Ixalan’s prerelease has come and gone, and I had the pleasure to play in three, where I experimented with three different archetypes: Merfolk, Dinosaurs, and Vampires. The most popular decks were Dinousaurs, and they were also the most successful.
I tried to explore all of the archetypes, and today I’ll go through the decks I played and the cards that stood out to me, as well as the ones that disappointed me. I use LSV’s Set Reviews as a baseline.
Prerelease #1: U/G Merfolk
I opened 2 of Kopala, Warden of Waves and 1 copy of Vineshaper Mystic, so my mind went instantly to the Merfolk tribe. Even if I had a solid R/G Dinosaur deck—a common theme in every Sealed deck—I laid down my Merfolk cards and I found 12!
If you have the right tools to make this work, you can build a very early threat that will take over the game easily. On the other hand, this leads to some unpleasant 2-for-1s if your opponent has a removal spell, so you need to play your One with the Wind with that in mind. I had Kopala, Warden of Waves that gave my Merfolk extra protection from expensive removal, but the best creature to put One with the Wind on was definitely Jade Guardian. Among my spells I also had Dive Down, a cheap trick that can protect your enchanted creatures. I loved this Aura and I look forward to drafting U/G Aggro-Hexproof.
LSV gave this Dinosaur a 1.0, which seems very low to me. This definitely isn’t a powerhouse, but at the end of the day it stops the board, giving you time to take over with flyers and unblockable creatures.
I’ve been quite satisfied with the Ceratops—I wouldn’t take them highly in Draft or anything, but in a U/G Tempo deck like this they were okay and they filled the 5-drop curve pretty well.
Everyone knows that LSV is low on 1-drops, so seeing 1.5 on this wasn’t weird. In my opinion, though, Isamaru, Hound of Konda would be great in your U/G Merfolk deck, and you would always want to start your curve on turn 1 in an aggressive deck such as Merfolk.
This was the most disappointing card for me this weekend—equipment cards are always solid and I’m happy to play them, but in order to play this you have to have a lot of evasive creatures, which I had, and it was just okay in my deck.
As a general rule, I would never play this in a midrange deck where I don’t have flyers. I ended up 3-2, losing two very close matches. Merfolk looks like a very aggressive tribe, and it has to be drafted that way. Deeproot Warrior will probably be the best common for the strategy.
Prerelease#2: G/W Dinosaurs
Mana rocks that cost 3 mana and don’t fix are anything but exciting, though in decks with 7- and 8-drops they are playable.
My deck was heavy enough that I needed some kind of mana ramp, though I would have liked to play New Horizons more.
This is still a 1.0 in general, but I wanted to let you know that it isn’t totally unplayable.
I had high hopes for this guy, who looked to me like the new Feral Prowler. Instead, I got a 2-drop that was similar to a Wall with very few upsides. I would play this only if I really needed blockers for the late-game, which was my case, or if I wanted to lower my land count to play more explore creatures.
This was a 3 for LSV, and considering how many Dinosaurs were around at the prerelease it was probably the correct rating. Though when I got paired against other strategies like Pirates or Vampires I always struggled to find a target, and I found myself having a dead card for very many early turns. It will always eventually find a target, but if I have enough spells already, I would put this card in my sideboard and board it in when needed.
The number of creatures that I killed with this Dino can be counted on one hand since the battlefields were always infested of Dinosaurs. I would think that this is better in Draft, where there can’t be so many mirror matches.
8 mana for a 7/7 that kills a bunch of creatures is fine, but you have to build your deck in such a way where the only creatures that this Dinosaur kills are the ones on your opponent’s side.
I went 2-2 with this deck, and it performed poorly for me. I flooded a lot and I didn’t have any mana sinks aside from my overcosted Dinosaurs. My removal package was very bad, as I only had situational removal and tricks (Slash of Talons, Vampire’s Zeal, Legion’s Judgment). I was disappointed with white-green, and I would rather go red-green if I wanted to toy around with Dinosaurs.
Prerelease#3: B/W Vampires
3 of my 7 rares were dual lands, and that’s never a good sign in Sealed. Though I had a large number of good uncommons and some good payoff cards for Vampires, so here I go!
This isn’t the end of the world or anything great. It’s a 1-drop to enable your Deadeye Tormentor and a good way to answer Dinosaurs in the late game.
At first I didn’t main deck this card, but after I boarded it in a bunch, I noticed that this was actually a good card that could easily be main decked.
You play Anointed Deacon only in a proper Vampire deck, and it will be close to unplayable in any other deck. In mine, it overperformed, since I had multiple 1/1 Vampire tokens, but more importantly, Skyblade of the Legion, which becomes a great threat along with the Deacon.
I had to decide between playing this or Bright Reprisal, and since I already had plenty of 5-drops, I opted for the slightly cheaper one.
Though Settle the Wreckage didn’t overperform, it was good in some games where I was racing in the air against ground creatures. So I would say that if your plan is to fly over defenses with Skymarch Bloodletter, this is a good removal spell.
The deck played out well, and Sanctum Seeker was a great rare that helped me win a lot of games. I ended up going 4-0 on the back of my aggressive curve topped by solid removal spells.
Vampires look very similar to Merfolk in Draft to me—you have to be in the right spot, and you need many key cards to make a solid deck out of it.
I wouldn’t go too crazy on the token theme since there aren’t that many payoffs for going wide. I’d rather have solid creatures on curve, topped with some payoff in Vampires that other players in the pod wouldn’t be interested in, like Anointed Deacon and Bishop of the Bloodstained.
I had a blast playing Ixalan, and I can’t wait to draft it next week!