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.
Admiral Beckett Brass
Limited: 1.5 // 3.0
You’d think that I’d be in for a sweet Grixis Pirate lord, but once you get down to brass tacks, this is too much work for too little payoff. Casting a 3-color card is a little easier due to Treasure, but still isn’t trivial, and getting through with three Pirates is not easy. In a Pirate deck with good sources of Treasure, I would play the Admiral, but I’m not starting a Draft with her and going for it.
I’m not a huge fan of 7-mana 6/6s, but this does have a bit more going on. Looming Altisaur is real good pals with the Brontodon, despite his belligerence, and I can imagine it being a solid way to top off your curve.
Call to the Feast
I wouldn’t call this a bomb, but it’s still a good early pick. Three 1/1 lifelinkers is an army in a can, and combined with any mass pump effect will put the opponent on the back foot. They also make it very difficult to kill you, as chumping and gaining life goes a long way.
This will frequently be a 4/4 or 5/5 immediately, and grows while giving you tokens that have their own intrinsic value. That’s more than enough to make me interested.
Dire Fleet Captain
In the aggressive Red-Black Pirates deck, this is a threatening beater. Outside of that, things look a little more dire, and I’m not all that interested in playing this. It’s a good addition to the deck if you can pick it up later, but I wouldn’t take this early and go into it.
Gishath, Sun’s Avatar
This has a rough mana cost and requires more Dinosaurs to be great, but the payoff is there. Smashing for 7 immediately is huge, and getting a blocker, plus having this untapped and ready to go, makes it a solid defensive play too. At least for now, if I open this, I will be taking it and trying to make it work.
If all this did was exile the target, Hostage Taker would be a prized early pick. Given that she lets you cast it and keep it forever, she’s on the short list of best cards in the set. The opponent has maybe one turn to kill her and prevent the blowout, after which you end up insanely far ahead. I would also prioritize ways to get her back from the graveyard, or cards like Siren’s Ruse, since the only thing better than taking one hostage is taking two.
Huatli, Warrior Poet
Huatli fits the traditional planeswalker mold as she adds to the board each turn, can defend herself, and has a minor plus ability to tie it all together. You’ll be making Dinosaurs most of the time, but sometimes you might +2 into a nice -4 or -5 to finish the game. Either way, she’s a powerful 5-drop and a card worth splashing.
Good stats plus a powerful repeatable trigger makes for a very strong early pick. As long as you remember to always loot, you’ll be in good shape. Though if your hand is all good cards, should you really loot?
This is big, aggressively costed, and even triggers enrage, which I’m surprised those clowns on Limited Resources didn’t mention. Take this and play it.
This is both the alpha and the omega, as it gives you an incredible 7/7 of stats and a persistent haste ability. It’s great when you’re ahead, great when you’re behind, and overall just a fantastic card. It’s likely the best card in the set, thanks to how little it asks of you and how much work it does.
Shapers of Nature
The gold uncommons in this set are on point (except you, Belligerent Brontodon—get your butt into gear). Shapers of Nature is an efficient beater with two very powerful activated abilities, plays well in any deck, and would be especially great in a Merfolk deck.
Gold cards that aren’t worth splashing lose a little luster, but this isn’t terrorable if you are R/W aggro. I wouldn’t first-pick this under most circumstances, but I would be happy playing it.
Tishana, Voice of Thunder
A 7-drop that requires a board presence to be good isn’t exactly high on my list of bombs, though this will have games where it draws you three cards and is a 6/6. If you are playing ramp/control and have a decent amount of creatures, this is a fantastic finisher. In aggressive or creature-light decks, it’s more noise than actual power.
Vona, Butcher of Magan
Besides sharing a name with one of the most iconic Diablo bosses, Vona is also one of the best bombs in the set. The clear play pattern here is to attack and to use the ability on their biggest blocker, which is cute. You also have the option of just playing this and crushing, which will work fairly well too. The only reason it doesn’t get a 5 is that it dies to removal, which is a feature that the best of the best don’t have.
Vraska, Relic Seeker
Vraska is expensive, but she delivers. Making a blocker and going up to 8 loyalty is the stones, and she can eat anything that looks threatening (and to continue the analogy, she uh, digests it and turns it into Treasure?). Sorry, Wizards creative. Vraska is splashable, and impacts any game very well, all while having such a high loyalty that I’ve got to give her the highest grade. Plus, her ultimate will end the game very quickly, especially once you’ve made two menace Pirates on the way there.
A 1/1 lifelink for 1 isn’t a good deal, but it’s not that hard to flip this, and a land that makes 1/1s for only 3 mana gives you a significant long-game advantage. I have this a bit below premium removal since it does so little on the back foot, though it’s going to be a great card in good aggressive draws.
Search for Azcanta
I really like this as a build-around. An enchantment for 2 mana that scrys each turn is almost good enough and flipping into an Island that also doubles as a card-advantage engine makes me very excited to begin searching. It’s not great without a lot of spells in your deck, but if you can put together a good control deck, this will help you crush the late game.
Arguel’s Blood Feast
I don’t like either side of this card very much, which does not bode well for its prospects. Paying 2 mana and 2 life to draw a card is not a great deal, and flipping into a land that lets you eat creatures for life doesn’t make up for that. Plus, once this becomes the Temple, you no longer have a card out that lets you spend the life.
Vance’s Blasting Cannons
Both sides of this are fantastic, and you even have a lot of control over when you flip this to boot. Drawing (most) of an extra card every turn is great, though it’s much worse than Outpost Siege because it misses on lands. Once you get to the late game, you can play three spells and turn this into a repeatable Lightning Bolt, which will dominate as easily as an extra card would. This is powerful, worth splashing, and a very high pick.
Growing Rites of Itlimoc
Spending 3 mana to get a creature isn’t great, though once this flips you are up a very good card. I’d run this in creature-heavy decks unless I was very aggressive, which makes it a fine mid-pack pick but nowhere near a bomb.
In a deck capable of crewing it easily, this gives you the tools you need to conquer the opponent. Having Conqueror’s Foothold in play means you win the long game by default, which is worth spending 4 mana and the crew cost. There will be draws where this is a blank, but as far as finishers go, I wouldn’t ship it.
It’s amusing that you don’t always want to flip the Dagger, as a +2/+1 equipment for 2 and 2 mana is a good deal. Giving them Plants is a little annoying, but you can mow them down easily enough, and snagging a Gilded Lotus will be good at almost any point in the game. This looks like it fits best in midrange, as you don’t care a ton about the extra life the Plants give them, while still having enough creatures and presumably some good things to cast with the extra mana.
Limited: 1.0 // 2.0
In a non-spell deck, this is clearly a blank. Once you have tons of spells, like 12+, maybe it does something, but even then it comes out so late that it might not give you a ton of value. I think I’d leave this one to the Constructed masterminds.
I love the idea of grinding out my opponent with this, as it looks like a solid addition to any control deck. It’s as slow as they come, so don’t go adding it to your aggro decks, but in midrange or control it can be effective. Once it flips, it does an amazing job of keeping you alive, giving you time to finish the game with whatever you desire.
I’m in for a treasure hunt, as this provides a little value each turn until the third, at which point you get showered in a bounty of riches. Like many of these cards, this is a late-game engine more than anything proactive, so don’t overload your deck with nonsense or you will get run over.
I can see siding this in for a matchup that always goes to a board stall, but I suspect you can do better. This just doesn’t pack enough punch to be worth a whole card.
Dusk Legion Dreadnought
In a creature-heavy deck, this is a fine 5-drop. It’s got a lot of stats, a reasonable crew cost, and even vigilance (which is weaker on Vehicles, given that you need twice the crew to take advantage of it).
I see this mostly as a sideboard card against a deck full of small creatures, because paying 6 mana for 2 damage, then 4 mana plus a card for each subsequent 2 damage is not a good deal.
In a Pirate deck, this does a lot of work. It makes all of your Pirates better (which also reduces how hard it is to crew this), and might poke in for a card or two if the way is clear. That’s a lot for 3 mana, and this can even be a flagship card if your deck is tribal enough.
If you really need another warm (cold) body, here you are. A 3/3 for 4 is not exactly the gold standard, so only run this if you are really short creatures.
Draining for 1 isn’t something ramp decks care about a ton, and a 3-mana ramp spell is not exciting enough to be worth running (especially when it doesn’t fix colors). I’d avoid this.
Pillar of Origins
If your deck is extremely heavy on a tribe and that tribe has a lot of 4+ drops, maybe this is worth it. Not casting spells or off-tribe cards makes this a pretty risky addition, as it’s very easy for it just to be dead.
I would never cut this from a Pirate deck, and would even run it with as few as 4 Pirates. The rate is solid enough on its own, and if you can get the first equip for free, you’ve come out way ahead.
A Treasure-generator that requires you to get through for damage is not something I’m interested in. Combining cheap, evasive creatures and expensive spells seems pretty bad, so this card ends up being a mix of two clashing strategies.
Constructed-only sideboard material.
You need to be doing tons of exploring for this to be worth it, as it won’t be all that valuable until it becomes a 4/4 (or bigger). It looks more like a Constructed engine than a Limited one, given how many explore cards you need for this to be great.
Crew 1 and a low cost do make this sleek enough to run in any deck full of creatures, even if it’s not all that exciting.
So few cards have activated abilities that are worth spending an entire card to negate them, so I’m not seeing the reason to run this. It’s potentially a sideboard card, but I’m skeptical of that too, even with the bonus peek you get at the opponent’s hand.
I’m a big fan of this in any tribal deck, especially low-curve ones. It has an effect immediately, and works well with creatures that come before or after it. That’s a way to conquer the opponent if I’ve ever seen one.
These make your deck a bit more consistent, and you should always run them. Don’t take them early unless you are looking to be 3 colors, but be happy if you pick them up.
Field of Ruin
I’d side this in against the rare flip lands, but otherwise it’s not worth a slot.
In a heavy tribal deck, this is likely worth it, though not by a ton. It does add colorless for other cards, but not fixing mana when it comes to spells is a big drawback.
I still don’t like this card, though the flavor of including it in this set is nice. Adding a mana to the cost of your spells is big, and I’d only run this if I were 3 colors and had a lot of cheap cards.
Top 10 Limited Cards
10. Captivating Crew
9. Repeating Barrage
8. Sanctum Seeker
7. Entrancing Melody
6. Vance’s Blasting Cannons
5. Burning Sun’s Avatar
4. Hostage Taker
3. Vona, Butcher of Magan
2. Vraska, Relic Seeker
1. Regisaur Alpha
These aren’t just the gold cards, but I don’t blame you for thinking that by looking at the list. Gold cards are where it’s at, and unfortunately the best one happens to be rare instead of mythic. I’m getting shades of Glorybringer again, and it’s even a 4/4 for 5. Still, any of these cards make for a windmill slam first pick, even if I assume I’ll never find out what that feels like.
This set looks like a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out. It might be all tribal beatdown all the time, but I see plenty of opportunities for some spice.