With the first set in the Ixalan block fully spoiled last Friday, and it being prerelease weekend, it’s time to dive into the cards to see what gems we can find that could be useful outside of Standard play. This set is begging for Dinosaur and Pirate tribal decks, but given those creature types are unusually exclusive to the set, they don’t offer much benefit in strictly Modern environments. But Modern and EDH do include Standard sets, so let’s not dismiss it altogether. I fully plan on building a dino EDH deck the second the set comes out. The 12-year old aspiring paleontologist in me is so giddy! Ahem…but that’s not relevant here…let’s take a look at a few cards:
OMG! It’s Spinosaurus!!! Right…sorry…I’ll control my inner 12-year old…This card is basically an uncommon (and weaker) version of Protean Hydra that merely has a set mana cost, Flash, and a name for the [less effective] +1/+1 counter ability. Sure, 5 CMC is rough for Standard, but that Flash is a HUGE advantage for a card like this.
Anyone familiar with playing with or against a Protean Hydra knows that it alters the strategy of the battlefield. And while slowing down the opponent’s attacks with something that grows when it’s dealt damage is great, Protean Hydra rarely grows when on the field because the opponent is too smart to come at it.
That’s where Snapping Sailback’s Flash is so useful. Opponents, particularly aggressive ones, are likely to swing with a 3/3 or smaller at some point, making this play a great momentum-swinging card. Opponent swings with a 3/3, you cast Snapping Sailback and block, bye-bye 3/3 and hello 5/5 that has the potential to grow bigger. Now you have similar (yet, admittedly, less) control of the field like that of Protean Hydra. For an uncommon, it has strategic potential.
Little baby raptor!!! It’s so awes-STOP IT, inner child! This card has abuse written all over it…If it was 1 CMC, I could see Johnnys losing their minds at the potential. The beauty of the card is the Enrage ability bypasses what this card likely would have been in, say, a Core set, which would have likely had the creature die to bring the 3/3 with Trample onto the battlefield. While that is technically true here, Magic is always about abusing “technically” in italics.
A Boros deck featuring a great deal of Indestructible-giving and damage-dealing spells could be an impressive combo to figure out with this little guy in order to make an army of raptors. Raptor Hatchling/Rile/Boros Charm…I can see it now…Sort of…But that’s just the kind of charmingly clunky kitchen table deck I like to make!
Walk the Plank
At first glance, flavor-wise, this card misses the mark. A majority of the set has portrayed humans, goblins and orcs as pirates, so why would it be removal against non-merfolk creatures? Well, because they can swim/breathe underwater…so throwing merfolk overboard isn’t a great way to invoke fear among your enemies…
The Sorcery and 2 Black mana are somewhat painful aspects to the card, but the non-merfolk factor gives this card a bump ahead in Modern over Doom Blade, Go for the Throat, and even Murder. Merfolk are far-less common in Modern than Black and Artifact Creatures, and it costs one less than Murder. The Sorcery type does kill some of its appeal, but it’s still a cheap alternative for slowing down an opponent’s field presence.
I have a hard time not seeing this card become a staple in all tribal EDH decks. It buffs creatures and provides a draw engine in colorless, which is always nice. I mean, how often are you going to play a creature of a particular type in tribal EDH? ALL THE FRICKIN’ TIME. All it’s missing is “tap for mana of any color to cast a creature of the chosen type”, and the 5 CMC is a tad expensive, but for EDH, it’s a welcome addition, especially with plenty of cheap mana-producing artifacts out there.
Vona, Butcher of Magan
Sure, paying 7 life to Vona instead of Griselbrand doesn’t sound like as much fun, but the color combination of Vona as a commander in EDH has nasty implications. Black and White combinations are notorious for high life steal/life gain. Look no further than Extort. This card could easily become a powerful alternative to Karlov of the Ghost Council, though I still favor the appeal of Karlov’s abuse under the Extort mechanic.
Vona does boast Lifelink, which is a bonus, and the “nonland permanent” aspect of the card adds a wrinkle to your opponent’s game. The Vampire creature type could be an underrated advantage over Karlov because of the potential tribal shenanigans. Unlike Griselbrand, Vona can’t make back all the life it loses for you, but it’s cheaper to play, offers more options in color combinations as a commander, and…isn’t banned.
This was our first glance at Ixalan, but we’ll take another look at the set next Friday on release day. There are plenty of fun cards to look at in this set.