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By: TheWolf, Shane Garvey
Sep 19 2017 12:00pm
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Do you like Pirates? What about Dinosaurs? Can I interest you perhaps in Vampires and Merfolk? If so, do I have the Magic set for you!

Welcome to my Limited review of Ixalan, the newest Magic: the Gathering set. This article is simply my first thoughts on the set and how it will play in Limited, based on my 20+ years of playing the game. Some of this will be right, and some of it will be wrong - it's impossible to know until you have actually played with the cards - but in any case, it is a good starting point.

PICK 1, PACK 1

These are cards that can simply win you the game on their own. They are the best cards in Limited and I will always first pick them if I see them pack one. The cards I consider to be the best pick 1, pack 1 cards of Ixalan are:

 

THE PREMIUM COMMONS AND UNCOMMONS

This category of cards are ones that, when you see them, make you want to be in that colour. They are the cards that, if you see them pick 4-5 of pack 1, you can assume that no one to your right is drafting that colour. They are also useful first picks and you'd be happy to take any of these. In other words, unless there is a bomb rare, take these cards first:

 

THE GOLD UNCOMMONS

Wizards of the Coast usually put multi-coloured uncommons into a set as a sort of guide as to what the colour pairs in the Limited format should be doing. Ixalan is a little unique in that there are only eight (instead of ten) multi-coloured uncommons; white/blue and green/black do not get any. Let's have a look at them and see what they suggest the archetypes might be:

Green/white looks like it wants to be a defensive ramp deck, with high toughness creatures. Luckily, the set allows for this; card's like Kinjalli's Caller make Dinosaurs cost 1 less mana to cast, and enchantments like New Horizons ramp you quite nicely. Kinjalli's Caller is also low power/high toughness, as are cards like Ixalli's Diviner and Atzocan Archer

This card obviously promotes a Vampire theme, and there are plenty of Vampire cards in the set. There are a few important cards for this deck: Glorifier of Dusk is one, and this is a card that also finds the lifelink on a lot of the Vampires important. Bishop of the Bloodstained and Deathless Ancient are also two more payoff cards in black for this deck. All of these are uncommon, though, so this deck might not come together very often.

I'm lumping these two together as I think if you are playing blue/black you are likely to be playing another colour or three as well. Blue/black makes a lot of Treasure tokens, which in turn ramps you and/or fixes your colours. This means that I think if you are in blue/black, you are able to splash for off-colour removal and bombs. I anticipate that we will be seeing a lot of base blue/black multicolour decks.

Marauding Looter seems like it can be good in a blue/red aggro deck, but I think it would be better served tagging along with Deadeye Plunderers; there are not a lot of blue aggressive Pirates at common, so you would be relying heavily on red to get the job done.

This card can also go in with the previous two, but I also think this colour pair can stand on its own. Both of these colours have some good aggressive common Pirates, decent removal spells, the Raid mechanic, as well as cheap combat tricks. Black/red will be quite an aggro deck and I think could be quite strong, depending on how good the defensive Dinosaurs deck is.

As is pretty normal for this colour pair, red/green wants to be the beatdown "monsters' deck. The support for it is there, as well, and I think this will be the default Dinosaurs deck, more so than white/green. It's even possible we will see white being included in this, as there is enough mana fixing in green to run more than two colours. This is the deck that wants cards such as Savage Stomp and Thundering Spineback.

Next up we have the Merfolk and +1/+1 counters matter deck. There are a lot of Merfolk creatures at common and uncommon, but not a massive payoff apart from Shapers of Nature, which, to be fair, is quite a good pay off. The other big payoff for this deck comes at rare, in the form of Herald of Secret Streams: making all of your creatures with +1/+1 counters on them unblockable will tend to end games fairly quickly.

Our last gold uncommon comes in the form of a very hard to block red/white creature. This leads me to believe that this colour pair will be an aggressive one as well, much like black/red; however I think it is weaker than black/red in general. It will probably play out the same, using the cheap creatures in both colours and combat tricks to push damage through.

WHITE/BLUE AND GREEN/BLACK

What about these two colours? Should we not draft them? Well, not necessarily. Let's see if we can make something work.

The classic white/blue strategy has always been flying creatures, and this set has plenty of them at common and uncommon. This is usually a decent strategy, but Wizards of the Coast have seeded a pay off card for it in the set:

My prediction is, then, that you will be able to play this colour pair just fine. In fact, I think it might be pretty decent - the flying creatures are fine, and you also have the defensive ground creatures to hold off the opponent, which is the normal thing this deck wants to do.

So what about green/black? Well this colour pair actually shares a mechanic, explore, although there are not a lot of explore cards at common. However, there is a pay off card for it:

This is quite a powerful pay off card if you can get the pieces to work - however, unlike white/blue, I do not believe this deck will come together all that often. There are some pieces there, but I don't think there is quite enough.

CONCLUSION

There you go - my first thoughts on Ixalan Limited. The format looks good - there is a mix of aggro, ramp and multicolour decks, so hopefully something for everyone. Personally I like the look of the blue/black multicolour deck and the red/black aggro deck. Enjoy your pre-releases, and I'll hopefully be back next week with an Ixalan draft.