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The Mechanics of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan: Discover

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The Lost Caverns of Ixalan set has an exciting assortment of new cards. My columns here usually explore how I would build around a singular legendary creature in the Commander format, but today I'd like to do a deep dive on one of the new keywords being introduced to the game.

What is Discover?

When you "discover X", you exile cards from the top of your library until you exile a nonland card with mana value X or less. You can cast it without paying its mana cost or put it into your hand. The rest of the revealed cards go on the bottom of your library in a random order.

Discover shows up on 26 cards in The Lost Caverns of Ixalan, if you include the Human Artificer, Curator of Sun's Creation. That four-mana Red creature will let you discover a second time when you discover, but only once each turn.

This new keyword shows up on cards of all colors, but is predominantly found in Red. There are a handful of artifacts that let you discover along with a land cycle and some spicy new multcolored cards. Before we dive into looking at some of these new cards, let's compare it to a very similar keyword that has had a huge impact across a number of different Magic formats.

A "Fixed" Cascade?

The keyword cascade first appeared on a Magic card in Alara Reborn back in 2009. When a spell with cascade is cast, its controller exiles cards from the top of their library until they find a nonland card that costs less than the card with cascade. They may then play it without paying its mana cost. The remaining revealed cards are put on the bottom of their library in a random order.

Cascade was very powerful, but came with some drawbacks. If you cascaded into an X spell or a spell you either couldn't or didn't want to cast, it would get stuck in exile. One might argue that discover fixes this problem by letting the player put the card in their hand instead of losing it, probably for the rest of the game.

The other issue with cascade is that it was a triggered ability that happened when you cast the spell. While that might not seem like a drawback to you or me, it did limit the design team at Wizards of the Coast. In The Lost Caverns of Ixlan, we've got instances of discover attached to land sacrifice triggers, enter-the-battlefield triggers, death triggers, excess damage fight triggers, end step triggers, cast triggers, planeswalker loyalty ability activations, and more.

In many ways discover is an improvement on cascade, both for players and for card designers, but it will take some pretty great discover cards to firmly plant it alongside cascade in the pantheon of Magic keywords.

The Top Discover Cards

Whether or not discover is better than cascade, I can't do a deep dive without a look at the cards with this new keyword that I think are the most intriguing.

Hidden Nursery
Caparocti Sunborn
Zoyowa's Justice

There is a five-land cycle (one for each wubrg color) of "Hidden" lands that have discover 4. You can activate their discover ability at sorcery speed, and you have to pay five mana, tap and sacrifice the land. You're not saving any mana but you are going to get to cast a spell of mana value 4 or less off the top of your library. While that might seem mediocre, there are lots of ways to either look at your top card or put a card onto the top of your library. This might seem overcosted, but I love the idea of trying to find a way to turn these lands into a clever way to play that top card when you find yourself lacking a way to draw it.

In my favorite format, Commander, it's not uncommon for games to go long - especially if you're playing at lower power levels and in more casual pods. For that reason, I always try to pay extra attention to cards that give you repeatable value. Caparocti Sunborn is a 4/4 Human Soldier with an attack trigger that lets you discover 3. All you have to do is tap two untapped artifacts and/or creatures. That might not seem amazing, but we often have trinkets or creatures lying around. In the right deck, there's every reason to think you might be able to do this multiple times. It's not limited to once per turn, so if you have a way to get extra combat steps you might even be able to discover 3 multiple times in a turn.

If there is a sleeper hit amongst these cards it might just be Zoyowa's Justice. This two-mana Red instant works like a Chaos Warp except that it costs less and it only targets artifacts and creatures. With Chaos Warp, your opponent puts the card onto the battlefield if it's a permanent. With Zoyowa's Justice, you do have to target something with mana value 1 or greater. This doesn't replace Chaos Warp, as it doesn't hit tokens and only hits two card types, but I do think it's going to see a lot of play, especially in Mono-Red decks where you're always looking for more flexible removal spells.

Chimil, the Inner Sun
Hit the Mother Lode
Pantlaza, Sun-Favored

Chimil, the Inner Sun is a six-mana artifact that will protect your spells from being countered. That's a hefty cost even for that powerful effect, but you also get a discover 5 trigger at the beginning of your end step. In a few turns you may well get your mana value back if you hit the right cards.

If you want to Hit the Mother Lode, you'll need the Red sorcery shown above. This seven mana spell will have you discover 10, and if the discovered card's mana value is less than 10 you create tapped Treasure tokens equal to the difference. It would be nice if they weren't tapped, but this is still a very exciting spell and a great excuse to run Amulet of Vigor in your deck.

If you really want the discover keyword available in the command zone, you need look no further than Pantlaza, Sun-Favored. This 4/4 legendary dinosaur gives you a discover X trigger whenever she or another dinosaur enters the battlefield. It can only trigger once each turn, and X is tied to the creature's toughness. This could get out of hand very quickly if you're all in on Naya (rgw) dinosaurs, which you should be if you're building around Pantlaza. This might not become the Edgar Markov of dinosaur commanders, but I think it's quickly going to become one the two or three best choices for that creature type.

Brass's Tunnel-Grinder // Tecutlan, the Searing Rift

I'm not saving the best for last, but Brass's Tunnel-Grinder // Tecutlan, the Searing Rift is pretty exciting. It's a legendary artifact with a powerful back side. The card enters and lets you discard any number of cards and draw that many cards plus one. Flickering it repeatedly would make for a nice way to dig through your deck. At the beginning of your end step, if you "descended" this turn, you put a bore counter on Brass's Tunnel-Grinder. If there are three or more bore counters on it, you can remove them and transform it.

The backside of Brass's Tunnel-Grinder is Tecultan, the Searing Rift. This legendary land has the cave subtype, and taps to produce a Red mana. Whenever you cast a permanent spell using mana produced by this land, you discover X, where X is that spell's mana value. This is way too slow for cEDH or many high-powered EDH games, but I love this card for longer games where you can reasonably expect to be able to flip it and start squeezing value out of your deck. Casting Maelstrom Wanderer with mana from Tecutlan, the Searing Rift is going to feel every bit as good as getting a third cascade trigger.

Final Thoughts

The many ways discover shows up in The Lost Caverns of Ixalan means it will surely find its way into a range of Magic formats. As a writer who primarily focuses on Commander, I expect to see it a lot, but I don't think it's going to be replacing cascade. Maelstrom Wanderer and Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder will probably play around with some of the better discover cards and there will definitely be Dinosaur decks that focus on discover, but it isn't going to take over the format.

I wouldn't be surprised if clever deck-builders find ways to make some of these cards really put in work in other formats. Zoyowa's Justice in particular feels like it just begs to be broken. Using it to "discover 1" into a Profane Tutor in cEDH might become a thing, but it's probably too restrictive to really build your deck around that interaction.

That's all I've got for today. If you'd like to follow my regular columns you can find them here every Monday. Thanks for reading!

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