The merfolk are swimming to the surface while the dinosaurs are stomping around in the wilderness and the pirates are trying to kill all the vampires and take their gold. All the while, our cards are flipping sides again, and in addition to Ixalan spoilers we got the whole set of Iconic Masters spoiled this weekend. It’s crazy fun Christmas time right now and I’m loving it.
There’s a ton of info to cover today so let’s start with some cool Ixalan spoilers and we’ll get to the Iconic Masters discussion another time. For now, let’s look at the competitive and financial implications of all these Ixalan cards.
Growing Rites of Itlimoc
It's hard to gauge the power level of these transform cards. Take Dowsing Dagger // Lost Vale, for example, the equipment that flips in a Black Lotus effect. That card seems extremely powerful but the two modes don’t really go well together. You need early creatures to equip the Dagger to in order to transform it, but the flip side gives you a giant mana advantage with plus-three mana of one color. Crazy-powerful ability, but weird synergistic interactions to get there.
Growing Rites of Itlimoc // Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun seems great, though, because both of the sides go well together. The initial side, the enchantment, is basically a new version of Commune with Nature. These types of effects like Oath of Nissa are great and can help you find the creatures you’re looking for to progress your game plan.
The flip side seems reasonably easy to achieve also. At first I thought this was going to be a Windbrisk Heights-style effect where you had to attack with the creatures, but as it turns out, we have an easier-to-pull-off version similar to Hanweir Militia Captain // Westvale Cult Leader. The only difference between Rites and the Captain is the timing of the ability. Rites is much easier to trigger because you can play the creature(s) on your turn and then trigger the flip at the end of the turn.
Both financially and competitively I love this card. It works great with tokens or mana creatures and seems well suited for Standard, Commander and maybe even a little Modern. The current preorder price certainly indicates how popular this card will most likely be. As of this writing, Rites is selling for $20! That’s the highest preorder price in this set so far. Like I said, so many different types of players are going to try to utilize this card, hence the high preorder price.
Right below Rites of Itlimoc in value are the three planeswalkers in the set, Jace, Cunning Castaway, Vraska, Relic Seeker, and Huatli, Warrior Poet. Jace is looking great to pair with either Pirates, Merfolk, or both. Vraska, although I haven’t covered her, looks quite disappointing and should drop in value dramatically quickly after release. The hard-to-judge Huatli is a bit uncertain in my mind but will most likely drop in price as well.
This all leaves room for cards like Growing Rites of Itlimoc // Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun to prosper and be quite valuable (although as a non-mythic at these preorder prices, expect it to drop first). Look for foils of this new green enchantment to have a high multiplier as well. I know I’ll be looking for at least one foil as will lots of others.
Between cards like Legion's Landing // Adanto, the First Fort and Vicious Conquistador, we’re getting more and more options spoiled for a Vampire deck in Standard. These new cards are making this potential deck look quite interesting. Based on Legion's Landing // Adanto, the First Fort and Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle it seems like we are gearing Vampires towards a token strategy. It's most likely not so focused that we’d want Anointed Procession, but that’s still one of my favorite specs currently.
Legion's Landing // Adanto, the First Fort reminds me of Oath of Gideon where you get a creature and then have a different added bonus later on. Oath gets you an extra loyalty counter on your planeswalkers while Landing is a mana boost or creature producer.
With Anointed Procession, making two 1/1s each turn seems pretty great to me, but unless we get a Spectral Procession or Lingering Souls-type card, I don’t think we’ll be able to go that route. The closest thing we have is Call to the Feast, a four-mana sorcery that makes three 1/1 Vampires. However, four mana for this effect is not what I’m looking for in a competitive card, especially because it conflicts with Anointed Procession’s mana cost.
More likely the tokens will be an added bonus because we need actual creature cards to trigger Mavren. Creatures like Duskborn Skymarcher will be good enough because they come into play before Mavren and will trigger his token-making ability.
Getting back to the card at hand, the best part about Legion's Landing // Adanto, the First Fort is that this card replaces itself similar to how Thraben Inspector does. Instead of paying two mana for a random card, though, you get a free land into play with a sweet ability to help you overcome mana flood or combat control decks.
As you can see, I’m comparing this one-mana 1/1 enchantment to many great cards. That’s because I have a very high opinion about this card. I think it will be great and lots of players will play it. Even if Vampires proves unworthy of the Standard environment, this card could easily go in any aggressive white deck.
Legion's Landing // Adanto, the First Fort is preordering at $3, and for the record, Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle is under $2. I could see the same thing happening with these cards as did with Zombies when that deck broke out. We are missing the staple mythic rare like Relentless Dead that will skyrocket in value, but these rare Vampires could easily double in price. This archetype is one I’ll definitely be working to develop. It’s an aggressive deck that has tokens in it and that’s right up my alley.
The new take on Squadron Hawk, Legion Conquistador, seems like a more balanced version of the previously broken card. This time, it has a relevant creature type in Vampires so that’s definitely a bonus. Don’t get me wrong, an additional mana is a big deal. Part of the reason Squadron Hawk was so overpowered was because it cost two mana, so bumping it up to three mana is definitely a power-down. That being said, this is still an incredible card.
Legion Conquistador is basically the same as draw three cards, get a 2/2. The Squadron Hawk ability hasn’t been used in years because it's easy to break. This time around we don’t have Jace, the Mind Sculptor to abuse the extra copies in our hands, but that doesn’t mean the ability is any less potent. Should a way be printed to shuffle copies back into your deck, this will jump up in power level even more than it already is.
As it stands now, this will be a Standard staple, most likely in multiple strategies. Soon you’ll be sick of seeing a bunch of three-mana 2/2’s running around.
It’s a common so the price ceiling is pretty low, but right now it’s preordering around a quarter which is pretty decent for a common.
Burning Sun’s Avatar
Burning Sun's Avatar, aka Inferno Titan, should be amazing in Standard. It’s a rare so I think as history shows us, the starting price should be low solely based on that fact alone. Remember too, there are no Masterpieces in this set to drastically drive down the price of the other cards. We need to constantly remind ourselves of that fact because prices from this set will act differently than what we’ve been used to in the Masterpiece era.
I love everything about Burning Sun's Avatar. The fact that it’s a Dinosaur may or may not matter, but its abilities are good enough that the creature type will be a bonus. This "Big Red" style win condition would be a great finisher for a ramp deck or a dinosaur deck. Those two concepts may turn out to be one and the same.
Burning Sun's Avatar is preordering as a bulk rare. That has to be a mistake. There are tons of copies under a dollar so I’m about to go preorder some for myself. I typically am conservative about preorders in case I’m wrong, but my opinion about this card is pretty strong.
Sword-Point Diplomacy is a trap so beware if you plan to play it. Just like Browbeat, your opponent can always choose the good cards to pay life for and the bad cards to let you have. Playing Sword-Point Diplomacy is not the same as casting Painful Truths. Casting this card is more like giving your opponent Zur's Weirding. Basically, unless your opponent is in dire trouble with their life total, or you trick them, they will pay life to not give you the cards that will eventually kill them.
So then, let’s play this efficient card drawing spell in an aggressive deck where we put a lot of pressure on our opponent’s life total. There seems to be multiple options for aggressive black decks in the new upcoming Standard format. We may still have a remnant of the Zombie deck that’s currently running around, and then we add to that Pirates and Vampires as possibilities. If you play Sword-Point Diplomacy in one of those strategies, then all of a sudden your opponent has fewer options about whether or not they can pay life to have you not draw extra cards. The same held true for Browbeat as well.
Sword-Point Diplomacy is too new to have a preorder price just yet. I expect it to be cheap to preorder though, due to the stipulation that your opponent can pay life to negate your draws. If an aggressive deck picks it up, I think it may tick up a little in price but these punisher-mechanic cards usually don’t catch on.
Ashes of the Abhorrent
Ashes of the Abhorrent is another in the long line of hate enchantments. White is gaining the means to counter just about any strategy with these type of cards. Stony Silence shuts down Affinity, Rest in Peace does a great job cutting off all graveyards as options, and we just got Solemnity to dismantle counter-based strategies too.
Ashes of the Abhorrent doesn’t fill a new role in Modern sideboards, but it does provide an option for a slightly different Rest in Peace. In Standard, Ashes makes all the graveyard strategies fall down though. Should any new graveyard-based decks arise, we now have the option to play this enchantment as a direct counter.
At $1.50 I think this is a great investment as a Rest in Peace alternative. This card is not exactly the same thing and is not quite as good. Rest in Peace removes all the cards from graveyards, and future cards too—so as long as it’s in play nothing will be in graveyards. Ashes allows the cards to stay where they are; we just can’t really interact with them. All this being said, my statement still stands. This is a much more accessible and cheaper option for the same type of effect. I like holding some copies of this card to see where it goes.
More Spoilers to Come
That’ll do it for me for this week. Ixalan is shaping up awesomely and I’m really excited about many strategies from this set. Come on back next week for some more spoilers!
Until next time,
Unleash the Force!