First Look: 7 Intriguing Ixalan Cards for Limited

I promised Dinosaurs and Pirates last week, so I guess I have to talk about them today. Grumble grumble…

Just kidding! Dinosaurs and Pirates are awesome! Previews are still ramping up for Ixalan so I don’t have the complete picture of the set yet, but I have seen some awesome cards that I want to discuss for Limited. Here it goes!

Prosperous Pirates/Wanted Scoundrels

First up: Pirates! Treasure is a cool new take on a temporary resource (we had Gold and Etherium Cells, but they weren’t a mechanic) and it isn’t so powerful that it needs to weaken the cards on which it’s included. Prosperous Pirates shows this off, and at first glance it reminds me a bit of Kozilek’s Predator. Obviously, Treasure isn’t quite as good as Eldrazi Spawns because it can’t chump-block, but it does produce colored mana and allows for ways to get to high mana costs. In addition, the ability to include a bunch of “free” splash sources through Treasure generating creatures will definitely make for some interesting Draft and Sealed builds.

What’s cool with Wanted Scoundrels is that we already see a twist on the mechanic. Normally, the stats of the creature have to be reduced to account for the Treasure bonus, but this time we get the reverse. I don’t have to tell you that a 4/3 for 2 is good, but of course the drawback is very real. You’ll have to keep your eyes out for cheap 3-power creatures and removal spells, but barring those, this might take over the early game enough to warrant it. Bloodrage Brawler was a house and while the Pirate is worse, the comparison is worth a look. Ahoy matey!

Bellowing Aegisaur/Raging Scoundrel

Enrage is a pretty cool mechanic. It’s a fine upgrade on combat, but also opens up a ton of Johnny combos in what otherwise seems like Timmy-land. Bellowing Aegisaur makes your team huge given the right support cast, and is also incredibly hard to attack into because it bounces off 4-power creatures at a huge profit. Enrage also makes attacking better because the bonus makes it so difficult to block. This duality creates a strange unblockable/moat aspect to these creatures that is more complex than it looks on the surface. I’m hoping that it makes for fun combat and gameplay that differs from game to game.

On top of those unique elements there are also combos. What type of combos? Enter Raging Swordtooth! Amass some enrage creatures and Thomp! Stomp! Thwomp! Your team is huge now! The best part is that the Swordtooth also takes out small, annoying critters from your opponents, not to mention post-combat cleanup on opposing creatures that just barely survived.

Deeproot Waters

This card gives me hope for sweet tribal decks. On the surface, the card looks very weak, but 1/1s add up quickly and this card generates them without any additional mana later, which is important. Unfortunately, casting Merfolk is very specific. The card Deeproot Waters most reminds me of is Goblinslide, but the Waters has the potential to be a much better build-around. It will either be a 0/10 or an 8/10 if you actually get enough Merfolk, whereas Goblinslide was more a 3-6/10. Unless your name is LSV, in which case you can add 4 points to the Goblinslide scale.

Drover of the Mighty

Likewise, Drover instantly called me back to Drumhunter and friends (Exuberant Firestoker and Sunseed Nurturer). This is actually fitting since Naya was really the first plane of Dinos we saw, and they’re base Naya colors again on Ixalan. What’s cool about Drover is that it powers out your Dinosaurs but then gains different utility. A 3/3 isn’t going to totally change a game later on, but is still a real threat that can trade with creatures, unlike a 1/1. Just be careful of instant-speed interaction that can kill your Dino and make the Drover a 1/1 again.

Drover also adds any color of mana, and this points to Ixalan as a splash-friendly set. I already mentioned how Treasure furthers this goal. To counteract that, some of the bomb Limited rares we’ve already seen, like Burning Sun’s Avatar, have hefty color commitments but that certainly won’t be the case for everything. In Sealed, some sets are about trying to find ways to splash your bombs while others are more about seeing if you have anything worth splashing because the mana is there more often than not. My hunch is that Ixalan will be more of the latter.

Thaumatic Compass // Spires of Orazca

The title of this piece is a little misleading since the 7th card is actually an 8th as well, and I also tend to avoid discussing rares for Limited too much because they’re, well, they’re rare. But I can’t help myself. This card makes great use of transform and tells a compelling story. You get lost in the jungle exploring a wide array of various landscapes looking for the lost city of gold, and it takes you so long that by the time you get there you realize the compass itself was leading you astray. So cool!

Flavor aside, I like how this card feels like an adventure or quest. It helps you hit land drops and fix mana for a hefty price, but once you finally get to 7 lands, you unlock an extremely powerful card. The last time we saw a Maze of Ith-type effect was Mystifying Maze. That cost 4 more mana to use but was still incredibly powerful. Of course, that was just a land already, but I know Spires is going to be incredibly tough to beat once it gets going in most games.

There’s still a lot of the set that’s a secret. I’m hoping for a few more awesome transform cards and a Dino that’s teamed up with the Pirates, because honestly who doesn’t want a Dinosaur Pirate? Let me know what you’re hoping for in the comments!

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