Top 10 Coolest Rivals of Ixalan Cards (So far)

by | Jan 8, 2018

This past week was the spoiler week for Magic: The Gathering’s newest expansion, Rivals of Ixalan, set to be released on Jan. 19. Listed below are the top 10 cards from that week and the reasons why I believe them to be in the top 10.

So here they are, in no particular order, my top ten for the best cards in Rivals of Ixalan:

Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca

Merfolk in the last set were pretty underwhelming. There were a few good ones, but when compared to the dinosaurs, vampires, and pirates they really didn’t stack up. This will change with Rivals of Ixalan and Kumena is an excellent start to proving that. For a three drop legendary creature, it has a pretty good power/toughness at 2/4. The other three abilities are pretty great too. The first makes Kumena unblockable which is good. Card advantage is also desirable. His last ability is most likely the best of the three though. Tapping five Merfolk to add a +1/+1 counter on each merfolk, Kumena included, can both protect your creatures from certain Instant and otherwise board wipe spells. Whether Kumena will make a splash in Standard (pun intended) is yet to be seen. For those strictly playing Merfolk decks it would be stupid not to include him. If he’s your first or second pull in a draft, that’s what you’d want to build around. In Commander, this guy is by far the best merfolk for the job.

Hadana’s Climb///Winged Temple of Orazca

Going along with Kumena, this card is a powerhouse. If you’re playing Kumena, then getting this card to transform will not be difficult. Ideally, on turn three you play Kumena. Then you tap five merfolk to add a counter on each of them at your opponents turn. Then, on turn four, you tap five more merfolk to give another counter. Play Hadana’s Climb, adding another counter on Kumena at the beginning of your combat phase, transforming it into Winged Temple of Orazca. Activating the second ability on the temple to give Kumena flying and +5/+5 making him an attacking flying 10/12 is crazy. This situation is highly improbable however since that would mean you having five merfolk on turn three. But, hey, anything’s possible right?

Nezahal, Primal Tide

Speaking of anything being possible, here comes a blue Elder Dinosaur. Prior to this card, I would have thought dinosaurs were limited to red, white, and green. Now this set makes me wonder if we’ll ever see a five color legendary dinosaur so that I can have a five color dinosaur tribal commander deck. I really don’t have to say why I think this card is so awesome. In standard, you’ll probably see this card played in Gift of the God Pharaoh decks or with Scarab God decks. It could also see play in Blue/Green decks that run Champion of Rhonas. Take a moment and check that card out and think about it. Turn five comes around, you attack with Champion of Rhonas and exert it as it attacks. Using his ability, you plop down Nezahal, Primal Tide onto the battlefield and watch your opponent crap his pants. Nuff said.

Blood Sun

This card single-handedly shuts down death by Ramunap Ruins. It also shuts down all those transform lands in this set and the set prior to it, Ixalan. I wouldn’t consider this card to be a main deck must have. It’s at best a really good card for your sideboard. It also shuts down any man lands that threaten your life total. The card draw too is pretty nice.

Induced Amnesia

There aren’t many mill cards in Standard, with Fraying Sanity and Fleet Swallower being the best. That being said, Induced Amnesia is not exactly mill, but it’s a really decent way to mill the top five or six cards from the opponents library. Theoretically, if you play it on turn three you can have your opponent exile at best three or four cards. If that opponent is playing with a seven card hand that’s even better. So, opponent exiles his seven card hand and then draws seven cards. On turn four, you play Release to the Wind exiling your Induced Amnesia. That opponent gets his seven cards back added to his hand he/she already has. On his/her turn, they must discard down to seven. On turn five, play Induced Amnesia from exile because of Release to the Wind’s secondary effect. That opponent now has to exile those seven cards and draw seven more from his hand. In two turns, you’ve had your opponent draw fourteen cards. Is it a bit excessive and maybe bad since you’re giving your opponent card advantage? Sure, but it’s still a fun card.

Slaughter the Strong

For those that would rather be serious than fun, here’s a card just for them. Slaughter the Strong causes you and your opponent to choose a number of creatures with total combined power of four or less and then sacrificing the rest. I can already see this card in a Gideon based Approach of the Second Sun decks. Not as good as some board wipes like Fumigate, it does cost two less mana and can be used to get rid of either a whole bunch of tokens or even a few red staples like Hazoret, the Fervent or Glorybringer.

Reckless Rage

Speaking of things that kill Glorybringer, Reckless Rage is an instant classic for pyromaniacs. For one red mana, this instant card deals four damage to a creature you don’t control. Drawback is that it also deals two damage to a creature you do control. Which isn’t always a bad thing if you have an indestructible creature on your side like Hazoret. Or if you have another card on our list, Fanatical Firebrand, you can sacrifice your creature in response to it being targeted allowing for the spell to resolve and your opponent taking another point of damage from the Fanatical Firebrand.

Fanatical Firebrand

First off, I would like to admonish Wizards of the Coast by not taking advantage of this situation to turn all of your so-called “Goblin Pirates” and make them into monkeys. WOTC, you had your artists make them look like monkeys, why not just call them that? Kari Zev would have been pleased with you. Secondly, you just had to reprint Raging Goblin but with a crazy second ability. It’s not like red already had enough good aggro cards, now they have a really really good one drop that could be used for another point of damage at that player’s convenience. Again, I won’t take any of your time to address why this is such a good card. If you can’t tell why by reading the card, I have no words for you.

Zacama, Primal Calamity

Bravo, WOTC. You’ve made a three-headed 9/9 legendary elder dinosaur with three keyword abilities that allow players to untap all their lands (if they are able to cast it) and thereby being able to use all three of its abilities as soon as it comes out. I’m not sure if this will ever see Standard play, but for those that love playing Commander, they are geekgaziming right about now.

Azor, the Lawbringer

The last card on my list is here for so many reasons. First off, it ties Ixalan with Ravnica due to the fact that Azor was the founder of the Azorius Guild (one of the ten that formed the Guildpact on Ravnica). It also explains (most likely) why planeswalkers can’t planeswalk away from Ixalan. This will come into play in the story because if Jace and Vraska ever want to leave the plane, they’ll have to either convince or kill Azor to dispel the wards that lock away their abilities. As a card itself, he serves as an exactly endgame solution for blue/white control players. A 6/6 flyer that can’t be dealt with using spells during the opponents turn is great, but when it attacks you can draw cards and gain life for as much as you can pay with mana? Dude, this card is great. I foresee this card being played in Standard, Limited, Commander, Modern, really any format.

There is still a few weeks away until Rivals of Ixalan comes out. After that the next big set is Dominaria, the return to Magic: The Gathering’s roots. Personally, while Rivals of Ixalan looks like a great set, I’m more excited for Dominaria and what treasures we’ll find in those cards.

For a full list of the cards that were discussed above click here.

For more information about Rivals of Ixalan, click here.

To learn more about the author, James Master, click here.

To learn how to click links using a mouse, click here. (If you did try and click here, it obviously didn’t work. I just wanted to see if you actually tried it. Because I’m watching you. Always.)