Rivals of Ixalan Pros & Cons

Feature Article from Brian Braun-Duin
Brian Braun-Duin
1/4/2018 11:02:00 AM
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Normally when a set comes out I like to take a look at hyped new cards and cover whether I think they will be good enough to see play or not in Standard. This analysis typically consists of a lot of factors weighed against each other, but the ultimate result is oftentimes a blanket statement like “I don't think this will see play” or “this card will see lots of play” rather than a more nuanced take. In this article, I'd like to take a slightly different approach. I'm not going to say whether I think any card will see play or not, but rather examine the conditions that would need to be met to allow the card to shine, and vice versa, take a look at the kinds of problems a card will face in our current Standard format. I'm going to talk about each card's pros and cons.

After that, I'll leave the conclusions to others. There are a lot of ways to mitigate the cons for cards to make them playable and vice versa there are frequently great-looking cards that never pan out for one reason or another. I think dismissing cards this early as “good enough” or “not good enough” is mostly just educated guesswork, and instead of throwing my hat into the prediction ring this time around, I'd rather just take an objective look at the good and bad qualities of these cards.

Mid
Low
 Azor, the Lawbringer
$1.73
$0.84
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Magic MTG Card Azor, the Lawbringer Magic MTG Card
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Azor Ahai is a legend from Game of Thrones. I don't know if Azor, the Lawbringer is the Azor Ahai, but if we flip the script it could very well be the Oh'Hai, Azor.

“I did not cast it. I did not cast it. I did not cast that spell. I did naaaaaaaaaaaughh...Oh Hai Azor!”

Personally, I like the crossover flavor between Azor, the Lawbringer of the Ravnica Guild Azorius fame and the world of Ixalan. It's certainly an interesting piece of story that I can't wait to read about. As for the card itself…

Pros
-Dodges sorcery-speed removal for a turn. This is not irrelevant; if your opponent is relying on sorcery speed removal to be able to take it out, it will be able to attack and Sphinx's Revelation at least once before eating the dust.
-Flavor Success: It's a Sphinx that casts Sphinx's Revelation. The power behind Sphinx's Revelation is that casting Sphinx's Revelation would often draw you into more copies of the card, and the additional copies would be enough to put the game out of reach. This represents as many copies of the card as you could want so long as it remains in play.
-It is big and evasive. It will likely be the biggest creature in play and it has a form of evasion even if it is not. It can likely play defense the turn it comes down.

Cons
-Instant-speed removal can still take care of it, either on the turn it is cast or before it would attack on the following turn. Dying relatively easily to something like Harnessed Lightning is a huge knock against the card.
-It's easy to see Sphinx's Revelation on a stick and immediately think that it will be broken, but spells are usually much less potent “on a stick” because having your spell attached to a creature means it is subject to so many more answers to it than a spell alone would have.
-Part of the power of Sphinx's Revelation was that you could cast it for x=3 on six mana, which was usually around the spot where it was potent enough to turn the game in your favor. Having to first deploy a six-mana creature, have that creature and you survive a turn, and then be able to attack with it and cast it will sometimes be a tall order.

Mid
Low
 Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca
$10.28
$6.88
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Magic MTG Card Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca Magic MTG Card
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Tyrant isn't typically the word I'd expect to see on a Legendary Merfolk, but I guess the times, and the tides, are a'changin'. It's good to see the tribes getting some powerful cards. Hopefully it is enough to push one of them into being a tier 1-2 Standard deck, like Zombies was last season.

Pros
-Kumena plays well with Deeproot Waters, which is likely to be a staple part of a playable Standard Merfolk deck. Being able to draw extra cards further fuels Deeproot Waters and being able to turn those extra fish into a real filet by putting +1/+1 counters on the squad creates a fast way to turn the plodding advantage of Deeproot Waters into a quick win.
-Kumena has defensive stats, which plays well with the abilities on the card. Being able to hold off Rogue Refiners and survive Abrade and Lightning Strike is useful for buying the kind of time needed to gain advantage from drawing extra cards and assembling a big enough board to boost.

Cons
-Kumena is basically a complete blank unless you can go wide enough. Kumena without two other merfolk means you have a 2/4 for three mana, which is not a great rate for Standard. It will be tough to get this going against removal heavy strategies or sweepers.
-The Legendary line means there is a limit to how many you can play in the deck and drawbacks for drawing extra copies, which is not something you want in a deck that is going to require critical mass to come together.
-Kumena's first ability is fairly weak. Tapping another creature to make a 2/4 unblockable is not very threatening and not likely to win the race against any decks in Standard. It can be a nice finisher later in the game, but it seems unlikely for the ability to matter much.
-Kumena pushes for a more defensive game plan. With Kumena, you are incentivized to sit back and assemble a board to gain advantage through drawing cards and boosting the squad, but that might not really mesh well with the rest of the tribe, which seems to want to attack.

Mid
Low
 Tetzimoc, Primal Death
$1.00
$0.48
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Magic MTG Card Tetzimoc, Primal Death Magic MTG Card
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This is really sweet design for a card. It gives both players some interesting decisions to make surrounding how to play the game once this has been revealed the first time.

Pros
-This has the potential to be a 6/6 that wraths your opponent's entire board. That is a massive upside, and extremely powerful effect on a 6/6 for 6. This card has the potential to dominate or take over an entire game by itself.
-Puts your opponent in a “damned if you do, damned if you don't” situation. They can either hold back to not overflood the board to play around Tetzimoc, which opens them up to just losing to the rest of your cards, or they can try to flood the board and kill you before you can cast it, which increases how much card advantage Tetzimoc will generate if you can survive to six mana.
-This card is good in your opening hand and also good late in the game when you have lots of mana. Early in the game you can start marking creatures immediately, and late in the game you can just spend extra mana to mark creatures before spending six to cast it.
-Deathtouch on a giant black creature. Classic. Every time.

Cons
-Tetzimoc requires a heavy mana investment. Not only is it six to cast, but it also requires that you spend extra mana throughout the game to make it worth it. It might be tough to be able to afford spending that mana while also deploying enough cards to not die in the meantime.
-This card isn't great against cards like Whirler Virtuoso that can generate tons of creatures, as it requires such a huge mana investment to tag all of them before casting, and if you don't have the opportunity to tag them all, then a 6/6 that kills one or two creatures, while still good, might not be worth the cost.
-While it can create a “damned if you do, damned if you don't” situation by virtue of its power level, the opponent will still know you have it and still be able to make the best plays to beat it, with full knowledge that it will be coming. That might not be enough for them, but it is not nothing, either.

Mid
Low
 Admiral's Order
$0.59
$0.24
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Magic MTG Card Admiral's Order Magic MTG Card
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Pros
-Completely laughs in the face of Settle the Wreckage.

Cons
-Every other card laughs in its face.

Mid
Low
 Journey to Eternity
$1.84
$1.00
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Magic MTG Card Journey to Eternity Magic MTG Card
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I don't have super high hopes that this card will see a lot of play in Standard, but with that being said, it is my favorite card from the set and has a huge amount of potential if someone can find the right mix to get it to work.

Pros
-It plays really well with anything that lets you sacrifice a creature for value, so long as that value is enough to be worth the effort. So far, Banewhip Punisher and Arguel's Blood Fast transforming into Temple of Aclazotz seems to be the most promising cards to pair with it, but there might be more cards I am missing as well as cards yet to be printed that will make Journey to Eternity playable. Some other options include Start//Finish, Costly Plunder, or Makeshift Munitions, for example.
-Once flipped, it provides an endless source of value. Being able to Reanimate a creature to play every turn is a huge source of card and board advantage, and you even get the original creature back.
-Atzal, Cave of Eternity taps for any color of mana, which is a nice source of mana fixing and ramp as added value to flipping a Journey to Eternity.

Cons
- It is a creature enchantment that requires your creature to properly die in order to work. Those are a lot of hoops to jump through, especially since your opponent is not going to want to kill that creature and have to contend with the land afterward. They are either going to exile your creature or ignore it in play until they can afford to handle it.
-To get the most out of this card, you need to have a creature, this enchantment, and a way to effectively get the creature to die, which typically involves a creature that can sacrifice itself, or another way to ensure its death. That requires a lot of cards and a lot of effort to set up, and frequently these kinds of synergy-driven combinations are too inconsistent to pan out, especially if the individual cards are low-power without the synergy, as Journey to Eternity is.
-To get full value out of Journey to Eternity, you also have to have a deck where returning creatures from the graveyard to play is worthwhile use of mana. That means that you need high impact creatures to get back and ways to get them into the graveyard in the first place. The easiest way to accomplish this is with creatures that have a good self-sacrifice effect, but those are few and far between in Standard.

Mid
Low
 Ghalta, Primal Hunger
$3.95
$2.17
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Magic MTG Card Ghalta, Primal Hunger Magic MTG Card
Magic MTG Card

Pros
-It effectively dodges most removal from Temur Energy. It's going to be tough for them to nab this with a Confiscation Coup or Harnessed Lightning, and thanks to trample, it kills quickly and can't just be endlessly chumped by Thopter Tokens.
-It curves perfectly with Reigsaur Alpha, which reduces its cost to five mana and provides it with haste, which is exactly what you love to see when you're slamming down a five mana 12/12 with trample.
-In a lot of creature-based matchups, it will not be a problem to reduce the cost of this card to five mana or even less, and it will completely dominate combat as well as end the game extremely quickly.

Cons
-It lacks consistency. In some games it will be a two-mana 12/12 trampler, but in other games it will remain uncastable all game as you can't manage to stick enough early game creatures or they die too quickly to be reliable.
-Ghalta is weak against board sweepers. A board sweeper the turn before you play Ghalta will delay its deployment, and Ghalta encourages one to overextend into a sweeper, because if you don't overextend by playing the Ghalta, you may never cast it again.
-While Ghalta does dodge most removal spells, it still is vulnerable to most exile removal options and can be neutralized completely by Vizier of the Many Faces. There are still a lot of ways to remove Ghalta fairly easily, which is a knock against a card that requires so much to invest into it and provides no lasting value if immediately killed.

Mid
Low
 Polyraptor
$3.59
$2.35
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Magic MTG Card Polyraptor Magic MTG Card
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“Everyone, get in here!” “Every...Every...Eve….Everyone, get in here!”

I thought all raptors were monogamous, but then I saw this creature.

Ixalan police stations are trying a new lie-detection method by having suspected criminals take a Polyraptor test. So far, it has proven ineffective in proving guilt or innocence, but effective in doling out the punishment.

Well, that's a wrap(ter) for this section. I don't have any pros or cons, just super cheesy jokes. Come at me.

That's also a polywrap for the entire article. Join me next week for a look at professionals and rulers in the Mongolian Empire when we tackle more Pros and Khans.




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