A small group of us from ATGN were lucky enough to be invited to go and check out the latest MTG set a few days before everyone else at a special media only pre-release. Ixalan is the newest set released by Wizards of the Coast and it is hugely inspired by pirate fantasy tropes. In this set you will find pirates aboard their great ships, you will find merfolk occupying the ocean, there are dinosaurs walking around the land and blood thirsty vampires try to survive in this harsh world. For this event I was joined as usual by Matt but I also got to bring along Michael who was able to fit the event perfectly into his busy work schedule. We were all pretty excited to get our hands on the new cards and start seeing what worked and what didn’t.
Quick Look at Ixalan Mechanics
Enrage: Whenever this creature is dealt damage X happens. This mechanic is found on dinosaur cards which come in green, red and white. This is a super flavourful mechanic and represents the dinosaurs being angered by the damage they are taking and retaliating.
Raid: This is a returning mechanic and appears on both spells and creatures. If you have attacked with a creature this turn then cards with the raid mechanic produce an extra effect to what they would usually do (doing six damage instead of 3 damage etc).
Explore: Another brand new mechanic for this set, Explore is found only on creatures so far. Whenever this creature enters the battlefield , it Explores (reveal the top card of your library, put that card into your hand if it’s a land, otherwise put a +1/+1 counter on this creature, then put the card on top of your library or in your graveyard). This is another super flavourful mechanic. Your creatures are exploring and searching for new land, if they don’t find the new land then they grow stronger from the experience.
Treasure Tokens: There is a small theme of pirates that are able to make treasure tokens, which tap and sacrifice themselves to add one mana of any colour to your mana pool. Once again this is a super flavourful mechanic and also a great way to help cast your bigger spells in your decks.
We entered the hired room through a quite nice elevator. Once the doors opened we were met with a great sight of tropical ferns and treasure chests (filled with treasure). We were welcomed by our Captain for the night who asked us if we would represent the pirate clan or the dinosaur clan. We all chose the pirate clans and were pleasantly surprised to receive some really cool pirate hats to wear for the night. We were also handed our pre-release kits and found a table to start building our decks. The pre-release kits were very similiar to the past few sets; six boosters, a spindown dice, a random foil rare/mythic and some helpful hints and tips on information sheets.
My Deck: So although I picked to join the pirate clan, I built a really cool red green dinosaur based deck. I was lucky enough to open a Captivating Crew which is considered by some to be one of the best rares in the set for limited. I was also lucky enough to open a foil Regisaur Alpha so I really really really wanted to play some big dinosaurs and then kill people with them. Overall my deck wasn’t too good, it really depended if I drew my bomb rares or not. I had very few low interaction spells so I got run over by quicker decks a lot. I’d just remind people to not forget about the early game and not get too focused on their big splashy dinosaurs.
My Favourite Card: Was definitely Captivating Crew. I never want to have my opponent have this card in play. It is just such a nightmare to try and deal with and it will quickly end the game all by itself.
My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this brief look at the set and I can’t wait to play some more and test out the other tribes of Ixalan. I didn’t get to play much BUT I was really impressed with the explore mechanic, it felt super flavourful and was also really good during gameplay.
His Deck: I had high hopes of going into the pre-release to get my loot and shenanigans on as a pirate and I was not disappointed. I had pirates everywhere! All of the creatures felt fairly flavourful at common with Headstrong Brute almost singlehanded winning me a game I had no right of winning. The uncommon pirates such as Marauding Looter and Dire Fleet Captain felt stronger than they should have been. I did feel like I was plundering around Ixalan trying to kick the other tribes butts! The pirate deck seems like it is fairly aggressive, with you just needing to find some evasive equipment to get around the huge creatures, such as Cobbled Wings, or removal, such as Walk the Plank (which mind you felt so good to cast ARRG!), of which there is a fair amount of choice in the Grixis colours.
Favourite Card: Dire Fleet Ravager was my card of the night. My opponent is on 14 and I’m on 20. I’m ahead and I’m trying to do math on what a 3rd of my life total would do to me. After a minute I go ARRG! and slam him on the table and we both lose our life. As scary as it is to cast this Orc Pirate Wizard, get him out every time and you shouldn’t be disappointed. Unless you are on one. I did that. Don’t do that!
Thoughts: Key cards for me last night were Dowsing Dagger, Hostage Taker and Dire Fleet Ravager. Dowsing Dagger was really solid, and the ability being optional is extremely useful. If you are ahead keep it as an equipment. If you need the fixing or the ramp let it flip. It was funny several times casting it before attacks giving my opponent 0/2’s just so I could attack with a Desperate Castaways into their blockers! Hostage Taker is really solid and is one of the best payoffs for early incidental treasure allowing for the same turn casting of your hostage. In a format with 9/9 commons for 8 mana you need A LOT of treasure!
You can attend a Pre-release at your local game store on the 23rd or 24th of September. Be sure to check if there are spots available before you show up just in case. I highly recommend this set and hope everyone gets to enjoy it as much as I got to. Good luck and have fun.
If you’re looking to find your nearest Magic: The Gathering venue head over to the official store locator – http://locator.wizards.com/