It’s time! We have our full spoiler of the last slate of cards from Rivals of Ixalan before we head elsewhere. I’m pretty excited!
Have you seen these cards?
This set is so good that we have a potentially new Akroma threat for White, and it’s not on my list, and we have a new, better Nekrataal and it’s not on my list and another Phyrexian Rager variant and it’s not on my list. Reprint of Tolarian Academy? Not on my list! You get the idea.
Let’s take a look at my Top Ten!
Honorable Mention — Rekindling Phoenix
There are a few ways that I like to look at and use to assess the latest Phoenix:
Rekindling Phoenix plays into the first two nicely. A 4/3 flyer has an immediate impact on the board for four mana. Compare it to, say, Roc of Kher Ridges for a different example of a flying 3/3 for four mana in the color. Making an 0/1 token on death is cool, it feels like an Egg is left behind. I wish it were named “Egg” but hey, that might not have fit. Then, for no additional investment, it turns back into your 4/3 Phoenix on your upkeep. That’s both flavorful and great at pushing a table. It has a strong long-game reach with an early presence.
Honorable Mention #2 — Wayward Swordtooth
Speaking of long game presence with an early game reach, check out Wayward Swordtooth! Your three-mana investment gets you an Exploration on a 5/5 body. And if you have ten permanents you can swing with said beater. Play it late and it’s a cheap 5/5. Play it early and it will help you top get to ten permanents pretty quickly. This thing is sweet.
10. Dire Fleet Daredevil
Ah yes, Dire Fleet Daredevil. Take a look at this card and unpack it. This card is also awesome early or late. You can easily drop it on the 3rd or 4th turn, grab an opposing Rampant Growth or Cultivate or Swords to Plowshares or Impulse or something similar and cast it while having a 2/1 first strike. Notice that you do have to cast the card that turn or else you’ll lose it. You can wait until later. But later in the game, as you have more mana available, the Daredevil can get anything from a Wrath of God to a massive card drawing effect. Best though? Red normally is the weakest color with a lot of different effects. But you can use to get an out-of-color discard, mass removal, enchantment removal, counterspell (just add flash) and more to make it pretty good. In a very real way, this is a light Snapcaster Mage for Red for an opposing spell, not your own. Don’t sleep on it!
9. Twilight Prophet
Much like Dire Fleet Daredevil is a reserve Snapcaster, Twilight Prophet is a reverse Dark Confidant. Let’s show you how. Here is a 2/4 flying body for four mana, big enough to matter. Have Ascend? Great, and you’ll keep it! You will reveal the top card and draw it, but instead of you losing life, each opponent loses life equal to its casting cost. And you’ll gain some life as well. In any multiplayer format, shooting your foes, gaining life, and drawing cards is just downright awesome. You don’t need to set up a big spell with Sensei's Divining Top or anything either. But if you did . . . Can you imagine the cringe-forcing performance of revealing Plague Wind, and Eldrazi Titan or Draco? Dang.
8. Azor’s Gateway / Sanctum of the Sun
Ah yes, let’s move up the power chain. This is a pretty early and useful filtering card which I think will be especially good in any format with a larger deck where a colorless Looter effect that just costs two to cast and one to use is going to be pretty helpful. Note that you do exile these cards, so if you are looking for a looting effect to fuel reanimation or something, you’ll need to look elsewhere. And you can keep using it over and over and over again. And when you manage to get four cards exiled and a land (the land will always be your zero cost) then you’ll basically win the game. I know the land doesn’t read, “Tap: You win the game,” but it might as well. The amount of mana that you are getting is going to win the game, as long as your life total is still relevant. Don’t forget that you also net some life on the transform trigger as well. In Commander this could easily be 30 life after you transform and that’s game. In a normal 20 life game, it can be a much more modest figure, but still having a land that tapped for 11 or 14 mana is amazing (after you gained that life). You can fuel a lot of spells that will win on the spot. This is going to fuel wins moving forward.
7. Blood Sun
Blood Sun is awesome for casual players. Don’t dismiss it as a tool for Modern or Legacy. Many players at the kitchen table run lands like Academy Ruins and Volrath's Stronghold that this locks down. But it’s a lot nicer than Blood Moon. They can still tap for mana, so you aren’t forcing them to have a bunch of Mountains out, but this is a nice and friendlier way to attack people who abuse lands precisely because they are harder to answer and people feel uncomfortable playing land-answers. Given that, this plays perfectly into a nicer and gentler space. Note that it also prevents fetch lands from cracking. Lots of cards will have abilities elsewhere, such as cycling lands, that will work on a number of issues. Blood Sun is awesome because many decks won’t be bothered much (my Ghalta Commander deck from yesterday only had two lands that had abilities this would shut down). No more junk! Nut the best part about this card? It replaces itself! That’s an awesome part, because if it doesn’t do much, you can still cast it as a brake on future problems that may arise and draw your card and move on! This thing is great!
6. Ghalta, Primal Hunger
Ghalta, Primal Killing Machine! Just yesterday, I built a Ghalta EDH deck that is downright abusive. What truly makes Ghalta unfair is that you count total power of your creatures, not just the highest power. So, you could have a few smaller dorks and still have eight or ten power among them and cast Ghalta for nothing. Once Ghalta is out, pretty much nothing is stopping it from smashing. Fog Bank? Take ten to the face! Give it some pants (Lightning Greaves?) and it can’t even be targeted by Maze of Ith or Swords to Plowshares. How are you stopping it from smashing your dorks’ faces in, en route to your own death? The era of the Primal Killing Machine is about to begin. Ghalta rises!
5. Arch of Orazca
By the time you are ready to use this, you are likely hitting Ascend anyway, so it’s not much of a brake. And then you can draw cards. This is not for drawing a card cheaply. You have the ability squirreled away on this land, so you won’t need to deal with artifact destruction of stuff like Jayemdae Tome that plays into this space. It’s harder to answer, and occasionally, at the end of someone’s turn right before yours, you’ll tap some unused mana and this for a card. Over the course of an entire game you could draw 3 or 8 cards depending on the length of the game, but squeezing a few extra cards out of a land like this is extremely crucial in a format like Commander or anything multiplayer where grinding is important to winning, and card advantage is crucial. Plus, unlike some of the other cards on this list, Arch of Orazca isn’t going to be expensive!
4. Angrath, the Flame-Chained
There a lot of sets where Angrath would be my top choice for the set. Not sitting back at the four spot. Four? Are you kidding me? Oh, and why didn’t we call it Angrath, Murder Monster? Such a great nickname! Well, Mr. Angrath, Wielder of the Flaming Chains is always going to be the Murder Monster in my book! He’s awesome for casual, especially multiplayer.His +1 is better than the original Liliana Vess, who was very strong. It forces people to play stuff now, and even when they have dropped their hand, they are still losing that sweet sweet life. Oh, and have you seen that awesome Threaten ability at -3? Gain control, smash for free, and if it was a smaller dork, then you can kill it instead of sending it home. The Murder Monster isn’t giving you your toy back! And — 8 has a lot of range. The longer the game goes on, the more powerful it can be. And it plays very well with stuff like milling effects. Angrath is going to Melt their Faces.
3. Mastermind’s Acquisition
WOW. Are you kidding me? Do you know what this card is? It’s the best Wish ever printed. Forget the Diabolic Tutor option. This is better than Living Wish or Burning Wish or Golden Wish, because there is no limitation on what you can wish for. There is no life loss to Death Wish. This is immediately the best Wish ever printed, by far. And that’s something special. In any non-Commander format where Wishing and similar effects are legal, this is instantly the best Wish option you could run in most builds. If you need something from your deck that was a four-of or is key to your combo or synergy, then you can tutor for it. Otherwise you can Wish for anything. Anything!
Want to have fun with this card? Go get an Ace of Spades and put it into your hand!
2. Huatli, Radiant Champion
Huatli is one of my favorite ‘walkers to come around in a long time, and only the sheer power of the card above here keeps her from my top spot. Let’s drill down and unpack the awesome of Huatli.
1. The Immortal Sun
The power level on this was clearly pushed massively, turning The Immortal Sun into a modern day Mirari. Three of these abilities are just rock steady powerful. Drawing a free card every turn for six mana puts it on the same level as Staff of Nin, a 6-drop artifact that already gets played pretty heavily at times. Dropping your stuff by a generic mana is also extremely good and plays well into a lot of stuff moving forward. Giving your entire team an Anthem that pumps your stuff is also a strong ability. The result is an extremely powerful combo. If you are in a control deck, adding this for card advantage is great, and getting the side benefits of cost reduction and Antheming is nice. In a mid-range aggro deck? Then this pump is great at getting you cards later as well.
But the real question of The Immortal Sun is the shutdown of Planeswalkers. A lot of casual players over rely on Planeswalkers. Are they running this in a deck with them? And you can certainly use this as one of many tools to shut down ‘walkers all up and down. In any casual metagame, you will find a number of planeswalkers, and this is especially effective against Commander decks where players could have 6 or 8 planeswalkers in their deck without even trying! Given that context, The Immortal Sun’s value is increased even more!
And there we go! Whew! That’s a lot of power. That’s a lot of great stuff! What are you most looking to flip and play from Rivals? What did you think of my list? See you next time!
P.S. — I had mentioned it before, how Ixalan strikes me as a heavy evocation of the Hollow Earth trope of Pulp Era stories, which includes lost world, pirates, dinosaurs, magic, and more. Now we know that a major character from Ravnica is on Ixalan: Azor. Imagine if we found out in the storyline that Ixalan is not a plane. Instead it’s the center, middle of Ravnica? That’s why Jace automatically went back. He may have subconsciously sought shelter there. That’s why Vraska was a good choice by Bolas. That’s why Azor is there. That’s why the planar ban may be possible, and seems to evoke Azor’s old Planeswalker ban on Ravnica. It’s not likely, probably, what, 5% chance? But it’s fun to imagine!