Every new Magic set has its all-stars, its cards that are going to help shape Standard or take over Limited games. They have their signature uncommons and their cards that create great Draft synergies.
But let's not forget the weirdos, the strange cards lurking in each new set ready to make you raise an eyebrow, or even change the way you approach a game of Magic. Today I've picked one card from each color to illustrate some of the weirdest and wackiest things happening on Ixalan.
1. Axis of Mortality
Vampires have sunk their teeth into Ixalan, and this card reflects their need to live (and gain) their life at the expense of others. I love cards that give us the opportunity to manipulate the game in unusual and exciting ways, and Axis of Mortality's power to swap life totals without entering combat earns it a spot on this list.
In Limited games, Axis of Mortality might have an opportunity to swing a game or two out of the blue (or white), but it's in multiplayer games, where we'll have the ability to swap any two players' life totals, that this card will really shine. In a game of Commander, this card gives us unprecedented control over one of players' most valuable resources.
Our fellow players may want to court our good will so that they have a better chance of benefitting from our power to play with players' lives at the beginning of our upkeep. Then again, they might just decide that we're too much of a liability and need to be taken out of the game before our newfound power gives us too much sway over their fate. It's a risk we'll have to take because, after all, there is no triumph without sacrifice.
2. Arcane Adaptation
It's not often that we have cards that extend their reach as far as Arcane Adaptation, moving beyond the limits of the battlefield to manipulate cards in your hand, library, graveyard, exile, and anywhere else they might be lurking. Arcane Adaptation is among Ixalan's wackiest cards because it wants to capitalize on creature synergies in every single possible way.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of cards in Magic's history that interact with creatures and creature spells, and Arcane Adaptation puts you in a prime position to take advantage of as many of them as you'd like.
Cards like Elvish Archdruid will give +1/+1 to every creature on the battlefield. With Vanquisher's Banner in play, we can draw a card for every creature spell we cast, or, if we'd prefer, we can use Deeproot Waters to get a 1/1 hexproof Merfolk instead. We can reveal any creature in our hand to Silvergill Adept or Wanderwine Hub. With Cavern of Souls and Arcane Adaptation, all our creatures will resolve. Arcane Adaptation is so thorough, the possibilities are endless!
3. Revel in Riches
Cards that create alternate win conditions are some of my favorites. Every once in a while, they come along and fundamentally change the way we play a game of Magic, transforming it into something familiar but not quite the same as what we're used to.
Revel in Riches is one such card. Revel in Riches gives us another way to win the game other than by killing our opponents with damage. Life totals still exist and are still relevant, especially if ours gets perilously low, but we also have the opportunity to win the game in a new and unusual way that doesn't come around every set.
Revel in Riches favors a more controlling game plan, one where we're going to live long enough to actually revel in those riches we're so set on accumulating. It's great that the first half of the card, which gives us a Treasure every time an opponent's creature dies, is so in line with the second half, which is the one that actually wins us the game.
Still, we don't need to rely on Revel in Riches alone to create the Treasure necessary to win the game. We can pack your deck full of cards like Contract Killing, Sailor of Means, or Depths of Desire that buy us both time and Treasure. Or maybe we can pick up most of what we'll need with one powerful Spell Swindle. No matter how we get there, the path to victory with Revel in Riches will be an interesting one.
4. Tilonalli's Skinshifter
Tilonalli's Skinshifter is here because it hits the battlefield as one thing and transforms into another in the blink of an eye. While we've seen classic shapeshifters like Vizier of Many Faces or artifacts like Mirage Mirror in recent sets, we haven't seen a creature quite like this Skinshifter, able to take on the appearance of a new creature every turn.
I also included this Human Shaman because it puts your opponent in an interesting decision-making position. Without other good creatures on the board, this 0/1 won't be able to do much, so your opponent might choose to point their removal at, or trade with, the original and not the Skinshifter. But if we stick another good creature, then they're going to find themselves effectively facing down two copies of it.
While Human Shamans able to take on the appearance of the creatures around them are awesome, it's the many decisions that Magic presents us with that make the game fascinating, and Tilonalli's Skinshifter is a card that's going to give both us and our opponents those interesting decisions to make.
5. Atzocan Archer
Atzocan Archer is the most straightforward card of this bunch. Still, I couldn't help but include it, maybe because this little 1-power archer still eager to fight something the minute it hits the battlefield is an all-too-apt metaphor for my life. May we all be willing to try as hard as Atzocan Archer, even when we're feeling like 1/4s.
Atzocan Archer is, of course, a flexible and potentially powerful card in the right deck or when matched against the right opposing creatures. There are lots of pesky 1/1 Vampire tokens running around, as well as other powerful creatures, like Daring Saboteur or, incidentally, Tilonalli's Skinshifter, that only have one point of toughness. Of course, we can always wait until post-combat when an opponent thinks the fighting is over to play this Archer and finish off a creature that would have otherwise been safe.
This Archer and its 1-point fight wouldn't be nearly so interesting, however, in a set that didn't have creatures that are best when they're dealt damage. Sometimes we can look no farther than our own side of the battlefield to find a use for Atzocan Archer's ability. Dinosaurs with enrage are a great place to point this damage, allowing us to search our library for lands, gain life, put a counter on each other creature you control, and so much more.
All of Ixalan is here, and there are cards every bit as exciting as these five out there waiting for us to draft, play, and build around. Whether you're swapping life totals at will, reveling in riches, or prodding Dinosaurs with just enough damage to enrage them, I hope you enjoy your journey through Ixalan.