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.)
Burning Sun’s Avatar
A 6/6 for 6 that casts Searing Blaze is a hot one, and if 3 is the magic number in this format, this can really wreak havoc. Eating a creature and a planeswalker at once is huge, and even just sniping a creature and dealing a bunch of damage to the opponent adds up. Torrential Gearhulk is a hard 6-drop to unseat for U/R Control, but Burning Sun’s Avatar seems like a plausible finisher for various midrange strategies.
Captain Lannery Storm
A 3/2 haste for 3 isn’t quite enough on its own, but acting as a psuedo-ramp spell does go a long way toward taking Standard by storm. Every turn that Captain Storm gets in without dying is another mana for you and if you’re ramping toward something big, you can even send her in when you know she is going to die. You can also cast your spells before attacking with previous Treasure, ensuring that she takes down her enemies with her. This is an interesting and powerful card, and could help red midrange decks chart a course in Standard. Lannery Storm plus strong 4-6 mana plays and good removal sounds like a decent plan to me.
This is a lot to pay for a 4/3, but it threatens to dominate the board if it survives. 3 toughness is likely a death knell for its chances, but the ability is powerful enough that there could be some niche sideboard application here.
While I don’t think this actually makes it into Constructed, it’s probably less far away than you think. Glorybringer ultimately is better, but there’s a slight chance that a deck that really cares about the Dinosaur creature type might want this (though Regisaur Alpha wins on that front too). Still, the comparisons I’m making do shine a light on what weight class this uncommon belongs to.
Dual Shot is a nice little sideboard card to have access to. It picks on 1-toughness creatures and is likely to see a bit of play.
Pirateclasm is a welcome addition to Standard, and gives a powerful tool to any red deck looking to pick on small creatures. I don’t even think that it will see all that much play alongside Pirates, so the non-Pirate text is more of a drawback than an advantage. It will be funny when this is sided in to kill small red creatures and it randomly can’t hit Captain Lannery Storm or the like.
Fire Shrine Keeper
This doesn’t look like a keeper to me, but who knows what atrocious little red creature burn decks will play next? 1/1 menace for 1 red isn’t quite there, and I think this ability needs to be a little cheaper for this to make the leap into Constructed.
Even if they never make the main deck, it’s nice having Threaten effects to side in against big creatures. Hijack does that just fine, even if you already had access to it in this format.
We didn’t go for too long without this classic burn spell in Standard, but it was missed. Harnessed Lightning and Abrade both have their uses and will still see heavy play, but going to the face widens the range of decks that want this by a lot. Aggro red decks have been waiting for this, and are glad to see that lightning does strike twice.
Dinosaur decks seem real, and Huntmaster is a powerful addition. Haste plus cost reduction is a lot of value for 2 mana, and casting 4-5 drops at a discount and bashing right away is not something I’m going to turn down.
The aptly-named Ferocidon takes big bites out of the opponent’s hide, and does so in multiple ways. It attacks evasively for 3 a turn, pings them for 1 repeatedly, and prevents any life gain from helping them get back on their feet. I like this quite a bit for red aggro, though it might need to be a sideboard card, as I think you need at least one of the secondary abilities to be relevant for this to be worth it. Stopping life gain is enough, or harassing decks full of small creatures, and sometimes you’ll get lucky and play against someone who is vulnerable to both.
This cute little guy could be a solid sideboard card against red, though it’s unfortunate that so much of red disruption these days is “can’t block” rather than damage-based.
It’s been a long time since Hammer of Bogardan was a Constructed powerhouse, and it didn’t make waves when it got reprinted. The ability to repeat itself is enticing, and I suppose there’s a chance you can punish slow decks with this.
Rigging Runner looks a bit more like the 1-drop people will actually run, and it’s a good addition to red’s good draws. It lags a bit behind on mediocre draws, which is unfortunate, since you really want all your cards to work on their own. Still, a 2/2 first strike brawls really well, and this could pretty easily get there in a heavy-creature deck.
Star of Extinction
I’d be thrilled if there was a red-based control deck that could use this, as it plays an attrition game very well. It may seem like killing a land is for flavor reasons (and trust me, the flavor is amazing), but it adds up, and being ahead on cards is crucial in a long game. Seven is a lot of mana, so I’m not super high on this, but I don’t think it’s zero that it makes a splash in Standard.
Sunbird’s Invocation is another very cool one. It effectively draws you a card and a bunch of mana each time you play a spell, which is powerful enough to be worth looking at. 6 mana is a ton, but I like what this offers. It’s possible it could be a finisher/card advantage engine in red-based control, and maybe this is what you cast on turn 6 before playing Star of Extinction on 7 (I can dream, right?).
Vance’s Blasting Cannons
Outpost Siege was a powerhouse, and even though this doesn’t work when you flip a land, it’s still an amazing card-advantage engine. Plus, being able to flip the Cannons into a powerful and relevant land is exactly what you want when you have so much action that you can play 3 spells in a turn. This gives a lot of power to red decks looking to play attrition games, and I expect to see it in all sorts of decks, either as a top end in aggro or the engine for midrange/control.
Ramping into 4 mana on turn 3 isn’t traditionally a red ability, so I’m keeping an eye on this one. Wily Goblin is small, but if there is a critical play you want to make early, this could help.
Top 3 Red Cards
Past these three, I also like Fiery Cannonade, Burning Sun’s Avatar, and Otepec Huntmaster, which means that red is getting a lot of action. There are cards for each type of deck, and Star of Extinction and Sunbird’s Invocation hint at a (bad) red control deck I want to try.