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


Rivals of Ixalan has been fully spoiled, so it's time to dive into the pool of fresh new cards and see which ones can make the biggest splash in Commander! Let's begin!

 

WHITE

Bishop of Binding

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I'm usually not a fan of Banisher Priest cards in Commander because creatures have shorter lifespans in this format; even if nobody goes out of their way to kill it, a Wrath of God will soon incidentally sweep it away. Enchantment versions like Oblivion Ring — or even better, Grasp of Fate — tend to last longer. Bishop of Binding does have a nice bonus attack trigger, but that's not enough to get me excited for this card. It's okay in Edgar Markov Vampire Tribal decks but I personally think there are better sources of removal for that deck.

 

Forerunner of the Legion

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

A new staple for the Edgar Markov Vampire Tribal deck. Tutors are great, ETB tutors on creatures are even better, it's a low cmc, and you get double the +1/+1 triggers in Edgar Markov because your commander makes a free 1/1 Vampire every time you cast a Vampire spell. Excellent!

 

Radiant Destiny

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Radiant Destiny seems like a decent anthem for Go Wide Tribal decks. The most obvious one that comes to mind is Edgar Markov, since ascending is a trivial matter when Edgar is generating tons of tokens all day long. 

 

Slaughter the Strong

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I'm not a fan of Slaughter the Strong. I appreciate that it's an undercosted board wipe, but I find it hard to imagine a scenario where this card is better choice than the other White creature board wipes we have available to us. I think Slaughter would work best in decks with very few creatures, ideally small utility ones (Weathered Wayfarer), so you'd lose little while your opponents might potentially lose a lot. In those decks, however, we've got Dusk // Dawn and Retribution of the Meek as amazing options. If we don't care about sparing any of our creatures, then Wrath of God / Day of Judgment are just more consistent answers to our opponent's stuff.

The one thing I do like about Slaughter the Strong is it's not a destroy effect but sacrifice, which means it deals with indestructible creatures. This makes Slaughter a decent meta choice if you regularly deal with big indestructible creatures, though I'm not sure what sort of deck that would be (gods like Xenagos, God of Revels usually aren't creatures).

 

Sphinx's Decree

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Sphinx's Decree is a neat way to piss off opposing Spellslinger decks, or at least the ones that want to cast on their own turns, which not all do. Ultimately I don't think this has enough impact to warrant inclusion, but it could be a fun troll card when paired up with Archaeomancer and blink effects.

 

Temple Altisaur

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Temple Altisaur is a sweet new staple in Dinosaur Tribal. Not only does it make your Dinosaurs nearly unkillable in combat, but it also plays very well with the enrage keyword (Ripjaw Raptor), turning lethal damage from stuff like Earthquake into just enough damage to trigger enrage.

 

Trapjaw Tyrant

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I did mention that I don't like Banisher Priest effects, but Trapjaw Tyrant has enough going on to make it an all-star in Dinosaur Tribal lists: it's a 5/5 Dinosaur for 5 cmc and the best versions of Dinosaur Tribal will have reliable ways to trigger enrage, letting you remove more than one creature for at least a little while. Considering the small card pool to work with, Trapjaw Tyrant is one of the better Dinosaurs and a worthy inclusion in almost all lists.

 

Zeltapa, Primal Dawn

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I'm usually not a fan of big dumb beaters, but Zetalpa, Primal Dawn has enough keywords to make me interested. If you're playing it in a vacuum, it's a way worse Avacyn, Angel of Hope. However, Zetalpa is a Dinosaur so it has synergy potential in Dinosaur Tribal, and double strike + trample lets it benefit a lot more from effects that increase its power like Berserk. Finally, it does have a ton of keywords, making it a solid choice for Odric, Lunarch Marshal. I'm personally excited to run it in Gishath, Sun's Avatar.

 

BLUE

Aquatic Incursion

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

The Merfolk of Ixalan block support both a Go Wide theme with tokens and also a +1/+1 counter theme protected by hexproof. Aquatic Incursion supports both themes and also provides evasion but the entire card costs too much mana for what you get. The card gets more interesting if you can blink it (Brago, King Eternal), but I don't think it's worth the effort. It's an alright card and will make some Merfolk Tribal lists, but it costs too much mana to be considered great.

 

Crafty Cutpurse

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Crafty Cutpurse is a sweet anti-Token card that you can run to great effect if you regularly run across those decks in your playgroup, basically a cheaper but much more conditional Gather Specimens. There's also a neat synergy with this and the Hunted cycle (Hunted Phantasm).

 

Expel from Orazca

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Into the Roil is a solid card that sometimes run in my Spellslinger decks, especially if they don't have access to good permanent destruction colors like White (Disenchant). Most Spellslinger decks won't have enough permanents to ascend with any consistency, but Talrand, Sky Summoner definitely can, and in that deck this card can be downright amazing!

 

Flood of Recollection

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

This is the cheapest version of Call to Mind that we've ever seen outside of Green (darn you for being so good, Regrowth!). Assuming you're not using this for an infinite combo, Flood of Recollection is absolutely fantastic in any Spellslinger deck. If you are looking to combo off, I'd still run this on top of whatever infinite recursion you need, like Archaeomancer + Deadeye Navigator + Time Warp.

 

Induced Amnesia

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Induced Amnesia will be used best in decks that can consistently destroy your own enchantment so you can target yourself with it and draw tons of cards. Basically the same decks that love Hatching Plans will love this. This is a new staple in Ertai, the Corrupted, Barrin, Master Wizard, or funky Enchantress decks that run Arenson's Aura.

 

Kumena's Awakening

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Kumena's Awakening is a Howling Mine that turns into a Phyrexian Arena but costs more than both, which is already a bad start for a Blue card, the supposedly best color for unconditional card draw. Not a fan. If you want a Howling Mine card then run that, Kami of the Crescent Moon, Dictate of Kruphix, Temple Bell, Font of Mythos, etc. If you want to draw cards there's Plea for Power, Tidings, Concentrate, Recurring Insight, Mystic Remora, Rhystic Study, etc. 

Actually, now would be a good time for me to rant about Phyrexian Arena. I think this card is severely overrated. When people ask what the best unconditional card draw in Black is, Arena is often the first card mentioned, but I can list quite a few cards that I much prefer over it: I'd rate Ancient Craving, Ambition's Cost, Syphon Mind, Painful TruthsNight's Whisper, even Read the Bones higher than Phyrexian Arena for most decks. Phyrexian Arena is so damn slow! It does nothing the turn you cast it, and then draws you a single card each following turn; compare that to Ancient Craving, which draws you 3 cards immediately! For Phyrexian Arena to draw you 3 cards, it takes four turnsThat's an eternity in Commander!

Now if you're actually taking advantage of all the parts that make up Phyrexian Arena, like its 2 Black devotion in Erebos, God of the Dead, or the fact that it's an enchantment in Daxos the Returned, then it's quite good. But if not, then save some money and pick up Ancient Craving or similar options, which are just better.

 

Mist-Cloaked Herald

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

New auto-include staple in Edric, Spymaster of Trest. Alright moving on.

 

Nezahal, Primal Tide

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Nezahal is one of the best Dinosaurs printed and frustratingly can't be played in the only real Dinosaur Tribal deck under Gishath, Sun's Avatar. It can potentially draw you a ton of cards, and you can even use some of those excess cards in your hand to protect it from removal. Plus it's a 7/7. These are all great things! Yeah, 7 cmc is a steep cost, but in the right playgroup this card is well worth it. Make that Talrand, Sky Summoner player absolutely hate you!

Is Nezahal, Primal Tide a good commander candidate? I think it's fine, but I feel there are better / more fun commander options in Mono Blue. Nezahal looks like it would work best as part of the 99, particularly when your playgroup has Blue Control decks and you're sick of having your spells countered; Nezahal is made to punish those decks.

 

Release to the Wind

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Release to the Wind is, if anything, an interesting card that I'm glad exists, but I have no idea if it warrants inclusion in any deck. Played straight it's an overcosted bounce spell, but maybe it has cool interactions out there or will in the future. I guess you can infinitely cast Dualcaster Mage with it and win with Impact Tremors or something, but we have better versions of those type of combos already. Has anyone else come up with something neat? Let me know!

 

Seafloor Oracle

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Do you like drawing cards? Of course you do! Seafloor Oracle is a Merfolk Tribal Coastal Piracy that can itself also draw you cards. Yes, it's a staple in the Merfolk Tribal deck!

 

Timestream Navigator

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I do like me some janky Time Warps! Timestream Navigator might show up in Inalla, Archmage Ritualist, where you can potentially take two extra turns in a row by copying this when it enters the battlefield. Maybe some multicolor deck with Grenzo, Dungeon Warden? I don't know! Looks fun!

 

BLACK

Arterial Flow

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

In a typical 4-player FFA game of Commander, Arterial Flow is a 6-for-1 card for only 3 mana. I actually consider this to be quite good and playable in any Black deck! The lifedrain is just the cherry on top if you have a Vampire.

 

Champion of Dusk

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

In Edgar Markov Vampire Tribal decks, worst case Champion of Dusk draws you 2 cards and puts a 4/4 and 1/1 Vampire into play for 5 cmc, which is solid. But Edgar Markov often has far more Vampires on the board at any given time, so really this card will be drawing you 4+ cards which is amazing. A new staple for Edgar Markov for sure.

 

Dead Man's Chest

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Dead Man's Chest is quite a gamble: you need the aura to stick, you need the enchanted target to die, and then you get random cards to cast from. But for a mere 2 mana this gamble is well worth it! I can see Dead Man's Chest being most useful in Enchantress decks such as Daxos the Returned to take full advantage of every aspect of this card. Or if you're going for a Theft theme like Gonti, Lord of Luxury, this might be right up your ally as well. Basically any Black deck that has loads of creature removal will enjoy this.

 

Dusk Legion Zealot

Dusk Legion Zealot [RIX]

I think most people glossed over Dusk Legion Zealot, but honestly I think this is exactly the type of card Edgar Markov needs: a 2cmc Elvish Visionary that gets the ball rolling, dropping two 1/1 Vampires on the board to fuel all the Vampire lords like Captivating Vampire and Bloodline Keeper, while smoothing out your draw. It's perfect!

 

Forerunner of the Coalition

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

I've been thoroughly unimpressed by Pirates from a Commander perspective, hence why Forerunner of the Coalition is the first Pirate I haven't skipped over. Like all the Forerunners, this is an auto-include for its tribe, and this Pirate one does have combo potential if you can infinitely blink another Pirate. This is nice, but I need way more good multiplayer Pirate cards for me to be remotely excited.

 

Mastermind's Acquisition

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Unfortunately the Commander rules state that you can't use this to tutor up a card from outside of the game, so Mastermind's Acquisition is functionally a second copy of Diabolic Tutor. It's still a fine card a budget replacement for the better tutors (Demonic Tutor).

 

Oathsworn Vampire

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Oathsworn Vampire clearly has combo potential but I'm not sure off-hand what that would be. Either way, it's a nice cheap creature that comes back over and over.

 

Pitiless Plunderer

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Pitiless Plunderer can do serious work in a Sacrifice deck, generating tons of mana while your other creatures are sacrificed for value. Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder will enjoy it, perhaps Meren of Clan Nel Toth too?

 

Ravenous Chupacabra

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Ravenous Chupacabra is directly comparable to Nekrataal. Our new beast has no conditions on what it can kill, while Nekrataal can't deal with Black/Artifact creatures. However, the one thing Nekrataal has over its new version is that it can be traded in for cards with Skullclamp, which sounds silly but considering how good/popular that equipment is that's nothing to scoff at. So they're both great and fit the same role, with Ravenous Chupacabra being better in most cases unless you're also running/tutoring up Skullclamp. They're good in Blink decks and Alesha, Who Smiles at Death.

 

Tetzimoc, Primal Death

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Tetzimoc, Primal Death is the other fun Dinosaur deck that we unfortunately can't run in Dinosaur Tribal. Tetzimoc is a sweet flexible creature removal that can pick off a single creature like Noxious Gearhulk or take out entire armies like In Garruk's Wake. The flexibility of this card, and the fact that you can mark creatures as prey turns before you actually cast it, makes Tetzimoc a sweet addition to Black decks. Revealing Tetzimoc can also play mind games with your opponents: when they know that it's in your hand, do they cast their best creatures and risk them getting eaten? Or do they hold back? Either way it's a win-win for you.

I think Tetzimoc will shine the most in Mono Black decks that take advantage of the big mana those decks traditionally generate with cards like Cabal Coffers, Crypt Ghast, and Black Market.

 

Twilight Prophet

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Twilight Prophet is yet another great card for Edgar Markov: ascending is easy when you're flooding the board with free tokens, so this is basically a Phyrexian Arena that is also a Vampire and also drains all your opponents. Easy inclusion!

 

Vona's Hunger

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

At worst, Vona's Hunger is a Fleshbag Marauder with a worse card type, since Creature is the card type with the most inherent synergy in the game right now. However, in a deck that can consistently ascend like — you guessed it — Edgar Markov, this is a much more powerful instant speed removal. Yeah, your opponents still get to choose which creatures are sacrificed, but at 3 cmc and instant speed this is always a good spell.

 

Vraska, Scheming Gorgon

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Vraska, Scheming Gorgon is a planeswalker so I sort of feel obligated to talk about her. Unfortunately I don't have good things to say; she's okay in Go Wide strategies where all her abilities can be relevant, but she simply costs too much for what she does. Yes, her ultimate can be impressive with Doubling Season, but that argument gets weaker and weaker as we continue this never-ending stream of planeswalkers that are impressive with that dumb enchantment. Simply put: we have better options.

 

RED

Blood Sun

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Blood Sun is a tremendous boon to budget players while hating on people who spend more money on their lands. As a budget player, this is amazing! Here are a few things it does:

And it draws you a card! Whee! Fantastic for budget manabases!

The only thing Blood Sun does not shut down are activated abilities that produce mana like Cabal Coffers and Gaea's Cradle, unfortunately. The card is still great though and I can't wait to play with it! I see this not as a Combo piece in Commander but rather a great quality of life card for budget decks that also hose your opponent's better lands.


Brass's Bounty

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Red's version of Boundless Realms gives you treasure tokens instead of basic lands. This could be sweet in Artifact decks that can take full advantage of the treasures, like Breya, Etherium Shaper and Marionette Master, Akiri, Line-Slinger, or just good ol' Revel in Riches. It is 7 cmc though, and wants tons of lands, so I'm not sure how great the card will be but it's certainly not bad.

 

Charging Tuskodon

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Dealing double damage is always interesting because my mind always wonders how quickly can I start doing absurd levels of damage. How about we double Charging Tuskodon's power with Xenagos, God of Revels, give it double strike with Duelist's Heritage, and quadruple its player damage with Furnace of Rath? Just for funsies. I don't think this damage potential is worth running Charging Tuskodon, even in Dinosaur Tribal, but it's still neat.

 

Dire Fleet Daredevil

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Snapcaster Mage turns Red, loses flash, and gets to play with everyone else's graveyards? Sounds fun! This fits well in a Thievery deck like Grenzo, Havoc Raiser, but also looks decent in pretty much any Red deck. It also allows Red to do things the color normally can't do, like getting rid of an enchantment by borrowing someone else's Disenchant. Definitely something I'm looking forward to playing with.

 

Etali, Primal Storm

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Etali, Primal Storm is a fantastic card that oozes card advantage every single time you attack, netting you potentially a free spell from every person in the game. People have mentioned that Etali is a worse version of Mind's Dilation, but I'd argue the opposite: the enchantment is getting you up to one spell each turn (possibly more if opponents are casting instants outside of their turn) and only from opponents, while Etali is getting all those spells at once and includes you. Etali is also cheaper to play, and while it's more fragile since it's a creature, it's still attacking as an impressive 6/6. 

Decks that get the most out of Etali, Primal Storm will be ones that grant it haste and protection from removal (e.g. Lightning Greaves), finding more ways to get more triggers from extra combat steps (Seize the Day) or other sources (Strionic Resonator), and finally some topdeck manipulation (Scroll Rack) to make sure you're casting a sweet card from the top of your own library helps too! Finally, Etali is potentially casting a bunch of spells for free, so it could make the cut in wacky Storm lists where Etali ups the storm count towards a giant Mind's Desire. Of course, Etali is also a Dinosaur, so it's a no-brainer inclusion in Gishath, Sun's Avatar, but I can also see it popping up in other Red lists including Xenagos, God of Revels, or even Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder.

 

Forerunner of the Empire

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Like all the forerunners, Forerunner of the Empire is an excellent inclusion in its tribe, as tutors in a 99-card singleton format are always strong. His Dinosaur ETB trigger is powerful as well, triggering enrage (Ripjaw Raptor) while also clearing the board of weenies. If you give it indestructible (Darksteel Plate) you can even make infinite tokens with this and Polyraptor. Auto-include in Gishath, Sun's Avatar.

 

Needletooth Raptor

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Needletooth Raptor is a sweet source of repeatable creature removal if a deck is well-suited to triggering its enrage keyword. Most good Dinosaur Tribal decks will be able to, along with Marath, Will of the Wild Enrage decks that I see popping up.

 

Reckless Rage

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Reckless Rage is another way to trigger enrage while also doing something else useful, in this case killing smaller creatures. I think this card will be good enough for that type of deck.

 

Rekindling Phoenix

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Rekindling Phoenix offers up repeatable sacrifice fodder as long as your opponents don't intervene and kill your 0/1 token. It can be neat in Sacrifice decks like Shattergang Brothers and Brion Stoutarm, and perhaps a neat trick in Omnath, Locus of Rage since the token that dies is an Elemental.

 

Shake the Foundation

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Shake the Foundation is another instant-speed enrage trigger card, but this one does little else except pick off the weakest of creatures and draw you a card. I'm not sure it's worth it except in the most dedicated for Enrage decks but I'm interested to try it out.

 

Silverclad Ferocidons

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Silverclad Ferocidons is another great enrage Dinosaur; this one blows up your opponent's permanents! Not so great against Token decks — until you kill off the tokens at least — but repeated triggers is absolutely devastating to the opposition. A staple in the Enrage deck.

 

Tilonalli's Summoner

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Tilonalli's Summoner is a great mana sink in Red decks, turning all that excess mana into a huge army that also helps you ascend. It's a great inclusion in Token decks and since they are a mass of Elementals it can also be sweet in Omnath, Locus of Rage.

 

Part 2 Coming Soon! Green, Colorless, and Multicolor!

Hope you enjoyed Part 1 of our Rivals of Ixalan Commander review! Now that you've heard my opinion of the cards, I want to hear what you think about them! What cards do you like the most and which decks will you be testing them out in? Let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading and stay tuned for Part 2 where we finish reviewing the set!


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