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By: MarcosPMA, Marcos Rodriguez
Jan 11 2018 1:00pm
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Hello all and welcome to another edition of Sealed Success!  We're finally back for the New Year and just in time for the Rivals of Ixalan Prerelease.  It's felt weird not having to write an article for this series for a few weeks but I'm glad I'm back in the saddle.  Today we're going to go over the Sealed Set Review and I will admit that this set review is going to be a bit shorter than previous ones, much like other small set reviews I've done.  This set is going to deliver more of the same from Ixalan, so a lot of the groundwork and understanding is already there so we don't have to delve too deeply to gain an initial impression of the format.  Add to that only one new keyword in the set and we've got a set that very much feels like we're picking up where Ixalan left off.  First though, let's take a look at the upcoming schedule:

  • Today - Rivals of Ixalan Sealed Set Review
  • 1/18 - Rivals of Ixalan Draft #1, Rivals of Ixalan Sealed League #1 video, Rivals of Ixalan Sealed League #2 video
  • 1/25 - Rivals of Ixalan Draft #2, Rivals of Ixalan Sealed League #1 videos, Rivals of Ixalan Sealed League #2 videos
  • 2/1 - Rivals of Ixalan Draft #3, Rivals of Ixalan Sealed League #1 video, Rivals of Ixalan Sealed League #2 videos

I'm going to hit Rivals of Ixalan running with my first draft done a few days after the Prerelease, something which I did not do for Ixalan.  I did wait a week before posting a draft video, but this time around I'm going to go into it as soon as possible.  Now, I should mention that while I do have the chance to do the Rivals of Ixalan Preview League, at 30 tickets it's not worth it for me to do a one day league.  I'd much rather save 6 tickets and do my leagues as I normally do them.  I'd highly suggest anybody check out the Preview Leagues if you want to get a leg up on the competition at the Prerelease, but I'd do well to remind everyone that this is about having fun and not solely about who can win the most matches.  These weekends are weekends to hang out, open cool cards, and play some fun Magic.   Even though I approach Sealed Deck with a more analytical viewpoint, I still want to have fun.  With all that said, let's dive into the set review!

Rivals of Ixalan Card Rankings

  • A - Bomb
  • B - Premium removal, good mythic/rare/uncommon
  • C - Okay mythic/rare/uncommon, most commons
  • D - Bad mythics/rares/commons, sideboard cards
  • F - Unplayable cards

This scale is meant to give a card a letter grade based upon what you would expect an A/B/C/D/F card to look and play like.  A's are cards that win the game on the spot, that produce an immediate impact and must be dealt with quickly otherwise they will win the game for you.  Cards such as Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Pack Rat are examples of A's.  B's are cards that are quite strong but do not necessarily win the game outright.  They help you win the game or are powerful pieces of removal.  Fatal Push and Winding Constrictor are examples of B's.  C's are filler cards that go in most Limited decks, or higher rarity cards that don't have a high impact on the game.  Kari Zev, Skyship Raider is an example of a C.  D's are either bad cards that aren't unplayable, or sideboard cards that have narrow effects but are strong in the right situation.  They fact that they are so dependent on the right situation means they are less reliable than other cards you can play.  F's are unplayable cards that make your deck worse for having them in your deck.  Fog is a classic example of an F.

The purpose of this scale is to see how good a card is on its own, not how good it is with or against other cards because you won't always have those cards to go with it.  Furthermore, I do have to admit some bias towards this scale.  Generally speaking I like decks that go a bit longer in sealed deck and since longer games tend to happen, I view the cards towards that lens.  Aggressive cards will have a lower grade and grindier/lategame cards will have a better grade.  That isn't to say that pools/cards that are aggressive are bad, it's to say that I feel slower decks have more of an advantage due to how powerful their spells can be.  Of course a fast format is going to dictate those viewpoints change, but that won't be clear until the games play out.  If that happens then rankings will change and cards will get better/worse. 

Rivals of Ixalan Mechanics


Ascend - If you control ten or more permanents, you get the city's blessing for the rest of the game.

Ascend is a keyword that amplifies a spell or effect once you have the city's blessing.  Something could get +2/+2 or your opponent's board get -2/-2 instead of the entire board, those are examples of what could happen once you've ascended and gotten the city's blessing.  Overall the keyword is fairly easy to gronk as playing permanents is easy to do and you don't have to go out of your way to do it.  Since Ascend is a bonus and not the reason you'd play a card, any card with Ascend is naturally going to be playable even if you never hit 10 permanents while casting a card with Ascend.  This being the case, cards with Ascend are all upside and you should play them if you have the chance.

Rivals of Ixalan Sealed Set Review


When looking at the set my impression was that it was going to build off the aggressive nature of Ixalan, so I slanted my entire viewpoint of the set to match that line of thinking.  If the format turns out to be slower than anticipated then some of these rankings are going to be way off, but I'd be very surprised of that happened.  I think overall the creatures in Rivals are a bit smaller, so the Ixalan packs could provide with the meatier creatures in your sealed pool.  With an eye towards an aggressive format I'd be hesitant to play more than 17 lands in a deck and I would expect all my opponents to be trying to win as quickly as possible, especially if they're trying to flood the board to unlock cards with Ascend.  

My general advice would be to pick a tribe and build the most aggressive deck you can, and failing that you can try to go bigger than your opponents with 3+ color Treasures or G/x/x Dinosaur ramp.  The rares and mythics feel pretty balanced and there's an answer for everything barring a few exceptions, so there's going to be less people opening a card that auto-wins them the game.  I'm fairly certain that Tetzimoc, Primal Death is unbeatable if it's ever cast, so don't find yourself on the wrong side of that interaction.

If you have any comments, questions, or concerns leave them in the comments section below.  You can subscribe to my YouTube channel here where you can find all the videos posted early along with content exclusive to the channel.  I'm testing Moden Abzan/Jund and playing a bit with Inalla, Archmage Ritualist in Commander pods.  If you're interested in any of that, please feel free to check out the channel.

Thanks for reading/watching!