructed). This is cheap and grants evasion, so it will be playable. Oh well, beats.

Artificer’s Assistant

Limited: 1.5

I’m largely unimpressed by this little bird—you need to trigger this 2-3 times for it to be exciting, and I don’t think that’ll happen most of the time. The payoff isn’t not worth building around, leaving this in the uncanny valley of needing support but not paying you when you provide it. Where I’m most optimistic is in a blue aggro deck, which could happen (blue-red tempo for example).

Befuddle

Limited: 1.5

This is a 2-for-1 when it works, but is expensive and doesn’t help you kill anything larger, so I’m not very high on it. If you have room for some air, this is fine, though I doubt that’ll be the case in most decks.

Blink of an Eye

Limited: 3.0

I’m in for any number of these, and in any kind of deck. Cantrip bounce is very powerful, and you can cast this for 2 mana in a pinch. With multiple great bounce spells at common, I’m eyeing tempo decks—maybe blue is the beatdown this time around.

Cloudreader Sphinx

Limited: 3.5

Wow, blue is not messing around when it comes to commons. I really don’t think my pro-blue bias is leading to higher ratings here—these cards are just very pushed. A 3/4 flyer for 5 is solid, and not out of this world, but adding scry 2 all of a sudden makes it really appealing. By the time you have five mana, lands aren’t great draws, so this can mimic a draw 2 quite nicely. I want two of these in every blue deck, and would love to curve Blink of an Eye into them.

Cold-Water Snapper

Limited: Please, no more hexproof (1.0 // 2.5)

This at least doesn’t have flying, but one Arcane Flight later and that is no longer true. I would snap this up if I had two to three Auras to put on it, but avoid it otherwise. It’s too expensive to be good unless you’re buffing it.

Curator’s Ward

Limited: 0.0

OK, this kind of hexproof I can accept. This looks atrocious to me—it is too expensive to be good as just protection, and pays you off with a Divination sometimes when the thing dies.

Deep Freeze

Limited: 3.0

This card has a range. In aggressive decks that attack on the ground, it’s quite bad, but in control or flying decks it’s basically hard removal. I’d lean toward taking it and aiming for the skies because it is so good when it’s on, especially given that it removes abilities. The parade of good blue commons just doesn’t end.

Diligent Excavator

Limited: 1.0

Some of the uncommons, on the other hand, aren’t much to write home about. There really isn’t a mill deck, and given how hard it is to get multiples of this, I don’t think I’d go digging for one. There’s a small amount of U/B self-mill incentive, but not enough to make me take this highly.

Divination

Limited: 2.0

I could see bumping this plus or minus half a point depending on format speed, and even if I like the card, I’m not insane. It’s a fine way to hit land drops and smooth out draws in a slow deck, and far from what you want to be doing in aggro.

Homarid Explorer

Limited: 1.5

If you want a Hill Giant (or Mill Giant), this is fine, but the ability isn’t all that impressive.

In Bolas’s Clutches

Limited: 4.5

A 6-mana Control Magic that gives you two legendary permanents is a great deal, and certainly one of the best cards in the set. This is such a huge swing that you will win most games where the opponent doesn’t have bounce or enchantment removal, which is still great at 6 mana.

Karn’s Temporal Sundering

Limited: 0.5

The effect here isn’t all that impressive, sweet art notwithstanding, and you won’t be able to cast this all the time. Taking an extra turn is historically only great when you are winning, and requiring you to jump through a hoop to do so really negates a lot of the value. Save this one for Constructed.

Merfolk Trickster

Limited: 3.5

Merfolk Trickster lives up to its name—you can use it to tap a creature precombat, or after they attack to remove flying or first strike (or any other combat-relevant ability). It can also be used proactively to get damage through, and at the end of the day is a 2/2 for 2 as well. This card seems sweet, and I look forward to playing with it.

The Mirari Conjecture

Limited: 1.0 // 3.5

In a spell-heavy deck, this can be an awesome finisher. Imagine a deck with 10-14 spells, where you curve removal into removal into this. All of a sudden you get two spells back and then get to copy them, putting the opponent into a huge hole. If you can afford to spend 5 mana and not affect the board, my theory is that this is awesome, though it’ll be a blank card unless you really do the work to make it good.

Naban, Dean of Iteration

Limited: 1.5 // 3.0

The range is a little narrower on Naban, with a 2/1 for 2 being fine even without text and double-triggering all your Wizards being less impressive than copying all your spells. Most Wizard decks will want this, but it’s not a strong enough build-around that I’m looking to slam it early.

Naru Meha, Master Wizard

Limited: 3.5

Naru, on the other hand, is much more appealing. A flash lord is a game changer, and she also is big enough to brawl by herself. If you can pick up some cheap spells, she really shines, and all of that together makes for a solid card. You have multiple deck-building paths to choose from, all of which are good.

Opt

Limited: 1.5

Unless you have spells-matter cards, this is usually an easy card to cut. It’s just hard to make room for air like this, even if it always does well if you have to include it.

Precognition Field

Limited: 1.0-2.0

I may not be able to see the future, but I sure can predict losing with this in play. This one is a bit expensive for my tastes, as spending 4 mana to start with is a tough sell. At least The Mirari Conjecture gets you your mana back on the turn it copies spells, while this just asks you to dump more mana into it. I’m a sucker for build-arounds, so I’ll try this, but I think it’s going to be bad.

Relic Runner

Limited: 1.5

Relic Runner plays double-duty as an early drop that can randomly get in for the last 4-6 points. That’s worth running some of the time, especially if you want both halves.

Rescue

Limited: 0.5

This is a marginal sideboard card against In Bolas’s Clutches, and not much past that. The effect is too narrow and not nearly powerful enough.

Sage of Lat-Nam

Limited: 1.0

The artifacts in this set are largely bad, and cycling through them isn’t a huge upside. Adding a 2-mana 1/2 to the deal isn’t exactly a saving grace either.

Sentinel of the Pearl Trident

Limited: 2.0

There are a ton of flash 3/3s in this set, so I recommend not sending 2/2s into a lot of mana. This can provide decent value if you’ve got three or more good historic cards, particularly Sagas, and is at least playable even if you don’t.

Slinn Voda, the Rising Deep

Limited: 0.5

10 mana is just so much, and you really need to kick this to get value from it. I might try going deep with Powerstone Shard, but past that I don’t see how you are getting the real Slinn Voda to stand up.

Syncopate

Limited: 2.5

The first Syncopate is pretty good, as it’s a 2-drop when you have it in your opening hand and still a relevant card later. They do get worse in multiples, as counters can get stranded in your hand, but I’ll happily run one to start with.

Tempest Djinn

Limited: 3.5

The mana cost is obviously a real drawback, but I’m not that picky about 4/4 flyers for 3, and this can even grow larger. If you see this early, try to slam blue to the point where you can run 11+ Islands, at which point it will be the best card in your deck.

Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive

Limited: 3.0

I like Tetsuko—she slips in for 1 without fear, and can really power up your X/1s. She does also help 1/Xs, but those are naturally less exciting, so try and draft a bunch of 3/1s and get busy.

Time of Ice

Limited: 3.5

Time of Ice is extremely powerful, especially in an aggro deck. Locking down two blockers, then bouncing them, is a big tempo swing, and it even prevents the opponent from attacking on the last turn if they did have anything to attack with. It loses a lot of luster the more controlling you get, but this is powerful enough to make me want to take it and draft a tempo deck.

Tolarian Scholar

Limited: 1.0

Zzz.

Unwind

Limited: 0.5

Not only is this a sideboard card, it’s much worse than Negate. Untapping three lands on their turn is just not exciting, and paying an extra mana up front is quite bad. Still, it can stop powerful Sagas and protect your cards, so you will sometimes bring it in.

Vodalian Arcanist

Limited: 1.5

I obviously want to draft decks where this is good, but realize that it shouldn’t make the cut more than half the time (and it may even be less). If you’ve got 8+ spells, especially expensive ones, this becomes interesting, but it’s filler up until then.

Weight of Memory

Limited: 1.5

5 mana for three cards isn’t a great deal, and adding a mill three doesn’t exactly turn a bad memory into good tidings. I’d play this in a spell-based deck, but avoid it outside of that.

Wizard’s Retort

Limited: 1.5

In a deck with 5+ Wizards, this is passable, but not exciting. Outside of that, it’s mostly a sideboard card (though I do like counterspells more in Sealed).

Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp

Limited: 4.0

Zahid is playable without an artifact, and becomes absurd if you can power him out on turn 4. Poor Mahamoti, victim of 25 years of power creep.

Top 5 Blue Commons

5. Deep Freeze
4. Academy Drake
3. Blink of an Eye
2. Cloudreader Sphinx
1. Academy Journeymage

Blue really knocked it out of the park this time—four of the top five commons are cards I’d be happy first-picking, and all of them are better than white’s best common. I also think they are super close together. If I got to pick six to have in my deck, I’d probably want like 2-2-1-1, which shows the range quite nicely. Deep Freeze isn’t even a bad 5th, and in some decks, moves up dramatically, which is just gravy. Delicious, frozen gravy. I might like blue, but I suspect everyone will in this set, and I’m curious how that plays out.