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Insider: Ixalan Top 10

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Vampires, Pirates, and Dinosaurs, oh my! Oh, yeah, and weird Merfolk that are more like Elves than the aquatic creatures we’ve come to know. I think it’s interesting to realize that there are only four tribes though. Vampires take black and white; Pirates get black, blue and, red; Dinosaurs have white, red and green; while Merfolk are now in blue and green.

The color distributions in this set don’t follow typical symmetric pairings like allied/enemy combinations or the tri-color groups. Instead we have two shards, one allied pair, and one enemy pair. That’s quite strange indeed and makes for some interesting financial implications which we’ll get into a little later in the article.

For now, let’s jump into the honorable mention and Top 10 for the brave new world of Ixalan!

Honorable Mention

Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle

Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle may well be my favorite card in the set, but that doesn’t mean it’s one of the best. I definitely don’t think this lord-style card is good enough for Modern and its playability in Standard is uncertain. The ability is quite powerful but as with any lord, the card is only as good as the creatures surrounding it.

If we look at Wizards's printing record lately, we know Vampires is a hugely popular tribe. Standard players, myself included, will be trying to force this guy to work. Commander players will slot Mavren right into the new Commander deck for this tribe too.

I’m in disbelief that Mavren is preordering for under $2. I think this is a great pick-up especially because there are no Masterpieces to drive the prices of this set down. There’s a ton of room for growth on lots of cards from this set. I think Mavren will be one of the breakout cards from Ixalan.

Sentinel Totem

Sentinel Totem is an obvious Relic of Progenitus variant, but this time I think there’s a real choice between the two. I like that with Totem you only have to pay one mana and you get the scry when it comes into play. You don’t have to wait to sacrifice it to help your draws and that’s nice. Because you’re paying one less mana over all, though, you only get a scry instead of actually drawing a card. That’s definitely a downgrade, but I think many decks will be interested in the mana-saving capabilities of Totem over Relic.

The best part about Sentinel Totem is that it gives us a great graveyard answer in Standard. With the future of God-Pharaoh's Gift and other graveyard-based decks uncertain, it’s nice having a counter that any deck can play. The unfortunate part is that I want to be the one playing the graveyard deck so that’s something I’ll have to deal with if I choose to pursue that type of strategy.

Financially, this is a hit for sure. Pick these out of bulk or draft leftovers every time. This may not ever be worth as much as Relic of Progenitus, but it should always be worth something—hold onto them.

Carnage Tyrant

Carnage Tyrant is now the most expensive card in the exciting Ixalan set. Honestly that confuses me greatly. I don’t know what other writers are saying about this unmythic-feeling mythic rare about to be released, but I don’t get it.

Okay sure, it’s a giant Dinosaur that can’t be countered, has hexproof and trample. My thought is, so what. Plated Crusher costs one more mana (which is actually a lot more, but still) and has been in Standard for a long time now. The same goes for Terra Stomper a little while ago. Now, neither of those had all three abilities, which is obviously important, but not critical.

So then, why is Carnage Tyrant preselling for over $20 and going up more from the initial price? Normally in Standard we see effects that make players sacrifice creatures. Unless I missed something, the only ones we had available are rotating out of the format once Ixalan comes in. We still have wrath effects though, guys. You can still cast your giant Tyrant and then they will follow it up with Fumigate or whatever sweeper is popular at the time.

One way to get around a wrath effect on your uncounterable, hexproof, trample monster is to play Heroic Intervention to make your dude actually unkillable. I actually raised the price of Intervention this week too, so I think players are considering this an option. But this line of play would require eight mana and both cards in hand in addition to staying alive that long. All of that seems rather unlikely.

Can you see why I’m not on board with this mythic? Right now, I am super pumped that it costs a million dollars and is the most expensive card in the set, though. I’ll be really happy cashing in on this hype and making more money than is reasonable for this mythic. This card is definitely not terrible and sure, it might see some play, but $25 for this card is outrageous.

If I’m missing something, please let me know in the comments below. Am I wrong about this card or do you guys agree?

Primal Amulet

Pyromancer's Goggles comes to mind when I start breaking down Primal Amulet // Primal Wellspring. They aren’t quite the same but I think you can see the comparison. Primal Amulet // Primal Wellspring makes you jump through Thing in the Ice // Awoken Horror-like hoops but at the end of the process you gain something pretty powerful.

I think the time it takes to set up might prove too much to make this card good, but it’s definitely worth mentioning here in the Honorable Mention section. Commander players will love this so keeping a couple copies on hand would be a great idea. The same could be said of Goggles as well.

Vraska, Relic Seeker

I have not had a high opinion about Vraska, Relic Seeker and my friends have chastised me about it. They are quick to compare her to Elspeth, Sun's Champion but Elspeth is an anomaly and most planeswalkers can’t see play if they cost six mana.

For six mana you are getting to destroy one creature or make one guy per turn. I think the ultimate is obviously good, especially with menace creatures, but the majority of planeswalkers aren’t playable solely because of their ultimates.

Maybe she could see play, and I think she might draw some attention from casual players, but I think she should be well under the $10 mark.

Top 10

10. Buddy Lands

Standard has regained some of the best lands for the format with the buddy lands. This cycle of allied colors has been reprinted a number of times but this is the first in a while. Every time they are available, they make a big impact on the format.

The reason I put them on the Top 10 is because they certainly will affect things this time around as well, but also because of their financial implications. First of all, I love the new Ixalan-flavored artwork. I think that will draw players to buy these copies even if they own old one with the weird generic art they all have. I know I’ll be keeping these new versions when I open my boxes for sure because they are way cooler.

The other financial impact I wanted to mention was their popularity for casual players. I’ve sold tons more copies of these lands than any other land cycle. I’d go as far as saying these lands are my store’s number-one seller on TCGplayer. They are cheap and good options for whatever task you’re looking for. I’ll still be buying and selling these lands now that they have these new versions as well as the old ones too.

9. Dowsing Dagger

All of these flip cards are really hard to evaluate. Dowsing Dagger // Lost Vale seems busted but this is another card with a lot of hurdles to jump over in order to make it work. The payoff is definitely there though. Getting a bonus three mana every turn is no joke and well worth the investment. The only question is whether or not we can make this work in Standard.

Standard dictates the price flow of the majority of cards printed these days. It’s usually not enough for a card to be a Commander favorite for it to affect the price. Cards are printed so much in these print runs that we need a lot of attention to shine on a card for it to break out. That usually only happens when the card sees major play in Standard or another competitive format.

I want to include Vance's Blasting Cannons // Spitfire Bastion and Legion's Landing // Adanto, the First Fort in this conversation for number seven as well. I like all of these flip cards—even Search for Azcanta // Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin could be good as well. I think Legion's Landing // Adanto, the First Fort will see play in Standard because of the presumed Vampire deck. If Ramunap Red, or a new incarnation of that strategy, pops up, Vance's Blasting Cannons // Spitfire Bastion might be included in that deck as a way to finish more games.

My point with number seven here is that all of these flip cards have a good payoff. These cards all reward you big-time for triggering their flip sides. The question is which of them will actually be the best of the bunch. Maybe I’m right and all of them will be great, but most likely one or two will assert themselves above the rest.

I like picking up copies of all these cards in the cycle though. As I’ve said, I think they’re all great and they should all be solid sellers. You also have a good possibility one or more of these cards will double up. When we have new styles of cards, players often underappreciated them initially. Then once they are proven to be good, their price jumps. We’ve seen this countless times. A great example is the first time we had flip cards when it took a while for that card type to be utilized.

8. Chart a Course

From my perspective this is a bomb uncommon and should be one you’re looking to pick from bulk. We know cards like Night's Whisper and Divination have been playable cards. Chart a Course is just another version of these card-drawing spells.

Sure, we have the drawback of having to attack, but that’s okay. This set has Merfolk in blue that will pair very well with this sweet efficient draw spell. Even if the Merfolk don’t play well competitively we could also run this spell next to number seven on our list.

7. Jace, Cunning Castaway

If you read my spoiler articles, you know I love Jace, Cunning Castaway. Not only do we have Chart a Course to draw extra cards with our blue aggressive deck, but Jace as well. Our first Jace that makes creatures is going to take some time getting used to. If this walker had a different name than Jace, I think more players would be on board with a new-style blue card like this.

Remember, too, there is nothing saying we need to play tons of blue cards. We can basically put Jace and/or Chart a Course in any deck and make blue our second color. Let’s take Vampires, for example. Maybe the black part of Vampires will be underwhelming. If that’s the case, we could easily pair the new white Vampires with blue and try that out. My point is that this card is good and we have lots of options for making new Jace work and he will be legal for a long time.

6. Huatli, Warrior Poet

Number six on the list is the one I’m the most uncertain of. I’m probably not supposed to tell you that, but honesty is my best policy. A lot of what I do with Magic is based on my gut feelings. My play style, my deck construction, deck choices, and a lot of my financial decisions are based on how I feel about it. Sure I try to logically break things down, but I go on my gut much of the time.

Huatli, Warrior Poet is one of those cards that I just have a good feeling about. I could be wrong, but I think this card is better than what it appears. A lot of why I like it is because when I was trying to compare her to another planeswalker, I thought, this card seems like a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar for one extra mana.

Huatli is definitely not as good as that Gideon, but I think she would do a good job of stabilizing a board state. She can make a 3/3 every turn and then start gaining life to dig you out of the opening-game hole you were in. If you’re already stabilized, you can just make an army of 3/3s and win the game with them. If you are gaining life, you will also have the option of dealing damage as well.

I think Huatli will drop down to $8 or lower though, so hold off on picking up copies until she bottoms out. Once that happens though, I think a tap-out control deck could really do well with a card like her.

5. Kopala, Warden of Waves

Merfolk have been a well loved tribe for a long time now. I think the reason why is just because they are a competitive creature type in blue. That allows players to jam their awesome blue cards but also be playing creatures at the same time. Playing Merfolk is like saying I wanna play Counterspell but also attack with creatures. I think this is a similar mindset to that of Delver of Secrets // Insectile Aberration players but not quite as drastic.

We’re getting a lot of support for Merfolk in green as well. Kumena's Speaker is a great example of that as well as many others. My concern with these tribal strategies is that we won’t have quite enough pieces to make them work until the next set is released. If that happens we could see many of these great cards bottom out drastically. If that happens, get in as deep as possible for the potential gains that Rivals of Ixalan will bring us.

Kopala is not only a Standard card though. She basically replaces Kira, Great Glass-Spinner for the Modern and Legacy Merfolk decks. Any additions to those strategies makes a big difference too because they are both good options for their respective formats.

I doubt this card will be worth much money. It’s only starting out around $2.50. This is one of those cards that will always have value though. If you see cheap copies for whatever the price point ends up being, they’re worth picking up because players and dealers will always want to have this card for their Merfolk players.

4. Regisaur Alpha

Here we go. Now we’re getting into the best cards in the set. At number four we have Regisaur Alpha. When I saw this card I was in disbelief. The power level here is incredible. For five mana you are getting seven power and on two bodies. If you have pump effects that will increase the total power even more.

When I think about Regisaur Alpha, I think it’s like both halves of Thragtusk at the same time without the lifegain. We could also say it’s like a better Bear's Companion. Regardless, I think Regisaur Alpha is a big reason to be playing red and green and I think it will have a huge impact on the direction of Standard.

Sometimes I even forget that Regisaur gives your dinos haste. That’s sweet for your 3/3 to have haste but more importantly, your follow-up to this card will go straight into the combat zone.

The best part about this new Dinosaur, though, is that it can go in basically any strategy. Making two huge dudes for five mana could be a great thing for a midrange deck. You don’t absolutely have to pair this guy with the rest of his tribe for him to be good.

$8 seems like a perfectly reasonable price for Regisaur Alpha. Most likely that will go down a bit after release per the norm, but this could be one of those exceptions to that particular rule.

3. Unclaimed Territory

It may surprise you to see Unclaimed Territory on this list, let alone way up here at number three, but hear me out. This land is covered in power creep. Unclaimed Territory is basically Cavern of Souls without the uncounterable part. That’s an important part that's missing, but the rest of it is still amazing. We can play this multicolor-producing land in tribal strategies in Modern and even Legacy!

This is probably my favorite spec from this set. While it is an uncommon as well as a promo, I think tons of players will want copies of this card. It can go in the new Commander tribal decks or competitive strategies in every format. We can’t say these things about very many cards so I think Unclaimed Territory deserves every bit of this number three spot.

2. Legion Conquistador

At number two we have yet another surprising pick. I think this is another card that is drastically underrated in this set but one that everyone will soon know. I know I plan on rocking this Vampire Soldier a ton but I won’t be the only one. The playerbase will catch on sooner rather than later.

Some writers have suggested this card as an option for Vampire decks, but there are so many more opportunities for this card to be good than just Vampire Aggro. Champion of Wits for example would be a great card to pair with our Squadron Vamps. Combining cards like that would allow you to take advantage of those extra cards in hand. We could even just use the extra cards to help us discard to hand size for a God-Pharaoh's Gift deck. There are just tons of options.

The bottom line is that there are so many options for this card and so many possible strategies that it deserves the number two spot on this list. Any card that says draw three cards for three mana is great. The fact that the cards you have to draw are all 2/2s for three mana isn’t important. The important part is that your three-mana 2/2 draws three cards.

One final note before we move on to the number one spot on our Ixalan Top 10. It’s quite possible that a strategy will emerge in an older format that utilizes Legion Conquistador alongside Squadron Hawk. I don’t know if that will impact the price of this common, but it is worth taking note of.

1. Growing Rites of Itlimoc

Last but not least, we have...drum roll, please...Growing Rites of Itlimoc // Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun!!! I don’t know if you were expecting Gaea's Cradle to be the best card in the set, but it definitely is. I’ll be tinkering with ways to exploit this card in multiple formats. But no matter what happens in Standard with Growing Rites, this is the best Commander card printed since the original Cradle came out.

I’ll be holding every copy I come across and buying them aggressively at every price point. It is still a rare and that’s one aspect I don’t take lightly, but without Masterpieces the price ceiling should definitely be higher than it would have with that rarity included.

That’ll do it for me today. As always, let me know in the comments or on Twitter which picks you agree or disagree with. What would your Top 10 look like? Did I miss a key card? Let me know. Hope you enjoyed this installment of my Top 10.

2 thoughts on “Insider: Ixalan Top 10

  1. I totaly agree with you on Carnage Tyrant he seems way to high might be playable but going way down IMO, However i cannot see Legion Conquistador ever being playable 3 mana for 2/2’s just seems way to slow even if there is some vampire upside.

    1. The only place Legion Conquistador fits would be alongside Oketra’s Monument. I don’t like Mavren at all since he only triggers for non-tokens and there aren’t enough playable constructed-worthy vamps right now, and I don’t think the flip Cradle will see much play either. Notably lacking from your list is Ripjaw Raptor.

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