While a lot of the conversation around Ixalan began centered on
its tribal themes, the legendary flip enchantments quickly proved to be the
more impactful element of the set. Four out of five have been showing up,
with Search for Azcanta and Legion’s Landing shining particularly brightly.
Rivals of Ixalan
has its own cycle of legendary flip enchantments, spanning the five enemy
color combinations. Each sort of suggests one or more new archetypes using
it, though they each have some compatibility with existing themes.
The one that jumps out at me the most is, without a doubt, Profane
I know most people are probably assuming it costs too much to activate or
it’s too slow in a world with Ramunap Red. I can’t help but wonder,
however, if we can just play enough fast cards to make up for the tempo,
won’t Profane Procession just take over the game?
Just imagine you’re playing some kind of Energy deck and your opponent
draws a Profane Procession on turn 4. Isn’t that really devastating? They
can answer Glorybringer or The Scarab God at will, without using a card and
without any loss of mana compared to you. It’s not the fastest answer to
Rogue Refiner or Whirler Virtuoso, and they do get some value; but Profane
Procession can solve a problem a turn for several turns and then keep the
gas coming later.
Let’s say you’re playing against U/B Control, aspiring to win with
Torrential Gearhulk and The Scarab God. Aren’t they basically just locked
out as soon as you stick the Procession? How can they win?
How about Ramunap Red? Surely they are just too fast, right?
Well, if you untap with it, don’t you have Hazoret the Fervent and
Glorybringer pretty well dominated? You can even use it at instant speed,
so you don’t have to worry about exiling one Hazoret and then getting hit
by another. It’s actually pretty solid against haste creatures, in general,
and Earthshaker Khenra (as far as two-drops go, anyway), in particular.
That it exiles tokens without ticking up matters. Take note.
Okay, so where can we put it?
One possibility is in some kind of Esper control deck, whether winning
through traditional means like Torrential Gearhulk and The Scarab God, or
one that wins (game 1) with Approach of the Second Sun. For instance:
Profane Procession does have a little bit of tension with Search for
Azcanta, as both are greedy for your mana. Additionally, I worry that an approach along these lines may be an inefficient use of the card,
making good matchups even better.
At least we pick up Moment of Craving as an early removal option:
While Essence Extraction was only so-so, Moment of Craving is easier to
cast and is exactly the cost we actually want. It seems like an excellent
sideboard card at the very least, but I think its rate is compelling enough
that we could easily be interested in some (or a lot) maindeck. Amusingly,
we can even use two to kill Hazoret.
It kind of seems better in a creature deck, though, where we can
potentially take advantage of the -2/-2 to win creature combat. That said,
creature decks often have two-drops worth playing, whereas U/B/x control
decks are often desperate.
I considered Mastermind’s Acquisition, but I think something’s got to give,
and we can only make room for so many slow cards.
Mastermind’s Acquisition is more than just a Diabolic Tutor. Its ability to
get cards out of your sideboard means a copy or two can really add a lot of
powerful but narrow dimensions to your deck.
It also means that when you’re sideboarding, you’ve always got at least
some hedge against opponents trying to transform, trying to switch up their
I wonder if Profane Procession, along with Treasure Map and Azor’s Gateway,
gives us enough card flow to not need blue?
Azor’s Gateway looks great to me. It’s quite a bit more efficient than most
artifacts or enchantments that let you loot, assuming you don’t need the
cards to end up in the graveyard. It’s probably going to surprise people
how hard it is to flip; however, it may also surprise people how often you
don’t necessarily want it to flip. Don’t get me wrong: a land that
frequently taps for double digits can be absolutely crazy, but all the mana
in the world means nothing if you have nothing to spend it on, and Azor’s
Gateway can help dig you to something to spend it on.
It’s not that I’m super into Approach of the Second Sun or anything. It’s
just that the way the format is shaping up, it seems like there’s some edge
to be gained from blanking opposing removal spells in game 1. If enough
people have stuff like Azor’s Gateway, Champion of Wits, Chart a Course,
and Cathartic Reunion, this advantage can quickly dissipate (and that’s to
say nothing of post-sideboard games). Because of this, I imagine it’s more
likely than not that we’ll end up wanting to win with traditional threats
It’s not just control that can potentially jam some Profane Processions.
For instance, what if we used it as part of our Vampires deck?
- 4 Gifted Aetherborn
- 2 Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle
- 1 Sanctum Seeker
- 1 Vona, Butcher of Magan
- 4 Legion Lieutenant
- 3 Bishop of Binding
- 2 Forerunner of the Legion
- 2 Champion of Dusk
Rivals of Ixalan
has a lot of potential new additions to Vampire decks. For starters, one of
the most attractive new dimensions one can add to a Vampire deck, Arterial
Okay, so the floor is basically a slightly harder to cast Mind Rot. What
about the ceiling? Well, compare the Vampire “kicker” with a really messed
up Magic card from a few years back:
With Arterial Flow, they lose two life instead of taking three damage;
however, us gaining two life is at least comparable to that missing point
of damage (and sometimes better). A Blightning-level ceiling is pretty
compelling, so it really ends up becoming a question of how often we can
realistically stick a Vampire on two that actually lives. Even if they kill
it, as long as we’ve got enough Vampires to eventually get our money, it’s
not like we’re always looking to Blightning on turn 3 anyway. What we
really want to do is get their last two cards.
Speaking of two-drops that aren’t likely to live on turn 2, Legion
Lieutenant is generally going to be better in a tokens deck; however, just
playing twenty Vampires is probably enough to make it worth while. It’s
also not trivial that it is a two-drop you can actually play on turn 2
after a first-turn Legion’s Landing (unlike Gifted Aetherborn, most of the
I’m not sold on the idea of a Vampire toolbox, but a couple of Forerunner
of the Legions might help round out the deck. It might give us a little
extra mileage out of our late game cards without us getting stuck with so
many in the games we’re low on mana.
While the best use of Forerunner of the Legion might be in some kind of a
Legion Conquistador/Oketra’s Monument token deck, we might find ourselves
searching up Bishop of Binding a surprising amount.
Bishop of Binding is relatively unassuming, on the surface looking like a
more expensive Fairgrounds Warden that’s even more vulnerable to cheap
removal, like Shock. However, I imagine we’re going to find ourselves
frequently attacking for 4-6 damage a turn with it; and that’s to say
nothing of sometimes moving the +X/+X to another Vampire, one with flying
Hidden Stockpile is already a staple in token decks, but I wonder if the
printing of Pitiless Plunderer might help enable a shift towards Marionette
Pitiless Plunderer isn’t exactly a paragon of efficiency, but if you are
specifically looking to sacrifice a lot of creatures and a lot of
artifacts, it has a niche.
I’m not sure what this deck is supposed to look like yet, but there are
plenty of sac outlets now, and Sly Requisitioner might provide some
redundancy with the whole “getting artifacts and sacrificing them” thing.
While in theory, such a deck could use Profane Procession, it’s actually
another flip enchantment that has my eye in this strategy.
Storm the Vault is going to take some serious work, as early versions have
really come up short as being too inconsistent and are relying on too many
mediocre cards. Nevertheless, here’s an idea of the types of lists I’ve
been looking at:
- 2 Glint-Nest Crane
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Merchant's Dockhand
- 2 Hope of Ghirapur
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 4 Maverick Thopterist
Storm the Vault asks a lot of you (lots of artifacts, some creatures that
will make Treasure for you, a way to spend all that once you get it), but
Azor’s Gateway actually overlaps nicely. Both give you an insane amount of
mana, making it less risky to play with expensive cards or X spells. Azor’s
Gateway can help smooth out our clunky draws (which are frequent so far),
and it’s even an artifact.
Cut, Battle at the Bridge, and Walking Ballista are great spells to play
for twenty; but I do wonder if we’re supposed to be looking at some of
these Diabolic Tutors for extra ways to make sure we can convert boatloads
of mana into a game-winning advantage?
While Mastermind’s Acquisition may ultimately prove more useful, Razaketh’s
Rite is a lot easier to play many copies of.
While I think the one-drops in the above list are dubious, I am intrigued
by Merchant’s Dockhand:
It’s a cheap artifact creature, sure, but it’s also a deceptively potent
way to channel tons of mana into an advantage.
Animation Module and Metallic Mimic are another possible combination to try
with Storm the Vaults, particularly if we’ve got a Pitiless Plunderer on
Storm the Vault isn’t the only flip enchantment that can be coupled with
Metallic Mimic. Hadana’s Climb does suggest a very different
While this isn’t the normal use case on turn 3, let’s start by walking
through what happens when you drop Hadana’s Climb and flip it immediately.
You get a +1/+1 counter on a creature that can already attack. Then you get
an untapped land that taps for any color, potentially helping protect your
threats, potentially ramping to Verdurous Gearhulk a turn early.
On top of that, you’ve got a super-charged Kessig Wolf Run. Spend three and
tap it, and you’re easily giving +5/+5 and flying to one of your creatures.
That’s an awesome way to turn every creature into a potentially lethal
That’s pretty reasonable for three mana, so then the question becomes how
often are we going to be stuck with a creature with less than three +1/+1
counters? Well, even in such a case, at least we’re getting a Dragon Blood
every turn that doesn’t even cost mana to use.
One possible home for Hadana’s Climb is a Merfolk deck with Metallic Mimic:
- 4 Silvergill Adept
- 2 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 4 Metallic Mimic
- 4 Kumena's Speaker
- 4 Merfolk Branchwalker
- 2 Jadelight Ranger
- 4 Deeproot Elite
- 4 Jade Bearer
The Merfolk tribe has a ton of natural +1/+1 counter synergy, but it also
ends up kind of long on two-drops. Would we really not play Merfolk
Mistbinder? I mean, +1/+1 counter cards to flip Hadana’s Climb is a fine
dimension, but how much incentive to specifically play +1/+1 counter cards
are we really playing anyway?
See, now this is a powerful card. It is also, sadly, a powerful two-drop. The question we then encounter is “Why not play Walking
Ballista?” This quickly pulls us away from Merfolk. However, maybe that’s
- 2 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 4 Longtusk Cub
- 4 Winding Constrictor
- 3 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
- 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
- 4 Rogue Refiner
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 1 The Scarab God
Hadana’s Climb isn’t exactly a Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, but it might be
good enough to spawn a hybridized resurgence of the archetype.
Okay, now we’re starting to get down to the nitty gritty.
Journey to Eternity has already turned some heads in Modern, played on
Sakura-Tribe Elder for two extra Rampant Growths in addition to the one the
Elder was going to give you (one from the Elder a second time and one from
Atzal, Cave of Eternity). If we play a land for the turn, we’ll actually
have seven land on turn 4, meaning an early Scapeshift or even just an
ability to start activating the Cave immediately.
As for Standard, it’s a lot harder to sacrifice creatures quickly and
efficiently. Defiant Salvager, Yahenni, Undying Partisan, and the like can
serve as sac-outlets, but then we’re talking about being a turn slower,
needing a creature to sacrifice, and not even turning a profit up front.
If all we want to do is trigger Journey flipping, we could look at stuff
like Hope of Ghirapur and Fanatic Firebrand.
I wonder if they’ll really do enough in the games where we don’t have a
Journey, though. And even if we flip Journey, we still need something worth
reanimating and a way to get it into the graveyard.
Geez, where’s an Insolent Neonate when you need one…
Liliana, Death’s Majesty is another solid way to reanimate fatties, and
even if we don’t have anything worth bringing back yet, a turn-3 Journey
flipping actually ramps us into a turn-4 Liliana, Death’s Majesty, which
can start making 2/2s and milling us, looking for something sweet.
If we can actually pull everything together, Nezahal, Primal Tide is an
interesting fatty, drawing extra cards and having some ability to protect
Zetalpa, Primal Dawn and Zacama, Primal Calamity are a couple more Dinosaur
fatties worth considering for a reanimator deck, and who knows? Maybe we
can actually do something fancy like tutor the perfect one to the top of
our library with Forerunner of the Empire, then mill it with Liliana,
followed by reanimating it.
I’m really not sure how to tie the whole room together yet. There’s just so
many moving parts that we’ve got to get synchronized with each other.
There’s powerful stuff going on here, but so far, it looks too inconsistent
to me. Maybe we should be a little less ambitious with our Journey and play
a little more normal of a deck, maybe with Hidden Stockpile and Walking
The final flip enchantment on our little tour is Path of Mettle, which has
a lower ceiling than the rest but also costs just two mana. I see basically
two primary paths to consider.
First, we could just focus on maximizing our ability to flip it quickly and
reliably. If we load our deck up with creatures that have first strike,
double strike, haste, and vigilance, we might be able to turn Path of
Mettle into a weird sort of Rampant Growth that also functions as a source
of offense and defense.
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 2 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
- 4 Glorybringer
- 4 Hazoret the Fervent
- 4 Ahn-Crop Crasher
- 4 Earthshaker Khenra
- 4 Rigging Runner
- 4 Fanatical Firebrand
- 2 Relentless Raptor
We may not be pushing the pedal to the metal, but the two a turn from our
land is right on theme, and playing a Path on turn 3 means playing
Glorybringer on turn 4. The problem, of course, is that the mana is so hard for enemy color decks that want to play one-drops and
can’t rely on Unclaimed Territory (it wouldn’t help us cast the Path
The lack of reliable white mana early had me cooler on some of the other
options available, but if we found a mana base that works, there are some
very different directions available to us. Remember: Oketra’s Monument
makes 1/1 vigilance tokens(!).
The other way to go with Path of Mettle is to embrace the damage, rather
than sidestepping it.
For two mana, we can proc all of our enrage creatures, not to mention
pinging our opponent’s creatures. Reckless Rage is pretty great when you
consider the two damage to your own creature to be upside.
Even if with all this enrage stuff, we’re still generally going to want to
be able to flip the Path, however. Fortunately, there are plenty of
Dinosaurs with the skills to pay the bills. In addition to the
aforementioned Relentless Raptor, we’ve got:
This is just the surface (Charging Monstrosaur? Gishath, Sun’s Avatar?
Zacama, Primal Calamity?), but we should also remember that Commune with
Dinosaurs lets us get by with fewer.
Besides, we’re not absolutely required to be 100% on theme…