Magic’s newest expansion takes us back to the Dinosaur and Pirate infested plane of Ixalan, this time delving deep into the ancient caverns beneath the ground. A new set means new mechanics, and we’ve got some good ones as well as some returning ones. In this article we’ll talk about the mechanics and offer some thoughts on what they mean for Commander and how they’ll play.
Crafting is a new mechanic that focuses on taking one of your cool things, combining it with mana and some other resource, and then upgrading it into a cooler thing. As such, it is exclusively found on transforming, double-faced cards. The ability will tell you what kind of permanent is required to activate it, and those permanents can come from either your board or graveyard.
FromTheShire: As a mechanic, crafting is pretty heavily dependent on the individual costs and effects, nothing remarkable about it overall. There aren’t a ton of cards with it as of yet, but the space is wide open for future sets, especially artifact heavy ones like a return to Kaladesh.
Descended is not quite an ability itself, but rather something that new triggered abilities will check for. You are considered to have descended each time a permanent has been put into your graveyard from anywhere this turn, so not just sacrificing permanents in play but milling them as well. It also doesn’t matter if they are later returned to your hand, or play, or even exiled from your yard, they still count.
TheChirurgeon: Feels like a less degenerate form of Gravestorm, which is perfectly fine.
FromTheShire: Almost kind of keywording a delayed trigger, there are cards that already do similar things so this isn’t wild new space but solid, and I always like new sacrifice synergies.
Along similar lines, Descend X cares about there being the indicated number of permanents in your graveyard. Currently we have cards that check for 4 or 8, as well as a few cards with Fathomless Descent, which means it counts EACH permanent in your yard.
TheChirurgeon: These definitely seem to mark Caverns as a “graveyard matters” set, and we’ve been due for another one of those. Descend feels like a much more versatile version of Threshold, where you can change the value needed on a per-card basis, and that opens up a lot of good space with it.
FromTheShire: Yeah while they have currently used two set values, there’s no reason they can’t expand that range in the future as they dial in the balance on things. Particularly interesting for formats that can fill their graveyards rapidly.
Discover is an attempt at a fixed version of Cascade, coming with a variable number that you will discover for, such as 5 for the Carnosaur. This means you exile cards from the top of your library until you find a nonland of mana value 5 or less, and then you may either cast that card for free or put it into your hand, before finally placing the other exiled cards back on the bottom of your library.
TheChirurgeon: Even as a fixed version, the ability to chain a free spell is always good. The fix here is that the triggers are on ETB and not cast, but that’s a much-needed change to an ability which immediately warped standard when it released in Alara Reborn.
FromTheShire: We’ll see how “fixed” this actually is. You can’t chain the spells together the same way you can cascade, but cheating mana costs like this is still wildly powerful.
Finality counters are a way to keyword an ability that has existed for quite a while, namely signifying that if that permanent would leave the battlefield it gets exiled.
FromTheShire: Another thing that has existed for quite a while, I’m not sure it needed to be keyworded but it’s fine? Does open up the possibility of actually keeping the thing you got if you have a way to remove counters such as Vampire Hexmage.
TheChirurgeon: Explore was a good mechanic to have, especially in limited where it can really help you filter and grab additional lands, so it’s good to see it return.
FromTheShire: Transform cards are still cool and offer interesting design space like with this set playing with them by introducing crafting, good to see them return.
Next Time: The Set’s Multicolor Cards
That wraps up our look at the mechanics of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan. We’ll be back later to look at the most noteworthy cards in the set, starting with the multicolor cards in the main set, then in the following articles we’ll cover monocolor and colorless cards before moving on to the set’s Commander decks. As always, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at email@example.com.