For better or worse, this has been an incredibly busy week in the world of MTG. There’s been a surprise first look, a major Marvel announcement, and a set release not long ago either! Unfortunately, this problem isn’t going to get much better, as The Lost Caverns of Ixalan is now here to steal the show!
Kicking things off with its debut stream, the spoiler season for The Lost Caverns of Ixalan has finally begun. Thanks to this, players can expect to see all manner of awesome, interesting, and bold new cards over the coming week. Speaking of bold, that’s certainly the case for the new mechanics revealed during the recent Debut Stream.
Between a new variant of Cascade, a new token, graveyard shenanigans, and a crafting mechanic, The Lost Caverns of Ixalan has it all! For better or worse, this means there’s rather a lot to go over and plenty to be confused about. Thankfully, to nip this confusion in the bud, we’re here to help with a comprehensive rundown of each new mechanic in the set!
To kick things off with the big ticket item, Craft is the biggest and boldest of what The Lost Caverns of Ixalan has to offer. As the name suggests, and as we’ve teased, this mechanic technically allows you to craft multiple cards together, but it’s sadly not actually that fun. Despite what the name implies, Craft is simply a new crafting cost that can be used to flip certain cards.
Seen on The Enigma Jewel and its transformed side Locus of Enlightenment, the mechanic is remarkably straightforward. After paying a cost to activate the ability, you must exile the appropriate cards, and then the card is flipped! For The Enigma Jewel, this can turn it into an absolute monster of an Artifact.
While The Enigma Jewel may be the best of the bunch, other cards, such as Spring-Loaded Sawblades show Craft is simply a cost. Here, you must Craft with an Artifact in order to be able to transform it. Unfortunately, no abilities are gained from the Crafted artifact, or anything like that, it’s just an added cost.
Considering the name, this may be rather disappointing to some MTG players. On the bright side, at least Craft isn’t too hard to play, since you can use cards in the graveyard…
Thanks to Craft, the graveyard is undoubtedly going to be a vital resource during The Lost Caverns of Ixalan. For better or worse, however, you may not always want to tap into this asset at every opportunity. This is thanks to another of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan’s mechanics, Descend.
Mercifully, compared to Craft, Descend is a rather straightforward mechanic. To put it simply, Descend cares about the number of permanents in your graveyard. If this number exceeds the threshold, like Descend 4 on Didact Echo then the ability is active! In this case, Didact Echo would have Flying for as long as Decend’s box is ticked.
Alongside tracking the number of cards in your graveyard, Descend also has a variant of a similar name. Known as Decended, this offshoot tracks how many cards entered your graveyard this turn. For The Mycotyrant you create Fungus tokens equal to the number of Decended cards on your turn.
As if two variants of one mechanic weren’t enough already, there’s also Fathomless Descent to remember. Thankfully, this variant of the mechanic is rather simple, as it simply counters the number of permenants in your graveyard. On spells like Song of Stupefaction this simply determines an X cost.
While on its own Descend should be a rather simple, and easy-to-activate mechanic, it’s not shallow by any means. In Limited, for example, you’ll have to balance Descend and Craft together. Alongside this, you’ll also have to get enough cards into your graveyard to activate Descend in the first place. Thanks to Dredge decks, this shouldn’t be the greatest struggle, but it’s nonetheless worth remembering for formats like Standard.
On the surface, Discover could be a rather hard mechanic to wrap your head around. That would be the case, at least, if Cascade hasn’t come before it to clear things up. So, to put it simply, Discover is a new variant of Cascade, the effectiveness of which is determined by a number, not the card’s mana value.
For example, Hit the Mother Lode has Discover 10 which theoretically allows you to cast Kozilek, Butcher of Truth for free. Offering expanded utility and creative freedom compared to Cascade, this mechanic is poised to be incredibly useful. Compared to Cascade, it may show up more often as well, since Wizards can balance it a lot more.
Alongside this major difference, there are two significant changes between Cascade and Discover. First, Cascade was a trigger that happened when a card was cast. Discover does not function like this. Second, Cascade forces the player to either cast a spell or put it back into their deck, however, Discover allows you to put a card into your hand if you do not want to cast it.
Ultimately, Discover, like Cascade, is an excellent way to provide additional value to spells you cast. Whether you’re Discovering something bigger or smaller than the mana spent, this mechanic is always useful. Just like Cascade, the only trouble is the inherent randomness of that ability. Thankfully, however, Scry and other topdeck manipulation effects can help save the day here so you can Discover what you need.
Adding another to the new mechanic count, The Lost Caverns of Ixalan also has Map Tokens. Thankfully, these tokens are incredibly straightforward, as they simply let a target creature explore, Costing one mana to activate this ability, Map Tokens allow you to potentially buff any creature, which is always a welcome ability.
So far, it seems that Map Tokens will be rather common within The Lost Caverns of Ixalan, so expect to see a lot of creatures Exploring. In fact, since Explore is returning as a mechanic as well, you can really expect a lot of +1/+1 counters and land draws!
Last but not least, technically, Finality Counters are a new mechanic for The Lost Caverns of Ixalan. That being said, however, they’re nothing we haven’t seen before. To put them simply, when a creature with a Finality Counter dies, it gets exiled instead.
While this effect has existed in MTG for a long time, Finality Counters do offer some expanded utility over the classic spell effect. For example, like all counters, Finality Counters could be removed by Vampire Hexmage. This could allow a powerful creature or token to stick around for longer, adding extra uselessness to a temporary effect.
While we do always enjoy some added mechanical complexity, Finality Counters should hopefully make things simpler and easier to track. That is the hope, at least. However, it does rely on players having the right counters to adorn their creatures with.