Rivals of Ixalan: Playing To Your Weaknesses – Blue
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.
I was really impressed with blue’s offerings in Ixalan last time around. Both the merfolk and pirates had some great abilities, and the blue tempo spells were some of the best ones I’d seen in a while. The question this time around is, does Rivals give the set enough synergy to power up? Or will we see a power down much like white’s dinosaurs did in my previous article. While it’s looking like merfolk will be a solid choice again in RIX/XLN, whether or not it will be a pirates life for me is yet to be seen.
The reprint of Silvergill Adept is a shot in the arm of limited merfolk decks, as it replaces itself by drawing you a card and also interacts with various merfolk effects in XLN/RIX limited. It’s not powerful, but gives you great value and fits on curve. The other merfolk I like has been described as a Brainstorm on a Stick. Riverwise Augur is a bit pricey at 4 mana, but letting you see 3 cards and netting you one is decent.
The other merfolk I chose to feature are River Darter and Mist Cloaked Herald. Due to the various buffing effects like the 2 mana merfolk lord and Deeproot Elite, having creature cards that can’t be blocked will come in extremely handy and close out games very quickly if your opponent doesn’t have any answers.
Silvergill Adept – RATING: 3 Stars
Riverwise Augur – RATING: 3 Stars
River Darter – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Mist-Cloaked Herald – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Merfolk also get some ‘tribal’-ish spells this time around as well in Aquatic Incursion and Crashing Tide. I like Aquatic Incursion in a Merfolk heavy deck, especially if you’re playing a few anthem effects/lords. Limited merfolk decks already have the tools to reach critical mass, but they have trouble in games that go long when an opponent stabilizes. Incursion is a good draw late in the game as it provides you with a mana sink and 2 protected creatures. This type of card is great for breaking up stalemates.
Crashing Tide, on the other hand, is a decent tempo card that replaces itself, but gets better when played in a merfolk deck since it effectively becomes an instant. While they wouldn’t be first pickable in draft, I’d definitely play them in my limited builds that had a majority of merfolk. I like it slightly more than Depths of Desire, especially in a merflk deck.
Aquatic Incursion – RATING: 3 Stars
Crashing Tide – RATING: 3 Stars
Pirates seem to have gotten some more playable cards in Rivals, especially if you’re looking to go over the top of your opponents. There were quite a few flyers in blue in XLN, and RIX adds to that. Siren Reaver is fine as a 3/2 flyer for 4 mana, but even better as a 3 mana flyer. It’s not unrealistic to draft a UB or UW flyers deck or something else with evasion (like River Darter) in order to consistently play it on turn 3. Kitesail Corsair is another solid choice even if it only gets flying when attacking. Fills out your curve nicely.
As for Slippery Scoundrel, I don’t think pirates will have a problem activating City’s Blessing with all the ‘booty’ in this format. Yep, with the amount of treasure effects in all of the pirate colors, you should Ascend quickly and then be able to load up Scoundrel with all sorts of enchantments or equipment and ‘go to the city’, I mean ‘town’ on your opponent. It will be very hard to kill once Ascended since there aren’t any good board wipes in this set aside from Fiery Cannonade, and that doesn’t hit pirates. If you’re playing against it, kill it asap!
Deadeye Rig-Hauler is another capable 4 drop pirate with Raid, and should fit on your curve nicely. With all of the flying and unblockable creatures in blue, you should have no problem loading on the choicest Raid effects and activating them consistently. Rig-Hauler doesn’t have the best effect, but it’s pretty damn good nonetheless.
Siren Reaver – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Kitesail Corsair – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Slippery Scoundrel – RATING: 3 Stars
Deadeye Rig-Hauler – RATING: 3 Stars
The only other 2 creatures in blue worth mentioning are Soul of the Rapids, and Spire Winder. It’s too bad that Spire Winder isn’t a dinosaur, but a 2/3 flyer that gets bigger later in the game is nothing to scoff at. I think it will be a rather high pick in draft since it fits well into all blue archetypes, especially UW/UB flyers and U/x pirates. Add in Favorable Winds and you have quite a beast on your hands!
Soul of the Rapids isn’t as scary as Spire Winder, but having hexproof and flying make it a prime candidate for Auras and equipment like Slippery Scoundrel. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some kind of “Boggles” archetype show up in RIX/XLN limited given that we have both decent buffing effects as well as creatures with evasion and built in protection. Not sure how effective it will be, but it’s something to consider when building you blue decks. The only thing holding back Soul of the Rapids is its low toughness.
Spire Winder – RATING: 3 Stars
Soul of the Rapids – RATING: 2.5 Stars
There are fewer tempo effects in Rivals than there were in Ixalan, but between both sets you should be able to to put together an incredibly frustrating tempo package against other players that will give them headaches and make them slam down their cards from time to time. Waterknot is basically Claustrophobia but flavor changed for the set, so nothing special there. Expel from Orazca on the other hand is a Disperse that gets better later in the game. Being able to ‘timewalk’ your opponent by bouncing their most powerful card to the top of their library at the end of their turn is huge. This is right up there with Perilous Voyage as one of my favorite tempo spells of the block. Decks like U/x flyers and GU merfolk are going to love all of the choices they have for tempo spells.
Waterknot – RATING: 2.5
Expel from Orazca – RATING: 3 Stars
My final choice for RIX limited is Secrets of the City. At worse it’s a Divination which is not a bad card, but drawing this card later on in the game and drawing 3? Amazing value. Would recommend it to both Pirate and Merfolk players that need to refill their hands quickly to put more pressure on opponents.
RATING: 3 Stars
Other Cards That Will See Play
- Curious Obsession – Perfect card if you’re playing lots of creatures with evasion, such as unblockable and flying. Great way to keep the cards coming!
- Sea Legs – Not great as far as combat tricks go, but might be playable if you are looking to beef up your pirates as well as give them a combat trick to kill defenders with.
Coming Up Next
That will do it for blue. Rivals of Ixalan’s offerings are pretty good from first glance. Both Merfolk and pirate archetypes get some new cards to work with, and most of the tempo cards will see play. Blue is looking to be very aggressive this time around, and if you’re not prepared for hexproof creatures and flyers you could find yourself in a lot of trouble. If I had to compare the tribes at the moment, I’d probably say that pirates is one of the better archetypes now, but vampires and merfolk aren’t too far behind. I’ve yet to be impressed by dinosaurs, but that could change by the time we get to red and green.
If you have any comments or suggestions about this limited environment, feel free to add them down below! I’ll be working double time from here on to get the rest of my articles out before the pre-release this weekend, so be sure to check back soon for my black article!