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By: olaw, Oliver Law
Jan 09 2018 12:00pm
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Hello!

Welcome to another Modern Musings!  With Rivals of Ixalan now officially fully spoiled I am taking a look at the potential gems for Modern play.

MECHANICS

Kumena’s AwakeningDusk Charger
Ascend
There is only one new mechanic in Rivals of Ixalan which is Ascend.  Cards with the Ascend keyword give you the City's Blessing, which is an emblem, when you control 10 or more permanents.  The Ascend cards then all have some improvement or ability that activates or gets better once you have the City's Blessing.  I think the concept of Ascend is quite cool but the mechanic hasn't really been very pushed judging from the cards that have it in the set.  Also, for Modern having 10 permanents in play is no easy feat as the format is pretty fast and ultimately there aren't enough good Ascend cards to make it a mechanic worth building around.

THE CARDS

White


Baffling End
Baffling End is a Journey to Nowhere but more restrictive but also with some upside.  Baffling End is restricted to exiling creatures with converted mana-cost 3, which is most of the creatures that see play in Modern fortunately, but it actually exiles the creature forever whereas Journey allows it to return when the enchantment is destroyed.  The trade-up is that the opponent gets a 3/3 trampling dinosaur but hopefully that is less threatening than what you exiled.  Journey to Nowhere doesn't really see any play in Modern and I don't think this card is going to change that.


Martyr of Dusk
Certainly nothing to write home about but just a very solid 2-drop Vampire.  A decent-sized creature that replaces itself on death.  Very good for a Vampire tribal deck which can boost the power of this guy and the token it generates on death.


Sphinx's Decree
My initial reaction to this card was that is was a very odd hate card.  It basically prevents your opponent from casting sorcery spells exclusively as they can just cast instants during your turn instead.  However, thinking about it more it does have its uses in Modern. 

The target for this card is decks that look to cast multiple spells on their own turn to win the game.  Storm is the biggest target, casting this the turn before the Storm player is looking to go off, but you can also use it against Infect, Ad Nauseam or Scapeshift.  I still find it to be a bit too narrow and substantially worse than Silence which is available in the Modern pool.  I guess the card is intended for Commander or another format where you have multiple opponents.

Blue

Crafty Cutpurse
Crafty Cutpurse
This is a fun card.  I think it's probably just too expensive for Modern play and obviously somewhat niche but stealing your opponent's tokens is very fun.

Curious Obsession
Curious Obsession
This is Curiosity with a power boost attached which is actually great for 1-mana.  The setback is that if you don't attack each turn, not necessarily with the enchanted creature, then it goes to the graveyard which is a pretty fair trade.

Where do you play this card?  I guess Bogles if you are looking to splash blue possibly or some other Blue Aggro deck maybe.


Flood of Recollection
This certainly feels like a card that could have some powerful uses in combo decks.  It could be used in Storm but ultimately Past in Flames is a flashier version of this card.  However, there may be other decks looking for this kind of effect. 

A deck like Eggs could potentially use this card but since the banning of Second Sunrise I am not sure of the viability of that deck.

Nezahal, Primal Tide
Nezahal, Primal Tide
A very strong finisher for a Control deck with a powerful evasion ability, provided you have extra cards in hand, and the ability to draw you extra cards.  Too expensive for Modern I would imagine but a very good top-end threat.

Release to the Wind
Release to the Wind
This is a very bizarre card which instantly makes it quite interesting.  You exile a permanent only for the owner of the permanent to be able to instantly recast it for free.  I guess the uses for this are to reuse, or obtain for the first time, abilities that trigger on a permanent being cast like the Eldrazi abilities or legitimise a cheated into play card with Goryo's Vengeance or a similar card.

Not sure there is really a home for this card and its cost is quite prohibitive for its narrow uses.  However, it could be a combo piece someday.

Warkite Marauder
Warkite Marauder
It seems a little unlikely but this card could potentially see play in Five-Colour Humans in Modern.  It's not terribly exciting in itself but its aggressive as a 2/1 flyer and essentially neuters one potentially blocker each turn which could help your attacking prospects.  Probably better than it looks on first inspection.

Black

Mastermind’s Acquisition
Mastermind's Acquisition
A Diabolic Tutor but with the option of picking a card out of your sideboard.  As the Wish cycle, other than Glittering Wish, is outside of Modern playability there are only limited ways to tutor for sideboard cards in Modern.  I don't think that necessarily makes this card playable but does mean it can do something new for the format if the need arises.

Pitiless Plunderer
Pitiless Plunderer
This card is expensive but a potential combo card.  Off the top of my head, with another zombie is in play, you can sacrifice and recast Gravecrawler infinitely.  That in itself will not win the game but there are various ways in which you can turn that into a kill.

Red


Blood Sun
Blood Sun is a fairly blunt reference to Modern staple Blood Moon.  So, how does it compare to the punishing non-basic hate card?

Blood Sun has the advantage that is replaces itself which is definitely a good start.  It then comes to the important part, Blood Sun removes all non-mana abilities from lands.  This basically does what it says on the tin, any ability that does not generate mana is no longer in effect.  In Modern, this means that fetchlands are unable to do anything as they have no-mana generating abilities.  It also turns off creaturelands and more interestingly means that lands that say they enter the battlefield tapped no longer enter the battlefield tapped.

So how does Blood Sun compare to Blood Moon?  I think generally it's not nearly as oppressive.  It does not colour-screw your opponent and your opponent continues to have access to the colours of mana they desire.  It also has awkward blindspots, probably most importantly in Modern it does nothing to Tron lands as their abilities are mana abilities.

Unfortunately I don't think Blood Sun is quite hateful enough to see play in Modern.  It certainly is useful but I don't think it matches up well to the original Blood Moon.


Dire Fleet Daredevil
This card is like a bizzaro Snapcaster Mage which is super cool.  The Daredevil uses your opponent's graveyard as a resource rather than your own.  I think factually that will make the Daredevil worse than Snapcaster Mage as the power of the card is very much matchup dependent, also the lack of Flash hurts too.  Daredevil might not amount to anything but it definitely has a lot of potential and is an interesting take on Snapcaster Mage.

Green


Deeproot Elite
Not quite a Lord but close.  The Merfolk deck is really spoiled for choice in the two-drop position which probably means that Deeproot Elite misses out but it is very playable but probably a bit too slow.

Enter the Unknown
Enter the Unknown
This is a very cheap way of playing an additional land but it requires you to control a creature to target to make it work.  I think Explore is still the more useful card in most circumstances.

Forerunner of the Heralds
Forerunner of the Heralds
A Merfolk tutor is an interesting prospect but the fact is the deck is full of redundancy.  I fully anticipate with Merfolk Branchbender (see below) the deck will be running 12 two-mana Lords, which begs the question what you are tutoring for.

Jadelight Ranger
Jadelight Ranger
Jadelight Ranger is an interesting three-drop.  Explore allows you to reveal the top card of your library and if it's a land to draw it or if it's not then put a +1/+1 counter on Ranger and either put the card back or on the bottom of the library.  Double Explore brings some interesting scenarios:

  • Your top card is a land, you draw it.  Your second card is a land, you draw it.  You have drawn two lands off the top and have a 2/1 creature.
  • Your top cards is a land, you draw it.  Your second card is a non-land card and you get a +1/+1 counter and Scry that card.  You draw 1 card, have a 3/2 creature and get to Scry the non-land card.
  • Your top card is a non-land card, you get a +1/+1 counter.  You Scry and opt to keep the card on top.  You reveal the same non-land card again and get another +1/+1 counter.  You then get a choice to Scry again if you so wish.  You draw 0 cards and have a 4/3 Ranger.
  • Your top card is a non-land card, you get a +1/+1 counter.  You Scry and opt to bottom the card.  You then reveal a new non-land card and get another +1/+1 counter and choose whether to Scry it.  You draw 0 cards and have a 4/3 Ranger.
  • Your top card is a non-land card, you get a +1/+1 counter.  You Scry and opt to bottom the card.  You then reveal a land and draw it.  You draw 1 card and have a 3/2 Ranger.

All the possibilities are pretty good but I think the big problem is the inconsistency.  There are a lot of solid green three-drops and this probably compares better to Courser of Kruphix or Eternal Witness as I don't really think Modern Merfolk wants this card thanks to the double green and expense.  I have to say in a straight value deck, like Selesnya Value, I prefer a card like Courser of Kruphix which performs a bit more consistently.


Polyraptor
I'm pretty certain there are a ton of janky ways to create infinite Polyraptors.  Intruder Alarm and any Prodigal Sorcerer-style card works and I am sure there are lots of other ways.  It seems unlikely that this infinite combo is better than the various other combos available in Modern but it is a bit of fun.

Thrashing Brontodon
Thrashing Brontodon
A bigger Qasali Pridemage and one that can be played in non-GW decks.  It can also still be hit off a Collected Company which makes it a decent sideboard option.  However, Reclamation Sage is probably the preferred option in that slot for its immediate impact.

Multi-Coloured


Angrath, the Flame-Chained
Angrath has a Liliana of the Veil feel which certainly bodes well for it.  Lets break it down:

  • The +1 gives discard and also costs your opponent 2 life.  At 5-mana Angrath is a bit late to the hand disruption party but if your opponent happens to be Hellbent then you at least are lowering their life each turn.
  • The -3 ability is pretty powerful and a useful way to protect Angrath.  Angrath Threatens a creature allowing you to swing it at your opponent and automatically combines the old Threaten/Sacrifice combo if the creature costs less than 3-mana which is a lot of creatures in Modern.
  • Angrath's ultimate is expensive at -8 when you can only tick it up by 1 loyalty at a time from a starting point of 4 loyalty.  It's also not necessarily a game ender though if you have triggered Angrath's +1 four times you would hope that the life loss would kill your opponent by then.

Angrath is a pretty powerful planeswalker and can protect himself to boot.  However, at the hefty cost of 5-mana I think he is a bit expensive to see play in Modern.

Hadana’s ClimbWinged Temple of Orazca
Hadana's Climb/Winged Temple of Orazca
An enchantment that has a repeatably useful ability which also progresses it towards flipping it.  You can then get some pretty big pumps off of Winged Temple of Orazca but it comes at an expensive cost.  It's all a bit slow for the aggro-focused deck that this card would warrant.

Huatli, Radiant Champion
Huatli, Radiant Champion
An interesting planeswalker with the potential for huge loyalty boost.  Let's break it down:

  • The +1 is perhaps the most interesting ability on Huatli.  Gaining loyalty for each creature you control could be a huge loyalty boost.  With four creatures in play the +1 will have Huatli ready to ultimate the following turn.
  • The -1 seems like the less likely ability to be used but if you already have a huge number of creatures it could be useful to force through damage.
  • The -8 ultimate is a permanent Glimpse of Nature (which is banned in Modern) which is certainly quite exciting.  It also works well with the plan of swarming the board with creatures to get Huatli into play.

Elves seems like the most obvious home for this card but the expense of Huatli might push it out playability for Elves.  A cool card that could certainly be a combo enabler but it's probably arrives a bit too late in the game to work well.

 

Journey to EternityAtzal, Cave of Eternity
Journey to Eternity/Atzal, Cave of Eternity
This is a very interesting card.  Journey to Eternity's transform conditions are relatively easy to meet provided you have some sort of sacrifice outlet.  The question is then whether Atzal, Cave of Eternity is worth it.  I certainly like it and the ability to repeatedly reanimate creatures seems very strong.  Definitely a nice build around card that can build to pretty frightening end game.  Perhaps the most playable of the Transform cards in this set.


Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca
Kumena is another exciting addition to the Merfolk tribe, however, it is a more controlling card than the tribe is used to.  Generally, Modern Merfolk is an Aggro deck with some tempo elements whereas Kumena is more of a long-term pay off.  I guess its closest comparison is probably Thassa, God of the Sea which is a card that ended up falling out of favour with Merfolk players.  Kumena isn't a Lord like other staples but has a lot of a abilities that could definitely help win a board stall, drawing extra cards and pumping your team will do wonders in breaking a board stall.

As such, if Kumena has a home in Modern Merfolk, I see Kumena as more of a sideboard card that can help break a deadlock for grindy games - perhaps against Collected Company or other creature heavy decks where you might not be able to immediately outsize the competition.


Legion Lieutenant
A two-mana Lord for Vampires which is a nice addition to the tribe and a great boon to their ranks.  Vampires feels like its a long way off being a Modern deck but this certainly makes the deck somewhat more viable.


Merfolk Mistbinder
It is a bit dull in comparison but another 2-mana Lord for Merfolk seems to me to be the most likely card to make it into the deck.  It certainly isn't as good as Lord of Atlantis or Master of the Pearl Trident but at two-mana rather than three it may well be better than Merrow Reejerey.  Also, considering that Merfolk is an AEther Vial deck it helps if more of its cards are the same mana cost. 

Merfolk decks seem to be keen to embrace the Green with (Kumena's Speaker) and (Merfolk Branchwalker) and I think Mistbinder will be similarly embraced.  The deck can now easily run 16 Lords which is pretty insane.

Path of MettleMetzali, Tower of Triumph
Path of Mettle/Metzali, Tower of Triumph
Path of Mettle is actually more playable than I first thought as you can flip it with haste creatures such as Goblin Guide or Monastery Swiftspear, which is already Burn's game.  That said you would probably need to increase your creature base and it's a lot of effort just to fit this in.  A repeatable damage source like Metzali, Tower of Triumph would be nice for Burn but it's quite a bit of work and more of a control-focused card.  Probably not quite worth the additional effort.

Profane ProcessionTomb of the Dusk Rose
Profane Procession/Tomb of the Dusk Rose
A very cool card if you happen to have infinite mana but otherwise far too expensive to be effective.

Relentless Raptor
Relentless Raptor
A pretty powerful 3-drop but the forced attacking and blocking is obviously not great if you are not in the ascendancy.

Siegehorn Ceratops
Siegehorn Ceratops
Pretty good two-drop if it every happens to take non-lethal damage.  That makes it a pretty nice blocker but less exciting on attack.  Also GW has a lot of good options at two-drop and this does really compare well to cards like Voice of Resurgence or Qasali Pridemage.

Storm the VaultVault of Catlacan
Storm the Vault/Vault of Catlacan
Vault of Catlacan is a Tolarian Academy which is one of the most powerful lands ever printed.  Getting an Academy is pretty exciting but it takes a lot of work to get there.  The enchantment is 4-mana and having five artifacts by Turn 4 is no easy task.  The best way to do it is to fill your deck with cheap or 0 cost artifacts but if you do that then what are using the mana from Vault of Catlacan for.

Artifact


Azor's Gateway/Sanctum of the Sun
Sanctum of the Sun is an insane mana producer, which provided you have maintained your life total, can produce a huge amount of mana.  The road to the Sanctum of the Sun though is quite tough.  You need to activate Azor's Gateway at least 5 times before it transforms and you need to be exiling cards of different converted mana costs each time.  A fun challenge but not likely to be worth the effort.

The Immortal Sun
The Immortal Sun
The Immortal Sun is a powerful artifact that does a lot of things.  Thanks to Tron lands the dream of powering out expensive and powerful artifacts is pretty easy to live and so the mana cost on The Immortal Sun doesn't hold it back as much as you might think.  However, the issue really is that its list of abilities makes it a bit of a "jack of all trades, master of none".  It draws you an extra card a turn, reduces costs by 1, it's a Glorious Anthem and it turns off Planeswalkers which all useful but none are likely to be game breaking.

The unique ability is turning off Planeswalkers, which I don't believe has been on a card previously.  This is the most interesting ability but in Tron it conflicts with the use of staples Karn Liberated and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon.  Accordingly the card is actually probably better against Tron than it is in it.  The Immortal Sun could be a player in Mono-Blue Tron which is less Planeswalker-centric or maybe as a sideboard card for Tron mirror matches but seems unlikely to see a lot of play.


Silent Gravestone
A pretty powerful anti-graveyard card at just one-mana but there is a lot of competition in that role in Modern.  Relic of Progenitus is the biggest challenger and I don't think Relic will be threatened by this pretender to the throne.  Silent Gravestone is a nice combination of Ground Seal and Relic but the problem is Ground Seal has a few too many blindpsots.  It does nothing to prevent Dredge, for example as there is no targeting involved, or cards with flashback, or even Past in Flames.

TOP 8 RIVALS OF IXALAN CARDS IN MODERN
Sadly it's fairly slim pickings for Modern with Rivals of Ixalan beyond the obvious Merfolk cards.  That makes this list quite tricky to construct but here goes nothing:

  1. Merfolk Mistbinder
    This seems like the best card in the set for Modern.  Another two-mana lord for Merfolk could be a real boost for the deck.
  2. Direfleet Daredevil
    The red Snapcaster Mage seems like a lot of fun.  The fact it is matchup dependent and doesn't have flash make it substantially worse than Snapcaster but I think this card is still pretty cool.
  3. Jounrey to Eternity/Atzal, Cave of Eternity
    A cool build-around-me card where the transform conditions actually seem pretty easy to achieve.  The question really is what is the best shell with which to abuse Atzal, Cave of Eternity.
  4. Angrath, the Flame-Chained
    A powerful planeswalker but slightly too costly for Modern.  Still might see some niche play.
  5. Enter the Unknown
    This is a card that could find a home day as a ramp card.  A very cheap way to ramp but the need for a creature to target makes it a tricky prospect.
  6. Blood Sun
    It's not Blood Moon but it could have its uses and replaces itself.
  7. The Immortal Sun
    A powerful artifact and one of the best pieces of planeswalker hate in the format.  However, if you are ramping your mana wouldn't you rather be casting Karn Liberated or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon.
  8. Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca
    Kumena is a very powerful creature but doesn't fit into the aggressive Modern deck.  Perhaps a Merfolk value deck can be made someday.

CONCLUSIONS
Overall, Rivals of Ixalan is not the most exciting set for Modern.  As the set is Tribal-based this isn't too much of a surprise.  Certainly the newer tribes are unlikely to break into Modern with so few cards available.  As such it's really Merfolk that is looking to take the most from Rivals with a new Lord and various other options.

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)

5 Comments

Explore doesn't act like a by Rerepete at Wed, 01/10/2018 - 18:32
Rerepete's picture

Explore doesn't act like a scry, it is top of deck or graveyard.

"Pitiless Plunderer
This card is expensive but a potential combo card. Off the top of my head, with another zombie is in play, you can sacrifice and recast Gravecrawler..."

You also need a sac. outlet. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet or Viscera Seer come to mind.

My apologies. My experience by olaw at Thu, 01/11/2018 - 07:35
olaw's picture

My apologies. My experience with Explore is really limited so I misread it as a Scry and it is basically a Scry for most purposes.

Pitiless Plunderer has a lot of combo potential. You would definitely want Viscera Seer over Kalitas - you need a free sacrifice outlet to go infinite. It does not do anything on its own but there are a lot of ways to turn it into a kill. Plague Belcher and Diregraf Captain are two on theme examples of finishers for the combo. Also, you can make an infinite army of Zombies with Diregraf Colossus.

that's kinda scry! It's a by JXClaytor at Thu, 01/11/2018 - 00:48
JXClaytor's picture

that's kinda scry! It's a half a scry!

Pitiless Plunderer is a good by stsung at Thu, 01/11/2018 - 06:05
stsung's picture

Pitiless Plunderer is a good card actually. I build a Standard deck around it for a combo kill (http://stsu.blogspot.cz/2018/01/ambitious-masterminds-monument.html) and it works nicely with Dread Wanderer/Oathsworn Vampire, Yahenni and Bontu's Monument. I don't think that Kalitas is a good card to include in the deck but Viscera Seer is certainly the top sac outlet in Modern.

There needs to be an immediate win con otherwise it's easier to just beat people with other creatures. 1/4 for four mana sounds expensive even for a combo piece. And since we have Melira combo in Modern I wouldn't expect this card to be played in a similar fashion. Anything that can generate mana in a strange way can become broken though.

In a Marionette Master deck though this card shines^_^ (in Standard).

As for Explore. It filters library and sometimes puts a needed card into graveyard (in GPG deck for example). As Rerepete said it puts a card into graveyard not bottom of the library. Jadelight Ranger really likes cards like Wayward Swordtooth or Azusa, Lost but Seeking. So I can imagine this card be played in land heavy decks or ones that need a lot of resources. I doubt that Merfolk in Standard will want to play that but we will see. The card goes more into a ramp/explore deck.

I'd try Huatli in BW Tokens. The minus ability on a flyer is not bad actually and the ultimate ability is simply insane. Note that the plus ability is actually +1 plus the number of creatures and that makes her actually playable.

Thanks for the comment. Agree by olaw at Thu, 01/11/2018 - 13:15
olaw's picture

Thanks for the comment.

Agree with your points and certainly think Pitiless Plunderer has more potential as a Standard combo than a Modern combo piece.

I note I got it wrong when I said Huatli's ultimate is Glimpse of Nature. It's actually better than that as it triggers whenever a creature enters the battlefield rather than cast so it does work well with tokens.