Dinosaurs and Pirates, oh my! As you may know, I am pumped about the weird and interesting world of Ixalan. If you missed last week's article, be sure to check that out for my first take on spoilers. For now, we have some more interesting new cards to discover.
As with any new set these days, we get a couple different versions of planeswalkers. We get our normal one for the set and then a powered down version in the planeswalker decks. Sometimes I think the planeswalker deck version looks better than the set version but usually that just means both of them aren't quite good enough for Standard. Even so, that might be the case for our newest walker Huatli.
Huatli, Warrior Poet
With a name like "Warrior Poet," this card just sounds like a low-powered planeswalker to me. I wish Wizards had switched the names on the two cards. Save the poet for the six-mana walker that everyone will most likely forget about.
Anyway, Huatli seems okay but a little too expensive at five mana. She starts at three loyalty and has a +2 that gives you life equal to the highest power of any of your creatures. That’s definitely decent if there are good Dinosaurs to play before five mana, but I haven’t seen many yet.
Her zero ability to make a 3/3 every turn is sweet, but I’m not sure we want to pay five mana to make a 3/3 and then hope they don’t die to Lightning Strikes. If she were in Standard right now, I’d play her in a heartbeat in Mardu Planeswalkers, but post-rotation, I don’t know that she has that much support.
As for her ultimate, she doesn’t really have one. I do like that you can use her like Chandra Nalaar with the added bonus of stopping blocking. I’m not sure you’ll have enough loyalty in order to use that ability effectively though. At first glance her abilities seem like they work well together because you can make a 3/3 which then gives you a creature to gain life from, but if you’re doing those things then you have to wait a while to be able to use the -X ability to get rid of their dudes.
I’d expect any five-mana planeswalker that doesn’t blow your mind with their power to start at a low price point in preorder season. Whatever price Huatli starts at, I’d expect her to drop lower after release. Her flavor as a dinosaur rider is awesome, but her playability is low at best.
Huatli, Dinosaur Knight and Sun-Blessed Mount
At first I was going to say that I like Huatli, Dinosaur Knight better than her set version, but none of the Planeswalker Deck planeswalkers have panned out as Standard-playable—why would that be different for this Boros walker? With the new legend rule, these two versions of Huatli seem like they’d work well together though. Probably just another casual card, like Jace, Ingenious Mind-Mage will be too.
Wanted Scoundrels reminds me of Path to Exile or Thought-Knot Seer except instead of getting a removal spell or a creature attached to hand disruption, all we get is a 4/3 for two mana. I think I’d rather play Bloodrage Brawler and deal with that drawback.
Wanted Scoundrels might not be that bad, but the drawback is giving them two free mana for a turn. That seems like a steep price to pay in a format with good cheap removal spells like Fatal Push and the reprinted Lightning Strike. These Scoundrels have the Pirate creature type, though, so that might push them into playability.
Fathom Fleet Captain
The Pirate I’m most excited about so far is Fathom Fleet Captain. If you can curve a one-mana Pirate into this guy, you get a free 2/2 when you attack next turn. This is the normal course of most aggressive decks so rewarding a common line of play makes the payoff easy to achieve. You have to pay two mana for your 2/2 but that’s a lot of advantage from your two-drop. If Pirates are playable, I imagine this captain is one reason why.
The price of Pirates will largely be determined by the amount of play they see. Initially, some players will think these new Human variants are cool but the prices on this new type should be reasonably low unless a deck breaks out post-rotation.
Planeswalker decks sometimes bring us Standard-playable cards. Jace's Sentinel might be the first to really break into Standard. For two mana you get a boring 1/3 Merfolk on its own. But once you have Jace in play, he becomes an unblockable 2/3 that most likely has synergy with the rest of your deck.
I’m excited about the new Merfolk. If they come together as a real deck, not only will the price of this card go up, but most likely the price of the planeswalker deck will go up as well.
Kumena's Speaker is the Merfolk of my wildest dreams. First of all, putting Merfolk in green is brilliant because they are the guardians of the sea, and under the ocean is basically a forest of growth. Makes total sense to me to have green Merfolk, and that means another tribe that’s appealing for aggressive players like myself.
Kumena's Speaker is exactly the type of aggressive creature that I’m looking for when I’m building an aggressive deck. One-mana, two-power guys put early pressure on your opponent and allow you to commit fewer threats to the board. This is definitely a great start for a Standard Merfolk deck.
Kopala, Warden of Waves
Speaking of Merfolk, Kopala, Warden of Waves makes playing the tribe appealing due to the Kira, Great Glass-Spinner effect. He might only be a 2/2 but Kopala’s effect drastically slows down your opponent’s targeted removal. If Merfolk is a deck, I’m certain this new lord will be a part of that strategy.
Bishop of Rebirth
Sun Titan’s little bro, Bishop of Rebirth, is joining us for a while in Standard and that seems pretty cool. With Bishop we still get the three-mana restriction, but this time it’s creatures only. That seems fine by me and I could see this being a playable Standard staple. Sun Titan comparisons will likely hype this creature up to higher preorder prices, but I think it will still come down a bit after release.
Also, Bishop is apparently a Vampire and that means there are Vampires on this plane too. We just got done with black and white Zombies, but now we’ll have black and white Vampires also legal in Standard. That most likely means neither will be good enough because there’s no overlap between sets.
I was hoping for some new zombies to fill in the gaps that will be left in that strategy, but unfortunately that doesn't look like it will happen. Let’s look at some other vamps and see what our options are.
Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle
Well, Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle might be a mouthful but we’ll certainly be saying his name in Standard for a while. We don’t get to pair this Vampire lord with any cool dudes from Innistrad, but any Vampires that trigger his creature-making ability will do just fine. There are some Vampires not rotating out like Gifted Aetherborn but we don’t have a whole lot to work with. Mavren is a great reward, but he does need a solid crew around him to make his abilitiy work. If the deck doesn’t pan out, this could be a great spec for Rivals of Ixalan.
Gishath, Sun’s Avatar
As far as Dinosaurs go, I got so excited about them that I watched Jurassic World the other night. Gishath, Sun's Avatar reminds me of the Indominous Rex from that movie. I don’t know if that was intentional or not. Maybe I’m just connecting dots that aren’t there, but they are both giant killer monsters and that’s exciting.
I’m still not convinced that Dinosaurs will be playable in Standard, but Gishath goes a long way towards convincing me. Basically, we need cheap dinos that are overpowered, similar to what Wizards did with Eldrazi. If we get the Dinosaur equivalent of Eldrazi Mimic, Thought-Knot Seer, or Reality Smasher, then we’ll definitely have some reasons to play this new creature type.
I have yet to see the super power-creeped card that’s a dino though. Wizards wanted those Eldrazi to see play so they made those three cards. They also wanted Vehicles to be in the limelight so they printed Smuggler's Copter and Heart of Kiran. Where is that card for Dinosaurs!?
I don’t think that card is Gishath, Sun's Avatar, but he is pretty amazing. This is the type of card that we could legitimately ramp to or even reanimate. He is a fine end goal to win the game with. The problem is what are we doing until we get to him.
Just looking at Gishath himself, we get a similarly ridiculous ability set to that of Samut, Voice of Dissent, but on a much larger body. 7/6 trample, vigilance, haste is not messing around. That’s going to mess someone up. You also get to flip a bunch of cards and put any Dinosaurs in play. That means you need to be playing other cards in that creature type, but we still have cards left to reveal from the set so it could happen.
Most likely this will be a cheaper mythic in the set, but it could be a casual all-star as well. Wizards recently announced errata for a small number of Dinosaurs from older sets to bring their creature type up to date. With those cards and the ones from Ixalan block, casual players are sure to try to build around the newest tribal type in Magic.
Gishath will likely be a key part of any of those decks. If he releases at a cheap price, I’ll definitely pick up a couple copies to sit on for a while.
Ixalan is shaping up nicely and I’m pumped about the rotation this set will force upon Standard. Sure, Standard is balanced right now, but I’m excited for the fresh new feeling of the format. Standard has been pretty similar for a while now and kicking out four sets will definitely shift the format around a ton. I already have a ton of ideas for the new format and I can’t wait to see if they pan out.
That’ll do it for me today. I hope you’re enjoying the Ixalan spoiler coverage. I’ll have a prerelease vlog up on my YouTube channel and a ton of coverage of the set so make sure to click back over here for all that great stuff.
Until next time,
Unleash the Force!