Does Ixalan Limited suck?

Hi guys, welcome back. It’s been a while but I wanted a chance to play with the new cards so I could actually give an informed opinion. I have only been drafting so far and done about 15 and my initial impressions are good. At first glance the set looks like it could get boring super quickly because of the tribes; just pick a tribe and take all the cards you see in that tribe.

When you think about it, that isn’t much different from a normal set where you just pick your colors and take the best card in those colors. What makes a normal set interesting are the times where the correct pick isn’t just the best card in your colors but something that synergizes with what else you have going on.

The equivalent in Ixalan is then when the correct pick is not just the best card in your tribe, but that is often going to be because there is a super powerful card in your colors that doesn’t have any tribal synergies. I haven’t gone deep enough yet to know how often these things happen but at least you have to consider both tribe and colors when making a pick which is more than the base level for a normal set. I hope there will be rare times when you get to draft a treasure deck for example and I will be looking for it (probably at the expense of tickets), but today I want to talk about what has been the best tribe for me this far; vampires.

Anoited DeaconUnassuming, I know

The key to this deck for me is Anointed Deacon; most of the vampires are 2 or less power and this is the guy that can push them through. With Bishop’s Soldier, Queen’s Commission, Paladin of the Bloodstained, and Call to the Feast, boosting power is worth double sometimes and since the lifelink makes racing difficult, your opponent will often have to start trading real cards for each of your tokens. If you ever get two deacons down together, it becomes extremely hard to lose.

Aside from the lifelinkers my favorite creatures in the deck are Skymarch Bloodletter, Legion Conquistador, both undersized creatures that benefit from getting an extra two power (or 4). You even get two good one drops in Duskborne Skymarcher and Vicious Conquistador. While they’re both uncommons, it’s unlikely that anyone else will be interested in them. Glorifier of Dusk is also good in the deck, but it doesn’t need as much help as the other guys.

Other good uncommons for the deck are Adanto Vanguard (which is also just a great aggressive card), Deathless Ancient, and Bishop of the Bloodstained if you are really deep in the tribe. Once you find that the archetype is open, there are also some great rares that you can expect will come to you if someone opened them; Sanctum Seeker and Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle. These are straight bombs for you and pretty poor for anyone else.

That actually brings me to a side note on the format which is that the rares in this set are less ridiculous than they often are. Yes, you still have things like Regisaur Alpha and the planeswalkers which are insane, but I don’t think there is anything on the level of Glorybringer and because of the tribal theme, a lot of the good rares are only good in specific contexts, so your first pick will not be a windmill slam rare or mythic as often as you’re used to.

This to me is one of the most important signs of a good limited set; You might lose to Sanctum Seeker but at least it required your opponent to draft reasonably well and they would probably still have a deck that could win without drawing it. I actually didn’t even enjoy many of the draft decks where I had Glorybringer because I lost so many games where I didn’t draw it.

So back to vampires, how do you draft them? As I said, Anointed Deacon is the key but I don’t like first picking it. There a lot of generically good black and white cards that you can often first pick, like Contract Killing, Pious Interdiction, Vanquish the Weak, and Adanto Vanguard. Then if cards like that keep coming for the next few picks, maybe including a Deathless Ancient I will start to look for the deacon and the uncommons.

Legion ConquistadorIgnore this card at your own peril

One important thing to keep in mind is if you have passed any Legion Conquistadors. It is likely to wheel and you obviously need more than one for it to be playable. Let’s say it’s pick 6 and I have a couple of removal spells, a deacon, a Bishop’s Soldier and some good card in another color that hasn’t looked open so far. The pick is now between Queen’s Commission, Skymarch Bloodletter and Legion Conquistador.

If I have passed a Conquistador earlier I will probably take it here but if I haven’t, both of the other cards have higher priority (probably the flier first). Two Conquistador is just playable but as soon as you get more than that it becomes insane since it helps stall the ground and with a deacon to help them trade up, it will grind the opponent out quite effectively.

So you have a couple of removal spells, a deacon and a couple of vampires and now you have to choose between a Contract Killing and a Queen’s Bay Soldier (your first two drop). I am going to go out on a limb here and say you should lean towards the removal spell. The reason for that is that there is so much lifegain in this archetype that your curve matters less than it normally does in limited.

This particular example might be a stretch and it also depends if you have any lifegain so far, but keep in mind that the tools are available in this archetype to stabilize both the board and your life total. Of course, you would also like to have a board presence so your deacon has an effect the turn it comes down so if it’s a Bishop’s Soldier instead, I’d probably take it. I guess a more general way to express it is that you often don’t have to take subpar cards for curve considerations if you have a lot of good ways to gain life.

That’s about what I have learned so far. I will spend next week playing a lot of Standard so I’ll hopefully have something to report back soon. Until then, thanks for reading and good luck in the queues.

Hidden Gems in Modern

Today I want to talk about some cards that see too little play in my opinion. Sometimes people are very rigid in their deckbuilding and are too afraid to innovate. Or maybe they need to see a certain card make four or five top 8’s before they try it out them selves. Tons of things factor in when it comes to deckbuilding, and Magic players are usually on the safe side of things. So losen up the tight belt, ride along and live a little – at least with me in this article!

Can be played in: Blue/White Control, Blue Moon, Ad Nauseam

I played Standard back when Force Spike was legal and enjoy the threat of Daze in Legacy. Do you play your best threat every turn to optimize your potential or do you respect the Force Spike effect? A lot of interesting gameplay comes up with a card like this in the format.

It’s a normal strategy to sideboard out Daze on the draw in Legacy, but the opponent will always have to respect it to some degree. In Legacy you can pitch Daze to Force of Will or Brainstorm it back with a fetchland, while the Force Spike sometimes didn’t have a use besides being cast in early 2000’s Standard.

The point I’m getting at is that Censor has cycling for the cheap cost of one blue mana, so if you can’t counter your opponents threat on curve, you can easily cash it in for another card. Countering opposing turn two plays on the play and turn 3 plays on the draw is likely the most frequent use of Censor. Liliana of the Veil, Thought-Knot Seer and Karn Liberated come to mind, but even something like four-mana planeswalkers, Primeval Titan and Gifts Ungiven are realistic targets. And if they have mana to spare, just draw your card and move on.

It would likely replace Mana Leak – a card that is useful to cast in more scenarios, but also lose value in long games or against weary opponents. In Ad Nauseam Censor will act as a cantrip that maybe 20% of the time is able to counter something from the opponent. Liliana of the Veil and Thought-Knot Seer are your best targets, but Collected Company and Chord of Calling are pretty nice to prevent from happening in that matchup. It also gives you the ability to beat Abrupt Decay with your Laboratory Maniac kill, as you can cycle in response.

Can be played in: Bant Eldrazi, Eldrazi Tron, Blue Tron

The die roll is really important in Modern and Magic in general, and a bunch of games will be determined by it throughout any given tournament. Did I get to suspend my Ancestral Vision before my opponent snatched it with an Inquisition of Kozilek?

Did I get to play my Anger of the Gods before my opponent untapped with Steel Overseer?

Did I play first and won the TitanShift mirror because I was one turn faster? I’m sure you get the picture. With Gemstone Caverns in your deck (you should play 1-2 copies if you play it), you’re basically trying to flip the script whenever you’re on the draw. With you drawing an extra card for the turn opposed to your opponent who actually won the die roll, you have more resources to work with and the exile clause is less damaging. From here you can go turn one Chalice of the Void, turn two Thought-Knot Seer if you have an Eldrazi Temple or hold up Remand turn before depending on which of the decks you’re playing.

The reason why I only included decks with a lot of colorless cards in them is that the flipside of Gemstone Caverns is if you actually win the dieroll (or draw into it on a later turn), then the land must be acceptable to draw. I’m always excited when I win the die roll vs. these decks, but if they all of a sudden have a Gemstone Caverns, I’m back to being nervous again.

Can be played in: Blue/White Control

This card has definitely seen the most play out of the three, but I feel it should be seeing way more play right now. The double white cost limits it to only a few decks with Blue/White Control being the only true tier 1 deck, so I’ll focus on that today. In a deck also playing Cryptic Command, it’s very important that your manabase can support both double white and triple blue.

The easy fix is Mystic Gate which lets you filter both ways. Mystic Gate is not very good with a lot of combined copies of Tectonic Edge and Ghost Quarter, however, so you shouldn’t play more than four colorless lands if you include two Mystic Gate. Now that we established the means to play Runed Halo, let’s dive into its utility in the format. I like Runed Halo out of the sideboard, but depending on your number of available slots between the main deck and sideboard, I could also see my self playing a copy or two in my starting 60.

It’s particularly good against decks with a low number of threats on the table like Death’s Shadow, Bogles and Eldrazi variants. Ironically, these are also the decks that have a difficult time getting rid of the enchantment. Eidolon of the Great Revel vs. Burn, Walking Ballista vs. Eldrazi Tron, Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle vs. TitanShift and Conflagrate vs. Dredge are other strong cards to name.

Remember, the default mode on this card is naming a creature on your opponents side of the board, and not only do you shut down that creature, but you also shut down all future copies of that card that your opponent draws. Of course it will be lackluster vs. various Collected Company decks, Affinity and Control matchups, but its overall utility warrants at least a few sideboard slots in my book.

I actually like this topic a lot, so I would be interested in hearing your candidates for “hidden gems” in Modern! Let me know in the comments 🙂

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