The official release of Rivals of Ixalan was last week, so let’s take a look at four more cards from the set that I’m loving. In sets past, I’ve seen more obvious synergy jump out at me (beyond the obvious tribal implications). In this set, my eyes just weren’t focusing well enough to pick up on any of that, I guess. So the below cards are just ones that I think will see some play outside of Standard because of their unique advantages.
And, of course, my love for the dinosaurs is going to come out in this, so…
A destroy spell with wheels? A bear with removal? Sure, it’s in black, but it boasts a unique advantage for the mana cost in that there is no condition to the removal, like non-artifact or non-black, as that usually precedes the spell, especially on creatures. So, for 1 extra mana, you get a Murder and a 2/2. Except this guy can be flickered and participate in graveyard shenanigans. It has more value in Standard, but I can see this thing proving useful in certain Graveborn and Dimir/Esper flicker decks.
It really depends on your deck construction on whether you find this card useful. Personally, a 2/2 that can’t be damaged by combat for 3 is pretty impressive. I will admit, this card holds more promise in Standard. For only 1 more mana, Seraph of the Sword gives you 3/3 and Flying with the same ability, and it doesn’t require 2 White mana. But I always find that I’m a sucker for uncommon cards with rare-like abilities, and I think this card fits the bill. I would imagine it can find a place in human tribal decks that could put the ability to good use.
Ghalta, Primal Hunger
It was hard to picture a dinosaur legend that was going to top Ghalta when it was spoiled early. Etali managed to do that for me, but only because of the unique ability it came with. I think Ghalta is much more viable, useful and threatening in Standard, Modern and EDH. This card’s cost shrinks exponentially in many green ramp decks, and even poses a threat in Standard with cards like Wayward Swordtooth and Knight of the Stampede. On turn 4, those two cards are paying 9 of the 12 mana to cast Ghalta, and that’s if you’ve done nothing turns 1-3 to get those guys out faster. This card can be a nasty drop earlier in a match than one might think.
Forerunner of the Empire
Each tribe in this set got a Forerunner, and of course the dinos got one of the “expensive” ones in the CMC department. It’s fair enough to pay 4 to tutor a dino on top of your library, but the secondary ability is absolutely amazing. It not only can ping pesky tokens of various kinds, but, more importantly, it’s a permanent engine for the Enrage trigger many dinos run. This makes the 4 CMC much more reasonable. It’s cards like these that give Enrage a chance of being the primary mechanic in a deck, rather than simply the powerful ends of the dinosaur tribe. Of course, the adversaries are strong, as Vampires and Merfolk got a huge boost in this set as well, but I like the chances for dinos to be more viable this time around.