Captivating Crew is one of the best cards in Ixalan Limited. Your opponent is usually forced to kill it immediately or lose the game. Even if you’re so far behind that you can’t use the ability to try and race, it’s large enough that you’ll typically be able to trade with your opponent’s best creature in combat.
Honorable Mention: Imperial Aerosaur
On stats alone, Imperial Aerosaur is significantly above the curve for 4 mana. On top of that, the ability can be worth a handful of extra damage when you’re curving out, or can act as reach in a stalled game. Because of its lower mana cost and helpful tribal identity, I even give the Aerosaur a slight nod over the powerful Air Elemental.
Drover of the Mighty is the best mana accelerant in Ixalan Limited, strengthening any green deck and unlocking archetypes that would otherwise struggle. It can be your best card in a dedicated Dinosaur deck, but is still excellent in a deck with only 2 or 3 Dinos. The games where I’ve felt the most hopeless and utterly outclassed in Ixalan Limited have all started with a Dinosaur player having Otepec Huntmaster or Drover of the Mighty on turn 2.
Honorable Mention: Spell Swindle
Spell Swindle is by no means a bomb rare, but it is a powerful and useful card. Cancel can be a 23rd card or a strong sideboard card, and Spell Swindle is often (perhaps not always) going to be a big upgrade over Cancel. If your deck has something to do with the excess Treasures, such as a Treasure Map or a Ruthless Knave, then Swindle is going to be very nice.
Adanto Vanguard hits harder than other 2-drops, and your opponent can’t trade or point removal spells at it (at least not early in the game). Often, you won’t care much about your life total—either because you’re the one attacking, or because you have life gain in your W/B Vampires deck. Either way, Adanto Vanguard will be indestructible any time it counts.
Honorable Mention: Glorifier of Dusk
Glorifier of Dusk is a great card that can take over a game when it goes unanswered. It’s not quite as good as Serra Angel, or even Air Elemental, because paying life can really add up. I’ve often faced the situation where my opponent attacks a flying creature into the Glorifier and I have to decide whether I want to commit the 2 life in the face of possible removal, bounce, or combat tricks.
Lightning Strike is exactly how I want to start my Drafts. It defends early, helps force your creatures through, or answers a troublesome flying creature on a stalled board. All this, and it’s cheap enough that you can often cast two spells in the same turn!
Honorable Mention: Vance’s Blasting Cannons
If I’m drafting on MTGO, Lightning Strike is the clear pick. But if I’m drafting with real cards, the signalling implications of Vance’s Blasting Cannons becomes much more interesting. If I take Lightning Strike, it’s likely that the player on my left will take the Blasting Cannons and stake their claim to red. If I take the Blasting Cannons, they might let me have the color all to myself. A decent card that comes with the upside of helping your neighbors stay out of your way is a good way to start a Draft.
Territorial Hammerskull is my favorite common. It’s the defining card of one of my favorite archetypes, W/R Dinosaur Aggro. But it’s also strong enough to be a great addition to virtually any white deck. Hammerskull takes away the opponent’s ability to block, forcing them into a race that you’re much better equipped to win.
Honorable Mention: Treasure Map
I also love Treasure Map. It can go in any deck, and offers a colossal advantage in any game that doesn’t win via a quick rush. You don’t have to do anything special to make Treasure Map great, but pairing Treasure Cove with other ways to make Treasure can allow you to really bury your opponent.