It truly feels like just last week I was breaking down Hour of Devastation for GP Toronto and now Ixalan is here. Vraska, Jace, Pirates and Dinosaurs are about to barge into your local gaming store this weekend and you need to know what to do at pre-release.
In the next few hundred words I’m going to give you the bare minimum of what you’ll need to know when evaluating cards for this weekend’s events. I’ll go through each colour, and pick three commons and two uncommons that I’d almost always be happy to have in my Sealed deck. The purpose here is to make sure your pre-release expirience is as easy as possible because you’ll be armed with a cheat sheet to Ixalan. This isn’t about going deep and exploiting splashy synergies, it’s about minimizing the on-the-fly work you have to do when you open those crisp new packs of Ixalan. Here is my level one guide to Ixalan pre-release:
White is certainly not lacking conditional removal in this set. In addition to the two removal spells you see above there are another two—fairly mediocre—removal spells at common. Paladin of the Bloodstained looks to be a very powerful creature for Vampire synergies and Bellowing Aegisaur is just a straight up bomb if you have the (likely Green) synergy cards to enable it. The White creatures in this set aren’t as aggressive as last block though, so look for the colour to slow down a lot.
The most overarching trend among the Blue cards in this set has got to be the number of two-drops with upside. There is definitely the making of a number of different types of tempo-based aggro decks that get sweet bonuses from Merfolk, Pirate and Raid synergies. Tempest Caller is my early pick for most annoying card in the set because with so many aggressively slanted cards it’s going to read “win the game” far too often. Just don’t sleep on these cheap creatures because they all feel playable to me.
Prosperous Pirates is obviously powerful, but I’m most excited to see how well it crosses over into other archetypes and enables you to cast huge Dinosaurs out of a U/G Ramp deck.
There are so many Black removal spells in this set. So that’s something you can rely on when dipping into the colour. It looks to me like this will be the support colour of-choice for colours like Green and Blue who have some sweet creatures to pair with the spells Black offers. What I wish there was more of is payoffs for all of the treasures you make in this colour. But, with that said, the Vampire payoffs are there if you can get enough of them, but I wouldn’t recommend trying to make that work in Sealed.
Despite B/G not being a supported archetype within the tribes the removal coupled with the ability to create treasures and ramp you into Dinosaurs make it look like an appealing Sealed archetype to try for me.
Red looks both aggressive and midrangey to me and could just be the best colour in the set. Charging Monstrosaur is just going to end a lot of game on the spot and Firecannon Blast is an extremely efficient common removal spell. Much like Hour of Devastation there are both ways to be a base-Red aggro deck and to add Red to slower decks effectively—which make it a go-to colour in the format.
In Ixalan Green is all about big bad Dinosaurs and the odd synergistic Merfolk. The two “fight” effects you see above get a lot better in Dinosaur decks because they help you trigger all of your Enrage synergies. I expect for this reason Atzocan Archer will be one of the best uncommons in the set along with Savage Stomp. Overall the Common power level in Green does seem a little low, but the uncommons are off the charts which seems to be a bit of a trend in Ixalan.
There are a lot of Dinosaurs, but Colossal Dreadmaw is where you want to be in your ramp decks simply because of the keyword Trample.
What you see above are the Common combat tricks in every colour for Ixalan Limited. These are the most likely tricks for your opponent to be playing. Taking a look at them as a whole, four of the five are instant speed and all of them cost two mana or less. None of them provide more than +2 on toughness which is something to be aware of when casting your burn spells. Notably both Vampire’s Zeal and River Herald’s Boon have tribal-matters effects and that is definitely something you’re going to want to remember when targeting Merfolk or Vampires with your spells. Finally, I’d like to mention that One With the Wind is a grossly powerful effect for two mana even at sorcery speed. So, just be aware of how fast some of these Blue decks are going to be able to pressure you.
There it is, your base-level first look at the cards I’m looking to play in Ixalan Limited. Now you’re ready to join me this Sunday at Face to Face Games Toronto to battle for 1k in prizing at our Pre-Release Sealed Sunday Showdown. See you there, I hear there’s treasure !