Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
The Ixalan Set
With a focus on dinosaurs, pirates, merfolk, and vampires, Magic: The Gathering's 2017 Ixalan release boosted many formerly-weak creatures into viable competitive options. You'll find pirates employing treasure artifacts, lands with powerful double-sided transformations, and dinosaurs who strengthen when damaged, making self-harming tactics surprising effective.
I admittedly favor commander (EDH) play, and this list skews a bit towards that direction, but I did my best to cast objective thoughts on each card. That said, here are the ten strongest cards in Magic's Ixalan set!
10. Heartless Pillage
CMC (Converted Mana Cost): 3
Heartless Pillage targets an opponent and forces them to discard two cards of their choice. You gain card advantage for only three mana, and consider the raid effect: If you attacked with a creature this turn, you also get to create a treasure artifact token that can sacrifice itself to give an extra mana.
As we'll soon see, the treasure token can even contribute towards game-winning conditions, further boosting this card's uses.
9. Trove of Temptation
Next up, an enchantment, or ongoing permanent: Trove of Temptation. Trove's first effect helps coax defense-oriented opponents into attacking by forcing them to strike at least once per turn. Even better, it automatically creates a treasure token (the same as the last card) at the end of your turns, providing extra mana when you need it.
In short, Trove bestows two effects for the price of one, including some much-needed mana ramp for red.
8. Legion's Landing/Adanto, the First Fort
Our first double-sided card, Legion's Landing begins as a temptingly cheap enchantment. For a single pop, you create a 1/1 white vampire creature token with the health-siphoning lifelink ability.
Regardless of whether the token lives or dies, Landing remains on the field until you attack with three or more creatures, at which point it transforms into the land Adanto, the First Fort. Like the basic Plains card, this land can tap for one white mana, but it can also spend three mana to tap and create more 1/1 vampires.
A creature and eventually land for a single mana? Yes, please.
7. Raiders' Wake
Another enchantment for a reasonable four mana, Raiders' Wake combos brilliantly with, well, itself! The first effect saps opponents for two life whenever they discard, and the second lets you target an opponent and make them discard at the end of each turn where you attacked with at least one creature.
In essence, you're kicking rivals while they're down. First, they must endure your attacks. Then, their hand is reduced, and they lose additional health. Combo Wake with other discarding spells to further drain your adversary for all they're worth!
6. Revel in Riches
Yep, another black enchantment, this time demanding five mana. Revel in Riches implements two potent abilities. First, whenever a creature an opponent controls dies, you create one of the previously-seen treasure tokens (this stacks quickly in multiplayer matches). Second, at the beginning of your upkeep, if you have ten or more treasures, you automatically win!
Revel not only fuels your resources by providing mana-sacrifices, but its win condition makes your opponents sweat whenever your treasures begin approaching double digits.
5. Vraska, Relic Seeker
Classic black and green Planeswalker Vraska receives a new Relic Seeker form in Ixalan. She'll automatically join with a sizable six loyalty counters and (like all Planeswalkers) can once per turn activate an ability by adding or subtracting these counters:
- Add two: Create a 2/2 black Pirate token with Menace.
- Subtract three: Destroy target artifact, enchantment, or creature, and create a Treasure token.
- Subtract ten: Change target player's life total to one.
These are all superb abilities. Adding to loyalty while creating minions works great for blocking opposing hard-hitters, and the additional menace is a nice touch, meaning two or more creatures will be required to block when attacking. Even better, Vraska's minus three grants two spectacular boons by simultaneously destroying a permanent and constructing a treasure token.
4. Dowsing Dagger/Lost Vale
Another double-sided spell, Dowsing Dagger begins as an equipment. It costs two to cast plus two whenever you actually equip it to a creature. Dagger gives +2/+1 (two power and one toughness) to the creature it's attached to; however, when Dagger enters the battlefield, your opponent gets to create two 0/2 Plant tokens with defender to help them block.
So why is Dagger so helpful? When the creature it's attached to inflicts combat damage to your opponent, you're given the option to morph it into the powerful land Lost Vale, which (similarly to the long-banned Black Lotus) taps for a whopping three mana of any color!
To best use Dagger, combine it with effects like trample, menace, or flying, all of which help pierce or avoid blockers and let you score an effect-triggering direct hit.
3. Shapers' Sanctuary
Another excellent enchantment, this time for a single green mana, Shapers' Sanctuary works wonders in creature-centered decks (green's specialty). Sanctuary simply lets you draw a card whenever one of your creatures becomes the target of a spell or ability an opponent controls.
This makes foes think twice before messing with your hard-earned titans, and softens the blow by refilling your hand.
2. Growing Rites of Itlimoc/Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun
I'm a sucker for these enchantment/land pairs. Growing Rites of Itlimoc begins by letting you peer at the first four cards of your deck and adding a creature from them to your hand, a fair effect for only three mana. Rites transforms into the potent land Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun once you end a turn with at least four creatures out.
Cradle can tap for either one green mana or (as you'll probably want) one for each creature you have out! This can provide absolutely absurd amounts of spell-fuel, and stacks well with mana-saving monsters like Omnath, Locus of Mana.
1. Primal Amulet/Primal Wellspring
Today's top spot goes to the impressive artifact/land duo of the Primal cards, essential for any Instant or Sorcery deck. For a reasonable four mana, Primal Amulet reduces the CMC of Instants and Sorceries by one, a great way to cast your game-changers sooner. Also, Amulet collects a charge counter whenever you cast an instant or sorcery and transforms into the land Primal Wellspring once it amasses four.
Wellspring first taps for a mana of any color. Better yet, when that mana is used for an instant or sorcery, the spell is copied, doubling its effects! Now you'll be killing two monsters instead of one, forcing opponents to discard four cards rather than two, and so on. Thankfully, despite its fierce power, Amulet costs well under three dollars, making it accessible even to budget players!
Future Magic Expansions
Today we examined a plethora of potent Ixalan cards, but play for yourself to see which spells you favor! Many powerful creatures almost made the cut, including some of the best dinosaurs in the game, and you'll be impressed by how well the archetypes stack with each other to craft fearsome combinations.
But for now, as eagerly await Wizards of the Coast's next expansion, vote for your favorite card, and I'll see you at our next MTG review!
© 2017 Jeremy Gill
Jimmy on November 27, 2018:
Nope, no tyrant? No azcanta?