Ixalan: Playing To Your Weaknesses – White
NOTE: “Playing to your Weaknesses” is a series of articles I have been doing on my own blog since Avacyn Restored that cover all of the uncommons and commons in a new expansion and which ones I would choose to use as one of the 23 cards in a 40 card limited deck. For those of you uninitiated to limited, it simply means sealed and booster draft, where you open packs and then proceed to make a deck out of them. I’ve purposely left out the rare cards because it is much more likely that you’ll see multiples of uncommon and commons in your packs/pools.)
As for my rating system, after a lot of feedback I’ve decided to abandon my 3 tier scoring system of Low-Medium-High and I will instead be moving onto a 5 star ranking system. The system is as follows:
- 1 star = a card that is barely playable, even as filler for your deck
- 2 stars = this card could be a strong sideboard card, but is highly conditional and not always effective
- 3 stars = a 3 star card is a solid role-player. These cards could be less than amazing removal effects, or a creature that is a glass cannon (high power, low defense). They could be good except for a few flaws.
- 4 stars = Here’s where we get into the powerhouses. 4 Stars could be good finishers, or cards that can end a game if left unchecked. They also have multiple effects, and are all around good value for you. The only thing holding them back is restrictive costs or some small drawback.
- 5 stars = you won’t see a lot of these at common and uncommon. These will usually be your rares and mythics because they are incredibly bonkers. Planeswalkers, massive creatures, etc., these are the cards you could build a deck around.
Get your final drafts of HOU/AKH in while you can, because the time for Ixalan drafts are coming soon. The full spoiler just hit the internet just the other day, and in another week we’ll be surrounded in a jungle by dinosaurs, merfolk, and pirates. I know I always say this and end up being wrong, but I do plan on finishing all of the colors this time before the pre-release next weekend. With a national holiday on Monday, and a light work schedule, something catastrophic would have to happen for me to not to get them all done. Our first stop today is white, full of vampires but also not a slouch when it comes to playable dinosaurs as well. I promise to be more strict this time than I have been during previous articles!
Our first 3 Vampires today are what I like to call enablers. They are cards that are great for setting up your later turns, but probably not much more than roleplayers that you’ll find in Vampire strategies. Inspiring Cleric is your typical 3/2 creature for 3 mana, but it has a nice enter the battlefield (ETB) effect. With a lot of the vampires ability using your life total as a resource, this type of effect is probably necessary in XLN limited. Bishop’s Solider is probably better because it’s lifelink ensures that you’ll be able to get life as long as he’s in play, but being a ‘bear’ doesn’t really help him to stick around. I like Duskborne Skymarcher if only because it’s a 1 mana flyer, but the second effect makes her even better in a Vampire heavy strategy. I don’t think I’d take any of these high in draft, but I’d definitely want them for any Vampire deck I was building.
Inspiring Cleric – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Duskborne Skymarcher – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Bishop’s Soldier – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Our next batch of Vamps give make us happy that we drafted the other ones. Adanto Vanguard is a very aggressive creature that can hit hard and survive both blockers and non-exiling removal. While that 4 life is a stiff price to pay for indestructibility, it’s an upgrade from the exert creatures we had in AKH/HOU limited that had to ‘rest’ after exerting themselves. If you play these early, your opponent is going to be either hurting or at a disadvantage with board presence.
Paladin of the Bloodstained is love at first bite for me. Giving me 2 creatures for 4 mana, one being a life linking creature is something I can appreciate. Good value, possibly something I’d take early in draft, but not a first pick. Glorifier of Dusk is even better though. Sure you have to pay life to be able to either deal damage unimpeded in the air or to leave it untapped so it can defend, but that versatility makes it a great asset for your side. No pain, no gain, right? Most like a high draft card.
Adanto Vanguard – RATING: 3 Stars
Paladin of the Bloodstained – RATING: 3 Stars
Glorifier of Dusk – RATING: 3.5 Stars
The other cards that I think would go good in a more aggressive Vampire build are Encampment Keeper and Queen’s Commission. Queen’s Commission is of course a good card for limited because it gives you 2 creatures for one card (and with lifelink no less), and Encampment Keeper gets in for early damage, and becomes an anthem later on. You might think that the 8 mana is a bit much, but with all of the treasure effects in this format, ramping up to 6+ mana shouldn’t be that difficult most of the time. If you’re looking to use those high mana effects though, make sure you have a few of the treasure enablers though. Not high drafts, but limited roleplayers.
Queen’s Commission – RATING: 3 Stars
Encampment Keeper – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Rallying Roar caught my eye as one of the better combat tricks in white. It lets you be aggressive if you need to be, while also letting you have an out if you need to be on defense. I also think it works well in just about any strategy, so I expect it to see quite a bit of play in XLN limited. If you’re really aggressive I’d go for 2, but usually 1 is enough for your dino decks.
RATING: 3 Stars
Vampires are going to have a VERY hard time of dealing with the dinosaurs of Ixalan. The first thing I noticed about my picks is that they have mostly 3 toughness or higher. Heck, there is even a 1/7 dinosaur! While I don’t think that one will be anything other than filler, these first 3 dinos can make a big impact on the battlefield. Territorial Hammerskull is great in a tempo based white deck with combat tricks. Being able to tap down an opponent’s best blocker is a great effect,and those small vampires aren’t going to be able to team on him easily. It’s definitely a high pick in draft, and if you see them in multiples grab as many as you can. I think it’ll end up being a limited all star.
Steadfast Armasaur is also pretty good. There is absolutely NO WAY that any of those tiny vampires will get anywhere close to it without being crushed. This is a freaking sweet card. It’s amazing on both offense and defense, and if you have combat tricks or any equipment/enchantments you can put on it, DO IT. The higher it’s defense becomes, the more damage it can deal before combat damage is dealt. Not sure if I’d take it first pick, but damn I’m impressed by it.
Bellowing Aegisaur has already gotten some discussion on twitter regarding its combo with Walking Ballista, but in Ixalan limited you probably want to be playing it in a red/white deck that has ping effects so you can take full advantage of its buffing effects. This card could be absolutely broken in the right build. Great curve topper, but not quite a finisher. Would be good in both dinosaur or Vampire decks. Possible first pick, and definitely splashable.
Territorial Hammerskull – RATING: 3.5 Stars
Steadfast Armasaur – RATING: 3.5 Stars
Bellowing Aegisaur – RATING: 4 Stars
Outside of a dinosaur based deck, Pterodon Knight is nothing more than filler on your curve, but throw in 5-6 dinosaurs and you got a decent flyer. Not something I’d take early in draft, but a good card to finish up your deck with if you have a few ‘terrible lizards’ to take advantage of its synergy.
Shining Aerosaur is a solid flyer for 5 mana with a 3/4 body, but not amazing. I expect it to be a limited roleplayer, and it should have no problem dealing with vampires. If your opponent doesn’t have removal for it it could run away with the game, but I think it will have a pretty big target on its back once it hits the battlefield and removal will find its way towards it.
Now Imperial Aerosaur I like. On curve it gives one of your early drops flying to go over your opponent’s head, but late game it’s even better, giving one of your finishers or beaters flying and +1/+1 until the end of turn. I think I would take it pretty highly in draft, and possibly even splash it. Thank goodness for the tribal lands and artifacts that can help you cast it in a 3 color dino deck.
Pterodon Knight – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Shining Aerosaur – RATING: 3 Stars
Imperial Aerosaur – RATING: 3.5 Stars
Emissary of Sunrise both fits and doesn’t fit into the first 2 strategies I mentioned. The explore cards will probably end up being great support cards for either aggro decks like pirates and vampires or midrange ones like dinosaurs. They effectively “scry” for you, letting you either grab a land or pumping up your creature and letting you know what your next card is. I’d be fine paying 3 mana for a 3/2 first strike or a 2/1 first strike that says “draw a land”. Both effects are worth it in my opinion. Early draft pick.
RATING: 3 Stars
The final batch of cards are our removal choices. They aren’t bad, but not great either. Removal is going to be more important in Ixalan than in past sets because of how easily the finishers in this format can end a game. A few turns of dinosaurs attacking you is all it takes. Sadly, they are worse than removal has been for white in recent sets. Sure you might not need to stop a huge lizard until turn 5 or so, but increasing the cost of removal means you’ll have to use it vary sparingly and probably throw in some combat tricks to let your creatures do the killing for you so you can save it for a really bad card.
The best one is Ixalan’s Binding, even if it doesn’t have cycling and can’t be played at instant speed like Cast Out. You probably won’t have to worry much about multiples of cards in sealed, but it could be pretty good in draft. Being able to get rid of any non-land permanent, be it planeswalkers or enchantments, is incredibly versatile. Possible first draft pick.
Pious Interdiction is a much worse Pacifism, but at least it gains you 2 life. If you’re playing a vampire deck that’s using your life total as a resource, it’s a great card to have since it gets rid of a problem card and gains you life. It’s fine in any other white deck, but I would draft it higher in vampire ones.
I guess Reprisal would be really overpowered in this format, so instead we get Legion’s Judgment which is 1 mana more and sorcery speed instead of instant. It won’t be too useful against vampire and pirate decks, but it will do a great job of taking out a player’s dino finishers. Bright Reprisal also isn’t Immolating Glare, and heck, it even isn’t Divine Verdict either. It’s incredibly heavy and only hits attackers which means it’s situational, but at least you get to draw a card out of it. Still, it’s better than nothing. Once you play it, your opponent will play around it in the next game and try to attack with weaker creatures, which means you’ll have to have something really menacing to force your opponent to attack with their finisher or bomb. It should be good against those 5 mana hasty dinosaurs at least.
Ixalan’s Binding – RATING: 3.5 Stars
Pious Interdiction – RATING: 3 Stars
Legion’s Judgment – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Bright Reprisal – RATING: 3 Stars
Other Cards That Will See Play
- Legion Conquistador – Good in draft if you can get multiples, otherwise forget it.
- Looming Altisaur – amazing blocker, and even better if you get the card that lets it deal damage equal to its toughness.
- Raptor Companion – good for aggressive decks with some combat tricks. Also helps with dino synergies.
- Skyblade of the Legion – A 1/3 flyer is great early in the game, but gets outclassed very easily by most of the other flyers and becomes no more than a blocker. Good to have if you have vamps and combat tricks to push it in for more damage.
- Vampire’s Zeal – might be alright as a combat trick, but best left to vampire decks.
Coming Up Next
That was easier than I thought it would be. The card grouped themselves together rather well which made it easier to evaluate them. White doesn’t seem too strong at first, but is a solid contender as a support color. I’m guessing we’ll be looking at BW Vampires as the aggro deck, and either GW, RW, or Naya as a dinosaur based deck. One thing I do like about the color so far are its tempo effects like on Hammerskull and Armasaur. White offers quite a bit of depth and complexity already, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the colors come together. Hopefully I’ll have black out either Monday night or Tuesday morning, so be out on the look for it! Thanks for reading.