Top 5 Ixalan Cards That Make You Go Hmm

Posted in How to Build on September 22, 2017

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

I'll be honest: Ixalan hooked me when I heard Pirates were going to be fighting with Dinosaurs. And with Vampires. And with Merfolk. And with other Pirates. And there was going to be real Treasure, in token form, hanging around too.

Getting into Pirates is something for another day as it's the everything else in Ixalan that I'm digging through. For example, both the Growing Rites of Itlimoc and Legion's Landing will be making it into my Rhys the Redeemed Commander deck soon. Finding the obvious upgrades and additions is always a treat with a new set—as are the cards I'm not quite so sure about where they'll go but I'm positive they'll find a home.

Here's five that I'm still puzzling out.

Tocatli Honor Guard

When Amonkhet arrived, it brought a humble little two-mana creature: Vizier of Remedies. The tiny little text of reducing the -1/-1 countered placed on creatures opened up significant options for Modern Abzan Collected Company decks.

Tocatli Honor Guard feels like it hits similar notes:

Abzan Collected Company

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What if Tocatli Honor Guard shows up against this deck? What if this deck sets up by slipping Tocatli Honor Guard out when the opponent isn't expecting it? What about all these other odd creatures asking for some tricky support?

Tocatli Honor Guard isn't doing nothing; it does nothing. That has to do something, right?

Vanquisher's Banner

A long time ago in a Magic set far, far away, I previewed a card called Adaptive Automaton. In that article, I created a Jellyfish tribal deck that, surprisingly, mostly worked. (Umbra Mantle was involved. It was a very strange time.)

Vanquisher's Banner is another card I'm scratching my head over. While more limited than its Modern-banned forerunner, Glimpse of Nature, casting creatures spells to draw cards is usually a good deal for tribal decks. Pumping an army, any army you choose, is also a good bet.

But where does it end up?

A set filled with new Vampires is good for a Vampire deck of any stripe, but Edgar Markov wants to see plenty of Vampires get cast, and Vanquisher's Banner draws cards when you cast Vampires.


Green-White Elves

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Staking a claim over opponents with the banner of your favorite creatures is going to happen somewhere.

Sunbird's Invocation

Sunbird's Invocation begs to be broken. It's an amazing effect as long as you have specifically the spells you need. Having the right kind of spells is a deck we already know about going into a new Standard format:

White-Blue Approach of the Second Sun

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No, there's no red here. But did you know if you control Sunbird's Invocation, cast Approach of the Second Sun from your hand, then find another copy of Approach of the Second Sun while resolving Sunbird's Invocation's trigger, you win the game when that first cast of Approach of the Second Sun finally resolves?

Is Sunbird's Invocation a Standard deck? I don't know, but that two-card-and-a-little-luck combo won't go unnoticed or untried. Going back further, Modern's array of spells set up all sorts of hilarious opportunities. Bloodbraid Elf may be banned, but giving all of your spells a flavor of cascade turns anything with haste into a threat—assuming you get to the point where you can cast a six-mana enchantment happens.

Commander is the biggest opportunity to Sunbird's Invocation. Imagine casting Insurrection into Boldwyr Heavyweights or Razaketh, the Foulblooded. Add in some library manipulation or thoughtful deck construction, and Sunbird's Invocation becomes a must-stop threat for opponents in a color they weren't expecting.

Dire Fleet Ravager

I have a confession: I'm a fan of Pox and Smallpox. While Dire Fleet Captain isn't either of those spells, the ability to rip away a third of opponents' life totals in one convenient package shouldn't be overlooked.

Figuring out where it ends up is a bit harder.

Standard has some options to make it easier to hit multiple times, such as Acrobatic Maneuver and Fairgrounds Warden, but pairing it up with burn spells is the more obvious angle. Menace and deathtouch make it a threat all on its own too, but I can't shake trying to see how to make its enters the battlefield trigger work harder (maybe outside Standard):

Of course, the format you play Dire Fleet Ravager in matters more than card legality—losing a third of your life in Commander hits much hard than in Standard. I'm just not finding the best way to make entering the battlefield that scary.

Vance's Blasting Cannons

When Fate Reforged was in Standard, Outpost Siege was a standout staple for red decks. Choosing the khans mode meant you got an extra, free card to use every turn. Vance's Blasting Cannons brings that effect back (for the most part), but now asks if you can cast three spells in a turn.

If you do, you get Open Fire repeatable on a land: Spitfire Bastion.

The dream of playing a burn deck that just keeps on burning is amazing, but so is an enchantment that could not only help set up storm combo in Modern, but also gives your deck a little extra edge if you whiff.

Blue-Red Gifts Ungiven Storm

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Does Storm want a four-mana enchantment that starts giving cards on the next turn? Is there a different combo setup that does? Getting an extra, free card in Commander or Modern or Standard is fine already, but how do we get to throwing out Lightning Bolts of damage from a land fast?

Captain Vance is my hero for solving it first, and I'm looking forward to getting to the bottom of the mystery myself.

Uncharted Territory

Ixalan is packed with interesting and powerful effects. While these are the five that have my mind going, there are plenty more for you to set a new course toward.

Which deck will you set sail with when Ixalan Prereleases start this weekend?

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