Pirates, Vampires, Merfolk and Dinosaurs are back with brand new cards. Kristen sits down to evaluate what new The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Precon exclusive cards are worth adding to your collection.
Lost Caverns of Ixalan brings with it four Commander decks: Ahoy Mateys, Blood Rite, Explorers of the Deep and Veloci-Ramp-Tor. Each is filled with a bevy of new, playable cards, so let’s take a look at all the highlights to be found in these Commander precons.
LOST CAVERNS PRECONS: WHITE
It’ll trigger all manner of payoffs, and while the activated ability is expensive and probably won’t be used that often, it might come in clutch from time to time.
Charismatic Conqueror is the kinda hatebear you love to see. I think there’s something to be said about punishing treasure, honestly, and I like the direction of punisher vs pure Stax.
While Stax effects like EtB tapped can be great, punisher effects help balance a pod when one player is trying to pop off. I expect this to see play in a lot of white decks outside of Vampires and Soldiers, that’s for sure.
Elenda’s Hierophant is more or less a second copy of Elenda, the Dusk Rose, isn’t she? For one mana less, the trigger changes from creatures dying globally to you gaining life. In some decks, that might even be easier to achieve.
Hierophant is the kind of vampire card I can’t wait to sink my teeth into, but I wouldn’t say no to playing it in Soul Sister-style white lifegain/tokens decks.
Do games go long enough for finality counters to matter? Probably not, but if you’re at all bothered by them, you can make sure to run a suite of flicker effects — or put this in a +1/+1 counters build that can manipulate/use/move counters.
March of the Canonized doesn’t go in every Vampires deck (looking at you, Edgar), but I’d argue that’s a good thing. Getting five more devotion to white and black on top of the two you get with the enchantment is fairly trivial, really, and Orzhov decks that love to play enchantments will find this a sweet pickup.
This card also has lovely art.
Redemption Choir is basically Sun Titan in 2023. It’s less ready to rumble, but it’s cheaper, and the Coven rider doesn’t ask too much considering you probably have a 1/1 token and this as a 3/3 to start with.
A very good little magic card, and one I am excited to play with. I do have to ask, though — is that Clavileño, Vito and Elenda? On a non-legendary card? Sure looks like it.
At least it fits Coven, if that’s true: Clavileño is 2/2, Vito is 4/4 in LCI, and Elenda is a 1/1.
LOST CAVERNS PRECONS: BLUE
Mist Dancer jumps your Merfolk. Explore synergies aside (which this is great with), I’m not sure what flying gives you that enough Islandwalk and ways to give your opponent’s Islands doesn’t.
While it does synergize with Explore — and Simic’s tendency to make enough mana to pay seven — it’s still a real curve topper in a way that lords with Islandwalk aren’t.
While March of Swirling Mist and contemporaries offer a good deal, Ripples of Potential can save noncreature permanents with counters. too, and you get to proliferate on the way out.
This is gonna be disgusting in Superfriends. Here’s your Atraxa, Praetor’s Voice free-space for the set.
Storm Fleet Negotiator is a nice, evasive three drop that can generate value for decks that want to use +1/+1 counters or generate incidental artifact tokens.
A strong contender in the Bident of Thassa suite of four-drop card draw enablers.
Wave Goodbye benefits from having a meme-worthy name, so it’ll see play from that alone. Thankfully, it’s also a serviceable one-sided wrath that I’d be happy to play. One sided wraths are always good, and to have a blue one not tied to Krakens, Leviathan et al is refreshing.
LOST CAVERNS PRECONS: BLACK
Vampires are getting hooked up in the Commander deck. Dusk Legion Sergeant is an on-board trick to get some footing after a board wipe, which helps by not being overly reliant on having a card in hand while still committing to curving out.
Meanwhile, I covered why Menace is good in Casual Commander right now here.
A new card with Partner?! What?!
Francisco, Fowl Marauder can’t block, but he will get pretty chunky pretty fast if you play your cards right. Undoubtedly fun when paired with Pirates, I doubt it’ll make much of a splash otherwise in the Command Zone at least.
What a pretty parrot.
Is Master of Dark Rites our first Master of a classic effect? Why is she not a Magus of the Dark Rites? We’ll never know.
What I do know is the card slaps, especially in the Edgar Markov decks of the world. You can just turn the tokens you get into three extra mana a turn. It’s kinda like The Golden Throne on a one drop.
Promise of Aclazotz // Foul Rebirth will find a home in a bunch of tokens decks. Sacrificing a creature to populate is a steep entry cost, though, so you need to be somewhat wide before this starts to accrue value. Perhaps best in a deck that can make token copies of artifacts and enchantments?
Skeleton Crew is the skeleton lord you always dreamed about. It also buffs pirates and can provide a steady stream of tokens. It’s fine, I guess.
The Grim Captain’s Locker lets you give Escape to basically anything you want. It’s a neat tool, especially as an on-theme piece of recursion tech for Pirate decks.
Outside of that, the wider applications are a little less exciting. Four mana up front with only Surveil 1 feels a tad costly.
LOST CAVERNS PRECONS: RED
When I first saw Broadside Bombardiers, I thought of Henzie. Having this in play, Blitzing something scary in, then sacrificing it after you get the attack trigger? So much value. A really neat little card that will overperform in certain builds.
Gemcutter Buccaneer is really interesting, but at four mana I’m not sure I’m wanting it outside of pirate decks.
I do think, however, that it synergizes nicely with Nahiri, Forged in Fury, especially if you’re making a bunch of treasures. Or Bruenor, for that matter. Yeah, in Bruenor those treasures are +4/+0. Ouch.
Wrathful Raptors is Wrathful Red Dragon with a Dinosaur coat of paint. The Dragon is insanely good, so putting this on a creature type that reliably triggers Enrage is a bit good, too.
LOST CAVERNS PRECONS: GREEN
Bygone Marvels really set the bar.
Guardians 2 and Thor: Ragnarok were
One for the dino decks, Curious Altisaur is the Brontosaurus equivalent of a feral indestructible squirrel. Much like said squirrel, it’s adept at reaching into the trees and drawing you the nuts.
Deeproot Historian feels like new space for green to me, and I can’t say I’m enthused. The color pie can look like Pac-man at times, with green obtusely munching on the design space of other colors. This card feels distinctly… not green?
Complaints aside, it’s a solid recursion piece.
Do you have an Atla Palani deck? Would you like a new 2-drop in these trying times?
It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this Dinosaur Egg.
Scion of Calamity crunches, and he munches, and he tears that house down. Burdens are easier to bear when shared with friends, and when Scion of Calamity attacks, it brings two along for the ride.
Add doublestrike or token doubling to really punish those greedy enchantress players for good.
As for the card? Well, there aren’t a million Dinosaurs it’s good to copy after they’ve attacked, but it could still be a good include in a Dinos deck, especially given it transforms permanently.
Should the study of trading cards be a card-ographer? The delivery of bad puns a cringe-ographer? The jury’s out whether I’m the former, but I’m almost certainly the latter.
Topography Tracker is as close to an auto-include as you can get if your deck is doing explore.
Tributary Instructor is sweet. Sure it’s good in Merfolk, or explore decks, but it’s also just going in a lot of +1/+1 counter decks, too. Mentor is a nice touch.
LOST CAVERNS PRECONS: THE REST
Carmen, Cruel Skymarcher is the second traditionally-avoids-the-Sun Titan in the vampire precon, and it’s… amazing that it happened twice?
She’s a little slower to get going than the Choir, but overall still a card I’m excited about playing.
Clavileño, First of the Blessed is the vampire’s face Commander. If nothing else, he’ll stop your vampires being chump blocked.
What you really need to do with him, though, is introduce sac outlets. This can be anything from an Ashnod’s Altar to a Deadly Dispute — just pack enough ways to convert and you’re laughing. Maniacally. Covered in… beetroot juice? Are you okay?
Order of Sacred Dusk is a strong Vampire card — especially in an Edgar Markov deck. While it doesn’t have Blightsteel’s ability to end a game for an opponent, it does still come down as an 11/11 if you curve into it and convoke it.
Slap some doublestrike on there and you got yourself a huge tempo play.
Hakbal of the Surging Soul is the face Commander from the Merfolk deck. While it’s going to be incredibly difficult to edge out Kumena as the most popular Merfolk Commander (especially with Deeproot Pilgrimage in the main set offering a serious upgrade), Hakbal makes a strong case.
Every Merfolk exploring at the beginning of Combat is really strong. I would treat this as a way to self-mill, grow your board and put lands into play… and that’s more than good enough.
Three-drop Merfolk that protect things are a “thing,” and Singer of Swift Rivers is a nice iteration on that “thing.” The fact it comes with a Shimmer Myr static but for Merfolk takes this from fish to DISH.
Xolatoyac, the Smiling Flood is a frickin’ Axolotl. What more could you ask for?
He mostly exists to enable Islandwalk for Merfolk, given there are cheaper ways to untap your stuff. Still, it’s probably worth taking him over other untappers (Seedborn Muse aside) if you’re doing Islandwalk.
Admiral Brass, Unsinkable is the Pirate deck Commander. Grixis reanimator is the name of the game here, and all told, she’s a fine-if-uninteresting Commander for a pirates version of classic Reanimator.
I think I’d go with the other Beckett Brass, given the choice.
Don Andres, the Renegade is completely different and wants to helm up a Grixis “theft” deck. It’s cool there’s an enabler for this now, but you’re likely to get targeted down pretty fast at the average pick-up game if all you’re doing is playing everyone else’s deck.
Pantlaza, Sun-Favored uses the “fixed” cascade mechanic, giving Dinosaurs that enter the battlefield discover X, based on toughness.
In practice, this deck will unleash prehistoric pets onto the field at a rate a little under that of The First Sliver, but with enough velocity to put the fear of God into your opponents. A fun, no-nonsense option for Dino decks.
Wayta, Trainer Prodigy is more interested in Enrage, so if you were wanting something a little more focused than Atla Palani or Gishath for an Enrage deck, she’s your gal. She doubles Enrage and has a way to enable it.
Again, straightforward, laser-focused design. Dino fans of all kinds are well served by this deck.
SET BOOSTER EXCLUSIVE CARDS
Lost Caverns of Ixalan is the last set to have Set Booster exclusive cards (also available in extended and foils, in Collector Boosters). Let’s take a look.
It’s nice to see green giving back a little, especially to those it stole from. Illustrious Wanderglyph is for all intents and purposes a white version of Tendershoot Dryad, except for one little thing: it creates artifact creature tokens and it buffs all artifact creatures.
I think that’s a good example of what five years can do for power levels. Creating artifact tokens each upkeep can trigger all sorts of effects, so I’m high on this.
Altar of the Wretched is kinda like Disciple of Bolas, if it was dismantled and reduced to a bony mass. The fact it’ll mill you is low-key nuts, to be honest, and getting a Mimeoplasm adjacent effect when you want to can potentially come in clutch.
Personally I’m just happy with the front side.
Ore-Rich Stalactite is a two mana rock that does stuff. I think this might be the first of its kind — and we’re usually high on three-mana rocks that do things.
Early game in a spellslinger deck this is a serviceable rock, but as the game progresses, you can essentially pay five to cast some spells again, at random, over the next few turns. It’s a mana rock meets Wildfire Devils.
Is it good? I’m not sure. In a deck with lots of rituals and card draw, I think it is.
Fight spells keep doing more and more, and in many cases nowadays are just “Punch” spells. Contest of Claws not only… clunches?… but also gives you a free spell for the excess damage?
What? That’s wild. Ghalta, anyone?
You don’t need Ayahuasca to meet this machine
elf gnome, though I’m certain it would probably help. Ancient technology meets Duende, Tetzin, Gnome Champion is a fairly parasitic Commander, all told.
Is the juice worth the squeeze? I’m not sure it is, even though the card is undoubtedly cool.
Xavier Sal, Infested Captain, is for all you Davy Jones fans out there. Populate and proliferate on the same card makes for an interesting anchor in the command zone.
Activation only as a sorcery is no doubt to stop Xavier popping off in an opponent’s turn. Intruder Alarm is the obvious combo card here, granting you infinite EtB, tokens and untaps of your board.
Arm-Mounted Anchor comes pretty close to exciting me, but being limited only to a Pirate deck turns me back off again. Solid in Pirates, kinda meh elsewhere.
Eye of Ojer Taq is cool on the surface, right? Getting free spells is always fun.
It’s a big ask though, spending six mana, especially as the Apex Observatory enters tapped, preventing you from getting value from it until the next turn.
I don’t really like to take a turn off in Commander — it’s why I don’t play Vedalken Orrery 😉
The thing is, Dinosaur Headdress turns the attached creature into a copy of the exiled card, meaning you don’t get any EtB value, which is usually what you want from a reanimator spell.
I’m not sure what this is for, other than durdling.
Progenitor’s Icon is a much more exciting mana rock than Eye of Ojer Taq, that’s for sure. A new tool for all kinds of creature decks, and certainly one worth considering over other mana rocks.
The Lost Caverns of Ixalan Commander decks hold a treasure trove of aggressively pushed playables for existing archetypes, and a handful of interesting cards to play outside of those decks. They’re a great place to start for building a themed deck, or to pick up some upgrades for an existing one.
Kristen is Card Kingdom’s Head Writer, and member of the Commander Advisory Group. Formerly a competitive Pokémon TCG grinder, she has been playing Magic since Shadows Over Innistrad, which in her opinion, was a great set to start with. When she’s not taking names with Equipment and Aggro strategies in Commander, she loves to play any form of Limited.