Rivals of Ixalan spoiler season is here, and the market is reacting to the news in anticipation of the set being tournament legal. There is much speculation that these cards will shake up the Standard metagame, and perhaps even beyond that into Eternal formats and Commander.
There have been a lot of exciting cards spoiled so far, especially tribal cards that will elevate the Ixalan tribes of Dinosaurs, Pirates, Vampires, and Merfolk from curiosities into legitimate contenders. Most of these price increases are centered around these tribes, so today I’ll examine which cards in the tribes are starting to move and could become staples in the near future.
Remember, the high liquidity and accessibility of Magic Online cards means it’s usually ahead of the paper market, so a look at the online market movements provides some great insight into how paper cards may react. But don't worry – I’ll also look at the paper cards that have already increased in price.
Ixalan being tribal focused, along with the Commander decks last year being tribal, increased demand for tribal-related cards all around, and we’re seeing that effect in a pronounced way with Rivals of Ixalan increasing demand for Mutavault online. I expect that much of this is due to the printing of new Merfolk, since Mutavault is staple in the Modern deck, which is gaining new toys like Merfolk Mistbinder, but it’s something to pay attention to.
Metallic Mimic has potential applications in all of the Ixalan tribes, which explains why it has seen the most significant gain of any paper Standard card since the recent wave of spoilers started.
Similarly, Vanquisher's Banner is starting to tick up online because of its wide-reaching tribal implications.
One of the major gainers online has been Legion's Landing // Adanto, the First Fort, which will be a staple in any Standard Vampire deck, and plays very well with the tribe’s new lord, Legion Lieutenant, especially after it has flipped into Adanto, the First Fort.
Sanctum Seeker was one of the most powerful Vampires in Ixalan, and it’s likely to be a part of any Standard Vampire deck that emerges, which explains its price increase.
Pirates haven’t made even a dent in Standard, but they are getting a ton of new tools and look to be competitive in some capacity. Ruin Raider has incredible potential in a Pirate deck as a source of card advantage and a reasonable threat.
Perhaps the best pirate of them all is Hostage Taker, which saw huge success initially before mostly falling out of the metagame. Its price has been in steady decline since spiking to nearly $20, and is now down lower than its release price, sitting under $6. If Blue-Black Pirates takes off, Hostage Taker will be a must-play, which explains why its online price is now trending upwards, and the paper price will likely follow.
Kari Zev, Skyship Raider is the perfect follow up to the new Daring Buccaneer, so will be a key staple in every red Pirate deck in Standard.
Another red pirate staple is Captain Lannery Storm, which is also a very good way to start generating Treasure tokens to help trigger Ascend and gain the city's blessing, so there's crossover appeal.
Kopala, Warden of Waves will be a staple in any Standard Merfolk deck, and while being a legend will keep it from being a four-of, its ability to protect Merfolk from removal makes it a must-have.
Many of the best Merfolk in Standard come with explore, and the tribe has other ways to gain +1/+1 counters, like the new Deeproot Elite, which gives Herald of Secret Streams a ton of potential as a way to get Merfolk past blockers.
Deeproot Champion works better alongside spells than other Merfolk, but that hasn’t stopped its price from moving upwards.
Regisaur Alpha is arguably the best dinosaur printed so far, and that makes it a shoe-in for any Red-Green Dinosaur deck after Rivals of Ixalan.
The toughest tribe to figure out seems to be Dinosaurs, which has everything from aggressive two-drops to huge bomb threats, but Ripjaw Raptor sits in the sweet spot in the middle and has applications in every green version of the deck, which explains its rise in price.
Kinjalli's Sunwing is right at home in a low-cost aggressive Dinosaur deck as a threat with a fantastic ability, so it’s due for further price increase.
Another relatively low-cost and efficient dinosaur is Rampaging Ferocidon, which is already a staple of Mono-Red, but is destined to find a new role in any aggressive red dinosaur deck that emerges from Rivals of Ixalan.
Just like its dinosaur tribe, Huatli, Warrior Poet was hyped originally but failed to make any impact in Standard. Now new cards look to put dinosaurs on the map, and have breathed some new life into the card. The market looks to be placing bets on the tribe by buying the planeswalker, which is starting to move upwards in price, and as a mythic rare could outright spike if a deck with it sees major success.
A surprising price gainer is Huatli, Dinosaur Knight. Cards from the Planeswalker deck that accompanied each new set have historically struggled to make any impact in Standard, but the relatively low supply of these cards compared to the normal set printing cards means that the price of any card that does make the jump could rise considerably. There's also the raw casual factor of being a dinosaur-centric card with great dinosaur synergy, and it seems like an easy addition to any Commander deck built around Gishath, Sun's Avatar or the new Zacama, Primal Calamity.
The biggest and baddest dinosaur of them all is Gishath, Sun's Avatar, and while attempts to build around the card failed to make any Standard impact, now there’s a chance that it becomes the centerpiece of a dinosaur ramp deck powered by the new Thunderherd Migration. Its price hit an all-time low under $4.50 at the end of the year, but it’s now trending upwards towards $5.
With a ton of new tools arriving, it seems like the tribals decks are poised to break into Standard, but the biggest thing holding them back are their mana requirements. It’s no surprise that two of the biggest Standard gainers online this week have been Botanical Sanctum, which will be a staple of Merfolk, and Concealed Courtyard, which will be required for Vampires. Botanical Sanctum is already a Standard staple in Temur, but Concealed Courtyard has seen little play since the death of Mardu, which could make it a great value buy.
Metagame Breakdown and Opportunities
As far as how I see these tribes fitting into the metagame, it seems that R&D has fully intended for Merfolk to become Standard playable, as it is receiving an absolute wealth of new cards. Some of its Ixalan cards have been strong enough to make Modern, Legacy and even Vintage Merfolk players dip into green to access them, so they are certainly good enough for Standard.
While Ixalan alone lacked the necessary critical mass of cards to form a Merfolk tribal deck, upon the release of Rivals of Ixalan, there will be enough quality Merfolk to create a fully-functioning deck that harnesses the best synergies the tribe has to offer. Being based squarely in two colors, and with a long historical precedent, the Merfolk deck will come together easily.
In the past, people have complained about Wizards creating Standard "precons," or decks that essentially build themselves and function out of the box, and this is a good example. While it might not make for exciting building, it makes the deck very accessible, and that only means good things for the prices of its cards, both existing and new.
Contrast Merfolk's situation with the Pirate tribe, which is spread across three colors, meaning there are three different color combinations to choose from, plus a full three-color Grixis build. There's also no clear direction on how to best build the deck, with possibilities including focusing on hyper-aggression to a trickier and more midrange build. The burden is on the players to figure out exactly how to best build the deck, and that means there will be a period of experimental testing and trial-and-error in real events before the best way, or potentially entirely different ways, to build the tribe. As such, I expect the prices of their cards to see less hype and immediate growth, but this opens up the possibility for some price spikes down the line if and when a Pirate deck does break out.
Dinosaurs are also split across three colors, and even technically go even beyond Naya into a few new cards, although these outliers aren't likely to be included in any proper tribal deck. Dinosaurs is even trickier to build than Pirates, as it offers everything from a low-curve aggressive deck to a bonafide ramp deck, and a midrange deck in-between. All bets are off on figuring out how exactly to build Dinosaur decks and on predicting exactly how the tribe will develop, but the smart money may be on the middle-of-the-road cards that have applications in various versions.
As far as Vampires, it's similar to Merfolk in that it's a two-color tribe, but there is still some leeway in how to build it, whether it be very aggressive, life-gain focused or even a token strategy. A good bet is in cards with applications in all versions, specifically Legion's Landing // Adanto, the First Fort.