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.)
Growing Rites of Itlimoc
I did mean to review this in the green section, but the sorting on the flip cards always confuses me. In either case, how much do you want a Gaea’s Cradle? Paying 3 mana to look at the top 4 cards and choose a creature is too inefficient to be good, but turning into a land does make this a 2-for-1, and potentially more if that land actually taps for a million mana. My instinct is that this takes a bit too much to work, but if there’s a creature-heavy deck that can reliably establish a board presence and wants tons of mana, this has potential. I’m thinking something like the Cryptolith-Rites-plus-Duskwatch-Recruiter-type shenanigans, if you can find good mana sinks that also happen to be creatures. It is neat that it flips end of turn, so if you have an activated ability or expensive instant, you can get the mana back right away.
Top 1 Green Cards from this Review
This wasn’t a hard decision—Rites wins by a mile.
Admiral Beckett Brass
Making the opponent pay the brass tax and give you permanents is pretty nice, but it takes a lot to get to that point. Splashing isn’t all that hard, so a 2-color Pirates deck can easily stretch to include the Admiral, if a 4-mana lord is what it’s in the market for. I doubt it is, but the power is here.
Call to the Feast
B/W Tokens is a deck that’s near and dear to my heart, and Call to the Feast isn’t a bad addition to that type of strategy. Three lifelinkers combine well with any sort of mass pump effect, and this isn’t as far from playable as you might think. Given enough incentives, the Vampires will be eating well.
Dire Fleet Captain
This needs to be a 3/3 attacker reliably to be worth it, and it has to hit 4/4 some of the time to really shine. Those are tough numbers to reach, so I’m not overly excited by the prospects. Red-Black Pirates seems harder to assemble than Blue-Black, from what I’ve seen.
Gishath, Sun’s Avatar
I have fond memories of smashing with Akroma, Angel of Wrath in my first PTQ (Onslaught Block Constructed was a masterpiece), and this brings me back. If you can reliably cast this and spike 1-3 Dinosaurs, you’ve got it made in the shade, and that makes me wonder if Dino Ramp can stretch to 3 colors. It does cost 8 mana, so I’m not slamming this, but I’m keeping an eye on it.
As a lifelong devotee of Sower of Temptation, I’m a huge fan of Hostage Taker, as the cards play similarly. If you can play this with enough mana, it’s just a clean 3-for-1 (Taker trades for the creature you stole, plus the two cards they have to use to kill Taker and your new creature), and even if you have to break that up into two turns, it’s still awesome. Worst comes to worst, you remove a blocker for a turn, and that’s a pretty good fallback plan. For 4 mana and an easy splash, you have one of the better cards in the set.
Huatli, Warrior Poet
5 mana is getting pricey for a planeswalker, even one as finely feathered as this. Making a 3/3 each turn isn’t bad, and gaining 5+ life does make this a good finisher against aggro. The ultimate being useful right away is nice, and pushes Huatli as an aggressive card as well, so all that versatility combined adds up to a reasonable score.
Even as purely sideboard material, Raging Swordtooth is powerful enough to keep an eye on (though it sounds like its dentist failed to do just that).
Broodmate Dragon lost wings, and got a little smaller on the token side, but made up for it by costing less and granting haste. That should be enough to see play in R/G or Jund Dinosaurs, and I would be surprised if this doesn’t. It’s just enough stats and enough extra value thanks to haste that it’s worth a slot, especially against removal-heavy decks.
Tishana, Voice of Thunder
Prime Speaker Zegana did some sweet things in Standard, and Tishana may just add its voice to the choir. You need to have quite a board to make this great, but drawing three cards off it is decent, and seems possible. This could be the finisher that a green mana dork deck is looking for. Perhaps a deck using Growing Rites of Itlimoc?
Vona, Butcher of Magan
This has good stats and a powerful activated ability, making it a plausible midrange threat that can dominate against aggro or midrange. It is weak against removal, as a 5-mana card that dies with no value generated needs to be absurd to see Constructed play, but the Butcher might get there. Against decks that can’t easily kill it, it will be great, and that is not the worst place to be.
Vraska, Relic Seeker
6 is a handful of mana (for me at least—I always start with 6 cards, but at least I know the bottom card of my library), so if you want to play Vraska, you really have to mean it. I do think she’s worth it as a finisher for a midrange deck, as cards like this tend to see some play. Dropping Vraska, eating their biggest threat, and having a powerful planeswalker left over is how you win long games.
This looks way too difficult to get to work, but it’s got so many abilities on the other side that there has to be something there, right? Hitting with a crew 4 Vehicle and having it survive is not easy, but at least there is somewhat of a payoff here.
The dream scenario here is to play and equip this on a flyer on turn 4, then immediately play a 3-drop. Of course, you are then playing a deck with small flyers, equipment, and expensive spells to play off Dagger, which honestly sounds a lot like Pirate Stompy to me.
Playing 4 spells and then getting to double up on your 5th+ spell is a lot of hoops to jump through, and I’m not sure I’m up for all that. Maybe this serves as a Dynavolt-Tower-esque finisher in a control deck, but that seems dubious.
Ooh, Journeyer’s Kite got an upgrade! As a card-advantage machine, this is way too expensive, but as a removal spell/land it does good work. If you can last until turn 7, this becomes a very good defensive measure, which may make it a 1-of bit of spice for control decks.
These slow flip cards just aren’t quite doing it for me. I like what they promise, but spending 5 mana and three turns to get a card draw engine is just too slow for Constructed. I’d love to live in a world where this works out, but I suspect the format is still too fast for it.
Pirates, assemble! If this offers 2-3 points of effective haste damage and gives Pirates a threat that dodges sorcery-speed removal, I’m in. Even if it doesn’t make the main deck, being safe from sweepers and making the opponent discard looks like a solid anti-control sideboard option.
Pillar of Origins
Is this really how far we’ve fallen when it comes to 2-mana acceleration? I don’t think any tribe needs it that badly, as anyone looking for 2-drop accelerants needs to have a high curve, and at that point you should probably play green and go with the color’s various better options.
As a secondary explore enabler to Wildgrowth Walker, this could give explore decks another angle of attack. Vehicles still do a fantastic job at punishing control decks, and adding a potentially big threat that dodges a lot of removal is worth a look.
Pithing Needle and Phyrexian Revoker add another member to their shadowy cabal, and this time you are even less likely to miss. This works like Needle, as it doesn’t stop mana abilities, and the extra peek you get means you can often switch what you were going to name based on new info. I like this card a lot, and think it’s a sweet design. It looks like a solid sideboard option for Standard, and potentially older formats. I do fear that people will go overboard on this, as they always do—only bring this in if there’s a specific interaction you want to stop. Don’t just go hoping to nab something for value.
The Glimpse of Nature part of this card is what makes me interested, even at a 5-mana down payment. I hold out hope for there being some combo deck, and we do now have Glimpse and Gaea’s Cradle variants…
Field of Ruin
I am a big fan of Field of Ruin in Modern, where it basically is a cantrip version of Ghost Quarter. For 2 more mana, you aren’t down a land, and in attrition battles that’s huge. It lets you fight Tron, special lands of all sorts, and does so without costing you a ton.
These lands are great, and it’s good to have access to them for Standard. That is all.
Fixing for multicolor tribes is nice, even if it can’t play spells. If Pirates or Dinos want to splash a third color, this is a viable option.
Top 10 Constructed Cards:
A lot of the sweet common/uncommon reprints made it on to the list, alongside a Pirate, some Dinosaurs, and some nice lands. This is an eclectic mix, and I feel like Ixalan won’t really shine until we get a few more tribal payoffs. There are plenty of individually strong cards, but Kaladesh and Amonkhet have a lot to say about current Standard.