Rivals of Ixalan: Playing To Your Weaknesses – Multicolor, Artifact, and Land
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.
The pre-releases are over, and everybody is gearing up for the first limited Grand Prix and drafts of Rivals of Ixalan limited. We’ve gone over the majority of the cards in the new set, but there are still a few cards left to talk about. If you’d like to see which cards I talked about in Ixalan, you can check out the old article here.
I think it’s important to talk about why we need mana fixing in this format. While the cards aren’t as hungry for multiple mana sources as blocks like Dragons of Tarkir was, most decks in this limited format want to splash a 3rd color. Pirates could be UB or UR, but Grixis is the optimal build. The same can be said for Dinosaurs. It’s okay to build a GR or RW deck, but playing Naya gives you many more choices. We had Unclaimed Territory and the Check lands in Ixalan, and Rivals gives us the enemy tap lands and Evolving Wilds. Both cards allow for splashes in 3 colors, as well as to help those decks with a lot of double symbols. You definitely want to play them in your deck if you’re running multiple colors, but the question is when you should take them in draft. They’ll be early picks in packs 2 and 3, but what if you see one in pack 1? That’s a tough call. I don’t think you should take it pick 1, but you probably won’t see these around pick 7 either. I think these lands should be 4-5th picks in draft. If they share one of your colors of if you really want to splash for something, grab them.
Evolving Wilds – RATING: 3.5 Stars
Tap Lands – RATING: 3.5 Stars
The only artifact worth putting in your limited deck that isn’t rare is Traveler’s Amulet. Just like with Evolving Wilds and the tap lands, having 1-2 tutor sources for lands in a 3 color deck is going to be important. I’d take it a little bit higher in draft if I was definitely splashing a 3rd color, but you can do without it in 2 color decks.
RATING: 2.5 Stars
Just like last time, I’ll post my picks for the multicolor cards and will talk about how powerful it is, as well as which archetypes will benefit the most from it.
Our first two cards will find themselves at home in a Pirates deck. While Dire Fleet Neckbreaker is obviously more powerful, don’t underestimate Storm Fleet Sprinter. Give it good equipment like Captain’s Hook or a Pirate’s Cutlass and watch it go to town on your opponent’s life total. If I was going to splash a 3rd color for one of these, Neckbreaker would be my choice since it powers up his tribe so much more. I expect him to go highly in draft, while Storm Fleet will probably be around that 6-7th pick. You could actually build a deck entirely around Dire Fleet Neckbreaker (RB pirates) and I think it would be rather powerful. Great removal, effects like menace, and great ETB effects make it a great combination.
Storm Fleet Sprinter – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Dire Fleet Neckbreaker – RATING: 3.5 Stars
Dinosaurs get a lot of new playables as well in RIX, but one thing I noticed while playing the archetype this last weekend was that splashing too many cards or forcing a splash leads to problems. When playing cards likes these, you have to decide to play it based on your main colors. For example, Relentless Raptor would be good in a RW dino deck with a splash of green, but probably not in a GR dino deck with a splash of white. You simply won’t have the mana you need to cast it turn 2 consistently.
Raging Regisaur is a little bit easier to cast in a 3 color deck because it gives you a few more turns to draw the other sources of mana you need. It also has a nice effect upon attacking, which is great if you need a consistent way to trigger Enrage abilities. Of course this should clear 1/1’s out of your path as well. I think Regisaur will be a somewhat high pick in draft.
Atzocan Seer isn’t going to be powering our your Ripjaw Raptors on turn 3, but he will be able to stay alive long enough to get our Mr. 5 drop and Mrs. 6 drop creature. It’s a great card for mana fixing, and he also has a sweet effect upon sacrificing.
Relentless Raptor – RATING: 2.5 Stars
Raging Regisaur – RATING: 3.5 Stars
Atzocan Seer – RATING: 3 Stars
The entire Ixalan block has been all about tribes, so it’s only natural that we get 2 lords to boost up the power level of those decks. UG Merfolk was already a decent deck in limited, but Merfolk Mistbinder will make it even better. BW Vampires has some good and some bad tribal cards, but overall they’ve been a let down. Hopefully Legion’s Lieutenant will be able to change things. It should be really good in draft, but in sealed it might be difficult to reach that critical mass to make it worth it.
Merfolk Mistbinder – RATING: 3.5 Stars
Legion’s Lieutenant – RATING: 3 Stars
UW Flyers has always been an archetype in limited formats it seems. Even if you can’t get the synergy of BW vampires or UR pirates going in XLN/RIX limited, you could always just take the flyers from both colors and make them into a decent strategy. Favorable Winds makes it even better in this set. Resplendent Griffin is a good card as far as I’m concerned. Blue’s already playing a lot of tempo spells, so clearing it’s path to attack once you Ascend shouldn’t be a problem. After 2-3 attacks, it will become incredibly hard to get rid of. To speed along City’s Blessing, I’d add some auras into this archetype as well.
RATING: 3 Stars
The only other card I think we will see out of multicolor is Jungle Creeper. It fits on your curve well, and becomes a recurring threat over and over again late game. Great mana sink. The only question is where it belongs. There doesn’t seem to be a clear archetype that could use him, so I think we’ll most likely see it as a splash in a UG or GR deck. It feels kind of out of place along side dinosaurs, but it might not be bad in UG/b merfolk if only to serve as an extra body (since you’re probably splashing black for removal). This lack of synergy will hurt it when it comes to draft.
RATING: 2.5 Stars
Deadeye Brawler is not something you really want to block due to the deathtouch, but not something you want to let through either. Good card for Pirates. Going to be a headache for a lot of decks. Should have no problem Ascending thanks to all the treasure tokens black and blue seem to make.
RATING: 3 Stars
I ended up participating in a total of 3 events during Rivals of Ixalan pre-release weekend. On Saturday I attended a 42 person event at TokyoMTG in downtown Tokyo with a couple of friends I knew because the store actually had English pre-release kits for foreigners to play with. Since I haven’t EVER played with an English pre-release kit (last time I did an English pre-release was during Zendikar), it was quite refreshing. Not having to strain my mind to remember what everything does and to check the wording of an effect was a god send. Thanks largely in part to this, I was able to put together my deck quickly. It’s just too bad I chose the wrong color combination for round 1. I started off with a loss using my BW cards, but quickly changed my strategy to Temur in rounds 2-4 to win the rest of my matches.
I really liked what merfolk had to offer, and Mistbinder was really good. Their tempo effects locked my opponents down well, and then I was able to finish off games with Tendershoot Dryad. The red splash came into play quite often, but mostly for the removal spells. I don’t think I was able to play Phoenix once.
The next time I played was at a small morning event with about 6 people. I went blue green again, but this time splashed black for removal, Chupcabra, and the black Elder dinosaur. Hadana’s Climb ended up being an all start because once it was flipped, you could turn just about any of your creatures into a model. I also managed to get Tetzimoc out quite a few times which quickly ended matches. This raised my total wins to 6 at this point with only one loss.
I really thought that this Naya dinosaur deck would be good go the distance, but in hindsight I realized that I lost do to getting overzealous with the mana. Late game splashes would have been alright, but trying to force those 2 drops in white would have been really hard. I lost 1-2, which means my total record for Rivals prelease is 7-3. Not bad, and won quite a few cards.
It takes a special limited format for me to want to play the set over and over, and sadly RIX falls short somewhat. While archetypes like BW vampires and Grixis Pirates have gained a lot of power, they’ll still be leaps and bounds behind the more powerful duo of GR/x dinosaurs and UG merfolk. I’ve noticed that there is a lot of removal at a player’s disposal in this format, especially in black, but one of the challenges in this format is choosing the right ones. You should be able to choose from a variety of spells for less than 3 mana that target the smaller creatures, but getting rid of those bomb rares is going to be a lot harder. I think that just about does it for the final PTYW of Rivals of Ixalan. What are your thoughts on the new set? How did you do at the pre-release? I’d like to hear from you down below in the comments, so please don’t be shy!