Here Are the Top 5 Cards from Rivals of Ixalan for Modern!
Now that the full spoiler of Rivals of Ixalan is out, there has been a lot of buzz around the more pushed cards which could be good enough for Modern. Some of the more recent sets have been disappointing in this sense – Aether Revolt which yielded only Fatal Push, then Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation which weren’t really exciting at all, then Ixalan which gave us a few cards in Opt, Search for Azcanta and Field of Ruin, but that was it. Rivals of Ixalan, though, seems like it may have some spicy new playthings for us, and I for one am keen to see what the brewers come up with to add to an already diverse Modern format.
So, in a very particular order, here are the top 5 cards which I think will be playable in Modern!
5. Warkite Marauder
This is a pretty exciting card for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the Humans deck has been putting up a lot of results recently, and I think this is going to be a good addition to what is already a very competitive deck. Like Kitesail Freebooter, this has flying, which is a huge deal in a creature-based deck, particularly when it can be buffed up easily by a Thalia’s Lieutenant or two. It’s also very easily castable off of Noble Hierarch and the many tribal lands the deck runs.
Most exciting of all, though, is that this card gives a deck without much removal – usually only a playset of Path to Exile and maybe a Dismember or two – an onboard way of dealing with the biggest blocker on the battlefield. If the opponent only has one flier, this is a fantastic way of ensuring you get in for potentially a lot of damage in the air when combined with Mantis Riders and Freebooters. In addition, it could allow you to swing in on the ground for the last few points, if your opponent only has one massive Death’s Shadow, Wurmcoil Engine or Tasigur blocking the way.
So many times I have seen the Humans deck push the opponent very close to dead before they manage to stabilise, recover and shoot down the Mantis Riders and Champions of the Parish to win the game from 3 or 4 life. I think that the addition of this card to the deck will be a great way to round out the threats in the air, as well as push through one more turn of extra damage on the ground which could be all you need. Otherwise, if they are afraid of it, it eats a removal spell which would otherwise be pointed at a Champion or a Thalia.
This may not be a 4-of, and it may even be a sideboard card, but against creature decks it is absolutely worth running, and I think that it will show up in at least some of the Humans builds in the future.
4. Dire Fleet Daredevil
This is a very interesting design and I am incredibly excited to try this card out in my own deck. It’s a 2/1 first strike for 2, which is already good against a surprising amount of the format – Thalia is held back or traded with, and Goblin Guide and Snapcaster Mage beats are completely prevented.
The best part, though, is that you get to Snapcaster something in your opponent’s graveyard. This is actually a three-for-one if you execute it properly. You will have to pick your moment carefully, as it doesn’t have flash, and so your opponent can respond with their own Snapcaster Mage or graveyard shenanigans to counter it, which is to me the only visible downside.
Imagine you’re playing a control mirror. You were on the play. Your opponent just used a Cryptic Command on your end step, tapping out to do so, and it’s now sitting in their graveyard – but they’re only at five mana. You just untapped and played your sixth land, so now you get to cast Dire Fleet Daredevil and flash back their Cryptic Command, and they don’t have the mana to interfere. You bounce one of their lands and draw a card, and exile their Cryptic so they can’t use it with their Snapcaster Mage.
Obviously that’s the dream scenario and it won’t always play out that way. However, I can certainly see a lot of cases where this card will be exceptional. Past in Flames is no longer safe just sitting in the Storm player’s graveyard after a Gifts Ungiven until they build up a critical mass. From hand attack to removal to full-on boardwipes, you can utilise their graveyard to your advantage and take away from their game plan in the process.
Again, I don’t think this card will be a 4-of, and it’s not going to be good against everything, either. Personally, I’m going to try two in my Kiki Moon sideboard to begin with, for the grindy matchups against control and midrange in which I can use their spells against them (also, the instant-speed value with Kiki-Jiki….). I’m excited to see how it turns out!
3. Admiral’s Order
Since the first ever printing of Cancel, many players have been disappointed with the quality of counterspells provided in new sets. Over the years, Wizards have repeatedly admonished that counterspells aren’t fun, and they don’t want to make them too good. Thus, each set we receive a new Cancel with slightly different text, and each time players are disappointed.
This time, though, I think that they could be on to something. This is a very specific counterspell, but it’s certainly one that can go the distance if played in the right deck. Take Merfolk, for example, where your main fear is your islandwalk Lord being killed mid-combat and being blown out with blocks. This card is perfect for that situation. For aggro decks in general, it significantly reduces the threat of the mid-combat Snapcaster-Bolt blowout. In decks like Storm, attacking with your Baral or Electromancer before attempting to go off is a small cost to pay to enable a one-mana hard counterspell.
However, the deck where I think this will find its true home is in Infect. Although it’s been in a bit of a decline since the banning of Gitaxian Probe, this might help to pick it back up again. After all, you don’t care what’s in their hand if you know that you can counter it. Most importantly, the best time to be killing an infect creature is in the infect player’s end step, so they have to waste pump spells when they won’t add any damage. Since raid applies until the end of the turn, the existence of this spell flips that on its head as they’ll have a one-mana counter available in their end step, and makes it hard to decide when to use your removal spells.
Spell Pierce is, obviously, already very good in this deck. However, it can peter off earlier than you’d like, especially when most of the spells that beat you only cost 1 mana. Adding an extra hard counter to the already vast suite of protection spells may now be enough to put Infect back on the map.
2. Merfolk Mistbinder
Finally! It’s here! The card everyone was waiting for in Ixalan block, the Merfolk Lord we all knew was coming. Merfolk Mistbinder is the newest addition to the ‘2 mana lord’ crew, and with U/G Merfolk already existing as an alternative build to mono-blue in Modern, this card will likely spark a big change in how the deck is built.
Before this, U/G and blue were roughly equal. Kumena’s Speaker is a slightly more aggressive alternative to Cursecatcher, and Merfolk Branchwalker is a flex slot with Harbinger of the Tides, but both options are arguable depending on how you want your deck to be built. Now, however, there is a must-include card in the form of this new lord, and even the decks that were previously not running green will probably now be at least splashing it for this card.
With a suite of now 16 Modern-playable lords in the deck, it’s very easy to see Merfolk gaining a lot from this. Easily castable off of Cavern of Souls or with the fast lands which some builds are now running, an extra +1/+1 effect gives Merfolk more redundancy in their creatures than ever before and makes the deck even better against single-target removal. The only thing it’s lacking is the islandwalk, which is a bit of a blow given that that’s how Merfolk beats creature decks, but for 2 mana it’s absolutely still worth running just for the buff.
There are other potentially Modern-playable merfolk which have been spoiled – particularly Swift Warden – and I’m not yet sure how they will fit into the deck, but I think they will crop up, at least at the beginning when people are trying these cards out. Merfolk Sovereign is unplayable at 3 mana, so the bar is set very high, but I would imagine that the hexproof card is at least sideboard playable, especially in the builds which are running a heavy green splash.
It will be exciting to see which of the new fish make it into the format as mainstays, but I am absolutely certain that Merfolk Mistbinder will be one of them.
1. Blood Sun
I wrote an article recently about Blood Sun and its potential impact on Modern, so those of you who have read that will already be aware of my opinions on this card. However, I will go into more depth here about just how much I believe this card will appear in the format.
Let me make one thing clear: it’s not as good as Blood Moon at locking your opponent out. This card serves a different purpose than its twin sister, and I think that will be reflected in the decks it finds a place in, as well as the number of copies that are played in the 75. The decks that run Blood Moon in the mainboard or the sideboard solely to cut the opponent out of the game will not be running this as a more flexible, cantripping replacement.
However, there is definitely a place for it in other decks. Most notably, it affects all the land-based removal for Tron lands, such as Ghost Quarter and Field of Ruin, while allowing Tron lands to function normally, so I would expect to see it in R/G Tron lists as a free way of preventing the opponent from interacting with their lands. The quantity of Suns, and whether they will be main or side, is yet to be seen, as obviously turn three is a big turn for Tron, and you have other things you wish to be casting. If you don’t have the nut draw though, this could be a good way of protecting your lands until the crucial turn.
This card will also see play in Storm. The awkwardness of Blood Moon in Storm has long been a nuisance, as it cuts off blue mana and makes it difficult to go off, so you can sometimes hurt yourself as much as your opponent. However, Blood Sun has no such effect on Shivan Reef or Spirebluff Canal or Sulfur Falls, so it will be very easy for Storm players to Ritual this out on turn two and leave the opponent fumbling with fetch lands while they freely go off the next turn. The fact that it cantrips means that it won’t even put them down a card for the Storm turn either, so there is absolutely no reason not to run this card in the mainboard – the opportunity cost is very low and the potential reward off the scale.
I think that in addition to the current meta decks, this will also improve the playability of prison strategies which attempt to lock the opponent out with early Simian Spirit Guide turns into Blood Moon and Chalice. It’s not as good as the Moon, but it will have some effect on the opponent’s lands and again, because it’s a cantrip, the opportunity cost of running it is very low, so there’s a good chance it will crop up in those lists and make them more competitive. This could also be the case for R/G Ponza strategies, who themselves are unaffected by this, but will be able to use it to their advantage in combination with land destruction spells to effectively remove all of the opponent’s fetchlands in one fell swoop.
In conclusion, I think that out of all of the cards in RIX, this one will have the most impact on the Modern format, and will see the most play across the board. I will be interested to see just how good it makes the top tier decks, or whether it affects them at all; and whether new lists will crop up as a result of its printing.
So, that’s a roundup of the top 5 cards that are potentially going to be Modern-playable. I will stress that I don’t think these are the only ones – Enter the Unknown has a lot of potential in Valakut/green ramp decks, and as mentioned above, Swift Warden will probably show its face in Merfolk – but I believe these are the ones which are most likely to have a big impact across the board, or affect the most competitive decklists.
Community Question: Do you think there are other cards which will see more play than those I mentioned above? Do you disagree with any of my thoughts? Let us know in the comments!
Thanks for reading, and may you pull many foils at your Prereleases!