Ahoy! Rivals of Ixalan is the last small set scheduled for Magic. I am excited to get off this plane and head toward Dominaria, a set that will fill us to the brim with EDH staples, no doubt. Despite being a small set, there are still tons of cards to consider!
Verdict: Fail. Don’t be roped in just because it has the fun tribal words of “…enters the battlefield, choose a creature type.”
2-power 1-drops are the bread and butter of any aggressive Vampire decks. This would make the cut even without the ascend ability.
Verdict: Great in Edgar Markov decks.
Slaughter the Strong
The first card I compared this to was Divine Reckoning. Costing 1 less is nice, but history shows us that the spell hasn’t seen much EDH show time. Though this spell is a bit different, and nice that it kills indestructible creatures, it still falls into a similar category. Even decks like Kaalia of the Vast and Rafiq of the Many have shown that they don’t really need these “synergistic” wraths.
Verdict: Despite not having flashback, I think this spell compares favorably to Divine Reckoning. If you like that spell, consider this a fine substitute/addition.
Verdict: Fail because of the narrow window in which it interacts.
Zetalpa, Primal Dawn
This sweet flying Dino compares well with Akroma, Angel of Wrath. Sadly, Akroma’s time has come and gone and there are simply more powerful cards to cast. Crashing in for 8 damage per turn isn’t much of a payoff for 8 mana these days.
Verdict: Cool card. Not powerful enough for most EDH decks, though. Type 4 loves it!
An interesting card that can lead to some fun stories. A bit worse than Gather Specimens since it can’t snag regular creatures, but it does come down cheaper on the curve.
Verdict: Not much of card, but the one time it takes away a Marit Lage token from an opponent may make it worth the inclusion for someone out there.
In EDH formats where Leovold isn’t banned, this card is another effect that works splendidly with him. Sadly, the majority of players won’t see a Leovold across their table ever again. Rest in Peace, sweet prince.
Verdict: Leovold aside, perhaps there is some broken combo with it somewhere. EDH has too many of those for this to be a game-changer.
Nezahal, Primal Tide
Big bouncy blue beater. It draws cards, beats countermagic, and has built-in protection. Shouldn’t this be a multicolored card? Part of me wishes it was, and perhaps pushed a little more as such. Adding colors to most EDH decks also increases their power for the most part, especially when your general costs 7 mana.
Verdict: While I wouldn’t put Nazahal at the helm of a deck, it might make a solid addition to a deck like Damia, Sage of Stone.
Release to the Wind
When I saw this card, the first thing I thought was Maelstrom Wanderer. Recasting your Maelstrom Wanderer for 3 mana sounds like a great deal. Sadly, it doesn’t work when you cascade into it before the Wanderer is in play. Minimizing the impact of potential cascade triggers doesn’t sound ideal.
Verdict: Could be useful somewhere, but I am releasing my copies to the dealers for $0.10.
Card advantage is hard to come by for tribal decks. There are cards that pump and grant creatures abilities, but rarely is that ability to just draw massive amounts of cards. The cost is right and the ability powerful enough, especially when there are multiple opponents to attack to ensure connecting with your fishy friends.
Verdict: Great addition for dedicated Merfolk tribal decks.
Verdict: Clunky, but if you like obscure two-card combos (I mean we are EDH players here), pick one of these up.
Rivals of Ixalan has turned out to be the “this card is good in one particular EDH deck and that’s it” set. There are very few general hard-hitters, but hey, finding a few sweet new toys if you happen to be playing a certain general is always welcome. Warkite Marauder is a bit low-powered in most decks, but it has a home in Nin, the Pain Artist EDH decks. Warkite Marauder ensures that Nin can pick off any sized creature for a small investment and only a single card drawn for the opponent. I also enjoy how this card interacts with Vedalken Shackles.
Verdict: Good in Nin and with Shackles. Skip it otherwise.
A great addition to Karlov of the Ghost Council decks in Duel Commander. The ability to come back over and over again at minimal cost is great when attached to a Grizzly Bears. Edgar Markov can enjoy this card too since you are casting it from the graveyard, allowing you to get extra tokens.
Verdict: A solid beater for a few aggressive decks. Not a suitable replacement for Bloodghast, however.
For 1v1 formats, the Chupacabra is a solid addition, especially if your general presents ways to abuse the enters-the-battlefield trigger. Any deck that uses Skinrender, Flametongue Kavu, or Nekrataal will find excellent use for this Beast Horror.
Verdict: Decks that can abuse this ability will ravenously add this card.
Tetzimoc, Primal Death
A very splashy Dinosaur capable of wiping an entire board of opposing creatures. The biggest issue is that it doesn’t work from the command zone, but that shouldn’t dissuade people from playing it in the 99.
Verdict: I think the activation cost is low enough to make this a solid addition to some fun heavy-black EDH decks.
Ascend is a tough mechanic to evaluate for Commander. Cards that have zero impact before you reach the late game where you have the city’s blessing are not ideal because the worse your early game is, the less likely you are able to A) make it to the late game or B) have your payoff even make a lasting impact. What good is the Prophet’s ability if hasn’t been doing much in the meantime? I would stick to cards like Phyrexian Arena for effects like this.
Verdict: A powerful ability on the surface, but I figure this card will perform under expectations most of the time, especially attached to a fragile creature.
All right, well here is one of the most talked about cards in the entire set. Blood Sun is an interesting card because while its ability isn’t as powerful or hosing as Blood Moon, it does cantrip. I feel like players can occasionally overvalue cantrip effects especially in a 99-card format like Commander. I would need to be convinced that the card and effect are needed in my deck before I added a card. Just because it replaces itself doesn’t mean the card has merit. The effect is cool, but it will do less to stop most decks than you may think. Turning off fetchlands is a neat effect, but one that never pushed Stranglehold over the top. In addition to needing to ensure your opponents are playing fully optimized builds (playing 4,7,9,10 fetchlands according to their color access), you will also need to make sure you are not playing fetchlands yourself. These can be tough checkboxes to fill, but if you fit the bill you can certainly add this card.
Verdict: Mono-red decks and some prison builds are the only places I would see this card finding a home, but it is solid there.
7 mana is way too much mana even though the card is cool. I prefer Boundless Realms and even that card is clunky.
Verdict: Not a treasure, that’s for sure.
Dire Fleet Daredevil
Don’t confuse this card for the power of Snapcaster Mage. Relying on the power of other player’s graveyards is risky and a 2/1 first strike isn’t even worth the extra 2 mana in a 40-life format.
Verdict: Stick to Snappy or even Dualcaster Mage if you like.
Etali, Primal Storm
Now this is a fun Dinosaur. Despite the lack of haste or impressive stats, Etali seems like a super fun and powerful addition to decks that like to spin the wheel and cast some free spells. Decks like Animar, Soul of Elements and Maelstrom Wanderer may get great mileage out of this powerful creature so long as your opponents have some juicy cards in their decks.
Verdict: If you are going to be playing with at least 3+ other opponents, Etali gives you plenty of bang for your buck.
Verdict: Poly want a raptor?
A wombo-combo with Mycoloth! In a multiplayer game, ascending with this card is elementary.
Verdict: Saproling players rejoice, this card has the right stats/costs to be worth a spot in many token decks.
If you have Splendid Reclamation in your deck, World Shaper may also be of interest. Decks that can churn through their libraries and mill excess lands in the process should find a nice home for this card. Just make sure to pack ways of destroying this guy so you can get that sweet, sweet value on command.
Verdict: A nice addition for land-centric decks provided you have reliable ways to sacrifice it.
Angrath, the Flame-Chained
I don’t think this planeswalker justifies its 5-mana cost in a multiplayer format. While I like how the +1 ability hits every opponent at the table (Unlike Liliana Vess’s +1), it is a bit low impact in a 40-life format.
Azor, the Lawbringer
I wrote an entire article on this card here. I think Azor has great potential as a general and you can build a version of him that is more competitive or more casual. Regardless of your playstyle, Azor’s triggered ability will serve you nicely and annoy your opponents repeatedly. The “Sphinx’s Revelation” trigger assures that you will always have a late-game mana sink and you can thus justify adding quite a few mana rocks to your deck.
Verdict: Fun, swingy, and annoying. What more can you ask from an Azorius card?!
Elenda, the Dusk Rose
Elendra is interesting, if a bit unimpressive. So many creatures need to die to give her formidable stats, but perhaps just the natural attrition of a multiplayer Commander game can grow her significantly. I imagine she would be met with quite a few removal spells before she got to grow, but since her death trigger is a bit of wrath insurance, I don’t find that to be much of a downside. Additionally, she gives you tokens based on her power, not just the number of counters on her. This means that a voltron deck could come together nicely and Elenda’s freshly spawned tokens can also pick up equipment in her stead.
Verdict: Elenda needs to be built around more than I’d want to make her competitive, but perhaps through testing, she can demonstrate how strong her abilities are without as much commitment. I am excited to see some deck lists going forward.
Huatli, Radiant Champion
Verdict: Gideon, Champion of Justice is pretty bad.
Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca
Merfolk tribal general here we come! Tishana is a sweet general for Merfolk tribal, but she costs 7 mana. Kumena comes down much earlier on turn 3 and has excellent early-, mid-, and late-game abilities. This is exactly what you want from a general, especially for a tribal deck.
Verdict: The abilities not requiring mana is an excellent bonus. I expect Kumena to be the go-to Merfolk tribal general for EDH.
Perfect for those Edgar Markov EDH decks.
Verdict: Vampire tribal welcomes you!
Perfect for those Kumena EDH decks.
Verdict: Merfolk tribal welcomes you!
Is there an echo in here?
Zacama, Primal Calamity
This is a flashy looking Dinosaur! For 9 mana across 3 colors, I would sure hope so. Zacama decks will want to play lots of land-based ramp in lieu of artifact ramp. Explosive Vegetation and Skyshroud Claim will be better than Thran Dynamo and Gilded Lotus here. While I still think that Gishath will be the ideal Dinosaur general, Zacama certainly makes a great addition to the 99 there. Zacama should be lots of fun in Naya ramp, Dinosaurs not required, and the abilities do a great job of affecting multiplayer boards, even into the late game.
Verdict: 9 mana may end up being a deal-breaker, but at first glance, Zacama looks to have what it takes to compete.
Journey to Eternity
Commander should be the ideal format for this card to flip. And if everyone is ready to settle down for a long, grindy game of haymakers, then Atzal, Cave of Eternity should be a strong way to beat the table down. Varolz, Jarad, and Meren are all great generals to make use of Journey to Eternity, but do keep in mind that this is a more casual-leaning card.
Verdict: A journey most Golgari mages should enjoy taking.
This card would greatly benefit from the flip trigger being optional, but it’s understandable why it isn’t. Profane Procession does an excellent job of turning mana directly into a win condition, but it does require A) good creatures to hit B) a solid chunk of mana and C) a lack of interaction from your opponents.
Verdict: A bit slow. Falls short in a few too many categories for it to be acceptable.
Storm the Vault
I’ll admit, I was very excited for Growing Rites of Itlimoc. After seeing it in action, I have cooled off to sub-zero temperatures and can’t really recommend it. Sadly, I think Storm the Vault is just about as bad, if not worse, than the Rites, so I will not be including or recommending it or cards like it at this time. While I do think Gaea’s Cradles and Tolarian Academies should make their ways into EDH decks, they need to perform slightly better than these Ixalan cards have.
This card gets my vote for the most ridiculous card from the new set. I mean, “Add X mana of any color to your mana pool, where X is your life total” is a sweeeeet line of text. And hey, a 40-life format should be even more welcoming to do crazy things. While I doubt it will be remotely competitive, nobody is rooting for this card harder than me.
Verdict: I’m snagging one of these just to try it out. Tapping this card for mana is probably the pinnacle of MTG.
The Immortal Sun
This card does it all! Reduces your spells, pumps your creatures, draws cards, and hoses those pesky Atraxa decks! Well, 6 mana is a little bit of a bummer. You will have to cast 6 spells to break even on the mana payment for this spell. Luckily, if it sticks around you will at least immediately recoup the card disadvantage from plopping this into play. Upon my initial review of this card, I feel like it will be hard to take advantage of all the abilities that the Sun has to offer. The question is, how many do you need to take advantage of for it to be worth it? Surely, you don’t need to take advantage of all the abilities. Still, 6 mana is a tall order for any competitive deck.
Verdict: Many casual decks will love this card. Being colorless is great on a card like this, and as such, I suspect this card to be one of the most included cards of the set for casual EDH.
Arch of Orazca
It’s hard for me to get Temple of the False God active half the time so I imagine that I will have a hard time ascending with this land. But coming into play untapped is great and in 0-, 1-, and 2-color decks, this can end up being one of the better utility lands. Having a few foils of this card sitting around in your collection will be a solid investment for the future.
Verdict: I suspect this card to see a fair amount of play in Commander. The cost is low, and turning a land into a card advantage engine is not to be underestimated.
Well, friends and rivals, I have finished the Rivals of Ixalan EDH set review! There weren’t a large number of heavy hitters, but it is a small set after all, and I think we made out fine. I believe I’ve done a fine job of covering the goodies in this set, but no doubt I’ve missed a few sweet ones. Were any of my evaluations off? Let me know in the comments which cards you’re interested in for Commander from this set. Thanks so much for reading, and until next time, be thankful Zacama isn’t in the same colors as Deadeye Navigator.