Now that we’ve all had the opportunity to set down our newborns and explore The Lost Caverns of Ixalan‘s Limited landscape in depth, I wanted to share my observations on seven cards that have surpassed my initial expectations – and five that haven’t.
With white hosting some of the best early game threats in Miner’s Guidewing and Ruin-Lurker Bat, Acrobatic Leap is the cheap interaction aggressive white decks need. This versatile trick can act as a finisher, evade removal, combat trick, untap a blocker, and do your dishes! I was sold at one mana, to be honest.
A mechanical Gnome wrestler wasn’t something I would have expected to fall in love with, but here we are. Zulaport Duelist taught most (myself included) that creatures like Cogwork Wrestler are difficult to play around. It stifles early combat for your opponents, often killing creatures and leaving behind a tiny (and adorable) 1/2 wrestling prodigy.
Defossilize has been very impressive so far. With plenty of self-mill like Deathcap Marionette, explore (putting the top card into the graveyard), and landcycling with Rampaging Spiketail, it’s not difficult to get a relevant creature into your graveyard. Exploring twice is extremely powerful, assuring a relevant draw or clearing out a couple of lands from the top of your library.
Not only is Sunshot Militia a much-needed two-drop in red to enable Etali’s Favor, it has great synergies with Volatile Wanderglyph and Attentive Sunscribe. This card often acts as a finisher, but can push a ton of direct damage with all the passive artifacts that exist, like Idol of the Deep King or Sunfire Torch.
With an abundance of defensive, vigilant, and chump-blocking creatures in Ixalan’s caverns, Staggering Size is a must for green creature-based decks. It not only allows you to reliably attack to apply pressure, but also often acts as a finisher during battlefield stalls.
A nice throwback to the sunburst mechanic from Fifth Dawn (shout-out to Skyreach Manta), Sunbird Standard is really unassuming. Though it can be fine in a two-color deck with some splashes, it’s an absolute powerhouse in four- to five-color decks. If you can craft the Sunbird into a 4/4, it’s actually mana-neutral (tapping itself to pay for the crafting cost), and still very effective at a 3/3. The huge boost in mana can take over the game.
Captivating Cave has been pretty awesome. Not only can you fetch it with Scampering Surveyor or Compass Gnome to fix all of your colors, the late-game payoff is nice as well. I don’t mind putting it in two-color decks either, as long as it won’t cause any mana issues, like casting Turn 2 Captain Storm, Cosmium Raider, for instance.
The mana cost on Mischievous Pup is a bit too steep for most white decks to hold up as a trick or to double-spell. Having one toughness also trades down with almost every one- and two-drop as well. I do think this card can be good in slower decks, assuming its main function is to bounce your enters-the-battlefield permanents, like Tinker’s Tote.
Out of Air
I thought I would like Out of Air at first, but the mechanics really work against it. First, you don’t want to put it in decks with discover, which is any deck with a Hidden-cycle Cave. It also doesn’t work well with explore when revealed from the top of your library. Lastly, there are lots of relevant plays your opponents can make without casting spells, like crafting and equipping.
Stinging Cave Crawler
In theory, Stinging Cave Crawler seems like a really strong card, but in practice, it’s most often a deathtouch blocker. There are plenty of card advantage tools in black, like Skullcap Snail or Another Chance, such that drawing a card isn’t really all that impactful. I think the card is still playable, but most definitely overrated.
I see Goldfury Strider pop up here and there, but it’s pretty close to unplayable in my mind. Sure, if everything lines up perfectly, it can win a game – but more often than not, it’s five mana for a 3/5.
In the Presence of Ages
If you are a green creature-based deck, you don’t want to be taking a turn off to find another creature with In the Presence of Ages, as it’s rare that you run out of things to do with your mana. It can be decent with graveyard synergies, but the fact that it can whiff, getting only one card, means I’m not too keen on putting it in a lot of decks.
Lose and Learn, Learn and Win!