With every new set, I go over the top cards that pique my deck-building interest. These lists contain cards that intrigue me, whether they’re top tier or not. I’d like to think that my personal preference is obscure enough to avoid simply showing you the best cards in the set, but Ixalan was a tough one since there seems to be an abundance of very playable cards.
What I try hardest to accomplish is to provide a perspective on some cards you might not have. Maybe you’ll see a card in a new light, or discover an application you might not have thought of—if so, then I consider these articles a success.
Without further ado, welcome back, and let’s begin!
8. Boneyard Parley
Oh, here’s this 7-mana Fact or Fiction for reanimating creatures. Don’t get me wrong. I doubt that this card is going to make its way into any competitive Constructed decks, but I do think it’s enticing. The fact that you can select creatures from any graveyard is really the caveat I’m looking for when I see a reanimation spell.
Even in a situation when there’s something as game-winning as an Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite or a Grave Titan in a graveyard, the worst-case scenario here is that you’re getting one of those or you’re getting four other creatures. Just like Fact or Fiction (or similar cards), in the most dire of situations this comes down to quality vs. quantity. In most other situations you’re likely to be picking from three decent creatures or two slightly better ones.
Who knows? I can see this being a reasonable top-end for a black-based control deck. Paying 7 mana for a win condition that puts two or more creatures on the battlefield could be a pretty decent value.
7. Dreamcaller Siren
Oh, if only this stupid bird could tap lands. I thought it could at first, which made it a literal slam dunk. Of course, that’s likely too broken to be able to tap down two of your opponent’s lands on their turn-4 upkeep, then their turn-5 upkeep, then their—you get the point.
Either way, the abilities on Dreamcaller Siren still make it pretty playable, especially if you’re trying to buy time and out-tempo your opponents or sneak damage through with Pirates. The caveat that it can’t block non-flyers and only triggering if you control another Pirate is unfortunate, but we’ve definitely seen worse 3/3 flyers for 4 mana being played in Constructed.
6. Spell Swindle
I like this card a lot. It’s basically what you’d get if Mana Drain and Confirm Suspicions had a baby, and it’s the next in a long line of new cards that copy old cards for 5 mana (Jace’s Ingenuity, Time Warp, etc.). In combination with Marionette Master, you can counter their 5- or 6-mana spell, get a bunch of Lotus Petals, cast a Marionette Master adding three +1/+1 counters, then make them lose 4 life for each Treasure you sacrifice. And that’s how you deal 20-24 damage with two cards in Standard!
But there’s also another card that piques my interest in conjunction with Spell Swindle…
5. Revel in Riches
I don’t actually think this is the fifth card on the list, but I do like Spell Swindle a good deal and I felt like this was the only way to make sure it followed the narrative! So there are things I like about this card and things I don’t. I don’t like that it only triggers on an opponent’s creature, but I get it—you’re pilfering their treasure. I don’t like that it costs 5 mana because this kind of a card is an engine, so you kind of want to get it out early. I don’t like that it can be taken care of with Cast Out or Ixalan’s Binding.
What I like is that it’s an alternate win condition, which are always fun. 10 Treasures don’t actually seem like that many when you’re packing cards like Spell Swindle or wiping the board of multiple creatures. Again, is this a card that will see play? Likely no more than Mechanized Production, but what if you played them… together!? Heck, it costs 1 less and requires 2 fewer Treasures. That’s 8 alternate win conditions!
4. Priest of the Wakening Sun
While unassuming, this card does everything we have historically wanted from a white 1-drop. It gains you life, it deals a few points of damage, and in the late game it becomes larger and more useful. It’s also a Human if that does anything for you. There’s not a tremendous amount to say about this guy, but 2 life a turn can really add up. Couple that with a late-game tutor effect and you have an efficient creature.
3. Shaper’s Sanctuary
This card reminds me a lot of Fecundity, penalizing the opponent for dealing with your creatures. The caveat I’m looking for in cards like this one is whether it triggers on spells and abilities, or just spells. Thankfully we’re talking about the former here, which is great. It basically ensures that every spot removal spell from an opponent is going to draw you a card. If they’re removing enrage creatures, you’re sure to reap even more rewards. This might be a solid sideboard card in creature-heavy decks against removal-heavy decks that I might otherwise overlook if it didn’t cost a single mana and have the potential to stack.
2. Ripjaw Raptor
This card might just be obviously good. I’m not sure yet, but as an old-school player, 4/5s for 4 mana are my bread and butter. Erhnam Djinn was my favorite creature for the longest time simply because it was one of the strongest dudes you could be playing at the time.
Well, the Raptor is an indication of how far we’ve come. This is just a great midrange card and is on par with other midrange cards in recent history such as Siege Rhino and Mindwrack Demon. While the Raptor is still a great creature that dies to most removal, it definitely lets the opponent know that they need to either get out of the way or let you draw a card.
1. Star of Extinction
Ah, the modern day Destructive Force, but one that lets you keep all of your lands, kills one of theirs, and kills every creature or planeswalker on the board. Yeah, every single one. Not even Nicol Bolas escapes this one. For red-based control decks looking for a sweeper, this is the Rolls Royce of board control. It’s not cheap, but good lord does it get the job done when you need it.
As Samuel L. Jackson’s Ordell Robbie says in Jackie Brown, “The very best there is. When you absolutely, positively, have to kill every creature and planeswalker in the room, accept no substitutes.” (Paraphrasing.)
And that’s the way the news goes! As always, I know some might not like some of my choices. That’s fine! These are the cards that I’m excited to play and build decks with, so hopefully you’ll be excited to play with some of them too.
Either way, I hope I’ve given you something to think about and maybe you’ve seen some of these cards in a new light. Maybe comparing them to older cards might have helped, or maybe you just think they‘re all junk! (But that’s not very nice. Cards have feelings too.)
Be sure to let me know in the comments some of your favorites that you feel aren’t getting the attention they deserve. Thanks for reading and I’ll catch you later!