When I was a little kid (5-8 years of age), I had a huge fascination with dinosaurs. I actually thought they still existed because of Jurassic Park (oh, how naive I was not knowing CGI was a thing). Imagine the disappointment that I got when my folks told me that they are, indeed, extinct. Considering that Tyrannosaurus Rexes and many giant scary things existed back in the dinosaur eras, it’s probably a good thing we don’t live with dinosaurs.
When Wizards of the Coast announced that their next block was going to be not only pirate-themed but DINOSAUR-themed, my inner child squealed like a pig. As of now, Ixalan has to be one of my favorite blocks out of all the ones WotC has made thus far.
What IS Ixalan?
Setting wise: Ixalan is a world that is based on Aztec Native American culture around the time of Spanish conquest of modern-day Mexico in the 1500s. You have the dinosaurs as part of a human-ran Aztec-like nation known as the Sun Empire, merfolk in a Mayan-like civilization, vampires whose aesthetics are based off Spanish Conquistadores, and you have a ton of pirates running about.
Gameplay wise: Wizards of the Coast took a look at the picture below and thought “Y’know what? Let’s make this into a set!”
Ixalan block is a set that is filled with a lot of giant creatures and cards that benefit off of having a certain type of creature on the battlefield (something that is known as “Tribal Synergy”).
Let’s take the above card as an example of Tribal Synergy. When Dire Fleet Captain doesn’t do anything without other pirates, it’s just a boring-old 2/2 for 2 mana. But if you have a ton of pirates on your field, let’s say 4, then this becomes an attacking 6/6 for 2 mana.
Ixalan is all about Tribal Synergy. Pirates are a Grixis tribe (black, red, blue) that benefits off of attacking its opponent.
Merfolk is a Simic tribe (green, blue) that focus on making their smaller creatures bigger over time.
The Vampires are an Orzhov tribe (black, white) that benefits themselves by having you pay life while being able to gain you that life back.
Finally (saved the best for last), Dinosaurs are a Naya tribe (green, white, red) that benefits from having a ton of mana, and by hurting themselves in order to grow more powerful.
My Favorite Cards
For this section, I will be including cards from Rivals of Ixalan. They have not been released yet, so I am judging these cards out of speculation.
1. Search for Azcanta
Control is one of my favorite archetypes to play, and Search for Azcanta is a card that was designed for it. I love that not only does this provide card advantage, but adds on to your mana pool when you meet its criteria to flip into Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin.
Almost every control deck that can play this card IS playing this card, just because of how powerful filtering the top of your deck is. Once flipped, you are able to bury your opponent in card advantage by being able to get the perfect answer for what your opponent is doing 75% of the time. This is a card that I suspect that is going to be a control staple for a long time, and I definitely plan on doing a deck tech in the near future with it.
2. Azor, the Lawbringer
Back in Theros/Return to Ravnica standard, I was one of the many people that abused the power of Sphinx’s Revelation. My control deck didn’t even have a real win condition, other than annoying your opponent into concession.
So imagine my joy when I saw THIS glorious beast spoiled last week. What’s better than Sphinx’s Revelation? Sphinx’s Revelation on a body that stops your opponent from removing it during their turn. And when it becomes your turn and you untap your lands, you’ll have enough ammo to protect the beauty that is Azor, the Lawbringer. If this guy sees play in a deck in Standard, I am 10/10 playing it AND doing a deck tech!
3. Carnage Tyrant
When I first saw this card, the control player side of me got furious at Wizards of the Coast for printing a nearly perfect answer to the archetype I like to play. This card is the complete opposite of “fair” and I hate how you can’t interact with it.
The dinosaur player side of me, however, cheered out of pure joy! This is a card that I hate being used against me, but I LOVE it when it’s on my side! The level of awesome that this card is at is the same level of awesome that the Jurrasic Park T-Rex is on when you first saw it.
This card also has my favorite flavor text in the game as of now.
4. Gishath, Sun’s Avatar
Oh, look at that, more dinosaurs!
Not too long ago, I used to play a lot of a format called “EDH”, or “Elder Dragon Highlander”. You have a deck of 99 cards, and one legendary creature card as your general. The thing is is that you can’t have more than one copy of a single card except for basic lands, and you couldn’t play with colors outside of your general’s.
I kind of fell out of that format, but this card makes me want to get back into it and play this as my general! Every time you attack and deal damage, you get yourself a little army of dinosaurs, and you can get it immediately. It can even get out the next card that I am about to talk about.
5. Zacama, Primal Calamity
When looking at this card, the image with the cyborg dinosaurs at the near top of this article is what comes to mind. This thing can almost do anything, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone tried making a standard deck to ramp up a ton of mana to get this thing out early.
Its red mana ability synergizes well with the Enrage mechanic, in which the creature’s ability goes off if it gets damaged. The green ability is a good artifact and enchantment hate before you even get to the sideboard. Its white ability is not only a good emergency button in case you get low on life, but it can trigger abilities that go off whenever you gain life. I can’t wait to play with this thing!
Ixalan is the perfect set for you to look into if you like big dumb things crashing into your opponent, or just amassing an army of smaller creatures to swarm them instead.
Rivals of Ixalan is coming out the 19th, so keep your eyes out for the other cards that were mentioned on this article.