Welcome back, Alchemist!
Today let’s visit the verdant side of Ixalan and check out what’s neat and what’s not in Rivals. Again, these are my own speculations and I am rating them based on current usability in today’s meta plus its potential in the brewing environment! Let’s get right on it!
Deeproot Elite looks like a more expensive functional reprint of Champion of the Parish back in Innistrad. The only difference is that Deeproot Elite can put those counters on another merfolk. We all know there are a lo of unblockable merfolks so this might be a great way to beef up an evasive creature to get damage in early. My only concern here is that the creature has to enter the battlefield for the ability to trigger. I wished it said “cast a merfolk spell” so that you can get the counter ability on the stack even if the Elite dies in response. Generally I don’t like a 2-mana 1/1 but I see the potential of this creature if left unchecked and we have something like Deeproot Waters out.
Ghalta, Primal Hunger looks really impressive in a vacuum because you can definitely get this creature out earlier than turn 12 every single time. With cards like Wayward Swordtooth getting printed which is a 5/5 for 3 mana, accompanied by a Heart of Kiran on turn 2, you can tap Swordtooth to crew Heart of Kiran to instantly gain 9 power on the board and cast Ghalta on turn 4 with 3 mana, leaving 1 green mana up for Blossoming Defense. I think a green hyper aggro shell that can consistently cheat Ghalta to close games really fast is in the horizon – I am sensing a GW shell that can play high power creatures early like Raptor’s Companion, Heart of Kiran/Cultivator’s Caravan, Ripjaw Raptors, Rhonas to get this elder dinosaur hit the battlefield. I think this is worth buying if you’re a Timmy player and love 2-digit powered creatures in the battlefield. Remember Fling is still standard legal 🙂
Jadelight Ranger is by far the best green card this spoiler season! There are tons of interactions this card presents in today’s standard meta but a lot of modern players are also saying this card is usable in modern. Shifting our attention back to standard, this card is a 3-way functional creature rolled into one.
- 3-mana 2/1 and puts 2 land cards to your hand – resulting to smoother draws and mana base
- 3-mana 3/2 and put a land card to your hand, or mill your top deck for some reanimator shinanigans
- 3-mana 4/3 and put the card that you need on top of your library or fill your graveyard with juicy targets
Combined with established shells like Sultai GPG, this is literally a pseudo-5th to 8th copy of Champion of Wits. In the BG snake deck this becomes an over-powered 3-drop that can become a 6/5 thanks to Winding Constrictors counter-doubling effects netting you two +1/+1 counter per explore. I think the explore triggers are done separately so Winding will see it trigger separately as well. Definitely worth pre-ordering!
I have a pet Explore deck that looks at adding Path of Discovery to its list however in a standard competitive game, a 4-mana enchantment that does nothing when it enters play is relatively bad. You essentially time walk yourself on turn 4 while your opponent casts Chandra TOD, Bristling Hydra or Glorybringer if they are on the play. In limited I think this is a great bomb to make your creatures bigger for free and draw you some lands but I think this card won’t see much standard play outside Jank decks combined with other explore cards to double the triggers or use Panharmonicon to really get your explore addiction satisfied!
Many EDH players are already posting combo pieces that will make infinite Polyraptors. Some are attempting to do the same in standard but I am not very optimistic it will see serious play. At 8 mana, you should already be winning and don’t need a bunch of 5/5s anyway. But if you plan to build a ramp deck and abuse Polyraptor and play cards like Walking Ballista and go wide, then maybe you might steal a game or two. Then again, you will probably play red cards to give the tokens haste with Regisaur Alpha or Otepec Huntmaster or else you risk playing your combo into a devastating Fumigate or Slaughter the Strong.
I like self-sustaining cards and Tendershoot Dryad is an example of this principle. It helps clutter the board to get you the City’s Blessing and once you do, you suddenly have a lot of 3/3 saprolings ready to wreak havoc. My primary concern is that it costs 5 mana and it dies to Shock and Magma Spray. I hate cards that costs and a lot that doesn’t take too much to kill and because of this, I think the token strategy is still far fetched even with this card getting printed. I am almost at the conclusion that the best go-wide tribe in Ixalan is Vampires and Merfolks.
I already mentioned Wayward Swordtooth when we discussed Ghalta and my mind hasn’t changed about this card’s usability even without Ghalta. First, it’s a huge creature that can crew almost any vehicle on its own. Second, it turns on Rhonas by itself. Third, it lets you ramp freely to get to Ascend and turn itself one (self-sustaining principle again). Fourth, it’s not a bad late-game draw when you already have Ascend. And fifth, it survives most removal in the format. I really like this card if you still can’t tell and I think it’s worth the pre-order price. Worst case is that it retains some of its value for EDH players since it’s a 2nd copy of Asuza, Lost but Seeking. I think the pros will try to break this card and find a shell that can get Ascend fairly quickly. This leads me to think that Rivals of Ixalan, post rotation, will influence deck builders to find ways to get Ascend quicker than the opponent to unlock cards that look dumb pre-Ascend.
We have had cards like Worldslayer and World Breaker printed and now we get a World Shaper. I really don’t what WotC wants to do with this world!? Pun aside, I think this card has some potential. Putting cards from your library to the graveyard has some applications for reanimator shells since the beginning and with Journey to Eternity getting printed, Liliana, Death’s Majesty and GPG still legal in standard, I think this dude might see some play. It’s not a bad body for 4 mana and in the right shell you might not mind it getting killed even before it had the chance to attack. If you played cards like Evolving Wilds on turn 1, cracked it and turn 2 you cycled a land. Turn 3 you play Champion of Wits and discard 1-2 lands, then on Turn 4 you play World Shaper – then essentially you kill your own World Shaper to ramp you with 3-4 lands on turn 4 and have 8-9 mana on turn 5. You can cast your elder dinosaurs, huge planeswalkers or a bunch of other stuff faster than your opponent, PLUS, it gets you to Ascend much quicker. This card looks like a sleeper in Rivals – order it while it’s cheap!
That’s it for now and I need to get to work! Next stop, White!