The Lost Caverns of Ixalan gives off some serious Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty vibes.
Like Neon Dynasty, there's a lot of things going on in The Lost Caverns of Ixalan.
There are huge returning reprints like Cavern of Souls, semi-returning mechanics like discover, and also crazy new mechanics like craft and descend which work multiple different ways, and care about multiple different types of themes. Simply put, it's a lot to take in, and there's a lot of power level distributed in a lot of different places. Neon Dynasty was a powerful set that had an impact across all formats, and while it's still early, prospects for The Lost Caverns of Ixalan are looking good.
Today we're going to look at some of the cards from The Lost Caverns of Ixalan that have already made an impact, and stand to make more noise going forward. These are the cards you're going to want to either be getting on board with now or figuring out to beat, because there's a good chance this success will continue and they will become staples.
So, let's go!
Amalia Benavides Aguirre
Seeing explore on a Black/White creature is certainly a bit bizarre, but what we end up with is a creature that will either grow or draw you a land every time you gain life. And that's pretty good! For my Ten New Brews I whipped up a Black/White lifegain deck that did quite well based around Amalia as well as the surprisingly still in Standard Voice of the Blessed. There's a ton of great lifegain in Standard from Lunarch Veteran // Luminous Phantom all the way to The Wandering Emperor, and there's enough rate on the cards to back up the synergy.
However, with Amalia it gets a bit crazier. Remember Wildgrowth Walker?
So normally that would be an infinite combo; each lifegain triggers an explore, which triggers lifegain from the Wildgrowth Walker, which triggers an explore from the Amalia, etc. However, Amalia's odd trigger that destroys all other creatures once her power is 20 amusingly breaks this combo up. This of course means however that Amalia's power is 20 and your opponent also conveniently has no blockers.
This combo is fully legal in Pioneer/Explorer and stands to be a major part of the format going forward, and you can look for me playing it right here on CoolStuffInc.com on an upcoming video!
There's no two ways about it, cascade is a broken mechanic. It was broken last time, and it will likely be broken this time as well.
Most Magic players are familiar with what cascade does with no-mana-cost spells like Living End and Crashing Footfalls in Modern, but it has done so much more across various formats since it was printed. There were cascade decks where the only spell you could cascade into was Seismic Assault. There were cascade decks that tried to chain down from Enlisted Wurm to Bituminous Blast to Bloodbraid Elf. There were decks that would only be able to cascade into Blightning or Esper Charm. And so on.
The mechanic is designed to give you a "random" card, but because you can control the mana values of cards you put in your deck, it often ends up being the exact opposite.
We're already seeing this in Pioneer/Explorer/Historic, as multiple different players have built decks consisting of Mirror Image and Glasspool Mimic as the only cards that cost less than four mana. Because Geological Appraiser is an enters the battlefield ability, not a cast trigger like Cascade, this means that you end up with every copy of your clones on the battlefield as an army of 3/2 creatures as early as turn three.
With so many different ways to play expensive cards with cheap modes to manipulate your discover triggers, we're just scratching the surface here. This is super doable in Standard if there ends up being something wild to do, but will especially go crazy in larger formats like Pioneer or Historic.
And that's to say nothing of the fact that Geological Appraiser is just a good card to play normally!
While we're on the topic of discover, let's talk about the set's only planewalker, Quintorius Kand.
Quintorius Kand reminds me a lot of Sheolded, the Apocalypse. You don't think that static ability is going to matter than much, but then all of the sudden you're at 6 and they're at 19 and you're wondering how you're ever going to be able to win.
There's a ton of things that cast from exile these days, from adventure cards to various exile-to-draw effects, meaning it's not hard to fire off spells from exile in rapid succession. However, Quintorius isn't an enchantment, you're also just getting a very solid planeswalker here too.
Going up to five loyalty to make a 3/2 creature is excellent, providing significant board presence and defense if needed every turn. The minus three ability is obviously card advantage, but in a lot of ways is better than just "draw a card" in that you always get a spell and get to cast it for free, and of course trigger the static ability. And lastly the ultimate likely will win you any longer game by itself if you get there.
That's a lot!
Quintorius does have the issue of being a five-mana, two-color planeswalker, meaning not every deck is going to be able to play it, but the natural synergy with Pia Nalaar, Consul of Revival, as well as all the exile plays in the format makes it a huge standout.
We've seen a ton of Ensoul Artifact variants over the years, but none has ever lived up to the original.
Two mana for a 5/5, potentially with haste and potentially indestructible thanks to Darksteel Citadel is a great deal, and has seen play in Standard as well as Pioneer and Historic, and even occasionally in Modern. However, until now all cards trying to do a similar thing have ended up as pretenders.
Enter Zoetic Glyph!
Costing a full mana more than Ensoul Artifact as well as dropping a toughness, Zoetic Glyph doesn't start well, but boy does it end well. When Zoetic Glyph hits the graveyard, you get to discover 3, which is far better than drawing a card as you always hit a spell and get to play it for free. It's important to note also that Zoetic Glyph cares about itself going to the graveyard, not the enchanted artifact, meaning that exiling removal on your creature will still allow it to trigger.
Considering the artifact will usually already be in play and ready to attack, that means we're getting a 5/4 haste for three mana with a great death trigger, which is something to be excited about. Zoetic Glyph is probably mostly a card for slightly larger formats like Pioneer or Historic, but it's a nice one.
Thousand Moons Smithy
It's not exactly clear what we're supposed to do with Thousand Moons Smithy // Barracks of the Thousand yet, but the card has been extremely impressive.
On rate you're getting a sort of super Regal Bunnicorn for four mana, but it's important to note that you can abuse it with blink effects like Guardian of Ghirapur, as well as just utilizing it as an artifact. And that's to say nothing of other great White artifact support cards like Clay-Fired Bricks // Cosmium Golem and Spring-Loaded Sawblades // Bladewheel Chariot that make it trivially easy to flip.
And then when you do flip it, oh boy.
You obviously get to ramp and maintain the artifact, but being able to produce a huge token every turn is something few decks are going to be able to come back from. This makes Thousand Moons Smithy a great defensive tool as well as an engine and win condition all in one.
This is not a card that is just going to slot into some existing deck and will certainly require some work to figure out the right cards to go around it, but Thousand Moons Smithy is awesome.
How Deep Does This Cave Go?
This is perhaps the most exciting part of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan; many of the cards are complicated but powerful, meaning they're going to require some work to figure out the best use for. Sound familiar?
Remember Fable of the Mirror-Breaker? While it's now universally accepted as one of the best cards printed in the last decade, it flew under the radar for much longer than expected because it's a fairly complex card to parse on the surface.
Does The Lost Caverns of Ixalan contain the next Fable of the Mirror-Breaker? It's up to us to find out!