What’s wrong with you?
Maybe it’s because of Masters 25, or the casual friendly Dominaria or Battlebond, but did you forget that we had this awesome set for casual aficionados just a few months ago? It was called Rivals of Ixalan.
It’s proved itself to be a good set with a lot going for it!
So why aren’t you playing with these cards?
There are some cards that I haven’t seen anyone play (other than myself) even when they are blowing up things when I use them (or are working in other formats). They are strong forces that you clearly aren’t playing . . .
All of the below cards, save for #10 below, did not make my Top Ten Cards from Rivals of Ixalan list back in January. Most of those cards are getting played, like Rekindling Phoenix or The Immortal Sun.
10. Angrath, the Flame-Chained
Did you just forget how good Angrath plays at the multiplayer table? Did you try him out for a few weeks, see how good he is, and then forget? Did you collectively pull him out of every deck he was amazing in? I haven’t seen Angrath in a while, and he is strong everywhere.
With the popularity of Battlebond right now, consider Two-Headed Giant.
Anyways, in your typical 2HG game, you and your partner are up against two foes, also teamed up to stop you. Now imagine that you activate Angrath’s +1 ability during the game? The result is that your team has discarded two cards and lost some life. You are up nicely on them. So, all you have to do is layer up +1 after +1 and you can win the game with life loss and discarding to force your foes to topdeck.
What about that -3 in your 2HG? You can steal and smash with an opposing dork. It’s a solid enough Threaten effect. But if you steal something small? Then you can sacrifice it afterwards, and your foes won’t even get their stolen dork back as consolation prize. Angrath locks them down.
Angrath can win a 2HG or other multiplayer game single-handedly. He is powerful. Why aren’t you running him again?
9. Awakened Amalgam
All right, hold back your ire for a few moments.
I’m not recommending Awakened Amalgam to every single deck out there. Just like all of the cards on this list, this does not go into every deck that exists.
But it does go into a lot of them!
I am specifically calling out Commander players . . .
Do you have a decklist where your mana base looks like this?
- 25 Non-Basics
- 4 Island
- 5 Swamp
That’s pretty common among modern Commander players.
So why aren’t you running the Amalgam? Swap over one each of your basics to Snow-Covered, and then you are fine.
For example, I have a Five Color Commander deck-build around planeswalkers. It has the perfect mana base — 20 dual lands, 10 fetches, 1 of each basic, and Command Tower. If I get color hosed early I still have pertinent early plays. It’s colorless status means it can fit into any deck and it’s going to typically be a 6/6 or 8/8 for 4 mana based on when you cast it, and you can easily get it turn two off Sol Ring or Mana Crypt or something.
It’s a good card, with a powerful board presence, cheap and reliably. In many decks, it’s reliably a colorless, four-mana Dakkon Blackblade. So, again, why aren’t you running it?
Are you afraid of running good cards in your deck?
8. Dusk Legion Zealot
You know how good this thing plays, right? I assume that most of you have seen it somewhere. Limited. Vampire decks. Soldier decks. Enters-the-battlefield decks. You get the idea. Just like Phyrexian Rager, it’s a strong option for early to keep the card flow going. As a two-mana 1/1 with two pertinent creature types that replaces itself, it’s basically a Black Elvish Visionary.
Considering the context of Dusk Legion Zealot, I don’t get why you aren’t running them. Zealots for the win!
7. Tetzimoc, Primal Death
Did you collectively take crazy pills prior to the release of Rivals of Ixalan? Have you actually played with Tetzimoc? Because if you have, then you’ll know that it is a serious threat at the kitchen table with its prey counter slaying.
It’s an amazing mana sink in Mono-Black decks that make a ton of mana with Cabal Coffers and friends. You can put 5 or 6 mana into the ability, and then cast it and kill everything that’s not yours that you care about. It’s awesome. Note that it won’t kill prey counters on your own stuff, so if there are dueling Tetzimocs, you won’t lose by casting your own.
Give this Elder Dinosaur a spin and tell me it sucks! Without being facetious!
6. Baffling End
You know this isn’t like your normal Oblivion Ring effect, right? Normally, these effects bring the exiled target back after you take it to. But this time, the target is just gone permanently. That’s a whole lot better. And if they destroy or bounce or otherwise handle your Baffling End, they just get a pity gift of a 3/3 token. Now sure, it only handles cheaper things, but there are a ton of cheaper things that are serious problems at the kitchen table. And I just don’t see this answer having made the transition from tournaments to casual night. And it should have! It’s a perfectly fine answer to a lot of stuff.
It's Baffling to me that you aren’t running it!
5. Induced Amnesia
Unlike some of the cards above this on the list, I think you aren’t playing with it because you just forgot about it.
So here it is. Again. In Blue HIGHLIGHT and all caps for you.
It has three separate times when you’ll want to cast it. The first is to hit someone else. Have they been building up a giant grip of cards over time? Want to ruin their plans and force them into a random grip? You can do that! Mess with their strategy (or kill them with an Underworld Dreams like I did a few weeks ago . . . )
The second time is to help an ally or partner. Two-Headed Giant? Emperor? Secret Alliances? Just chaos Magic where you want to make a friend? Sure thing! That works!
The final time is on yourself to draw a new grip of hope. Hate those cards? Need to dig for an answer hard? Or a combo piece to finish the game? Then Induce your own Amnesia and draw a new slate of cards. And then you have this cool tool to remove and get your hand back. It can be a three mana “Draw cards equal to the number of cards in your hand” effect if you sacrifice it on arrival. It works well with Zur decks in Commander.
You get the idea. It’s flexible piece of tech for many a deck. So, this time, don’t Induce Amnesia, but instead remember the card!
4. Vona’s Hunger
After playing with the set for a bit, we now know how hard it is not to acquire ascend. It happens earlier and more often than you would expect.
Early on, Vona's Hunger is a very nice, instant speed, Diabolic Edict for one more mana that hits all of your opponents. You can still cast it in response to someone making some tokens to protect their dude or swinging at you with their one dork and so forth. But you also net the value of forcing other foes to send one of their worst dorks to the garbage bin.
But, after you get that sexy ascend, this is a nasty, game-turning removal spell.
At its worst, it’s better than Diabolic Edict, right? And you are still playing this, and others, over it. Why?
At its best, it’s better than every other Edict effect out there, like Chainer's Edict.
It’s also better than . . .
Just as an FYI.
3. Azor, the Lawbringer
How is this guy a virtual bulk mythic? I know he’s a little heavy on the intense mana-side, but he’s still a 6/6 flying for six mana. He’s a typical Dragon sized body for a typical Dragon sized cost. And he brings two separate, pertinent abilities to the battlefield.
The first is a decent, “Knock it Off!” ability. It won’t stop people from doing fair things like casting dorks or swinging. But all of that instant/sorcery junk isn’t going to get cast for a full round by all of your opponents. It ain’t amazing, but it suffices.
Of course, I put that one first, so you could talk about the awesome that is attacking and triggering Sphinx's Revelation!
This is a card that dominated Standard when it was legal. Today it still gets played all over the casual table, from Commander to the omnipresent “Let’s Just Hang Out and Play With Some 60 Card Decks” format. Sphinx's Revelation is amazing. Tethering life gain and card drawing in an instant, X-spell flexible package like this is awesome. It’s just brutal.
Know what’s almost as brutal? Swinging with Azor! I mean sure, it’s not an instant effect, you can’t immediately use those spells like you could at the end of Jay’s turn when you untap and go. But it’s repeatable! And you are hitting for 6 damage as well, so you are actually winning the game while drawing cards en masse. Azor, Bringer of Law also reminds me of Flameblast Dragon as a powerful flying body that could actively add a nasty X spell when it swung. And in most multiplayer environments, Sphinx's Revelation is going to be more desired than Blaze.
Azor deserves your attention. He has earned your loyalty.
2. Path of Discovery
Imagine how annoyed I was when I was playing someone at the release weekend event who had this in their Sealed pool, played Green, and then didn’t put it in their deck. This was a good player with a solid reputation. I beat him 2-0, and then reviewed the deck and sideboard after, and was just flummoxed by how much this card was a missed opportunity. Trust me, no 23rd card is better than this!
Ever since then, I’ve noticed the card and when you haven’t played it. Here’s a Bant Blink Commander deck that needed it. There’s a multiplayer token deck that used mana-ramp to increase its tokenage. Where was it? From Limited to Commander, you have just missed this card.
The only way I can imagine that would happen to you all, en masse, is if there is a big giant conspiracy. Is everyone being forced to ignore this card and pretend it doesn’t exist?
1. Zetalpa, Primal Dawn
Rivals of Ixalan printed a new powerhouse for casual mages that is arguably better than Akroma, and you aren’t playing it.
Let’s delve into them side by side:
This is Original Akroma:
She was dominant in very format but Vintage. Standard? She was the game winner of Mono-White Control. Block? Extended? Five Color? Multiplayer? Pretty much anything saw her get played heavily. From the ideal search target for Oath of Druids to the powerful board presence she brought on game nights, she is a powerhouse. Her reputation and power level are undeniable. She is still getting played today. People drop her or Akroma, Jr. (or Sphinx Akroma) as well.
Let’s unpack the trifecta of Akroma first, before Zetalpa Fun Times Commence:
These are all eight-mana total to cast. All of them have five colorless mana, and then three colored mana.
All of them have 6/6 flying bodies with six other abilities (Sphinx has five other abilities). Of those, two are protection from two colors. So, each has protection from, roughly, 40% of dorks you’ll encounter in combat, or spells and effects that might want to target it. All colors are protected at least once, but only Red is protected twice in these top-of-the-line nasties.
Of the remaining abilities, most are keyworded.
White-Kroma — Has Vigilance, First Strike, Trample, and Haste in addition to flying and her protections.
Red-Kroma — Has Trample, firebreathing, morph, and uncounterable, in addition to flying and her protections.
Sphinx-Kroma — Adds First Strike, Lifelink, and Vigilance to the list of flying and it’s protections.
Now, of them, original Akroma is the best. All of her abilities work together. (Red Kroma’s morph and uncounterable aren’t synergetic). I think Sphinx-Kroma is next best, but it needs better protections (White and Black have targeted dork removal, it just protects from most artifact removal spells.)
All of them are great!
But Zetalpa is, arguably, better than Akroma the First! How so?
White Akroma vs. Zetalpa
Cost — Both are eight mana, sure. But Zetalpa is easier to cast with just two White mana needed vs. White-Kroma’s Three. Winner — ZETALPA!
Creature Type — Akroma is an Angel. Angel’s are pretty cool! We do have some Angel support out there, but it’s light. Zetalpa, on the other hand, is an Elder Dinosaur. That’s cool too! Like Angels, Dinos have some support, but it’s light. Therefore, I call this a wash and tie.
Size — Zetalpa has a bigger butt, with 8 toughness to Akroma’s 6. But Akroma’s power is 2 better as well. So that’s enough to make this a tie again, right? Well, no element of any creature is considered in a vacuum. I would call this a push, save for a keyword that essentially gives Zetalpa 8 power, again, outclassing the old stallion. Winner — ZETALPA!!!
Common Keywords — All three have flying, trample and vigilance. Therefore, most of their keywords are in common. We’ll look at others in a moment.
Haste — Not having haste is a major miss for Zetalpa. It’s also a major miss for Red-Kroma, given that’s one of its core abilities. Zetalpa needs a faster smash and Akroma certainly knows how to bring it! Winner — AKROMA!
First Strike vs Double Strike — Akroma was in the era of First Strike being a very useful ability to toss on a beater. But this is clearly a victory for Zetalpa, who brings us home with double strike. Winner — ZETALPA
This is the big battle though:
Protection from Red and Black VS Indestructible — Which is better? Don’t sleep on being able to swing past colors that often have flyers out to block (Dragons, Demons, Vampires, etc) your stuff. Akroma is often a concession against Mono-Black, Mono-Red, or someone playing both. It’s hard to answer someone that big, efficient, and unable to be stopped. You need mass removal or sacrifice effects such as Diabolic Edict to force them to lose their Akroma. And no one wants to swing into an untapped Akroma, so you can swing with vigilance, get in that hit, and then hold the line to stop future attacks. But against a lot of decks, Akroma is “just” a 6/6, flying, haste, first strike trampler that can be really hard to deal with. Well that’s rough, but it’s deal-able. From Swords to Plowshares to Blue’s bounce effects, to stuff like Hurricane are going to answer Akroma the first.
But Zetalpa plays into a different space. Zetalpa is easier to block but harder to handle. Zetalpa is a bigger problem for all of the colors to answer. Take Black. You still have Edicts, sure, but your Murders won’t work on either, and your Damnations are a swing and a miss vs Zetalpa. Red? Sure, you can’t burn or Fissure either of them. Both are hard for you to answer. But you are Red what do you expect? The other three colors find a Zetalpa harder to answer. Green’s mass flying removal like Whirlwind or Hurricane isn’t working on Zetalpa. White has exiling removal for both, but it’s Wraths won’t work on Zetalpa. So Zetalpa is a harder threat to deal with, because of this. Therefore . . .
WINNER — ZETALPA
Final score — Zetalpa: 4, Arkoma: 1
Zetalpa is the better card. I’ve played with both lots, I know it.
So here my question . . .
Why am I not seeing casual tables, Commander decks, and more with Zetalpa all over?
Why are we not living in the Era of Zetalpa?
P.S. — I tried to be sarcastic in tone for this article in enough places so that you would know it was written firmly tongue-in-cheek. The intent of this article was to be “funny angry” at the lack of play in these 10 places. In today’s emoji-laden world, you often need the context of the writer to understand how to read it. So here. It’s mock anger.
What I like to do when I write an article in this sort of a joke-y style to make sure the facts behind them are serious. None of these cards are getting the play they should. Zetalpa is better than Akroma, Path of Discovery is forgotten right now, etc. So, the facts are true, and the article works! Seriously, you should play all of these cards. They need a home. Get your card-slinging on!