Ixalan EDH Review — Green

Welcome back to EDHREC! Today we’re looking at what Ixalan has to offer Commander players in green. While we didn’t get any fancy new commanders or planeswalkers, Ixalan has great creature support going for it. This set is full of dinosaurs and they make themselves felt. The one oddity the set has is green merfolk. Magic has had its share of green merfolk in the past, but they’ve all been Blue/Green and only 9 total. This is the first time they are mono green and showing they have what it takes to be a tribe in this piece of the color pie. Dinosaurs bring in the top of the food chain. Then we have some great support cards to help our tribes out. To start things off we’ll look at the cards that just pretty good. Then we’ll move on to the bombs and finish on the cards we wished wizards would have just passed on.


The Good

Good cards will see play in a variety of decks in Commander. They are a better fit for a narrow build but are broad enough in effect that several decks can play them.

Merfolk Branchwalker

Merfolk Branchwalker
Explore is one new mechanic that green players should find enticing. There are 12 total cards with explore right now. Merfolk Branchwalker is the most aggressively costed of the cards. It reminds me of Coiling Oracle. It either gets a land out of the way or gives a form of scrying one. It fills your graveyard and manipulates your draws at the same time. That scrying happens to fit well in decks like Meren of Clan Nel Toth.

 

Emperor’s Vanguard

Emperor's Vanguard
Emperor’s Vangaurd is one of two repeatable sources. In Commander, you can almost count on one person being open to attack each turn. The 4/3 body provides a nice beater, and not to mention the +1/+1. The one letdown has to be the lack of trample.

 

Deeproot Champion

Deeproot Champion
This merfolk is another addition to the spellslinger decks. It provides an efficient beater that is easy to power up. It’s a fixed version of Quirion Dryad with a more relevant creature type. While it’s not amazing, it shows promise to make a few decks out there. Hopefully, we’ll get some more green merfolk support in Rivals of Ixalan to round out the right deck for this card.

 

Verdant Rebirth

Verdant Rebirth
Green loves its recursion effects. Having one at instant speed, for two mana, and it cantrips is instant love. I see this going to decks with important enter the battlefield (etb) effects. It also lets you get your commander back to your hand and avoid the commander tax. It’s not game-winning, but Verdant Rebirth will take the place of some more expensive creature recursion.

 

Blossom Dryad

Blossom Dryad
Blossom Dryad is another piece for decks big mana decks, like mono-green devotion. There are only a handful of creatures that untap any land. While this isn’t the most powerful version of this effect, it is a redundant piece. Untapping your Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx or Itlimoc Cradle of the Sun can produce some huge mana.

 

Verdant Sun’s Avatar

Verdant Sun's Avatar
Angelic Chorus is a powerful lifegain engine. White has a lack of large creatures for really abusing it though. At seven mana, and on a creature, this version isn’t ideal, but it does offer larger creatures, from green, with which to gain life. Verdant Sun’s Avatar is also easier to recur, a great beater/blocker, and gains five life as soon as it comes into play. I could see it having some play in an Ikra Shidiqi, the Usurper and Ravos, Soultender life gain deck. Ikra already deals with gaining life equal to toughness and Ravos is an anthem that is also a Raise Dead every turn. Not powerful, but still pretty decent.

The Great

Great cards are overwhelmingly good in Commander. Almost any deck that is within the cards color identities can find value from playing these cards.

Growing Rites of Itlimoc / Itlimoc, Cradle of the Sun

Growing Rites of Itlimoc
Not a soul in the Magic community isn’t excited to see the return of Gaea’s Cradle, albeit with some conditional strings attached. Growing Rites of Itlimoc will be a chase rare for some time. This card is an auto-include in tokens, elfball, and go-wide Commander decks that play green. You get a creature-only version of Gift of the Gargantuan when it enters the battlefield, and once it flips it’s already tapping for at least four mana. One of the subtle parts of this card is the trigger on end step. If it triggered on upkeep, the enchantment would be vulnerable to sorcery speed removal. Once transformed the land dodges most common removal. This is a budget version of Gaea’s Cradle for newer players. As a normal rare the price is sure to stay down for a while, but I’ll be picking up at least a playset, if not more since it is unlikely to get reprinted due to the nature of the card itself.

 

Ripjaw Raptor

Ripjaw Raptor
Ripjaw Raptor is another card getting quite a bit of buzz. Drawing cards for just taking damage is extremely efficient. Even if you’re not playing Pestilence-type effects, your opponent has to choose between taking damage or letting you draw. These type of effects are rare in green. I do see the majority of the decks playing this having small repeatable ping effects. Combine it with other enrage creatures and effects like Rite of Passage and you’ve got yourself a nice little combo engine. I do believe the best place for this is an aggressive green deck. It may slot better in Duel Commander than multiplayer though. In the 1v1 formats, it’s tougher for an opponent to take 4 to the face as often.

 

Carnage Tyrant

Carnage Tyrant
I see this being fair in multiplayer Commander. However, this is a bomb in Duel Commander where control decks seem to have the upper hand most games. This is a swift reminder that green doesn’t play nice with control. At six mana, 7/6 threats that are difficult to get rid of can be game-winning. Just because it’s only fair in multiplayer doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider playing it. You generally want a creature that has an impact the turn it comes out. Wraths are a major issue in multiplayer as well. I just don’t see Carnage Tyrant making the splash there that it will in 1v1.

 

Shapers’ Sanctuary

Shapers' Sanctuary
Ixalan just wants to punish your opponent for trying to remove your new dinosaurs. Shapers’ Sanctuary is my kind of punishment. I would play this in decks that have multiple haymakers. It’s wasted in decks that with go-wide strategies. No one really wants to path your Llanowar Elves. If you’re playing Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger, or Ulamog the Infinite Gyre, why shouldn’t you get a card to replace your lost creature. At one green mana, it’s easy to fit into most decks as well. Mayael the Anima or The Ur-Dragon will gladly take some additional card draw.

 

Waker of the Wilds

Waker of the Wilds
Waker of the Wilds looks pretty mid-level on the power scale at first glance. The secret behind using Waker to full effect is to utilize the card advantage you get from making threats out of extra lands. Don’t play out any additional threats while you have this unless those threats would win the game outright. You don’t have to target a non-creature land, so you can stack counters on a single land. This allows you save on the number lands you may lose. Being instant speed allows you to attack with an animated land, and then after blocks, decide if you want to dump mana into making that land huge. While turning multiple lands into creatures isn’t advised, there are decks that can use that tactic. Terra Eternal makes every land you turn into a creature a permanent threat and plays great with going wide strategies. My only regret is this card isn’t legendary. That slot got ruined by Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper in Battle for Zendikar. Amusingly enough they are even in the same pose.

The Ugly

Ugly cards are cards players should probably avoid in Commander. This doesn’t mean they’re awful, just that they fit into very specific decks and won’t see play elsewhere.

Deathgore Scavenger

Deathgore Scavenger
Scavenger is an efficient creature, but its ability is too slow for Commander. In a format where removal is everywhere, I can see this only getting one or two cards each game. At those numbers it’s almost worthwhile to consider Krosan Reclamation or Cremate. Those cards are reasonably better due to the fact they are instants and produce some card advantage. That being said, Deathgorge Scavenger will find itself in Dinosaur tribal decks. Currently, the support for those decks is limited since they’re a new tribe. They may be better in the future, but right now they seem more like a “fun” deck than competitive.

 

Thundering Spineback

Thundering Spineback
Yet another dinosaur that looks like it may be playable, but again it is a trap for token decks. On its face players will see the ability to make a 4/4 dinosaur without tapping. The biggest problem here is that six mana is way too high of a cost for this. On top of that, it’s tied to a creature instead something like an enchantment. Then you still have to have seven mana to cast it. It’s not even on curve for its own ability. Centaur Glade, Garruk, Primal Hunter, and Soul of Zendikar are all better choices for similar effects. They lose the +1/+1 from the tribal portion, but they’re cheaper and easier to use. The only defense I have for Thundering Spineback is the tribal aspect. Outside of dinosaur tribal, it shouldn’t see any play.

 

Old-Growth Dryads

Old-Growth Dryads
Old-Growth Dryads is possibly one of the worst cards for Commander that has come around in a long time. A vanilla 3/3 body that ramps everyone except you. Even in Duel Commander ramping your opponent for a mid-sized creature is just not worth it. Wizards could have taken the high on the road on this and made it target opponent, but instead, they’ve given us a card that probably wouldn’t even make for good kindling.

The Wrap-Up

Ixalan brings a slew of playable cards with it. The new green merfolk bring a familiar +1/+1 counter synergy with it. That theme is probably one of Commander players favorite decks to build. The massive dinosaurs bring out everyone’s inner Timmy, Power Gamer. The explore mechanic has a chance to really prove itself playable in commander. With similar effects already being played, I don’t see explore not becoming a reliable mechanic for Commander players. The new cradle will no doubt see commander play for some time. I would give green in Ixalan my support for being highly playable in Commander. Thanks for reading and if you think I missed a few cards or wrongly judged your favorite dryad, please let us know down in the comments below!

Comments

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Josh Coleman is project manager within the legalized gaming industry. He spends the majority of his free time brewing and playing commander. He also loves eating Chicago style pizza while playing a dual wield Rogue (there is no other type). You can catch him on Magic Online under the name Amumu or at Jcoleman@thesolring.com.