Lost Caverns of Ixalan: Early Impressions

Mason ClarkModern, Pioneer, Standard

We continued our descent toward the Lost Caverns of Ixalan during the weekend at MagicCon Las Vegas. While we have still only seen a few previews, they point us in some fun directions, so we’re going to look at the potential standouts. 

Ojer Axonil, Deepest Might 

Now this is an exciting god. Ojer turns all your burn spells into Boros Charm while coming with a nice sized, trampling body and way to get Ojer back if the game goes long. So what cards do we have in standard that might work well with this card? 

For starters, Mono-Red had a decent showing at the World Championship this weekend, and this could easily slot in as a one or two off in this deck. 

But that’s the really obvious and easy spot to throw this card! So what is something with more upside that is still reasonable? How about End the Festivities?

These cards work incredibly well together. Dealing four damage to everything your opponent has, plus their face, for only one more mana, is very easy to set up. 

End the Festivities also has some history in formats like Legacy because there’s a critical mass of one toughness creatures in the format. And if we end up with a standard deck that leans heavy on small creatures, this could be a great pivot. 

The only problem with Ojer is it needs another card to go with it if you’re wanting value outside of the body. And that body isn’t nothing, but it’s not something worth putting in your deck by itself.

But given its potential synergies, keep an eye on this new member of Magic’s pantheon as the format starts taking shape.

Breeches, Eager Pillager

Breeches, Eager Pillager
Breeches, Eager Pillager

Another red card, but this one pushes players more toward attacking — specifically with pirates. 

Last time we saw Ixalan, pirates were in Grixis colors. While we don’t know for sure whether this will be the case again, we can certainly get excited about the possibility. 

That’s because Black is the best color in Standard at the moment. And if you have played any games in the format or watched Worlds, you probably noticed a trend. A 4/5 for four trend 

Not only does Breeches play well with the cards that support Sheoldred, but it also does a good job of making her less of an instant stabilization play. The “target creature can’t block” mode means it’s often OK to drop this on turn three on the draw and still get a trigger next turn, even if Breeches is by himself. 

This play pattern might seem insignificant, but creature decks have been struggling with attacking through Sheoldred for the last year. Breeches will probably live and die by the cheaper threats you can play alongside it, but this is a great tool. 

Meanwhile, in older formats, we have a few different tools worth taking a look at. The first is Kari Zev, Skyship Raider

This card is naturally hard to block, and funnily enough it produces two pirates as well, meaning your opponent will probably need three creatures to actually block Kari, thanks to Breeches. 

And while on the Ragavan token train of thought, Modern doesn’t have a ton of playable pirates. However, Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer is the best creature in the format and a pirate — so maybe there’s something there? 

Meh, it’s probably just good in Modern’s changeling deck. 

This build is a little old, but you do see this deck put up surprising results from time to time. Any time a typal payoff comes around, I start looking back at this deck. 

Grist is currently an amazing three drop since her +1 can often get two insects on the board, but Breeches has some real merit in a toolbox deck. 

The Skullspore Nexus

The Skullspore Nexus
The Skullspore Nexus

This card is incredibly weird and, I think, secretly kind of powerful? In Pioneer, a green devotion deck is currently the best in the format. While this card doesn’t really slot into that list, it does work nicely with some of the surrounding pieces. 

Green has Old-Growth Troll, Polukranos, Steel Leaf Champion and Rotting Regisaur all as three mana plays to set Nexus up as your spell for the next turn. And a green/black stompy deck has already been around around on the edges of Pioneer for a while. The lists often involve Fight Rigging and Ghalta from the original Ixalan as pay offs, but why not add Skullspore Nexus to the table? 

The artifact fits perfectly into this sort of deck and gives your huge creatures protection, which is something you were already interested in. In addition, doubling the power of one creature is incredibly potent creatures with trample, or if you want to force some early chump blocks. 

If players get hit once with a 5/4 and you shock in a single land, they are getting dangerously close to lethal on subsequent attacks. Meanwhile, cards like Audacity can help smooth this deck out, too. And while these decks are never flashy, they are good when they completely overwhelm the opponent. 

End Step

We are just a few cards in at this point, but Lost Caverns of Ixalan is already exploring a lot of cool and interesting places, and figuring out how to make the most of them will be fun. In the meantime, previews start next month, and we’ll be sure to cover more cards as they come.