Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
Rivals of Ixalan in Magic: The Gathering
Magic's Rivals of Ixalan set emphasizes tribal support, empowering merfolk, vampires, pirates, and dinosaurs. Like most expansions, you can buy an Ixalan bundle that comes with ten boosters, a d20, and a player's guide exploring the set.
Within the guide, Wizards of the Coast staff Ben Hayes and Melissa DeTora list their ten favorite Ixalan cards—today I'll do the same, comparing and contrasting with their picks (you'll see some overlap). So, which cards reign supreme? Here are two takes on the ten best Rivals of Ixalan spells in Magic: The Gathering!
10. Seafloor Oracle/Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca
Staff Pick: Seafloor Oracle
Oracle's stats are only 2/3, but his merfolk and wizard subtypes have plenty of support, and whenever any of your merfolk deals combat damage to a player, Oracle lets you draw a card.
My Pick: Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca
Despite his lower cost, fellow merfolk Kumena has superior 2/4 stats and three abilities. Tapping a different untapped merfolk makes him unblockable for the turn, tapping three untapped lets you draw a card, and tapping five puts a +1/+1 counter on all your merfolk.
9. Azor's Gateway/Hadana's Climb
Staff Pick: Azor's Gateway/Sanctum of the Sun
Gateway taps and spends one mana to draw a card, then exile one from your hand. Your hand size doesn't change, but you get to cycle through your deck. Even better, when at least five cards with different costs are exiled, Gateway untaps, transforms into the land Sanctum of the Sun, and gives you five life. Then, it taps for mana of any one color equal to your life!
My Pick: Hadana's Climb/Winged Temple of Orazca
Hadana's Climb gives one of your creatures a +1/+1 at the start of your combat; play it during your first main phase for quick results. Then, if the creature has three or more +1/+1s, Hadana transforms into Orazca, which can either tap for a mana of any color, or tap and spend three to give a creature flying and +X/+X for the turn (where X is its power)!
8. Legion Lieutenant/Rekindling Phoenix
Staff Pick: Legion Lieutenant
Simple yet sweet, Lieutenant works great for vampire decks, carrying the subtype alongside decent 2/2 stats. More than that, he boosts your other vampires by +1/+1, which really adds up when you're swarming tokens. And merfolk have a green/blue version of this card in "Merfolk Mistbinder".
My Pick: Rekindling Phoenix
Phoenix offers a solid 4/3 with flying who is hard to keep down—when he dies, you create a 0/1 token that sacrifices itself during your upkeep to revive Phoenix from your graveyard and give him haste! This means to permanently kill Phoenix, foes either need to exile him or find a way to destroy the token before it triggers.
7. The Immortal Sun/Azor's Gateway
Staff Pick: The Immortal Sun
This artifact costs six mana, but provides an extra draw at your draw step, discounts your spells by one mana, gives your creatures +1/+1, and prevents planeswalkers from activating loyalty abilities. This restricts your own planeswalkers too, but you can avoid the effect by simply building a deck without them.
My Pick: Azor's Gateway/Sanctum of the Sun
Yep, like like the WotC staff, I love this artifact. Cheap costs both for casting and activating, and the fact that it untaps itself while providing you five life ensures you'll get at least six (and likely much more) mana the turn it transforms.
6. Azor, the Lawbringer/Wayward Swordtooth
Staff Pick: Azor, the Lawbringer
Azor has specific color costs, but offers an aerial 6/6 who prevents foes from casting instants or sorceries during their next turn. When Azor attacks, you can also spend X mana alongside one white and two blue to draw X cards and gain X life.
My Pick: Wayward Swordtooth
Swordtooth employs the set's new ascend mechanic, meaning you attain the city's blessing once you control at least ten permanents. This empowers several cards; for instance, Swordtooth has incredible 5/5 stats for his cost, but can't attack or block until you have the blessing. Either way, he also gives you an extra land play each turn and has dinosaur synergy.
5. Form of the Dinosaur/Twilight Prophet
Staff Pick: Form of the Dinosaur
Here's the one staff choice I'm not especially fond of. Form of the Dinosaur sets your life to 15 (even if you have more), then deals 15 damage to an opposing creature at the start of your upkeep while dealing its power as damage to you. That's continuous creature removal, but the high cost (both in mana and life) dampens the effect.
My Pick: Twilight Prophet
Prophet offers a decent 2/4 flying vampire, so you've got some tribal potential. More than that, she ascends if you have ten or more permanents, and while you have the city's blessing, Prophet adds the top card of your deck to hand at your upkeep, draining life from each opponent equal to its mana cost. Card advantage plus lifegain in one, especially brutal with high-cost spells like...
4. Ghalta, Primal Hunger
Staff Pick: Ghalta, Primal Hunger
My Pick: Ghalta, Primal Hunger
Here's where Wizards and I start agreeing with several spells. Ghalta's not nearly as expensive as his twelve-cost implies since he discounts himself by X, where X is the power of your creatures. You can potentially cast Ghalta for just two mana, and he arrives as a monstrous 12/12 with trample and the dinosaur subtype!
3. Timestream Navigator
Staff Pick: Timestream Navigator
My Pick: Timestream Navigator
We align again with this criminally-underrated spell. Navigator begins as a weak 1/1, but she's got plenty of tribal options considering her human, pirate, and wizard subtypes.
More than that, she ascends once you control at least ten permanents, and by spending four mana, tapping, and placing herself on the bottom of your deck, Navigator grants you an extra turn—a rare and lethal bonus. Many extra turn spells require dozens of dollars, but Navigator costs less than two!
2. Angrath, the Flame-Chained
Staff Pick: Angrath, the Flame-Chained
My Pick: Angrath, the Flame-Chained
While black/red Rakdos has never been my favorite color blend, there's no denying this planeswalker's power. Angrath enters with a fair four loyalty and his +1 forces each opponent to both discard a card and lose two life—two useful effects that work especially well in multiplayer.
Meanwhile, -3 steals control of a creature for the turn, untaps it, gives it haste, and sacrifices it at end of turn if its cost is three or less—steal weak units to prevent foes from regaining them. Both of these abilities build towards ultimate -8, where opponents lose life equal to the number of cards in their graveyard.
1. Huatli, Radiant Champion/The Immortal Sun
Staff Pick: Huatli, Radiant Champion
Huatli only arrives with three loyalty, but she quickly gains more with +1, which (in addition to its natural one-gain) places a loyalty counter on Huatli for each creature you control. This provides plenty of fuel for her next effects; -1 grants a creature +X/+X for the turn where X is the number of creatures you control, while -8 creates an emblem that lets you draw whenever a creature enters your field.
My Pick: The Immortal Sun
As mentioned before, Sun gives you a heap of benefits: extra draws, cheaper spells, stronger creatures, and restricted planeswalkers. After Ixalan, sets like War of the Spark made planeswalkers more common, so anything that shuts them down while giving you three positive effects more than justifies six mana.
Where to Get an Ixalan Bundle
Interested in nabbing your own Ixalan cards? I recommend buying the set bundle, which comes with ten boosters, 80 basic lands, and the set guide showing you the staff's thoughts on their card picks. Most bundles cost over $30, but Ixalan enjoys a surprisingly cheap one, currently priced at just $25!
Perhaps I'll rank more sets alongside Ben and Melissa in the future, but for now, vote for your favorite card and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill