Previous 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.
5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Collected Company. Remand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace Beleren. Radiant Flames. Shambling Vent.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of Thought. Zulaport Cutthroat. Explosive Vegetation.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory Adept. Anticipate. Transgress the Mind.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living Guildpact. Naturalize. Duress.) Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.
1.0: It has seen play once. (One with Nothing). (I believe it was tech vs. Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)
It’s cute that this makes everything in every zone the appropriate type, as that opens the door for many more combos. Of course, in Constructed you are also just allowed to put as many cards of the right tribe into your deck as you want, so I’m not sure it’s worth adapting your deck to fit this in.
Chart a Course
I really hope there’s a blue beatdown deck around, because a 2-mana draw 2 is quite a Constructed playable. I like that this is perfectly castable early if you need to smooth out your draws, and just gets better once you do start attacking. It might be hard to find a tempo-based blue deck that can utilize this, but the power is there.
There may be enough going on here to make it interesting, as a 2-cost looter that has evasion later is decent. It strikes me as a bit too expensive, so my guess is that you are sabotaging your chances if you play it.
I love me a Trinket (or Treasure, or Trophy) Mage, and I can’t help but like the idea of Quartermaster. Still, I’m not blind to the extra mana, and that probably kills my dreams dead. I think it’s sweet and would like to keep an eye on it, even if I can admit it’s a bit pricey.
I’m not gonna lie—making an army of 1/1 hexproof Merfolk sounds sweet. Goblinslide never came close to being close to good enough, but shaving a mana off the ability makes a world of difference. This could be a sideboard card in Merfolk for attrition matchups, though I’m not holding my breath.
If there really is a Faeries-like tempo Pirate deck in Standard, this Siren seems very alluring. It adds a lot of power to the board, and can easily swing races in your favor. If does require support, but in midrange creature-based formats, this is a powerful card.
Every control magic is worth looking at, though this particular one is expensive enough that I’m immune to its charms. It does steal tokens nicely, so keep that in mind if there is a deck that generates zero-cost tokens at a high enough rate.
A 2-mana Glorious Anthem is a big enough payoff that it’s worth building around, and there are a lot of cheap flyers running (flying) around that the outlook looks favorable.
Jace, Cunning Castaway
I’m not super high on Jace, though I do appreciate that he ushered in a rules change. Finally I can flip Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy while I have Jace, the Mind Sculptor in play in Vintage, something that comes up surprisingly often for me. As for the most cunning of castaways—in a blue tempo deck, this looks like a good way to punish control decks. Looting and ticking up to a cheap ultimate is powerful, and in a pinch this can make some 2/2s to defend himself. Any 3-mana planeswalker is worth looking at, and I guarantee you this is better than it looks (judging from how many people seem to think he’s insultingly bad, which he’s not). That said, blue tempo decks are few and far between, and that is what it will take to make Jace a card you want to cast and not just a castaway.
Kopala, Warden of Waves
The comparison to Kira, Great Glass-Spinner is obvious and not unwarranted. In older formats, I think I prefer Kira, as letting the opponent pay 2 mana to get out of the lock is pretty annoying. That said, this stops Abrupt Decay from being played, and Decay cuts right through Kira’s protection, so that’s a relevant enough interaction to be worth trying. Plus, this is an actual Merfolk, and gets all the benefits that spring from that. Standard waved goodbye to Kira many years ago, and Kopala is the only game in town. It seems good enough to try in a fast Merfolk deck, as it can punish reactive decks nicely.
There are sure a lot of cards that work well with Pirates, and aggro-control decks with flash creatures and cheap counterspells have done well historically. I’d look out for a deck that can utilize a good chunk of the 1- and 2-mana Pirates, because a 2-mana counter in that deck sounds quite good. This needs to cost 2 most of the time to be good, though the fail case of paying 3 is one I can live with.
While this competes with Hieroglyphic Illumination in Standard thanks to Torrential Gearhulk, it’s still a great option to have (and is relevant in Modern as well). Cheap blue cantrips that help card selection tend to be really good, and this adds a lot of punch to Snapcaster Mage decks in Modern and any blue deck in Standard that can afford to spend mana early to increase consistency.
Scry 2 is perilously close to drawing a card, making this an interesting one for Constructed. There are a lot of cheap cards to bounce, and hitting any nonland card goes a long way. I dislike that you can’t bounce your own stuff, since that does limit what this can do by a reasonable amount.
How good River Sneak is rests solely upon the shoulders of my favorite tribe, Merfolk. I love the deck in Modern and Legacy, and this may help it sneak into Standard as well. If it’s a reliable 2/2 unblockable for 2, that’s decent, and if it hits 3 power often enough it could be great. The bar is pretty high to make into Modern, so I’m a little skeptical of that, especially since the lords present in older formats already do a good job of preventing blocks.
Search for Azcanta
I’m really digging this. It offers selection for a couple turns before flipping into a really sweet land, and even functions as a kind of acceleration for some expensive spells. This slots perfectly into control decks, and acts as a deck-smoother and card advantage engine/finisher all in one. If it wasn’t legendary it would be much better, but even as is you can probably get away with multiples (and decline to flip the second one).
A 2/1 flyer for 2 isn’t quite good enough in a vacuum, but tribal synergies do matter. I’m still not seeing the big Merfolk payoff in Standard, unfortunately, which is what it would take to get this into playable shape.
Cursecatcher and Judge’s Familiar have done plenty of work over the years, so I’m not dismissing a new version out of hand. Adding a mana to the cost really hurts in fast formats, but in something like Standard, I could see this making its mark. Being able to counter spells or abilities even in the late game is strong, and if there’s a deck that really wants 1/1 flyers, this is perfect.
Like Duress, I love having Spell Pierce legal. It’s a great sideboard card and sometimes even a main-deck option, and it adds a lot of counterplay and interesting lines to Standard. It’s no longer safe to slam planeswalkers into 1 open mana, and punishing expensive cards is fine by me (even if I get the short end of that).
This is better than Mana Drain when you resolve it, which is high praise indeed. Of course, costing 2.5 times as much is a real drawback, but if you can land this on a Gearhulk or something you get really far ahead. This also pays for itself right away, making it a great way to answer the end-of-turn bait spell. This might not be the format for it yet, but I think Spell Swindle could actually be a playable 1- or 2-of.
Storm Fleet Aerialist
This is an aggressive Pirate for this hypothetical tempo deck that’s going to take Standard by storm. It is a good deal if you raid it, and can be a start to some pretty nice draws with enough playable 1- and 2-drops.
Top 3 Blue Cards
I like what Spell Pierce and Opt add to the format, and Search for Azcanta is a sweet build-around. Blue gets some good additions to control and tempo decks, and I’m curious if Pirates or Merfolk can get there.