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 cards, and we’re kicking off our review with the multicolor cards that serve as signposts to let you know what direction each color pair is trying to build in.
Last time we covered the mechanics, and this time as usual we won’t be looking at everything, and we’ll be doing this primarily but not exclusively with an eye for Commander play.
Huatli, Poet of Unity / Roar of the Fifth People
Marcy: I feel bad always saying this but… Dies to Cut Down. For three mana that filters your deck sort of, I think I’d like her better if the land came into play tapped, since Topiary Stomper is technically just a better card than this at the same mana cost (although 2G). The issue is I’m not really sure that the flipped side of the card is any better to make it worth working on getting it to stick and transform. This seems like a better card for Commander than Standard for sure, because I don’t really know if Dinosaurs is going to be competitive in the format yet or not and even if it is I don’t think Huatli is part of that equation.
Loxi: Grabbing a basic is handy, but the real reason she’s a creature is so she can be a commander and work with any creature synergies. I don’t really know how I feel about effectively playing a saga as a commander, since she requires you to make a lot of use of that fourth chapter power turn, but all of the effects on the card are all solid. I think she might be a bit janky to work around, but I can see her providing enough value to be worth playing in the 99 or by some clever Dino pilots. Notably, you can tutor a finisher and rip it the next turn with extra buffs – throw in something with haste and you’re really cooking.
Kellan, Daring Traveler
Marcy: Dies to Cut Down. Anyway! For 2 mana, this is a lot more tolerable, and you could even get some good value out of the sorcery side of this card. But, I actually like the deck filtering here quite a bit, since it’s focused on putting smaller creatures into your hand, and he is a Human (and a Faerie, but Faeries don’t run white), but unfortunately, he’s not a Soldier, which is the more important keyword in Standard at the moment. Still, potentially flipping a Thalia or Brutal Cathar into your hand on a swing isn’t the worst thing in the world to attempt.
Loxi: Dora the Explorer here makes a lot of maps, which is pretty neat. I actually really like this card in Selesnya Humans: Kellan provides a ton of value for a 2 mana (3 if you count the adventure, which most games pays for itself), and you probably have quite a few hits for that effect in your average Human deck. I dig it, maybe not enough to run as a commander but it has a ton of bang for minimal buck.
Abuelo, Ancestral Echo
Marcy: Grandpa is here and he’s got some possibilities in some of the decks that like to flicker things, but 3 mana is kind of a large ask for that. The Ward 2 and evasion is nice, though, since he’s our first card that doesn’t just die to Cut Down in the article so far. Sadly, at 3 mana, I do just think Raffine is better.
Loxi: I really like seeing a blink commander that seems more…fair? A lot of people hate blink because it takes forever to resolve and makes games end up being a chain of value. While this might not help with the latter directly, it gives a great, repeatable source of blink on a cheap, well protected body. I don’t see anyone throwing away their Brago, King Eternal‘s for this, but I firmly believe having more options is never a bad thing. Also has some pretty cool synergy with other spirits, although I wouldn’t necessarily put him at the helm of a Spirit focused deck.
Uchbenbak, the Great Mistake
Marcy: This card is pretty nice. He’s evasive, and possibly a decent blocker, and his Descend cost isn’t that insane to pay. I think about the only weakness I can see in this card for Standard is that a lot of games are over before turn 6 these days, and I don’t know if he wins match-ups for you. Limited he could absolutely be a game ender, though. Also, although menace punishes decks with low creature counts, 4 toughness is not THAT hard to throw something in front of, really.
Loxi: This is probably a nightmare in limited, since it has evasion, reanimation, and can block after slugging your opponent’s face in. Commander? Eh, I’d pass, but it’s a solid beater. Art is absolutely metal though.
Marcy: I like this card quite a lot, especially since 5 mana is not a huge ask for Red and Green right now. Immediately getting a hasty 3/3 is pretty nice, even if you don’t end up attacking with it. I’m still not entirely sure how Dinosaurs as an archetype will shake out, but a 5 mana 5/3 that makes an immediate 3/3 and then another token you can chump with or save for your next turn isn’t bad for gumming up the board with problems.
Loxi: Aside from the obvious/intentional synergy with Atla Palani, Nest Tender (which is fantastic, I should mention), it’s a pretty sweet standalone card. Effectively 11/9 of stats over 2-3 turns (depending on when you actually play it) and gives your board haste? Count me in. Dino dunk.
FromTheShire: Haste is such a huge boost when you’re slamming massive threats like Dinosaurs that this would go in every Dino deck for it alone, and then it also makes extra tokens? Excellent.
Sovereign Okinec Ahau
Marcy: I like him, and there are quite a counters decks that would happily find a home for him to start pumping up a lot of counters. The joy of using something like Arena is that you won’t even need to use math for it! But seriously, I think he might do some decent work. Set up your board with some tokens or cheap creatures, get some counters, and then on turn 4 or 5 when he finally gets to swing, start growing your board.
Loxi: Seeing the entire community raise an eyebrow in unison at the wording of this card was priceless. In short – if you’re playing a +1/+1 counter deck or anything that has big, temporary, strong power buffs, this is your go-to kitty cat. Truthfully, this would make a solid Cat commander as well. It lets your board punch up really quickly and effectively multiplies the power of your power-based buffs every turn, which can snowball super fast.
Seriously though you need like a PHD in English to read that at first glance.
Marcy: Fun fact, I have a PhD. in English, and I did indeed understand the card on first glance!
Amalia Benavides Aguirre
Marcy: This is the type of card that probably sucks super bad but frankly I just want to see it hit 20/20 and then blow up the entire board. But I don’t think she ever even gets close to that, because I would absolutely pay the 3 life to kill her with any number of cheap removal cards. Still, if you’re playing against people who can’t get her off the board fast, there’s a lot of obnoxious life gain decks in Standard that might find her to be fun to mess around with.
Loxi: Alright, a character focused around map magic? Hell yeah, Magellan, watch your ass. She’s a super fun card though, exploring whenever you gain life is actually a pretty effective engine. I’ve written before about it briefly, but drawing lands is actually very, very good, especially en-masse. If you don’t get a land, she just gets stronger, and you can filter your draws! The board wipe is a neat effect that can make for a quick finisher as well if people don’t deal with her, which makes for a neat gameplay pattern. Arguably my favorite lifegain card of recent memory, even if it’s a bit telegraphed.
Vito, Fanatic of Aclazotz
Marcy: I do like the scaling sacrifice aspect of the card, although the sacrifice anvil meta has kind of died off in Standard, and there aren’t a lot of sacrifice decks that would benefit from working Vito into them. This certainly seems like a card destined for Commander; I don’t even know if limited LCI will be strong enough to let Vito pop off enough to function effectively in a way that will constantly let you at least get trigger 2 off consistently.
Loxi: Vito watched too much “What We Do in the Shadows” and is back and even more eccentric. These “scaling with the amount of times you do ‘X’ thing” cards are pretty cool, and all of those effects are worth shelling out for. I like that it makes for a good engine that progresses the game pretty quickly rather than just making you aimlessly build up a board. Solid, I love that his design space lets you really push both the archetypes of Aristocrats as well as Vampires in a way that makes sense, flavorfully and functionally.
Captain Storm, Cosmium Raider
Marcy: There’s a lot of Thopter decks in Standard with cards like Saheeli that would very likely enjoy trying to make this card work with them, although the issue is that almost none of those decks really use Pirates (and they basically don’t exist outside of LCI in Standard).
Loxi: Anch-axe? I’m sorry, where did you get that thing? Bikini Bottom Renaissance Faire? Regardless, this slots perfectly into most Pirate decks that have a focus on Treasures (see: most Pirate decks). I was workshopping a Pirate deck recently and mentioned that if you’re going the Treasure route, you tend to have less direct combat finishers and more artifact-driven ones. This patches that hole (pun absolutely intended) with a solid, cheap support piece.
Saheeli, the Sun’s Brilliance
Marcy: Honestly just wondering how quickly before this card gets banned, frankly. Although, given recent decisions, I really don’t think it will get hit with the ban hammer at all.
Loxi: I’m sure players won’t do unethical things by copying artifacts.
FromTheShire: Nooooo, c’mon, who would do such a thing?! Not I, certainly. This cards is bananas good, repeatable creature or artifact clone for just 2 mana? Sign me all the way up.
Marcy: This vehicle gives insane value and is also a 5/5? This card is kind of nuts?
Loxi: A good boat for your Pirates to ride? Truly a flavor win here. Nothing too fancy, but has great general use synergy for its preferred crew.
Marcy: I think Golgari has some possibilities to make a strong comeback in Standard with cards like this. Self-mill Golgari is already a small deck subtype that hasn’t found a lot of foothills in the recent meta, but there are certainly ways that this card could help change that. Making a bunch of Fungus creatures as you mill yourself is great. Making itself bigger off that is also great, but I think what I dislike is that these tokens can’t block (a common problem with a lot of 1/1 tokens lately), that means you might generate a few tokens and then have your Tyrant die while your opponent just walks right past your weenies.
Loxi: My favorite legendary from the set, Mushroom Slann™ is bound to add some flavor to your Fungus…deck. Aside from Wizards’ absolutely nonsense choice of having descend and descended be two different rules words (seriously, what?), this card is a home run. It gets bigger as you get more mushroom men marauding your… mat? Better yet, it encourages a sweet self mill game where you want to just dump as much as you can into your graveyard on your turn, which can enable some really fun Dredge and mill shenanigans. Notably, it takes a different design from Slimefoot, The Stowaway, which is nice to allow for two unique commanders in the typing with their own niche.
FromTheShire: Hell yes, give me ALL of the Fun Guys and Saprolings creatures. As the owner of an actual Thallids deck (ask your grandparents) I am always stoked to see more support for one of Magic’s oldest tribes, and this dude rules.
Marcy: It’s kind of funny that Planeswalkers seem almost uncommon now following the last few sets, and a bit like Ashiok in Eldraine, I… don’t really think Quintorius here is super great in Standard but might have some legs in other formats. Obviously, if you can get him to -6 and exile a bunch of cheap cards, it’s going to become a problem when you just suddenly burn your opponent to death, but it takes at least 2 turns for him to get there, and 3 if you want him to do that and then not die before you get the drain trigger.
Loxi: Do you really like Prosper, Tome-Bound but also enjoy the glorious warmth of friendship? Quintorus is here to help, letting you ball out on cast from exile cards while helping get some casting done from his discover trigger. I feel like 5 mana might be a bit steep of a cost, but not bad overall.
FromTheShire: To Marcy’s point, Wizards has outright announced that they are dialing way, way back on planeswalkers for now, which I’m personally a fan of.
Nicanzil, Current Conductor
Marcy: I like that this is basically an Explore Tribal Lord of sorts, because it allows you to grow Nicanzil and also ramp up your mana very easily. It also helps the sting of putting something in your Graveyard you wanted a little nicer, and assuming he doesn’t immediately, you guessed it, die to Cut Down, there’s a good chance this card becomes a big threat or an immediate target.
Loxi: This helps push the Merfolk exploring subtype, which is pretty sweet. It doesn’t really do much on it’s own though, so make sure you have enough exploring going on to get your money’s worth. Notably, this doesn’t explicitly mention any typings, so feel free to jam this wherever you’re Indiana Jones-ing your way to victory.
Marcy: You’re going to play this card with Braids and you’re going to make people hate you and it’ll be really funny. (Dies to Cut Down though).
Loxi: A little mini Mogis, God of Slaughter on a stick. I think if this card was above two mana I wouldn’t like it as much, but as a Group Slug Enjoyer, I think this might be juuust enough of a pain in the ass to be worth it. On a side note, this is pretty good in Rakdos Goblins as well if you’re feeling spicy with any of those commander options.
Itzquinth, Firstborn of Gishath
Marcy: While this is a 2/3 with haste, you really want to play it at 4, and just in case I haven’t mentioned it a few times, Topiary Stomper is a 4/4 for 3 Mana that you could easily drop the turn before this and then shoot down some other creature with when Itzquinth enters.
Loxi: Littlefoot is here to drop a Dino-fueled tactical nuke on something, which is pretty hilarious. It’s basically a glorified removal spell with a body. If people play Ravenous Chupacabra, this can’t fall that much behind. While this is much worse if you don’t have a developed board, it has the flexibility to not really care and just be an early body if you need it.
Kutzil, Malamet Exemplar
Marcy: Drawing a bunch of cards and then preventing spells to be cast is a nice effect on a card that is cheaper than the other one that allows it currently in Standard. I think these cats might have some legs in counter aggro, and I could see it with Token deck generation too. I’ll certainly be trying to see if I can make anything happen with it.
Loxi: They’re really pushing this “Selesnya Buffed Small Dudes” archetype this set, because sheesh this card is nice. You can throw this is any go-wide deck and it will put in some hurt. Even just as a way of protecting yourself from instant speed removal on a reasonably-statted body, the extra cards are just gravy. This card also has a funny wording with that “each,” providing yet another literacy check for our brains.
Bartolomé del Presidio
Marcy: Well, maybe I was a little harsh on Vito. I think if you were able to stick both of them to the field, there are a lot of White/Black decks that abuse cards like Ratadrabik to create a bunch of token clones and drain your opponent out or do other annoying things with endless tokens. So, who knows. Perhaps that deck archetype will make an attempt at a return in Standard with these two.
Loxi: A free sacrifice outlet in the command zone? For creatures and artifacts? Sure, it might not be flashy, but it’s such a cheap card that this has so many options. I think he may not be interesting enough to gain a ton of traction as a commander, but don’t sleep on how strong having a card that can eat everything on your board and grow from it gets, especially since this is a super flexible card with great typings.
Akawalli, the Seething Tower
Marcy: Golgari self-mill was already a deck that tried to find some footing in Standard lately, and while I don’t think this is a game winning card in that deck, it is a really nice deck addition, in that once you do have a lot of stuff in your graveyard, you might have a 7/7 that is likely to force bad trades when blocked.
Loxi: A good meatball fungus (notably: not a fungus meatball), designed to just smack things as you mill yourself. It’s not a bad threat if you build your deck around some mill- getting up to a 9/9 trampler with additional anti-chumping is scary, even if you really don’t have a ton of other combat threats in your deck.
Marcy: I don’t really think he’s playable in Boros in Standard, sadly. They don’t often run a lot of artifacts that are going to sit around and not be tapped, and Soldiers in Standard is almost exclusively Mono-White, and only sometimes splashes Blue, so I don’t think he’s going to find his way in there. Still, flipping a Brutal Cathar would be really funny.
Loxi: A touch of card advantage for Boros – as a treat. Solid for Soldiers, but nothing super notable. Probably can put in some work in limited formats too.
Wail of the Forgotten
Marcy: This is another one that I feel is going to start popping up into decks with a lot of variety. I can’t see it being a 4 of perhaps, especially since it isn’t permanent removal, but I bet that I can see a few of these in Blue/Black for some of the variety it can bring. Putting something in your opponent’s hand and then making them discard it is kind of a funny move, though.
Loxi: While all of the effects combined are great for two mana, I think this is best in 60 card decks. The extra little bit of value probably doesn’t edge it out over just running a better draw spell for me. That being said, in a 1v1 this card does a hell of a lot for the price if you can get that Descend 8 met.
Marcy: This being sorcery speed is not going to stop Grixis decks in Standard from running at least 2 if not 4 of this card. It’s 2 mana selective removal that gets better if you get rid of something on your side of the board, and it allows Grixis to deal with enchantments, which the colors have had trouble doing since Invoke Despair got banned. Not looking forward to this card, really.
Loxi: Sorcery speed keeps this in check, but it’s still a great card for the cost. I think it’s more tailored towards 60 card formats as well, but in a faster/cEDH environment this might be able to be sweet for sniping combo pieces and fast rocks.
FromTheShire: Dreadbore already sees somewhat fringe Modern play, and with plenty of ways to trigger descending like fetches etc this could certainly see a bit of play as well.
Marcy: Re-animator is back on the menu! There’s a lot of ways to make use of this in self-mill and Standard’s biggest bombs are 7 mana right now, so I think there’s a really easy way to get something gross onto the board very fast if you’ve milled yourself effectively.
Loxi: It’s pretty easy to use this for a big reanimation in most self mill decks. The anti-synergy is that you need to run this, a sorcery, in a deck that you want to build to have minimal non-permanent cards. It’s pretty sweet, so I don’t think I’d entirely avoid it, but I’d rather save my instant/sorcery slots in that type of deck for other things like removal and land ramp, which might carry a bit more weight than the equivalent that come on creatures.
Anim Pakal, Thousandth Moon
Marcy: Non-Gnome creature is such a funny rules text to read here. I can see an argument for Jetmir token decks to try and make a return to standard, and Anim Pakal / Jinnie Fay sounds like a really gross combination.
Loxi: Chrome Gnomes are in, baby. If you want to go all in on the new hotness of Gnomes, Anim is your commander of choice. Interestingly, you probably want to push more towards a +1/+1 voltron-y secondary strategy with this, with artifacts and big board buffs as the main game plan.
Marcy: I kind of like the copy ability more than the explore ability. I think explore is cool, it gives you the ability to filter your deck and grow a threat, but I think this is going to find more value in the ability to copy another creature than anything else it does.
Loxi: A growing, type-synergistic clone for your board. Pretty unique, I dig it. Being a wildcard means you can probably find a good home for it if you’re playing Merfolk.
Next Time: Monocolored
That wraps up our look at the set’s multicolored cards. Join us next time as we review the sets colored cards, picking out our favorites, and talking about the future build-arounds. In the meantime, if you have any questions or feedback, drop us a note in the comments below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.