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Frank’s Picks: Ixalan

Ixalan is already looking like it could rejuvenate my interest in Limited, as I wasn’t quite feeling Amonkhet block. But it isn’t just Limited that looks exciting. While I always do an article with the Top 8 cards that pique my interest, today I want to give some of my initial impressions of a few cards and mechanics in Ixalan.

Enrage

Enrage is the same as the Hearthstone mechanic that triggers every time the creature (minion) is damaged—it’s kind of funny that it’s the exact same ability. I guess it’s fair game considering that there’s a 5-mana card in Hearthstone called Time Warp

All that aside, if you think about enrage, it works much like afflict in practice, only with a little more potential to exploit it. Both cards are going to discourage chump blocking, and both are going to have a positive effect when they are blocked. Unless you’re sitting there pinging away at it, Sun-Crowned Hunters is basically the same as Manticore Eternal. Both are 5/4 creatures for around the same mana cost that deal 3 damage to the opponent when they’re blocked. I guess the Dinosaurs won’t deal damage when blocked by something with 0 power, but you get the idea.

Drover of the Mighty

Well, this is about as good as it’s going to get, ladies and gentlemen. Long gone are the days of your Birds of Paradise, your Noble Hierarches, and even your Elvish Mystics. 2 mana is the sweet spot nowadays, so you better get used to it.

All things considered, this is pretty decent though, and reminds me of Sylvan Advocate. While cards like Channeler Initiate and Deathcap Cultivator didn’t see much play, cards like Druid of the Cowl, Servant of the Conduit, and even Hedron Crawler did. Of course, of the latter group, two of them have above average stats, and one of them produced much needed colorless mana.

While I don’t think Drover of the Mighty is going to see much play while Servant of the Conduit is legal, I would be thrilled to be wrong. Keep in mind that this makes mana of any color, and consistently, which is huge. Druid of the Cowl only makes green, Deathcap Cultivator only makes black or green, Hedron Crawler only makes colorless, and both Channeler Initiate and Servant of the Conduit have limitations on how many times they can be used. This is unlimited colored mana, allowing it to fit into any deck that needs it on a potential 3/3 body.

Bellowing Aegisaur

Welp, looks like you’ve got another Ridgescale Tusker on your hands! This might even be a little scarier, which is terrible news for Limited. It’s still uncommon, but despite costing 1 more mana, it’s actually easier to cast (and therefore splash). Oh, did I mention that this ability is easier to trigger multiple times?

Sure, it’s possible that it never triggers, but that simply means one of three things: 1) your opponent is able to kill this on the spot (worse than Tusker, with Tusker getting you counters first), 2) your opponent is simply never attacking and allowing you to block with this (better than Tusker), or 3) you don’t have any other creatures to receive the counters (on par with Tusker).

While the stats are slightly lower on the Bellowing Aegisaur, the upside of being able to trigger it turn after turn can be game winning. As we also realized from Ridgescale Tusker, even just one effect of this nature is huge, let alone multiple. Is this a “fixed” version of Tusker? Let me know what you guys think.

Goring Ceratops

Well this is just beautiful and majestic, and it has a little friend. Just enjoy something beautiful for once in your life. Gosh!

Siren Stormtamer and Daring Saboteur

Holy smokes—look at these two idiots. What the heck even is a Siren Pirate Wizard?

It’s no secret that Flying Men has been getting better and better over the years, and this is one of the best yet. While cards like Judge’s Familiar and Mausoleum Wanderer only let you hit instants and sorceries, the Siren Stormtamer can counter anything that targets you or a creature you control… and let’s be honest, that’s most instants and sorceries. But you can also counter the abilities of creatures or enchantments such as Cast Out, which is a pretty big deal. While you can’t touch cards like Fumigate, you can counter burn spells being aimed at your face! This is also an uncommon, which is great considering the Wanderer was a rare.

Siren Stormtamer Verdict: Upgraded Flying Men!

Now… let’s talk about the other idiot. (Am I being too harsh here?) Daring Saboteur, ah, where to begin? Remember the days of Looter il-Kor and Merfolk Looter? When your Looters cost you a mere 2 mana to draw and discard a card and you didn’t have to jump through hoops to make sure it happened? Were they ever broken in Standard? Were people decrying how busted Merfolk Looter was? Those other 2 Looters are also both common. This is a rare?! Why?!

Sure, a 2/1 for 2 is just fine on stats for a blue creature. And the ability to loot when it connects is a pretty classic one, but… the evasion costs 3 mana? Who wants to ever open this as their rare? Shadowmage Infiltrator and Scroll Thief were also comparable blue abilities, costing one more mana but guaranteeing a card. Neither was ever too powerful. Similarly, we had Wharf Infiltrator in the format for a couple years. It had a form of evasion and the potential to make 3/2s with the discard, yet saw virtually 0 play.

I don’t know. Don’t get me wrong. Magic needs variety, and having a 2-drop Human Pirate that can loot and become evasive, that’s good for formats like Commander, maybe it’s fine in Standard, and it’s playable in Limited, though I’m not sure it needed to be rare. I just keep reading this and wondering what I’m missing. Does it have lifelink, or… like… hexproof? Whatever, Looters’ gonna loot, I guess.

Daring Saboteur Verdict: Downgraded Looter il-Kor!

Those are some of my initial impressions from Ixalan. Be sure to let me know what you guys think in the comments. Thanks so much for reading, and I’ll catch you next time!

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