Rivals of 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.
A bit of a late start again on the Rivals of Ixalan limited review due to the winter holidays and being out of town, but better late than never. Today I’ll be looking at the white cards that will join the pool of cards from Ixalan. In my previous article about Ixalan limited, I said that white gave quite a few good cards to both the vampire and dinosaur tribe, and that the removal choices weren’t horrible. Vampires turned out to be a little under powered in my opinion, though their flyers did perform pretty well in limited. I felt like pirates, Merfolk, and dinosaurs were simply better tribes than vampires, no matter what kind of combat tricks you played. As for the dinosaurs, the green red versions of that limited deck performed better without the splash, but if you had the fixing and a good top end like Gishath, it worked out. If you felt like the tribes were unbalanced in Ixalan limited, you probably weren’t alone. In this article we’ll be looking to see if they are more balanced. Well, let’s check them out.
One thing I noticed in RIX is that the vampires were much more aggressively costed this time around. You get a vanilla 2/3 flyer for 3 mana in Exultant Skymarcher which should be a roleplayer in both vampire and UW/BW flyer decks, and with Martyr of Dusk you get 2 bodies in one. An early creature on the curve, and a life linker after it dies. Very efficient, especially if you’re focusing on an aggressive strategy. Skymarcher Aspirant is right at home in an aggro deck as a 2/1 one drop, but what makes it even better is that it gains flying once you ascend. Considering all the treasure enablers black has, I’m sure it won’t be a problem to turn that on relatively quickly. WB vampires plays a lot of fast drops on curve, so you could give it flying by around turn 4, but 5 will be more likely.
My favorite new vampire, which is also part of a cycle in the tribes is Forerunner of the Legion. It’s both a tutor and combat effect, and only costs 3 mana! I would have been happy with a 4 mana 2/2 that had these abilities, but this guy is downright awesome. Giving one of your flying/evasion creatures a boost in power will add up very quickly for your opponent.
Exultant Skymarcher – RATING: 3 Stars
Martyr of Dusk – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Skymarcher Aspirant – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Forerunner of the Legion – RATING: 4 Stars
Our next tribe is the dinosaurs. White had some interesting combat tricks (Territorial Hammerskull) and some strong flyers last time around (Imperial Aerosaur), as well as pseudo-anthem effects (Bellowing Aegisaur). It seems like their power level has been turned down a notch in RIX, which should bring it more on par with the other tribes. Majestic Heliopterus has a nice effect in a dino deck, but at 2/2 it will fall to quite a few blue and white flyers on the opposite side of the board. Snubhorn Sentry might have a harder time reaching Ascend early on, but you probably won’t play it in an aggressive deck. It will block for you early on, and it won’t be dead later on in the game. A 3/3 for 1 mana after turn 6 or so is better than darwing a 2/1 creature for 1 or other similarly weak card once a board has been developed.
I like Imperial Ceratops in this format though, not only because it has a big butt and can block a majority of non-dinosaur creatures, but also because it gains life whenever it does so. It’s not powerful, but will be a pain for some aggressive decks. Sun-Crested Pterodon isn’t quite as efficient as other flyers for the same cost, but again it’s got a high toughness which will be hard to push through. If you want to build an enrage deck, it’s probably safe to say you want to have a decent amount of creatures that won’t die easily so you can stack effects on them to give bonuses to the other creatures. I don’t think Pterodon will see too much play, but I think it wouldn’t be horrible in that 22nd or 23rd slot in your limited deck.
Majestic Heliopterus – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Snubhorn Sentry – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Imperial Ceratops – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Sun-Crested Pterodon – RATING 2.5 stars
Everdawn Champion doesn’t really have any one strategy it could belong to, so it’s safe to say it will be a limited roleplayer, doing anything you need it to do. It blocks, it attacks, and all the while it won’t die. All combat damage is prevented, which should make it a pain in the ass for your opponent. I would play it in a deck full of combat tricks, so BW vampires seems like an obvious first choice, but at the same time I could see it in an Aura/Equipment based deck. One such aura I’d put on it is Squire’s Devotion. It attacks for 3 each turn, gives you a token, as well as gains you life whenever you block or attack unless they kill your guy. The creature can still be destroyed, burned, or given -1/-1 effects, so don’t get overconfident with its ability. But if your opponent doesn’t have those effects, let the champion go wild!
Everdawn Champion – RATING: 3 Stars
Squire’s Devotion – RATING: 3 Stars
The last 3 cards we have are white’s removal effects. We get a slightly worse Silkwrap (DTK) that creates a 3/3 dinosaur when it’s destroyed (and can’t even be used on your own guy to get the dino), a reprint of Divine Verdict which should be a little better than Bright Reprisal, and Luminous Bonds, a worse Pacifism effect. They’ll be alright, but you’ll be let down that you have to use less effective versions of other cards.
Luminous Bonds – RATING: 3 Stars
Baffling End – RATING – 2.5 Stars
Divine Verdict – RATING: 3 Stars
Other Cards That Will See Play
- Blazing Hope – A no drawback Path to Exile/Swords to plowshares? Nice. Too bad you have to be at less than 7 life to be able to use it. Could be sweet in a BW vampire deck with lots of life pay effects though.
- Cleansing Ray – Good SB card against Vampire decks.
- Famished Paladin – If you’re flush with 1/1 life link tokens or are playing with Mavren Fein (which makes 1/1 life link tokens when you attack with vampires), then it could be good. Otherwise it’s a 3/3 blocker for 2.
- Pride of Conquerors – Probably alright in an aggressive white/black vampire deck.
- Sanguine Glorifier – In a vampire heavy deck, especially with flyers, it could deserve one of those last slots in your deck. Otherwise there’s nothing special about it.
Coming Up Next
At first glance it seems as though BW vampires gets the most out of Rivals of Ixalan: Faster creatures that are more aggressively costed. There aren’t too many dinosaurs I’d splash in a deck, in fact I’d say that most of the dinos you find in RIX are nothing more than filler (aside from the rare ones of course). I still can’t say if vampires are on par with the other tribes yet, but they’ve definitely closed the gap. I’ll have to wait and see what black adds before making any other opinions.
Well, that does it for white, and coming up next is blue. No vampires there, but we do get some new pirates and merfolk which will give us a good handle on the other two tribes of Ixlan. Be sure to stop by tomorrow and check it out!