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Rivals of Ixalan in Modern


The full spoiler for Rivals of Ixalan hit last week, and while it is unknown whether this set will be able to break Energy's dominance in Standard, I think there are at least a couple of gems here that will have an impact on Modern.

The first of these is one that will likely be a powerful hate card once it finds the right home:

Blood Sun

In addition to turning off Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, Blood Sun also turns off fetch lands and creature lands as well as land-based disruption like Ghost Quarter and Field of Ruin. Past all of these wonderful things, it draws a card. For a card that can win the game on the spot in some cases, while having minimal impact in others, drawing a card goes a long way toward making it playable. That means the floor on Blood Sun is spending three-mana to replace itself.

This begs the question, though -- what deck would want to play this powerful hate card? In order to make this symmetrical effect good for us, we need to be playing a deck that does not play any of the cards that Blood Sun disrupts.

Thankfully, I know just the lands; ones that do not care about Blood Sun in the least:

Urza's Tower
Urza's Power Plant
Urza's Mine

While the most recent successful iterations of Tron have been B/G, once upon a time, rg Tron was the Tron deck to beat, and I think with the help of Blood Sun this could possibly become the case again. My rough draft of a rg Tron list with Blood Sun looks something like this:

You will notice that in addition to Blood Sun, having Red as our secondary color gives us access to the powerful sweeper Kozilek's Return in our main deck. This is a nice addition, because Tron's traditional sweeper, Oblivion Stone, does not play nice with our Blood Sun. Kozilek's Return is also the reason for the inclusion of two World Breakers in our main deck. World Breaker is the most cost-efficient way to "recast" Kozilek's Return from our graveyard.

Past these two Red spells, we also gain an important tool in our mana base with rgTron:

Grove of the Burnwillows

Tron does not typically care about our opponent gaining a few points of life. When we win, we win by a lot. Because of this, Grove is basically a no downside dual land. Past providing quality fixing for us, giving our opponent's life is actually a bonus for us in matchups against the format all-star, Death's Shadow. In fact, against Shadow decks, it is often correct to just give them a life every turn just to keep them off of Death's Shadow until we are ready to end the game.

Historically speaking, rg Tron is much worse against combo decks than versions with White and Black splashes due to its inability to pack relevant disruption. Since the last time rg Tron was popular, though, we have gotten some additional powerful disruption in the form of a creature:

Thought-Knot Seer

Moving past big mana decks, the other card in Rivals of Ixalan that caught my eye is a bit more subtle:

Ravenous Chupacabra

While Ravenous Chupacabra looks like Nekrataal at a glance, the fact that there is no restriction on what it is able to kill is really important. Remember, Modern is a format where cards like Death's Shadow and Steel Overseer commonly see play.

While my first thought was to shove Chupacabra into the Cobra Saheeli deck I have been working on, splashing a double-Black card into our already four color deck is likely asking for trouble. This got me thinking: What if we shoved the Lotus Cobra + Renegade Rallier package into a different creature combo shell?

Toward the end of 2016, I spent some time playing an Abzan-colored Archangel of Thune + Spike Feeder combo deck that Ravenous Chupacabra slots into fairly naturally:

For those not familiar with the combo in this deck, Spike Feeder and Archangel of Thune allow us to gain an arbitrarily large amount of life, while also putting a large number of +1/+1 counters on all of our non-Spike Feeder creatures. Ravenous Chupacabra plays well into our beatdown plan, and when used in conjunction with Restoration Angel, we should be able to keep our opponent's board fairly clear.

It is also entirely possible that going full greed on the back of Lotus Cobra's powerful color fixing is correct, and so we should just be playing Ravenous Chupacabra in a four or five color creature toolbox deck.

Wrapping Up

Blood Sun is a powerful hate card, the likes of which we have not seen printed in some time. The fact that Blood Sun will completely lock players out of the game some amount of the time, while still drawing a card when it is low impact is extremely strong. Ravenous Chupacabra is a bit less over the top, but the fact that it is a piece of removal that does not get Stubborn Denialed seems reasonable. In addition to potentially seeing play in the toolbox shell I have recommended here, I could see Ravenous Chupacabra showing up in bgx midrange decks that could re-buy it with Liliana, the Last Hope or Kolaghan's Command.

While only time will tell if Blood Sun and Ravenous Chupacabra end up being powerful enough to make an impact on Modern, I am excited to start testing them in various decks. What cards have you seen in Rivals of Ixalan that you think could make an impact in older formats like Modern or Legacy? Let me know in a comment below!


--Jeff Hoogland

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