Like many MTG streamers who had the privilege to show off all the new cards releasing with The Lost Caverns of Ixalan on MTG Arena, we had the unexpected pleasure of joining in on the fun. In an effort to get ready for a weekend of Prereleasing, I focused on getting some Draft games in.
Equipped with the somewhat ominous alias of simply ‘Riley,’ after three Premier leagues, two of which getting seven wins and another falling short, here are some initial strategies to watch out for in The Lost Caverns of Ixalan!
RGw Dinos 7-2
- Got passed Hulking Raptor pick 3 pack 1
- Got passed Gishath pack 2 pick 2 (not super unreasonable)
- Got a very late Itzquineth, Firstborn of Gishath
This deck had a very solid gameplan. Tons of early ramp spells like Glimpse the Core and Poison Dart Frog ensured that my massive win conditions hit the board quickly and consistently. Nothing can beat a Gishath, Sun’s Avatar that successfully connects with the opponent, but I only resolved the spell twice. The deck didn’t really need that card, but since it was so generously passed to me, how can I say no?
Sentinel of the Nameless City is a green bomb, and should not be slept on. A 3/4 with upside for three mana is absurd in Limited, and won games on its own. The ever-growing body combined with card selection is ridiculous. This is a great reason to go into, or even splash green, and should be a kill-on-sight target if it ends up in your opponent’s hands. This was my pack one pick one card.Etali’s Favor synergized quite well with all the gigantic bodies in this deck. Auras that cantrip have been strong in Limited for quite some time, and Discover 3 is even a little bit better than that. Trample can be ultra-relevant, and did win me a game in my first run where I stared down a Quintorius Kand and a bunch of chump blockers. I am very high on this card, but do be careful to pick your place for trying to resolve it. Getting your creature removed in response to the cast is a blowout.
One of my two losses with this deck came from drawing the wrong half of it. I either drew all of my threats without ramp, or all my ramp without threats. A best-of-three format would help smooth out this issue.
This does, however, highlight the usefulness of cards like Seismic Monstrosaur and Nurturing Bristleback. Being able to function as both threats and lands when necessary make these cards an incredible pick.
Even amongst the Land Cyclers, Seismic Monstrosaur and Nurturing Bristleback do a lot of work as threats. One is a Trampling body that can turn your lands into card advantage, and the other puts a massive amount of stats into play. I would pay attention to the cycle of Basic Landcyclers in your drafts.
My other loss came from being absolutely run over by this card. You don’t even need to attack with Anim Pakal, Thousandth Moon to win the game with it. Having a simple flier can create a disturbing amount of Gnomes if this goes unanswered. I wasn’t able to find a removal spell in time, and got overwhelmed.
Finally, some may have noticed the Cavern of Souls sitting in my manabase. This certainly made Gishath a lot easier to cast, but I picked this up rather late into pack three. The Cavern is not nearly as good in Limited as it is in constructed formats. Don’t let the card’s secondary market price fool you. That said, since I already had Gishath and was prepared to go into three colors, this seemed like a perfectly reasonable fit for an already typal-focused deck.
UW Artifacts 7-2
- Started off by picking two Master’s Guide-Murals. Got Akal Pakal, First Among Equals as pick four.
This was my last draft of the day and, by this point, streamers had, more or less, figured out what was going on in The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Limited. For this reason, and playing a little sloppier overall, my games were a lot harder.
That said, Master’s Guide-Marvel is an incredibly powerful win condition. I both won and lost games due to this card being on either side of the battlefield. Don’t be afraid to Craft this card as soon as possible, even if that means using less relevant artifacts in play instead of waiting for one to appear in your graveyard. This card is an absolute monster when flipped, and can out-grind almost any strategy as long as you have enough artifacts to consistently trigger it. Specifically watch out for it being blinked by Abuelo, Ancestral Echo.
Azorius really cares about artifacts in this set, so if you get some of the signpost synergies early-on, try to focus on picking as many cards that care about artifacts as possible. I valued cards that produce Map Tokens like Waterwind Scout pretty heavily as a result.
If you have enough artifacts to consistently trigger Akal Pakal, it can generate a lot of card advantage. Notably, Akal Pakal cares about each end step for its triggers, so you can abuse Flash artifacts like Lodestone Needle to generate even more value.
I was pretty impressed with Market Gnome in this archetype. The 0/3 may seem rather unassuming, but it commonly blocked some damage before eventually replacing itself. It was also great Craft fodder for the multiple Crafting effects in the deck.
Finally, Kellan, Daring Traveler felt fine, but shouldn’t be valued at the level of a rare bomb. Being able to utilize this card’s Adventure spell would have certainly made it more powerful, but only as a creature that occasionally offers card advantage/selection, it was just fine.
UR Pirates 3-3
Sadly, not every draft I did was a resounding success. This Pirates deck was incredibly powerful, but I made one big mistake in deck construction: I assumed this was an aggressive deck when it was, in fact, a tempo deck that wants to take gigantic turns to overwhelm the opponent.
For that reason, I played 15 lands with two Basic Landcyclers. This was something I commonly did and found success with in Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth, but the mana cost being two mana instead of one for these Land Cycle abilities is a big difference.
This deck needed more lands. Two of my three losses were simply to getting mana screwed. I had constant plays, but I was generating so much value that I couldn’t deploy all my cards in a timely manner. That said, Captain Storm, Cosmium Raider and Staunch Crewmate felt like signpost payoffs for this strategy. Be sure to watch out for The Belligerent. I literally casted five or more spells in one turn with this card.
As a note, a lot of proficient Limited personalities sang the praises of Sunshot Militia throughout the event, and I am inclined to agree. As long as you have enough permanents for this card to tap, it can really do a lot of damage. Be careful taking chip damage in combat when this card is around. You’re better off letting your opponent use their potential combat tricks than taking damage and getting finished off from pings via this creature.
Finally, do keep in mind that this is just a first glimpse at The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Limited. As MTG’s various Draft experts get additional reps on this set, best cards are going to change.
Hopefully, this review gives you some ideas for how to approach your early Drafts and Prereleases for The Lost Caverns of Ixalan. This set looks pretty complex from a Limited standpoint, and I had an absolute blast joining in on the early access fun. A huge thanks to Wizards of the Coast for allowing me to join in on the event.
The Lost Caverns of Ixalan will be available for everyone to play on MTG Arena this coming Tuesday. Prereleases, however, start today! If you’re interested in attending, you can find Game Stores hosting Prereleases this weekend in your area here.