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EDHREC Rivals of Ixalan Review — Blue
The Tide Rises
The race is on! The many tribes in Rivals of Ixalan seek to control the legendary city of Orazca and harness its power. If you want to win the city’s blessing, you’d better know what you’re up against, including whatever mysteries lurk in the depths. Let’s Dive Down into a review of Rivals of Ixalan‘s most interesting blue cards!
Nezehal, Primal Tide
We start with a very pleasing Pleisiosaur. Move aside, Pearl Lake Ancient, because there’s a new sea monster on the block. This seven mana 7/7 is both a control player’s dream and nightmare. It can’t be countered, and whenever an opponent casts a noncreature spell you draw a card. That’s right, it’s a Mystic Remora that attacks and blocks. If you’re up against a Mizzix of the Izmagnus or Kess, Dissident Mage, you’ll be drawing cards left, right, and center. Don’t worry if you draw too many, either, because Nezehal also says you have no maximum hand size. Even if someone tries to remove him with a Swords to Plowshares or Wrath of God, you’ll draw a card for that spell. Plus, if they do try to get rid of him, you can just discard three cards to blink him to safety, and he’ll return tapped and happy at the next end step. This is an impressive card advantage engine, one that I suspect has the most potential in a reanimator strategy. It’s not as potent as Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur or Consecrated Sphinx, but it can draw a substantial number of cards and discard your favorite reanimation targets. (Another neat trick worth mentioning: if you Whip of Erebos or Sneak Attack this guy into play, then blink him before the end of turn, he’ll return to the battlefield and be considered a new game object, and won’t go away at the end of the turn.)
I must confess, I strongly dislike this card. For a total of six mana, a requirement of at least ten permanents on the battlefield, and a delay of a full round at the table to lose summoning sickness, you get a Time Warp. You have to be able to abuse this card to make it worthwhile. Thankfully, there are a few good ways to do so, the most obvious of which is Grenzo, Dungeon Warden. When the Navigator tucks back to the bottom of your library, Grenzo can pull her back out, where she’ll be able to activate again on that extra turn she gave you. This card is also a Wizard, so it could see play in Inalla, Archmage Ritualist decks. For one more mana, Inalla can make a copy that has haste, leaving the original to activate again another time. I shouldn’t discount the fact that Timestream Navigator can also activate in between other player’s turns. That’s a neat surprise that can really mess with your opponents’ plans. Overall, though, this looks to me like a card with niche uses, but that is largely underwhelming compared to many pre-existing extra turn spells.
Roll up your sleeves, Dana, we have another Cancel for you to evaluate. Fellow writer Dana Roach authors the In the Margins series here on EDHREC, and his inaugural article was all about the card Cancel and why you shouldn’t play it. It’s worth giving his article a read to see all the different options for good counterspells you could play instead, from Dissolve to Dissipate. As for my own opinion, Admiral’s Orders will spend far, far more time as Cancel than Counterspell. Even if you want to use this to protect your attacking creatures, in my experience, opponents will often cast nasty spells to disrupt my combat even before I’m in the combat step. Like Timestream Navigator, I think you can do bette3r, so check out Dana’s article to discover your options.
Now this is my kind of card! Someone about to cast a kicked Rite of Replication? An opponent thinking of activating Krenko, Mob Boss to double their army? Is Ghave, Guru of Spores about to move a quarter inch to the left and accidentally make infinite saprolings? Token Thief is here to save the day. This counters a lot of cards, from Spell Swindle to Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker combos, and alongside its predecessor Gather Specimens, I think it’s a fantastic card to surprise unwitting opponents. However, my favorite use of Crafty Cutpurse has to be its synergy with Group Hug cards. Sylvan Offering says hi. Alliance of Arms is hilarious. Fractured Identity gives you a bunch of copies of another person’s favorite permanent. Remember, Cutpurse applies to all opponents, not just a one. This is a situational card, to be sure, but in those situations, it’s a real blowout, and I absolutely adore this design.
Release to the Wind
Release to the Wind gives us a very unique take on blink and flicker effects. This isn’t the kind of card you’ll often play on an opponent’s stuff. It’s built to take advantage of on-cast effects like Kozilek, Butcher of Truth and Maelstrom Wanderer, which a blink spell (such as Displace or Ghostly Flicker) won’t trigger. Blink spells are also excellent forms of protection from removal, and this does a good job in that role as well, since it can save not just creatures, but any non-land permanent of yours that comes under fire. If your favorite planeswalker is about to be picked off, Release to the Wind can save it and reset it next turn. In fact, this can be a Flicker for planeswalkers, since you can use one of their loyalty abilities, release it to the wind, recast it, and then activate another loyalty ability! A lot of cool options have just been opened up with this new card, and I look forward to seeing all the ways to take advantage of this neat effect.
I’m so intrigued by this card. It does a very peculiar impression of Memory Jar. Like Release to the Wind, this card isn’t the kind of thing you do to an opponent, but to yourself. I suppose Nekusar, the Mindrazer could use this, but he probably prefers cards that hit all opponents, not just one. No, I’m more intrigued with using this on myself, then sacrificing it or destroying it to double my hand. That’s a tall order, since there aren’t many way to sacrifice enchantments, but it’s a good payoff if you can. Ertai, the Corrupted comes to mind. So does Kydele, Chosen of Kruphix, who would love to draw lots of cards. This thing has piqued my interest, and I’ll be keeping it in the back of my mind (unless someone gives me amnesia, that is).
My Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis deck is just aching to get this card. Group Hug that slowly turns into not-so-Group-Hug? Sign me right up. There’s a political liability when your cards stop helping all players and just help yourself, but I think it still has a place alongside Dictate of Kruphix and friends. The power level here feels subtle enough to me to just barely fly under the radar, which I really like. Outside of Group Hug, though, I don’t think this card will get much traction. It’s a Temple Bell far more often than it is a Phyrexian Arena.
Seafloor Oracle is a Merfolk Tribal player’s dream! I won’t linger too long here since you know if you want this card or not. If you want some of my other opinions about the various Merfolk commanders that might run this card, I have articles about them here and here.
Our last rare has me giggling a little. I dig this design. Neutering your opponent’s best blocker every time you attack is really novel for blue. I just can’t for the life of me figure out the flavor here, and the method by which this little guy is Ovinize-ing your opponents’ best stuff. I just picture him flying around and shouting, “You there! Avacyn, Angel of Hope! Gaze upon the soles of my shoes in awe and forget that you are powerful and indestructible! What do you mean that doesn’t make sense? I am a Pirate riding a kite, your argument is invalid!”
Anyway, he looks at home in an Edric, Spymaster of Trest deck.
A creature with an enters-the-battlefield Brainstorm? I’m a fan. I almost didn’t realize that this is a Wizard, too, which means Inalla, Archmage Ritualist can have some fun with it. Of course, the real standouts are the kings of flicker, Brago, King Eternal and Roon of the Hidden Realm. What will make this card really shine are abilities that also shuffle your library after you put away two cards you don’t need anymore. Blinking Riverwise Augur alongside a Farhaven Elf or a Solemn Simulacrum, for example, is very potent, and insures you’re getting the best use out of this ability.
I want to compare this to Invisible Stalker, but it’s not quite there. Invisible Stalker sees play in 60% of Sygg, River Cutthroat decks, 50% of Edric, Spymaster of Trest decks and 41% of Vela the Night-Clad Ninjutsu decks. Slippery Scoundrel could show up in those decks too. Throwing equipment on an unblockable hexproof creature is really fantastic… but until you get the city’s blessing, he’s pretty bad. Those decks in particular want to get their tough-to-block creatures out as soon as possible, not after you have ten permanents in play. While I like what this card is trying to do, I don’t think it delivers.
Expel from Orazca
Totally Lost for two mana doesn’t sound half bad, and in the right deck, you can reliably stall out a long game to make sure you have ten permanents. I actually just wrote a Commander Showdown about X vs Sen Triplets, both of which can use effects like this to remove and steal valuable cards from their opponents. The best use of this card though is easily Isochron Scepter. Once you hit ten permanents, you can practically lock one opponent out of the game by continuously putting the card they draw back on top of their library.
Unfortunately, neither is this. Two merfolk tokens is nice, but not for four mana. Even if you’re running a dedicated Merfolk deck, that activated ability is heinously expensive. Just run Thassa, God of the Sea. Maybe Brago, King Eternal wants to blink this enchantment, but I’m not convinced. Thumbs down.
Flood of Recollection
Ah, yes, the infamous Silvergill Adept. I have to mention this guy because of its pedigree in Modern Merfolk, where it is—and here I’m quoting Merfolk aficionado Corbin Hosler—”the best card in the deck… and the biggest reason why Merfolk is a competitive deck in any format.” I don’t know much about 60 card formats, but I do know that in EDH Silvergill Adept sees play in 36% of Sygg, River Guide decks. That’s about it. This is a popular card but it’s best used elsewhere.
This isn’t a very interesting card outside of a Merfolk tribal deck, but I did want to pause and mention how utterly bizarre it is to see the word ‘flash’ on a sorcery.
Another unblockable low-drop for Edric, Spymaster of Trest. He’s gotten a few potential new cards this set, which is nice to see.
I thought Swashbuckling was a good card name in the last set. Skulduggery, too. Even the new Sea Legs is pretty neat… but nothing beats Hornswoggle. Nothing at all. Is this basically just an Essence Scatter? Yes. Is it probably not as good as Exclude? Yeah, probably not. Should you care? No. Why? Because it’s called HORNSWOGGLE. This is the best name. Stellar flavor text, too. 10/10.
The Tide Goes Out
To be honest, blue didn’t impress me as much as the other colors this time around. Still, even if I’m skeptical of the power level of these cards, I really like the design space they explore. Release to the Wind is a whole new type of blink spell, and Crafty Cutpurse is hilarious anti-token tech. To use a slightly obnoxious but nevertheless thematic metaphor, several of these cards feel like grains of sand in an oyster. After some time, while Wizards continues to tinker and experiment in these new design spaces, I think we’ll get some darn good-looking pearls.
In the meantime, I bid you adieu. Go Hornswoggle some opponents.
Til next time!