Ixalan previews are coming in hot and heavy!
Last week I was pretty low on a lot of the cards revealed, but today I think I have some real winners to share. I'll look at some of the cards that have my curiosity and my attention, not only for Standard but for Modern as well, and some of the decks they might fit into.
I've got a lot of Opt-pinions on the subject, so let's dive right in!
Opt is a big deal and not the type of card we usually see printed, or in this case reprinted, nowadays! Cheap blue card draw? Sign me up!
I know it may not seem exciting to some, but I personally look forward to casting Opt with Torrential Gearhulk, or at least having the Opt-ion to do so.
So in Standard it's good, but what about Modern!?
I've actually wished Opt has been in Modern on many occasions and it looks like that wish is coming true. In retrospect, I probably should've wished for something better.
Oh, and there's also Ancestral Recall.
Let's start with Opt versus Sleight of Hand. I think Opt is better than Sleight of Hand, thanks to it being instant-speed. If they were both sorceries, it would approximately be a tie, with Sleight of Hand being slightly better since it gives you more information when you make your choice, although Opt is better if you have two good cards on top of your deck when you cast it, so I'm not sure.
Here it starts getting close, and I don't think there's a clear answer, but it might very well be better in decks where it being an instant is important. For one thing, Opt works incredibly well alongside Snapcaster Mage, allowing you to keep up mana until the end of your opponent's turn.
Opt also wins if you need to hit a specific card immediately (for example, your land drop for the turn), since you scry before you draw the card, whereas you scry after with Serum Visions. Waiting to cast Opt until your opponent's end step or when a spell is on the stack so you can find an answer also makes it a bit more useful.
Sorcery-speed Opt would basically be Sleight of Hand, and Serum Visions is a little better than Sleight of Hand, but overall I think Opt gets the win since it's an instant, although Serum Visions may be the better choice if Snapcaster Mage isn't in your deck.
Opt is within the realm of power occupied by Preordain and Ponder, but falls short in most cases. Upgrading from sorcery to instant is nice, but it's nowhere near as good as the extra scry. People aren't exactly clamoring to play Opt in Legacy, but in Modern, where Preordain and Ponder are banned, Opt is going to be the new go-to blue one-drop card draw spell.
So what decks does Opt fit into in Modern?
Combo decks like U/R Gifts and Ad Nauseam that already run four copies of Sleight of Hand and Serum Visions will start by replacing Sleight of Hand with Opt and then consider running some amount of Sleight of Hand anyway as copies nine through twelve of cheap card draw.
Search for Azcanta low-key has a lot going for it.
The ideal use for Search for Azcanta is if it's acting as a blue Rampant Growth that also has "scry 1" on your upkeep before flipping. It's absolutely Magical Christmas Land to imagine it reliably flipping on your third turn, but possible with a couple Thought Scours, fetch lands, and/or Street Wraiths.
A more realistic idea of how it will play out is as a Thassa, God of the Sea for control decks. Investing your second turn to get a scry on your upkeep for most of the game isn't the worst deal. Then, once it flips in the late-game, you're talking about a nice extra amount of value being generated each turn you can activate it.
This is a slow card. Look at it as a two-drop planeswalker that's going to slowly generate value as long as you're staying alive, just like Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded. Thankfully, Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded is worse than Search for Azcanta, but it's also worse than everything else… and I mean every other Magic card.
Also keep in mind the transform effect is a may ability, which gives a little extra bonus.
Search for Azcanta is purely here for the long-term value. Putting cards in your graveyard each upkeep is nice for Snapcaster Mage, and Search for Azcanta works especially nicely with Sphinx's Revelation.
Not only does it flip and ramp for a bigger Sphinx's Revelation, but it also helps you find your one copy of the card. Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin isn't limited to just getting you instants and sorceries, so it can even find your planeswalkers.
This is a deck I've spent plenty of time working on and Opt is incredibly exciting in it. One of the things As Foretold would like to have access to is a cheap instant that you can cast for free on your opponent's turns, and Opt fills that role perfectly.
Now to shift gears, or I guess "chart a new course" to keep the Pirate theme, let's move away from blue card advantage engines and take a look at Vraska, Relic Seeker.
Vraska looks like she puts the "irate" in Pirate. The other planeswalkers revealed in Ixalan didn't wow me, and Vraska, Relic Seeker doesn't immediately raise my mast either, but that's mostly due to her being a whopping six mana, but other than that I think she is quite solid.
+2: Create a 2/2 black Pirate creature token with menace.
You're rewarded for a hefty mana investment because Vraska, Relic Seeker comes packing some serious loyalty, starting on six and being able to plus up to eight loyalty. This happens while also generating a 2/2 that can further protect her and makes her incredibly hard to kill through conventional means.
-3: Destroy target artifact, creature, or enchantment. Create a colorless Treasure artifact token with "T, Sacrifice this artifact: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool."
Vraska, Relic Seeker is essentially what I'd imagine the result of a fusion dance would be if performed by Ob Nixilis and Liliana, Death's Majesty, fusing not only their abilities but pretty much their looks too.
Vraska, Relic Seeker has a bit more power and a lot more versatility, but for an extra mana you'd expect that.
Being able to stare down and destroy an artifact, creature, or enchantment means nothing is safe on your opponent's side of the battlefield, and you can pretty much make whatever you want Gor-gone. Vraska isn't great at immediately dealing with opposing planeswalkers, but a stream of menace Pirates and a ton of loyalty are good in that regard.
Don't discount the usefulness of the Treasure either, since you can essentially use her as a makeshift ramp spell in addition to everything else. She's a good store of value and can start paying you back for her hefty initial casting cost immediately.
-10: Target player's life total becomes 1.
Solid ultimate that can fire off in three turns no problem and synergizes with her +2, since a Gorgon's stare looks especially menacing when you're at one life and trying to block a lethal Pirate token.
Not really a card you're playing many copies of, or even a card that you can run in many decks since her mana cost is restrictive, but she is going to be solid in midrange decks that can cast her.
I'm not really sold on the power of all of these flip cards, since they're incredibly difficult to evaluate… but one of them has to be broken, right?
I think it's just a matter of trying to find the right home for each one and seeing what sticks.
Growing Rites of Itlimoc is particular doesn't seem that exciting. But that's exactly what they'd what me to think... which means the card is busted. That's how it works, right?
If it were one mana? Sure, we'd be in business, but spending three mana and doing nothing, sometimes actually nothing if you whiff on a creature, doesn't seem good.
Gaea's Cradle is a busted card, though, so where would it fit in Modern?
There are plenty of options you can go with. Elves immediately jumps to mind, but let's go with the cutest option for now. Genesis Wave!
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 4 Birds of Paradise
- 4 Carven Caryatid
- 2 Elvish Visionary
- 4 Eternal Witness
- 4 Primeval Titan
- 1 Woodland Bellower
Khalani Garden is probably way too cute, but I like the idea of casting Primeval Titan and finding one or two Khalani Gardens to help flip Growing Rites of Itlimoc, which also just makes it add more mana once it flips. It also helps add some extra spice to your Genesis Wave if it needs to hit some creatures to flip Growing Rites of Itlimoc.
That's all for now. I hope I could open up some inspiration and options for new decks, or at least some Opt-Shauns for new decks.
I'll see you next time when all of Ixalan has been previewed and it will really be time to get down to business!