A First Look at a Rivals of Ixalan Prerelease Pack
With the Rivals of Ixalan Prerelease just around the corner, we only have a few days to wait before getting our hands on a fresh batch of Dinosaurs, Pirates, Merfolk, and Vampires. This week Wizards of the Coast and Manaleak kindly set me up with a Box-o-Brontosauruses (otherwise known as a Prerelease pack) to explore ahead of the weekend, and I’m here to give you a first look.
As someone whose enthusiasm for cardboard extends to the packaging (I kept all my old Prerelease boxes just because they’re pretty), the compact khaki-coloured box suggested exploration and was a sight for excited eyes. Inside I found the expected two packs of Ixalan, four packs of Rivals of Ixalan, a foil promo (mine was Arch of Orazca) and a 20-sided die. There was also a treasure map-style guide, and a cardboard separator to prevent my Merfolk and Vampires from fighting for control of my deck box.
Repressing my learned tendency to throw the cards into piles as quickly as possible and spend 40 minutes frantically iterating through archetypes until I stumble upon a solution*, I took some time to read the creatures and spells that Rivals of Ixalan has to offer.
*Sealed is definitely not my best format
I haven’t spent long looking at spoilers (my head has been full of Squirrels and Sprockets and Contraptions for the last month), so the promo card was new to me. Drawing Cards is one of my favourite things to do, right up there with Having Lots of Mana, so Arch of Orazca represents somewhere that I would love to be in Limited.
The Ixalan Packs
We’ve had Ixalan for a while, so these cards are nothing new. There was some mana fixing in the form of Unknown Shores, some removal (Ixalan’s Binding, Contract Killing, Star of Extinction) and some decent little creatures. Definitely not enough to make me excited about any particular archetype yet, although I did find myself crossing my fingers that I would end up playing Red, just for the multitude of sound effects that I could make as I slam Star of Extinction.
The Rivals of Ixalan Packs
The fun began with the new packs, with a load of new toys at my disposal. Of the four archetypes nothing jumped out at me as an obvious choice – so I explored them one by one, starting with Pirates.
Ixalan Limited was characterised by the dominance of aggressive strategies, and Black-Red Pirates were central to this. As my pool contained a few cheap Pirates and some efficient removal, I laid out the deck to see what it looked like.
I’m really no expert on Ixalan sealed, but I think this looked mediocre as an aggressive plan. To have enough playables I would have needed to supplement my deck with more expensive cards and dilute my aggressive strategy, so I canned this idea. I really wasn’t disappointed to not play an aggressive deck – I did that enough times in Ixalan. The deck did seem to have individually great aggressive cards, there just weren’t enough of them.
What about the more austere and nocturnal of Ixalan’s tribes? I have yet to play a Vampire-heavy deck in Ixalan Limited, and a well-honed strategy looks like fun. My pool of cards didn’t make me terribly excited for this build, short of attempting to flood the board with Vampire creature tokens and Ascend to obtain The City’s Blessing. The real main reason to be pulled into Black-White seemed to be that general stack of removal, and a hefty pile of two-drop creatures. I shelved this plan and moved on, but I don’t think that this would have been a terrible choice.
As I laid out the Vampire-heavy Black-White deck, I couldn’t prevent my eyes from wandering to the big White Dinosaur on the right of the mana curve. Trapjaw Tyrant is exactly the sort of big, smashy creature with a valuable upside that I’d love to sleeve up among my 40 cards.
I also noticed that my pool contained a respectable amount of mana fixing, with lots of it showing up in Green. My Gold cards also included a Sky Terror, a Raging Regisaur, and an Atzocan Seer, the last of which helps with both mana and with Dinosaurs. Green is the colour best at giving us huge piles of Power and Toughnesses, and it didn’t disappoint in this deck. These things, combined with the decent removal in White pulled me into a Green-White base strategy splashing Red for a few Dinosaurs and payoff spells.
I ended up with this glorious pile of Green:
I know Dinosaurs weren’t the most sought-after tribe of Ixalan (I wish they were), and I don’t know how they will fare with Rivals, but to me, this deck just looked like the most fun. If I was granted this pool during the Prerelease and was in a suitably silly mood I might be tempted to add another Mountain and play Star of Extinction and Brass’s Bounty for the jank, and would at least probably sideboard them in against someone.
I was sad to omit Arch of Orazca from my list, but adding a colourless land to a three-colour deck seemed risky. Even if drawing cards is great.
Would my deck have been good? I don’t know. Big Dinosaur decks weren’t the best strategy in Ixalan and would get out-competed by faster builds, but the card pool has expanded to dilute the once-prevalent Pirate’s Cutlasses. One big question surrounding the current Limited environment has been whether Rivals of Ixalan will slow down our Draft and Sealed games by weakening aggressive strategies, and I’m not sure what the answer to this question will be.
I built this deck because it represents what I would most enjoy playing at a Prerelease – a big, greedy, multi-colour array of Prehistoric monsters.
Favourite cards that I’m not playing?
One of the things that I love most about Prereleases is the initial affinity that we get for certain cards. Whether I am exploring Kaladesh, Amonkhet or Ixalan, there’s always a few cards that I want to put in my deck not because of a strict power level, but because they just appeal to me for some reason.
So, I didn’t think a first look at a Prerelease pack would be complete without celebrating my favourite cards that I’m not playing! So here they are…
See Red: Okay, so I mentioned being happy to not build an aggressive deck from my Sealed pool, but this card earns a place in my heart. There’s something so hilariously all-in about it, it makes me want to slam it on a random one-mana dork and swing like I’m bowling a strike.
Dire Fleet Poisoner: A 2/2 for 2 mana creature with Flash and Deathtouch seems great already, but add to the mix that it buffs an attacking friend AND makes said friend trade with a big creature – I want to play this card so much. Also look at her. Look at how rad she is.
Oathsworn Vampire: I love lifegain payoff. I have tried to make it work in various Limited sets more often that I strictly should, but it feels great when it pays off. I like that this card triggers from lifegain itself rather than, say, another Vampire entering the battlefield – it fits into a slightly less linear tribal strategy that some other cards. This guy could be a useful sacrifice target if you have a way to generate value, provided you have a reliable way to bring him back into play.
Expel from Orazca: I’ve hardly mentioned the colour Blue in this article, mostly because it seemed like the least exciting colour in my Sealed pool, not because I have anything against Cancel. I really like the Ascend mechanic, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out for the different strategies. Setting your opponent back a card seems like a good payoff for hoarding a bunch of permanents.
Until the Prerelease!
Cracking a load of booster packs has certainly made me excited to compete in my local Prerelease at the weekend. When the event is over, I’ll test out my Naya Dinosaurs against whatever I build on the day to see how it would have fared.
Do you play Magic: the Gathering in the Midlands? If so then you might be interested in taking part in the Rivals of Ixalan Prerelease Weekender at Manaleak Birmingham, which is happening this weekend! If you’ve not do so already, please click “Going” on the event itself, and preregister your place ASAP and save yourself some money!
Thanks so much Wizards of the Coast and Manaleak for providing me early access to Rivals of Ixalan, it’s been great!