As we look ahead towards the new year and the release of the next premier set, Murders at Karlov Manor, it’s important to also recognize how impactful The Lost Caverns of Ixalan was in a multitude of different formats. There have been a ton of breakout cards from the set that revolutionized the metagames of various Constructed formats. This is especially true in Pioneer.
New format all-stars such as Amalia Benavides Aguirre have showcased just how much the release of a single set can change the distribution of top decks within a given format. Interestingly, though, many of the top performing cards from The Lost Caverns of Ixalan specifically have been uncommons, not rares or mythic rares.
Obviously, we saw an uncommon ultimately get banned in Pioneer in the form of Geological Appraiser. However, to this day, there are a ton of Ixalan uncommons that have helped shape the metagames in Standard, Pioneer, and even Modern. Today, we are going to highlight some of these elite uncommons, showing the massive impact lower rarity cards can have.
First up, we have Cenote Scout, one of the most hyped uncommons from the set. However, when most players talked about Cenote Scout, it was in the context of Merfolk. After all, Cenote Scout is a strong one-drop in a Merfolk shell. Unfortunately, Merfolk didn’t quite break out in Standard or Pioneer, and in Modern, many players are still opting to stick with a mono-blue shell.
That being said, Cenote Scout still sees regular play in Abzan Amalia combo in Pioneer as a cheap way to ignite the combo. The combo in question relies on two specific cards: Amalia Benavides Aguirre and Wildgrowth Walker. Once you Explore, you will trigger Wildgrowth Walker to gain life. This will trigger Amalia to Explore, causing a chain reaction until Amalia reaches 20 power. From there, all Creatures in play are destroyed and you can attack with Amalia for the win.
The key, though, is that you need cheap ways to either gain life or Explore to start the combo. Prosperous Innkeeper and Lunarch Veteran are the primary go-to cards for this role, but Cenote Scout regularly sees play here as well. Sometimes, it can be correct to use Chord of Calling to find Cenote Scout, whether to trigger the combo or simply trigger Wildgrowth Walker to avoid damage-based removal like Fiery Impulse.
Next, we have Spelunking, a card that has become a staple in Modern Amulet Titan decks. While it might seem like a poor inclusion considering the context where you also have Amulet of Vigor in play, the whole point of the card is to add some redundancy. The reality is, this deck is significantly stronger when you are able to stick a copy of Amulet of Vigor. Letting your Bounce Lands tap for mana immediately is super strong, helping you cast Primeval Titan ahead of schedule.
Primeval Titan is much more threatening when you can reliably give it Haste via Slayer’s Stronghold. In some matchups, you may want to find Simic Growth Chamber and Tolaria West with the intention of returning Tolaria West to hand and Transmuting it immediately to find Summoner’s Pact. Amulet of Vigor helps a ton in all scenarios, works well in multiples, and helps enable your fast kills.
Well, when you don’t draw Amulet, or your opponent removes it, having added redundancy is key. Spelunking fills this role nicely, and unlike Amulet, it helps accelerate you towards Primeval Titan on its own even if removed thanks to its enters-the-battlefield effect. Do note that Amulet of Vigor still works with Spelunking in play, as you can choose whether your lands enter tapped or not.
Deep-Cavern Bat is an exceptional piece of disruption. Don’t let the uncommon rarity fool you, Deep-Cavern Bat is a significant upgrade over many Creatures in the past that can disrupt your opponent’s hand of cards. Compare this to the likes of Kitesail Freebooter, for instance. Freebooter saw lots of play, even in Modern Humans for quite some time, and Deep-Cavern Bat is way better. Being able to take Creatures is a huge bonus, as is having Lifelink to help in racing situations.
In Standard, the curve of Deep-Cavern Bat into Raffine, Scheming Seer is extremely strong. Not only does the Bat protect your Raffine from removal, but Raffine can grow your Lifelinking Bat when you attack, making it nearly impossible for your opponent to race back.
Deep-Cavern Bat has even made its way into Pioneer in a newer version of mono-black aggro. Not only does the Bat add another piece of disruption alongside Thoughtseize, but as an evasive threat, it also pairs extremely nicely with Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor. Gix plays a similar role in this deck to Raffine in Standard, and once again, Deep-Cavern Bat does a great job paving the way for you to land your powerful three-drop.
Finally, we have an uncommon with such a powerful effect that it routinely sees play in both Vintage and cEDH! This card is none other than Dauntless Dismantler. Dauntless Dismantler does a couple things that are extremely powerful in environments with lots of fast mana. First things first, it makes all of your opponent’s Artifacts enter the battlefield tapped. In a format with various Moxen, Black Lotus, and more this is a great way to slow the opponent down.
Furthermore, because you also have access to these powerful Artifacts, it’s easy to accelerate out Dauntless Dismantler turn one, which can be devastating to the opponent, especially when on the play. That’s not all, though. You can also use its activated ability to blow up opposing Artifacts. In most cases, you will use this ability with X=0, paying a single white mana to blow up opposing Moxen, as well as other niche targets like Constructs from Urza’s Saga or Artifact Lands.
The fact that this card has so much utility for only two mana makes it very strong. Add on the fact that it dodges removal like Lightning Bolt and blocks really well thanks to its four toughness and you’ve got an all-star on your hands.
Each of these uncommons have their own unique play patterns and uses and see play from Standard all the way down to Vintage. This truly showcases just how impactful The Lost Caverns of Ixalan was as a set across lots of Constructed formats.