Monday, September 18, 2017

Ixalan - Blue

Ixalan Set Review: White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Multicolor & Artifacts
Ixalan Videos: White | Blue | Black | Red | Green | Multicolor & Artifacts | Rares Part 1 | Rares Part 2

Please read my disclaimer before jumping into my evaluations!

Brief overview:
2 common bounce effects (Run Aground aka Griptide, Depths of Desire) 1 uncommon bounce effect, (Perilous Voyage aka Disperse), 1 common Frost Lynx effect (Watertrap Weaver)
3 counter spells (Cancel, Lookout’s Dispersal, Spell Pierce)
No Claustrophobia-type enchantment
Raid is a sub-theme for UR archetypes
o How much raid? 3 cards (Shipwreck Looter, Storm Fleet Aerialist, Storm Fleet Spy) and 1 bad card (Navigator’s Ruin).
Blue has 4 common treasure cards (Sailor of Means, Prosperous Pirates, Depths of Desire, Pirate's Prize)

Shore Keeper – So yeah, this is a cycle. Every color has a bad 1 drop that is unrelated to that color’s archetypes. Remember when WOTC staff would tell us that bad cards exist because they’re important for teaching new players what bad cards look like?

Shipwreck Looter – It’s awkward to put Raid on a 2-drop. If you see a 0/3 Trilobite attacking you on turn 2, you can expect your opponent to follow up with this. I get that designers put Raid on a card like this to improve it as a late-game play, but that just means that if you play this out on curve (which you usually want to do with a 2-drop) it’s a vanilla 2/1.

Sailor of Means – I’m into this card. Treasure helps you ramp and fix for splashing. Spoiler alert, if you want to play Grixis Pirates, the easiest way to do it is to start with UB and splash Red: Blue has 4 common treasure cards, Black has 2 common treasure cards and 3 uncommon treasure cards, while Red only has 1 uncommon treasure card. While I’m against low power on 4-drops (I’m looking at you Looming Altisaur), I don’t mind it on 3-drops that help you with your game plan of casting more spells.

Siren Lookout – Recall what Explore means: for 3 mana, you get either (1) a 2/3 flier with ETB scry 1 or (2) a 1/2 flier ETB search your library for a random basic land and put it into your hand. Either one of those versions is acceptable at 3 cmc. And even as a 1/2, this little guy is going to help you trigger raid.

Watertrap Weaver – Frost Lynx! This creature is a key cog in the UG Merfolk deck. It slows down your opponent, letting you develop your board. There are neat synergies with Storm Sculptor to boot. I’ll probably play as many of these as I open or draft.

Headwater Sentries – At least this guy will kill most 2-drops. Filler, would rather not play. See my diatribe under the Looming Altisaur.

Storm Sculptor – This might be my favorite card of the set. It’s a fairly quick clock with 3 power, it bounces your own creatures so you can get more value from them – hopefully you’re bouncing the Frost Lynx, or, better yet, the Tempest Caller. And those Explore creatures that didn’t get a counter on them? You can bounce them too! Pretty much every creature in Blue has some kind of ETB effect, so it’s really not that hard to find value here.

Prosperous Pirates – Not one but two treasures. It’s a bit odd to have a Blue card that ramps you from 5 to 7 (or 8 if you continue to hit your land drops). Alternatively, I see this card as an enabler for splashing a third color (no more Renegade Map or Traveler’s Amulet for the easy splashes!). I would have expected a creature with this kind of ETB effect to have 3 toughness; the fact that it is 4 means that this card could actually stick around and really muck up the ground while you set up your big turn of 8 mana spells.

Wind Strider – It’s fine, I’ll play it. It’s pretty much filler. As a 3/3 flier, it trades off with the 4 cmc Imperial Aerosaur and does not favorably matchup against the common Shining Aerosaur and Grazing Whiptail, and the uncommon Glorifier of Dusk and Deathless Ancient. The flash is nice because it makes counter spells more playable, though it’s not the most exciting Ambush Viper (at least not when compared to the Snapping Sailback!) In that role, it’ll die to most 3-drops.

Siren Stormtamer – I am very high on this card. First, it is the easiest way to enable Raid, which is a subtheme for the UR decks. Second, it forces your opponent to use their first removal spell on it. Importantly, it also counters abilities, so, for example, you can counter Raid triggers that force you to discard. I will be looking to draft this card early, and I will put it in every U deck.

River Sneak – I would need a lot of Merfolk to consider playing this card, maybe 10 Merfolk creatures? If not more? And even then, this card needs to be in your opening hand or drawn early for it to pay off. This is not a very impactful card when it is top-decked in the late game.

Storm Fleet Aerialist – Again, another 2 drop that has Raid. If you played the Siren Stormtamer on t1, you’re going to feel great when you follow it up with this on t2. But, putting aside that best case scenario, this is often going to be a t3 or even t4 play. Unless you’re trying to enable Raid on other cards, playing this out on t2 as a 1/2 flier is not what you want to be doing. Importantly, if you’re waiting to cast this on t3 or t4, and you don’t have a 1 cmc or 2 cmc spell to cast that turn as well, then it doesn’t really matter that it’s 2 cmc, as you’re effectively paying 3 or 4 mana for it. You’d be paying 3 mana for a 2/3, which makes this card a lot less exciting than it would otherwise appear.

Deeproot Waters – Yeah, this isn’t a creature, but it does produce creatures, and you want to play it on curve as if it’s a creature. Historically, cards like this have not been that good. Your deck has to be full of Merfolk (10 or more), and you have this in your opening hand. However, there are not that many sweeper-type effects like Pyroclasm: Red has Fiery Cannonade and the uncommon RG dinosaur. If you’re able to follow up Deeproot Waters with Watertrap Weaver and then Storm Sculptor, you’re going to be in pretty good shape. It also bears mentioning that Hexproof will protect these tokens from removal if you want to load them up with counters from Jade Guardian, Vineshaper Mystic, or River Heralds’ Boon.

Storm Fleet Spy – Yeah, so, being able to enable Raid is important in this deck. Cards like this make the Siren Stormtamer even more appealing as an early draft pick. Not much to say otherwise about this card. It’s going in your decks. Would be fun to bounce it and replay it after attacking with a 3/2 unblockable creature.

Deadeye Quartermaster – If I am correct in my belief that this format will be grindy, then 2-for-1 cards like this will be premium. In any case, the vehicles in this set are pretty efficiently costed, and even if you don’t get one of those, it shouldn’t be hard to pick up the cutlass.

Tempest Caller – My second favorite card in Blue. I love the synergy with the Storm Sculptor. This effect is powerful enough to warrant inclusion in every Blue deck.

Air Elemental – Speaking of inclusion in every Blue deck. I don’t care if you have a nice Pirate theme going on, put this card in your deck.

Depths of Desire – Getting a treasure is an acceptable kicker for a 3 cmc instant bounce. This card is probably worse than Repulse in most situations: using this as a bounce in the late game, the extra treasure might not help that much. There aren’t that many enchantment auras where you really get to punish your opponent (one in each of Red, Blue, and Black, and none of them are good), but it is very nice to deal with Pounce. In tempo-oriented situations, this card really shines: if you have plenty of cards in your hand, then this card lets you set up two-spell turns. I’m going to want to play anywhere between 1 and 3 of this card in my Blue decks.

Run Aground – Griptide. Good card but I probably don’t want to play more than 2 in my deck given the relatively expensive mana cost. Bounce cards tend to get worse in formats where there are lot of ETB triggers on the creatures. This format has its fair share of those creatures.

Perilous Voyage – Disperse with upside. I like the design of this card. Often, you want to save your bounce spells for creatures with high cmc in order to have the greatest impact on the tempo game. The additional bonus of this card will make that choice more difficult.

Dive Down – This doesn’t help your creatures kill other creatures, but it does save them from removal spells. Not really interested in playing this card: it’s filler, at best.

Opt – This card would be excellent in an archetype where spells matter, which we don’t have in this format. UR, the traditional “spells-matter” color combination, does not have any cards like Enigma Drake. Deeproot Champion, a green rare, is really one of the only cards in the format that cares about non-creature spells. I’ll still probably stick this in my Blue decks as filler though.

Spell Pierce – This format, like most modern formats, seems to be focused on creatures; that’s how you’re going to win your games. There aren’t many artifacts or enchantments, so most non-creature spells are going to be removal spells. Most decks play somewhere between 3 to 6 removal spells, so there is going to be a non-trivial number of games where Spell Pierce sits in your hand. I certainly would not want to play more than one. The removal spells in this format are a bit more expensive, though, so if you have a tempo-based game plan that involves casting two spells in one turn, this card might be worth the add. This card obviously gets pretty bad in games that go long.

One With the Wind – When I see enchantment auras, my first instinct is to ask, how many hexproof creatures are there in the format? In Ixalan, not many: just Deeproot Waters and Jade Guardian. This card is going to be sitting in my sideboards, but I might bring it in if I notice that my opponent forget to put removal in their deck, or if I’m desperate to push through damage in stalled out board states.

Siren’s Ruse – Not going to put this card in my deck unless I’m running Pirates. In those Pirate decks, I want to make sure that my Pirates have a lot of ETB effects before I include this card in my main.

Cancel – Not a good tempo card, not a good attrition card. Cancel is what it is. This format does have some pretty big bombs (as does most limited formats), so if you’re playing against a deck that has threats you can’t deal with, this is a nice sideboard add. I’m not expecting to start this card in my main, at least not at the start of the format.

Pirates Prize – 4 mana to draw two cards at sorcery speed is not good enough. This card approaches playability in formats that are very grindy, but it’s such a tempo-negative play otherwise. The treasure will hopefully help you cast two spells on the next turn, but the fact that you took a turn off to cast this card somewhat mitigates that advantage.

Chart a Course – 2 mana to draw two cards is much more like it. I’m a fan of this card, but I want to make sure that I’m able to trigger raid before casting this. Still, even if you can’t trigger raid, this card is, at worst, a looting version of Tormenting Voice. Including this card in all my Blue decks, would play up to 2.

Favorable Winds – This is the only synergy card for a UW fliers deck. I’m not sure that deck really exists as an archetype that you want to draft. Sure, there are going to be times when you’re passed U and W cards, and yeah, maybe you can 3-0 some drafts if you get enough removal and bombs, but there really isn’t any reason to be in those colors: there aren’t any UW rares, there are no gold UW uncommons. Anthems are always powerful, but with Favorable Winds, you need to make sure that you have a lot of fliers in your deck – you need to have at least two fliers on the board for this effect to be worth the card. Also, often the point of fliers is that they don’t need to rumble with other creatures, they just fly over them, so giving them additional stats is sort of inconsequential though it does speed up the clock a bit.

Lookout’s Dispersal – I’ll probably play this in most Blue Pirate decks as a 1-of, but I’m otherwise not interested in playing Convolute in limited, especially when I have access to Cancel.

Navigator’s Ruin – Not putting this in my main deck ever, but I might side this card in against control decks or other attrition-based decks. Enchantments are difficult to deal with for most decks, and while this isn’t a knock-out punch like Outpost Siege, this card does give you an alternative win condition. I’ll note that the downsides of putting cards into your opponents’ graveyards isn’t really present here as it was in Amonkhet (where you really didn’t want to put Embalm/Eternalize creatures in to their graveyards!)

Quick recap: Blue might be one of the most powerful colors in Ixalan. I’m excited to use Blue as a base color for drafting Pirates, given the number of treasure cards at common. Blue doesn’t pair at all with dinosaurs, and UW fliers looks especially weak. Of all the archetypes, I’m looking forward to play UG Merfolk the most – UG tends to have weaker removal but usually has synergies that allow you to accrue incremental advantage over the course of the game, which is what you want in an attrition-based format.

Blue cards to draft early: Watertrap Weaver, Siren Stormtamer, Tempest Caller, Storm Sculptor. I’m also pretty high on Sailor of Means.

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