The Best Ixalan Cards for Commander (and Why I’m Losing My Mind At This Set!)
So it’s that time again, a new set and a new list of the cards that I think will be the best in Commander. I know that I don’t do these for every set (I missed Commander 2017 and I couldn’t apologise enough) but Ixalan is a special case and I’m going to get to why shortly.
Pirates, Merfolk and Dinos! Oh Yes!
Since the printing of Deathmist Raptor and the fact that it was a ”Lizard Beast”, Magic players have been collectively crying out for an actual Dinosaur creature type and, as always, Wizards have delivered. From a colour shifted Dread Cacodemon to a legendary Naya Dinosaur for those wanting to make their dream Dino Tribal Commander deck, this set offers a lot for the new tribe including a number of creature type erratas (such as the aforementioned Deathmist Raptor). Of the cards currently spoiled, I’d argue that one of the best Dinosaurs is Regisaur Alpha, a 4/4 for 3RG that gives all of your other dinosaurs haste! On top of this, it imitates Jund’s favourite Werewolf Huntmaster of the Fells by bringing a 3/3 buddy with trample along for the ride. I can see this card being great in Standard as well as getting some play in stompy Commander decks (extra points for Naya decks that can abuse this with Eldrazi Displacer).
As mentioned by Wizards of the Coast (Wotc), when this set was first spoiled it has some serious tribal implications with powerful Merfolk, some of which have caused a real stir. With green merfolk reminiscent of Wild Nacatl and Kira, Great Glass Spinner with the Merfolk creature type, people are getting really excited for this set’s implications for one of Magic’s oldest tribes. On top of all of this hype there is a fantastic new Simic merfolk legend, one that I think will probably be part of the 99 rather than as the general. Tishana, Voice of Thunder is like a combination of Regal Force, Kruphix, God of Horizons and Aeon Chronicler; a ton of great Simic creatures rolled up into a nice little package.
Why are Pirates called Pirates? Because they ARRRRRRRRRRR
The last tribe that has a focus in Ixalan is another that has had very little love from WotC in the past and that I think they’ve done a fantastic job with in this set. Pirates. From what we’ve seen previewed so far the only format I can see Pirates having a huge impact on is Standard with a variety of aggressive and mid-range swashbucklers being printed. The strangest of these is Hostage Taker, a card that had to be errata’ed before it was even printed to prevent it being an infinite combo with itself (a collective sigh of relief as we barely avoided another Felidar Guardian situation).
There is of course a legendary creature for this tribe, Admiral Beckett Brass, affectionately nicknamed ”Pirate Grandma” by a lot of people in my playgroup. As well as being a lord for pirates, if you can connect with enough of your creatures you can even steal your opponents’ nonland permanents, very flavourful. Well done Wizards. On the more aggressive end of the Pirate spectrum is Dire Fleet Captain, a very respectable bear at 2/2 for two mana but with the ability of pumping itself for +1/+1 for each other attacking creature. While aggressive decks are often seen as the weaker option in Commander where everyone is slinging their ten mana spells, this can still be a strong option if built correctly and this card is definitely one to look out for in Saskia decks near you.
On top of the actual tribal creatures, there are some utility cards that I think will have a massive impact on the format. First off is Pillar of Origins. Two mana rocks are at a premium in Commander and if you listen to me prattle on about my Daretti deck I’ll probably say that about 100 times. With this in mind, a two mana rock that taps for any colour of mana for creatures of your chosen type is going to be highly sought after for pretty much any tribal deck, even mono coloured ones; but especially more so as the number of colours increases (COUGHThe Ur-DragonCOUGH).
One problem that a lot of the more fringe tribes have is getting lords. There are a ton of Elf, Zombie and Human lords but where are the Ape and Advisor lords? Say hello to Vanquisher’s Banner! Not only does this artifact pump your team but it also gives you a Soul of the Harvest type effect that is harder to remove, as well as being able to be used in any colours/tribes. This will be another one that other Commander players will be aggressively trading for, so make sure you snap yours up ASAP.
Finally is Arcane Adaptation. Ever thought “I wish that I could run X card in my tribal deck but it doesn’t fit the tribe at all, besides I’m not in black to run Conspiracy“, well never fear there is now a blue equivalent that actually costs two less mana (for some reason, don’t ask me). This will be fantastic for some of the weirder combos and will certainly see play in decks like The Ur-Dragon and Inalla, Archmage Ritualist, turning all of the cards in your hard into Dragons or Wizards.
Now I love tribal decks as much as the next person and as we can see from the latest Commander set, people, LOVE, tribal decks; but that isn’t what is making me lose my mind over this set. I’ll start very vanilla and work my way up to what are, as far as commander is concerned, basically reprints of reserved list cards.
Unclaimed Territory is a very unassuming land which is very similar to Cavern of Souls but don’t expect to see this going for $50. A very powerful land that I will be putting into all of my tribal commander decks, and as an uncommon I think that this will probably be easy enough to get hold of that it won’t demand much of a premium outside of if tribal decks are big in Standard and it goes up to $2-3 like Aether Hub. Cool card but nothing to lose your head over.
If there is one thing I love about Commander it’s the array of sweet lands and artifacts that you can get in the format. Be it the infinitely useful Staff of Domination and Trading Post, or the recursion offered by Academy Ruins and Buried Ruin, these are some of my favourite cards to build around in the format [insert another reference to my sweet Daretti deck here]. Well guess what, Ixalan provides these, on the same card. Primal Amulet is a 4 mana colourless Jace’s Sanctum that turns into a Pyromancer’s Goggles on a land. This is a card that I’m going to be hording as Pyromancer’s Goggles is one of my favourite cards ever printed, but it gets better.
Ixalan sees the return of Vehicles, one very interesting one is Conqueror’s Falleon a four mana 2/10 with Crew 4. A hefty amount of power to tap for just a 2/10, but when you attack with this, it flips at the end of combat into Conqueror’s Foothold a land that lets you loot, draw cards and even return cards from your graveyard to your hand. Everything I love about this card speaks for itself and it fits a lot of major roles that colourless and mono-red decks were missing previously. This card had me positively buzzing when I saw it previewed.
It gets even better. Maze of Ith reprint. Well not quite – but a card that is very similar. Thaumatic Compass is a two mana artifact that lets you pay three mana and tap it to search for a basic land and put it into your hand. At the beginning of your end step if you have seven or more lands in play it transforms, and let’s be realistic. This is Commander, that won’t be a hard goal to reach. Once it flips it becomes Spires of Orazca, a land that taps for colourless mana but also has the ability to untap an attacking creature and remove it from combat. I love Maze of Ith, and having it on the back of an artifact I can use to find more lands just gets me extremely excited to put this card into all of my Commander decks.
You’d think that by now, with what is functionally a reprint of Maze of Ith, I’d be done with the madness that is Ixalan. Oh how you’re wrong. People are always saying that they would like the reserved list abolished and while WotC try to satiate us with Judge Promos of cards like Imperial Seal and Mana Drain people are not satisfied. Well how about a Standard reprint of Gaea’s Cradle? Not exactly but that’s just semantics. Growing Rites of Itlimoc is a 3 mana legendary enchantment, similar to Oath of Nissa, when it enters the battlefield it lets you look at the top four cards of your library and put a creature from them into your hand. This is however, not what is exciting about this card. Oath lets you cast planeswalkers with any colours of mana, but if you have four creatures in play at the beginning of your end step, Rites of Itlimoc transforms into Itlimov, Cradle of the Sun, a land that can either tap for G like a regular old forest
Tap for green mana equal to the amount of creatures in play. Remind you of a $300 card you can’t afford for your Commander deck? This card has certainly made me think that maybe Wizards do want to abolish the reserved list, but due to the backlash they’d receive instead want to print fairer versions of all of these cards? That’s an article for another day, though.
Now that we’ve seen the full Ixalan spoiler we can start to see all of the nuances and synergies that are up for grabs in the new set, I’m very excited for this set. I’ve already preordered a bunch of the transforming artifacts and I’m sure I’ll be able to find a spot for them in a number of my current decks.
I should be releasing part 3 of my 32 Colour Combination series soon, so keep an eye out for that. As always, thanks for reading and let me know what you did, or didn’t, like so that I can endeavour to make sure that my content is stuff you can enjoy.
Community Question: What Ixalan card are you looking forward to playing with the most in your Commander deck, and why?
See you later!