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.
Note on Ascend:
I want to talk a little about ascend, since it’s a hot topic on the heels of my previous review (and the LR set review). First off, I don’t hate ascend—I’m just not high on it. It very well could be easier to ascend than I’m giving it credit for, and for sure in Sealed it’ll happen often, but if it happens turn 7 instead of turn 9, that doesn’t drastically change how these cards work. I still don’t like cards that do little or nothing before ascending, and part of that is that the payoffs aren’t insane. A 2/2 for 3 that gets hexproof and unblockable on turn 9 (or 8 or 7) is not worth building around. I do like cards that are good on the front and get a bonus later, like the 2/3 flyer that gets +1/+1. If the ascend payoffs were super strong, I’d be singing a different tune, but most of the cards aren’t like that. It’s not that I’m saying ascend will never happen—it’s that people tend to read cards in the best possible light, and I’m on the other side of that. In my experience, people way overrate the best case on cards, and I might be pushing back on that too hard by underestimating these, but it’s dangerous to say that ascend is easy or will always happen. It’s not just about it happening. It’s when, and what the board looks like when it does.
TL;DR – Ascend may happen faster than I’m giving it credit, but the payoffs aren’t at a level where I’d try to make an ascend deck, or evaluate ascend cards as if the ascend were always on or very easy to achieve.
This is a good sideboard card against any of the good flip cards, mainly because it replaces itself. If my opponent has a powerful flip card, this is coming in, as it does hose the back side nicely. Just make sure not to get your Evolving Wilds caught, since that is no longer an ability that works with Blood Sun in play.
There’s not much to say about this one, so I’m not going to bombard you with words. It’s an efficient burn spell that kills most things that need killing, and at instant speed.
I get the joke (instant ascend), but you can’t really tap 7 mana and not affect the board. This might be a way to really go over the top in control mirrors, but even that is a stretch.
Sometimes you need more Pirates, and sometimes you want Treasure. If that’s the case, feel free to play this, but don’t expect big things—a 3/3 for 4 isn’t special, and 1 Treasure doesn’t change that too much.
This is a pretty sweet combat trick. On non-Pirates, it’ll often be enough to win combat (a 3/3 beating a 4/4 passes most tests already), and on a Pirate, it’s a beating. This is one of the ways to lose unlosable games, as this plus any pump spell can combine to hit for 10+ while being fine in normal combat. That’s a great combat trick, so as long as you have 12+ creatures you will likely run this.
Shouldn’t a card with charge be able to attack right away? Besides this oversight, we’ve got a fine cards on our hands. This will draw blocks more often than not because of how much damage it threatens, and combines nicely with combat tricks. It is pretty replaceable, as a 5-drop, so it’s not necessary to take this super early.
Limited: 1.5 // 3.0
If you can reliably play this turn 1, it’s a nice pickup. It’s a little daring to run this without a lot of Pirates, but it’s not the end of the world if you do have to cast it for 3 mana. I’d want 8+ Pirates to make it good, and 4+ to run it begrudgingly.
Dire Fleet Daredevil
I’m a big fan of colorbent Snapcaster Mage (though all the pet names I’ve heard suggested have been heinous). Late in the game, this is going to give you something good unless your opponent’s deck is a strange one, and even casting a bounce spell or combat trick is neat (much less an actual removal spell). This is also good to just run out on turn 2, and unless you know that your opponent has a ton of awesome spells, I’d recommend just playing this early and applying pressure. 2-drops that are good at any point in the game are awesome, and it’s not hard to see why Daredevil is so good.
Etali, Primal Storm
This reminds me of the Titans (Primeval, Grave, etc.), even if it’s missing an ETB trigger. It’s huge, and if it survives to attack it draws you up to two cards and a bunch of mana. That’s a big reward, and a 6/6 for 6 is already quite acceptable. I’m a fan of forcing Storm, and if I open this, you better believe I will.
I’m always putting one of these in my main deck, and could be talked into two if the format lends itself to lots of x/1s. This can also trigger raid and peck in for damage early, while blocking and taking out a 2/1 or 3/1 later. As with all 1-damage effects, be ready to side them in or out as appropriate, based on what your opponent plays.
Forerunner of the Empire
The high end for all the Forerunners is pretty high, and as you get good targets, their ratings skyrocket. This starts out nicely, as it preys on 1-toughness creatures and triggers all your enrage cards (even if there aren’t many), while ensuring you draw a good Dino the turn after playing this. If you are summoning something good, you can build an empire on this, and I wouldn’t mind picking it early and going into Dinos.
Form of the Dinosaur
While Form of the Dinosaur may be a little risky, the payoff is enormous. It’s a 6-drop that catches you up instantly by setting your life to 15, which means that you can be aggressive about taking damage early. Once you untap, you get to hunt down their biggest creature, and continue down the line, though if your life total gets low, you might start eating small things instead. The drawback is that you have to fight, so your primal instincts may get you killed if they keep playing creatures. The key with this is to end the game after playing it, which makes it a little different than most control finishers. The power level is here, but you do need some creatures to close out the game before you run out of life points. It’s also nice with life gain, and bounce/removal can help you avoid dying to the ability. Of note, you can also target a creature then bounce or kill it with a spell in response, which will prevent you from taking the damage.
It’s hard to imagine cutting this from an aggro deck, as it forces through some damage no matter what (even very late in the game). It’s a nice combo with Forerunner of the Empire, and annoying to deal with outside of a removal spell. I wouldn’t play this in a ramp deck, but in any aggressive deck I’d be frilled to have it.
Evasive 2-mana creatures are always menacing, and this is no exception. It can easily get 4-6 points in early, is a pain to block later, and combines nicely with combat tricks by forcing double-blocks. Cards like this are what make me think the format can’t have slowed down much.
I like this card. It won’t always kill exactly what you want to kill, but it’s efficient enough that I’ll never cut it. It can pick off their second-biggest creature most of the time, and sometimes even get the biggest (if they have multiple creatures of similar size). A 1-mana spell that can kill 2-4 mana creatures easily, and even go bigger, is one I’m interested in.
There aren’t many enrage cards worth building around, but this is one. You want to thread the needle by dealing one damage repeatedly, which unsurprisingly isn’t that hard to do in this format. Forerunner of the Empire has to be the best one, as it tutors for Needletooth, then immediately triggers it, but even without any tricks this is a 2/2 that trades and takes out another creature (or just chumps and kills a giant monster). It’s possible that this ends up as a 3.5, though I’m wary of removal like Moment of Craving, Waterknot, and Luminous Bonds.
Dino decks might give this a little bump, though there’s not a whole lot going on here. It’s got solid stats and a double-red mana cost, so it’s pretty easy to see if your deck can support this or needs it.
If you can afford to fall slightly behind on board, this is a powerful spell. It’s not quite the original Pillage, which is a masterpiece, but discarding your worst card for two new ones and getting a couple Treasure is playable. This gets more interesting when you’re splashing colors or care about ascend, and I don’t expect 2-color aggro decks to play this all the time.
If you have a lot of burly creatures, this goes way up in value, and is a quite powerful card indeed. Besides playing it on your 3-toughness creatures, this is good to cast in response to removal that would kill one of your creatures or after chump-blocking, making it flexible as well as powerful. Enrage is also a consideration, of course.
Not only is this a hyper-efficient flyer, it also takes multiple removal spells (or an exile effect) to get rid of it. That’s absurd, and this is one of the best cards in the set.
Limited: 2.0 // 3.0
Not every deck is in the market for Auras, but aggro decks will see this and be happy. It makes a creature nearly impossible to profitably block, and does so for only 2 mana. Needing to attack every turn is a drawback, but a minor one, and what mostly keeps this from getting a higher grade is that not every deck has room for Auras and is aggressive enough to want them.
Shake the Foundations
I really like this as a sideboard card, though because it replaces itself it’s a passable main deck one as well. It’s good with enrage, but isn’t earth-shakingly powerful, so I’m not making it a high priority.
This is a sideboard card, and a weak one at that. Targeting only artifacts makes it hard to imagine bringing this in except in rare circumstances.
Silverclad Ferocidons? These are barely bronze, and are exactly the kind of 7-drop I don’t like (yes, such a thing exists). They aren’t resistant to removal or bounce, and the enrage trigger lets the opponent sacrifice lands, making it largely irrelevant by the time they come out. If you need a finisher, maybe these come in, but I’d much rather not play them.
In a deck that reliably has other Dinos in play, the Horncrest is a solid aggressive threat. Not every Dino deck is aggressive, so I imagine this more as the top of the curve in a R/W deck than the middle part of a R/G deck.
Storm Fleet Swashbuckler
A 2/2 Pirate for 2 is passable, even if the ascend upgrade is lacking swash and/or buckle. You’re still playing this more often than not, and every now and then it’ll hit for 4.
Sun-Collared Raptor is a somewhat strange card. It’s not really a 2-drop, as it’s horrible to attack with this into a 2/2 early. What it does do is attack for 10 points of trample later in the game, making it a kind of Fireball on legs, if that’s what you’re looking for. Most of the time, you shouldn’t be, so only play this if you’re aggressive and really want a finisher. Its weakness early is just too much of a liability in most cases.
It’s not hard to make this a 3/3, and at that cost you’re happy with the result. Even if this doesn’t always have swagger, it’s still a Pirate, and still fills out your curve.
There’s a lot going on here. It deals 1, so it triggers enrage, and you can even put it on the opponent’s creatures if you want to ping them. It also offers a lot of power and trample, so if you can slap it on an evasive creature you can deal a ton of damage. Ultimately, you will want to play this with 2-toughness flyers, creatures tough enough to live through a combat, and against opponents with 1-toughness creatures to pick off. This card is neat, but very cuttable, because of how much help it needs to be good. Where you shouldn’t play it is in a deck with a bunch of 2/2s and 3/3s, because that’s just asking to get 2-for-1’d.
While it is cute that this gets you to ascend quickly, it also will end up dying the instant it steps foot into combat. I think I’d want 3-4 good ascend payoffs or a deck really built around going wide before running this.
Top 3 Red Commons
Two removal spells and a good beatdown creature, which more waiting in the wings. Red is aggressive, and I expect a lot more attacking than blocking.