Taking A Swipe At Rivals Of Ixalan: Part 1

There’s left, there’s right, and there’s super like. 2018 knows no other way! We’ve got two Pro Tour Champions (that we super like!) and we want to know how they feel about these high-profile Rivals of Ixalan cards!

Ari Swipes Left:
This card is so bad it actively offends me.

What deck wants to play Cancel and attack? Or better yet, what deck does
that and then still cares about Settle the Wreckage? What fantasy land are
you not just playing Spell Pierce or Negate in? Is it your Merfolk deck
with green one-drops and Unclaimed Territory to cast this double blue
spell? What’s stopping them from just casting Torrential Gearhulk before
you attack? It isn’t like your aggro deck is beating a 5/6
Shriekmaw/Mulldrifter anyways.

This card is going to introduce a lot of sad players to the beginning of
combat step. I just hope this isn’t some precursor to removing that. Me and
that step have had much better blue spells.

Gerry Swipes Left:
Cancel with upside is the standard these days, and while this technically
fits the bill, I’m going with a hard left on this one. We’ve been close to
playing the Cancel variant in some creature decks, but it’s typically when
playing all Negates won’t get the job done for whatever reason. With
Torrential Gearhulk; Nezehal, Primal Tide; and Azor, the Lawbringer in the
format, Admiral’s Order might be a card that shows up.

Additionally, if a tempo-based Pirate deck is ever a thing, Admiral’s Order
could be good enough. Lookout’s Dispersal is basically a much better card
for what you’re trying to accomplish though. There are some corner cases,
as Admiral’s Order is incredible against Settle the Wreckage. Still, all
that’s really going to happen is people won’t wait until you’ve already
attacked to cast their removal spell or flash creature. Outside of Settle
the Wreckage, the raid bonus probably won’t happen very often.

This isn’t the “upside” you’re looking for on a Cancel.

Ari Swipes Left:
I spent a lot of time last weekend at Grand Prix Santa Clara watching
Whirler Virtuoso and Bristling Hydra faceoffs. Angrath, the Flame-Chained
is horrible against both of those cards. It’s also in an awkward spot where
Vraska, Relic Seeker is way better at swinging a game and plays in a lot of
the same space.

Maybe this will pop up again in a Gatherer search in a few months. I did
play Ajani, Mentor of Heroes when Elspeth, Sun’s Champion was legal. If the
format stopped playing creatures that were so hostile to planeswalkers, I
can easily see piling up card advantage engines as a viable strategy.
Angrath, the Flame-Chained’s play patterns aren’t as obvious as Liliana
Vess, but it has potential to do work. Just not now.

Gerry Swipes Right:
Slowly grinding people out with a Liliana Vess +1 was a great joy to me,
and Angrath’s -3 is way more impactful on the game state than Vess’s minus
was. Being a two-color planeswalker makes it more prohibitive to use,
especially since there’s not a great B/R deck in Standard. However, this
could also slide right into the Temur decks with Chandra, Torch of Defiance
and Vraska, Relic Seeker.

Maybe this could make a new archetype also, as the chip damage from Chandra
and Angrath will add up quickly. Angrath’s -3 could also be appealing in a
deck that has a sacrifice outlet, so maybe there’s something to explore

I have no idea what this is going to lead to, but I’m excited to find out.

Ari Swipes Left and Blocks Awakened Amalgam (which isn’t a thing he can

: This is a joke, right?

Four mana 6/6 trample vigilance was barely playable.

Honestly, Converge 4 may have been easier on your mana. At least then you
could create consistent spreads instead of randomly drawing two of the same
land and having a Hill Giant in your deck. Look at that sample spread of
lands I made. That is what your hands are going to look like all the time,
just to play a turn-four 4/4.

Gerry Reads the Card, Looks Confused, And Swipes Left:
Even if Awakened Amalgam got +X/+X for each land you controlled, I’d still
swipe left. I mean, it’s a cool build-around that explores design space we
haven’t really seen before, so I’m down with that, but this isn’t the card
that gets me amped up.

Standard isn’t exactly flush with playable non-basic lands either, although
I suppose the wacky Four-Color Energy decks could probably make this fairly
large if they wanted to make their manabase worse; they aren’t in the
market for a four-mana 6/6.

Woodland Wanderer was a flop, and this will be too.

Ari Super Likes:

Azor, the Lawbringer is at least close in power level to Torrential
Gearhulk, which is a pretty big deal. I would guess a single attack is
pretty close to lethal. I’m reminded of how The Scarab God comes down,
makes itself annoying to kill, gums things up, and then one-shot takes over
the game, albeit a little less deterministic than how The Scarab God works.

The thing I want to note about Azor, the Lawbringer is that the Silence
ability makes midgame play sequences really interesting. Are you going to
tap out for that threat, knowing that if they slam Azor while you are
tapped out they will untap before you can fire that removal spell? Does
that in turn mean you want more planeswalkers or Ravenous Chupacabras as
answers, in turn sacrificing ground against Ramunap Red?

Interesting power level and interesting game play? Easy super like from me.

Gerry Super Likes (although he knows it’s probably a bad idea):

I mean, Torrential Gearhulk is available, and I know it’s probably the
better choice. It’s even the safer choice. Azor is just so exotic and
different. It’s also probably worse than Nezehal, Primal Tide as a control

All of that makes me abandon my hopes of using it as a finisher in a
control deck, at least for now. It could potentially shine in a W/U/X
midrange deck as your top end, and that might be crazy enough to work.
Protecting your team from Fumigate and the like is a nice ability and
ramping into Azor with Legion’s Landing (Knight of the White Orchid-style)
makes me happy.

Azor, the Lawbringer is powerful. I’m going to try to make it work.

Ari Swipes Left:
This one’s easy…

How much play has Hostage Taker seen? A fair amount, but by no means is it
format dominating. I can definitely imagine not-that-distant worlds where
it is one of the best cards in the format, but it has a real cap due to its

What’s better: Untapping and casting their creature you wanted to kill? Or
attacking for some extra damage?

If you are an aggressive deck where the damage is relevant, is a four-drop
removal spell really what you’re looking for? I can imagine scenarios where
the answer is that a copy or two is fine, but I can also imagine scenarios
where Fairgrounds Warden having three toughness for less mana is just

Maybe one or two of these show up in a reasonable deck, but I’m not going
to be the first person to try it.

Gerry Swipes Right (even though he knows it’s a mistake)
: A four-mana Fiend Hunter isn’t blowing anyone away these days and it
shouldn’t. Cards like Oketra’s Monument and God-Pharaoh’s Gift make me
think Bishop of Binding could have legs in the format, even if it won’t be
in a strictly Vampire tribal deck.

Bishop of Binding is even more fragile than Fairgrounds Warden, and while
technically in a better tribe and with a random upside, those aren’t enough
to help its case. This might often attack as a 4/4 (and maybe even pump a
flyer for lethal), but the upside doesn’t outweigh the downsides. We can do
better for four mana.

Ari Swipes Right:
I just want to play a real red deck that is capable of killing its opponent
by going aggro. The current Ramunap Red decks only win via weird multi-turn
Falters, mana screw, or Hazoret the Fervent being unbeatable.

I don’t know if Fanatical Firebrand, Rigging Runner, and Kari Zev, Skyship
Raider are enough to make Daring Buccaneer work, but it seems close enough
to try. One Captain Lannery Storm in the three slot or a Dire Fleet
Daredevil isn’t the worst card to play, either. This might also push a
rework of the red deck towards a more Tom
Rossy-all-one-drops-and-eighteen-lands aggro pile, but going from
Goldmeadow Stalwart 2018 to that is only a single easy Gatherer search


Swipes Left Immediately (because it reminds him of a Kithkin, but


immediately regrets his decision and wishes he could go back):

If the Pirates deck is going to be great, I’m hoping it’s U/B. That said,
there are a bunch of great aggressive red Pirates in this set, so maybe B/R
will be a thing. Realistically, I’m more interested in putting Daring
Buccaneer in a deck with Fanatical Firebrand, Kari Zev, Skyship Raider, and
Hazoret the Fervent than seeing if I can finally trigger Admiral Beckett

Maybe the small Pirate package in Ramunap Red happens, in which case that
deck just got a whole lot better. Realistically, neither situation comes to
fruition. Can we just get Zurgo Bellstriker back?

Swipes Right:

First of all, a big part of this card being playable is that by itself it
is a 5/2 attacker. That’s a fine rate on return in games you get swept, and
when you don’t get swept the first attack should be close to enough.

There’s a catch, and it’s the same reason I didn’t mention this card with
Daring Buccaneer.

The mana in Standard for allied color one-drop decks is really bad, and
there’s no way my Direfleet Neckbreaker deck is playing less than eleven
one-drops. This isn’t an issue that I think has a resolution right now, but
it definitely has a chance to resolve itself soon with Dominaria
or Core Set 2019. Once I can reasonably put Grasping Scoundrel and
Daring Buccaneer in the same deck and cast them on turn-1 I’ll get back to
Direfleet Neckbreaker, even if right now it’s on the shelf.

Gerry Swipes Super Dislike (he knows it’s not a thing but it totally
should be)

What? Why is this even on this list? Did Cedric send me the wrong card
name? Does every card that remotely resemble Thistledown Liege immediately
deserve attention? I mean, +2/+0 to your team is a big deal, but for four
mana and on a 3/2 body? This is very clearly a card meant to help your
Pirate Draft deck, not your Standard one.

Ari Swipes Left:

Elendra, the Dusk Rose is basically blank without specific game states.
That implies she is going to be metagame specific, matchup specific, or
something you need to build a very specific deck to support.

Using her as a way to throw away attackers for value is loose. When they
spend a kill spell on her, you only get back 1/1 dorks. Unless your attacks
were trades, that isn’t going to be enough; or if it is enough you were
better off with a mass pump effect.

Are there sacrifice payoffs in the format? I’m not sure there are quite
enough. Maybe she’s Sam Black’s type of card, but right now the kinds of
sacrifice I’m interested in all involve Springleaf Drum, Inkmoth Nexus,
hoping they don’t have Stony Silence, and a totally different format.

Gerry Swipes Right (even though he knows everyone swipes left):

A sticky threat is exactly what the slower Vampires need, but sadly,
Elenda, the Dusk Rose might not be it. Utilizing a sacrifice outlet like
Yahenni, Undying Partisan makes her a little stronger, but I’m still
curious as to how quickly she will grow in a normal game of Standard.

Radiant Destiny and the like help her cause to some degree, and maybe
that’s enough. Ultimately, it’s going to come down to what her competition
looks like in the four mana slot, and right now I think she’s winning.

Ari Swipes Left
Against aggro, you should win if you hit seven power and five mana. Carnage
Tyrant would honestly be better as they can’t randomly have a sideboard
Threaten effect and you can’t draw hands of five removal, Ghalta, Primal
Hunger, then cast it.

Against control, if you hit the point of casting Ghalta, Primal Hunger and
untap with it and it doesn’t die…you literally could have won with any
piece of cardboard.

Against midrange, if Ghalta, Primal Hunger is actually good, it will
literally be a one-week sideboard kind of deal before people switch to
playing removal that actually kills it.

Half the time Ghalta is a win more, and the other half it is uncastable.

Your fun isn’t good enough to be fun.

I’m a ray of sunshine today, aren’t I?

Swipes Left (because of all the blatant red flags here):
Ghalta, Primal Hunger is potentially a 12/12 trampler for GG. That
situation would probably be GG for your opponent, but if you have ten power
already, do you need the additional twelve? Are there enough Lupine
Prototypes and Wayword Swordtooths to “cheat” Ghalta onto the battlefield?
I don’t think so.

Even when I think about using something like Appeal or Huatli, Radiant
Champion to help cast Ghalta, I’m happier about attacking for a ton of
damage than I am about casting my 12/12. If creature mirrors need a way to
break a stall, maybe this could be something, but there are better options.

Ari Swipes Right
Okay, I’m actually in on this one. Maybe we can have a bit of fun.

Huatli, Radiant Champion is really powerful in a unique way. Her ultimate
should just be lethal, her -1 ability might also just be lethal in two
turns in a lot of the same spots, and she is actually relevant in multiples
even if it is just as double -1 for the kill.

This is a good time to remember that Sram’s Expertise is legal in Standard.
And so is Growing Rites of Itlimoc. Gerry Thompson
wrote about this pairing early in
Standard, and it was pretty close to being good.

At the very least Sram’s Expertise, Walking Ballista, and Angel of
Invention all made it really hard for Ramunap Red to beat you. Huatli,
Radiant Champion might be a way to start moving down the curve on your
engine-y payoffs relative to Tishana, Voice of Thunder, allowing you to
just have more functional draws.

Gerry Swipes Right:
Inevitably, there’s a Standard deck with a ton of value creatures and some
busted engine that ends up being well-positioned at some point. Maybe it’s
some wacky Craterhoof Behemoth deck that’s good for a week, or there’s a
critical mass of mana accelerants in the format, or something like
Cryptolith Rite gets printed. Either way, people continually find a way to
make this sort of deck work. Even a token shell would work.

There’s also the possibility of using Huatli, Radiant Champion to pressure
midrange and control mages by putting them on a fast clock and using her
ultimate to compete going into the later stages of the game. She ultimates
quickly, which doesn’t outright win you the game, but it should in a lot of

Neither planeswalker is particularly busted, but both look poised to be
potential role-players. I’m willing to take a chance on them.