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Commander Review: Ixalan Part 1 (White, Blue, Black)

Ixalan is here! I hope you all enjoyed the prerelease and got a chance to look over the sweet new cards. As with every new set, I'll be examining each card from a Commander point of view, and talk about my favorite additions to the format and what decks they might see play in. Let's begin!




Ashes of the Abhorrent

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Ashes of the Abhorrent is a new option to hose graveyard strategies alongside staples like Grafdigger's Cage, Relic of Progenitus, and Rest in Peace. Ashes is a poor choice at universal graveyard hosing, since it's only good against a narrow range of graveyard startegies; commanders like Kess, Dissidant Mage and flashback cards (Past in Flames) get hosed but other graveyard strategies such as Meren of Clan Nel Toth, dredge cards (Life from the Loam), or staple reanimation spells (Animate Dead) are unaffected. So Ashes' usefulness at disrupting graveyards largely depends on what you're facing.

That's only one part of the card, however: Ashes of the Abhorrent is also a steady source of lifegain triggers. It's basically a White Deathgreeter - a rarely played card - that is harder to kill due to being an enchantment. Is that worth playing? Probably not.

I think Ashes of the Abhorrent won't/shouldn't see much play, but it's a great meta call if you happen to be playing a Lifegain deck and want more answers against your playgroup's Kess, Dissidant Mage Flashback deck. Very niche, but solid in that niche.


Axis of Mortality

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Axis of Mortality is begging to be used in janky Orzhov Life Shenanigans decks where you purposely lower your life total and then swap it with an opponent to set up a quick kill. Axis of Mortality is one of the best new cards for this jank archetype, joining the ranks of Repay in Kind and Soul Conduit. I've written a Budget Selenia article that runs this archetype, so if you're interested in seeing ways to use Axis of Mortality then check it out!


Bishop of Rebirth

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Bishop of Rebirth is basically a worse Sun Titan. However, in a creature-heavy deck without Blink shenanigans to abuse Sun Titan's ETB trigger, Bishop of Rebirth does an alright imitation. The bishop also has the Vampire and Cleric creature types, so Tribal decks synergizing with it makes it more appealing. I will certainly pop this into any Cleric deck and some Vampire decks too under Edgar Markov.


Goring Ceratops

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Giving your entire army double strike is a powerful effect, but True Conviction is simply better at providing this. Goring Ceratops might make the cut in Dinosaur Tribal lists since the effect is powerful even if overcosted, and frankly there aren't a lot of Dinos to work with yet.


Kinjalli's Caller

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Kinjalli's Caller is a simple ramp card for the Dinosaur deck. This type of tribal ramp is fine at 2 cmc (e.g. Dragonlord's Servant) and having it at 1 cmc is great.


Kinjalli's Sunwing

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Having creatures enter the battlefield tapped doesn't look like much, but after seeing Blind Obediance and Urabrask the Hidden in games has made me appreciate how big of a tempo swing it is. It means more opportunities to attack into tapped defenders and just overall slowing down your opponent's plans. Kinjalli's Sunwing is a fine inclusion in the Dinosaur deck and is particularly strong when combined with Crackdown.


Legion's Landing

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

The initial reaction of the Commander community to Legion's Landing was poor, but I actually quite like it at first glance. I see it as a conditional 1 cmc ramp spell in White, a color sorely lacking in ramp: for 1 mana and a relatively easy flip condition, you get a land that has an extra mode as a cherry on top. That's not bad, is it? That's where I'm at with the card at least. 

I can see Legion's Landing run in non-Green Creature/Token decks looking for more ramp sources. I'd love to test it in Edgar Markov decks, as the creature type is relevant, our commander poops out creatures for easy flips, and we're non-Green so would welcome a nice land ramp.


Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Mavren goes into Edgar Markov decks, simple as that. Edgar wants you to play Vampires and then pump your wide army of creatures for lethal swings, and Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle plays right into that.


Priest of the Wakening Sun

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Another easy inclusion for the Dinosaur deck: a cheap support card before you start casting your more expensive Dinos, and you gain some life and eventually tutor up one of your good Dinos for the situation. Good!


Settle the Wreckage

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Settle the Wreckage is way too conditional for me to recommend running this in a generic deck. However, in a deck built around abusing it, this can be a powerful (if expensive) instant speed answer to a big attack. Here are just a few ideas:

Even jumping through hoops to make it work, Settle the Wreckage is at most an okay card, but a neat one nonetheless.


Sheltering Light

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Sheltering Light is amazing for Voltron decks looking to protect a single creature. The best example would be Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest, where it will be a new auto-include.


Tocatli Honor Guard

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Tocatli Honor Guard joins the ranks of top Hatebears in the format. It's Torpor Orb in creature form, or a Hushwing Gryff without flying or flash but at 1cmc less. Like the other options, it's a terrific hoser against many creature decks looking to abuse ETB triggers, including Animar, Soul of Elements, Marchesa, the Black Rose, Brago, King Eternal, and many more. If your table is struggling against one or more of these decks, Tocatli Honor Guard is a great inclusion.

Or you can just go full Hate mode and run the Honor Guard alongside all the other hate cards in a Gaddock Teeg deck or something. Go nuts, you evil bastard.


Wakening Sun's Avatar

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Wakening Sun's Avatar is a White Dinosaur version of Kindred Dominance, with the further upsides of being a Dinosaur creature itself so you can tutor it up easily in Naya decks (e.g. Survival of the Fittest) and also leaving a 7/7 on the board. This is easily one of the best Dinosaurs you can play in your Dino deck.




Arcane Adaptation

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Arcane Adaptation is a better/cheaper version of Conspiracy or Xenograft. The most straightforward way of using it is putting it into your Tribal deck so any creatures that you run not of your chosen tribe still benefit from tribal synergies. This is useful for tribes that have a very shallow pool of creatures to choose from, such as Trilobite, but it becomes less and less useful the higher the percentage of on-tribe creatures you're running. If 90% of my creatures in my Vampire deck are Vampires, for example, then I wouldn't bother with Arcane Adaptation.

Probably the most appealing use of Arcane Adaptation is using it to enable combos or powerful synergies. For example, put this into Reaper King and you can run great creatures instead of terrible Scarecrows while still blowing up your opponent's stuff. Or you can use Arcane Adaptation to make an infinite army of wolves with Turntimber Ranger, perhaps led by General Tazri!


Chart a Course

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Chart a Course is one of the cheapest playable Blue draw spells in Commander, even if it still does not compare to the almighty Mystic Remora. A 2cmc Divination is actually very good, as anyone who plays Night's Whisper will tell you, and you can avoid the discard clause quite easily in any creature-heavy deck. 

I can see Chart a Course played in Reanimation decks that actually want discard outlets and aren't in Red for the Faithless Looting and Tormenting Voice cards. It's also a great card for Talrand, Sky Summoner, as you'll often have a 2/2 flyer to attack with.


Daring Saboteur

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I only mention Daring Saboteur because it's passable in a Pirate deck, only because the card pool for Pirates is so shallow. It's basically a bad Looter il-Kor, which is still okay. That's the case for most of the new Pirate cards, by the way: "it's a bad XYZ, but it's Pirate so you'll run it anyway, ye scurvy dog!"


Deadeye Quartermaster

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

If you're a Blue deck that runs multiple Equipments/Vehicles, Deadeye Quartermaster is a fantastic tutor to run. It's worse than Fabricate in a vacuum, but she's a Pirate creature and her tutor is an ETB trigger which is begging for abuse with cards like Panharmonicon and maybe a flavorful Deadeye Navigator pairing. Realistically, I expect her only to show up in the Pirates deck, but really any deck running Equipments/Vehicles and has ways to abuse the ETB trigger will love her.


Deeproot Waters

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I rarely ever see Merfolk Tribal decks in Commander, but maybe we'll see more of them now with Ixalan injecting goodness into the tribe. Deeproot Waters is the first piece of the tribal upgrade, pumping out Merfolk tokens that will be pumped by Merfolk lords (Lord of Atlantis) and other synergies (Wanderwine Prophets). It's a great addition to the archetype.


Fleet Swallower

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Fleet Swallower is a new Mill card that is uniquely suited to Commander because its milling scales with deck sizes, meaning its just as effective in a 99-card format as it is in 60-card formats. That alone makes it one of the best Mill cards in Commander and instantly decks anyone when combined with Fraying Sanity. Note you don't have to mill the same person that you're attacking; you can even target yourself if you want to set up your own graveyard shenanigans or win with Laboratory Maniac.


Herald of Secret Streams

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

+1/+1 Counters is a popular and very deep archetype, and Herald of Secret Streams is yet another fun toy for the archetype. I can see this doing serious work in Marchesa, the Black Rose, allowing your creatures to attack the player with the highest life total regardless of blockers. It also is great in Simic Merfolk decks since Ixalan is pushing them towards a +1/+1 Counter theme.


Jace, Cunning Castaway

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Jace, Cunning Castaway is a fine inclusion in Go Wide creature strategies, preferably creatures with evasion to get the most out of his +1 loot ability. In those decks, he's usually a worse Coastal Piracy / Bident of Thassa, since he's easier to get rid of and you don't net card advantage. However, in decks that want to discard, perhaps with a Reanimator subtheme like Marchesa, the Black Rose, this Jace's downside can turn into an upside.

And yes, Doubling Season = infinite Jaces + tokens = win the game, same old story with that enchantment.


Kopala, Warden of Waves

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

This isn't the push Tribal Merfolk is looking for to be a more viable archetype. Still, if your playgroup has lots of targeted removal, Kopala, Warden of Waves is a great way to protect your Merfolk.


Perilous Voyage

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Cheap, flexible, instant-speed bounce is underrated in Commander. Perilous Voyage is one of the better ones. I still prefer Chain of Vapor over all else, with Into the Roil a second due to its ability to bounce your own stuff, but Perilous Voyage is a fine alternative to those.


Search for Azcanta // Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Search for Azcanta is a 2 cmc enchantment that is essentially a superior Scry 1 each turn, since dropping stuff into your graveyard is much more useful than bottoming it, with all the graveyard recursion available to us in Commander. I love scry 1 tacked on cards like Thassa, God of the Sea and Lifecrafter's Bestiary, and a scry that fuels graveyard strategies is even better. Once you reach threshold -- a trivial task in any Commander deck -- you may turn it into a land that can repeatedly Impulse for a noncreature, nonland card for just 4 mana. So basically you've got a sweet 2 cmc scry engine that can turn into a Blue Rampant Growth with an alternative of providing card advantage. Yeah, this card is great!

Pretty much any creature-light Blue deck will love Search for Azcanta. That usually means you're a Spellslinger deck like Talrand, Sky Summoner, where the card will be totally sweet. Run it, love it!




Arguel's Blood Fast // Temple of Aclazotz

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Arguel's Blood Fast's front side gives you a cheaper, yet inferior [[Greed]. If you manage to stay alive at 5 life until your upkeep, however, you get a sweet Diamond Valley that can tap for B. I wouldn't recommend running this in most Black decks, but the Life Swap archetype most commonly led by Selenia, Dark Angel will want to test this, as it's made to go down to dangerously low life totals and then shoot back up. In that deck, Arguel's Blood Fast is just win-win on both sides.


Bishop of the Bloodstained

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Bishop of the Bloodstained gives some nice reach for Vampire Tribal (Tribal Vampire? Is there a correct way to order that?) decks. In most situations it's an inferior Sanctum Seeker, but if you have ways of re-using its ETB trigger then it can get nasty in a hurry.


Bloodcrazed Paladin

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I don't like vanilla creatures in Commander unless they can get ludicrously big for very little mana investment; I think the only one I'll run is Managorger Hydra, and that one isn't full vanilla because it has trample. Bloodcrazed Paladin has the potential to be really big too, showing up after a bloody combat step or a board wipe, and it has a more relevant creature type. That makes it playable in Vampire Tribal, but still not great in my opinion.


Dire Fleet Ravager

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Dire Fleet Ravager is great at significantly chunking down everyone's life total, but I'm not sure what decks actually want him. Rakdos, Lord of Riots will get a huge mana discount off him, but that's overkill and also quite expensive. The only home for him that I can think of is a Punisher deck: Kaervek the Merciless or Mogis, God of Slaughter will enjoy dropping everyone's health totals, especially if Neheb, the Eternal is also on the battlefield.


Fathom Fleet Captain

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Oh look, a good Pirate Tribal support card! You don't see much of that this set. Fathom Fleet Captain is a great early evasive creature to trigger raid and you can sink your excess mana to make additional evasive pirates. A great card for the Pirate deck.


March of the Drowned

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Ghoulcaller's Chant is a fine card, but probably doesn't see much play because Zombies have dozens of superior graveyard recursion options already, from Lord of the Undead to Zombie Apocalypse. Pirates do not have the luxury of a huge card pool, so March of the Drowned should make the cut in most decks.


Revel in Riches

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I'm a sucker for "you win the game" cards, and Revel in Riches is possibly the easiest one ever printed to pull off in Commander! It's easy to imagine having 10 creatures on the board in a typical 4-player FFA game, dropping Revel, then wiping the board with a Damnation or similar. Your opponents are then immediately put in the position where they need to take out Revel in Riches or destroy your treasure counters (a miserable use of artifact removal) or you win the game.

If you aren't setting up for an immediate win, you can run Revel in Riches as a poor man's Black Market, but not only is that an inefficient use of the card, you'll immediately become archenemy of the table, so this is not advised. Only cast Revel when you're in a position to win the game with it.


Sanctum Seeker

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Sanctum Seeker is like a Commander-friendly Hellrider for Vampire Tribal decks and boy does it deliver serious pain! This is excellent reach for the Go Wide Vampire archetype led by Edgar Markov -- a new staple, in my opinion.


Vraska's Contempt

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Take Hero's Downfall, increase the cmc by 1, upgrade the removal to exile, and you get Vraska's Contempt. Is the upgrade worth the extra mana? I'd say so, because exile is a relevant upgrade in a format full of graveyard recursion. I'll usually rate Snuff Out and Malicious Affliction higher, but if your meta features a lot of Black decks and/or Superfriends, Vraska's Contempt is a great answer.


Next Up: Red, Green, Colorless, Multicolor, and Lands!

Part 1 has some sweet additions for Edgar Markov Vampires and the new Dinosaur archetype, plus a couple neat cards for a Pirate deck. I'm most excited about the new flip cards for a few reasons: first off, I think they're all really strong in general, with strong effects on both sides and aggressively costed cmc. Second, flipping into lands is very useful in Commander, as land destruction is the least common form of removal you'll come across in the format so they likely won't be destroyed when flipped. Finally, a lot of the flipped sides mimic powerful and popular cards from the Reserved List that are prohibitively expensive, such as Arguel's Blood Fast mimicing Diamond Valley and Growing Rites of Itlimoc turning into Gaea's Cradle, so Commander players can play with a somewhat similar version of these rare cards without having to pay an arm and a leg.

Overall, Ixalan looks sweet. The flip cards are all sweet and we have brand new viable tribes entering the format: Dinosaurs and Pirates. Hopefully the next set brings more goodies to flesh out these tribes.

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