Previous Ixalan Set Reviews
Blue | Black | Red | Green | Gold, Artifacts, and Lands
Let’s take a look at the grading scale, with the usual caveat that what I write about the card is more relevant, as there are many factors that aren’t reflected in a card’s grade.
A 3/1 aggressive beater that’s hard to kill is worth a lot, and it can even get indestructible on defense. If your deck isn’t interested in attacking, this loses a good amount of value, but it’s still probably worth getting in there.
Ashes of the Abhorrent
Gaining a life every time a creature dies isn’t abhorrent, but it’s not worth a full card either. Given the lack of graveyard interaction in the set, this is a Constructed-only addition (and a welcome one at that—taste it, Dredge).
Axis of Mortality
While this does force the opponent to kill you in one shot, it’s still a 6-mana play that doesn’t affect the board. That’s a lot of mana to spend without any guarantee of getting value, and in a world without mana burn I’m less inclined to take a shot on this.
These stats plus an enrage ability that’s very dangerous make this a fine addition to any white deck. It’s likely to trade for a card and buff your team, and will often go unblocked for many turns as a result (or hold off bigger creatures on defense).
Bishop of Rebirth
This is big enough that it should be able to attack productively, and even if it dies on its first expedition, you still get something back. Raising creatures that cost 3 or less means that it’s easy to hit as well, where the 2-or-less cards we’ve seen in the past missed more often than not.
I’m in for this in any deck, aggressive or defensive. A 2/2 for 2 that gains you a couple of life is a great deal for 2 mana, and if you can hit unopposed once or twice it’s basically checkmate.
This card isn’t as good as it looks—trust me. I’d always play it in a defensive deck, but I’d have second thoughts about playing it in any proactive deck. When this kills a 5/5 attacker, it seems like the best card ever, but against a wary opponent it runs the risk of rotting in your hand. Don’t assume it’s always going to be awesome, though it has a real upside if it works.
This is purely a sideboard card, and not a particularly effective one at that. I’d want to see 3 good targets before boarding this in.
Limited: 1:0 // 3.0
Vampire beatdown is here, and that’s where this shines (though not too brightly, for obvious reasons). If you are playing an aggressive Vampire deck, Skymarcher is great. It chips in for damage easily, and makes combat very difficult for the opponent if you are sending in other Vampires. In defensive or Vampire-light decks, this will be disappointing, though I predict people will jam it anyway.
Emissary of Sunrise
Explore looks like a profitable mechanic. It’s not quite “draw a card,” but it’s close enough that I’m playing any explore card unless it’s wildly overcosted. This is not, and I’d gladly include it any deck.
I’d only run Keepers if the base version has some value to your deck, which in this case is a 1/1 first strike. An aggro deck could want that, but no other deck will, and waiting until 8 mana means that the sacrifice ability won’t go off all that often. This is another card you probably should play a bit less often than you think.
Glorifier of Dusk
This is actually a less glorified version of Serra Angel, but I’m more than willing to pay 4 life to build my own. You don’t have to pay the life all that often, and when you do, it’s likely to force through damage or save you life on the attack back.
I don’t love 7-drops with only 3 toughness, but this does strike me as threatening enough to be worth the effort. It’s better than a 6/3 on its own, and it makes the rest of your squad bash for a ton if you get to attack with it. Still, this is a 7 cost card that doesn’t play defense all that well and has to survive a turn before it generates value. That doesn’t make me excited, and I think it’ll slot in as an acceptable finisher for some decks without being a high pick.
Not only does this give you a 3/3 flyer for 4, which is a gift fit for a king, it also forces through a good chunk of damage. This is a great deal for any deck, and not one I’m leaving by the wayside.
A 2/1 for 1 isn’t as good as it looks in Limited, and this only becomes that later in the game, at which point it might just get blanked. Even in a Dinosaur-heavy deck, I’m not excited about this.
I wouldn’t exactly call this inspiring, but it is a solid body that fills out your curve and keeps you alive. You could do a lot worse for 3 mana, though don’t be afraid to side it out against control decks or when a 3/2 lines up poorly against opposing 2-drops.
This is a 4-mana Oblivion Ring with trinket text, and you know what? You’ll play it, and you’ll like it. Especially given how good some of the expensive Dinos seem to be, this has to be nothing less than solid (unless this format is somehow as fast as Amonkhet).
Limited: 1.0 // 2.0
I’d call Kinjalli’s Caller a complete miss in a non-Dinosaur deck, and not even absurd when you do have a bunch of Dinos. It’s likely playable with 7+ good Dinosaurs, especially if the format has a lot of 2-power ground creatures, but the ability is niche enough that I wouldn’t prioritize this.
Kinjalli’s Sunwing has good stats and a brutal ability, which makes it a slam in any aggressive deck. If you are pressuring your opponent, which is easier with a 2/3 flyer in play, making their blocking wait a turn is almost impossible to beat. Even in midrange or control, the price is right on this, though I’d lean toward drafting aggro if I picked this up early.
Limited: 1.0 // 2.0
A 2/2 for 3 that draws more 2/2s for 3 isn’t going to do a whole lot of conquering. I suppose I would play this if I had two and needed to fill out my curve, but wasting a bunch of time playing Gray Ogres isn’t something you can get away with in modern Limited.
I judge this worthy. It kills most of the cards you care about killing, and for the bargain price of 3 mana. You may have to side Legion’s Judgment out in some matchups, but I’d gladly play the first one or two and would be willing to take them early.
Looming Altisaur is a defensive Dino that isn’t easy to kill, which seems worth it in a dedicated Dino/control deck (ideally both). Otherwise it’s not something I’d be looking to play, though I do like it as a sideboard card.
Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle
Not only is Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle sick in a Vampire deck where it triggers right away, it also can take matters into its own hands and make a Vampire when it attacks. That gives you a good build-around and a good standalone card, with high upside if it works. You should prioritize combat tricks once you have this, as the opponent will 100% be blocking.
Paladin of the Bloodstained
Not only is Paladin of the Bloodstained a solid set of stats (4/3 total), it’s spread across two creatures and features some nice lifelink action. I’m in for all that, and would look for rewards for going wide if I picked up a couple of Paladins.
Unconditional removal with a bit of lifegain attached is always a welcome sight, and Pious Interdiction is even relatively efficient to boot. It doesn’t stop activated abilities, but you can’t have it all, and this is not going to be a card you will be passing very often.
Priest of the Wakening Sun
Limited: 1.0 // 3.5
In a Dino-heavy deck (is that a deck heavy with Dinos, or a deck that has heavy Dinos?), this shines. It buys you time to cast your huge stompers, and can go find whatever you need in the late game. With 5+ Dinos, including at least one really good one, I’d slam Priest of the Wakening Sun, especially if you lean toward midrange/control. With fewer, or in an aggressive low-curve deck, I’d leave it by the wayside.
You don’t need very many Dinosaurs to make Pterodon Knight passable, as a 3/3 for 4 is already nearly good enough (or in the case of mediocre decks, definitely good enough). Just watch out for your Dinosaur being bounced or removed midcombat, as a Knight falling from the sky is not a pretty sight.
I’d want a couple of ways to take advantage of the tokens this makes before getting excited about it, though it’s not unreasonable to just play Queen’s Commission as a defensive measure if needed. Mass pump spells and raid cards both work well here, so be on the lookout for those.
Not every deck is going to want Rallying Roar, but the bar is pretty low, thanks to the untapping effect. It’s not that hard to get a card out of this, and in a go-wide deck it plays well both on offense and defense. It’s great that you can attack all-out, and even if the opponent suspects a trick, they can’t attack back without this punishing them.
You’ll run Raptor Companion more often than not, both for the stats and because it’s a cheap Dinosaur that enables a variety of tribal effects. That’s a fine deal for 2 mana, so don’t expect to float these late.
Ritual of Rejuvenation
While Ritual of Rejuvenation does replace itself, it’s kind of hard to justify spinning your wheels for such a minor effect.
Is this the Elixir of Immortality of Ixalan? Is this the win condition we’ve all been waiting for? The idea here is that you deck your opponent by drawing and casting this for 20 life a turn, but actually getting that to work seems difficult in practice. Have no doubt—I’ll try if I can, but for the most part Sanguine Sacrament seems wildly unplayable. It doesn’t affect the board, and without self-mill, getting to no cards in the deck seems challenging.
Settle the Wreckage
This is not as good as it looks—let’s just settle that now. It’s not a bad card, but the most often use case will be a 4-mana Path to Exile that only works on defense, as wary opponents aren’t going to run four creatures into this. You might get a couple of creatures the first time you play it, if you don’t make it too obvious (passing on turn 4 vs. 2 creatures counts as obvious), but that is unlikely to happen in subsequent games. It’s also of limited use in aggressive decks, and overall seems like a fine playable but far less likely to wreck your opponent than most people might think.
The combination of efficiency and scrying makes me want to play Sheltering Light in any deck with 13+ creatures. It’s often going to trade for a card and pick up a little extra value, which is really hard to beat for just 1 mana.
Dinosaur decks seem like they could be a little top-heavy, so I’m wary about loading up on too many 5+ drops. That said, Shining Aerosaur does get a cost reduction from the Caller, and that alone makes it more appealing than it would be otherwise.
Skyblade of the Legion
The best use for Skyblade of the Legion seems to be a cheap raid enabler, which it doesn’t suck at. Otherwise it’s a little small, and not something I’d be that excited to main deck.
Slash of Talons
A Shock that can only target attackers or blockers is not a card I love, especially if there are a lot of large Dinosaurs stomping around. It does pull its weight in control decks, but I suspect most decks can find more talented spells to fill out their removal suite.
I’m not looking forward to playing against this thing. While on the board, it makes any attack or block precarious, and even if you have large enough creatures to survive 3 damage, it can help finish them off. It is mitigated a little by its weakness to flyers, as it can’t block and shoot them, but I still think Steadfast Armasaur will be a pest to deal with.
Sunrise Seeker is quite the acceptable 5-drop, and one that makes it more likely for you to have a smooth late game. As with all 5s, they don’t stack super well, so don’t worry too much about picking these up early.
The rating here isn’t strictly for aggressive decks, as a 2/3 for 3 is passable outside of them, but aggro is where this really hits the nail on the head. If your opponent is trying to block you, this makes things nearly impossible for them, and it’s my prediction for the most annoying card by far out of an aggro deck.
Tocatli Honor Guard
If you want a 1/3 for 2, well, you’re in luck. If you have a specific reason to stop triggers, this does do that, and I can see Tocatli Honor Guard being a solid sideboard card against bombs like the various Sun’s Avatars and whatnot.
These combat tricks all seem passable, even if first strike isn’t a huge addition (+2/+2 is likely enough to win the fight). Aggro decks should play Vampire’s Zeal, regardless of the Vampire count, and other decks pretty much shouldn’t.
Wakening Sun’s Avatar
While I’m aware this costs 8 mana, it does do exactly what you want your huge bomb to do. Against all non-Dino decks, it should win you the game on the spot, and even in the Dino mirror it can pick up a decent amount of value. If you draft Wakening Sun’s Avatar, you have to go hard on ramp and ways to survive until 8 mana, but the payoff is there.
Top 5 White Commons
White has a nice distribution of commons here—two good removal spells, a potent aggressive threat, and some solid midrange creatures. If the format ends up being slower, Sunrise Seeker and Shining Aerosaur could displace the 4th and 5th place finishers here, though 5-drops tend to be more interchangeable than low drops.