Ixalan brings with it the first rotation in what seems like forever. There's a lot to explore, so let's get down to business tackling the green cards. If you're behind, my latest on white can be found here.
While much more efficient than Scaled Wurm, Ancient Brontodon is at least three mana more than we'd be likely to consider in Constructed. Expensive creatures without abilities don't scale well in Constructed.
Kind of a weirdo, but I could see Atzocan Archer having some uses, depending on the size of the creatures people are playing. It's hard for it to have enough impact to be much of a sideboard card unless we're really valuing the 1/4 reach aspect (not just the enters-the-battlefield trigger). That said, maybe it'll get some tribal support or something. Its utility does go up, by the way, if played in a deck with Anthems, or instant-speed ways to grant deathtouch.
Draft only, as even Turbo-Fog Guy doesn't super-want this Fog, and giving your team hexproof isn't the same as making your team indestructible (plus three-cost isn't the same as two-cost).
Draft only. The two-mana options are going to be miles better in Constructed, and for three, you can get Rishkar, Peema Renegade. You'd have to be really into untapping lands with enchantments or that were created by flipping cards. Even still, seems unlikely.
Carnage Tyrant seems great!
I'm not just talking compared to Autumn Willow and all that. Everything is way better than Autumn Willow, we get it. I just mean that this is a good time for an uncounterable hexproof creature, and six toughness is great for overpowering Torrential Gearhulk. That it hits for seven instead of six is just gravy, and I definitely don't hate trample.
Even though it doesn't have haste, like Mistcutter Hydra or Gaea's Revenge, it's so big and robust of a threat, and for such an efficient cost, I would expect we'll see a lot of it. It's maindeckable or sideboardable in random decks, not just Dinosaurs. For instance:
Commune with Dinosaurs is one of the best tribal payoffs for Dinosaurs. It's sort of a blend between Traverse the Ulvenwald and Oath of Nissa, and once you're looking at five cards, you're talking about some serious selection. Obviously, Ancient Stirrings comes to mind, and with good reason. This card has serious potential.
- 2 Carnage Tyrant
- 4 Crested Sunmare
- 4 Drover of the Mighty
- 4 Kinjalli's Caller
- 1 Kinjalli's Sunwing
- 4 Priest of the Wakening Sun
- 1 Regisaur Alpha
- 1 Ripjaw Raptor
- 1 Verdant Sun's Avatar
- 1 Wakening Sun's Avatar
- 1 Gishath, Sun's Avatar
This is far from the only way to build Dinosaurs, as there are more solid Dinosaurs than there's room in a deck. The main thing is making sure to make good use of Commune with Dinosaurs, Savage Stomp, and Kinjalli's Caller.
Making two creatures fight for one mana is only barely not worth it. Once you add a +1/+1 to the deal, you're talking about a winning formula. Even if you don't have a Dinosaur, you can still buy out for three, which isn't the worst floor for a synergy card.
Drover of the Mighty isn't the craziest payoff or anything, but it is nice to have more sources of red without needing more red lands. It's confusing to me if we should be playing Chancellor Initiate instead (or in addition). I also wonder about splashing all the other colors. Like, how far are we from actually being able to play Hostage Taker? Remember, Unclaimed Territory naming Human is a very normal part of the range.
I'm sure this one looks medium-minus to a lot of people, but I actually don't hate it. The combination of useful upfront from the five life it gives you and the ability to generate advantage over time is actually kind of a nice package, particularly if you can play a single copy (whether maindeck or sideboard) to tutor up with Priest of the Wakening Sun or look for with Commune with Dinosaurs.
I'm not sure it's clear which is better between Regisaur Alpha and Charging Monstrosaur, but I think they both benefit by the existence of the other, for making them harder to play around.
Why not just play Glorybringer?
Easy. Tribal synergies. Glorybringer and The Scarab God might define what five mana buys in the format, but it's not hard to play Regisaur Alpha or Charging Monstrosaur for four. Plus, Commune with Dinosaurs is a really strong card, so getting to play it (and making it stronger) is meaningful upside.
Ripjaw Raptor has garnered a lot of discussion, but I guess I'm still looking to be convinced. It's got some good things going on, but so does Bristling Hydra. If we're just looking for Dinosaurs, Ripjaw Raptor is decently high quality, but I guess I'm just not sold on the Dinosaur "package" being as good as the Energy package yet. We'll see.
While I don't think you need to go all-in on the Ripjaw, it's worth taking a crack at it, just to see, you know?
I'm not that big on Ranging Raptors, at least with the current "enablers" available. At least it puts the land directly onto the battlefield, though.
Wouldn't cast Commune or burn spells, making it a tougher fit if we're not using it for the third color.
If you're lucky, you get the front side of a Kitchen Finks. Kind of bizarre to see in the same set as Inspiring Cleric, but here we are. If they were to print some super sick enablers for Enrage, a lot could change, but at the moment, probably much more of a Draft card.
Cute with Enrage, sure, but, Raging Swordtooth costs the same amount as Regisaur Alpha and Charging Monstrosaur, to say nothing of Glorybringer. It seems unlikely that we'd ever be this in need of more Enrage enabling with so many better and cheaper options.
Respectable sideboard option, but you've got to actually want both sides.
I was kind of excited about this card until I realized the +1/+1 was until end of turn and not a +1/+1 counter. Nevertheless, if we're getting enough value out of the graveyard hate, we could do worse. After all, it is basically a 4/3 that gains two life when it enters the battlefield and then has the option to gain us two life a turn if things line up. That's not the best package, but it's not the worst, either, and if we're getting a lot of value out of the "Dinosaur-ness" of the card, it's not embarrassing.
I'm excited to figure out how best to capitalize on this Quirion Dryad upgrade. Like so many strategies, my mind turns back to the Energy shell. Attune with Aether is one of the cards that works with Deeproot Champion that wouldn't have worked with Quirion Dryad, but more importantly, Chart a Course is legal, and cheap burn is much appreciated at the moment.
Far too fragile, with poorly distributed stats for the cost.
Growing Rites of Itlimoc is a special case that we'll be revisiting Monday...
It's generally not as exciting as Merfolk Branchwalker; however, we could easily be in the market for more than four of this kind of effect.
Unfortunately, the two-spot for decks with +1/+1 counters is extremely overcrowded. For instance:
Seekers' Squire only adds to the glut, and it doesn't help that both of the Explore "payoffs" also cost two.
While not nothing, it's hard to get so excited about these two that we warp our whole deck around them. There are just so many other ways we could be playing Winding Constrictor. For instance, even if we want to stay "fancy," we could do something more like:
It can be tempting to try to talk ourselves into viewing Tishana's Wayfinder as a Borderland Ranger. The thing is, even during the 40% of the time we hit a land, it's a random land and not a basic of our choice. The other 60% of the time, it's a 3/3 with scry 1, and we should not be in the market for that. Contrast this with Merfolk Branchwalker, where both options are good:
— About 40% of the time it's sort of a Silvergill Adept.
— About 60% of the time it's sort of a 3/2 for two with scry 1.
I guess it's a 3/3 hexproof creature with upside, but I guess I'm skeptical that this is what we're looking for in our Merfolk decks. Why would we want so many four-drops?
Sadly, I don't think this is really what we're looking for in our Merfolk decks either. It's just too expensive to operate for how fragile it starts and how much it doesn't explode out of control. A thorough examination of the card (and Merfolk in general) can be found here.
Kumena's Speaker is a fair bit more appealing of a one-drop Merfolk and will probably be good when there are more Merfolk. It's not exactly a Kird Ape, however, given that we're actually doing some work to make an Isamaru. Besides, I could easily imagine Merfolk decks not even playing it. For instance, would we really want it here?
- 2 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 2 Herald of Secret Streams
- 4 Merfolk Branchwalker
- 4 Vineshaper Mystic
- 4 Winding Constrictor
- 4 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
- 2 The Scarab God
However, we do want some Merfolk to target with River Heralds' Boon. We don't need all Merfolk, but we do need some.
See, now this is a Merfolk payoff I like (particularly if our Merfolk deck features Winding Constrictor). Like Dromoka's Command, River Heralds' Boon is going to surprise people at first with how big its blowouts are.
Assuming anyone actually plays any Merfolk.
Draft only (probably).
I wouldn't really be all that excited about a 2/2 for G, and here, we're giving our opponent a free Rampant Growth for a +1/+1 counter. If we had some way to punish opponents for searching their deck or a way to stop them from searching…
- 2 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 4 Aven Mindcensor
- 4 Channeler Initiate
- 4 Greenbelt Rampager
- 4 Longtusk Cub
- 4 Old-Growth Dryads
- 2 Servant of the Conduit
- 4 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
Maybe we're supposed to combine Aven Mindcensor with Settle the Wreckage, but it's hard to imagine a deck actually wanting both Old-Growth Dryads (as an undercosted drawback beatdown creature) and Settle the Wreckage (a double-white, four-cost instant defensive interactive spell).
That you have no personal ability to trigger Shapers' Sanctuary means it's fairly locked into sideboard only space (metagames could arise that might persuade us to gamble on the card maindeck, but it's unlikely).
I'm not super-optimistic of its chances, however, as it doesn't actually hard-counter the interaction while also having tons of huge blind spots (such as permission and sweepers). You could easily find yourself in a matchup where it's actually good, have it in your opener (and it's not a great topdeck), draw three or four extra cards over the course of the game, and eventually lose to The Scarab God.
Fringe sideboard card. It's not super-exciting, as you frequently want your sideboard interaction to be streamlined and efficient, particularly when combating problematic artifacts and enchantments. Slice in Twain is the answer you want if you're in a grinding two-for-one matchup against an opponent who happens to be really hurting you with artifacts or enchantments. It's fine to have in the toolbox, but it's nothing special and usually not the right tool.
Probably too slow for Constructed, but if we are using it, we're probably using it with Gishath, Sun's Avatar or some other source of mana cheating. I don't find Thundering Spineback particularly tempting, however.
This isn't the least efficient trick of all time or anything, but it secretly just aspires to be a draw-two, and getting both cards takes work (though brings some selection). It's not completely out of the question, but it takes a lot for this type of trick to be good, and this one is barely a mana undercosted for having to really set it up.
Even if we were doing Winding Constrictor shenanigans, this is just too slow and ineffectual. To really get our money's worth, I think we're likely to need a combo that exploits the ability to untap all of our creatures over and over again, like Jeskai Ascendancy or Intruder Alarm would.
Tishana is worth a look in Temur Energy, I suppose, but I'm not optimistic. Under the current design philosophy being used, the absolute top tier of cards creates a hostile environment for expensive alternative strategies and cards.
- 4 Bristling Hydra
- 1 Carnage Tyrant
- 4 Glorybringer
- 4 Longtusk Cub
- 4 Rogue Refiner
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 4 Whirler Virtuoso
- 1 Tishana, Voice of Thunder
Vraska is a serviceable midrange planeswalker, assuming you're specifically in the market for her flexibility but also want a way to start gaining an advantage and take over games. She is very much about the -3 ability, killing a key threat and leaving you with both a planeswalker and a Treasure (which is especially nice with Fatal Push). However, her inability to hit other planeswalkers and her vulnerability to haste make her somewhat suspect when we've got options as good as The Scarab God.
Okay, I'll be back Monday. What card or deck do you most want to see explored? Let me know and I'll do my best to oblige. Have a good weekend, friend!