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Journey to the Maze (Exclusive Ixalan Preview)


With the hype for Pirates, Dinosaurs, Merfolk, and Vampires in full swing, one of the more overlooked aspects of Ixalan is the return of the transform mechanic and flip cards. Traditionally, whenever transform makes a return, at least some of the cards with the mechanic end up being constructed staples. Back in Innistrad block, we had Delver of Secrets, Huntmaster of the Fells, and Garruk Relentless, while Shadows over Innistrad gave us Archangel Avacyn, Thing in the Ice, and Westvale Abbey. Apart from including a ton of powerful Standard cards, one of the most interesting part of flip cards is they open up a ton of design space and allow very old cards to become new again. Today, I've got a super-sweet Ixalan transform card to show off for you—a card that's almost two functional reprints on the same card!

Thaumatic Compass, IxalanSpires of Orazca

Let's start with the front side. Thaumatic Compass is quite literally a functional reprint of the Champions of Kamigawa rare Journeyer's Kite—it's the same exact card, but with a new Ixalan-inspired name. Once we manage to get to seven lands, things get even more interesting, as our Thaumatic Compass flips around into Spires of Orazca, which is close to an upgraded version of the Legacy staple Maze of Ith!

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While the front half of Thaumatic Compass is an actual functional reprint of Journeyer's KiteSpires of Orazca is basically Maze of Ith with a couple of changes that are worth talking about. Most importantly, Spires of Orazca taps for mana, while Maze of Ith does not, which means that in most situations, Spires of Orazca is just straight up better than the older version. However, Spires of Orazca has a small downside too, in that it can only target opposing creatures, which means tricks like attacking with Glorybringer, exerting to kill a creature, and then untapping Glorybringer to save it in combat are off the table, but overall, this is a small price to pay for the upside of tapping for mana. 

Thaumatic Compass is a tricky card to evaluate when it comes to Standard. With functional reprints, one of the easiest ways to judge a card is to look back at the original printing and see how it performed in Standard. While deck lists from Kamigawa Standard are few and far between, from what I can tell, Journeyer's Kite was mostly a sideboard card for control decks and part of a Mono-Black Rats deck in Block Constructed. However, just looking back at Kamigawa Standard might not be a good way to judge the power of Thaumatic Compass, since our current Standard format is much different than a world of Affinity, Gifts Ungiven, and Dark Confidant

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 Thaumatic CompassSpires of Orazca

In our current Standard, the most likely home for Thaumatic Compass is some sort of control deck. We've seen Sunset Pyramid move into the main deck of some versions of UB Control as a card-advantage engine, and it's possible that Thaumatic Compass could be a better option for this role. What do control decks want to do in the early game? Mostly leave up their mana for counters and removal and hit their land drops. Thaumatic Compass seems perfect in this role. You can play it on Turn 2, leave up mana during your opponent's turn, and if they don't play something you need to counter or kill, use Thaumatic Compass on their end step to search up a land to play the following turn. Then, Thaumatic Compass will eventually flip around into Spires of Orazca, not just giving you another land to work with (which is always welcome in control, since control decks can almost never have too much mana) but a Maze of Ith

While we'll have to see what the format looks like after Ixalan is released, having a Maze of Ith in the late game seems like it could be very good for control decks. While Eldrazi are rotating, there will probably be some massive, hard-to-kill Dinosaurs floating around, and Spires of Orazca gives control a way to deal with any one creature for just a single mana each turn. Here, it is important to point out the big difference between Spires of Orazca and Maze of Ith: Thaumatic Compass doesn't become a Maze of Ith until the late game, which means unlike Maze of Ith (which is solid against aggro decks), Thaumatic Compass is pretty lacking against aggressive decks, since the front half is pretty slow.

As such, the biggest question regarding Thaumatic Compass in Standard is just how fast Ixalan Standard will be. If Ramunap Red and Aggro Pirates are among the most played decks in the format, Thaumatic Compass might be relegated to sideboards. When opponents are starting to curve out on Turn 1, playing a two-mana do-nothing and then spending three more mana to put a land in your hand is just too slow. On the other hand, if the format is more midrange and control focused, Thaumatic Compass could be a great main-deck option, filling a role similar to Sunset Pyramid

Commander

While the Standard future of Thaumatic Compass is murky and mostly depends on what the format will look like after Ixalan is released, one format where Thaumatic Compass will be great in is Commander. While not quite a staple, Journeyer's Kite is already a solid Commander card as a good way to fix mana and generate card advantage. Meanwhile Maze of Ith is a true staple, coming in as one of the top 200 most played cards in the format according to Metamox. If you're already playing Journeyer's Kite in your Commander deck, [[Thaumatic Compass] is mostly an upgrade, or you can even just run both, since having redundancy never hurts in a 100-card singleton format. 

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Apart from using Thaumatic Compass fairly to fix mana and draw cards, one Commander specifically loves Journeyer's Kite and would certainly want a second copy: Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant. In Commander, most decks prefer ramp spells that put lands directly onto the battlefield like Cultivate and Kodama's Reach, but Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant actually prefers cards that put lands into your hand, so you can flip your commander into Sasaya's Essence and create absurd an amount of mana to do things like Genesis Wave for your entire deck! Here's an example of a Sasaya list Tomer recently played on Commander Clash that would certainly love Thaumatic Compass.

All in all, as far as Commander in concerned, I expect that Thaumatic Compass will see some play as a mana fixer, especially in non-green decks, which often lack good ways to tutor up lands, while also being a staple in Sasaya, Orochi Ascendant builds as yet another way to flip your commander around into a devastating enchantment. 

Wrap-Up

Overall, Thaumatic Compass is a fun card and a super-sweet callback to not one but two powerful cards from Magic's past, which is awesome. Reprints and functional reprints are some of my favorite cards in Magic because they give us the opportunity to experience familiar cards that we've enjoyed in the past in a very different setting. As far as being competitive in Standard, Thaumatic Compass has enough power to be playable, but just how good it ends up being will depend primarily on the speed of the format. If Ixalan is slow and grindy, Thaumatic Compass could be a great main-deck card for control and even slower multicolor midrange decks. If Ixalan is fast, then Thaumatic Compass will probably be relegated to sideboards, coming in to break open control mirrors with a steady stream of card advantage and a hard-to-deal-with answer to finishers like Torrential Gearhulk after it flips into Spires of Orazca. Whether it finds a home in Standard or not, the artifact will be a ton of fun in casual formats like Commander, and when you combine this with the sweet flavor and callbacks to older cards, Thaumatic Compass is a worthy addition to Ixalan.

Anyway, that's all for today. Big thanks to Wizards for hooking us up with a super-sweet preview card! So, what do you think of Thaumatic Compass? Can it find its way into any of your Standard decks? How about your Commander decks? Let me know in the comments, and as always, you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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