Previous Rivals of 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.)
Angrath, the Flame-Chained
Midrange black value planeswalkers tend to see some play, and this is no exception. It pings the opponent for cards and damage, and can take out small creatures immediately. This is a real beating against control decks, and it looks best as a sideboard card against them.
I like the combo of mana creature and value card, as the sacrifice ability makes this relevant at all stages of the game. This is a good reason to be G/W Dinos, and helps make 3 colors a reality as well.
Azor, the Lawbringer
The power level is here, though the format may not be right for this. It dies hard to Chupacabra or instant speed removal, which is a beating. I’d love for this to be good, but fear that it’s a bit too much of a glass cannon for the current format. I do like the idea of siding it in out of a deck like Approach, where the opponent took out all their removal.
Dire Fleet Neckbreaker
I see shades of Hellrider here, as this deals 4 damage if you’ve got 2 Pirates on deck. That’s not insignificant, and this could be the curve-topper that an aggro Pirates deck has been looking for.
Elenda, the Dusk Rose
There are a lot of almost-there cards in gold, and Elenda is one of them. She dies into a 1/1 from the start, and gets rapidly better in any sort of midrange matchup. She strikes me as a sideboard card for creature-based brawls, and a little too expensive unless you have some aggressive sacrifice outlets.
Huatli, Radiant Champion
Huatli plays from ahead way better than behind, which does limit where she can appear. She punishes the opponent for letting you build out a good board, but does quite poorly if you are under pressure. She’s the kind of planeswalker that fits into some very specific decks, as opposed to being a more generic value card. I’d look to combine her with token-making and a deck that can defend her.
Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca
I like Kumena’s impact across various formats, even if it’s all in the same deck. He powers up Merfolk if you can reliably keep a few of the Merfolk in play, and is resistant to removal to boot. As a legend, he may not be a 4-of, but a few Kumenas seem quite good to me.
Vampires was already an appealing tribe, though missing a few pieces, and adding the Lieutenant could be exactly what it needs to break into Standard. This is an efficient Lord, and definitely priced to move.
Merfolk did not need the help to be great, but it’s getting it anyways. Mistbinder will undoubtedly show up, and make the Merfolk even more of a fearsome force than before.
A 3 mana Clone is very playable, but needing to attack takes away a lot of the power. Half the point of Clones is to copy the opponent’s stuff, and that’s a lot harder if you need to be able to attack to do it.
This is big enough to be worth noticing, though it is unfortunate that it gets eaten by anything large. Still, your boros beatdown deck should be good enough at staying ahead that maybe this makes the cut.
Storm Fleet Sprinter
If this spicy little beater makes it into Constructed, that would be very sweet. I suspect it’s a little too small, but U/R Pirates could be in the market for a hasty evasive threat.
Zacama, Primal Calamity
This is how you go over the top. Zacama costs a million mana, but packs a huge punch, and should provide a lot of value instantly. I’d be interested in seeing if this is a nice 1-of for the top end of Dinos, because casting 9-drops is awesome if it’s viable.
Climbing takes work, but the ability to double up and get flying does end games. I’d be more interested in trying this alongside other counters because you want to be able to flip as quickly as possible.
Journey to Eternity
The payoff here is real, and putting the creature right back into play is a pretty big game. What this needs to be great is an abundance of reliable sac outlets, at which point you’ve built yourself a strong value engine. I foresee this being at its best out of the sideboard for attrition matchups, as playing it main deck is a good way to lose to aggro.
Path of Mettle
This card is bizarre, and the conditions it would need to see play are similarly bizarre. If there are a lot of decks that are soft to ping abilities, and you have a deck with a lot of these keywords, this could function as a sweeper + late game threat. That is a lot to ask for, but at least the payoff is decent.
This is slow as %#@&, but it does drop the hammer if you are able to stabilize against a midrange creature deck. I like the idea of this as a finisher for a control deck, even if it has to be sideboard rather than main deck. Plus, this card is so obnoxious in Limited that it has to transfer at least partially to Constructed, right?
Storm the Vault
I really only mention this out of deference to Tolarian Academy, one of the most powerful lands ever printed. Storm the Vault has a lot of flavor going for it, but it’s too hard to flip it and most decks capable of doing so would rather just cast a Hazoret or something instead of this.
The effect here is quite powerful, and both halves have interesting stuff going on. In a control matchup, a looter rock is close to worth 2 mana (plus one to activate), as it ensures you hit your land drops and smooth distribution of reactive spells. The busted part happens when you flip it, as all of a sudden you have a land that taps for 20+ mana. There’s a lot you can do with that much mana, and it should let you overwhelm your opponent with ease, especially after improving your hand for 5 turns. This card is slow, but is indeed a gateway to some powerful effects, and I like the idea of one or two in a control deck.
We are this far—might as well go for the gold. This requiring you to have another creature and engineer the Guardian dying is a bit too pricey of a setup cost. I’ll take the Silver Guardian, please.
The Immortal Sun
This slices, it dices, and it costs…6 mana. That’s a lot, claims of immortality notwithstanding. The effects here are absurdly powerful, but a 6-drop that requires you to untap before it really gets rolling is a tough sell.
Here lies another dredge hate card, though this hits reanimator more than dredge. This looks a bit narrow, and unless something odd goes on in Standard, I don’t see this making much noise. There are better options in older formats.
Arch of Orazca
I love this card. Lands that do sweet things are among my favorite, and this looks like a sweet way to grind out the opponent paired with removal and counterspells. If there is a good 2-color control deck, this looks worth trying, though colorless lands don’t usually get there in 3-color decks.
Top 10 Cards for Constructed
10. Warkite Marauder
9. Thrashing Brontodon
8. Ghalta, Primal Hunger
7. Dire Fleet Daredevil
6. Thunderherd Migration
5. Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca
4. Merfolk Mistbinder
3. Ravenous Chupacabra
2. Rekindling Phoenix
1. Jadelight Ranger
And there we have it. Rivals brings some interesting deckbuilding possibilities, and those plus the recent bans leaves Standard in a very neat place. I hope to explore it soon, but for now I’ll be focusing on Modern.