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.
Angrath, the Flame-Chained
Angrath delivers a beating on multiple fronts. He can eat small creatures with the -3, set up attacks by stealing big creatures, and can attack their hand with the +1. He does do poorly against big creatures if you don’t have a way to defend him, but I count the -3 as enough defense, and he can tick up and be somewhat hard to kill even if they do have a 3/3 or 4/4 out.
A great mana fixer that has relevant stats and can sacrifice to turn into a Dino is a card I can always see playing. This just ticks all the boxes, and is good even in a deck without Dinosaurs (though much better with a few juicy targets).
Azor, the Lawbringer
It’s probably not a revelation that Azor is amazing, as it essentially ends the game with one attack. It even stops the opponent from casting Contract Killing or any other sorcery-speed removal, meaning you’re likely to get that hit in most of the time. It blocks well too, and is a bomb even if it’s a little hard to cast and in an awkward color pair.
I like the stats on this, and deathtouch makes it a great blocker. This is the kind of ascend card I like—it’s good without ascend, and naturally makes the game into one that lasts long enough for you to hit ascend. Once you draw a card for each hit, this is annoying to deal with, and probably requires a double-block from the opponent.
Dire Fleet Neckbreaker
Dire Fleet Neckbreaker hits as a 5/2, but that isn’t where most of the power is. Where this really shines is when you can drop it and attack with multiple Pirates, preferably menace or flying ones. If you are firmly in R/B Pirates, I’d bump this to a 3.5, as it threatens to deal a ton of damage and let your 2-drops trade up.
Elenda, the Dusk Rose
Elenda is an extremely dangerous card. While she is in play, every combat interaction gives you an advantage, as she gets big enough to start brawling and leaves behind an army of tokens when she dies. She even gives you a token if she dies right away, making her annoying even if she gets nipped in the bud.
Huatli, Radiant Champion
If you’re playing G/W, there’s no way you’re cutting Huatli, but she isn’t at the level of most planeswalkers. I wouldn’t splash for her, and slower decks don’t get a huge edge. She helps a lot when you’ve got a good board presence, but she doesn’t protect herself or have an ability that nets you cards or board position (except the ultimate, which can pop surprisingly fast). On the plus (loyalty) side, she’s very hard to kill if you do have a lot of creatures, as her +1 can skyrocket her loyalty.
Black-green is an underutilized color combination, but Jungle Creeper is tempting enough to get me to want to draft it. It’s an efficient 3-drop that comes back for seconds, and possibly thirds, and asks nothing of you besides that you draft B/G.
Kumena, Tyrant of Orozca
Kumena has good stats and can often hit in for 2 unblockable damage, but he really starts making waves when you get to draw extra cards. That will often snowball into getting 5 Merfolk into play, at which point you should win easily. Kumena easily earns his rating in a dedicated Merfolk deck, but I’d still play him in any U/G deck on stats alone, and if you have a couple of Merfolk (which is hard to avoid), that’s just a bonus.
Legion Lieutenant / Merfolk Mistbinder
These cards are basically the same, and as such, I’m gonna knock out two lords with one stone. Both of them are great in their respective decks, and efficient enough to be playable in the color combination. Even if you aren’t super tribal, you’re going to have a couple creatures of the appropriate types, and they are 2-cost 2/2s. Both of these tribes get some tokens, even if Vampires gets more, and both have good keywords (flying/unblockable and flying/lifelink), so I’m happy with either lord.
Clones are historically great, as at worst you are tied for the best creature on the board. Having to attack to get this one going is a real drawback, but at 3 mana it’s still a very good card.
While this may not measure up to the best Raging flavor text (that honor easily goes to Raging Goblin), a 4 mana 4/4 with a highly relevant attack trigger is awesome in any deck. This picks off x/1s, triggers enrage, and can even attack into a 5/5.
If you somehow end up in an R/W deck that isn’t aggressive, this isn’t a must-play, but it’s solid if your plan is to attack. It sucks that you sometimes just won’t be able to cast this (like if they have a 4/4), and a 2-mana 3/3 isn’t so amazing that this is an early pick.
I’d be a little higher on this if it was any combo except U/W (or /BG), but I’d still run this if I was in these colors. It goes off pretty nicely once you get the city’s blessing, though it’s not super exciting before that. Still, a 2/2 flyer for 3 is playable enough that I’m not complaining.
This combines very nicely with combat tricks, and I’m not in the habit of cutting bears that are in a relevant tribe as-is. It’s hard to get ping effects in G/W, so I’m mostly looking at tricks to push this through. Also note that your opponent will almost never block this, as the blowout potential is so high. Maybe this should be a 3.0 due to it being virtually unblockable in the early game?
Storm Fleet Sprinter
Sulfuric Vortex that enables raid? Yes, I would like this for my U/R aggro deck. This gets in as soon as it arrives, and doesn’t stop until the opponent (or it) is dead.
Zacama, Primal Calamity
Limited: 1.0 // 3.0
In most decks, this is wildly unplayable. It costs 9, which is often more than half your mana! But if you do cast it, you should win on the spot since you get to activate it three times immediately. I can imagine a Dino ramp deck going super hard on ways to get this out, and as such, I do think it’s a viable build-around (and likely a Sealed bomb).
Getting a counter each turn is a decent ability, and once you’ve gotten three, you can often kill the opponent in one shot. This works very well with all the hexproof in these colors, and is a threatening card on any board where you aren’t getting run over.
Journey to Eternity
Some decks will be able to make use of this much better than others, as you want ways to trigger it without the opponent’s help. Once this does flip, it’s really hard to lose a long game, as it draws you creature after creature.
Path of Mettle
This card is bizarre. I don’t think it’s great because it’s so high variance, but as a mini-sweeper I could see matchups where you want it (it kills 1/1 hexproof and 1/1 lifelink tokens). If you do flip it, it’s very powerful, but not many decks will really be in a position to do so. If you have like 7-8 cheap creatures with these abilities, I guess go for it?
Tetzimoc may be better, but I think this is my least favorite card to play against. It’s just uber-frustrating to see this in play and know that you are doomed, as they get to kill three of your creatures and then kill you with those creatures. It might be slow enough that it’s closer to a 3.5 in Draft, but I can’t imagine cutting it from a B/W deck, and I will be taking it early. I’ve seen it be insane in Sealed every time it’s cast, and know it’s a windmill slam there. Is the profane part what the opponent thinks when you play this?
Storm the Vault
Paying this much mana for a card that only generates mana is not what I want to be doing, and especially not when I need to be getting a bunch of damage through for this card to work. Leave this to the Constructed brewers.
I don’t think flipping this is even what you want most of the time, but as a 2-mana looter this does a fine job of preventing mana flood. I could see this going 0.5 in either direction, based on how fast things end up being, and like it a lot in Sealed.
In a defensive deck, this is a very sweet win condition, and is another card that could easily go up in value. If the opponent ever gives you a window to flip this, it’s worth losing 2 creatures, as you get to start pumping out Golems until they get crushed. Also note that the land taps for 2 mana, which is a nice little bonus.
It’s really hard to get this to a 4/4, and at 3/3 it just isn’t good enough. It’s a neat design, and it’ll be sweet if it makes it into Constructed.
I love that there is a card named Captain’s Hook, and the ability isn’t bad either. It is weak to artifact removal, and you lose the ability to pass it back and forth, but it’s a nice aggressive equipment at a good rate. It forces double-blocks and the two points of power means that it’ll often be a 2-for-1.
There’s no point in the game where I’m happy with this, either as a wall or a Treasure. It may be a fine sideboard card, but I’d really rather not main deck it.
The Immortal Sun
Getting an extra card each turn and making all of your creatures bigger is already great, and making all of your cards cheaper really makes this a game-ender. You get more cards and the ability to play them all, and they are all better. Plus, every now and then you’ll hose a planeswalker.
This is bad ramp, even if it eventually replaces itself. I’m not really looking to ramp this way, and would rather just draft a normal curve.
You probably won’t ever side this in, but if they have multiple Jungle Creepers or Recovers, I suppose you could. It costs a lot to replace itself, so don’t assume that this is a free sideboard card (like Relic of Progenitus would be).
Waiting an extra turn to play a creature kind of negates the haste advantage, and even if you have excess mana, the effect here isn’t that impressive. This was mediocre last time it appeared, and I doubt it’s much different now.
Much like Evolving Wilds, I’d play this in most 2-color decks (though it gets worse with tons of 2-drops, unlike Wilds). It enables splashes nicely and is a card I want to open in Sealed.
Arch of Orazca
Limited: 2.5 // 3.5
If your deck has good mana, this is a card you’ll want to play. It isn’t zero-cost, but it’s a low cost, and has a powerful enough effect that I’m often going to risk it. Cards like this give you a game plan, and you pay so little for that option that I like it, even if it’s very slow. Ideally you have a controlling deck, though it could be a way for aggro to re-gas (once again assuming good mana).
I love having this in the format. It just makes mana better across the board, and allows for splashes for time to time, which I view as a positive.
These are basically Evolving Wilds, but they go in specific decks, which makes them playable if you’re those colors.
Top 5 Cards of the Set
Profane Procession could easily sneak in above everything but the top two, but I’m reserving judgment on that based on format speed. In Sealed, my guess is it’s number two behind Tetzimoc.
This format seems like it has potential. I am wary about all the evasive 2- and 3-drops, but ascend does point to a deeper format, so maybe we will get a sea change from triple Ixalan. Here’s to hoping!