A new block is on the horizon bringing a new Standard environment as the Standard Rotation sets in. Ixalan, the land of Dinosaurs and Pirates will be released at the end of this September rotating out both the Battle for Zendikar (BFZ) and Shadows over Innistrad (SOI) block. This means that every single card in both blocks, BFZ and SOI, cannot be used in the Standard format
Enough talk about rotation as we are here to talk about Ixalan and what it implies for the next season. Ixalan is a land where Dinosaurs roam, Vampires have faith, Merfolks explore and Pirates loot. The spoilers for Ixalan just started and we have little information on them but they have released the Mechanics that will be used in the set. So we will be going through the Mechanics of the set and attempt evaluating them individually.
The first Mechanic that was introduced is Enrage which will appear primarily on Dinosaurs. Enrage is a trigger that is caused when the Creature takes damage. Be the damage from combat or from spells, it will trigger Enrage even when the damage would kill the creature. The effects from Enrage differs from creature to creature from dealing 3 damage to the opponent, like the one in the image, to drawing cards.
As a whole, this Mechanic is very good as it rewards the player for advancing in their game play which is playing creatures and attacking. Either way, be it removed by damage or blocked, the player will get something out of it. The only way to deal with it is through clean removals.
Even more so, the flavor of Dinosaurs getting enraged for being damaged is spot on. It embodies the animalistic nature of the Dinosaurs and their instinct to retaliate in their own way.
Overall I give the Enrage mechanic a 10/10 for Flavor and 10/10 for Usefulness.
The next Mechanic is a returning mechanic from the days of Khans of Tharkir which is Raid. Raid is a mechanic that takes effect when a creature has attacked for the turn. It doesn’t matter if the creature dies, as long as it attacks, Raid will trigger.
I also find this very flavorful as the Pirates raid people by attacking with creatures and are rewarded for it. The reward varies. For instance, in the image where the Opponent discards a card, raiding their hand.
The usefulness of the card also differs from card to card as the reward of the Raid has to be advantageous enough since most of the time, the Player will be losing a creature or two when attacking. Still, this mechanic is easy to trigger and most of the time, it will be useful. The only time that it isn’t is when you are playing a control deck but that means you won’t be playing the aggressive Pirates.
Overall Raid is a mechanic with 10/10 Flavor and 7/10 for Usefulness.
The third mechanic is the Explore mechanic which has a long text for a simple mechanic. When a player Explores, be it by creatures entering the field or through combat, the Player reveals the top card of their deck. If it is a land, the player puts it in their hand, but if it is a non-land, the player may either put it into their graveyard or leave it on top. Either way, if the card is a non-land, the creature that explores will receive a +1/+1 counter.
The mechanic is good to filter the draws in order to pitch bad cards into the graveyard or to draw the land that would otherwise be a dead draw on the draw phase. This in a way puts the player in a position to make smart decisions whether to leave the card on top or to pitch it into the graveyard to have a better chance of drawing a better card.
The flavor on the other hand to me is half and half where revealing a land and putting it into the hand fits the flavor of the Explore mechanic. An adventure exploring finding new untouched lands. On the other hand, the other part of the mechanic doesn’t make sense, as somehow revealing a non-land makes the card stronger. It would have been preferable that the non-land would instead put a Treasure token (another sub mechanic we will talk about later) into play as it would be more thematic to find treasures while exploring.
All in all, I would give Explore a 5/10 Flavor while 8/10 Usefulness.
Another returning Mechanic that will be Ixalan is the Transform Mechanic with a little twist, where like the image, the Artifact transforms into a land. There has been Transforming artifacts or lands that turns into a creature or creatures that Transforms into artifacts. This is however the first time that a card Transforms into lands. I am sure there are more design spaces they can Explore (pun intended) with the Transform mechanic.
I am not sure whether there is any flavor to the transform mechanic this time around, unlike the Werewolves from previous sets but the one in the image does make sense. A Treasure Map found, turns into a Treasure Cove. Otherwise, I am not sure what else Ixalan can offer in terms of flavor when it comes to Transform but we have to wait and see.
Even usefulness of Transform varies from card to card as previous sets have shown that not all Transform cards are useful. Furthermore, some cards are hard to Transform and may not be rewarding. For instance, the card in the image takes three full turns to Transform the card, albeit the Transformed land being very good.
Overall Transform is 4/10 Flavor wise (due to change as more cards spoiled) and 5/10 usefulness.
A card which is not much a Mechanic but a Card Type that will be returning to Ixalan are the Vehicles. Vehicles are artifacts that turn into creatures when another creature crews the artifact. Crewing the artifact is as simple as tapping a creature with the right Power and declaring it as a crew to the Vehicle.
This is one of the most flavorful “Mechanics” as the creature crewing the Vehicle becomes stronger when ramming the Vehicle into the opponent’s face. In this case, Ixalan brings ships and maybe some other sorts of Vehicles. Just imagine, a Dinosaur crewing the Black Pearl, one can dream.
Vehicle as a returning ”Mechanic” is 10/10 Flavor and 8/10 Usefulness.
There are also other Mechanics that weren’t revealed much like +1/+1 synergies that are prevalent in Merfolks and Life Gain synergies that will exist in the Vampires. Another one would be the Treasure Tokens that are generated by cards which are almost similar to the Gold tokens but requires Tap activation.
All in all, Ixalan seems to hide many gems and treasures(pun intended again) and looks like a fun set to play with and draft. I for one, can’t wait to crack open some Dinosaurs and have them ride Pirate ships. But for now, keep on slinging those spells.