Welcome back readers!
Now that Rivals of Ixalan has been fully spoiled, let's take a look at the cards that may affect Modern and Legacy. I'll do a separate article for the Commander applications—to be honest, this set looks like a Commander gold mine. For now, however, let's see what the new set has to offer the more competitive eternal formats.
So without further ado let's dig into Rivals of Ixalan.
Blood Sun is the first card on our list, predominantly because it has already caused spikes in cards like Lotus Vale and Scorched Ruins. Blood Sun turns off both of these cards' downsides, making them all upside. Within a day of this card's spoiling both cards were up over 200%.
It's interesting to me that WoTC even printed a card like this, specifically because they've seen how powerful Blood Moon is in Modern (and even in Legacy). This is arguably a watered-down version of Blood Moon, which leads us to some interesting prospects.
Red-based prison decks get another four land-hosing cards (they already have Blood Moon and Magus of the Moon) which might allow them to move up to tier one. Alternately, WotC might be setting up for a banning of Blood Moon in Modern and this card acts as a watered-down replacement.
Now while our main focus has been on how Blood Moon-like it is, it also has its own upsides. Mainly that it cantrips and that it only stops non-mana abilities. So shocklands still tap for both colors (and thanks to abilities turning off they will enter untapped without having to pay life). In fact, this could easily find a home in RG Tron decks in Modern, as it serves as a great answer to Ghost Quarter, Field of Ruin, and Tectonic Edge without turning off Urzatron.
Possible speculation opportunities would be cards predominantly found in the green-red versions of Tron, but not the Eldrazi versions which have been far more prevalent until recently.
O-Stone was recently reprinted in Iconic Masters and copies are down to under $6 (with a high of around $35). Since that high there have only been the Iconic Masters and Masterpiece printing, so the drop in price was likely due far more to reduction in demand (as opposed to increased supply). With a possible resurgence of red versions of Tron, I wouldn't be surprised to see O-Stone demand go up.
On the other hand, World Breaker is currently at its all-time low. It also happens to carry some demand from Commander players, as a recurrable Acidic Slime with a cast trigger that dodges counters. Foils are sitting around $8 or less, and it's a mythic from Oath of the Gatewatch, which wasn't opened nearly as much as Battle for Zendikar (thanks to BFZ having both the shock and fetchland Masterpieces).
The downside is that you're not guaranteed seven cards. It's more of a Tolarian Winds that one could abuse if they had a lot of cards in their hand already and a way to put enchantments into the graveyard. (If it simply had to leave the battlefield it would be busted thanks to cards like Boomerang).
That last stipulation is likely going to keep it from being too busted. The deck that would most benefit from this ability would be some form of Modern Storm deck. Storm would love to draw seven, cast them all, then remove Induced Amnesia from the battlefield and add to the storm count with the cards originally in hand. Right now Storm doesn't have a good way to sacrifice enchantments, though. All that being said, keep an eye on this one as there is definitely potential.
Storm the Vault/Vault of Catlacan
We haven't had lands that tap to produce large amounts of mana (with no other downside) in quite some time. Tolarian Academy, the card this land is based off of, dominated Standard, is banned in Legacy and Commander, and is restricted in Vintage. Artifacts and the color blue have gone hand in hand since the days of Urza block and this is a nice little homage to that time.
Now, you do have to actually work a bit to get this new Academy, and more importantly it won't flip until your end step the turn you play it (thus preventing you from dumping your whole hand of non-instants). However, it also supplies some mana fixing and, as both abilities are mana abilities, it isn't hindered by Blood Sun.
I could see Modern Tezzerator decks going from Dimir to Grixis in order to run this card, and it does seem extremely powerful with the Sword of the Meek/Thopter Foundry combo. The Thoptors can help flip into the land and the combo serves as a great mana sink that escalates dramatically. Speaking of those two cards, both seem like excellent speculation targets.
Thopter Foundry spiked after Sword of the Meek was unbanned in Modern, but the combo never really found a home and it quickly plummeted back down. Currently you can find copies under $0.75, and with only three printings (two of them being Commander printings only found in one deck) the supply isn't massive.
Regarding playability in decks, this is actually the more important half of the combo. You can use it to cash in artifacts you don't need even without the Sword, whereas Sword does very little without the Foundry.
The Sword half of the combo is quite a bit more expensive, with copies sitting in the $6-7 range. However, this card has dodged a reprint thus far and it's been quite some time since it was originally printed in Future Sight.
So we finally get an actual Brainstorm effect that's legal in Modern and it's also on a four-drop. Unfortunately, this four-drop isn't a planeswalker with three other relevant abilities… However, we'll take what we get.
This guy is both a Merfolk and a Wizard, two very relevant blue creature types. The most natural home seems like in Merfolk, but I don't think it fits there. Merfolk decks tend to want their Aether Vials at two, and the only four-drop they play is Master of Waves. I don't know if Merfolk wants to replace a card that creates an instant army for one that helps draw/filter cards—especially as it doesn't play many fetchlands (which is what makes Brainstorm so good in Legacy and Vintage).
This, however, is a potential addition to Modern Merfolk (which has taken on a green splash thanks to Ixalan block). It's a two-drop that serves as a sort of lord effect, though one that doesn't go away when he leaves the battlefield (which can be important). It also allows the decks to keep their Aether Vials on the all important number two.
This card is the most likely of the three to find a home in Modern Merfolk, as it serves as another two-drop lord (which is what makes the deck so good). It doesn't provide evasion like Lord of Atlantis or Master of the Pearl Trident, but it could easily replace Merrow Reejerey as a cheaper version. It doesn't have any other abilities, but the raw efficiency may be worth more than Reejerey's tap/untap abilities.
I include Famished Paladin only because it actually combos with a few things. The two-card combo is Resplendent Mentor and Famished Paladin which can gain you infinite life (and you can do so the turn you cast the Mentor). However, an arbitrarily large amount of life isn't a guaranteed win.
You can also equip the Paladin with a pinging card (like, say, Viridian Longbow) and enchant it with something to give it lifelink. That will deal an infinite amount of damage. You could also enchant him with Presence of Gond, and if you have something like Essence Warden or any of the other soul sisters you can make an infinite amount of tokens (though that doesn't win the game immediately).
I don't see this one really finding a home in anything outside of Commander. But these combos are all Modern-legal, and he would fit nicely in a Soul Sisters deck as a 3/3 for two with basically no downside.
This mythic is very interesting to me and does seem to have a lot of potential. It looks like it would be most at home in a control shell (as it serves as a card filter basically) and control decks tend to play cards with more varying mana costs. It also provides an instant-speed draw that is repeatable for a low cost, which is something Modern has been missing (Legacy had Sensei's Divining Top before it got nerfed).
The flip side is extremely powerful in control mirrors. Those matchups often hinge on mana production, and this card can easily catapult its owner past their opponent in terms of mana availability. I also like that it's got a pretty low casting cost so it can be dropped on turn two on the play and the only real fear is a Spell Snare or Spell Pierce.
The current buy-in price is already around $8. Generally I think that's far too high for something completely unproven, but this could easily become a breakout star (especially in Commander where casting costs vary even more).
Diabolic Tutor has been legal in Modern since the beginning and it's never really found a home. This card costs the exact same as Diabolic Tutor, but with the added bonus of being a Death Wish without the massive downside.
I can definitely see this card in a Standard control deck (with a sideboard containing a lot of one-ofs), but it could also see play in Modern in something like Ad Nauseam. That deck tends to dig for specific cards, and playing 7 copies of its key pieces (three in the main, one in the board, and four Mastermind's Acquisition) could make it more consistent. The high mana cost might be too much of a hurdle, but it's another card to consider trying out.
We already have Grafdigger's Cage in Modern and Legacy, and it shows up in sideboards when graveyard based decks are in full force, so there is definitely potential for a card like this. It doesn't affect the delve or dredge mechanics but it does hose Scavenging Ooze, Eternal Witness, Deathrite Shaman, and Snapcaster Mage, among other things.
What's interesting here is that similar to Blood Sun it comes off as a less powerful version of the original (in this case the closest comparison is Relic of Progenitus), but with an additional upside. I could see decks that need graveyard hate and don't target things in their own graveyard using this as a potential sideboard option as opposed to something like Leyline of the Void, which is really only good when it's in your opening hand.
This set has a fair number of cards with eternal potential. I don't see anything as obvious as Fatal Push from Aether Revolt, but I wouldn't be surprised if any of these did find a home in at least some decks (whether they are tier-one or -two I don't know). Did I miss any? Are there any on this list you disagree with? Let me know in the comments below.