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By: olaw, Oliver Law
Sep 19 2017 12:00pm
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Hello!

Welcome to the first Modern Musings for some time!  I've been out of the game somewhat but finally got a new laptop so I am starting to get back into playing more Modern again.  The format has changed quite a bit since I was playing more frequently with some bans and interesting new additions such as Fatal Push.

I thought I would start off with a set review for the new set Ixalan.  A bizarre world with pirates, airships, merfolk, dinosaurs and vampires.

THE CARDS

White


Adanto Vanguard
A solid aggressive 2-drop with the power to protect itself, though at the fairly princely sum of 4 life.  I think this is a pretty decent beater and the ability to pour life into the Vanguard may make it a useful combo piece if you are looking to activate Fateful Hour, make a big Death's Shadow or have some other combo in mind.


Ashes of the Abhorrent
A fairly powerful graveyard hate card.  It turns off Flashback and various other things, however, interestingly it doesn't prevent reanimation spells like Unburial Rites or Claim/Fame.

It also has the upside of giving you some incidental life gain which is better than what you get from a card like Rest in Peace.  However, I think Rest in Peace is a much safer option as it empties the graveyard as it comes in and exiles cards thereafter meaning your opponent cannot simply destroy it and then do whatever degenerate thing they were planning.


Kinjalli's Caller
A pretty decent cost-reducer that is a one-drop that also makes a decent Wall against smaller attackers.  I doubt there are enough Modern playable Dinosaurs to make this a playable but it's still pretty good.


Kinjalli's Sunwing
A decent-sized flyer with an ability that can really hamper aggressive decks.  I think at 3-mana it is probably a bit slow for Modern but it fits into the Death & Taxes-style mold of creature.


Legion Conquistador
Squadron Hawk the Gray Ogre edition!  You draw 3 cards when you cast it but all of those cards will be 3-mana 2/2s.  Like Hawk it works with Martyr of Sands but just so much worse than Hawk.

Legion’s LandingAdanto, the First Fort
Legion's Landing/Adanto, the First Fort
Part of an exciting cycle of legendary enchantments that can transform into a powerful Legendary Land.  Legion's Landing is the cheapest of the bunch and pretty powerful.  Making a 1/1 Vampire token with lifelink for 1-mana is perfectly good value.  It then transforms when you attack with 3 or more creatures, boosting your available mana while also giving you a repeatable token creator for a long game.

Seems very solid for token decks/Soul Sisters but those aren't decks that see much play these days.  Really solid card though and I think the ramp element of transforming this early could make it even more powerful than it looks.
 


Settle the Wreckage
This is a really interesting removal spell.  I think it is probably too expensive for Modern but it does have some interesting applications in the format.  The lack of basics in most Modern decks means the drawback on this card isn't huge.  It also potentially allows you to kill huge swathes of creatures with one card if your opponent has a huge board.  Splinter Twin is no longer a thing but this can also be a counter to an attack from an infinite number of tokens, though I guess that situation doesn't come up  as often these days.  The ability to blank your opponent's combat and live for at least one more turn is pretty great.


Tocatli Honor Guard
Torpor Orb has found a body and a decent-sized one at that.  There are a lot of powerful ETB effects around in Modern, including Snapcaster Mage, Primeval Titan and Thought-Knot Seer.  However, it's probably fair to say that they aren't as prevalent as they were when Birthing Pod was legal and Restoration Angel was more prevalent than it is in today's metagame.

There is also the question of what type of deck this fits in.  Again, it seems like a Death & Taxes-type creature but actually the Modern Eldrazi & Taxes decks abuse ETB effects more than most other decks, with the assistance of Flickerwisp and Eldrazi Displacer.  As such it is actually a better card against the deck that it is in it.  Additionally, it could fit in the Collected Company decks but that is also potentially counterproductive as it turns off Eternal Witness and the like.

I'm not sure if there is really a home for this at the moment but in the right metagame it could be a good sideboard card.

Blue


Arcane Adaptation
This is essentially a reprint of Conspiracy but with a much cheaper price tag and obviously in Blue (which feels like a more appropriate segment of the colour pie).  A key difference though is that Conspiracy replaces the creature type of your creatures with the chosen creature type whereas Adaptation makes the creatures gain the creature type 'in addition to their other types'.  I imagine there are a lot of crazy combos that can be achieved with this card but nothing game breaking as far as I'm aware.  Turntimber Ranger can make infinite tokens with an infinitely large Ranger if you choose 'Ally' as the creature type but that was the best combo I could find with a quick search.


Chart a Course
This is a very powerful draw spell.  At worst it's a discount Catalog, well a sorcery speed Catalog, and at best it's a 2-mana Divination.  The price you have to pay to make it at it's best is to attack, which isn't a tall order but makes this less of a Control card than it otherwise might be.  Two-mana to draw 2 cards is just an insanely good deal though so this could see play in a lot of decks.

Blue aggro isn't the most common archetype in Modern these days though there are plenty of Ux decks.  Also, Delver of Secrets decks have fallen out of fashion but this is the kind of card that could repopularise the archetype.  Good draw in the form of Treasure Cruise made it the best deck in the format until the ban.  I don't think Chart a Course is on the power level of Treasure Cruise but it still seems very good.


Entrancing Melody
This is a really interesting card.  Threads of Disloyalty was once a sideboard card that saw some play for the purpose of stealing opposing Tarmogoyfs among other things.  Entrancing Melody is better than Threads in that it cannot be undone with a disenchant effect or Abrupt Decay and that you can take control of more expensive creatures with sufficient mana.  However, it does cost an extra mana to steal a 2-mana creature.  As Mind Control cards go this a pretty powerful one.


Jace, Cunning Castaway
A 3-mana Jace sounds pretty exciting.  However, after taking a closer look at this one I am less excited.  This Jace is bizarrely token focused, I guess he is tapping into the Clone element of the Blue colour pie.  Let's break down his abilities:

  • His +1 is pretty dismal.  If a creature you control deals damage to a player then you get to loot.  That's a few too many hoops to jump through to loot for my liking.
  • His -2 is more interesting.  Generating tokens is a powerful ability and a way to protect your walker for future turns.  However, -2 means Jace is only left with one loyalty and he doesn't tick up nearly as fast.  That's not to mention that the tokens he generates are vulnerable to any repeatable target effects.
  • His ultimate is -5 and generates two additional copies of Jace.  Ultimately, that isn't all that exciting really - certainly won't win you the game on the spot which you would want given the effort involved.  It is an interesting introduction to the Planeswalker rule change though which now means Planeswalker cards are treated the same way as Legendary cards and so you can now have multiple copies of a different Jace planeswalker cards on the battlefield at once and the same goes for the other walkers.

But for funny antics with Doubling Season and the like I think this Jace is a bit of a dud.


Kopala, Warden of Waves
Kopala is an interesting addition to the Merfolk tribe.  It does a fairly good impression of Kira, Great Glass-Spinner who has been a prominent card in Modern Merfolk decks for some time.  Unfortunately, Kopala isn't a straight tribal upgrade of Kira and I am unsure whether Kopala will push out Kira.

The main benefit of Kopala is that as a Merfolk it gets the benefits of your Lord buffs and the other tribal synergies of the Merfolk deck.  The lack of tribal synergies is one of the worst elements of running Kira in your deck.  However, Kira is far better at protecting your creatures as it counters the first spell or ability targeted at any of your creatures (also including non-Merfolk such as Smuggler's Copter - which Kopala doesn't cover).  This often means your opponent will need to burn two removal spells to get rid of any of your creatures, including Kira.  Kopala on the other hand merely taxes the opponent with an additional cost.  The thing in Modern is that as removal is generally very cheap, spending 3-mana on my Lightning Bolt or Fatal Push is taxing but often not the end of the world.  I would much rather spend two extra mana to kill your creature than spend an extra card.

I think it's a tough debate about which card is actually better in the deck.  If you have a bunch of Lords in play Kopala is a much better threat than Kira and if your opponent is strained on mana then he/she can be just as effective as Kira.  However, in terms of actually giving protection to your creatures Kira has the better ability.  A tough call.



Opt

First printed in Invasion, Opt is a very solid cantrip and now available in Modern. I think Serum Visions, Sleight of Hand and Thought Scour are the top cantrips in Modern, with Ponder, Preordain and most recently Gitaxian Probe being banned.  I'm not fully convinced it's much better than the existing options but it is definitely something that is worth looking at.  Instant speed is quite a big deal.

Search for AzcantaAzcanta, the Sunken Ruin
Search for Azcanta/Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin
Search for Azcanta is probably the easiest to transform of this cycle as you just need to get seven cards into your graveyard.  Also, a two-mana enchantment that allows you to do a pseudo-Scry each upkeep is not awful.  Azcanta then is a land, which is decent ramp if you can flip it early, and then has an ability that allows you to fish through your deck for spells.  The ability is costly but great if you are looking for a particular spell or just playing a long game.

This card has a lot of potential.  As I say, if you can flip it on Turn Three then you have cast a Rampant Growth but for something far better than a basic land.  Realistically though, even in Modern where filling up your graveyard is relatively easy, I think it's going to difficult to immediately transform Search for Azcanta.  Fetch, Thought Scour, Fetch, Search for Azcanta and dumping your top card in the graveyard only gets you to 6 so this may be too slow for more traditional decks.  Additionally, unless you are a slower or more controlling style deck I don't think Azcanta is worth the effort.

My initial reaction was this card would be pretty great in the Taking Turns/Time Walk deck.  Before it transforms it can help you pseudo-Scry to your Time Walk effects and thereafter Azcanta can further help you further sift through your deck to help you chain extra turns.

Black

Arguel’s Blood FastTemple of Aclazotz
Arguel's Blood Fast/Temple of Aclazotz
The Black transform enchantment is looking for you to go low on life.  This seems very fitting given the prevalence of Death's Shadow in the current metagame.  However, the reward is slightly unusual.  Temple is a good card and a nice sacrifice outlet and life gain option.  It could be very useful to sacrifice Death's Shadow to keep you in the game but playing a slightly underpowered enchantment to get there does not seem quite worth it.

With Wall of Blood and a card like Sanguine Bond there is a lethal combo but that seems like a lot of work.  Not a bad card but I cannot see a good home for it.

Bloodcrazed Paladin
Bloodcrazed Paladin
I don't really know if it has a place in Modern but this is a nice design for a card.  A vampire that flashes in and feeds on the corpses of the dead is very flavourful.  A great follow up to a board wipe.  It's also a Knight for those trying to build Knight tribal.

Kitesail Freebooter
Kitesail Freebooter
Tidehollow Sculler is a card that sees some play in Modern in Death & Taxes decks.  Kitesail Freebooter has some advantages and disadvantages over Sculler.  As a 1/2 flyer it's evasiveness means it is perhaps easier to attack with than Sculler.  It's also not an artifact creature which means it won't die to Shatter effects.   It also has less difficult colour requirements and is a Human for which there is a lot of tribal support.  It is, however, a less powerful creature on the ground and a less good blocker.  However, the most important part is that it's not able to take creature cards which is substantially worse.

Not as good as Sculler but a good card.


Vicious Conquistador
A upgrade on Pulse Tracker unless you are playing Rogues thanks to an additional toughness.  Not sure if that makes it playable in what classes as a Modern Vampires decks but there you go.


Wanted Scoundrels
A powerful two-drop but which a pretty substantial drawback when it dies ramping your opponent's mana substantially.  I think there are better cheap aggressive options in Modern without this very dangerous drawback.

Red


Captivating Crew
A decent-sized creature with the very interesting ability of being able to repeatedly Threaten.  It's pretty powerful if you get it going and and particularly when combined with sacrifice effects.  It is probably a bit too expensive and a bit too vulnerable to Lightning Bolt for Modern but a cool design.


Fiery Cannonade
Kozilek's Return has seen some play in sideboards recently in Modern.  Cannonade is a very similar card provided you are not running Eldrazi, and obviously there is a bonus if you happen to playing any Pirates.


Makeshift Munitions
Goblin Bombardment is a very powerful card and Makeshift Munitions does a pretty decent impression of it.  It has the advantage of allowing you to also sacrifice artifacts but unfortunately has the fairly substantial set back of costing 1-mana per activation.  I think the mana required prevents this card from being too insane but it's interesting to note how close it is to Goblin Bombardment.


Rampaging Ferocidon
Sulfuric Vortex is not Modern legal and so there aren't too many good life gain hate cards in Modern.  Rampaging Ferocidon is actually one of the better ones and also hates on Collected Company style decks that are looking to drop numerous creatures while being a decent-sized creature.  It's too expensive to fit into Modern Burn but it could find a home in sideboards in the right environment.


Rigging Runner
A solid 1-drop but obviously not one you want to play on Turn 1.  Notably it's a Goblin which means it could fit into a Goblin tribal deck.  It's substantially better than Goblin Cohort in most circumstances, which is a card that has seen play in Goblin decks.  Another very solid 1-drop for Goblins.

Vance’s Blasting CannonsSpitfire Bastion
Vance's Blasting Cannons/Spitfire Bastion
Outpost Siege actually saw a bit of play in Modern for a time as a card draw engine for red decks.  Vance's Blasting Cannons is a Siege without the lesser used Dragons option but the possibility to Transform into a very dangerous land.  Spitfire Bastion is a very dangerous land that can burn out the opponent or deal with opposing creatures.  Unfortunately I think as a most expensive card in this cycle it's less useful as ramp and perhaps a bit slow generally.  Also, casting three spells late in a turn late in the game (even though the Cannons do help in this regard) can be a bit of an ask by that stage of the game.

Green


Commune with Dinosaurs
Ancient Stirrings is a staple of Tron decks and has also seen play in Eldazi decks as a way of hunting down an Eldrazi Temple.  Commune with Dinosaurs has less value than Stirrings unless you are running a good number of Dinosaurs, however, multiple one-mana ways to search deep into your library for lands may held further enable land-based combo decks.  Not sure Tron really wants this but it certainly has potential.


Growing Rites of Itlimoc/Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun
Gaea's Cradle is one of the more absurd land cards ever printed in terms of its mana producing abilities.  Itlimoc is actually better than Gaea's Cradle but there is quite a lot more work in getting it on the board.  Growing Rites is a bit expensive at 3-mana  but does replace itself with a creature from your top 4 cards all being well.  The flip isn't easy either needing 4 creatures in play but Growing Rites does transform on your end step so you can flip it on the same turn you cast it.

Very abusable in a Elves or a similar strategy which can also ramp into Rites to make it more effective.  Four creatures on board though can be very difficult.  Potentially very powerful but I think the dials might have been notched in the right places to make this well-balanced for Modern.


Kumena's Speaker
A 1-mana 2/2 is more powerful than the usual one-drop of Cursecatcher in Merfolk.  A more aggressive option for the deck but one that does require you to go into a second colour.  The green merfolk in this set may allow a Simic Merfolk deck to be built. 

Whether it is worth it we will see but Speaker is a decent start.  Green also gives access to Collected Company which is an interesting option for the deck.


Old-Growth Dryads
A one-mana 3/3 is pretty powerful but giving your opponent a free Rampant Growth is a high price to pay.  Wild Nacatl is a far better card that really only sees limited play.  I think the drawback here is sadly too big to overcome even in the basic light Modern format.

Pounce
Pounce
Instant-speed fighting.  There are far better removal spells in other colours but as far as green removal goes this is pretty decent.


Ripjaw Raptor
A really solid 4-drop with the potential to draw you cards.  Tough to kill and a good blocker and attacker.  Nothing spectacular but just a really good card.

Shapers’ Sanctuary
Shaper's Sanctuary
Potentially a good sideboard in a creature heavy deck when playing against a deck with a lot of targeted removal.

Multi-Coloured


Gishath, Sun's Avatar
A fairly sweet reanimation target if there are enough powerful Dinosaur cards to support it.  I doubt it would ever be better than Griselbrand or the other options but it would definitely be cool to Goryo's Vengeance this guy on turn 2 then look at your top seven and drop a ton of huge Dinosaurs onto the battlefield.


Hostage Taker
Bizarrely WOTC managed to print this so it was immediately broken as it can target itself and create an infinite loop.  Fortunately they are on to it and errata is going to fix it so it cannot target itself.  Beyond it's broken version I don't think this is a very exciting card for Modern.


Huatli, Warrior Poet
Meet Huatli, the newest member of the Planeswalker crew.  By day she is a knight who rides dinosaurs and by night she likes to put together rhyming couplets.  Yes, she's a poet and thankfully we all know it.  I guess the poetry writing is the white orderly contribution to her colour pairing.

At 5-mana Huatli is expensive for a planeswalker but let's take a look at her abilities:

  • Her +2 is a potentially powerful life gain effect but needs the support of creatures.  Obviously if you have no creatures on board then you gain nothing from this which is a bit of a problem.
  • The +0 is solid.  Huatli can make a solid stream of 3/3 trampling dinosaurs which is pretty nice and a good way to protect her.
  • Huatli's ultimate is not very ultimate, a -X that allows you to deal X damage divided as you choose.  5-mana for Arc Lightning is definitely a poor deal.  It's obviously useful to have a removal element but this could certainly be better.

I think unfortunately Huatli's applications are strictly Standard based.  I cannot see her making an impact on Modern.

Regisaur Alpha
Regisaur Alpha
One of the more pushed cards in the set in terms of power level.  7 power and toughness for 5 mana is pretty good, not to mention one of those bodies is a 3/3 trampler with haste and all your other Dinosaurs get haste.  Excellent in multiples and can be abused with blink effects.  I think this will be a real powerhouse in Standard.  In Modern, it's still a solid creature but I think Dinosaur tribal has a way to go and decks don't really 5-drops these days.  There was a time when you would find Thundermaw Hellkite and Baneslayer Angel in Modern lists but those days seem to be gone for now. 

Vraska, Relic Seeker
Vraska, Relic Seeker
The newest Vraska is very expensive at 6-mana and I think that excludes it from Modern play.  If you think of it as a double Putrefy it's certainly not a bad card but I can't see this as a Modern playable.

Artifact

Sentinel Totem
Sentinel Totem
Another graveyard hate artifact to compete with Relic of Progenitus and Tormod's Crypt.  Sentinel Totem falls somewhere between the two in terms of cost and additional value.  I think Relic is still the best available option but this gives another option that you don't need to keep a mana open for to empty the graveyard.


Sorcerous Spyglass
There are a lot of cards that are similar in type to this, including Pithing Needle and Phyrexian Revoker.  Spyglass has the distinct advantage of actually letting you take a peek at your opponent's hand before taking your pick.  This information could do a lot to inform your decision about what card to name if you have multiple options.  That said I'm not sure it justifies paying an extra mana more than Needle.  I think if you are bringing in this type of card then you usually know what you are aiming for and waiting an extra turn seems wasteful.


Thaumatic Compass/Spires of Orazca
A decent artifact that can help a ramp deck find lands.  Once you reach seven lands it transforms into Spires of Orazca, which is slightly improved Maze of Ith in that it also taps for mana.  Reaching seven lands, even in ramp, takes some time and the only real ramp deck in Modern is Scapeshift which is looking to win the game thereafter and doesn't really need a Maze.  Just too slow for Modern and quite possibly Standard too.


Vanquisher's Banner
Glimpse of Nature is banned in Modern so whenever you see a card that does something similar it is interesting.  At 5-mana Banner is clearly not on the level of Glimpse of Nature but in a tribal deck in can have the same effect.  Elves is the classic Glimpse deck and the mana Elves can ramp this out.  Probably not quite good enough but very powerful once on board.

Land

Field of Ruin
Field of Ruin
Non-basic land hate in a similar vein to Ghost Quarter and Tectonic Edge.  I don't think Field of Ruin is as good as those other two options due to the expense of using it.


Unclaimed Territory
A solid land in any tribal deck.  However, Cavern of Souls is pretty much strictly better than Unclaimed Territory in that it does the same thing but makes the spell you cast uncounterable.  May be useful for Slivers deck or something of that nature but otherwise Cavern outstrips this card.

MY TOP 8 IXALAN CARDS FOR MODERN

So here are my top picks for Ixalan cards to impact Modern:

  1. Chart a Course
    This seems like a really powerful draw card.  I like that it rewards aggressive blue-based decks and that it could promote a deck like Delver back to popularity.
  2. Opt
    It's kind of a boring choice, particularly as it's a reprint, but I think Opt will see quite a bit play in Modern in various decks.  A very good cantrip and an instant speed option.
  3. Search for Azcanta/Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin
    Seems really good in a Blue Control deck and particularly the Taking Turns deck.  I like the possibilities for this card.
  4. Growing Rites of Itlmioc/Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun
    Gaea's Cradle is insanely powerful so if you can transform this quickly you have an insane mana generator.  Seems worth the effort to try and make this work.
  5. Kumena's Speaker
    A more aggressive 1-drop for Merfolk but one that forces the deck into a second colour.  The green merfolk in this Block could make UG Merfolk into a real archetype.
  6. Legion's Landing/Adanto, the First Fort
    A really good 1-mana token producer that can then transform to ramp you and makes a repeatable token generator.
  7. Kopala, Warden of the Waves
    Kopala or Kira is going to be an interesting debate for Merfolk players.  Personally I lean towards Kira being the superior of the two but only testing will really uncover the truth.
  8. Tocatli Honor Guard
    Another nice Hatebear to add to a long-list in the Modern format.  Not as exciting in the current metagame but it's time could come around again.

Some good draw spells in the set  that I think will see good use in blue decks.  I really like the transform enchantments as they set an exciting challenge but not sure any of them will become Modern staples.  New merfolk cards will be exciting for Modern Merfolk players.  Let me know your thoughts or if you think I have failed to pick out your top card.

CONCLUSIONS
I would say that Ixalan seems like a fun set, though with some slightly bizarre and disparate themes.  My favourite cards in the set are the transform enchantments which seem really fun.  Not sure whether they will be good enough for Modern but like the Ascension cycle they set fun challenges to meet and with exciting rewards.

I think Ixalan will be a fun set and I always enjoy trying out new cards.  There are enough interesting cards for Modern to keep me entertained for a while.

That's all for this article.  Hope you all enjoy playing with Ixalan and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)

5 Comments

Kopala is really the only by JXClaytor at Tue, 09/19/2017 - 17:58
JXClaytor's picture

Kopala is really the only card I was wanting to try out in the set, the only one that really excited me, but I can't help but think that Kira is just the superior choice.

It will take testing for sure.

Thanks for the comment. I by olaw at Wed, 09/20/2017 - 14:32
olaw's picture

Thanks for the comment.

I agree that I think Kira has a much better ability for protecting your creatures. The real question is if Kopala's imitation ability is good enough and how much more value you get from the tribal synergies.

Arcane Adaptation naming by Rerepete at Wed, 09/20/2017 - 17:20
Rerepete's picture

Arcane Adaptation naming dragon, then dragonstorm?

That's probably the coolest by olaw at Thu, 09/21/2017 - 13:11
olaw's picture

That's probably the coolest idea I've heard yet. Feels like the card should do something really broken but disappointingly it just doesn't seem to.

I guess the problem is that if your deck is really looking for some tribal benefits it's probably better to just play cards of that tribe rather than rely on an enchantment to turn all your cards into that creature type.

Arcane Adaptation naming by AJ_Impy at Thu, 09/21/2017 - 15:01
AJ_Impy's picture

Arcane Adaptation naming Human, running the angels that mass-reanimate humans and become practically unkillable with one in play.