I didn't expect to have dozens of Ixalan cards to write about this week, but here we are. Not only did Wizards of the Coast acknowledge the leaks, they dumped every single card from those stolen rare sheets on us on the first day of official previews. Good on them, though I do hope that this frustrating situation never happens again.
So far, Ixalan feels like an underwhelming set. I like some of the rares more than most people seem to, but there are only a couple of mythics that seem even remotely playable. I'm still holding out hope, though. It's possible that Ixalan is a deliberate powering down after the madness of Kaladesh block, but the truth is that even the best recent sets are full of mediocre rares. The difference is that they're usually revealed to us at the end of the second week of previews, long after we've had a chance to ooh and aah at the set's marquee cards. Thanks to the leakers, Wizards of the Coast didn't have that option with Ixalan. If many of the set's better cards are still hidden away, the hype for Ixalan might not really get going until closer to the Prerelease.
Before we get to the proper start of the set review, let me just remind you that cards from large fall sets have generally bottomed out lower and remained cheaper than the rares and mythics from winter and spring sets. More people open booster packs at the start of a new format, and the packs end up being part of the Draft format for longer. Historically, the smart money would be on expecting Ixalan's overall price index to peak a week or two after release with a secondary spike during the Pro Tour. After that, we'd expect the cards to lose most of their value before bottoming out in late December.
That might not happen this time around, though. We're getting Iconic Masters in November 2017 and Unstable the next month, with Rivals of Ixalan following in January 2018. The upshot is that I expect Ixalan to be drafted and opened less than most recent large fall sets, which makes me feel like buying in early makes some amount of sense. The standard boilerplate language on the risks of pre-ordering cards still applies, but ignore Ixalan preview season at your own risk.
To the cards!
Ashes of the Abhorrent - $1.99
Rest in Peace is more powerful than Ashes of the Abhorrent, so I don't expect this card to see much Modern play. If there's a significant graveyard deck in Standard, $2 is probably about right. Otherwise, it'll end up in the bulk range.
Kinjalli's Sunwing - $1.99
Kinjalli's Sunwing isn't exactly Thalia, Heretic Cathar, but they're similar enough for me to feel that this card is slightly undervalued at $2. Thalia was one of the chase rares in Eldritch Moon, and it hasn't been as low as $2 at any point during its time in Standard. I'd be surprised if this card doesn't hit $5 at some point during its time in Standard.
Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle - $1.99
I almost never want to play a 2/2 for three, but Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle reminds me enough of Brimaz, King of Oreskos and Goblin Rabblemaster to give me pause. It's not as powerful as either of those cards, but they were both format-defining in their day. Is it too much of a shock to imagine that Mavren Fein ends up as a solid role-player? I don't think so. I'm keeping my eye on this one for now.
Settle the Wreckage - $1.99
Settle the Wreckage seems playable to me, but it's one of the trickier cards in the set to evaluate. The drawback is real, but you can use it to self-ramp in a pinch, and it's a good answer to so many of the format's top aggro strategies right now. It could easily be a bulk rare, but there's a shot that we'll see a run toward $5-$6 in the short-term as more people get excited about this card's potential in Standard. It's a risky buy, but there's real upside here.
Tocatli Honor Guard - $1.99
There are some interesting historical parallels for Tocatli Honor Guard, too. Hushwing Gryff was a second-tier role-player back when it was Standard legal, and its price jumped around between $2 and $5 during its two-year run. Torpor Orb was a bulk rare back when it was legal in Standard, but it has since found a home in Modern.
Tocatli Honor Guard is probably not going to be anything more than a sideboard play against Temur Energy in Standard, but it'll almost certainly end up showing up in Modern and Legacy, if only as a bit player. If I'm right and the card doesn't do much in Standard, make sure you grab a playset when the price bottoms out this winter. In the meantime, I wouldn't be shocked if Phyrexian Dreadnaught spikes again. It's not likely to end up being a competitive strategy, but people will try to make it work in Legacy regardless.
Priest of the Wakening Sun - $0.99
Priest of the Wakening Sun has a chance at being a four-of in some sort of crazy Crested Sunmare deck. If that happens, it'll be a $3-$5 rare for a couple of days. Otherwise, it's going straight into the bulk bin. If you're a believer, go buy Sunmares instead – they'll spike harder and higher.
Sanguine Sacrament - $0.99
I don't know how good a strictly lifegain card would have to be before it became a top-tier Constructed playable, but I do know that Sanguine Sacrament isn't it. Future bulk rare.
Goring Ceratops - $0.99
More like Boring Ceratops, am I right? This Dinosaur has bulk written all over it.
Jace, Cunning Castaway - $19.99
To me, Jace, Cunning Castaway reminds me most of Nissa, Voice of Zendikar. Both planewalkers pre-ordered around $20, both required three mana to cast, and both looked slightly underpowered compared to previous versions of themselves. Nissa ended up finding a home in a couple of decks, bouncing around between $5 and $25 during its time in Standard. Jace could end up doing something similar—it seems fairly powerful in a mono-blue Tempo Pirates or U/G Tempo Merfolk deck, but it's out of place in a more controlling build. It might not end up being Tibalt, but it's certainly not going to end up as Jace, Vryn's Prodigy.
While I doubt that Jace, Cunning Castaway will be a total bust, I can't recommend spending $20 on a card that lacks the versatility of a true multi-deck staple. I expect this one to be $8-$10 by the start of the holiday season unless it ends up as a four-of in some new Tier 1 deck that hasn't been created yet.
Kopala, Warden of Waves - $2.99
Kopala, Warden of Waves might see some play in Modern Fish, but I'm not convinced it's actually better than Kira, Great Glass-Spinner in that deck. Regardless, it'll hold some residual long-term value because of its potential in Eternal formats.
In Standard, we can liken Kopala (and a few of the other cards we're discussing today) to something like Diregraf Colossus. It's a four-of in one very specific and very linear deck that may or may not end up being a Tier 1 playable. Diregraf Colossus was a $1-$2 card for most of its run in Standard with a couple of small spikes—once when Zombies were hyped up during Eldritch Moon preview season, and once when Zombies kicked butt at Pro Tour Amonkhet.
$3 is reasonable if you're going to ride or die with the Merfolk from day one, but I'm going to wait on these sorts of cards and hope that things don't pan out right away. If I can buy in at or near $1 at some point before Rivals of Ixalan, I can probably make a few bucks selling into the hype.
Remember: all tribal decks are better with a critical mass of said tribe, so many of the tribal cards in Ixalan are going to feel underpowered and weak until we have the entire block to play with.
Arcane Adaptation - $2.49
This effect (Conspiracy, Xenograft) has historically cost five mana, so it'll be interesting to see if Arcane Adaptation is any more playable now that it only costs three. I still don't think that most competitive tribal decks are going to take a turn off to play this, but there might be some corner-case combo interest here and there. Slivers or Elementals in Modern, maybe? Otherwise, I expect this'll end up closer to bulk than current retail. Foils will be a nice pickup for Commander, though.
Entrancing Melody - $1.99
Entrancing Melody seems pretty solid. Threads of Disloyalty was a Standard player back in its day, and it still sees play in Modern. Entrancing Melody is going to be strictly better than Threads of Disloyalty most of the time—it's worse when targeting a creature that costs exactly two mana, but it costs the same amount when targeting a one-mana creature, it's cheaper when targeting a zero-mana creature (think creature lands or tokens), and it's scalable in the late-game to the point where it can even steal some massive end-game threat. Versatility is always underrated, and Entrancing Melody has plenty. I wouldn't be surprised if the card ends up seeing play across multiple formats, and it's a solid pick-up at just $2.
River's Rebuke - $1.99
River's Rebuke isn't as good as Cyclonic Rift. That might not matter, at least where Commander is concerned. Being not quite as good as one of the format's top two or three cards still leaves plenty of room for playability, and I wouldn't be surprised if this is one of the Ixalan rares with the rosiest long-term projections.
Competitive play matters when it comes to brand-new cards, though, and I don't know if River's Rebuke has what it takes. There are a lot of six-mana cards that sort of win the game, and this is going to be an expensive Falter more often than not. It might see some sideboard play here and there, but I can't imagine it being a staple in any non-Commander format. I bet it'll end up kicking around the $1 range for a while.
Herald of Secret Streams - $1.49
You can pretty much just copy and paste my Kopala, Warden of Waves paragraph and stick it here. There are two major differences, however:
2) Herald of Secret Streams is better in Commander, and I expect it to have a lot of long-term casual demand thanks to the popularity of +1/+1 token strategies.
Much like with Kopala, I'm staying away from Herald of Secret Steams for now. If the card ends up at $0.50 in a couple of months, we can talk about throwing a few dozen copies into our long-term spec box.
Dreamcaller Siren - $1.49
Oh, hey, another tribal payoff card that we can't totally evaluate yet! This thing is somewhere between awesome (if Pirates are great) and terrible (if they're not). I'd be interested at $0.50. At $1.49, I'd hold off unless you're planning to build Pirates from the start.
Daring Saboteur - $0.99
If you're speculating on Pirates, I like Daring Saboteur more than I like Dreamcaller Siren. Looting is better than you think, and this is probably going to be a four-of in any competitive Pirate build. This card doesn't look flashy, but I'm all about anything with value at all stages of the game. Best case, Daring Saboteur ends up in multiple top-tier tempo decks. At just $4/playset, I'll dip my toes in that water.
Boneyard Parley - $2.99
Boneyard Parley is going straight in a couple of my favorite Commander decks, but this isn't even close to a competitive-level spell. Future bulk mythic.
Ruin Raider - $2.99
I like Ruin Raider a lot. A 3/2 for three isn't completely embarrassing, and the raid trigger isn't hard to activate in an aggro or midrange deck. I know we've been burned by a lot of really bad "jump through this hoop and get a Dark Confidant trigger" cards in the past, but Ruin Raider feels like the best of the bunch by a wide margin. You're going to want to buy a set of these while they're still under $5.
Vraska's Contempt - $2.99
Vraska's Contempt would be a Tier 1 staple at three mana—remember Hero's Downfall? At four, its overall utility will rise and fall depending on how the metagame shakes out. I doubt it drops below $2 regardless, though, and there's a shot that it'll be the format's premier spot removal spell. It's a decent, low-risk buy at current retail.
Bloodcrazed Paladin - $1.99
Bloodcrazed Paladin feels like the classic Magical Christmas Land card. When you flash it in against a battlefield wipe, it's basically an instant-speed Tarmogoyf. The rest of the time, it's a 1/1 or a 2/2 for two. There have been metagames where this card would have been a Standard staple, but it's not the kind of thing I like to bet on. Future bulk rare.
Fathom Fleet Captain - $1.99
Fathom Fleet Captain feels like a worse Kari Zev, Skyship Raider to me. You get to keep the token, but the fact that you have to pay two mana while losing an automatic attack step for your token is a huge drawback. If you're curving out well, Fathom Fleet Captain is basically just a Bear that can't do anything until it's already outclassed. It's possible that Fathom Fleet Captain is good enough for Tempo Pirates, but there are other tribal payoff cards that I'd target first.
Deadeye Tracker - $1.49
Deadeye Tracker is really interesting. It's obviously no Scavenging Ooze or Deathrite Shaman, but those are some pretty high bars to clear. One-drops don't have to be amazing to see play, and I like that Deadeye Tracker can help keep graveyards in check while providing you incremental value in other ways. I don't think this card is good enough to cross into Modern, but I bet it'll see Standard play. At $1.49, I don't mind taking a flier on Deadeye Tracker.
Revel in Riches - $0.99
Revel in Riches is absurd in Commander, and Saffron Olive has already said that he's going to build a combo deck around it in one of his popular online video series. I would be absolutely gobsmacked if this ends up being a top-tier Standard playable, but it might see a couple of spikes to $3 or $4 if people want to build the Saffron Olive deck. Most likely, it'll end up being a bulk rare. Grab a few foils, though—the sorts of people who want to build Treasure decks are going to want shiny copies of Revel in Riches.
Rowdy Crew - $2.99
I love me some dirty, rowdy boys as much as anyone, but this doesn't seem like the kind of card that high-level Magic players like to rely on. There's a ton of competition in the red four-drop slot right now, and the random self-discard is a great way to punt yourself out of a game that you might have otherwise won. I guess there might be a deck that wants it—after all, it's a (sometimes) 5/5 trampler that draws you a card and fills up your graveyard—but I bet Rowdy Crew will end up being a bulk mythic.
Star of Extinction - $1.99
The flavor can't be beat, but nobody is paying seven mana for a battlefield wipe in a competitive game of Magic. Future bulk mythic.
Captain Lannery Storm - $1.49
I like that Captain Lannery Storm gets to attack (and gets you Treasure) right away, but a 2/2 without evasion is going to die really fast most of the time. If there's some interesting spell that gives all of your Pirates menace or makes them unblockable or something, I might be interested. As is, I can't see things working out. Bulk rare.
Angrath's Marauders - $0.99
Seven mana for a 4/4? The other text on this card is nice and all, but it doesn't make up for the fact that you are paying a ton of mana for this thing. Future bulk rare.
Sunbird's Invocation - $0.99
Sunbird's Invocation feels like future "combulk" to me—probably too slow for Standard, but an awesome long-term casual stash with an outside shot at appearing in a competitive-level combo deck at some point. I don't think the format will get slow enough to the point where this card is good, but we can certainly hope. For now, I'm staying away.
Tilonalli's Skinshifter - $0.99
Win-more cards like Tilonalli's Skinshifter are usually pretty bad. If you're already attacking with something amazing, you're probably doing pretty well already. The rest of the time, this is an awkward 0/1 for three. I'd rather just play another good threat. Bulk rare.
Carnage Tyrant - $9.99
Big dumb monsters aren't the most exciting cards, but Carnage Tyrant feels like a Standard-playable mythic to me. Control isn't super popular right now, but even some midrange decks are going to have issues dealing with this beast. It's a sideboard card at worst, and I doubt it'll end up below $5-$6 at any point. I would have recommended you buy in if the price had started any lower than $10, but I don't think there's much upside left at this point. I expect it'll bounce around between $8-$15 for a while. If you want to build around this from the start, buying in now is fine.
Ripjaw Raptor - $2.99
Ripjaw Raptor seems awesome. Five toughness tends to be the magic number more often than not, and the Enrage clause means that your opponent is either targeting this with a premium white or black removal spell or else you're going to draw at least one card on the back end. You can ping this with Walking Ballista in the late-game to draw extra cards, too. There's nothing too flashy here, but solid value is solid value. This has a chance to be a $5-$7 rare for a while.
Old-Growth Dryads - $2.99
Old-Growth Dryads is a trap. A 3/3 for one is great, but you're putting your opponent a full turn ahead on their road to stabilization. The payoff just isn't good enough. Future bulk rare.
Shaper's Sanctuary - $2.99
Shaper's Sanctuary might be my favorite card in the set so far. It costs just a single mana to cast, and some decks just flat-out aren't going to be able to deal with it. Heck, as long as they cast even two removal spells at any point during the course of a game, you're happy you played this. This is also going to make the cut in almost every green Commander deck I own. I can't justify going deep on any $3 rare, but in the worst case, this is a $1-$2 sideboard staple. Best case, it'll have some play in Modern, too. I'm going to pre-order a couple of copies just in case.
Deeproot Champion - $0.99
Quirion Dryad saw some play back in its day, but I like my two-drops to have a little more late-game value than this. There's a shot that it'll end up in some sort of U/G Tempo Merfolk deck, but I'm still pegging this as a future bulk rare.
Verdant Sun's Avatar - $0.99
Waker of the Wilds - $0.99
I'll first-pick Waker of the Wilds in Draft, but it's too slow for Constructed Magic. Future bulk rare.
Emperor's Vanguard - $0.49
If this card is playable, then Deadeye Tracker is one of the five best cards in the set. Bulk rare.
Gishath, Sun's Avatar - $5.99
I'm not feeling the love here. Gishath, Sun's Avatar costs eight mana. Eight. For a card that dies to everything and isn't even guaranteed to give you any sort of bonus. Sorry, but I'd rather roll with my six-mana Carnage Tyrants. Future bulk mythic.
Admiral Beckett Brass - $3.99
Admiral Beckett Brass exists to be a sweet Pirate commander. Even if Tempo Pirates becomes a deck, this one probably isn't making the cut in Standard. If you're dealing combat damage to a player with three or more Pirates in a turn, you're almost certainly going to win the game regardless. Future bulk mythic.
Tishana, Voice of Thunder - $3.99
Unfortunately, Tishana, Voice of Thunder suffers from the same problem as Gishath and Admiral Beckett Brass. All three cards are awesome in Commander, but they're just too expensive for Standard or Modern. Future bulk mythic.
Hostage Taker - $2.99
Finally, a multicolored card I like! Worst case, this is a reasonable tempo play that forces your opponent to burn a removal spell. Best case, they can't deal with Hostage Taker and you've just dropped a three-for-one on them. Oh—and it's a way for U/B to deal with artifacts. The fact that you need blue and black mana to play Hostage Taker limits its upside, but I suspect it'll end up sticking around the $3-$5 range for a while regardless.
Sorcerous Spyglass - $3.99
Sorcerous Spyglass is fine, but it costs one mana more than Pithing Needle, which means that I don't think it'll do much in Modern. I have no doubt that it'll end up seeing play in Standard sideboards, but Abrade still sees a lot of play right now and you have no guarantees that your hate card will survive. More of a role-player than a staple, I expect that Sorcerous Spyglass will end up stabilizing in the $2-$3 range.
Treasure Map - $2.99
Treasure Map is another card that will be better once Abrade leaves the format. I can imagine a control mage wanting to run a couple of copies of this, but it feels a little slow to be a multi-deck staple. It's likely a $1-$2 card once the dust has settled.
Vanquisher's Banner - $2.99
Vanquisher's Banner is too slow for Constructed, even in a format with playable tribes. It'll be a $1-$2 Commander and kitchen table staple, but there's no room for this flag to fly in Standard.
The Five Checklands - $2.49 - $3.99
This land cycle was printed in four straight Core Sets, so there are a ton of them kicking around. The existing supply should keep even the most sought-after checklands under $5, so there's no need to run out and buy them unless you really need a playset for the first competitive weekend. These should be the cheapest Standard-legal multicolored lands in a while.
This Week's Trends
Gideon of the Trials was the biggest gainer in Standard this week. I'd like to think that it's related to hype for the new Standard season, but the gain seems to be more about some sort of "Gideon Tribal" deck for Modern thanks to the new legendary planeswalker rule.
I guess it's possible that such a deck gets good—Gideon of the Trials actually does see some Modern play—but this seems like the kind of thing that causes a card to drop in price again once people get bored and move on. I'm selling Gideon of the Trials, though I might try to buy back in again in a couple of weeks. I still like the card post-rotation.
A few other interesting cards spiked due to that legendary planeswalker rule. Captain Sisay is the one that seems most likely to stick: tutoring for any planeswalker in the game seems fantastic, and I don't expect her to be reprinted again soon. Ditto for Empress Galina, who can now steal planeswalkers. Reki, the History of Kamigawa is also much better now, and the supply is low enough that a $10+ price tag makes some amount of sense.
Mirror Gallery and Untaidake, the Cloud Keeper also spiked, despite the fact that neither of those cards actually do anything. Mirror Gallery is still useless in Commander outside of a few bizarre corner cases, and I'd rather have a basic land than Untaidake, the Cloud Keeper in almost every real-world situation. I'm selling these cards into the hype as fast as I can.
Talas Warrior was bought out due to incredibly low supply and hype for what is sure to be an onslaught of upcoming Pirate Commander decks. It's a terrible card, of course, but I people are going to want it until Wizards of the Coast prints a critical mass of Pirates that are actually good. Expect more nautical-themed buyouts: Skeleton Ship is a Reserved List card, Ramirez DePietro is being bought out as we speak, and I sold a foil copy of Desolate Lighthouse while writing this paragraph.
Speaking of buyouts, Wanderwine Prophets jumped over $10 last week due to the fact that it's a two-card combo with Inalla, Archmage Ritualist. Lorwyn cards don't need to do all that much to sustain an $8-$10 price tag, which is where I expect Wanderwine Prophets to end up. It's not a viable combo in Legacy, but people will play it in Commander.
There were two other significant Commander buyouts: Nacatl War-Pride (Cat tribal) and Sarkhan Unbroken (Dragon tribal). Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund is on its way up as well. As with all of these spikes, sell your copies ASAP if you have them. Even if the new price tag sticks, demand is unlikely to increase from here.
Last, it might be time to buy those Commander 2017 decks if you've been waiting around. There's going to be a second print run in October, but the first was extremely limited and it's unclear how extensive the second print run is likely to be. As a result, Teferi's Protection—the set's clear chase rare so far—is up to about $30. I picked up a set of these for myself at MSRP, and I doubt I'll ever be upset with that decision.