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Buried Treasure in Ixalan: 8 Underrated Commons

With the format now somewhat defined, I’ve already hashed out my 8 favorite tricks in the format. Today I’ll go a little more big picture with 8 of the most underrated commons overall.

1: Pirate’s Cutlass

This card has impressed every time I’ve had it in a deck with even a handful of Pirates, and a Merfolk or Vampire deck might still be able to play one of these in lieu of a Mark of the Vampire or One with the Wind. The curve of Deadeye Quartermaster into Depths of Desire, Pirate’s Cutlass, attack for upwards of 7 damage is incredible, and the fact that the Cutlass allows average-sized Pirates to fight on an equal playing field with the large Dinosaurs is not to be ignored. In a moderately weak pack, a Pirate’s Cutlass is a defensible, even desirable first pick.

2: Bishop’s Soldier

Another card that has already been discussed a bit in the evaluation for Vampire’s Zeal, Bishop’s Soldier is a stellar way to make racing impossible for most opponents. In this format, it is easily the equal of Tilonalli’s Knight and nearly in the same league as Deeproot Warrior. When the alternative common 2-drop Vampires are a vanilla 2/2 and a 1/3 flyer, Bishop’s Soldier is even more desirable by comparison.

3: Storm Fleet Pyromancer

It’s unclear to me if this raid payoff card is properly rated by the majority of the drafting public, and I have no doubt that some in the comments will claim that they understand its power level and draft it accordingly. Be that as it may, it seems that this creature goes around later than it should in the MTGO Drafts I’ve done so far. Of course, the Pyromancer is a great way to break 2-power creatures into 4-toughness blockers without missing a beat, and the added reach can win a game, especially in concert with Unfriendly Fire. I’d be ecstatic to play a pair of these as the top end of any Pirates deck.

4: One with the Wind

Clearly in a race-oriented format, there is less of a downside to playing Auras, as the card disadvantage is unlikely to matter in the short time frame that defines many games. Additionally, in a format where Dinosaur decks can easily clog up the ground, taking a Merfolk or a Pirate to the sky is one of the best ways to break through for the last few points of damage. I generally prefer tricks and bounce spells to Auras like this and Mark of the Vampire, but in a deck with few or no combat tricks, One with the Wind offers a game plan in a single card. Of course, there are also games where Jade Guardian takes to the sky and single-handedly shuts down the opponent’s entire deck. Consider your Jade Guardian count when deciding to draft a One with the Wind versus, say, a potentially-superfluous Ixalli’s Keeper.

5: Cobbled Wings

The biggest reason to play Cobbled Wings is if you have a Deadeye Quartermaster and only one target in the deck. With a single Pirate’s Cutlass or a single Sleek Schooner, it makes sense to hedge against drawing the target before the Quartermaster, and Cobbled Wings offers a few powerful benefits for a ground-based Pirates deck. The other opportunity to play Cobbled Wings is a Dinosaur deck with a low trick count. In that case, there may be games where the ground stalls out and no one can make profitable attacks, and suddenly a Colossal Dreadmaw with flying decides the game. The situations are rare for Cobbled Wings to make the main deck, to be sure, but in those 5-10% of decks, it’s important to recognize that the unassuming equipment is actually the tool for the job.

6: Sailor of Means

The more powerful 5-drops in the deck, the better Sailor of Means becomes. The body is well-sized to block all of the 2-drops of the format, and the Treasure allows for incredible turns 4 or 5. The card is not particularly impressive in the more aggressive Pirate decks (especially those without Pirate’s Cutlass to turn it into a real threat), but overall the card impresses me virtually every time it gets cast. A Horned Turtle with a Treasure and creature type upside is worth including in upwards of 70% of the decks that can cast it, and you will rarely regret defaulting to including this creature.

7: Headstrong Brute

The ying to Sailor of Means‘ yang, Headstrong Brute is only good in the aggressive Pirates decks, but the power of a 5/4 menace attacking on the fourth turn is simply incredible. Headstrong Brute benefits immensely from cards like Pirate’s Cutlass, Depths of Desire, Run Aground, and Sure Strike, which create untenable situations for defensive opponents. A few late Headstrong Brutes can easily turn a mediocre collection of Shipwreck Looters, Fathom Fleet Firebrands, and Brazen Buccaneers into a coherent aggressive deck, which is more than you should expect from a card that frequently wheels in Ixalan Drafts.

8: Ixalli’s Diviner

This creature often gets cut in the better tribal oriented decks of the format, simply for lack of a relevant creature type. In the Dinosaurs deck, however, Ixalli’s Diviner is everything you could ask for. As a 0/3, it can block a few of the weaker 2-drops and draw an extra land. As a 1/4, however, the Diviner puts a large roadblock down, saves huge chunks of life against many of the most aggressive draws from Merfolk and Pirates, and scrys to smooth out awkward draws. Dune Beetle wishes it was Ixalli’s Diviner, and the slower decks of the format will get incredible mileage out of a card that often goes as late as 10th pick.

Ixalan Limited is a complex beast, and many pro players initially criticized the format, but the truth is that (higher variance or not) it rewards a slightly different skill set and prioritizes tempo, aggression, and bluffing over some of the synergy-driven or value-driven elements of previous formats. My hope is that some of these undervalued ways to push through extra damage, get around blockers, and win races will prove useful in your own exploration of this flavor of Limited Magic.

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