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.
This is a solid way to top off your curve in an aggressive Vampire deck, and works exceptionally well with 1/1 lifelink tokens. Being able to throw a creature a turn at them and force trades is good, and at the very worst this attacks as a 5/3.
Bishop of the Bloodstained
Limited: 1.5 // 3.0
In a deck with a light Vampire theme, this doesn’t do a lot. It’s passable, but you really want to make a huge bloody mess, not just sprinkle a little onto the ground. In a dedicated Vampire deck, this looks like an awesome finisher, and I can imagine it doing 4+ damage easily. Make those tokens and reap the rewards.
Here’s one of the 1/1 flyers for 1 that I try to keep you from playing. I can see this being playable in a raid deck, but outside of that it doesn’t do enough early and the ability is too expensive to rely on later.
Off just one trade, this is a 3/3 for 2 mana, and that’s not all that hard to accomplish. If you can go bigger than that, you are really doing it, and with some clever maneuvering, you can get a very good deal.
Zombie or Fiction seems like a good card to me. It does cost 7 and requires there to have been five creatures killed, but by the time you can cast it that doesn’t seem like too tall an order. At that point, you either get two good creatures or three decent ones, assuming the creatures that have died aren’t all abysmal. I think that’s worth 7 mana and at the top end of a control curve, it could help finish games. You can actually cast it with fewer than five creatures, but it loses a lot of value at that point.
Unconditional kill is a fine deal at 4, so paying 5 and getting two Treasures is a contract worth signing. This is playable in every deck but especially good in ramp, so be on the lookout for that strategy if you can pick up a couple.
This is a little too much work to draw two cards, and I love drawing two cards. Sacrificing a Treasure token is cute, and eating Vampire tokens is fine, but I’m not looking to run this very often. I do like siding it against Aura-based removal, so keep that in mind.
Dark Nourishment at uncommon is a bit surprising, but it’s still a fine removal spell and you’ll always play it. Being an instant is a relevant upgrade over similar cards we’ve seen in the past, and against all of the non-Dinosaur decks this should kill whatever needs killing.
If you can reliably attack and trigger this, it’s both efficient and annoying for your opponent. I wouldn’t be dead set on playing it in a midrange deck, and likely wouldn’t play it in a control deck, because missing the raid trigger makes this the height of mediocrity.
All this needs is a little action, and then it can start to go on all sorts of expeditions. With Deadeye Tracker in play, you are by default winning the war of attrition, making it a must-kill threat in all but the fastest games. That’s a great deal for just 1 mana, and I’m likely to slam this anytime I have the option to.
Overpaying by 1 mana isn’t too bad when you factor in the ability to rise from the grave. In a dedicated Vampire deck this is the perfect finisher, and given all the ways to make tokens, it seems like it shouldn’t be too hard to assemble the necessary squad. I’d still play this outside of a Vampire deck if you are lacking finishers, though it does lose a lot of its luster.
These work well in a defensive deck and are roused to fight at the sight of Treasure, which makes them good in most U/B decks as well. I’m not desperate to pick them up, but I’ll be happy to play them more often than not. Later in the Draft, their value can increase as well if you’ve got a lot of artifacts or are lacking 2s.
Dire Fleet Hoarder
Decks that want 2/1s don’t usually have a super high curve, but Treasure is valuable for every deck, even if it’s better with 6+ drops. This looks like a solid way to make sure you have early plays, and has decent value up until the very late game.
Dire Fleet Interloper
I’m a huge fan of all of the explore cards, though this one is a tick below auto-play because of how badly it fares on defense. It’s still a good card, and one you will play almost every time, but in a control deck you can’t always afford to spend 4 mana on a creature with a mostly offensive slant.
Dire Fleet Ravager
While this does ravage your life total as well as the opponent’s, if you play this while you have the initiative it does a ton of work. A 4/4 menace deathtouch is a beater, and blocking it means losing two solid creatures, while being very exposed to combat tricks. If I see this early I’m taking it and drafting aggro, and I’d still play it in all but the most controlling decks.
Like Spell Pierce, this is another Constructed staple that’s relegated to sideboard duty in Limited. The odds of whiffing are just too high to maindeck this, though it can be effective against spell-heavy decks.
Fathom Fleet Captain
Not only is a 2/1 menace for 2 a good deal on its face, this snowballs out of control quickly if you can enable it. I can’t fathom not picking this early, and even later in the Draft it’s worth trying to make work. Plus, the fail case is so good that you can run this with as few as 1-2 other Pirates and feel good about it.
Fathom Fleet Cutthroat
This existing will greatly increase the success rate of bluff attacks, as sending 1/1s into 3/3s looks mighty suspicious. Given the raid mechanic, it’s good to keep people on their toes, and this does a lot of work even if you don’t have it in your hand (or deck). That said, the ability is solid, though definitely on the aggressive side, and it won’t go off against crafty opponents as often as you’d like. This also is a card you can side out after showing it to the opponent, as it will impact their play in subsequent games.
Grim Captain’s Call
Limited: 1.0 // 3.0
Can I call this Tidings, or is that too much? In a deck where you are only getting one creature back, this is unplayable, but it gets pretty good once you are up to two or three reliably. Most decks won’t be that diverse, but if you get the mixed bag tribal deck, this will make things grim for your opponent. Drawing three creatures for 3 mana is awesome, and if you get the full four I think you should get to declare victory.
I’m a fan of Mind Rot in general, and Mind Rot with a Treasure attached is a great deal. Even in decks with few creatures, this will have high points, and midrange decks can make very good use of this card. I wouldn’t always slam it in aggro since discarding two isn’t an effect they care about a ton, so this is not quite an auto-play.
A Duress with a 1/2 flyer attached is much more interesting, even if it’s not a complete freeroll, as the opponent can get their card back with a removal spell. Still, I’d always maindeck this, especially in Pirate/raid decks, and side it out if I saw that my opponent didn’t have many targets.
I love that there is now a (the) Chupacabra, as it’s a sweet piece of lore to exist in Magic. The game play is solid too, and I’d play this in any deck with 3+ ways to explore. Once you are at 5+, it becomes awesome, though it sucks if you aren’t triggering the ability at least once.
March of the Drowned
I’m a big fan of this card. It’s elegant, it plays well, and it’s powerful in the right deck, while not being a total miss if things don’t line up for it. I’d play this in any deck with 4+ Pirates, and if you have some awesome creatures, you can just run it as Raise Dead without feeling bad.
Mark of the Vampire
Slamming this on an evasive creature or something with hexproof is a big game, and does go a long way in making up for the inherent weakness of Auras (they open you up to getting 2-for-1’d by removal and are dead if you don’t have a good target). I think this will make its mark in decks with specific targets, and is a fine sideboard card against removal-light opponents. Likewise, feel free to take it out against decks with ample removal and bounce.
This is an explorer that really wants to get that +1/+1 counter, especially since you don’t really need lands once you’ve already hit six. I like this as high end, though it can be outclassed by Dinosaurs fairly easily. I also like adding more lifelinkers to the Vampire clan, as it gives you more and more incentives to run pump spells.
Queen’s Bay Soldier
If you need a 2-drop Vampire, old Bay here has your back. It’s not the spiciest addition to your deck, but it’s playable if your curve is in need of help.
While this can make things look grim for the opponent, it does take a fair amount of work to do its thing. You have to be in a position to attack the opponent each turn, while spending 4 mana on a card that doesn’t affect the board at all. For each game that this dominates (which will happen), I suspect there will be multiple games where it does little to nothing. Overall I’m willing to try it as a finisher/high end in a low-curve raid deck, but I’m not high on its prospects.
Revel in Riches
You have to go real deep before this is a legit win condition, and getting a Treasure each time a creature dies isn’t worth 5 mana. Obviously I’m going to try and win the game via the Mr. Moneybags route, but I revel in that sort of thing, and can’t in good conscience recommend it.
Greatness at a very low cost—all you need to do is attack with a 2-drop and play this on 3 to get great value, and I’d play this in any deck with a reasonable amount of creatures. Note that it isn’t optional, but attacking is. This is better in aggressive decks (duh) but it’s powerful enough and cheap enough that it’s good outside of them too.
The stats on this make it playable, and the ability gives you a decent way to spend your time and mana. It gets quite a bit better in a token-based deck or one full of Treasure generators, but the rate of exchange is never so efficient that you really feel like you’re getting away with anything. It at least isn’t sorcery speed, so blocking and sacrificing can be a good way to get value.
I’m in for a non-hasty Hellrider that has the upside of being larger and draining the opponent instead of just pinging them. You do need to draft around it, but given how many Vampire tokens there are running around, that seems quite doable. This is also playable all by itself, so don’t expect to see it late even if your neighbors aren’t in Vampires.
Cheap explore creatures are great, and this is no exception. It’s either a 2/3 for 2 that scryed, or a 1/2 that draws a card. That’s all you can ask from a 2-drop, and no deck would ever cut this.
This is a cheap raid enabler and a way to handle large creatures, though it’s inefficient against small or medium threats. I like it as a sideboard card against Dinos, or a way to make sure your raid cards are active (though watch out for clever opponents blocking and making you spend a mana).
I really like how this is going to play. It rewards good combat decisions, and can even pick up a 2-for-1 if you get to kill a 1-toughness creature and win a fight. I’d maindeck up to two without a second thought, even if sometimes you do need to side them out.
An efficient flyer with a drain 1 attached sounds good to me, and I don’t imagine this will be riding the sideboard very often. I suppose some control decks might not be looking for this level of aggression, but pretty much everyone else will.
Besides rotting in your hand, this will also rot in your sideboard. I do see some value in siding this against the rare flip lands, but past that it’s a pass.
Even in the most aggressive deck, this has a pretty bad fail case. The opponent can let you have ineffective or mediocre cards (or lands), and only pay life if they really need to stop something. In any deck that isn’t attacking, this is worse than useless.
Vanquish the Weak
This hits targets in every deck and does so at instant speed, which is a deal I’ll take for 3 mana. Much like every other conditional removal, there is some risk when you have multiples, but unless I was completely smothered in these, I wouldn’t worry about it.
A single 2/2 and this has to stop attacking, which makes it significantly less vicious than advertised. This is more of a Constructed card than a Limited one, though I can see it making the cut (slash?) in very aggressive Vampire decks.
Extra unconditional removal that even gets around all sorts of things is well worth 4 mana, and this gains you 2 life to boot. I’m in.
Walk the Plank
Unless you’re unlucky enough to play against the all-Merfolk deck, this is going to be excellent. It’s cheap, basically unconditional, and certainly an early pick.
Every now and then, this is going to backfire, but most of the time it’s going to be great. The drawback becomes smaller in the late game, and the early game power here is hard to ignore. As long as you don’t play against the deck full of Lightning Strikes, this is a wanted card indeed.
Top 5 Black Commons
This is a nice set of commons. Black gets actually good removal spells, a devious little combat trick, and some solid aggressive creatures. It looks like a good range to me, and black seems like it will play well in any role it wants.