Previous Rivals of Ixalan Set Reviews
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.
5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Collected Company. Remand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace Beleren. Radiant Flames. Shambling Vent.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of Thought. Zulaport Cutthroat. Explosive Vegetation.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory Adept. Anticipate. Transgress the Mind.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living Guildpact. Naturalize. Duress.) Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.
1.0: It has seen play once. (One with Nothing). (I believe it was tech vs. Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)
Admiral’s Order is a neat card. It’s mostly Cancel, which is bad, but when it costs 1 mana it’s going to feel absurdly good. It will sometimes counter removal mid-combat, and at the very least, the presence of this card means that you should kill things before they attack. More likely, it counters sweet end-of-turn plays, which does seem like an effective plan against control decks. With the recent bannings, I expect more Torrential Gearhulks and Scarab Gods, so stock in this should rise as well.
I don’t think this is even worth sideboarding, but I do want to point out how much of a blowout it is when it steals creature tokens. Maybe there’s a world where Tokens is a real deck, in which case you could get very crafty indeed.
This isn’t as far away as you might think. It replaces itself and doesn’t cost infinite mana, and could let your aggressive deck crash in against dorky creatures. It probably isn’t quite there, but I’m not repulsed at the thought.
We are an Invisible Stalker away from this really going off, but more curious cards have seen play. Out of the sideboard this could give decks with cheap evasive creatures a way to get ahead.
Expel from Orazca
I’m actually pretty high on this one. It is likely closer to a 2.5, but the idea of a cheap way to interact with planeswalkers and creatures alike appeals to me. Later in the game, it becomes very effective, and if you have to cast it early it isn’t the end of the world. This likely needs a controlling deck that also generates permanents and hits ascend, which won’t necessarily exist (but we are in a brave new world).
Flood of Recollection
This is probably broken somewhere, but I honestly don’t know where. This is a powerful effect, and having access to it could fuel degenerate things.
Hornswoggle isn’t actually good enough to see play, but Hornswoggle has the honor of being called Hornswoggle, which is a fantastic name. For 3 mana, your counter needs to be unconditional, and Hornswoggle isn’t, because Hornswoggle can only counter creatures.
I know Windfall, and you sir are no Windfall. The idea behind Windfall is to make the opponent discard 5+ cards after you’ve emptied your hand, and this doesn’t do that. It is cool that if you destroy this, you get the cards back, but that’s not enough to make up for what is an eminently underpowered effect. You don’t even discard, so dredge decks aren’t going to be looking at this.
Kumena’s Awakening looks like a sideboard card for control matchups, out of any deck that can realistically ascend. It is nice that an aggro deck may be fine with both players drawing, and just count it as a bonus once they turn off the spigot for the opponent.
Making Slither Blade into a Merfolk is worth a point of toughness, and this may well see play in a Merfolk beatdown deck.
Constructed: Same as every other time.
Negate is the quintessential sideboard card, and always sees a lot of play (sometimes even in the main deck). It feels like this has never not been legal.
Nezahal, Primal Tide
The biggest drawback of Nezahal is that control has multiple finishers that happen to be creatures. If you tap out for this and they flash in Gearhulk or slam The Scarab God, the tide turns quickly in their favor (depending on what the contents of the graveyard happen to be). But this is really powerful, and will cost the opponent a lot to deal with, making it a sideboard option that has to be tested. It could even be a solid main-deck finisher, though I suspect it’ll appear alongside 14 other cards more often.
Release to the Wind
Retriggering ETB abilities and saving cards from removal is nice, though usually not worth a whole card. This needs some kind of extra-special synergy to be worth it.
I like Brainstorm, but I don’t like it quite this much. It’s worth noting all the Merfolk, as it’s one of the most powerful tribes, though costing 4 mana is likely going to keep this out of Constructed.
Something something the floor on this is too low, something something. This is a beating, but unlike Bident of Thassa, this is vulnerable to a lot of removal. There are games where this will dominate, but I think it’s a tad too slow.
Secrets of the Golden City
I not-so-secretly love Divinations, and this is a very good one. The control decks are highly biased towards instants these days, what with Glimmer, Illumination, and Gearhulk, so the time might not be now, but I’m keeping an eye on this. Draw 2 early and draw 3 late is well worth 3 mana, and the casting cost isn’t hard to swing with a good mana base. This is my pick for sleeper of the set.
Silvergill gets a fake 4.0 rating, as it already exists in the formats where it’s best. It may well see play in Standard, but it’s an all-star in Merfolk decks across the other formats, and printing it here doesn’t add anything to those. Still, if you want to make people play Merfolk in Standard, giving them a 2-for-1 for 2 that draws a card is a way to do it. That’s a great deal, and one worth building around.
Laboratory Maniac this is not, but it does kind of win you the game if you get to an empty library. You need something else to kill them, but presumably if you’re fancy enough to get to zero cards, you can figure that out.
Warkite Marauder is quite the efficient beater, and it makes one of their creatures useless on defense to boot. This is the kind of Pirate that could propel Pirates into Standard, especially now that both the tier 1 decks got hamstrung.
Top 3 Blue Cards
Blue has some interesting stuff going on. Silvergill could drive Merfolk, there are multiple good ascend payoffs for controlling (possibly Treasure-based) decks, and Nezahal is an excellent way to win a game you have no business winning. Interesting times are ahead, especially as we sail into uncharted waters.