The prerelease has come and gone, and Ixalan is going to release this week. The preorder hype is past and now we’re getting into some real prices for these new cards. I wanted to share with everyone some things I learned about the set from this weekend. If you’re interested in a more visual recap of the info, take a look at my YouTube channel for a sweet prerelease vlog.
First up, the main thing on my mind is about Dinosaurs. I’ve seen them be amazing this past weekend but I’ve also watched them struggle. One thing to keep in mind is that there are going to be many ways to build around this tribe. There will most likely be a couple different green-red builds, but there will also be Naya iterations, as well as straight red-white.
The biggest draw to white is Kinjalli's Caller, but Goring Ceratops is nutty also. Caller is like a one-mana Wall of Roots for this new tribe and the three toughness helps gum up the ground in the early game. Neither of these are hugely relevant financially but they should be pretty cheap so getting some copies to have available seems like a great idea.
The big man on campus is Carnage Tyrant. As far as I can tell, every card in the set has dropped in price except this dude. If you’ve been reading my articles on this set, you know I don’t have a huge opinion about him. After actually playing with him this weekend—yeah, I had a sealed pool with two of them—I still think he’s not all he’s cracked up to be. I’d much rather be buying new Jace than Carnage Tyrants.
Even though there is less removal in Sealed than Standard, I think blocking will be a perfectly fine way to remove the Tyrant. There were plenty of boardstates where my Tyrant couldn’t attack because they could just block and kill it. That will likely happen in Standard as well, but especially so with Dinosaur mirror matches. I’d much rather pay an extra mana for Goring Ceratops or deal with the triple red for Burning Sun's Avatar.
Regisaur Alpha impressed me much more, or rather, it lived up to my high expectations of the card. Seven power for five mana is great. The 3/3 is vulnerable to basically every removal spell but the main body of Regisaur is pretty sturdy. Additionally, if they remove the token, sure that’s less power on the board, but the haste that Regisaur grants might be the strongest part about the card and they still have to deal with that.
I love Gishath, Sun's Avatar and maybe I’m living in Magical Christmasland thinking he can ever enter the battlefield in Standard, but I’m sure going to try. He seems like a great ramp target or even a sideboard plan in the Dinosaur mirror match. At $6 he’s more likely to go down than up though.
Mana Leak is just as good as ever, and the fact that the Pirate tribe is the only one that gets to play Lookout's Dispersal means that Pirates will be played. Without this new Mana Leak variant, I think Pirates would be overlooked. But with it, they are probably the strongest of the tribes. How is Dinosaurs supposed to get a foothold if their big spells get counted easily? Pick up and move this uncommon as frequently as possible while it’s in Standard.
As far as actual Pirates, there aren’t a ton that are financially relevant or even that great. Most of the ones that will be played are commons or uncommons and shouldn’t be worth much. One I have held onto is Kari Zev, Skyship Raider. She was definitely a plant in Aether Revolt and she’s already above a dollar from her previous bulk status. I think Blue-Red Pirates is going to be the way to go with the archetype and if so, she should shoot up even more.
The other Pirate I like is also not from Ixalan. Skyship Plunderer seems like the best blue Pirate. I think proliferating your Jace, Cunning Castaway or Chandra, Torch of Defiance seems like a crazy powerful thing to do. Skyship Plunderer allows Jace to ultimate the second turn he’s in play. Just tick up Jace and add a counter after Plunderer attacks and you’re at the five loyalty needed for the ultimate. That’s crazy!
With Chandra, she can ultimate the turn after she comes into play as long as you can add two counters by attacking twice. That’s a little harder to pull off but still easily doable.
One Pirate from this set did stand out to me, though, and that’s Fathom Fleet Captain. I’m not sure how well black fits with Pirates, but just making one 2/2 is a big deal and can swing games. I like this guy as one of the best pickups from the set. He’s currently just over a buck and that seems like a great deal.
Lastly for Pirates, Hostage Taker seems busted. Maybe it’s just because I was watching her get played in Sealed, but removing their creature and then casting it for yourself is crazy powerful. Her three toughness most likely makes her nothing more than a speed bump, but if you can keep her alive you’ll likely win that game. Think about risking it by stealing a Regisaur Alpha and then casting it for yourself the following turn. How much would that swing the game!
The only time I saw Vampires be successful this weekend was by spamming tokens backed up by Sanctum Seeker. That might be a viable strategy in Standard too. I think that makes the dollar-rare Vampire a great pickup as well. I think we are missing some good reasons to play Vampires though.
One thought I keep coming back to is giving the Vampires horses to ride. Crested Sunmare seems to pair well with all of the life gain the Vampires are capable of, and that could be a great reason to play the tribe. Sunmare is already a popular seller for me—if there was a Standard home for him, I think his price would double from $4 to $8.
Merfolk are the low men on the totem pole. There just doesn’t seem to be much reason to play them competitively. In Sealed they were great and I went undefeated with them in one of my flights. I think that Lookout's Dispersal should have said "Pirate or Merfolk," but since it doesn’t we are left without much reason for Merfolk to matter.
Curving out with Kumena's Speaker, into Merfolk Branchwalker, and getting the payoff of Vineshaper Mystic and Herald of Secret Streams seems like one possibility. That line of play seems likely to be disrupted by any removal spell though, so I’m not sure it will stand up.
One interesting card we could play in blue-green is Nissa, Steward of Elements. She seems like she could pair well with the Merfolk and she’s double on-color too. That might be a card worth caring about Merfolk for.
Her scry allows you to set up your best draws and the zero ability works well with all the Merfolk you'll likely have in your deck. I don't think any Merfolk help you ramp, but some of them have explore to provide extra lands. That could help make Nissa's ultimate more relevant if you're able to get there.
If the deck doesn't pan out, then holding onto the cheap Merfolk rares in preparation for the next set seems like a great plan. That might be the best we can do financially for this tribe right now.
Oh boy did I have some blowout plays with Settle the Wreckage. I got three- and four-for-one’s with Settle and even though they get a pile of basic lands, it’s a huge blowout. Just like how Path to Exile is amazing despite the fact your opponent gets a basic land, multi-Path is just as busted.
At $2 I think this is a great buy. I know I'll be sleeving it up in control deck to try and fight against the tribal aggressiveness the format will be throwing around.
Treasure Map // Treasure Cove seems great too. You can scry for a couple of turns and then get a huge mana boost as well as the potential to draw extra cards. A non-blue control deck might want this as a source of card advantage.
The main reason I bring card up, though, is because of the insane foil multiplier. The foil mid price is almost $12! I picked up one myself this weekend. I think the other flip-card foils might also follow the higher foil price trend too, so be on the lookout.
Here’s one final note about this set in general. Even if none of these tribal strategies are actually playable now, all of that could change once the next set comes out this winter. All of the tribes could and most likely will shift in power depending on what happens with the next set.
That means that when tribal cards bottom out in a month or two, start picking them up in case they break out with the next set. I’m sure lots of writers will talk about which cards specifically to target, but just in case, here’s your two-months-ahead-of-time reminder.
Until next time,
Unleash the Force!