Last year was a pretty good time to be playing EDH. Lots of new cards have been released that are specifically tailored for our format, from giant monsters, to big silly spells, and everything in between.
Now, the Ixalan expansion set, Rivals of Ixalan, was released last month, and everyone has had a chance to add the cards to their EDH decks.
It has taken me a month to work out what I wanted to say about this set. Do I think Rivals continues Wizards’ strong run of good multiplayer sets?
Let’s take a look!
Last year, we had some great Magic sets printed for EDH. Aether Revolt had lots of great multiplayer cards in it, like Metallic Mimic, one of the best tribal enablers ever. This was followed by Modern Masters 2017, which had lots of great reprints, driving down the prices of expensive cards. Wizards released the Egypt-themed set Amonkhet, which again, had a ton of great multiplayer cards, like new general Hapatra, Vizier of Poison and Dusk // Dawn. Then came Hour of Devastation, which saw the release of good old Nicol Bolas, who came back to chew bubble gum and kick the good guys’ collective asses. Finally, we had Commander 2017, which had a strong tribal theme, helping out the various tribes of Magic (but especially Vampires, Dragons, Wizards and Cats).
In Sept, Ixalan continued in this fashion, but upped the ante with a strong tribal set, featuring Merfolk, Vampires, Dinosaurs, and Pirates, all fairly popular choices. This set did have some great tribal enablers, as well as an amazing cycle of transform cards (that I gushed about here). Though considered a weak Magic set overall (and a terrible Limited format), Ixalan was popular with EDH tribal players, and today’s set is the small set in that block.
Could Rivals of Ixalan continue the strong string of multiplayer sets? Let’s check it out.
I’ll be honest, other than the obvious tribal stuff that I’ll be using, there’s not a lot in this set to be super excited about. But, here’s what caught my eye:
MORE AWESOME TRANSFORM LANDS:
When the original Ixalan set came out, one thing that I was a huge fan of was the cycle of transform cards that would turn into broken lands from the past, like Growing Rites of Itlimoc, which turns into a pseudo Gaea’s Cradle. I immediately found a home for each of these transform cards in my EDH decks, as each one was powerful, flavorful, and super fun.
I enjoyed this cycle of transform lands so much, in fact, that I had a spotlight article shortly after they were released, here.
With the release of Rivals of Ixalan, we now have even more of these transform cards, and the new ones are equally awesome.
As with the first batch, I have found homes for each of these as well: Azor’s Gateway is a way to cycle through cards and find the spells you need when you need them, and I know it’ll be excellent in Maga, Traitor to Mortals, where it can help power out a game-ending Maga once flipped. Storm the Vault should be fantastic in Breya, Etherium Shaper, where it should do a great impression of Tolarian Academy. Journey to Eternity is an amazing recursion spell that turns into an even more amazing recursion land, and should be super powerful in our Kresh, the Bloodbraided deck. Profane Procession is an uninspiring, yet somewhat strong repeatable removal spell; I’m planning to test it out in our Doran, the Siege Tower deck, and Triad of Fates. Hadana’s Climb is the most underrated of this new cycle, and will be fantastic in our Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice deck built around +1/+1 counters, as both sides have an effect that deck would want.
The strangest card in this entire cycle to me is Path of Mettle, and I’m not quite sure yet what to do with it, since it doesn’t really fit in any of my existing decks.
This cycle of transform cards is, once again, the first time in a long time where I’ve wanted to play every card in the cycle, they are that good. The Rivals of Ixalan batch of transform cards definitely lives up to my expectations, and so I know they will be fantastic.
As soon as I saw the creature type line of LEGENDARY ELDER DINOSAUR! here, I was sold on these guys (especially since I’m basically one of those creature types myself, heh). These guys are each enormous threats that have awesome and fun effects on them, and will end up being great in multiplayer play.
There are two that I immediately have my eyes on. Ghalta, Primal Hunger will be going in our Xenagos, God of Revels “power matters” deck (and I know that he’s going to hit very, very hard indeed out of that deck). Between Xenagos’s pumping ability, and the gigantic monsters I already have in there, I foresee Ghalta being dropped very early on, and for far less mana than the 10GG printed as his casting cost. Then, I have my eyes on Etali, Primal Storm, who is a scary, scary Magic card indeed. One of the more broken things in Magic has always been free spells, and with Etali giving you free spells from each players’ deck when he attacks, this could end up being quite deadly in EDH. I am going to be adding him into our Vial Smasher the Fierce/Thrasios, Triton Hero four-color deck, where he will be great at stealing giant spells for me.
This cycle of Elder Dinosaurs is great for multiplayer, and I foresee them getting a lot of play at my EDH table.
MORE TRIBAL CARDS:
As a longtime fan of bad tribal decks and cards, I always look forward to seeing more enablers printed for the various tribes of Magic. Rivals of Ixalan continues the original set’s tribal theme by printing yet more Dinosaurs, Merfolk, Pirates, and Vampires, and there are a lot of strong cards to like here.
However… of these tribes, I have only Vampires built, so I’ll be honest, there really wasn’t a lot of tribal cards for me in this set. Unlike original Ixalan, which had three excellent tribal enablers for any tribe (Vanquisher’s Banner, Unclaimed Territory, and Pillar of Origins), there are no such enablers here, and each of the tribal cards are quite specifically for that tribe and that tribe only, which is unfortunate.
The Vampires in this set are quite good, and I do know that I’ll be incorporating them into my eventual rebuild of Edgar Markov, coming next month. (And with so many good Vampires to choose from now, I know that cuts for that deck are going to be extremely hard, so say the least!)
One thing I will say for the Rivals tribal cards is that even though most of them don’t help me specifically, I will be seeing many of them at my EDH table over the next while, as Darby has tribal Pirates built, and Brianna has tribal Merfolk. I know for a fact that the new cards will be making their presence felt in each of those decks.
Ah well, maybe in the next tribal block we’ll get more support for tribal Goats.
INTERESTING CARD DRAWING SPELLS:
One thing that I am always on the lookout for with each Magic release is an interesting and fun new card drawing spell. I have been saying for a long time that whoever draws the most cards in a game of Magic nearly always wins (by making sure they draw their threats, answers to opposing threats, and hitting all their land drops); and this is still the case today.
Rivals has several cool new card drawing spells that I am looking forward to trying out (though a whopping three of them are at mythic rarity, which I wasn’t a big fan of). I already mentioned transform card Azor’s Gateway above, and I do really believe that it will be excellent in Maga. The real story here though is The Immortal Sun, an artifact that has the one-sided Howling Mine effect from Staff of Nin added to several other highly beneficial effects just for its caster.
Make your creatures bigger, your spells cost less, draw extra cards, and neuter planeswalkers? Really, how could Wizards have made this more appealing to a multiplayer table? This card rolls a lot of effects into one card, and I know that it is going to be fantastic in any deck that can play it.
The big issue with playing it in EDH, of course, is that pretty much every player has at least one planeswalker in each of their EDH decks (and this shuts them off, making for a dead card in your deck). Planeswalkers have become ubiquitous in EDH since they were first introduced in Lorwyn, and I don’t foresee that changing any time soon, as they’ve always been super popular. To run the Sun, you have to have an EDH deck that has minimal amounts of planeswalkers yourself, so that you don’t neuter your own cards.
I expect big things from this card at my multiplayer table, it is just that good.
Azor, the Lawbringer is a giant monster that just happens to tack a pseudo-Silence effect on as an into-play trigger, and lets you Sphinx’s Revelation when he attacks. To say I think he’ll be good is an understatement, and I’m going to be trying him in our Rasputin Dreamweaver deck, where Rasputin’s extra mana will be great with him, letting you draw ever more cards.
Suffice to say, Azor is a good Magic card.
From the three mythic card drawing spells, we move on to an innocuous little common that I think is one of the more underrated gems of the set: Secrets of the Golden City, in blue.
I like this card a lot (and I’m pretty sure this is one of the few City’s Blessing cards that will end up seeing play in my decks). Hitting ten permanents to get the City’s Blessing is easy enough in EDH, and drawing three cards for three mana is an excellent rate, making this a fun little card for EDH. Early, it lets you draw two (likely trying to find your next land), and lategame, you draw three, letting you reload.
I’ll be trying this out in Narset, Enlightened Master, a token-swarm deck, which should have no issues hitting ten permanents. I expect this card to shine in my EDH decks, and it is my sleeper pick for great card from this set.
Finally, we have rare land Arch of Orazca, which is actually quite decent for the colors that are bad at drawing extra cards in EDH (white and red). It costs a lot to activate, but I can definitely see it having a place in multiple of my decks. A solid card.
…Other than that handful of cards, there isn’t really a lot else that I’m excited for in Rivals of Ixalan. If I was playing Merfolk/Dinosaurs/Pirates, maybe that would be a different case, I don’t know. What I can say is that I really like the transform cards once again, the Elder Dinos are a home run, and the card drawing spells are quality.
Most sets, there are a lot of good things I can say about them, and I always end up with a fistful of cards to try out in my EDH decks. (Remember, I have upwards of 50 EDH decks, each with different themes, so it’s not like I’m being picky here; I really just don’t see a lot to like in Rivals.)
For me, this set is a flop.
And that’s about all I can say for Rivals of Ixalan. I really hope Dominaria brings more with it that I can use at my EDH table.