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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Jan 30 2018 12:00pm
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I love this game. I love writing about it. Compiling lists about it. Evaluating it. Sometimes, I even play it. I'm an Accidental Player.

> summary <

 So, this is it, the Two-Block Paradigm is over, after just three years of service. I, for one, always thought it was an incautious move to eliminate the Core sets, i.e. a safe place where to freely reprint stuff regardless of flavor (it sounds like a silly concern, but you can't really allow your game to have a story and setting and then ignore them by including, say, a card named Avenger of Zendikar in an expansion that's set on a different plane where nobody knows what Zendikar even is, or a card named Tropical Island on a desert plane). But that's in the past now, since every new set is going to be its own self-contained world now, therefore, among other things, there won't be need to reference parent sets from the same block anymore. But there still is now, one last time (until they'll bring the small sets back in some capacity in 3 to 5 years, that is).

 For instance, stemming from Ixalan, Rivals of Ixalan is still extremely tribal-based. There are more creatures type featured than Ixalan (32 rather than 29), but the four focus tribes (Dinosaur, Pirate, Vampire, Merfolk) are still very much 80% of the set's creatures, with Dinosaur and Pirate's new additions even surpassing Human's.

 In other news, Elder is not a subset of Dragon anymore. Which means, it's now possible to build a Tribal Wars-legal deck entirely made up of Dragons and Dinosaurs. Isn't that wonderful?

 Anyway, let's have a look at the new creatures and their tribes. As always, the focus is on all the Constructed applications, the tribes are listed alphabetically, and you'll find a hypertextual list at the end.

 Infodump

  • Cards: 205 (including 9 cards only found in the planeswalker decks)
  • New cards: 184
  • New creatures: 113
  • Reprinted cards: 21
  • Reprinted creatures: 5 (Colossal Dreadmaw, Legion Conquistador, Raptor Companion, Sailor of Means, Silvergill Adept)
  • Creature types affected: 32
  • Tribes with more than 5 additions: Dinosaur (+30), Pirate (+27), Human (+26), Vampire (+19), Merfolk (+16), Soldier (+10), Knight (+9), Warrior (+7), Elder (+6), Shaman (+6)

Beast: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 345, online: 340

 Related Tribes: Horror

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Even if this guy asks for double black, and black's not a friendly color for Beasts, it's still great to have in-tribe unconditional removal. It doesn't leave behind as big a body as Skinrender, nor a battle-ready one like Nekrataal, and it doesn't have the flexibility of Shriekmaw, but there's nothing it can't naturally target and no toughness that's out of reach. So it's a good card, overall. In a vacuum, if I had to choose only one of these, I might still go with Skinrender because it kills regenerative and indestructible enemies, but Ravenous Chupacabra surely presents itself as a serious option for toolbox lists.

 By the way, chupacabras aren't ancient folklore, they're actually a recent urban legend, starting to spread since 1995. So they're actually younger than Magic, how wicked is that!


Cleric: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 353, online: 328

 Related Tribes: Vampire

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Cleric is entirely contained within the Vampire tribe. We'll meet several instances of this phenomenon: basically certain jobs are the prerogative of certain races on Ixalan, and Vamps (mimicking the real-life conquistadors they represent) are the only ones that come complete with a clergy, apparently.

 This subservient status to another tribe didn't stop Clerics to score a rare and a mythic out of only three new additions. Bishop of Binding is peculiar, because it has two mostly unrelated functions: it's a new occurrence of Fiend Hunter/Banisher Priest (with a worse body), and it's also a Vampire tribal helper. Of course the second function requires the first to have been fulfilled, but it's hard to imagine a scenario where one would cast him with no targets. It's interesting to note, though, that the boost becoming better the more powerful the exiled creature was means you'll be tempted to wait for a juicy target to show up, making the Bishop fundamentally different from his predecessors. Four mana for this kind of removal on legs are probably too many, although it could result in a large attacker on your side, considering the second ability can target the Bishop himself. Still, the Bishop remains a puny 1/1 at any other time, and has to attack to even trigger the boost, in case you wanted to apply it to something else, which exposes him to the risk of being killed in combat, and it's not what you want to do with an exiler whose survival is key to the continued removal of his target. So, the design here isn't exactly sound, is what I'm saying.

 On the other hand, Twilight Prophet is just excellent: a 2/4 flyer for 4 is already honest, but once you achieve the City's Blessing, this vampire lady is immediately launched over the top, granting you one free card per turn which doubles as a free, potentially severe Drain Life. Of course the question here is: how hard is it to fulfill the requisite of the new ascend dynamic, i.e. having ten permanents on your side of the battlefield? It's certainly not something you can aspire to reach in the early game, short of playing an affinity build, or Kobolds. It's more of a midrange, and not even exactly an automatic one unless you build expressly toward it: if by turn 5 you manage to have dropped five lands, and the permanent that's asking for ascend, you'll still need four others, which means all your draws until that point have to be permanents that drop early on. So a dedicated Ascend build seems like the way to go, populating the battlefield with permanents that all increase their power level the moment you own the coveted City's Blessing counter. Twilight Prophet is easily one of the first cards to include in such a deck.


Dinosaur: +30

   

   

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 82, online: 81

 Related Tribes: Elder

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: With all due respect to the three other main tribes, Ixalan will definitely be remembered as the Dinosaur block. They're the new, long-sought-after, cool-looking, often explosive critters that give Magic yet another flavor. And going into Rivals of Ixalan, the design team knew that the set was expected to deliver more goodies for Dino tribal, which is why the set contains another large amount of the terrible lizards (which aren't actually biologically related to lizards but, eh, that's still their name). Starting from a legendary, Titan-esque Elder cycle of five monocolored rares and one multicolored mythic, which I'll examine in detail in their sub-tribe entry, but is mostly composed by larger-than-life curve-toppers.

 Truth is, Dinosaur.dek tends to be a midrange affair in spirit, if you don't build it properly, which means including some of the great Dinosaur helpers (the Aztec-like Sun Empire Humans); cards like Kinjalli's Caller, Otepec Huntmaster, and Drover of the Mighty. And now, possibly the most decisive of all: Forerunner of the Empire (the Sun Empire/Dinosaur part of the Forerunner cycle).

 This guy contributes two invaluable abilities to a Dinosaur build: first he sets up the draw of the Dinosaur that best fits the current board state; then, he begins combo-ing with the Dinosaur signature mechanic: enrage. You see, the big fellas tend to be short-tempered, so if you poke at them, they'll angrily react doing powerful stuff like drawing you cards, fetching you lands, or even cloning themselves (yeah, they have strange ways to express anger), the latter being the shtick of the new non-Elder mythic Dinosaur, Polyraptor. Admittedly, it's not as good as the end-all Carnage Tyrant from the first set; Polyraptor costs a whopping 8 mana, has a smaller body, and no abilities whatsoever outside of the self-cloning routine. In fact, it only mostly works in conjunction with the Forerunner, but that's one heck of a combo, because as soon as you drop a Polyraptor with a Forerunner on the board, you'll immediately get another, and the new one will trigger the damage again, creating two new copies, both of which will trigger the damage once again: the first of these triggers will generate four fresh Polyraptors, but will also kill the Forerunner, so the moment you resolve the other second-generation trigger (and it's worth noting, you always have the option to decline), you won't get any new Dinos, though you can still sweep lesser creatures from the board, since at this point nothing with less toughness than Polyraptor will survive (most notably, Ripjaw Raptor will, its rage giving you four cards for its troubles). It's some crazy Timmy/Johnny times.

 Polycombo aside, Rivals of Ixalan introduces Dinosaurs of two opposing genres: some of them are over-the-top attention seekers; others try to drop fast, in order to decrease the Dino-curve without helpers. The best of the latter case is probably Siegehorn Ceratops, which hits the battlefield as a multicolored Grizzly Bears, then grows larger later one with enrage, so if you drop it with an active Forerunner, it's actually a 3/3. Whereas for the same cost (but a different color combination), Relentless Raptor is already a native 3/3 vigilant, with the downside of needing to take part in any single combat phase it witnesses. Wayward Swordtooth is similarly faster than your average Dino, although deceptively so: its role is more strategical, namely giving you one additional land drop per turn, then rewarding you later with a 5/5 beater; it looks like something more at home in a landfall deck than in an enrage deck.

 Speaking of enrage, we get several other interesting iterations of the mechanic. Silverclad Ferocidons is the ultimate application of enrage in a removal capacity, but it's way too expensive to really make sense in competitive Constructed; the mythic Trapjaw Tyrant feels perfectly playable, instead (and that's not a given with mythics), using enrage to emulate a Fiend Hunter kind of deal, except repeatable, which makes it yet another excellent companion for enrage enablers like Forerunner of the Empire or Savage Stomp. More subdued in the enrage category is Overgrown Armasaur, which however has the peculiarity of linking the Dinosaurs to the good old Saproling tokens: after all, the very first Dinosaur in the game was part Fungus.

 A mention has to go to Thrashing Brontodon, a serious contender for the title of best artifact/enchantment hater on legs in green: for the same CMC, Reclamation Sage acts right away, but the Brontodon has almost twice the body, and is Torpor Orb-proof. Granted, it has to sac itself, the same way Sylvok Replica does, but the Replica's body isn't even comparable to the Brontodon's, its only advantage now being the colorlessness (both to dribble protection, and to better splash it in non-green-based decks).

 Finally, the comically alliterated Raging Regisaur is a decent enrage enabler cum minor removal; Temple Altisaur also somehow helps with enrage, but not in a way that feels crucial; and Cherished Hatchling is a very cute, very flavorful concept, but it's predicated upon too many things going your way, or needing to be properly set up to take the most advantage of its death trigger. It also defies its purpose as a 2-drop, because at that point you won't be in a position to trade with it for value, and you probably won't spend your next turn with a 3-mana Dino in hand in the off chance the Hatchling will get itself killed.


Druid: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 157, online: 153

 Related Tribes: Human

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: The only Druid in the set tries, and fails, to improve on Drover of the Mighty, but it's still a reasonable card for Dinosaur decks, because it's flexible enough: once the mana fixing ceases to be useful (it's a bit too slow to really work as accelerator), you can instantly trade Atzocan Seer with a dead Dinosaur, which also means more Dino triggers for "Dinosaurs matter" cards, new uses for a Thrashing Brontodon or a Cherished Hatchling, and such. Not essential, but not terrible, either.


Dryad: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 34, online: 32

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Oddly enough, there's another Saproling card on Ixalan, this time in the form of a Dryad with the Verdant Force ability, which theoretically makes her one of the most powerful token generators in the game (please note it says "each upkeep"); as a 2/2 for 5, she's a bit lacking per se, then again ascend turns her two offsprings per turn into 3/3s, and that's a recipe for inevitability. Not to mention, she's a veritable star player in a Fungus deck, where, if everything goes according to plan, achieving the City's Blessing is a matter of just a few turns.


Elder: +6

  

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 16

 Related Tribes: Dinosaur

 Impact of the New Additions: Severe

 Highlights: We get some different flavors and applications for the biggest, baddest Dinosaurs in existence, now making Elder a tribe that mixes Dragon and Dinosaur, how cool is that? To be perfectly honest, though, none of these big guys feels like a new must-include finisher for ramp, reanimator or cheat-into-play builds, though all of them have at least one impressive trait.

 The monowhite one, Zetalpa, Primal Down, is the flashiest pure warrior, a 8-mana monstrosity that hits for 8 in the air, simultaneously plays defense, and is not too easy for the opponent to get rid of. All in all, it's a fearsome presence on the battlefield, but its abilities aren't particularly board-shattering: it's mostly just a big beater, and even a rarely played card like Avacyn, Angel of Hope, which is similar in many respects, comes with a higher tactical value.

 The monoblue one, Nezahal, Primal Tide (the first blue Dinosaur ever printed), also has a clear inspiration, which in its case is Pearl Lake Ancient. It's sort of a reworked version of that one: both cost 7 mana and are uncounterable, both are able to dribble removal, but the Ancient accomplishes that by returning to hand along with some lands, which forces you to cast it again; Nezahal, instead, just flickers, at the cost of a massive discard, which might nor might not be beneficial (probably not, if you're already at the stage of having a 7-mana creature on the board, but hey, maybe you're aiming to reanimate some more stuff). Also, Pearl Lake Ancient wants you to cast noncreatures spells to fuel its prowess; Nezahal wants the opponent to do it, which is less reliable, but rewards you more (i.e. with card draws). Verdict: certainly good in control builds, not overwhelmingly great.

 The monoblack one, Tertzimoc, Primal Death (the second black Dinosaur in the game, after the conversion of Scourge's Putrid Raptor), feels more generally playable than most of its brethren because it only costs Titan-mana and doubles as creature removal, albeit one that announces itself beforehands. Ramping into 6, you can certainly spare a couple of black mana the turn before, so your Tertzimoc will drop as a super-powered Nekrataal. The board presence this process leaves behind is not especially relevant (why oh why do they keep giving deathtouch to big bodies?), but it's pretty decent for its cost.

 The monored one, Etali, Primal Storm, is also in the Titan range, and has an extremely powerful attack trigger that gives you up to two free spells per turn, and even those that didn't immediately have a target aren't wasted, because you're still allowed to play them during one of the next attacks (of course you'll never get to use that Counterspell). This needs for Etali to stay around a while, whereas not even its first trigger is actually guaranteed, and otherwise it doesn't impact the board in any meaningful way.

 The monogreen one, Ghalta, Primal Hunger, is simply Dinosaur's Khalni Hydra. That doesn't sound too exciting, but Ghalta is larger than the Hydra, and easier to cast for little mana: you just need to go turn-2 Drover of the Mighty into turn-3 Ripjaw Raptor (classic Dinosaur.dek move), and that's it, you're casting Ghalta for 5 mana next turn. And sure, in the end it's just a big French vanilla beater, but, you know, facing a 12/12 trampler on turn 4 is worrisome enough. Plus, decks that routinely cheat-into-play stuff like Progenitus or Metalwork Colossus might even consider Ghalta as a 2-mana follow up.

 The mythic Naya one, Zacama, Primal Calamity, looks like some Timmy dream. It requires 9 mana, which is usually way beyond what you want to cast competitively; but then it gives all that mana back and then some, Palinchron style. I'm not sure if that makes it any more playable, as unlike Palinchron (and Cloud of Faeries and Great Whale and such), the untapping doesn't happen if you don't hardcast it, so we're still looking at a ramp deck here, which I guess is fine, considering what Zacama immediately brings to the table at that point: if you had at least 9 mana from lands available on the battlefield, then you'll activate one or more of its abilities three times right away, resulting in a lot of removal, or life, or both. Zacama itself is also a nice combination of offense and tactical defense, so at the end of the day, it belongs in the category "deal with it right now or die", which means either the opponent finds removal fast, or they're likely doomed, more so than with any of the fellow Elder Dinosaurs, including Zetalpa, and even Ghalta.

 Flavor note: only three of these guys come with flavor text, and those texts all sound like placeholder stuff that never got replaced with something more meaningful. They're bad flavor texts, is what I'm saying. A consequence of MaRo not being involved in the set?


Elemental: +2

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 378, online: 371

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: The RIX Elementals are pretty forgettable, but at least they aptly represent Ixalan's Amazon-like environment, embodying distinctive features like jungle and rapids. That's pretty much the full extent of what I've got to say about them.


Goblin: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 306, online: 292

 Related Tribes: Pirate

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: On the Ixalan plane, Goblins only exist as Pirates. Let me rephrase that: Goblins only exist as Pirate filler. They even made sure Fanatical Firebrand wasn't a strictly better Mogg Fanatic, by turning him into an almost pointless Mogg Fanatic ripoff that can't attack and sac himself in the same turn. To add insult to injury, he also looks like a monkey.


Golem: +2

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 100

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Going by collector number, Golden Guardian is the 100th Golem in the game. Which is a good thing, because Awakened Amalgam might have an intriguing rule text, but in reality, it's likely going to be something like a 4/4 vanilla for 4 at best. And while this is what Golden Guardian also is, and unable to attack even, its transform mechanic is really fascinating. So the point is: you have to kill it with one of your other creatures. That's not too easy, unless you use some small deathtouch dude; ideally, you'd want to assign the fighting job to at least a 4/5, in order not to lose any resource to the process, so Ripjaw Raptor seems like the perfect candidate, because you'd also net an extra card. The reward to the whole effort is an amazing 2-mana-producing land that creates 4/4s for 5 mana. So it's kinda worth it, even if it's not exactly a card that feels necessary in any specific kind of deck, so I'm not sure if it'll ever see play. But at least it's a good way for a tribe to celebrate its 100th member.


Griffin: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 39

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: Look, if you have the City's Blessing, this guy is pretty good, even worthy of removal on sight. That's not something you can say for many uncommon Griffins, I'm afraid.


Harpy: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 7

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: This rule text reads like a poor version of Resplendent Griffin. It costs more, grows only occasionally. Unless, of course, you don't combo it up with some recursive stuff. But we're still talking of something that happens later on, once you've fulfilled the ascend requisite. Then again, it's not like Harpies have such an amazing lineup, you know. Beggars can't be choosers.


Horror: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 188, online: 187

 Related Tribes: Beast

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Our Chupacabra Beast works even better as a Horror, because it's in their more typical color, and they can use good midrange members.


Horse: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 25, online: 20

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Working hard to become a 5/5 for 4 is the kind of low-level aspiration a sad tribe like Horse can relate to. I mean, it used to be amazing... circa 1995.


Human: +26

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 2033, online: 1845

 Related Tribes: Druid, Knight, Pirate, Shaman, Soldier, Warrior, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: Irrelevant

 Highlights: Ixalan Humans are either Pirates or Dinosaur helpers; and while the latter mostly only works within Dinosaur tribal decks, there's some general Human goodness that can work anywhere, most notably Dire Fleet Daredevil, aka the reverse Snapcaster Mage. More on him later.


Knight: +9

  

 

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 219, online: 202

 Related Tribes: Human, Vampire

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Aside from the non-cost-effective Dinosaur accelerator Knight of the Stampede, Knight is a job/title that in Ixalan is closely associated with the Vampire conquistadors. A few of them are strictly "Vampires matter" cards (which I'll cover in the Vampire entry), but there's a lifegaining theme, too. In particular, Famished Paladin looks like a good addition to Soul Sisters builds, where it'll essentially be a 3/3 for 2. Less convincing is to me the rare Paladin of Atonement: he starts small, then grows when you lose life, then gives some of that life back when he dies, which means exiling him makes the whole endeavor moot, and the process isn't exactly lightning-quick anyway. I think I prefer the recursive Oathsworn Vampire, then: he also fears exilers, but in the right deck, he can be a pain in the butt in the same mold as cards like Gravecrawler or Bloodsoaked Champion.

 The legendary mythic Elenda, the Dusk Rose is better in Vampire tribal decks, but still strong on her own: the bunch of 1/1 lifelinkers you get is useful regardless of their tribal affiliation. Still, I'm not sure she's worth 4 mana, since, similarly to Paladin of Atonement, she starts her journey with a truly unimpressive body and it takes a lot of time and effort (or some very specific combo) to turn her into a threat.


Lizard: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 45, online: 42

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Behold! The living proof that Dinosaurs are definitely not related to Lizards!


Merfolk: +16

   

  

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 195, online: 192

 Related Tribes: Scout, Shaman, Warrior, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Ixalan marks the moment Merfolk branched into green (pun intended?), and RIX adds even more fuel to the forest fire (all right, that's just reaching now). First of all, we have a straightforward 2-drop lord in Merfolk Mistbinder, because if there's something Merfolk really needed, it's the umpteenth linear lord. Which is further complemented by other strong early drops like the simply unblockable Mist-Cloaked Herald, to double down on Kumena's Speaker as turn-1 action ready to get boosted, and Deeproot Elite, bringing some Champion of the Parish/Thalia's Lieutenant tech to the Merfolk (their Forerunner attempts that, too, but it's just too expensive for their curve). And turn 3 has Jungleborn Pioneer now, which is actually two Merfolks, one of which with hexproof, because why not?

 But wait, there's even more lords, and more sophisticated: Seafloor Oracle is the Merfolk's Edric, Spymaster of Trest (except even better in multiplayer because he only helps you), and Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca is the playable legendary mythic that his mentor Tishana wasn't. Honestly, I don't see how well Kumena plays into a deck whose strategy mainly amounts to turning your team sideways as soon and as much as possible; will a Merfolk player ever have three untapped Merfolks, let alone five? But I guess he still offers a great cost/body ratio, and it's easy to make him unblockable, so all in all the spots he currently occupies in Standard Merfolk are deserved; in Modern, probably; in Legacy, probably not.

 Jadelight Ranger is another strong 3-drop, and not just for Merfolk builds: the double explore means she'll either be a 4/3 (which is easy to accomplish if the first card is not a land and you don't want to get rid of it), or will draw you two lands, or will be a 3/2 and draw you one land. Less clear is how World Shaper is supposed to be played: self-mill, then find a way to kill him and get all the lands back from the graveyard at once. Massive landfall trigger? Seems like a challenge for Johnnies.


Orc: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 49

 Related Tribes: Pirate

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: While not as bad as the Goblins, Orcs still make for lesser Pirates. I guess Fathom Fleet Boarder is playable as a 3/3 for 3 in Pirate builds. Angrath's Ambusher is notable for being one of the cards exclusive of the planeswalker decks, belonging to the established sub-genre of creatures that care for the presence of the planeswalker the deck is built around.


Phoenix: +1

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 16

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: This latest version of the eternal Phoenix routine is currently the most expensive card in the set. And you can see how Rekindling Phoenix is indeed the best Phoenix ever printed, because, unlike all the others, her recursion doesn't require mana nor a specific condition: you just have to make sure that 0/1 token doesn't get killed; if it doesn't (and of course if the Phoenix herself didn't get exiled), then your flaming owl is automatically back, immediately ready to attack. So worst case scenario, the opponent will need two cards to get rid of your Phoenix. Unless of course there's a pinger on the board, in which case, maybe wait before committing the Phoenix to the battlefield. The only slight flaw is that she can't attack the turn she first drops, because only the reincarnations have haste; I imagine she tested a little too powerful with native haste.


Pirate: +27

   

   

   

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 86, online: 76

 Related Tribes: Goblin, Human, Orc, Shapeshifter, Siren, Wizard

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Pirate is for all intents and purposes a new tribe introduced by Ixalan; all their previous instances have a negligible impact on the tribe the way it's been shaped by the new additions (the same goes for most of the pre-existing creatures that have been turned, or turned back, into Dinosaurs). The thing about Pirate tribal, though, is that it's not easy to decide which color should be more prevalent. Blue Pirates brings evasion and control, black Pirates provides disruption and treasure tokens, and red Pirates attack faster. Case in point: Warkite Marauder is a nicely costed 2-powered flyer that also negates one of the opponent's blockers (while making easier for red spells to kill it). Whereas Daring Buccaneer is one of those 1-drop 2/2s so coveted by fast aggro builds. And Stormfleet Sprinter puts together the best of both worlds: an early unblockable beater with haste.

 Red's most crucial contribution to the piracy field is actually Dire Fleet Daredevil, which is almost a color-shifted Snapcaster Mage, working on our opponent's graveyard rather than ours. This description should already make clear it's one of the best cards in the set, even if, in typical red fashion, it's more unpredictable than Snappy, since you always know what spells you run in your deck, but you never know what you'll find in the other graveyard. Also, he doesn't have flash: first strike as a replacement makes him deadlier on the battlefield, but the element of surprise is lost.

 In a strange turn of event, it's black that got flash in the form of Dire Fleet Poisoner (Dire Fleet looks like the crew to join lately). She works as a roundabout removal in two different ways: either you cast her defensively to catch an attacker by surprise with her deathtouch; or you drop her in your own combat phase, providing one of her blocked teammates with the same lethal poison. In either case, she's a very cost-effective Bear, and one of only five monoblack creatures with flash (one of the others was Bloodcrazed Paladin from Ixalan, anyway, so it's really a new design space being explored). Black Pirates from Rivals of Ixalan also include their member of the Forerunner cycle, whose second ability is a good, not great triggered loss of life; and the very specific hater Dinosaur Hunter.

 Blue Pirates complete their ranks with two peculiar entries: the waste of a mythic Timestream Navigator, a convoluted attempt at Time Walk; and the rare Crafty Cutpurse, which steals tokens if you catch them the turn they're being created. I guess it's meant as a sideboard card against Dark Depths. It's not flavorfully clear what makes the token creatures easier to get robbed – or actually kidnapped? So the tokens represent the valuables he steals from the player? (Yeah, that doesn't really apply to Marit Lage. Or the offsprings of Worldspine Wurm and Wurmcoil Engine, for that matter). Also, how is he a pirate at all? He's just ambushing people into the woods, like any landlubber highwayman.


Scout: +3

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 125, online: 118

 Related Tribes: Merfolk

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: The twice-exploring Jadelight Ranger is a brilliant new member of the Scout family; the other two are more Merfolk than Scout, although Jungleborn Pioneer is good value in general. By the way, I feel like all the Forerunners should have been Scouts. Isn't scouting ahead what they're actually doing? Except, they find fellow tribesmembers rather than new lands or information about the enemy, so I don't exactly know what they're supposed to represent.


Shaman: +6

  

  

> summary <

 New Tribal Total: 349, online: 343

 Related Tribes: Human, Merfolk

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Just like Scout, Shaman is a job for Merfolk on Ixalan, so most of these are strictly "Merfolks matter" cards like Kumena and Merfolk Mistbinder. The only exception is the Human Tilonalli's Summoner, which creates a bunch of 1/1s upon attacking, and she's stronger with the City's Blessing, because then the tokens won't have an expire date, but still solid otherwise; plus those tokens have a good chance to push you past the ascend threshold right away. Of course, the question is: how many attacks a 1/1 can actually withstand? Probably not many, is the answer. But if timed right, the Summoner might well be the thing you use as a one-time suicide attacker that gets you the City's Blessing.


Shapeshifter: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 79, online: 77

 Related Tribes: Pirate

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Enter the raid variant of Clone. It's interesting that, in a pinch, you can just use it as a Gray Ogre.


Siren: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 13

 Related Tribes: Pirate

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Well, considering raid isn't hard to fulfill in an aggro deck, this Siren is functionally a 3/2 flyer for 3. I imagine it's a strong pick in Limited.


Snake: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 76, online: 69

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: A blue Snake? Which is merely a filler common flyer featuring a boring instance of the set's mechanic? Are we sure this wasn't supposed to be a Drake and they made a typo when they wrote it down?


Soldier: +10

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 600, online: 540

 Related Tribes: Human, Vampire

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium to High

 Highlights: A few top-notch Soldiers this time around, kind of the opposite of what happened on the first set. First we have the very powerful red Forerunner, which however is strictly a "Dinosaurs matter" card. But here's three cracking early drops as a consolation: Dusk Legion Zealot is the Soldier (and Vampire) Elvish Visionary, which is always a good trick to have up one tribe's sleeve (of course being black, he comes with a signature loss of life); Martyr of Dusk is an improved, if slightly more expensive, Doomed Traveler; and Everdawn Champion is a solid 3-drop immune to combat damage, so she can swing and block to her heart's content.

 Among the others, Vraska's Conquistador is only worth mentioning as a Vraska planeswalker deck exclusive: apparently, Vraska managed to convert some Vampires to the Pirate Coalition's cause.


Sphinx: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 43

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: I like when several mythics of a set are given to tribes that are only featured on one card and don't actually have much to do with anything, like that Phoenix and this Sphinx. I'm not even sure Mesoamerican and South American Sphinges are a thing (actually, I'm pretty sure they're not), but they don't look too wrong. Plus, the flavor tells us that Azor, the Lawbringer was once a Planeswalker from Ravnica (his name could have given it away), and is actually the one responsible for the Planeswalkers not being able to leave Ixalan. Anyway, Azor does two high-profile things: one is preventing the opponent from casting instants and sorceries the turn after he hits the battlefield, which is something I can't decide how much powerful it actually is, but it sort of ensures Azor will probably survive at least another turn, therefore will perform at least one attack, triggering his second ability and allowing you to cast Sphinx's Revelation, which is a big deal. Being a 6/6 flyer, he's certainly not afraid to attack, so the card advantage and lifegain will quickly grow out of control if Azor is left unchecked for too long.


Spirit: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 429, online: 424

 Related Tribes: Vampire

 Impact of the New Additions: Null

 Highlights: Man, if they had to include the very peculiar concept of the Vampire conquistadors somehow bringing ghost vampires along with them in their forced colonization, they could have at least used it for something that wasn't just a meaningless French vanilla filler. And what should a ghost vampire even be? I know there were Vampire Spirits in the game already, most notably Bloodghast, but if you think about it, vampires are already undead; what, then they die again, and come back again, this time as ghosts? Does this make them undead squared?


Vampire: +19

  

  

  

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 New Tribal Total: 203, online: 193

 Related Tribes: Cleric, Knight, Soldier, Spirit

 Impact of the New Additions: High

 Highlights: Soldiers Dusk Legion Zealot and Martyr of Dusk make for excellent early drops in Vampire decks, too, while Clerics Bishop of Binding and Twilight Prophet remain unconvincing and must-play, respectively.

 And then come the Vampire Knights, starting with a Vampire linear lord, Legion Lieutenant, and their Forerunner, which is the weakest of the lot. Legendary mythic Elenda, the Dusk Rose is not entirely exciting, as already noted, but strictly "Vampires matter" dude Champion of Dusk is, doing a take on Gray Merchant of Asphodel where you draw a bunch of cards in stead of taking the opponent's life, and it might prove even more lethal.


Wall: +1

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 New Tribal Total: 117, online: 96

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: A perfectly fine, colorless Wall that leaves a treasure token behind once it finished slowing down the opponent's assault. It's more or less a perfect example of what Walls should be.


Warrior: +7

   

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 New Tribal Total: 609, online: 590

 Related Tribes: Human, Merfolk

 Impact of the New Additions: Low

 Highlights: Not a lot of good stuff for Warriors. Mist-Cloaked Herald is good for Merfolk builds, probably not so much for Warrior builds, seeing how they rarely use blue. The other is fluff, mostly. "Can't be blocked by Dinosaurs"? Yeah, constructed decks are really taking notice of that.


Wizard: +3

  

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 New Tribal Total: 624, online: 601

 Related Tribes: Human, Merfolk, Pirate

 Impact of the New Additions: Medium

 Highlights: Wizards get a bizarre Pirate mythic (which however is still a mythic), an impressive Merfolk lord (which of course doesn't do much for Wizard tribal, although it might incorporate other Merfolks), and Riverwise Augur, whose whole deal is doing a Brainstorm ETB trigger; it's a strong ETB trigger, but 4 mana might be at least one too many. I blame the uncommonality.


SUMMARY

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THE FORERUNNERS
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KUMA'S TRIBAL EVALUATIONS